Category Archives: San Diego eats + drinks

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new restaurant alert: bottega americano

October 1, 2014

Bottega Americano in San Diego // My SoCal'd Life, a lifestyle blog

I may not have lived San Diego for that long, but even I can see that there’s a huge shift going on in its food scene. Within just one year I’ve noticed San Diego step out from L.A.’s shadow and carve out its own spot in the food world with inventive menus, well-designed spaces and patrons who are actually excited for something new. And through it all, the East Village has led the charge for creativity (and let’s be real, gentrification). There’s Don Chido, Comun Kitchen & Tavern, Rare Form and its rooftop bar Fairweather, as well as the very industrial-cool event space Luce Loft and the fancy-schmancy Fit gym. The East Village, you can say, is having a moment.

The splashiest of new tenants to the neighborhood is Italian restaurant-market Bottega Americano. Many people refer to it as the West Coast answer to Eataly, but that’s just not accurate. While Eataly is made up of various food stations with a marketplace sprinkled throughout, Bottega is a restaurant at its core and marketplace on the side. That said, it’s one of the most fun, energetic dining experiences I’ve had so far in the city.

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around san diego - San Diego eats + drinks

coffee & tea collective

August 25, 2014

Coffee & Tea Collective, San Diego // via MySoCal'd Life

A local alt weekly once deemed San Diego not a coffee city; the writer reasoned that perennially warm temperatures hold us back. Well, I’m pretty sure that’s a bunch of bull because judging by places like Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, Caffe Calabria, Cafe Moto, Cafe Ipe and others, I’d say we have a pretty darn great, forward-thinking roasting scene.

One of the more popular spots in the city is the sleek Coffee & Tea Collective in North Park. The space is undoubtedly trendy and hipster—Eames (or Eames-style chairs), minimal decor, and a definite cool-kids clientele—but the team backs it up with really quality coffee. I’d compare it to Blue Bottle, and though I’ve enjoyed the coffee, their latte is my true love. The cafe also welcomes a variety of foodie talents, from waffles and Prager Brothers’ bread topped with melted butter and jam (a pricey $4 but fun to share) to Tribute Pizza, a pop-up pie company.

I work at a lot of coffee shops around town, but Coffee & Tea Collective feels more like a place where you should just enjoy your cuppa, and not just because they have great playlists and cute dogs trot in. Much like their beautiful Instagram feed, the cafe is a great combination of talent, taste and design.

Check it out:

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around san diego - San Diego eats + drinks

brunch at caroline’s seaside cafe

August 15, 2014


Ask a San Diegan where to brunch by the water and most will say Caroline’s Seaside Cafe, a La Jolla eatery nestled within UCSD’s Scripps Institute of Oceanography. As far as restaurant views go, I’m not sure I’ve seen a better one in the city. The cafe is perched above the popular wedding venue Scripps Seaside Forum, overlooking north La Jolla Shores by Scripps Pier. That means you get a view of surfers, SUPers, and in our case last Sunday, a wedding rehearsal. It was cloudy that day, and I imagine it could get toasty on a sunny day, but who are we kidding? It’s a comfortable 72 degrees here almost every day!

I had gotten the impression that Caroline’s was all view, zero taste, but I beg to differ. Is it a gastronomic adventure of epic proportions? No. It’s brunch. It’s basic. It’s fresh. It’s tasty. The Mediterranean eggs were a favorite, and my latte, a crucial brunch element in my book, was also top-notch. Yes, you go for the view, but the food doesn’t disappoint.

After brunch, with Teddy in tow—Caroline’s patio is dog-friendly—we stumbled upon a colorful flower garden and found ourselves walking north on what’s apparently called Gaylord’s Trail. It was a dead end but afforded us awesome ocean views and gave Teddy an opportunity to give us his best Simba-“Circle of Life” moment.

Check out that and the rest of Caroline’s ahead: read more

around san diego - San Diego eats + drinks

cafe cantata: one of the most beautiful cafes i ever did see

July 21, 2014

Cafe Canata, Del Mar via My SoCal'd Life

San Diego’s beloved for its beaches and tacos and sunsets, but one area of expertise we don’t get a lot of credit for is our cafes. There are so many established, innovative, design-minded spots in the city — Coffee & Tea Collective and Cafe Moto come to mind — and this summer has brought so many more to the roster. There’s the new Influx in North Park, The Curious Fork in Solana Beach, Lofty’s new Encinitas Roasting Works, and most recently, Cafe Cantata in Del Mar’s Flower Hill Promenade.

The space was designed by the talented Betsy Ginn of Smid, an interior design consulting studio based in San Diego. After growing up in South Carolina, living in New York City, and settling down in Southern California, Betsy’s background is clearly eclectic, and that aesthetic is reflected in her work. At Cafe Cantata, you’ll find mismatched furniture, an eggplant-colored Chesterfield couch, a bike used as lettering, handwriting by the talented Taryn Sutherland, and plants galore. (There’s actually an old school metal desk with drawers filled with plants.) The whole space is inviting and light-filled, a bit like a European cafe set in a garden.

Truth be told, the latte I had wasn’t all that, but with decor that fun and charming, I’d happily come back…and back…and back. Check out Cafe Cantata and get ready to drool:

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around san diego - San Diego eats + drinks

prepkitchen la jolla

July 14, 2014

Prepkitchen La Jolla, San Diego // My SoCal'd Life, a lifestyle blog

There are plenty of places in San Diego that pride themselves on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, but Whisknladle Hospitality has made something of a name for themselves between their upscale Whisknladle restaurant (in La Jolla) and more casual Prepkitchen (in Little Italy, Del Mar, and La Jolla). For me, Whisknladle was my introduction to California’s year-round fresh produce bounty; it was the first legitimate meal out we had upon moving to San Diego. (I’m assuming frozen Trader Joe’s pizza on the night we arrived doesn’t quite count.)

Prepkitchen recently celebrated its 5-year anniversary, and it just so happened to coincide with the La Jolla location’s brand spanking new patio. It’s a warm and inviting space, and a great al fresco option in an area of La Jolla without many. (Price-wise, it falls somewhere in between fancy-schmancy and your cheap neighborhood taco joint.)

Here’s a look at the expanded space and what you should order. Tempura, chocolate budino, and more ahead!

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around san diego - San Diego eats + drinks

hanna’s gourmet in normal heights

July 7, 2014

Hanna's Gourmet, San Diego // My SoCal'd Life, a lifestyle blog

I’ve walked by Hanna’s Gourmet in the quiet neighborhood of Normal Heights a handful of times. Cute, intimate bistro, small space, multicultural menu—those were my first impressions. But the menu was what always held me back. I think the notion of “if they do everything, they do nothing well” often holds true, and I assumed that a menu that pulled from cuisines all over the world was bound to be a misstep. Now that I’ve tried Hanna’s, I can get the foot out of my mouth, apologize to dear Hanna, and tell you that this place is one of the best restaurants in San Diego. In fact, the meal I had there was one of the best in my life! (And I’ve been fortunate enough to eat at really spectacular places, so I’d like to think my opinion carries decent weight.)

Ethiopian-born Hanna Tesfamichael moved to the States in 1983 and went on to study food and nutrition at SDSU. Once she accumulated all those culinary skills, she worked at a catering company in La Jolla and finally launched a brick-and-mortar restaurant on Adams Avenue in 2011. That global perspective and nod to nutrition is evident in her menu that pulls from South Africa, India, France, and other countries. In addition to the eclectic menu, Hanna also offers a rotating selection of a few dishes from one country each week. When I first came across the restaurant, the “world tour” menu was from Iran. For the World Cup’s first week of games, it was Brazil.

Best of all, there’s now more room to sit! Back in 2011, Hanna’s Gourmet was just a couple of tables with a to-go counter. Now there are about a dozen tables with a roomy patio. The space itself feels like home. Hanna brings out the dishes and checks on your experience, while the patrons are regulars who aren’t afraid to champion the restaurant as San Diego’s best. (One guy wasn’t shy to stop and tell me that.) From what I’ve heard, many have done the brunch thing at Hanna’s, but you should definitely check it out for dinner. Here’s why:

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around san diego - San Diego eats + drinks

lazy hummingbird coffee & tea in ocean beach

June 25, 2014

acai bowl at lazy hummingbird cafe in ocean beach // My SoCal'd Life, a lifestyle blog

Lazy Hummingbird is yet another reason to love the wonderful coastal hippie ‘hood of Ocean Beach. This friendly locals cafe offers coffee, tea, pastries, live music, and even Fair Trade Peruvian textiles, but what it’s most famous for are its acai bowls. They recently stopped serving the bowls while figuring out new health code regulations, but once the acai was back on the menu, my friend (who lives across the street—jealous!) and I ventured over for a weekend breakfast.

What you first notice about the bowls is the size. They’re gargantuan, really. If you’re hungry, Lazy Hummingbird is your jam. If you like nut toppings, Lazy Hummingbird is your jam. If you want banana slices, Lazy Hummingbird may not be your jam. Apparently they’re not allowed to slice bananas due to health regulations. How they slice the strawberries, I’m not sure. As far as the actual acai blend, it was tasty with the consistency of a thick smoothie, which I appreciated, because those icy mixes are just never good. It may not be my favorite acai bowl in the city—still figuring out that one—but it’s certainly in my top 3.

But it is one of my new favorite cafes in San Diego. I love the intimacy and why-don’t-you-stay-a-while vibe, even though it strangely shares a space with FedEx. (That said, it’s the most laid-back, non-corporate FedEx you’ll ever see!) Lazy Hummingbird also has a welcoming patio, where customers and their four-legged friends relax, a comfy working area with free wifi, and a sweet, fun staff to boot. We happened to be there on the cafe’s 3rd birthday, and they were all wearing party hats to celebrate. Local-driven, cozy, and friendly—all the makings of an excellent hang-out. Check it out:

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around san diego - San Diego eats + drinks

authentic colombian eats in san diego

June 2, 2014

Antojitos Colombiano: A slice of Colombia in San Diego // My SoCal'd Life, a lifestyle blog

During a Yelp session one afternoon, Eaman was on a mission to find authentic international eats. Antojitos Colombiano was one of the top results. A casual Colombian restaurant in the no-frills neighborhood of Grant Hill, Antojitos had overwhelmingly positive reviews, many of which came from native Colombians or second generation Colombians who moved from New York to San Diego and were looking for some home cooking.

Though I’m not Colombian, I did spend time there during our RTW trip, so we were familiar with the local flavors. And Antojitos Colombiano felt like a little cafe straight out of our backpacking trip. Flourescent lights, Colombian television blaring, pretty much just Spanish spoken—it was like we were back in our grubby T-shirts, carrying our musty backpacks.

Our plan was to order a few small things, split one entree, and get a juice each because our favorite memory of Colombia is the amazing juices. (The country is home to dozens of tropical fruits rarely found elsewhere.) And a healthy juice feels almost mandatory considering much of the menu involves fried food and cheese. (Totally worth it, mind you.)

Our waiter, Silvio, was so thrilled to hear we had been to Colombia that he showered us with goodies—an arepa, free juice refills, and a Colombian lollipop for me. But he could’ve been a raging despot, and I’d still come back to Antojitos Colombiano. The flavors took me right back to our time in Colombia. Here’s what you need to order: read more