If you’re here for the festival this weekend, you’re going to need to eat some point; San Diego has no shortage of good eating establishments outside of the usual chain fair. The fest site at the Lafayette Hotel is located in the trendy North Park neighborhood, and there are a number of good places to eat that won’t require you to get in your car and miss any of the fun going on. (Not to mention parking.) (The following restaurants are arranged (approximately) in order of nearest to furthest.)
By virtue of being literally across the hall from Finest City, the first stop is the Red Fox Steakhouse and Piano Bar (www.redfoxsd.com) it’s dark, and the deep red leather seating is inviting. When the piano gets playing Frank Sinatra numbers (and he will let you grab a microphone and sing along) it can be loud, but if you tell them you’re ordering food, they will let you sit in the (relatively) quieter adjacent dining room. Food is burgers, steaks, and pub fare, though the service tends to be on the slow side, and the price can be a bit much for most improvisers. Just down the hall and next to the pool is the Hope 46 (www.lafayettehotelsd.com/eat-drink-laugh/hope461.htm). The food is upscale (read: pricey) American New, with Iron Petticoats (Blackened Lamb Lollipops) as a good appetizer. The service is very good, and if you tell them you’re performing, they’ll usually hustle your orders through a little faster, though be nice – this is definitely not a fast food joint. Brunch is good here too – the Kronut Breakfast Sandwich and Pearl Harbor (Loco Moco) are personal favorites.
One, two, and three blocks west, respectively, of the Lafayette along El Cajon Blvd are Pizzeria Luigi (pizzerialuigi.com), Mama’s Baker (mamasbakery.net), and Loving Hut (www.lovinghut.us/sandiego/). Luigi is a regular haunt for our performers and students: it’s two slices of pizza and a soda for $6 and it’s proximity (~5 minute walk) are hard to beat. When they have it by the slice, the Diablo (wing sauce, pepperoni, peppers, Sriracha) is worth the heartburn. Mama’s is a Lebanese deli, and the schwarma and wraps are very good and at a very reasonable price. Loving Hut (~15 minute walk roundtrip) is vegetarian/vegan done mostly in Vietnamese style. Even if you’re not a vegetarian the food is still good, and you won’t even miss the meat. Across El Cajon (be careful if you choose to median jump instead of going to the crosswalk at Texas St.) is the Pomegranate Russian-Georgian Restaurant (www.pomegranates.com). This is another slower eating place, but is very good and the Russian beers (~10% ABV) are exceptional provided you don’t have a show later. East of Pomegranate is Harar Ethiopian Restaurant (www.ethioharar.sdcausa.com) (~10 minute walk); the food is good and the experience makes for a fun team bonding experience. Ethiopian food is traditionally eaten with the hands, and diners typically serve other members of their dining party. I honestly have no idea what I ordered when I went there, but going with a large group allows you to get a lot of different options. It seems a bit hidden, it is located in an old house.
Further afield is Big Front Door (www.bfdsandiego.com) a gourmet-ish sandwich shop. The Smokey the Meatloaf and Avocado Highway are excellent standbys, and the Sandwich of the Season is, at the time of writing, blackened chicken with garlic aioli and brussel sprouts. Go south from the hotel and turn right (west) on Howard and walk until you reach Park Blvd and then take a left (20-30 minute walk roundtrip). East on El Cajon and part way up the hill is Lil B’s Urban Eatery (www.yelp.com/biz/lil-bs-urban-eatery-san-diego); this is pretty standard diner food, with pages of sandwiches, burgers, salads, and plate entrees. It is open a little later and the service is generally good. If you go west to Alabama, and hang a left, after a ~15 minute walk you will find Twist Sandwiches and More (www.twistsandwiches.com) on University. There’s no place to sit down here, but the food is good and unique with a vaguely exotic bend (turkey sandwich with cranberry, goat cheese, and bacon). Late night diner’s should use Colima’s (colimasmexican.menutoeat.com) – go south on Louisiana until you reach University. This is serviceable Mexican food that accomplishes that mission. Keep going down University past Arizona and you’ll get to Carnitas Snack Shack (carnitassnackshack.com) which is open until midnight. The food is superb, provided you like meat (especially pork) and salt (about 20-30 minutes to walk there and back). Our furthest entry is Crazee Burger (crazeeburger.com). Walk east on El Cajon until you get to 30th, then hang a right and walk a block (about 30-45 minutes roundtrip). It’s a hike, but the kangaroo, alligator, boar, and ostrich burgers and sweet potato fries continue to produce a siren song. It has a tendency to be busy in the evenings, so keep that in mind when making plans.
You may notice a McDonald’s a scant 3 minute walk from the hotel. There’s nothing special about it, but if you find yourself needing a late night McNugget infusion, it is drive thru only during the late hours and on weekends they tend to be cash only. There is also a Taco Bell across the street from Lil B’s that is also drive thru only late/early, and they have a proclivity for turning their lights off so it looks like they’re closed. You can also order in the theater anything from our in-house menu, including what’s on the menu at the Hope.
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