Jay Porter is the proprietor of two of San Diego’s best North Park restaurants: The Linkery and El Take It Easy. Porter also contributes to The Farm and the City, a blog covering San Diego’s food scene from a sustainable, farm-to-table perspective.
“I go to Panchita’s Bakery in Golden Hill. Mexican pastries and American-style donuts, pretty much everything is less than a buck. Good coffee and cheesecake, too. You can easily get out of here for US$3 with a satisfying, semi-sweet breakfast.” (2519 C St.; 619-232-6662)
“Tacos El Mazateño, an open-air Sinaloan restaurant, serves the most memorable shrimp tacos I’ve ever had. They call it the Taco Mazateño [US$3]—spicy shrimp with cheese and sauce on a double corn tortilla. Two will fill you up.” (Corner of Technologico and Popotla, Tomas Aquino, Tijuana)
“Pork belly tacos [US$8] and a local craft beer [US$4.50] at El Take It Easy. Or, if you go on Sundays with the all-day/all-night happy hour, you can get a US$5 tostada and US$3.50 craft beer. It’s certainly the most-affordable way to eat farm-to-table food and sample San Diego’s signature craft beers.” (3926 30th St.; 619-291-1859; eltakeiteasy.com)
The Bicycle Artist
Gabriel Salcedo inherited a love of Italian bicycles from his father. Today, he’s the owner and operator of GS Cicleria, a studio that restores and beautifies vintage bicycles.
“Start your day with breakfast at The Mission, in downtown’s East Village. It’s good food in an old, historic building. A favourite morning dish is the Mission French toast: fresh-baked cinnamon bread on a palette of berry puree [US$8].” (1250 J St.; 619-232-7662; missionsoma.signonsandiego.com)
“A 10-minute bike ride west through downtown San Diego brings you to Little Italy. Check out Kettner Boulevard for plenty of design-oriented shops and galleries. Subtext Gallery features lowbrow art from around the globe (2479 Kettner Blvd.; 619-546-8800; subtextgallery.com); Klassik showcases authentic mid-century furniture (989 W. Kalmia St.; 619-640-6995); and Architectural Salvage sells relics salvaged from old homes and buildings.” (2401 Kettner Blvd.; 619-696-1313; architecturalsalvagesd.com)
“Roll a few blocks south down to Influx Café in Little Italy for a recharge. This modern, sleek coffee shop offers up delicious espresso and freshly made pastries daily. Grab an espresso and a sandwich [US$8.50], and have a seat outside. Sip and people-watch.” (750 W. Fir St.; 619-255-0735; influxcafe.com)
“Ride to the historic neighbourhood of Golden Hill, through rows of handsome old Victorian and craftsman homes, and arrive at South Park. Visit Velo Cult, an independent bike shop specializing in classic steel bicycles—everything from French touring bikes to Italian racers. There is a lot of cool stuff to look at here. They even have their own signature blend of coffee.”
(2220 Fern St.; 619-819-8569; velocult.com)
“Grab a burger right next door at the Station Tavern & Burgers. They serve up a pretty good cheeseburger [US$7], and you can enjoy your meal outside on a long picnic-style bench. They even have tater tots.” (2204 Fern St.; 619-255-0657; stationtavern.com)
The Border Activist
“Start in the eclectic neighbourhood of North Park, and pick up the free local alt weekly paper, San Diego CityBeat, at Paras Newsstand (3911 30th St.; 619-296-2859). Head over next door to Caffe Calabria. Owner Arne Holt works with local coffee-growing villages in Central America and matches donations to help build sustainable communities. Have a rich cappuccino [US$5.25] and browse through the CityBeat’s culture and music listings.” (3933 30th St.; 619-291-1759; caffecalabria.com)
“Wander around East Village and check out the art collectives and distinctive urban graphic arts. The Machine Shop Gallery’s rough-hewn look and open spaces reflect the vibrancy of the urban art they specialize in (540 15th St.; 619-203-8538; communityspacesd.com). The Periscope Project is a dynamic indoor/outdoor work space and gallery composed of five shipping containers and landscaped with a garden built with found objects (346 15th St.; theperiscopeproject.org). Space 4 Art is a live/work space and gallery housing more than 30 artists, writers and musicians. Volunteers and members built the warehouse space and recently added an outdoor stage.” (325 15th St.; 619-269-7230; sdspace4art.org)
“Finish your tour of the local art scene with a stop at Pokez, an independently owned Mexican vegetarian restaurant and artist collective. Try the potato taco filled with tofu, potato and mushrooms, and served with a generous helping of stir-fried vegetables [US$3.50].”(947 E. St.; 619-702-7160; pokezsd.com)
“Visit the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. More than four miles of hiking trails pass through wetland habitats. Carry on to Border Field State Park, where you can enjoy a half-mile hike out to Friendship Park on the borderline.” (3rd Street and Caspian Way, Imperial Beach; 619-575-3613; trnerr.org)
“Visit Whistle Stop Bar, located on the famous 30th Street corridor, called ‘the nation’s best beer boulevard’ by Men’s Magazine last year. On Fridays, get US$1 off your drink when you grab your dinner from the MIHO Gastrotruck parked out front. Try the local spinach, wild mushroom and ricotta tart [US$13.74].” (2236 Fern St.; 619-284-6784; whistlestopbar.com)
7 stomach-punishing food challenges
Now, food challenges are sprouting up in restaurants all over North America. The prize is no longer a shiny blue ribbon, but bragging rights among friends, a T-shirt and most often, a free meal. To satisfy your hunger (and ego), we trudged through the typical burgers, pizza and hot wings fare to find the hardest and heaviest food feats. Gros appétit!