The flavors of the American South haven't just migrated to San Diego, they found a permanent home there. At Sonny's Southern California BBQ, cooks take a page out of ole' Dixie's recipe book and whip up succulent portions of beef short ribs, tender pulled pork, and catfish sandwiches. They can even cater to vegetarians with favorites such as barbecue beans, collard greens, and creamy mac and cheese. In good Southern fashion, they pair all of these savory eats with cold, house-made glasses of traditional sweet tea and lemonade.
Though named for a fiery volcano, Krakatoa Café reigns as the coolest spot in Golden Hill. This charming olive-colored Craftsman bungalow has an abundance of character, and good eats to back them up. Locals chill on the wooden deck, shaded by a fig tree, enjoying the lush foliage and bamboo wind chimes. It’s easy to relax here, sipping coffee drinks, smoothies or craft beers with friends and snacking on decadent house-made pastries or gourmet sandwiches, like the Ubehebe, complete with maple-cured bacon, roasted turkey, cream cheese, cranberry sauce and crisp romaine. One of the West Coast’s finest roasters, Caffe Calabria, supplies the coffee beans and artisan teas, while manager Julie bakes divine desserts and always has gluten-free or vegan treats on hand. Happy Hour calls for a Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale or orange blossom mimosa on the dog-friendly patio.
The historic Golden Hill district is settled with Craftsman mansions retrofitted into offices and apartments that cater to the downtown doctor and musician set. Those disparate groups tend to overlap at the corner location of Influx Café at Broadway and 20th. The building is a pale-colored antique that cleverly masks the streamlined, northern European décor inside this funky coffee house. Along one wall, pendant fans hang over a bank of small tables packed with laptop-focused customers, while a long and low, curving couch curls around the opposite side. Seating tends to be sparse inside Influx, which means most folks grab their espresso and move on, but in-the-know folks come by early for the renowned croissants, which some say are the best in the area. While the location is in earshot of the freeway, the side patio makes a calm retreat or pleasant spot for an intimate breakfast.
The owner of Bonnie Jean's Soul Food Cafe did more than name the restaurant after the woman who taught her to entertain and cook—she also continually serves up her mother's recipes and hospitality. Today, when patrons step into Bonnie Jean's, they fill with the aromas of chicken and waffles, fried catfish, homemade barbecue sauce, and pork ribs steadily flowing from the kitchen. Chefs prepare the sides with the same amount of neighborly care, from the corn bread and collard greens to the yams and peach cobbler. Even the dining room could be mistaken for a living room, with photos lining the plum walls, a chessboard waiting for two players to match strategies, and the warm glow of a chandelier illuminating smiles and giving diners plenty of light to make macaroni portraits.
With walls bedecked in vibrant artwork and a variety of seating options, Hart Lounge invites people to kick back day or night. During the day, coffee drinks can be paired with a variety of handhelds and finger foods, such as housemade hummus, buffalo chicken paninis, and mediterranean pizzas topped with organic tomatoes. Nights at Hart Lounge are also full of possibilities, with hookah events, game nights, and Movie & Munchies nights, during which guests can watch a flick while enjoying popcorn, hot dogs, and nachos. Open mic nights are also offered for the more daring, where people can take the stage and showcase their guitar-playing or yodeling skills.
Organic and locally sourced ingredients give the French, Italian, and Spanish-inspired meals at Rustic Tapas and Meatballs a California twist. The dinner menu centers on oven-baked meatballs, made from scratch according to the owner's grandmother's recipe. Whether tumbled across spaghetti or slipped between bread, they burst with the flavors of fresh herbs and slow-roasted meats?or soy chorizo, in the case of the vegetarian option. Before or between meals, guests can snack on Spanish-inspired tapas or sip glasses of housemade sangria, craft beer, and organic wine.