Needing a little mental health break from the daily life of a public school teacher, I escaped to San Diego with the hubs for a short vacay and some more immersion in their eclectic food scene. San Diego reminds me a little of Atlanta in that there are pocket neighborhoods with very distinct personalities. Little Italy is the spot for ethnic fare, bustling streets and the best farmer’s market in the city so it is no surprise I found my new fave dinner spot there. Enter Bar Bodega…
Hands down this was the best dinner all week! Bar Bodega was a small, hip Spanish-inspired tasty Little Italy stop. We ordered the charcuterie and cheese board and it was fantastic. We had the serrano ham, miti bleu, leonore and cambrillo- all were delicious and the quince paste, briny olives and marcona olives accompanied perfectly! We moved on to the squid ink arancini, tuna tostadas and octopus tacos. The arancini were served with three housemade sauces- my fave was the chili aioli but the hubs preferred the cilantro pesto. The tuna tostadas were generous and super fresh and the octopus tacos were the star. Served on housemade blue corn tortillas with shishito ash and avocado crema, the octopus was tender and spiced with a fragrant chili oil.
The wine list is not to be ignored though- it is reasonably priced and offers a good selection of bottles. We went with an Argentinian Malbec for $28 and it paired with everything perfectly. We finished out dinner with dessert, of course. The tres leches cake was moist but not overly sweet and the dark chocolate mousse was served almost like a mound of icecream atop a pool of fresh strawberry sauce. It again was not overly sweet and offered the perfect finish to our evening. A miss for us was the sangria- we ordered a white and red to start with but neither were very good and the seating can be a challenge. It is a very small space with a few hightops spread around and then a bar with seating. We sat at the bar and enjoyed our corner spot but if you want table seating make reservations in advance.
Overall, the food was excellent, the wine selection complimentary and the service was friendly and knowledegable. It was another Little Italy hit!
Next on my neighborhood hit list was North Park. My son visited a friend out here some months ago and stayed in North Park and could not be contained about its allure. My daughter loves thrift store shopping and everything I read said North Park was the mecca for upcycled, chic pieces so off I went. After visiting the stylish Hunt and Gather boutique, purchasing a retro hat and some earrings, I was ready to sample North Park lunch. My son said BFD was not to be beat for handcrafted sandwiches; I decided to test his foodie acumen…
Big Front Door (technically rides between University Heights and North Park, but who cares?)
Everything is fresh made on site including the pork roast on the Cali Cubano I ordered. It was ridiculously good- meats were moist, pickle had just the right tartness and the jalapeno aioli sealed the deal! I also ordered the potato salad which had chunks or poblano pepper and red-skinned potatoes. It was not mayonnaisey- my usual beef with potato salad, but it needed salt and pepper. They also have homemade cookies, brownies and macaroons, but I could only finish half my sandwich so dessert was out. They have a wide selection of craft-brewed sodas and teas in addition to a nice wine and beer menu. A must do for lunch if you are in the area and even if you aren’t. Then pop over to Frock You for some vintage finds and perhaps your next great ugly Christmas sweater!
I finish with Ocean Beach because, well, it has my heart. Of all the little pocket neighborhoods, it is the one I am most drawn to. There is something about the fierce protection of independent businesses, friendly vibe and upwelling of local artisans that appeals to the girl from the Green Mountain State.
I always try to look for those hidden gems in places I visit and was not disappointed in OB Deli. The bread was freshly made and the marbled rye was hands-down the best I ever had. The sandwiches were all named after streets in Ocean Beach. I went with the Cable- turkey, bacon, avocado toasted to deliciousness. The turkey was freshly sliced and my sandwich maker extraordinaire scooped out an entire fresh avocado to top the turkey. They also have freshly made sides, cookies and brownies.
I cannot recommend this place enough! If you are looking for something local and are not scared off by the location being behind a Quickmart/liquor store, make your way down Voltaire to the OB Deli. Bonus: You can take your lunch over to the beach and get a million dollar view to go with your bargain lunch!
It was only a few days in this west coast paradise, but I will be back!