StreetCar Merchants – Family Full of Soul (4002 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104)

By Dwight Brown, NNPA News Wire Travel and Food Writer

San Diego’s year-round temperate climate, world-famous zoo and an old town that dates back to the 1800s attract 35M+ visitors every year to this Southern California city. Those who come discover an eclectic, multiethnic and burgeoning food scene has evolved into one of the city’s major calling cards.

StreetCar Merchants – Family Full of Soul (4002 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104)

Wanna grab a beer or cocktail with friends? Got the munchies for finger food? Head to this Southern chicken joint & bar in San Diego’s vibey cool North Park neighborhood. Expect the proprietor, Louisiana-born Ron Suel, to be hovering around as his daughter Sadie works the bar. Bring your appetite and sit down for their famed familial counter service. The lively atmosphere includes a classic soul music playlist (Gladys, Curtis, James, Janet), and some downhome recipes from a great-grandmother. Suel: “I wanted food that tastes like home.” And it does. 

Best Bets: 1.) Streetcar Legend of Billie Jean Blonde Ale, or the Cucumber Mint Lemonade. 2.) Chicken Skins Chicharrons or Fried Green Tomatoes. 3.) OG Nashvillian Po-boy hot sandwich.

Barrio Dogg – Best Hot Doggs in the Land! (2334 Logan Ave, San Diego, CA 92113)

Barrio Dogg evolved from a hot dog food cart into a popular two-room restaurant. It’s a cultural icon in San Diego’s Barrio Logan neighborhood. Come to this lively frankfurter haven in this laid-back Chicano neighborhood and love on its low-rider culture swagger. Listen to Tejano music, enjoy the art and jump into cross-border (Mex & US) cuisine. Ingredients include 100% Black Angus beef in the best hot dogs in the land! There’s other tasty food too. After you get your grub on, visit the neighborhood’s gorgeous Chicano Park Murals for some memorable Latino inspiration.

Best Bets: 1.) Sip on Negra Modelo Lager. 2.) Chow down on an El Samurai Dogg and a side of Nopalitos (Fresh Cactus Salad). 3.) Hit the sweets with Mi Tierra (Mexican tiramisu served in a souvenir jar).

Kindred – Vegan Lovers Unite (1503 30th St, San Diego, CA 92102)

If you’re gonna go vegan, go Kindred. No meat, no fish, no chicken in this playful, spirited restaurant. If your waitress has dyed pink hair and a spunky attitude, you’re in the right place. Sit in a booth, at a counter or outside. Friendly staff guides you through the menu. Start with a cocktail, delve into vegetables and innovative meat substitutes. Top it off with something sweet. Drink, eat and toe-tap to the death metal music playlist. Nice way to fall in love with vegan food. What a vibe!

Best Bets: 1.) Artichoke Po’ Boy or Memphis BBQ Jackfruit . 2.) Beer Batter Palm Tacos or Soul Crush (Cornmeal Crusted Gardein ). 3.) Skewers and S’more Sliders.

Medina – Casablanca Meets Mexicana (2850 El Cajon Blvd #4, San Diego, CA 92104)

Only in San Diego! Where else could a restaurant with a taste of Northern African and a pinch of Mexican cuisine thrive? This very unique and delicious mixture, by Chef-owner Alia Jaziri, blurs the line between Moroccan and Mexican foods encompassing the best of both worlds. Jaziri’s restaurant is modest, casual and welcoming. Sit on the outdoor patio, drink wine from Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe wine country, sip on various local craft beers and order from a very tempting bicultural menu.

Best Bets: 1. Ahi Tuna Rillete. 2. Duroc Pork Chop 3. Stone fruit crisp.

Fort Oak – Fine Dining. SoCal Ambience. (1011 Fort Stockton Dr, San Diego, CA 92103)

San Diego’s swank meter hits a high point with Fort Oak restaurant in Mission Hills, near historic Old Town. Floor-to-ceiling windows, wood-plank floors. Everything about this classy venue seeps with an upscale California dining experience. Enjoy an intimate, six-course Chef’s tasting menu. Or take a table and dine on their wood-fired eats. Sit inside, or outside where you can breathe in that clean San Diego air as you eat some of the city’s finest food in its classiest restaurant.  

Best Bets: 1.) Old Bay Prawns. 2.) Goat Milk Cavatelli. 3.) 8 OZ Australian Wagyu. 4.) Pear Crisp.

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Dwight Brown

NNPA Film Critic