Cheese Shop has been spotted on all seven continents, gracing locales along the Great Wall of China, beside the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and amid the crags of Glacier National Park. Franchises or trademarked cheese meteors aren't the worldly cause, however: the deli's Frisbee Challenge sends logo-emblazoned discs with wayfaring customers, whose photo ops earn them a discount and spot on the dining room's wall of honor. Second-generation owners Tom and Sandy Schutz helm the cheese-shop-turned-café within downtown San Diego's historic Horton Grand Hotel, whose Victorian stained glass windows filter soft light onto breakfasts of buckwheat pancakes and hash-brown-flanked omelets, which are served all day. Six varieties of gourmet grilled cheese anointed with spices such as pesto and jalapeños join overstuffed sandwiches piled high with house-cured and house-smoked morsels of sirloin, pork, and chicken. Outside, a brick patio crowns white wrought iron tables with cups of coffee, tea, and hand-shaken bloody marys beneath trees wrapped in twinkling lights. Cheese Shop also delivers meals to downtown homes and offices free of charge.:
Jeff Roberto, a sushi expert, brings a plethora of experience to his San Diego sushi oasis. He has catered large events of up to 16,000 guests as well as the sets of such Hollywood films as Titanic, Pearl Harbor, and Elizabethtown. Inside SOAR (Sushi On A Roll) he constructs specialty rolls filled with shrimp tempura, seared tuna, spicy scallops, and sashimi and nigiri rolls featuring fresh water eel and squid.
Roberto also leads group explorations in the art of sushi preparation during interactive sushi-making classes held inside a private sushi bar. Two-hour classes commence with an assessment of how many edamame you can stuff in your cheeks before you begin tucking vegetable fillings in sheets of seaweed with the help of a bamboo mat. Students jot down notes on the proper consistency of sushi rice, when to sprinkle rolls with sesame seeds, and how to repurpose chopsticks as the mast of a ship-in-a-bottle.
A koi mural provides the backdrop for the expansive 30-seat sushi bar, which is outlined in neon to highlight the dramatic curve of the space. The expansive venue, which accommodates up to 100 people, is popular among large groups of friends looking for a fun outing and U.S. senators playing hooky. Free parking is also available.
Though it’s firmly planted in San Diego soil, Gourmet on 5th mimics the epicurean traiteur shops that pepper European roadsides. The store empowers its visitors to eat healthy, and at the same time helps them do so without having to dawdle over a hot stove or buy out a local vegetable farm. Brimming with French influence, Gourmet on 5th’s blackboard menu changes seasonally. It features full meals, including lamb shanks, duck confit, and coq au vin. But the store also has nutritious bites for on-the-move munchers, such as crepes and signature sandwiches, along with energizing drinks, such as espresso concoctions and exotic teas.
Da Kine's silences pairs of grumbling bellies with a menu of Hawaiian-inspired eats. Open flames tickle the grilled mahi-mahi before chefs decorate the sizzling entree or lackluster aprons with vibrant lemons and green olives. Beef beautifiers pamper Korean-style kalbi short ribs with a soothing soy-and-sesame mask. Run forks through the rice-and-macaroni salad instead of an open briefcase, or leaf through the tossed salad that accompanies each Big Kine plate, including the savory chicken katsu. Feasting duos can douse toasty noshes or accidentally ablaze shirtsleeves with fountain drinks, Sun soda, or water beside an exposed-brick bar and hardwood floors or under towering umbrellas scattered across an outdoor dining area.
Origano prepares authentic Italian dishes as patrons lounge in a cozy dining room filled with sunlight by day and lit by warm chandeliers by night. Origano's chefs handcraft gourmet pizzas, such as the pizza portobello e speck, which pairs mozzarella cheese and portobello mushrooms with speck and truffle oil ($12.95). During lunch or dinner the paccheri pasta regales noshers with tales of pistachio pesto, speck, and parmigiano, castaway on a sea of cream sauce while trying to flag down passing forks ($12.95 for lunch; $13.95 for dinner). Dinner guests bask in the savory glow of the lamb shank braised with red wine and served atop saffron risotto ($19.95). The wine bar, nestled in a rustic cove, stocks an array of wines, ranging from an Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc from New Zealand ($28 / bottle) to a 2008 Tuscan sangiovese from Antinori Santa Cristina ($25 / bottle).