Local Wally's Guide to San Diego

Local Wally's Guide to San Diego

san diego foodie

Bite San Diego Review: Tasting San Diego One Neighborhood at a Time

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BITE SAN DIEGO |  619 634-8476

At a Glance: Culinary walking tour through some of San Diego's trendiest neighborhoods. Spend an afternoon sampling food from 4 to 5 restaurants in a small group of like minded food lovers.

Wally Says: Whether you're a tourist or a local, if you love food and love discovering new places to eat then this is your type of tour.


He cuts the cheese at Venissimo Cheese Shop in Hillcrest - wait, that didn't sound right but you get the idea!

He cuts the cheese at Venissimo Cheese Shop in Hillcrest - wait, that didn't sound right but you get the idea!

This is a pretty good idea! Bite San Diego is a food tour where you walk through various San Diego neighborhoods to taste what their restaurants have to offer. Started in 2010, BITE San Diego is an adventure for locals and tourists alike, really anyone who loves good food and wants to explore the San Diego food scene and maybe even learn a little history on the way.

What's cool about this type of tour is that you discover cool restaurants that you might have walked right by in your past. For example, Red Wing Bar and Grill in Hillcrest has been described as a dive bar by some, a crazy gay bar by others. I'd never been in but so glad I did after sampling their insanely fantastic hot wings, washed down with a giant PBR. Really, you like wings you need to get in there!

BITE San Diego has tours not only in North Park but Pacific Beach, Liberty Station, La Jolla, Encinitas, Downtown/Little Italy and Coronado. All of those areas have well known restaurants, places you've already been to, but that's not what BITE focuses on. Instead they find the eclectic and unusual, you know, the more foodie focused places that make you wonder why you've never been in before.

Walking to our next stop, Crazee Burger

Walking to our next stop, Crazee Burger

Mention Crazee Burger to someone who lives in North Park and they'll tell you that this is one of the best burgers in town. But I had never heard of them. That's one of the problems in San Diego - it's so big, so spread out, that it's impossible to have the insider scoop on every neighborhood. But that's exactly what BITE does - it shows you where the locals in that neighborhood eat, their favorites.

Our next stop was Berkeley Pizza North Park, a Chicago Style pie that has a crispy, buttery crust and lots of fresh toppings. Really great, authentic, and popular with the neighborhood locals. 

Deep dish Chicago style pizza at Berkeley Pizza North Park

Deep dish Chicago style pizza at Berkeley Pizza North Park

By now I was clearly stuffed. They call this a walking tour but you really only walk a mile and a half, maybe two total, over the entire afternoon so it's not like you're burning up calories like this was the Rock and Roll Marathon. So come hungry. Come super hungry, in fact.  But come on, our leader shouted, let's move on to the next stop!

We did a short pitstop to taste some lemonade at a coffee shop and then headed over to Splash Wine Lounge, a cool place where you can purchase a wine sample one ounce at a time. You insert a card, you push a button, and out comes your taste. It's a really great way to try some unusual wines. I wish Trader Joe's had this! And yes, food, more food, so much food that I could barely take a bite but there I was diving into a great flatbread. So. Stuffed! BITE San Diego says that this is supposed to be "bites', not a buffet, but really you need to be John Candy to not leave this tour feeling like you got more than your money's worth of deliciousness.  

So tourists, if you want to do something really unusual, if you love food, if you want to learn more about San Diego than the basic tourist stops, then pick a neighborhood and spend a few hours exploring the food scene with BITE San Diego. And locals, you'll love it too. Go discover a part of San Diego you might have overlooked - gather some friends and spend the afternoon on a BITE San Diego tour. You'll love it!

Looking for San Diego's BEST Desserts? Here They Are!

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Ditch your diet for decadent desserts! We’ve rounded up some of San Diego’s most satisfying sweets that will put the cherry on top of any meal. 

Brian's 24 Root Beer Float - not flat, float!!  :-)

Brian's 24 Root Beer Float - not flat, float!!  :-)

Brians's 24

Whether it is 2:00 p.m. or 2:00 a.m. Brian’s 24 will satisfy your sweet tooth if you’re in the Gaslamp. Enjoy their Root Beer Float served in a gigantic 32 oz. mug filled with root beer and three scoops of vanilla ice cream.  Cozy up to their Joan Crawford’s mahogany bar beneath their crystal chandelier and rest easy knowing you’re at a family-owned diner with family-inspired recipes.

Pillbox Tavern

Apparently an apple a day keeps the doctor away, so go crazy for Pillbox Tavern’s Apple Pie Crisp. Sit down on their dog-friendly patio and wind down the day with this carefully-crafted dish that’s made with sliced apples mixed with brown sugar oatmeal, vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Pillbox Tavern is a retro modern beach bar that only serves fresh and locally-sourced ingredients, so you know this crisp is some of the best around.

Tavern in Pacific Beach

If you appreciate the finer things in life and agree that crème brulee is most certainly one of them, visit Tavern in Pacific Beach. Tavern’s Crème Brulee is proof that patrons are provided with nothing but the best. Enjoy your desert inside the comfort of Tavern’s laidback bar or catch some rays on the lively street side patio.

Pan Bon

Another heavenly dessert worth ditching your diet for is Pan Bon’s Tirami-Su’ a creamy coffee treat that is baked with mascarpone image004.jpglayers and coffee soaked sponge cake that’s dusted with cocoa. Stepping inside Pan Bon is like discovering a little sliver of Italy and their wide variety of baked desserts won’t disappoint.

Taco Stand

Are you looking for something warm, sweet and easy to eat? Chomp on some Churros from the Taco Stand, with locations in both La Jolla and Downtown, while you’re on the go. The Taco Stand also offers south-of-the-border, flavored popsicles for you to cool down with in the image009.jpgSan Diego sun.

Wait - This is from Woodstock Pizza???

Woodstock Pizza

Contrary to popular belief, Woodstock’s Pizza serves more than just pizza. They also serve one of the best (and shareable) desserts in San Diego. Their Cinnabread is a warm pie smothered with brown sugar, cinnamon and icing. Add apple, bacon or caramelized pecans to truly make it a savory treat. There are seven Woodstock Pizza locations across Southern California so swing by and taste one of America’s best independent pizzerias.

S'More Sandwich from Barleymash

S'More Sandwich from Barleymash

Barleymash

Let barleymash give you that campground experience with their Grilled S’Mores Sandwich. It’s crafted with toasted cinnamon swirl bread, bourbon chocolate ganache, vanilla bean marshmallow, cinnamon crunch ice cream and graham cracker cookies. barleymash is restaurant and bar that encourages a good time with the help of entertainment and a menu that celebrates the richness of American culture.
 
Treat yourself and don’t skimp out on the good stuff. San Diego is America’s finest city so naturally it offers some of America’s finest desserts. Ditch your diet because life is too short to not eat sweets.

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

SMASHBURGER GIVEAWAY

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WIN THIS BURGER!

Smashburger and Local Wally are giving away burgers!  In fact, you can win 2 entrees of your choosing just by posting your favorite photo of San Diego in Local Wally's instagram (just hashtag #localwally when you post) or on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/localwally). 

Stop Drooling on my Sin City Burger!

So what's cool about Smashburger is that there are local burgers in every town.  The San Diego burger has a definite SoCal vibe with fresh avocado, cilantro, pepper jack, lettuce, tomato, onion, sour cream & chipotle mayo on a telera roll served with a wedge of lime. 

The Sin City burger was a local Las Vegas creation, a certified Angus beef patty placed on an egg bun, then topped with a fried egg, applewood smoked bacon, melted American cheese, grilled and haystack onions, and the signature smash sauce (ALWAYS ask for extra sauce!) and was so good that it's now available for a limited time in the San Diego locations.  Should you get it?  What do you think?  Look at it! 

AND WIN A TRIP TO VEGAS ON TOP OF THAT!

As if it wasn't enough to win a couple of burgers on Local Wally, you can also win a trip to Vegas for two through Smashburger!  Check out the rules here and enter.  See, you knew that your love for burgers would pay off someday! 

So remember, post those photos on instagram (just add hashtag #localwally) and you might be the big winner of 2 Sin City burgers!

Local Wally

 

Kona Kai Resort Gets a Makeover

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Hotels are like movie stars.  Sometimes they need is a bit of a makeover as they get older.  A couple of years ago the Kona Kai Resort was in desperate need of a refurbishing, a lovely resort in a gorgeous setting but looking just a little tired.  Noble House came in and sunk more money into the refurbish than they spent on the entire resort and recently unveiled their new flagship restaurant, Vessel.  Was it a success or is Kenny Rogers saying "I told you not to do it?"  Let's see.

Winner winner, Chicken Dinner

Sorry Kenny, this facelift is a winner!  The Kona Kai Resort looks fresh and modern, the pool is now a tropical paradise and the bar is simply beautiful and lively with live music most nights.  The rooms are also fresh and contemporary and the things we loved about the Kona Kai - the fire pits on the beach, the marina view on one side, Point Loma on the other - still remain but no longer overshadowing the resort itself.  Total success!

That said, dining in even the best resorts is sometimes disappointing so when Kona Kai sunk their faith into Vessel and chef Roy Hendrickson you wondered if they bit off more than they could chew.  But let's see how they did with their summer tasting menu.

Dinner at Kona Kai's Vessel Restaurant

Succulent pork belly

48 Hour Pork Belly with plantain powder, sweet potato spaetzle, anise, bitter chocolate was melt in your mouth delicious and the presentation stunningly beautiful. I would marry it if I didn't eat it first, that's how much I loved it.  This was paired with a nice Maui Brewing Co. Coconut Porter.  Wait, you want to see the beer?

Lots of great beers at the Kona Kai.

That's what I'm talking about. Kona Kai has a lot of great beer and cocktail offerings as well as a wonderful wine list so don't be shy, try them all.

So beautiful that I didn't want to eat it.  But I did.

Next up was the Roasted Pear with borage flower, Cowgirl Creamery Smoked Bleu Cheese with a fine herb medley and a caramelized black pepper vinaigrette, paired with an Alesmith .394 Pale Ale.  This one was so beautiful I didn't want to disturb it.  Is it just me or does that look like a painting?  Whoops, ate it all.  

Wonderfully cooked albacore and a crazy jar of jam with crunchy corn on the bottom. Weird, but delicious.

That pear was going to be hard to beat but the Corn Dusted Albacore with Serrano custard, bacon powder and onion jam was a fine follow up.  I'm sorry pear, I've loved you but already forgotten you once I took a bite of this albacore.  It's not you, it's me.  What was it paired with?  Sorry, I totally lost track since I drank all the beer out of order by this point.  

How do you not love this one?  A ribeye steak with foie gras butter?

I'm getting pretty full and then they have to put down a Dry Aged Ribeye topped with foie gras butter and a bordelaise cause, cooked perfectly and decadently indulgent.  Now I know you're thinking "where are the frites?" because that's what I was thinking but look at this oddball side they brought.

Crazy idea that worked - popcorn with the steak.

That's right, popcorn to go with the steak!  And not just any popcorn but a Blue Cheese popcorn that was so incredibly delicious that I hope they offer it as a side in the bar.  Please listen to me, I want more popcorn!  I really liked how the chef took a huge risk with this one and knocked it out of the park.

Perfectly cooked and seasoned Confit Game Hen.

As if this wasn't enough there was one more dish, a Confit Game Hen with anise scented couscous and roasted grapes.  So.  Full.  Must.  Lay.  Down.

In the end it was an amazing meal and proof that Kona Kai Resort is back on the right path and quickly establishing itself as one of the top resort destinations in San Diego, thanks in a big way to Vessel Restaurant.  Good job!

And here he is, Chef Roy Hendrickson.  All I can say at this point is thank you for a great meal - I'll be back soon!

Local Wally

Come try Vessel Restaurant at the Kona Kai Resort and Spa for yourself and let me know how you liked it - 1551 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego, 619 221-8000.

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