Feast! Uptown

Best restaurants from the Heights to the Parks

Namesake burger at Royale with Cheese
  • Namesake burger at Royale with Cheese

Food provided by Juniper & Ivy

From Mission Hills to Kensington, in Heights both Normal and University, and in Parks North and South, UPTOWN residents don't rest on good looks or thick pocketbooks. They thrive on personality and artful presentation. So, guess how they like their restaurants? One place you might eat like a king on the cheap, another you may find upscale peasant food in slick surroundings.

It's all about the narrative.

Park & Rec

4612 Park Boulevard, University Heights

Royale with Cheese at Park & Rec

The former location of Bourbon Street changed owners and got a makeover that now includes a craft cocktail bar and a groovy grub shack on the back patio. Royale with Cheese (Thursday–Monday) recently relocated from Austin and slings a namesake burger with 1/3 pound of Wagyu beef cooked to juicy medium rare. A step beyond the French quarter-pounder, the Royale with Cheese layers Gruyère, caramelized onion, pickle, mustard, and special sauce. Feeling lucky? Opt for the 57 Chèvre, a grilled goat cheese stack of prosciutto, house-made pepita pesto, and arugula on country levain bread. —Chad Deal

Mess Royale

142 University Avenue, Suite C, Hillcrest

Mess Royale

San Diegans love their carne asada fries, so it stands to reason that poutine would make its way into our culinary lexicon. At Mess Royale, Montreal transplant Hugo Tassone uses beef, veal, and chicken stocks to give his gravy a blast of umami goodness, coating golden brown twice-cooked fries and softening Wisconsin cheese curds into creamy suppleness. Legendary St. Viateur Bagel Shop’s wood-fired sesame bagels can be stuffed with the classics — smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, red onions, and tomatoes, or more trendy options. Walnut cream cheese, sliced pear, and mixed greens dressed in a balsamic glaze is light and refreshing. Montreal’s take on the all American hot dog, the Toasty Dog, plunks a grilled dog into a buttered, toasted split-top roll and smothers it in tangy cole slaw, relish, mustard and onions. A yummy bargain at $3.50, get one free on Tuesdays with any poutine purchase —Mary Beth Abate

Izakaya Masa

928 Ft. Stockton Drive, Mission Hills

Izakaya Masa

Tucked into the corner of a small business plaza, this authentic Japanese gastropub provides exceptional fare at reasonable prices. For starters, try the Agedashi Tofu ($4.95) or Masa’s Fried Chicken ($5.95). Be sure to check out the specials on the walls, as not everything is on the menu. The sushi is good but the entrées are much more interesting, such as my favorite, the Nebayaki Udon ($9.95) with spinach, egg, and shrimp tempura. Another well-executed classic is the Tem-Zaru, cold soba (buckwheat) noodles served with a dipping sauce and mixed tempura ($11.95). Don’t forget the sake — the “Funaguchi Kikusui–Aged” served in the red-labeled can, is a particular favorite. —Barbarella Fokos

Tiger! Tiger!

3025 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park

Pâté at Tiger Tiger

Pâté at Tiger Tiger

Tiger! Tiger!

Tiger! Tiger! is one of the first places we return to after trip abroad. The staff is friendly, the beer selection nicely curated, the vibe relaxed and unpretentious. The regular menu is nice, but we usually order from the specials chalkboard, paying particular attention to the seasonal vegetable offerings; we’ve had wonderful delicata squash and padron peppers, and the charcuterie made on the premises —Kirk K


495 Laurel Street, Bankers Hill

(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)

Hexagone French Cuisine

This is for when you hanker for swanker surroundings. With the normal menu, think $30 entrées. Luckily, Hexagone has its (daily!) happy hour. Now we’re talking $5–$9 for a dish, $6 for a glass of wine, $4 for a beer. Happy hour items I like: French onion soup, baked brie and apple, fried artichokes, charcuterie plate, spinach salad with shrimp. But also ask for half-price items from the main menu, like coq au vin, steak frites, beef bourguignon, all around $12. You may get half-size servings, but, hey, the linen napkins, heavy silverware, surroundings, genu-wine French-speaking waiters are full-on deluxe. —Ed Bedford

Wow Wow Waffle

3519 30th Street, North Park

Wow Wow Waffle

The city’s first legitimate excuse for a waffle obsession, this outdoor breakfast spot offers Liege-style waffles made with brioche dough made crisp at the edges by pearled beet sugar. The charmingly ramshackle outfit features recycled and eclectic seating, and cooks out of a converted garage tucked behind a coin-op Laundromat. Top your waffle with seasonal fruits, candied bacon, or a litany of sauces, or keep it classic with powdered sugar or bars of dark chocolate melted inside the waffle. Tough to go wrong unless you show up between Monday and Thursday, when the shop tends to be closed. —Ian Anderson

Bleu Bohème

4090 Adams Avenue, Kensington

Bleu Boheme

An unpretentious French bistro in the best sense, Bleu Boheme combines the warmth of a neighborhood hangout with the high quality seen in a resort hotel. French comfort food classics like onion soup, escargots, and steak frites are the stars here. Mussels are cooked seven ways here (try them with blue cheese, white wine, and scallions). There are also seasonal variations with new menu additions weekly. —Patrick Henderson

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