Maybe it’s because this last year has been packed with political drama, record natural disasters and otherwise scary news headlines. Maybe it’s these cooler months and stressful winter holidays. But right now, more than ever, I’m craving comfort.
Thankfully, San Diego provides it in countless ways, namely in the form of food—which has made putting together our annual dining issue extra fun. Following are some of my current favorite foods and dishes to indulge in around town this winter. When seeking comfort, America’s Finest City has your back.
by Sarah Daoust, adapted from WHERE San Diego magazine
If comfort food were in the form of a restaurant, it would be this cozy, welcoming, rustic French bistro. The Gnocchi a la Parisienne at Bleu Boheme is decidedly divine—delicate pillows of sautéed Parmesan dumplings lightly tossed with Brussels sprouts, smoked bacon and white wine cream sauce. C’est delicieux! 4090 Adams Ave., Kensington, 619.255.4167. bleuboheme.com
With classic comfort dishes for breakfast and lunch daily (with the breakfast menu also available for lunch), restaurateur Terryl Gavre’s Cafe 222 has been a downtown staple for 25 years. Waffles and griddle cakes are their thing. Among them, the griddled Banana bread French toast—made with house-baked banana bread topped with caramelized bananas—is a sinful start to the day. (Hey, bananas are part of the fruit group and a good source of potassium, so it’s fine.) 222 Island Ave., Gaslamp Quarter, 619.236.9902. cafe222.com
Offering all-day breakfast sandwiches, build-your-own cereal bowls and Pop Tart ice cream sandwiches, Crackheads at Liberty Public Market is onto something big. Go for the signature Crackhead sandwich with bacon, a medium egg, cheddar and their special crack sauce; and add avocado. 2820 Historic Decatur Road, Liberty Station, Point Loma, 619.487.9346.
Serving up boilermakers, boozy milkshakes and gourmet bar food, Hundred Proof is a woodsy-chic new gastropub uptown. The signature HP Burger with English cheddar, their secret HP spread, pickles, onions, iceberg lettuce and a side of fries hit the spot. Wash it down with one of their slushy mules or hearty milkshakes topped with goodies such as donuts and churros, and let the carb coma commence. 4130 Park Blvd., University Heights, 619.501.6404. hundredproofsd.com
There’s a reason why Nomad Donuts makes one particular item—the Ube Taro Coconut Donut—every single day. People are addicted to it, and it sells out daily. Try it and see what the fuss is about. 3102 University Ave., North Park, 619.431.5000. nomaddonuts.com
Officine Buona Forchetta
Find authentic Neapolitan-style pizza perfection at this sprawling restaurant—featuring two oversized patios, a children’s playground, an open kitchen with two custom pizza ovens, and modern warehouse-style decor. My current pizza crush: the Alessandro Pizza with mozzarella, sausage, prosciutto and porcini mushrooms. It’s difficult not to bypass the chewing stage and just inhale it. 2865 Sims Road, Liberty Station, Point Loma, 619.548.5770. officinebuonaforchetta.com
Pillbox Tavern & Grill
Sometimes, after a long work day, burying your face in a plate of chicken wings is like culinary Calgon. And Pillbox Tavern has quite the roster of wings, offering 14 varieties and 14 different house-made sauces. Go for a mix of the BBQ and buffalo wings and allow them to take you away. 117 Plaza St., Solana Beach, 858.436.7016. pillboxtavern.com
Snooze, an AM Eatery
With now several locations around town, the Snooze outpost in La Jolla is a newer favorite. And a new beauty of the menu? The Nan’s Hot Cocoa Pancake. Dig into a banana pancakes topped with Mexican hot chocolate sauce and a homemade marshmallow. I’ll take “A Sweet Tooth’s Dream” for $600, Alex. 8861 Villa La Jolla Drive, La Jolla, 858.483.5556. snoozeeatery.com
This master of ramen boasts five locations around San Diego, but the Hillcrest outpost is my personal favorite, partly because I live a block away. I always go for the signature Tajima Ramen Bowl with fat noodles, pork belly, egg and fried garlic. The steaming hot tonkotsu broth warms the belly and soul every time. 3739 Sixth Ave., Hillcrest, 619.269.5050. tajimasandiego.com
Union Kitchen & Tap
Nothing says Southern comfort like a big ol’ bowl of gumbo. And Union Kitchen’s rendition doesn’t disappoint. The hearty stew is packed with andouille sausage, pulled smoked chicken, okra, green onions and jasmine rice. Add blackened shrimp and butter-poached crawfish for even more protein power.
1108 S. Coast Hwy. 101, Encinitas, 760.230.2337. localunion101.com
Vigilucci’s Seafood & Steakhouse
Plunked directly across the street from the Pacific, Vigilucci’s offers some of the best carnivore dishes and sea fare in North County, with a side of sweet ocean views. Lamb lovers will swoon over the Agnello
alla Griglia—pistachio-crusted New Zealand rack of lamb over mushroom-saffron risotto and a port wine reduction. 3878 Carlsbad Blvd., Carlsbad, 760.434.2580. vigiluccis.com
Modern Sicilian cuisine defines the Busalacchi family’s stylish trattoria. The handmade pastas, pizzas and updated Sicilian classics are all delectable, but the Pollo Arrosto (roasted free-range chicken) is a simple, savory standout … just like my Grandma used to make. 1917 India St., Little Italy 619.238.1917. barbusa.com
Officine Buona Forchetta photo by Scott Andrews.