San Diego Comic-Con is here again. This year marks the 10th year Paul and I will be exhibiting in Small Press and countless years attending. With that, we’re always looking for new places to recommend to people or visit if we have a chance to take a break before or after exhibiting. It goes without saying that the hours are long and good food is vital to keep us going during this 5-day marathon of comics and pop culture. And since most of us are on a budget, spending almost $10 for a flavorless burger at the convention center is usually not an option unless we were really desperate (or we want to hang out with the costume folks paying for heat-lamp french fries).
Last year, we posted a list of 10 places we recommend and we got our act again this year. So without further ado, here are our top places to eat this year.
While I put this on my list last year, Ralphs grocery store is a life saver for many con attendees and demands a place on the list every year. Where else can you find bottled water along with fresh fruit, hot sandwiches and a salad bar all at reasonable prices? It’s apparently no longer a secret. Last year, the deli department did record sales during comic-con. If you don’t already have a Ralphs Rewards card, do yourself a favor and apply for one for even more savings. Ralph’s is open 24 hours a day for late night bingers or people camping out to get into Hall H.
The Kebab Shop
A shawarma ($6.79) should keep any mortal’s hunger at bay for several hours and with your choice of seasoned lamb (my favorite), chicken or falafel for the vegetarians, there’s something for everyone. The bread is fluffy, fresh and great to eat while on the go (orders can be placed online or via phone). Sides like cold salads, rice and fries are extra and will help fill in those little crevices.
A former hardware store has transformed into Cremolose. This restaurant serves full-fledged meals but what’s truly impressive is their wide selection of desserts made with imported Italian ingredients. If you can get past the gelato display by the entrance, you are rewarded with a wonderland of sweets. The toughest decision then would be which confection to settle on. Cookies are reasonably priced and are much fresher than the selection at Ralphs. Opposite the dessert display is a full-service bar for those wanting more than just sweets.
Zanzibar Cafe & Market
In the East Village, Zanzibar Cafe & Market offers high-quality and fresh meals all day long. It’s part market, part restaurant; deciding on one thing can be a challenge in itself but if you’re looking to start your day off with something healthy, look no further than The Californian ($8.95). This toasted, open-faced bagel is topped with avocado, hummus, cream cheese, tomato, sprouts with a squeeze of lemon. While the price may initially make you shrug, the ingredients are always top notch. Other things to try are the waffles and egg scrambles.
Lolita’s Taco Shop
When in San Diego, do what the locals do and head over to a taco shop for fill your gullet for cheap. Lolita’s Taco Shop is a beloved South Bay (South San Diego) institution, serving the hungry for several decades. Now there’s one a baseball’s throw away from Petco Park and the convention center. For out-of-towners, one must-try is a California burrito, something you can only find in San Diego.
Lolita’s version of the California burrito ($5) includes marinated carne asada, sour cream, cheese and french fries wrapped up in a warm and toasty flour tortilla. The genius inclusion of french fries is what defines a California burrito and Lolita’s version is one of the best. Guacamole can be added at an extra cost.
After the exhibit halls have kicked you out and you want a place to sit down and commiserate about the day’s events, Analog Bar is one solid option. Happy hour specials rotate starting Tuesday until Sunday at 5 and they specialize in a variety of potent cocktails. Even with the karaoke in an adjoining room, shouting isn’t necessary to have a reasonable dinner conversation. And dinner is nothing to shrug at either; you won’t go wrong with an order their hanger steak for dinner. The kitchen is open late and food is served until 10 p.m.
Whether you want pizza by the slice or by the entire pie, Berkeley Pizza is the place to go for something other than the usual, ol’ floppy slice. The pies here are deep, albeit not traditional Chicago-style. Prices range in $3.25 for a single slice of cheese to $26.40 for a large pie of their signature spinach and mushroom. It’s an option for late dinner, open until 11 p.m. most nights and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Their rotating beer on tap includes some San Diego brewed varieties.
Former Top Chef finalist (season 3) Brian Malarkey heads Searsucker. Celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and other A-listers have been spotted here and it’s established as the place to see and be seen. While not the best deal in Gaslamp when looking for an affordable meal, it’s a hot spot. After all, you’re here for the experience.
Katsu Seafood & Steakhouse
It’s easy to overlook Katsu Seafood & Steakhouse, a Japanese restaurant found in the shadow of Horton Plaza.
Summer specials abound here all season long but for the weak and weary who some an injection of something other than the usual lunch fare, Katsu is the place to visit. Aside from the usual speciality rolls like the eye-rolling-yet-tasty Jessica Alba-core roll (tempura shrimp, crab, avocado, albacore and sauce on top), a sure bet for a filling and affordable lunch is a bento box starting at $7.99. All bento boxes include miso soup and salad.
The Cheese Shop
While other conventioneers are headed to the The Broken Yolk (still fresh from its appearance on Man Vs. Food last year), the ones who want to avoid breakfast lines will head over to The Cheese Shop.
This restaurant and deli is newly relocated from its Gaslamp location to inside the historic Horton Grand Hotel, a perfect fit considering it’s been around since the early 1970s. Breakfast is served until 3 p.m. and you can find the usual offerings: biscuits and gravy, pancakes and chilaquilas made with their own homemade salsa. And true to its name, there’s a variety of hot and cold cheese sandwiches custom-made to order.
Miscellaneous Food Stuffs
- Food Trucks Galore — Food trucks are making a comeback starting Thursday until Saturday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. near Island Ave. Notable trucks include Devilious and Chop Sooey.
- History Channel Cookoff — The History Channel is traveling cross county sponsoring a BBQ cook off and it’s making a stop in San Diego during Comic-Con. A badge is required to attend this cook-off happening Thursday and Friday from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Local restaurants in the cook-off include Hodad’s and Phil’s BBQ. The event is located at a lot on Island Ave. near 1st and 2nd St. Info here.
- Invasion of the Pier — The San Diego Air & Space Museum want a piece of the Comic-Con action with their Invasion of the Pier event taking place on the Broadway Pier, Thursday and Friday from 4-11 p.m. For $6, you get access to more food trucks, beer and a live band (cost of food and drink is not included). Additional $1 gets you a shuttle from the convention center. Info here.