Local Wally's Guide to San Diego

Local Wally's Guide to San Diego

good eats san diego

Islands Restaurant Teams With Left Coast Brewing

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Hula Burger at Islands Restaurant

If you follow me you know that I pretty much avoid nationwide chain restaurants. I mean, San Diego has so much good food that there's no reason to eat average food in an average setting. But while I avoid big chains I cheer on our local restaurants who have made it big.  And that brings me to Islands, a popular burger joint that many forget got its start in our very own Carlsbad.

Islands goes back to the early 60's when founder Tony DeGrazier stepped off the beaches of Oahu after a day of surfing with his Navy buddies and doing what came naturally to him. He went searching for a juicy burger, a hot basket of fries & a cold drink. He never forgot those days of youth and 20 years later in 1982, it was that sense of place & satisfaction he was trying to recreate when he took a little chunk of the islands & plopped it down right in the mainland of Southern California. So while Islands is a successful chain, it's still a local joint, still our restaurant, and still satisfies, whether you're coming off the swells or coming in with the family.

Local Burger meet Local Beer

And this summer, Islands Restaurants and SoCal based brewery Left Coast Brewing Co. are teaming up to create an exclusive new brew. The Hula Bay IPA – which launched in restaurants on June 13 – is a classic West Coast IPA with hints of citrus, grapefruit, tangerine and pine, and will be available for a limited time. That's the combo you want - a great fat Islands burger, a basket of their fantastic fries, and a cold local beer from Left Coast Brewing Co.

While you're there you might want to check out:

  • Heat Wave Burger:  Back on the menu for a limited time, the Heat Wave comes topped with grilled Serrano chilies, grilled green chilies, melted pepper-jack cheese and spicy mayo, and is one of the best burgers to pair with the Hula Bay IPA. Would be happy to pass along other contenders in the area for a list of “hottest burger and beer pairings for summer”, if you see a fit!
  • Colada Sunset:  Adding to Islands’ tropical cocktail repertoire, the Colada Sunset is a twist on the classic pina colada with pineapple, coconut cream and a float of Myers’s Rum.
  • Beach Cruiser Giveaway:  Each of Islands’ 54 restaurants is giving away custom his and hers Freedom Cycle Co. beach cruisers complete with Hawaiian floral designs and bells. Guests can enter every time they visit an Islands, and winners will be selected on August 18.

So go local this weekend and get a burger at Islands!  Great burgers, tacos, fries, even salads, now even better with The Hula Bay IPA.

Good Eats San Diego: Seasons 52 at Seaport Village Headquarters

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Nice dining room at Seasons 52 in San Diego's Seaport Village

Nice dining room at Seasons 52 in San Diego's Seaport Village

I normally avoid chain restaurants. It's not that I'm a food snob it's that when I want consistency I go to McDonalds. I like restaurants where the chef makes a difference, where food isn't cooked on a conveyor belt. That perfectly describes Seasons 52. With 43 locations, 2 in San Diego alone, there's no getting around it - this is a chain. But with a seasonally changing menu prepared by talented chefs, Seasons 52 rises above and places itself squarely into Good Eats territory, certainly a contender for your next night out. I was lucky enough to check out their new Spring menu - let's have a look.

Start with the Flatbreads

Lobster and Mozzarella Flatbread

Light and crispy flatbread at Seasons 52

Flatbreads are the rage at so many restaurants but so many fail. I'm no flatbread expert but many of them are just bad pizzas. No so at Seasons 52 where the flatbreads are thin and crispy and topped with super high quality ingredients. My favorite has to be the Lobster and Fresh Mozzerella with roasted sweet peppers, slivered scallions, lobster sour cream, and paired with a glass of Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne Champagne. That's right, don't forget that Seasons 52 has an extensive wine list with 52 wines by the glass always available - try them all!

Oh My Cod! 

Asian-glazed Sea Bass at Seasons 52 in San Diego

Ordering something new off a menu is a bit like internet dating. It looks good, it sounds good, but will it meet your expectations when it arrives? Well let me tell you, the Asian Glazed Chilean Sea Bass is one of the most beautiful, best executed fish dishes I have ever experienced, a true 10 on the 1-10 scale, a knockout in both looks and flavor. The black rice was insanely delicious and the glaze was just sweet enough without being cloying. Order this an watch the heads turn at the tables as it passes by, it's that stunningly perfect.

Mmmmm, Meyer Lemon Ricotta Ravioli

Ravioli at Seasons 52 in San Diego

Say it - Wow! Yes, this is another example of why I love Seasons 52. The lemon ricotta ravioli was topped with a brown butter sauce, some roasted peppers and English peas and so tangy delicious that its memory is forever embedded into my taste buds. 

Even More Good Eats at Seasons 52

Grilled Scallops at Seasons 52 in San Diego

Rack of Lamb at Seasons 52

Grilling scallops could be a disaster but Seasons 52 knocked it out of the park with their Caramelized Grilled Sea Scallops with Lemon Risotto. Scallops were delicate, the risotto complimented, the fresh peas and roasted asparagus cooked perfectly, this is a top dish. Get this one if you love seafood.  But wait... there's more?

Yes, a serious Wood Grilled Rack of Lamb with spring vegetables, Yukon Gold mash and shallot jus. It was gorgeous, perhaps a touch of finishing salt would make it pop. You do bring your own Maldon Salt with you to restaurants, don't you? 

Meet the Chef

Chef Mo at Seasons 52

Chef Mo is the guy who makes it all happen at Seasons 52 at San Diego's Seaport Village Headquarters. With a resume from some of the best restaurants in San Diego he knows his way around the kitchen. So thanks Seasons 52 and thanks Mo for an awesome meal. Chain restaurant? Perhaps. Predictable chain restaurant food? No way! Seasons 52 is good enough to rival the best in San Diego and deserves to be on your foodie bucket list.

Local Wally

San Diego Good Eats: Ironside Fish and Oyster

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Don't look behind you at Ironside Fish and Oyster!

Don't look behind you at Ironside Fish and Oyster!

I was a bit skeptical when a hipster seafood restaurant opened in Little Italy.  But I was wrong.  Ironside Fish and Oyster just might be my favorite seafood restaurant in San Diego.  Come with me and check it out - but first, the basics.


WHAT IS IT?  Best described as a hipster seafood restaurant in Little Italy with ultra fresh fish and a reasonably priced menu, less than $20 for most dinner entrees.

WHAT'S GOOD?:  Lobster roll with fries is my favorite, but here's the menu.

1654 India St, San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 269-3033


Eclectic design, a bit of mid-century mixed with a weird ship theme - it's cool!

The restaurant is definitely hipster with a bit of nautical theme meets mid-century with a dash of prohibition period ambiance.  Tables are bistro close so don't be alarmed when the person seated next to you is nearly as close as your date.  Just say hello, be friendly, you can do it.

A large selection of oysters, ask your server to describe them so you get the ones you like.  

Oysters are fresh and delicious here.  Don't get smug, I know they have "oysters" in their name but I've been to plenty of restaurants around town that frankly have questionable oysters.  But these are great, though at $3 apiece a bit pricy.  But you go with your bargain oysters, I'll stick with top shelf.

Paella is a hard dish to get right but Ironside Fish and Oyster does it very, very well.

The menu is nice and simple - whole fish, fancy fish, simple fish - along with a handful of entrees like this incredible Paella, a big bowl of shellfish with chunks of fresh fish mixed into a flavorful rice.  This one is good, very good.  But enough of that, let's take a look at the star of the show, the Lobster Roll.

At $21 the Lobster Roll might seem a bit expensive, but when it arrives at your table everyone will be jealous. Tons of lobster meat inside and out, and it's moist and tender and not in the least dried out or overcooked.  Add to it some excellent fries and you need to trust me when I say "get this"!

Hipsters shouldn't get all the good seafood in San Diego.  Dat wouldn't be right.  So get into Ironsides and sink your teeth into some of San Diego's best seafood served up in a equally fresh setting.  It's my new favorite seafood restaurant!

Local Wally