It's our Birthday! Seventy-Five Years of SDM
THE BEST OF SAN DIEGO 2023
I R T
S eventy-Five Years of SDM
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CONTENTS AUGUST 2023, VOLUME 75, NUMBER 8
114 BEST YEAR YET: OUR BEST OF SAN DIEGO 2023
SDM ’s team highlights the places, activities, and events that make living your best San Diego life easy—including a salon that sells sex toys, a weightless sleep-in-the-trees experience, and a goose who got its 15 minutes of fame during a live ballgame.
14 AUGUST 2023
Departments In Every Issue 22 PUBLISHER’S NOTE Local media is the connective tissue between communities. Owners Claire and Troy Johnson reflect on the magazine’s 1948 founding and explore the multi-platform direction they’re taking SDM . 24 EDITOR’S NOTE San Diego Magazine was born into a different world than the one we live in now. Executive Editor Mateo Hoke explores where we’re headed. 28 COVERING 75 Melanie Barcenas, the youngest player ever signed to the National Women’s Soccer League, keeps her head above water in this recreation of a classic SDM cover. 40 HOT PLATES Jason Mraz’s beloved vegan taco, Bill Walton’s favorite smoothie, and Claudia Sandoval’s go-to pancakes: 15 notable San Diegans tell us the dishes they can’t live without. 148 CALENDAR Our annual Best of San Diego party is back, along with events for lovers of baseball, festivals, yoga, and more. 152 SACRED SPACES Tahiti Felix’s Master Tattoo Parlor, right in the heart of the Gaslamp, has been inking the old-school way since 1949. Celebrating 75 32 SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS OF SDM We took over a classic dive bar and supper club for the day to shoot our 75 th anniversary cover with chic models, Champagne showers, and a poodle with an identity crisis. 46 CHRONICLING CUISINE AND CULTURE Food writing has always been a way of tracing the shape of a culture. Here’s what SDM ’s dining coverage says about San Diego. 54, 98, 144, 146 HISTORICAL HUMOR Funnies from the ages, sprinkled throughout our pages. 58 TO SAN DIEGO, WITH LOVE We asked readers to send us their love letters to San Diego. They signed, sealed, and delivered. 68 KEEN OBSERVATIONS A look at the still-relevant career of legendary San Diego Magazine journalist Harold Keen.
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Celebrating 75 72 SEVEN DECADES OF STYLE We plucked sartorial highlights from our archives, including an Annie Hall – inspired outfit and some emo bangs. 78 HALL OF FAME The San Diego– bred brands, products, and movements that put us on the map. 88 THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE HIDEOUSLY UGLY SDM ’s covers over the years have come in many shades of quality. Our editors reveal their favorites from the archives (and a few that we wish we could forget). 102 MEET THE ORIGINALS Want to know where Wyatt Earp used to hang out in the Gaslamp? Take a walk down memory lane with a peek at the city’s oldest restaurants, bars, theaters, and more.
ON THE COVER Pop the bottles and sing us “Happy Birthday.” For this month’s cover, we threw ourselves a party to celebrate how cool it is to be 75. For more, see page 32. Photo by Matt Furman.
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On the Web SanDiegoMagazine.com
SAN DIEGO TWEEN CO-STARS IN LATEST WES ANDERSON FILM Meet Zoe Bernard, the 12-year-old San Diego actress featured in Wes Anderson's 2023 film Asteroid City alongside Tom Hanks, Scarlett Johansson, and Steve Carell.
CHEF PHILLIP ESTEBAN’S MUST SEE, EAT, AND DO LIST IN SAN DIEGO We asked the White Rice Bodega proprietor for his top locales around town, including his favorite barber shop and bookstore and hidden gem restaurants to visit.
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PEOPLE’S CHOICE 2023
7 5 T H ANNIVERSARY
There’s a New Spirit in Town
an was established in 1948 by Edwin Self, an ambitious local known for his saucy opinions on the Diego Magazine
state of San Diego journalism. Gloria Self, Edwin’s fashion-and-wine-loving wife, signed on as co-publisher soon after. The pair formed the perfect cocktail of personalities to document this coastal city’s society and culture. We imagine the two of them in their chic and sophisticated living room, martinis in hand, signing papers that would launch one of the most successful and long-lived regional magazines in the country. The way people consume information has changed considerably since those days, as have the population and diversity of our city. Media engagement has ebbed and flowed across platforms, but local media’s purpose remains—it serves to capture the soul of a city. At SDM , we see local media as the connective tissue between communities. We recognize that we must present information that our readers want in the ways you want it, and we are striving for excellence across all media platforms. In print, we tell stories of this city through beautiful photography and memorable, voicey writing. On our website—which is getting a facelift as we speak—we showcase all of our diverse content, including our award-winning podcasts, like Happy Half Hour , which just scored the Society of Professional Journalism’s 2022 best podcast award. In our newsletters, we curate our most compelling work for you every week. On our social media platforms, we share new, up-to-the-minute information and engage directly with our audience. Our Instagram account also just won the first-place SPJ social media award, proof that what people want is good storytelling—no matter the size of the screen. And at our events, all of our publishing comes alive. Through parties both big and small, we’re able to physically present our work to our
readers while bringing you world-class dining and social experiences. We invite you to join us at an event this year, see what we have cooking, and get to know our huge, extended community of storytellers and fans. The Selfs never could have envisioned this rapidly changing digital media landscape in 1948, but we like to think they would be proud of our stewardship and the direction we’re taking SDM . All day, we’re out there telling the stories of the people, businesses, and neighborhoods that create our city. The goal is to learn from each other, grow together, and evolve. To Edwin Self, we are grateful you had this wild idea 75 years ago, and we will continue the legacy of sharing saucy, quality stories with journalistic integrity. To Gloria Self, we, too, love fashion and wine parties. We’re hosting a few of our own soon: on August 18, we’re throwing ourselves a big birthday party at the annual Best of San Diego event, and the brand-new Del Mar Wine and Food Festival debuts in September. Both events are set to be epic. To all of you, our subscribers, listeners, followers, and event-goers, thank you for giving these stories a home. We are determined to continue to explore and uplift the creative energy and the collective art of this city—the culinary, visual, literary, and performance art that feeds our souls and teaches us about SD. And thank you to the businesses and community that support us. Because of you, San Diego Magazine will live to see another 75 years.
CLAIRE & TROY JOHNSON CEO & Chief Content Officer
22 AUGUST 2023
A throwback to the before times of early-stage Capitalism, Trust is a narrative puzzle fueled by finance, class, love, and ambition. Hernan Diaz’s 2023 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel invests in a four-piece fugue of storytelling, with varying literary styles and eras that make you second guess your current narrator and the previous page. Spanning a century of American wealth, the novel starts by chronicling the curious success of Benjamin and Helen Rask, poster children for the “Bright Young Things” of the 1920s, who may not be worthy of their riches. Diaz pivots to track new characters through the Great Depression up through the denouement of the modern era, weaving a web of wealth and revision through the years.
Want to know who to trust? Follow the money, if you can.
To join our book club, visit sdmag.com/bookclub. Then visit one of the participating local, indie bookstores to buy a copy of Trust . Email a photo of your receipt to books @ sdmag.com. We’ll randomly select one winner each month who will get $300 to any one of CH Projects Establishments (Neighborhood, Born and Raised, Craft & Commerce, Ironside).
No one ever died thinking, “I should’ve read less.”
Cheers to What Comes Next
our the Champagne. We’re partying over here. With this issue, we’re celebrating three-quarters of a century of San Diego Magazine —and bringing you our favorite spots of 2023. It’s a very special edition, full of timeless San Diego memories combined with the best of the
city’s now . We hope it becomes a venerated fixture on your coffee table for a good while, or at least a long-lasting coaster. This 75-year milestone is the beginning of a whole new era for San Diego Magazine . It’s a big deal. And it’s been a long road. When SDM began in 1948, the average American income was about $3,000 per year. The median home value was around $7,000. Harry Truman was president, and the city’s population was barely 300,000. Super Glue hadn’t been invented, and the first Super Bowl was yet to be played. Alaska and Hawaii weren’t states. No Vietnam War, no moon landing, no trickle- down economics, no 9/11, no Covid. It was a different world, and a different San Diego. But through it all, San Diego Magazine remained a premier voice in our city, covering culture, politics, food, fashion, and so much more. We’ve published in nine decades and two centuries. We’re proud of this history. We hope our readers are, too. In honor of our longevity, we decided to celebrate just how cool it is to be 75 years young, while nodding to the fact that we have big plans for the future. We threw ourselves a party at Turf Supper Club, an 80-year-old fixture of Golden Hill, where, inside, it smells like history. We asked our readers to find us stylish models in their 70s, tapped one of the most photogenic young musicians we know to join us, and brought in a dog groomed to look like a lion, just to get weird. Cake, candles, confetti. Bubbly, bolo ties, balloons. You can taste the vibe: Smart. Sexy. Wild. Provocative. Everything we’re seeking to be as we grow older. If we’re being honest—and we always strive to be—previous SDM anniversary covers have fallen flat (see pg. 88), so we wanted to make up for lost opportunities. We hope you dig it. You can see a lot more from the shoot— including other images that could have made the cover—on page 32.
As you can see, we’re having fun. We’re septuagenarians, but we’re in our prime, full of the wisdom that comes with age and ready for what’s next. While putting together this issue and reflecting on all SDM has accomplished in the last seven-plus decades, I’ve also been asking myself what kind of magazine we want to be in another 75 years, and considering what kind of San Diego we want to see. Local media is a vital part of a city’s fabric, and we want to make sure that SDM keeps contributing to a more interesting, more vibrant, and more inclusive San Diego. We’ve inherited a 75-year-strong foundation to build from, and, with new-ish ownership and a talented, hungry editorial team, we’ve got ambitious goals for where we want to go. Our staff views it as a great honor to be stewarding this magazine into its next chapter. So pop that Champagne and raise a glass. We’re just getting started.
MATEO HOKE Executive Editor
24 AUGUST 2023
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA’S ULTIMATE SHOPPING DESTINATION Alexander McQueen · Alexander Wang · Anine Bing · Audemars Piguet · Balenciaga · Bottega Veneta · Breitling · Brunello Cucinelli Buccellati · Cartier · Celine · Chanel · Chloé · Christian Louboutin · Dior · Dolce&Gabbana · Fendi · Givenchy · Gucci · Harry Winston Hermès · Hoka · Isabel Marant · Lanvin · Loewe · Louis Vuitton · Maje · Marni · Max Mara · Missoni · Moncler · Monique Lhuillier Oscar de la Renta · Prada · Reformation · Roger Dubuis · Roger Vivier · Saint Laurent · Sandro · Stella McCartney · The Webster Thom Browne · Tiffany & Co. · Tudor Tourneau · Vacheron Constantin · Valentino · Van Cleef & Arpels · Zegna · Zimmermann partial listing Valet Parking · Personal Shopper Program · Gift Cards · Concierge Services
COSTA MESA, CALIFORNIA
Chief Content Officer
Chief Executive Officer
Vice President Marketing and Events Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Chief Financial Officer
Acting Managing Editor
Marketing Project Manager
Web Content Editor
Production Manager Senior National Advertising Executive Integrated Account Directors Programs and Events Specialist
AMANDA LENOX GINA MENDOLA
Custom Content Editor
Contributing Copy Editor
Social Media Manager
JIM ELY SCOTT FISK
DANIELLE ALLAIRE JARED CROSS
Senior Partnership Manager
Junior Designer Editorial Interns
Sales and Marketing Coodinator Accounting Managers Project Director
ALEX DINOFIA LILI KIM MIMI LE REANNA LEBITSKI WILL RIDDELL
VERONICA GRAHAM HAROLD ARNOLD ELISE PRADO
RACHELLE LE BLANC
Contributing Artists & Designers
Contributing Producer ALEXANDRIA OTT
ROXANA BECERRIL BETH DEMMON RANDY DOTINGA LILLY CORCORAN CHERIE GOUGH MARISSA KOZMA
JESSE MARX KAI OLIVER- KURTIN EMILY ROETHLE DREW SITTON JEFF TERICH CLAIRE TRAGESER
MATT FURMAN STACY KECK MATTHEW MOISANT
SDMAG.COM email@example.com OWNERS Claire and Troy Johnson FOUNDERS AND PUBLISHERS Gloria and Ed Self
POSTMASTER Please send address changes to: San Diego Magazine, PO Box 460266 Escondido, CA 92046-9800 SUBSCRIPTIONS 888-350-0963 This magazine is printed on paper from sustainable source mills that support all credible forest-certification programs. Please recycle this magazine.
THE BEST OF SAN DIEGO ® SINCE 1948
SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE (ISSN 0734-6727), August 2023, Vol. 75, No. 8. SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE is published 12 times a year (monthly) by San Diego Magazine LLC, 1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800, San Diego, CA, 92101. SUBSCRIPTION RATES: One year, $18; two years, $28; three years, $40. Subscriptions outside CA are $3 additional per year; outside the US, $80 additional per year. Back issues are $10 per issue and can be purchased at sandiegomagazine.com, if available. For change of address or customer service, write SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEPT., PO Box 460266 Escondido, CA 92046-9800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Periodical postage paid at San Diego, CA, and additional mailing offices. San Diego Magazine is a registered trademark of San Diego Magazine LLC. Copyright © 2011 by San Diego Magazine LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited. POSTMASTER: PLEASE SEND ADDRESS CHANGES TO SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE, PO Box 460266 Escondido, CA 92046-9800
AUGUST 2023 26
Elisabeth Dawson, Author & CEO of Copia Wealth Management
Designing Retirement Income For Life EPISODE 2: PLANNING FOR YOUR FAMILY’S FUTURE Most families are caught up in the immediacy of day-to-day living. Still, it’s crucial to have a long-term strategy for the decade-to-decade future of your family’s finances—and know how to protect against what can happen in between. Elisabeth Dawson’s video series Designing Retirement Income For Life addresses these issues for young parents and families. Elisabeth’s video series dives into approaches for creating wealth and maintaining it with tools like calculating your Human Economic Value, which represents your earning capacity over your lifetime. She also shares invaluable anecdotes from real clients to illustrate the power of thoughtful planning. Let’s apply the same passion we have in our everyday work — to earn money, to build assets — and take the next step to protect it.
Learn how to prevent losing half of your income due to an unexpected life event. Watch now at SDMag.com/Copia or scan the QR code.
Prioritize your financial and retirement plan by checking out Dawson’s new book, Retirement By Design . Learn how to structure your financial life with purpose, strategies to prevent income loss, and how to create financial abundance and live comfortably for the rest of your life. Visit retirementbydesignbook.com for more information.
LIC #0C72164, #0G81294 Copia Wealth Management & Insurance Services (619) 640-2622 | 2333 Camino Del Rio South, Suite 240, San Diego, CA 92108 - Investment advice offered through Copia Wealth Management Advisors, Inc. Copia Wealth Management Advisors, Inc. is a registered investment adviser.
THE WATER WORLD: POINT LOMA, MISSION BAY
ave you heard? We’ve got oceans. In June 1959, SDM heralded the arrival of waterfront developments in Point Loma and Mission Bay, citing “San Diegans’ growing consciousness of the sea” as a driving force behind the builds. On the cover, a woman floats blissfully in a stretch of clear water—perhaps discovering for the first time the pleasure of perching
weightless in an inlet and imagining what it’s like to be an otter. San Diego’s been a beach town for a while now. But, this year, it’s settling into its status as a focal point of women’s soccer since the 2022 arrival of the National Women’s Soccer League team, Wave FC. So, in celebration of our 75 th anniversary, we recreated this retro cover with one of the newest icons making a splash in SD:
28 AUGUST 2023
AUGUST 2 0 2 3 $ 6 . 9 5
MAKING WAVES: SD’S NEWEST
15-year-old Melanie Barcenas, a Wave FC forward and the youngest player ever signed to the league. The San Diego native started training at age five with her dad and brother. She grew up scoring goals on local club teams and watching her idols play, including Wave FC captain Alex Morgan. She snagged Morgan’s jersey while spectating a Qualcomm Stadium game five years ago—and now they wear matching ones.
Melanie’s got no regrets about going pro while most of her peers are studying for their permit tests. “I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she says. “When it’s something you love, it’s like, ‘What’s next?’” The future is bright, Melanie. Good thing you’ve got shades. — AR
29 SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE
THE UNKNOWN IS IMMINENTLY KNOWABLE.
The speed of knowledge doubles, then redoubles, then doubles again. What is unknown today will be common knowledge tomorrow. At UC San Diego, we are dedicated to seeing the world from new perspectives, seeking uncommon solutions to the world’s biggest problems through groundbreaking research, and advancing new knowledge.
Visit ucsd.edu and see how we turn the unknown into the known .
CELEBRATING 75 Celebrating 75
32 AUGUST 2023
Take a peek inside our decadent anniversary cover shoot
an Diego Magazine has seen many years and many editors. That’s hundreds of hands and minds covering the city’s inner life, reflecting and (sometimes) shaping
skyrocketing diversity of our food scene, SD is more exciting than ever, a playground for natives and transplants alike. To illustrate that dichotomy, we invited some San Diego County residents, older and younger, to ring in our 75 th year at the iconic Turf Supper Club in Golden Hill. Our motto: The bigger the better. That included balloons the size of third- graders, massive grocery-store sheet cakes, gallons of confetti, and one very regal pooch. Like the vintage duds local shops let us borrow, we might be old, but we’ve never felt more alive. You’re all welcome at our table. Come celebrate with us. – Samantha Lacy, Art Director
its tastes. For our 75 th anniversary cover, we wanted to celebrate our seven decades as a publication while acknowledging that we’re still just getting started. And we’re inspired by the growth in the city. San Diego may be a fine old town by the sea, but it’s under constant reinvention. Whether we’re welcoming new sports teams or enjoying the
33 SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE
34 AUGUST 2023
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Food & Drink HOT PLATES
Get Some 15 notable San Diegans shout out their favorite eats in the city
Rob Machado PROFESSIONAL SURFER
I don’t make it downtown very often, but when I want to take my wife out on a date, it’s Seneca . They have amazing Italian cuisine
with spectacular views of the city. [I like the] homemade focaccia.
Claudia Sandoval CHEF, TELEVISION PERSONALITY
Jason Mraz SINGER, SONGWRITER, COFFEE PURVEYOR The vegan fish taco by One Kitchen Collaborative is possibly one of the best tacos of
Parkhouse Eatery has been our family’s favorite place to go to on weekends for brunch, birthday celebrations, and more recently, my daughter’s high school graduation. Anyone who knows me well knows exactly what I always order when I get there: the churro pancakes. This cinnamon- and-sugar-swirled pancake makes you want to stuff your face with its crispy edges, fluffy innies, and sweetened condensed milk drizzle.
all time, honoring everything you love about real fish tacos. The crunch. The oils. The sauces. The drip. The flavor. It has it all—and maintains a vegan status. But you can only get it at their taco pop- up [on the] first Tuesday of the month at Jitters Pub in Oceanside. [It’s] become a party centered around the taco. There’s a DJ and everything.
40 AUGUST 2023
Geena “The Latina” Aguilar RADIO HOST, CHANNEL 933 I absolutely love everything at Kravings Fruit Bar in Santee. My boyfriend is obsessed with their Chamoy apples. We love their açaí bowls and all their natural juices, [plus] their tostilocos. The owners are always around and know you by name.
Ramel J. Wallace MUSICIAN, ARTIST, PODCAST HOST
Panama 66 has one of my favorite layouts of any restaurant, and the Wagyu burger is designed to taste just as good as the restaurant [looks]. I order it medium-rare and bite into heaven.
Swingin’ Friar SAN DIEGO PADRES MASCOT
One of my all-time favorite dishes at Petco Park is the Seaside Market burgundy pepper tri-tip nachos. Featuring Seaside’s iconic burgundy pepper tri-tip, aka Cardiff Crack, these nachos are only available at the park and include BBQ sauce, queso, and green onions.
Ashley Nell Tipton LOCAL FASHION DESIGNER, WINNER OF SEASON 14 OF PROJECT RUNWAY I love Yukas Truck Cafe . Located directly across from mi casa, this is my morning go-to place to get caffeinated. They even have breakfast small businesses and personally know the struggles that can come with making a go of it. items and tacos. I love supporting
41 SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE
Food & Drink HOT PLATES
Melanie Barcenas SAN DIEGO WAVE FC FORWARD, YOUNGEST PLAYER EVER SIGNED TO THE NATIONAL WOMEN’S SOCCER LEAGUE I have two favorite dishes at Rockies Frozen Yogurt : their açaí bowls and their frozen yogurt. I really love their 50-50 blend that consists of açaí and pitaya. It’s a perfect balance of sweet and healthy. The granola here is wonderful and the fruit is always fresh! I really enjoy eating this on a game day. Sometimes I switch it up and go for their frozen yogurt,
Todd Gloria MAYOR OF SAN DIEGO Coal Bros Taqueria is just steps away from City Hall. There’s a lot of competition when it comes to tacos in this town, but brothers- in-law Abner Figueroa and Julio Toscano have definitely figured out something special. I am a creature of habit, so I always order their signature tacos—one ribeye and one chicken— and the combination of the seasoning, the salsa, and the smoke of the grill hits the spot every single time.
which is also really yummy. Their toppings are unique because they are swirled into your yogurt.
Chad Michaels DRAG PERFORMER, WINNER OF SEASON ONE OF RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE ALL STARS My newest obsession in North County is Eat Crispy Burger off Leucadia Boulevard. If you want an
Bill Walton NCAA BASKETBALL CHAMPION A large Peanut Butter Chocolate Love smoothie from Jamba .
old-fashioned burger that tastes like a million dollars, this is your joint. Freshly pressed burger patties and all the fixings make all the competition in town blush! A simple menu makes your choices very easy.
42 AUGUST 2023
Best New Restaurant, Critic’s Choice
Food & Drink HOT PLATES
Tim Mays OWNER, THE CASBAH
I spend a lot of time in South Park, between Vinyl Junkies Record Shack, Whistle Stop, and Station Tavern, and, when
dinner time rolls around, it’s a short walk to Piacere Mio —the food is always fantastic and the bustling dining room is always energizing. We usually share the carbonara, bolognese, or marinated artichoke. There’s no better combination. Fresh and robust!
Shannon MacMillan FORMER PROFESSIONAL SOCCER PLAYER; OLYMPIC
GOLD MEDALIST; VP OF COMMUNITY RELATIONS, SD LOYAL Alce 101 has a great atmosphere and amazing tequila bar, although I always stick with my Tito’s and soda. Start with the yaki-glazed
potstickers and finish your meal with a bowl of their elk pozole—ridiculously tasty! You also can’t go wrong with the green chile onion ring tower.
Steve Fisher SAN DIEGO STATE'S ALL-TIME WINNINGEST COACH [I like] Pamplemousse Grille in Solana Beach. Starter: lobster and truffle grilled cheese— amazing. Entrée: red-wine braised short rib with saffron risotto and baby vegetables. [There’s] nothing better anywhere. Jeffrey Strauss, the chef and owner, makes everyone feel special.
Jason Magabo Perez SAN DIEGO POET LAUREATE Lechon kawali sisig at Max’s Restaurant on Mira Mesa Boulevard. I
grieve the loss of a magical sisig served at the late Cristy's Bakery on [the same street]. Max’s sisig is solid, definitely both a luxury and a comfort. I know folks debate what constitutes authentic sisig, and I'm a Kapampangan sisig fan myself. However, this lechon kawali sisig at Max’s is super good.
44 AUGUST 2023
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Chronicling Cuisine and Culture
From a single cream puff to CIA-level secret critics, here’s a look back at San Diego’s food scene through the lens of SDM ’s storytellers
BY TROY JOHNSON
ood was first deemed worthy of cover-model status in San Diego Magazine in 1975. A single sultry cream puff,
its protruding fluffy middle, come- hithering on newsstands across the city. An object of desire. Food as abs. Food as décolletage. If it were a few decades earlier, buttoned-up parents might cover childrens’ eyes from that illicit pastry smut. But this was the late ’70s, an era disco-dancing its way through one forbidden pleasure after the next. SDM ’s editors seemed to recognize the lust they were peddling, as the headline read: “The X-Rated Bakeries.” Of course, food writing wasn’t new. It’s cave-painting stuff. Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin penned The Physiology of Taste 150 years earlier. Twain wrote exhaustively about food. The world’s greatest cookie writer was Proust. Brillat-Savarin was the one who coined, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” That statement seems a tad pretentious in a modern food climate that’s more
RIGHT Photographer John Oldenkamp not only shot this seductive cream puff for our November 1975 cover—he baked it, too.
46 AUGUST 2023
humble, sure. But the nugget rings true. Because the best food writing is never a discussion about how well cooks comingled their fats and acids. Through a plate of food, you can tell entire stories of history, culture, religion, socioeconomic strata, ecology, economics, and the personality of the person making it. Shepherd’s pie speaks of Irish suffering. Birria is a story of Spain colonizing Mexico with a bunch of annoying goats. The Big Mac Index is a widely used, very real economic tool designed to analyze the strength of global currencies. Food writing took off because it attracted great writers, the poets who could juggle and sword-swallow the English language. One of SDM ’s earliest food critics, Tom Gable, would go into restaurants anonymously with a microphone in his pocket, wired up his sleeve to record his thoughts without detection. Restaurant criticism was very serious business, real covert-ops stuff. Just a bunch of hyper-literate Jason Bournes saving San Diego’s humankind from subpar soufflés.
BELOW Food critic Tom Gable’s 1976 story describes a deluge of tips from SDM readers lauding strip-mall Chinese food spots. RIGHT In 1975, William Thomson, the executive chef of a pre-Mediterranean Room iteration of the La Valencia hotel, posed for a piece on holiday eats.
47 SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE
CELEBRATING 75 Celebrating 75
TOP This shot of a holiday feast at dowtown’s Little America Westgate Hotel appeared in you probably already knew that, thanks to the lurid colors and napkin swans. the mag in 1975—but
there, feasting with a backstabber. In those early days, San Diego’s food scene had its bright spots (courtesy of restauranteurs like Gustaf Anders and Bertrand Hug), but all in all, it was not well. Serious chefs seemed to come here to half-heartedly pre-retire—or were dragged here in the trunk of life’s car. We have the hotels to thank for ending our food dark ages. Places like the Hotel Del, Loews Coronado (which tapped in chef Michael Stebner), the Lodge at Torrey Pines (chef Jeff Jackson), and El Bizcocho (chef Gavin Kaysen) hired the country’s best talents and supported them with big banquet money from events and weddings.
Gable and SDM ’s other great food writer, David Nelson, created literary opuses about a city and its people, using beef Wellingtons and bánh mìs as their entry points. Nowadays, food writing, even criticism, is less about playing food god and thunder-bolting your judgment and more about telling a damn good story about a place in San Diego and what it says about our city and humans at large. SDM ’s food photography in the ’70s and ’80s was wild. US culture was focused on largesse, and this media company was not immune to the “more is more” impulse. Each photo in the mag looked like Jesus was
48 AUGUST 2023
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SDM ’s coverage during the ’70s and ’80s was all about imported foods—first from the most adored food culture in the world (France), then other European countries and, eventually, Asia. Commercial airline travel was democratized in the ’70s, and people were flying to far-flung places and coming back with tales of new foodways to enlightenment. In the hills surrounding us, San Diego farmers were growing the best produce on the planet (SD has more small farms per capita than any US county), and yet our top restaurants were getting their food from the airport. That changed with the farm-to-table movement in the early 2000s. It wasn’t “new.” Cooking food you find nearby is how humanity started. It just got lost, especially in the US, when the Nixon administration demanded American farms “get big or get out.” Eventually the hotel chefs led the charge back to local farms, and the wave went indie at spots like Region (led by Stebner, who would go on to help launch True Food Kitchen), The Linkery, and Whisknladle. Continued on page 52
TOP SDM readers voted Mister A’s San Diego’s best restaurant in 1981. The local institution remains in our 2023 Best Restaurants issue. ABOVE San Diego Mag has always invited readers to shift their perspective, as evidenced by this innovatively angled seafood shot in our August 2002 issue. RIGHT Now-shuttered Coronado fine-dining spot Marius was declared San Diego’s Best of the Best in 1994—after, the editors noted, sneaky repeat ballots were thrown out.
50 AUGUST 2023
Critic’s Choice: Best Service Reader’s Runner-Up: Best Italian Reader’s Choice: Best Wine List
Authentic Italian Cuisine @SolareSanDiego
“Food porn” gave way to ingredient porn. And most recently, both food justice and ecology became a crucial part of the conversation. SDM talked about restaurants frauding farmers; about the delicate balance between the demand for seafood and the livelihoods of the people who go out and catch it; about the work of first-generation
Americans who started with their life savings and a shingle in a non-famous part of town. Food writing nearly died. Some say it has. But SDM is still pepper- spraying the coffin brokers. Our contribution to the discussion around food has always been one of longform cultural exploration, ideally with many good sentences that make you think or understand the world differently. We’ve taken our storytelling to podcasts and video and internet-friendly best-of lists that provide our readers with brief info glitter that they love, too. It’s all part of what we do here, guiding our readers through the best meals in the city. We’ve been at it a long time.
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Vibrant interpretations of homespun Huasteca fare, fused with sizzling cocktails, set in the Mexican jungle.
OPPOSITE PAGE Our 2012 Asian food guide shouted out a number of still-popular spots, including Tajima, Sushi Ota, and Bahn Thai. ABOVE In 2012 (long before he and Claire purchased San Diego Magazine ), Troy penned his first review for the mag, singing about the duck confit mac at the defunct Solace & The Moonlight Lounge. LEFT Back in 2013, Troy’s number-one best restaurant pick, Addison, was yet to score even one of its now-three Michelin stars.
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37 SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE 53
unny is an ever-evolving thing. What’s witty in one decade may be cliché in the next. But there’s much to be learned from the laughs of the past, and sometimes old jokes stay hilarious. We scoured the SDM archives to sprinkle a little levity throughout the mag. F HistorIcAl Humor
AUGUST 2023 54
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The Kebab Shop started its humble beginnings in San Diego’s East Village neighborhood with the goal to provide European-Style Kebabs that appeal to everyone.
BEST OF SAN DIEGO WINNER 5 YEARS IN A ROW
Now with 10 locations in San Diego and 30+ throughout California, Texas, & Florida, The Kebab Shop has carved it’s own path in the Mediterranean space. With its inviting atmosphere and creative menu items like “The San Diego Kebab Wrap” which pays homage to their first location and comes with fries inside (totally a San Diego thing right?) and “The O.G. Yogurt Sauce (Original Garlic), The Kebab Shop is sure to deliver a memorable Mediterranean experience for all.
CRITICS & READER’S PICK “BEST FRIES” “BEST CHAIN”
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