San Diego Magazine’s Best-Of SD issue has a ton of intel, including a round-up of the best restaurants of 2012. If you keep flipping to the South Bay section, you’ll see my top 10 places to Eat Your Way Around South Bay, including everything from fro-yo to fusion fare, like MJ’s Yogurt Time and Deli in Chula Vista, where you can get a heaping plate of fries and meat, topped with cheese, creamy sauces, and two fried eggs. The “House Fries” are their top seller (and make your typical carne asada fries look downright dainty).

House Fries at MJ's Yogurt Time and Deli in Chula Vista

Options for cheap eats near the San Diego Convention Center (and Comic-Con) abound, if you know where to look. Most of the spots on 5th, right across from the SDCC aren’t worth your dining dollar, but there are a few gems right on the strip. If you go a little farther north, or east, that’s where you’ll really strike gold. Here are my top picks for cheap eats near the Convention Center (and in downtown SD, in general).

Banh Mi from The District

On National Cheeseburger Day (September 18th, if you didn’t know), Sacramento will be hit with a blizzard of burgers at the Sacramento Burger Battle. Local restaurants will put their best burger forward, and I’m going to be in the center of the storm as one of the official judges.

sacramento-burger-battle

The Cravory is one of my favorite cookie bakers in San Diego. From both a technical and creative standpoint, their cookies are excellent. There are a dozen signature flavors, plus 6 additional options that change each month, and you can also create your own. There’s no retail storefront but you can try them at San Diego Farmers’ Markets (La Jolla and Hillcrest), and if you’re not local, order them online. They’ll ship anywhere in the continental USA (with a one dozen minimum).

ej-eats-cravory-interview

Media dinners can be many things, but they are always bizarre. Pack a bunch of writers (and their sensitive egos) in a room, ply ‘em with booze, and bring on the food, and lots of it. In the best of times, these dinners are an exercise in feigned (and failed) restraint that end in self-loathing and a strong desire to put one’s stomach in a time machine to undo that second chocolate mousse bon bon that better judgement would have never allowed. The worst don’t usually get mentioned. In an industry where writers were once prized for their brutal honesty, it’s somehow become taboo to share any real criticism.

From a PR perspective, it’s ideal. Writers happily line up for the gavage tube, gorge themselves, and waddle out happy. When the food is good, there’s no harm in it, but when it’s bad and no one speaks up, that’s a problem. My goal as a food writer isn’t to score free meals, shake hands with the chef, and gush about how great everything was. I work for the readers, and my job is to tell the truth, even when it’s not pretty.

My last experience was such a disappointment that weeks later, it’s still nagging me, to the point that while the rest of my household happily slumbers, I’m sitting alone, in my cat-hair covered pyjamas, stewing. It’s time I told the truth: I am completely over the Malarkey empire and the proliferation of textile-named restaurants in San Diego.

Live Spot Prawn from Gabardine