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Is San Diego a Restaurant-Impaired City?

Dear Mr. Gold:

My friend Oliver says you would know where to get lunch in San Diego! Can you recommend a cool place?

Merci!

—Gaelle, Montreal

Dear Gaelle:

Maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but San Diego is a bit of a restaurant-impaired city, I’m afraid. Best restaurant in town is an expensive French place in a suburban hotel, whose food was good under its former chef (he’s the chef at Café Boulud in New York now), but which I’ve always found stuffy.

I would recommend The Linkery, a bit north of the zoo, a sausage specialist that is more fanatical about sourcing great meats and produce than anywhere this side of Chez Panisse, has a wonderful beer list, and produces the best restaurant blog in America at www.thelinkery.com — it’s a quintessential expression of the meaty, crafty boy-food movement you see locally in places like Animal. Are they better shoppers than chefs at the Linkery? Probably.

San Diego’s Chinatown, centered along Convoy Street, is surprisingly good. It’s not a beautiful part of town, but the best places are as good as the best in the San Gabriel Valley. If you can tolerate extremely spicy food, Ba Ren is a very, very good Sichuan restaurant — get a selection of cold dishes from the case up front (pig’s-ear terrine, camphor-smoked chicken leg, tiny fish with peanuts, chilied tripe), then the Chungking-style fried chicken, dandan mian, water-boiled fish (deceptively named — it’s the spiciest thing on the menu), “ma la” fried spareribs, ma po doufu, etc. It’s run by the chef of the original Chung King in Monterey Park.

For Mexican food, you might as well go to Las Quatro Milpas, which is quintessentially California-Mexican, and less oppressive than the places in Old Town.

Or try Mariscos German for smoked marlin tacos. The restaurant is in Logan Heights, but the tacos may be even better from their truck parked at 3504 University Ave.

The Linkery: 3794 30th St., North Park, San Diego, (619) 255-8778.

Ba Ren: 4957 Diane Ave., San Diego, (858) 279-2520.

Las Quatro Milpas: 1875 Logan Ave., Barrio Logan, San Diego, (619) 234-4460.

Mariscos German: Restaurant: 2802 Ocean View, Logan Heights, San Diego, (619) 239-3782. Truck: 3504 University Ave., San Diego, (619) 392-2351.


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