Dear Mr. Gold:
My friend Oliver says you would know where to get lunch in San Diego! Can you recommend a cool place?
Maybe I'm not looking in the right places, but San Diego is a bit of a restaurant-impaired city, I'm afraid. The consensus best restaurant in town is El Bizcocho, an expensive French place in a suburban hotel, whose food was good under its former chef (he's the chef at Cafe Boulud in New York now), but which I've always found stuffy.
I would recommend the Linkery, a bit north of the zoo at 3794 30th Street, a sausage specialist that is more fanatic 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
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, 4957 Diane Ave., 858-279-2520, is a very, very good Sichuan restaurant — get a selection of cold dishes from the case up front (pigs 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 spare ribs, ma po doufu, etc. It's run by the chef of the original Chung King in Monterey Park. (Note that there are now two Chung Kings in the San Gabriel Valley and the heat has moved to the one on San Gabriel Boulevard.
For Mexican food, you might as well go to Las Quatro Milpas at 1875 Logan, 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 at 2802 Ocean View at 28th St. in Logan Heights, but the tacos may be even better from their truck parked at 3504 University.