Some say that San Diego doesn't have seasons, yet I definitely felt the change of season kick in this month as temperatures dropped and the air became crisper. Like most, I tend to eat more on cooler days finding myself craving hot, carb-heavy foods more than usual. I also enjoy cooking more in the fall and winter months cherishing my kitchen more and reveling in the dominating scents of the spices I use that integrate warmth into the air. Half Baked Harvest Every Day is my go-to recipe book for decadent meals during the colder months. The recipes are for dishes that are heavier than what I would normally prepare in the summer, but perfect for this time of the year when higher calorie consumption seems to be instinctive in order to survive the upcoming winter days (yes, we do have a winter in San Diego!). With the evenings turning to complete darkness by 5:00 pm, I have found it more difficult to peel away to explore my city's fantastic food scene. However, I have never regretted any outing that included great company paired with a flavorful meal, followed by a hot shower, warm pajamas, and nestling into bed. Winter is ahead and I am convinced that with it comes more cooking and dining opportunities. Below are a few of my favorite discoveries during our first full month of fall.
Mabel's Gone Fishing (North Park)
The food, the scene, the service... all come together perfectly at this seafood-forward eatery that will instantly transport you to a tapas bar in Barcelona. Even on a Tuesday evening, this joint was packed; we scored the best seats in the house at the counter watching the chefs create their masterpieces up close. There is a beautiful buzz here that is served along with impeccably prepared dishes.
pros: lively ambiance, delicious dishes with a Spanish flair, unique cocktails, spotless kitchen
cons: the menu is small, not vegetarian friendly
must order: the grilled baja snapper, kampachi in melon gazpacho, and the gambas al ajillo
Lark and Owl (Bird Rock)
Big flavors are created in this little stand that offers a menu packed with salads, pizzas, acai bowls, and smoothies. The sandwiches are the star of this window-served eatery. With more than a dozen options to choose from; you'll love the unique touches added to each. This is absolutely my favorite sandwich shop (I've eaten here twice this month).
pros: creative sandwiches using the freshest ingredients
cons: not enough shaded seating
must order: eggplant parm sandwich with fresh basil, feta, sliced aged parmigiano, provolone cheese, and homemade marinara sauce, on a french baguette; and the caprese sandwich with fresh mozzarella, feta, sliced aged parmigiano, tomatoes, kalamata olives, cucumber, fresh basil, balsamic glaze, and pesto sauce on a french baguette
Shiku (La Jolla)
From the friendly service to the fresh sushi and the enticing daily happy hour menu, Shiku wins for the best local sushi bar. Along with its traditional nigiri, sashimi, and handroll menu, the restaurant also offers plenty of cooked options that are truly tasty as well. Toshi, the owner, makes every patron feel like a part of his family creating loyal La Jollan regulars to this unpretentious and warm neighborhood restaurant.
pros: outstanding service, weekday happy hour at just $5.00 per roll, large menu selection
cons: parking can be difficult during peak hours
must order: tuna crispy rice, drunken black cod, tofu teriyaki bowl, and red snapper sushi
Caroline's Seaside Cafe (La Jolla)
My idea of a perfect weekend morning begins with a coastal stroll along La Jolla Shores followed by a healthy lunch at Caroline's which is easily accessible by taking just a few stairs off the sand. The cafe is perched over a cliff offering patrons stunning Pacific Beach views as they dine.
pros: beautiful views of the sea, healthy menu options
cons: most outdoor seating is not shaded well and seating is first-come-first-served so scoring a table while others also wait for one can be a bit stressful must order: mediterranean omelet and the grilled salmon salad
Fig Tree Cafe (Pacific Beach)
This surf-motif restaurant is aptly named after the enormous fig tree that shades it. Management makes really good use of the massive outdoor space by accenting it with neon-lit humourous quotes, hanging lights, and fun touches while offering a menu of favorite traditional breakfast dishes at reasonable prices.
pros: a well-shaded quaint breakfast restaurant, vegan and gluten-free options
cons: service is slow
must order: chipotle chilaquiles and the fig-jam and ricotta french toast