Top 10 food stories of 2016

From bad shrimp to good burgers

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America’s absolutely worst restaurant and food

My beautiful daughter had shrimp scampi on angel hair, which was no more angel hair than the spaghetti/meatball mountain that the poor underpaid Mexicans in the back had prepped for anything and everything else. And the shrimp was cooked to a dry-ish god knows what. I saw a beautiful Italian break out in tears once because she was hungry and the restaurant overcooked the shrimp (cocktail), but this was worse. My daughter wouldn’t eat them, and we packed it all up, to be thrown away the next day.

By Mark Chapman | Read full article

The classic — and only — meal offered at Rocky’s Crown Pub

The classic — and only — meal offered at Rocky’s Crown Pub

No bacon, no pepper jack, no fried egg, no avocado

I am a fan of fancy burgers. When Carnita’s Snack Shack puts bacon jam on its burger, I’m stoked. When I tried Juniper & Ivy’s secret-menu Double Double tribute, I gloated to friends in other states. And the prime beef Wisconsin Cheddar peppered bacon cheeseburger at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse.... I could name a half dozen others. The Rocky’s burger remains classic and goes down just as easy and satisfying as ever — savory and juicy despite a seeming lack of effort.

Sushi roll, fresh off the assembly line

Sushi roll, fresh off the assembly line

By Ian Anderson | Read full article

Sushi the size of a burro

It’s a veritable sushi-making machine involving a quartet of uniformed women reminiscent of Lucy and Ethel making chocolate, except these ladies do a better job of it. It begins with a literal sushi-making machine, a strange printer-like contraption on the back counter. A large sheet of nori feeds into it like paper, white rice loads into the top, and from the printer tray below comes a perfectly pressed sheet of seaweed spread evenly with rice.

By Ian Anderson | Read full article

Sheldon's Service Station on La Mesa Blvd. is a cafe built at the site of an old gas station.

Sheldon's Service Station on La Mesa Blvd. is a cafe built at the site of an old gas station.

Former gas station turned into hot La Mesa lunch spot

La Mesa is a great city to live in but, unlike those hipper neighborhoods, there really hasn't been much of a reason for people to visit who don’t have business or relatives in the area. Things have been changing since the Cohn restaurant group opened two spots in the city’s village area, Bo-Beau and Coin Haus. Now, La Mesa native Aaron Dean is ambitiously opening up four restaurants in the next 18 months. The results look very promising based on Dean's first venture, Sheldon’s Service Station, which opened after a soft opening for Oktoberfest.

By Patrick Henderson | Read full article

Charley’s Famous Hamburgers in Lemon Grove also serves kabobs.

Charley’s Famous Hamburgers in Lemon Grove also serves kabobs.

Best burger within a short drive

It’s not meant to be anyone’s idea of fine dining, but it’s obvious that the owner is spending the money on the food (not the décor). There’s fresh red paint on the roof, and there’s an “A” rating from the health department, but it’s strictly take-it-to-go unless you’re so hungry you’d rather eat outside at a concrete table or at the wooden table in the enclosed area that looks like it could double for a tool shed. No, it’s not fancy by any means, but it is cheap, and I like their bacon cheeseburger meal deal ($7.95) a lot.

By Patrick Henderson | Read full article

This one has bacon, egg, and cheese.

This one has bacon, egg, and cheese.

Stuffed hash browns. You read that right.

My friend had just come from the Hillcrest farmers’ market with a bizarre find: a thick, round hash brown stuffed with chorizo, egg, cheddar, and avocado. He got it from a booth called Spudz Potato, where they call it an Hombre. If you order a version with bacon it is called an Egg Head. With pork and chile verde, a Real Deal.

Fast forward 20 minutes, and I was standing in front of the booth watching an Hombre being made.

By Ian Anderson | Read full article

Miso soup, onigiri, and spicy tuna mako sushi

Miso soup, onigiri, and spicy tuna mako sushi

Little Japan in Tijuana

“Our menu is based in original Japanese ideas from what we can get from our providers,” continues Zamorano. “Almost all of our ingredients are imported. We try to keep our flavors as original as possible, but we are obviously limited by distance and what products arrive in Mexico. Our customers are mostly between 13 and 24 years old. We are more of a deli. We try to keep it simple and cheap.”

By Matthew Suárez | Read full article

Homer’s Donut — a regular feature

Homer’s Donut — a regular feature

Donuts at night

Donut Bar opens at 7 a.m. (8 a.m. on weekends) and closes when it sells out, which often happens before noon. Getting donuts there in the afternoon is rare — at 6 p.m., unheard of. Except the shop recently started reopening with a whole fresh batch of donuts on Friday and Saturday afternoons at 5 p.m.

By Ian Anderson | Read full article

Not for the faint-hearted: Wow Café on a stormy day

Not for the faint-hearted: Wow Café on a stormy day

Misunderstanding at the Wow Café

So, I’m sipping my joe, looking at the waves, when two things happen. One, I realize that we are actually moving. This whole pier is swaying to the rhythm of the ocean. Two: Just as Marianna brings my meal, something grabs me. I look around. It’s this pelican. He has my arm in his beak.

By Ed Bedford | Read full article

This Cubano Cemita features breaded pork, ham, and sausage with avocado, panela cheese, and papalo leaves.

This Cubano Cemita features breaded pork, ham, and sausage with avocado, panela cheese, and papalo leaves.

The only cemitas shop in San Diego

Of course I couldn’t admit I didn’t know what a cemita was and that I had to learn via Google that it’s a type of torta native to the Puebla region of Mexico, named for the sesame-encrusted bun used to make it. I immediately started scouring the menus of trusted local Mexican restaurants looking for it, without luck. Finally, using every web-search trick I know, I found one place in the entire county that serves this mystery sandwich — in Vista.

By Ian Anderson | Read full article

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