San Diego trip roundup: Mariscos German, Juniper & Ivy, Ken Sushi Workshop, Ironside, Don Bravo's, Shino Sushi, the Lion’s Share, Bird Rock Coffee, Coffee & Tea Collective, Café Virtuoso

Just got home to New Mexico after a week of serious food and drink around San Diego. Quick recaps:

Mariscos German Lonchera Taco Truck – not much to say that hasn’t already been said again and again but…damn. Absolutely excellent fish tacos, everything was supernaturally good including the absurdly low prices, we went twice.

Juniper & Ivy – flashy restaurant group-style restaurants are definitely not my thing, but the top-to-bottom quality here was impossible to ignore. Highlights were the Kumiai oysters (loved the horseradish pearls frozen in liquid nitrogen) and the General Tso’s cauliflower (surprisingly light despite the bold flavor). Nice cocktails, and kudos for the high-ish end wines by the glass.

Ken Sushi Workshop – the corporate office park digs had me skeptical, but this was some of the best sushi I’ve ever had anywhere. Astonishing attention to every single detail. Not a single small thing out of place, but the nigiri specials of scallop and gently torched goldeneye snapper had to be the two highest highlights.

Ironside – fabulous seafood, notably the raw oysters (really enjoyed the Ironsides) and the octopus a la plancha. Enjoyed the hot lobster roll even if the brioche was so plentiful and heavily buttered that it crowded out the lobster flavor. Intelligent, well-executed cocktail craft. The room was deafeningly loud.

Don Bravo’s - very good fish tacos that couldn’t hold a candle to Mariscos German. Every component was just a little less good than its taco truck competition to the south.

Shino Sushi + Kappo – a minor letdown after Ken but still quite good. Biggest gripe was with one of their signature dishes, Hamachi with jalapeno; this seemed totally out of balance, with the raw heat from the jalapeno completely overpowering the delicateness of the rest of the dish. Basic sushi here was very good, but again not as good as Ken.

The Lion’s Share – fun, dark, convivial gastropub that reminded me of living in Cambridge MA, weirdly located in one of the most antiseptic, corporate corners of the city. Top-notch cocktails (kudos that nothing was too sweet) and very good, deliberately heavy food. The salted caramel pudding with candied bacon and bourbon whipped cream was easily my favorite dessert of the trip.

Bird Rock Coffee – expertly roasted coffee, both their espresso and drip coffee was my favorite of the trip, super friendly staff.

Coffee & Tea Collective – hipster pretension without the substance to back it up, adequate coffee that didn’t justify the fuss.

Café Virtuoso – very close second to Bird Rock in terms of coffee craft in a fun, clean, industrial space.

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Just wanted to thank you for this writeup! Some restaurants that I’ve been meaning to try but have forgotten about. Quick thoughts:

-Next time add Tadokoro to the sushi list!

  • Never tried the Ironside selects. ‘Private Label’ oysters sounds tough to swallow. But, I’ll definitely try them after your tip. Always fun at Ironside.
  • Still hoping to have a really awesome time at J&I after several meals of it not quite living up to what I’ve read. Love Crack Chicken next door just for being unique and fun.
  • Bird Rock Coffee rocks. Still need to try Virtuoso.
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For the best coffee places in SD try Zumbar or Caffe Calabria. (Caffe Calabria becomes a pizzeria at night and has the Neapolitanian style pizza in SD currently)

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Having lived in Boston for a decade, the thing we enjoyed about the Ironside selects was that they had a brinier Atlantic quality to them, it was a nice change of pace from the usual west coast choices. Noted on Tadokoro, we’ll be back.

Missing Caffe Calabria was the major food regret of our trip! I’m a Neapolitan pizza fiend, having taken pizza making classes and even considered installing a wood burning oven in our backyard. Again, we’ll be back, and CC will be our second stop after Mariscos German.

Honkman- Just curious what kind of coffee you prefer? Brewed coffee or espresso type drinks?

I love the straight espresso and macchiatos at Bird Rock. I really wish they would bring back their single origin espressos on the service bar. Some of the brewed geishas they’ve served in the past few years have been a special treat as well.

I’ve purchased Calabria espresso beans in the past and found them darker roasted than I prefer for espresso. Will definitely try their shop however.

I prefer espresso type of drinks - Bird Rock is at leadt for us good drip coffee but the beans and the barista are not on the same level for espresso drinks ad Calabria and even more Zumbar

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold