story by Julia Steele
photo courtesy Parallel 33
Not so long ago, if you thought about eating in San Diego at all, you probably pictured a meal of fish tacos, some shredded iceberg lettuce, maybe a light beer to wash it down with. Los Angeles and San Francisco were California’s gastronomic centers, not their sun-drenched little sister to the south. All that has changed now. In the last decades, a wonderful mix of ingredients—immigrants with food smarts, culinary entrepreneurs, innovative farmers, hungry patrons—have come together to whip up a thriving restaurant scene in San Diego. The city now has dozens of diverse and original establishments: You can get pumpkin waffles at Café 222, el Diablo squid at Oceanaire, roasted goose at A.R. Valetien. At Parallel 33, the thinking is unique and inspired: Cook the foods of all the great cultures—Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern—that emerged on the earth’s 33rd parallel—which, no surprise, is exactly where San Diego lies.
Ingrid Croce has been a force on the city’s dining scene for years—she is the owner of Croce’s, a landmark restaurant named in honor of her late husband, singer-songwriter Jim, and the author of The San Diego Restaurant Cookbook. Thanks to Ingrid’s planning, in 2005 San Diego hosted its first Restaurant Week, following a culinary concept born in Manhattan and now a phenomenon across the globe. Whether in Florence or Dublin, a Restaurant Week works like this: Every participating establishment serves a three-course meal for a city-wide set fee, typically much lower than the meal would usually cost, giving diners a chance to try new foods and new moods. In San Diego, Restaurant Week has been such a smash that this year the city will host two—from Jan. 27 to Feb. 1 and from June 22 to 27—with some 140 restaurants offering prix fixe meals for $30 (with a few very upscale places charging $40). “San Diego is a dining frontier,” says Ingrid, who invites all comers to eat, drink and be merry in the city, “and it’s great to highlight that.” HH
San Diego Restaurant Week