As the weather turns colder, it's the time of year when people crave hearty comfort food just like Mom or Grandma used to make. Even in a health-conscious city like San Diego, homestyle classics are easy to find. And, we're not talking about chain restaurants either.
A number of San Diego's best restaurants are putting modern spins on classic dishes. You can't go wrong with Soda and Swine's meatball selection which can be place on spaghetti, in a slider or even a burger. Finish with apple pie a la mode or pecan pie.
While you can't go wrong with old-fashioned meatloaf and patty melts, it's hard to pass up a giant stack of pancakes at Brian's 24, a Gaslamp staple. The upshot is that this family-run favorite is open round-the-clock.
Homestyle food can also equal a stop at San Diego's popular New York-style deli. Milton's serves up a heaping Matzo ball that is only made better by pairing it with a meaty pastrami sandwich on rye bread. Pick up a macaroon on the way out and keep them in mind for your next catered event.
After all, sometimes a few extra minutes (or hours) on the treadmill is worth it to fill your soul and belly with a homestyle meal. For those times, here are 10 San Diego restaurants to consider.
Hob Nob Hill
Listed in "Gourmet" magazine as one of America's greatest hometown cafes, this local favorite has been around since 1944. Serves up such hearty breakfasts as smoked pork chops and eggs, eggs Benedict, French toast, pancakes, waffles, and much more. All their baked goods are packaged to go, so you can easily take something along with you for later in the day. When you go, it's obvious that people dining alongside you have been coming here for decades. Guy Fieri visited and ordered the lamb with gravy. Dinners begin with a basket of delicious muffins and the wine is fairly inexpensive, too. Do not expect frills. (619-239-8176)
Harry's Coffee Shop
Harry's Coffee Shop is popular with locals and tourists alike for an old-school, casual ambiance as well as enormous portions. Coffee is refilled quickly while the menu is varied featuring delicious omelettes and items with a Mexican flair. There's counter and booth seating as well as dog-friendly, al fresco dining in front. Wherever you sit, service is friendly and quick while prices are reasonable for the affluent neighborhood. Benedicts, cinnamon buns, raisin toast and the La Jolla Scramble are among menu favorites. There can be a wait on weekends, especially if the weather is nice but you can go as early as 6:00 a.m. to avoid disappointment. ((858) 454-7381)
Studio Diner is open late-night (round-the-clock from Thursday through Sunday and until midnight during the rest of the week) and set on a working studio lot in the Kearny Mesa business district. The menu features a wide array of great selections, made from only the freshest and highest quality ingredients. Try the turkey Reuben sandwich, T-bone steak and eggs, patty melt or other hearty fare but be sure to save room for Yo Mama's apple pie or decadent carrot cake. It's a throwback to the 40s and looks like a cool little roadside stop with its chrome and neon exterior. (8587156400)
Betty's Pie Whole
This saloon-style coffee and dessert spot is inside the Sunshine Gardens nursery. Despite an odd location--it's kind of a hidden gem--the pies are worth seeking out. But, they're only whole pies, no slices, prepared with real fruit, local eggs, pure butter, real cream and premium chocolate. The individual pies are of a hearty size and come in savory and sweet flavors. Popular choices include apple crumbly pie, Mississippi mud pie, chicken pot pie and more. Betty is a Southern gal and as such she serves Southern sweet peach tea as well as root beer and drip coffee. The cafe is pet-friendly. ((760) 230-6781)
As you might guess from its name, this lovely cafe specializes in omelets perfectly prepared with a wide variety of ingredients. The famous dozen-egg omelet comes topped with chili and a pile of potatoes on the side. Eat it all and you pay a fraction of the original price and win a free T-shirt! Of course, there are other options, like pancakes and waffles, and Mexican-style breakfast burritos. There are multiple locations around San Diego, however, Pacific Beach is the original. Order online if you want take-out and be prepared for decent-sized portions that could be your only meal of the day. (858-270-9655)
Since opening in 1995, Milton's has been serving generous portions of fresh, high quality New York style deli food. Located in beautiful Del Mar just off the I-5 freeway at the Via de la Valle exit, Milton's bakes and prepare hundreds of items on a daily basis. Fish is flown in from New York while meats are flown in from Chicago. The menu boasts over 200 enticing items from salads to pastrami sandwiches piled high with meat. Catering is a mainstay of a great delicatessen, and Milton's is first rate whether you need food for a large event or small gathering. (8587922225)
If there's one thing the Gaslamp Quarter needs, it's a place to nosh after a late night at the clubs. Brian's 24 is extremely popular for ordering breakfast, lunch or dinner 24 hours a day. The owners were fed up that a 24-hour option did not exist so they decided to open their own. Go for huge portions of comfort food like a hearty BBQ chicken salad, corned beef hash Benedict, or even a Philly cheesesteak sandwich. Lighter fare is also on offer for the health-conscious. It's family owned and operated and located off the lobby of the historic Ramada St. James hotel. (619-702-8410)
Owned and operated by Chef Matt Gordon and his wife, Urban Solace in North Park offers brunch-goers two options. "Blunch" on weekdays and Saturdays includes breakfast-type items such as Kitchen Sink Biscuits and Gravy, Wild White Mexican Shrimp 'n' Organic Soft Grits (with peppers and BBQ butter), salads and sandwiches. Bluegrass brunch is only on Sundays, where diners can enjoy live bluegrass music over a larger menu including Butter-Pecan French Toast and more. Specialty cocktails including mojitos, bellinis and others to put you in a cheery mood. Urban Solace is just that--a neighborhood eatery that prides itself on good, creative food and excellent service. (6192956464)
Soda & Swine
Soda and Swine is part of a dual-concept by Consortium Holdings that also includes Polite Provisions. The brings a renewed spirit of community to a bustling street corner of one of San Diego's most eclectic, burgeoning neighborhoods, Normal Heights. Soda and Swine features a straightforward menu consisting of two classic staples: meatballs and apple pie, keeping in line with the simplicity of Main Street America. And, of course, there's old-school soda fountain drinks and shakes. The sliders are also amazing as are the sides! It will be hard to pass up the Brussels sprouts, smashed potatoes with goat cheese, or dirty fries. ((619) 269-7632)
Hash House A Go Go
Modern diner Hash House A Go Go specializes in BIG "Twisted Farm Food" so bring your appetite. For breakfast or brunch (served a la carte), indulge in a plate of hash with meatloaf, salmon, or corned beef. Try flapjacks such as the traditional buttermilk variety, or something different like blackberry-granola or butterscotch-almond. Nursing a hangover? Order the "O'Hare of the Dog," a 24-oz Budweiser in a brown bag and a side of bacon. Lunch and dinner choices are just as mammoth including a one-pound burger stuffed with mashed potatoes and bacon, or go for the stellar sage fried chicken, a show-stopping dish. (619-298-4646)
About Katie Dillon
Katie Dillon originally moved to the seaside community of La Jolla to attend UC San Diego. When the opportunity presented itself, she and her husband set off for a 7 year stint overseas as expats in London and Hong Kong. After traveling the world, they returned to the La Jolla sunshine, with a young daughter in tow.
Katie now writes a lifestyle site called La Jolla Mom and is the author of a book called, “Flying With Kids.” Her work can be seen on NBC San Diego, Red Tricycle, Yahoo! Shine and Have Family Will Travel, a Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts blog.
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