Filler Zonie Baloney

Grab A Bite And Beat The Heat In San Diego!
By Rebecca Cook

ALTHOUGH LOCAL WISDOM proclaimed that, in order to attain the rank of a real Tucsonan, one must endure an entire summer without reprieve, I couldn't help noticing a steady flow of traffic heading west, out of town, to the California coastline.

Chow A mere eight hours away by car lies beautiful San Diego, where a hot day is considered mid-80s and the ocean views and sea breezes can restore a parboiled soul to some semblance of equilibrium.

Once noted primarily for a cuisine consisting almost exclusively of variations of fish tacos, San Diego has become one of the brightest stars on the California culinary scene.

Locally-grown fruits and vegetables and plenty of fresh seafood give San Diego chefs unlimited possibilities for concocting delicious and creative fare.

What follows is a brief listing of San Diego restaurants that caught our fancy on a recent visit. Our survey was all too brief, but this should give Arizona refugees some guidance in deciphering that city's lush restaurant scene.

For breakfast, consider wandering down to Pacific Beach and trying the Firehouse Beach Café (722 Grand Ave.), situated directly behind a working fire station. The rooftop deck at this oceanside restaurant is delightful, and the hearty Firehouse specials and specialty omelets will get your day off to a satisfying and filling start. Rumor has it that other meals here are less than stunning; but for breakfast, it's definitely a winner.

Another, more casual Pacific Beach possibility is Kono's Surf Club Café (704 Garnet Ave.), a beachfront eatery with an intriguing selection of breakfast egg burritos and "big" breakfasts for just a few clams. A great place to quell your appetite before heading down to the beach.

Other breakfast recommendations are Cecil's Cafe & Fish Market in Ocean Beach (5083 Santa Monica Blvd.), which the most recent Zagat Survey calls charmingly funky and "the best breakfast for the price" in town; and the Big Kitchen (3003 Grape St.), a favorite diner hangout for the local artsy crowd.

If you're traveling with an entourage (i.e. your family), you'll want to consider the following possibilities for eating out, which please without breaking the bank.

A longtime Zonie favorite for seafood is Anthony's Fish Grotto, with locations in San Diego, Rancho Bernardo, Chula Vista and La Mesa. No reservations are accepted, which can mean long lines on occasion, and many locals say they find it a little too "touristy" for their tastes, but the affordable prices sustain its continual popularity.

Also known for decent seafood and reasonable prices is the Brigantine, with locations in Coronado, Escondido, downtown San Diego, Del Mar, Old Town, Poway and La Mesa. There's nothing here that will knock your socks off, but the food is consistently good and the fish is fresh and tastily prepared.

Gazing out at the busy San Diego Harbor is sure to entertain both young and old, and nowhere is the viewing better than at the San Diego Pier Café in Seaport Village (885 W. Harbor View Drive). Obviously appealing to a tourist set and, again, somewhat scorned by locals, it comes through nevertheless with its daily fresh fish specials.

Tosca's (3780 Ingraham Road) in Pacific Beach, appeals to families with its modest and unassuming decor and deeply satisfying Italian fare. Gourmet pizzas without the usual high price tag, gargantuan salads and all the usual pasta dishes deliciously prepared make this place a standout.

If pizza is your thing, you'll definitely want to check out Sammy's California Woodfired Pizza, with locations in La Jolla, Del Mar and the downtown area. Here you'll find some of the most inspired pizza creations crafted from an abundance of fresh ingredients. The only drawback is the kitchen's enormous popularity, making it advisable to avoid the high-volume lunch and dinner times whenever possible.

Old Town Mexican (2489 San Diego Ave.) also has a devoted following, evident the minute you walk into this bustling restaurant. Window demonstrations for preparing flame-broiled chicken and ribs and handmade tortillas entice the onlooker to come in, stay a spell and sip a margarita while deciding what to eat that night. It's not Tucson Mexican food, but it's not bad.

If you can get away for an adult night out, San Diego has several fine eating establishments from which to choose.

George's at the Cove in La Jolla (1250 Prospect St.) serves a variety of seafood and continental fare in such fine fashion it's become one of San Diego's most popular restaurants. Choose between formal dining or the more casual rooftop, where a lower-priced menu and an ocean view prevail.

Baci (1955 Moreno Blvd.) exudes Old World Italian charm, with a professional staff that's never snobby or pretentious and food that thrills the palate. An appetizer of sliced, sautéed portabello mushroom, chopped shallots and prosciutto ham and white wine was exquisite, the cannelloni scrumptious and the seafood dishes absolutely breathtaking. You might overlook this gem because of its poor location so close to the freeway--don't!

In Point Loma, enjoy elegant dining at the Belgian Lion (2265 Bacon St.), which offers a tempting menu of French-Belgian cuisine. Pricey but impressive.

So much to eat, so little time. These places should get you started, but a TW

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