North Park restauranteurs know food is the consummate unifier. The table and people around it fulfill a purpose; to feel love and connected while sharing that which sustains us. In a culture where everyone in trying to figure out how they are different from you, gathering for a meal is a great equalizer and shows how similar we are.
North Park restaurants foster this feeling the instant one walks through the door and transitions from customer to guest. The San Diego neighborhood is known for its hipsters and young families.
But, North Park has plenty to offer those straddling the Gen X/ Baby Boomer stage of life.
Innovative chefs recreate global dishes which revivify breaking bread with good friends and family. It’s a culinary trip around the world void of the homogeneity chain eateries deliver.
The intersection of University Avenue and 30th Street is the heart of this thriving district, which splays for blocks in each direction. A stone’s throw will result in gastronomic treats — freshly made sausage; chicken pie; ostrich, gator or kangaroo burgers; mac & cheese with duck confit; carnitas; drunken noodles; a hearty breakfast — any craving can be satiated.
Here’s a sampling to get you started…
Belgian Beer & Waffle (BBW)
Recently open by a French couple and their Swiss friend, Belgium Beer and Waffle replicates the European art of living.
Fashioned after street food in Brussels where the crisp batter cakes are used in lieu of sandwich bread, BBW’s menu reads like a savoy/sweet dream. Avocado “toast” never tasted better. The all-beef patty, cheddar cheese and sauce between two beer batter waffles may convert you for life. Pair it with a brew from the owners’ motherland and you’ll swear you’ve transported to Bruges.
Iced vanilla lattes made with Nespresso coffee from Switzerland are served in big mugs instead of drinking glasses, just as it’s served in the Belgium countryside. Part of the mixture of urban/rural charm BBW does so well. The café is a perfect complement to the liege sugar waffles topped with praline ice cream, strawberries, bananas, and salted caramel sauce. Perfect treat for you and your “sweetie” on date night.
Sip, sip hooray for this muy fun Fiesta Hour! Cocktails and mocktails flow freely on Tropical Thursday at the Latin cocina. A galaxy of edible flowers and dried citrus garnish refreshments served in copper cups shaped like pineapples. Rendezvous with a few girlfriends to make merry over a plate of yucca fries or shrimp and mango tacos.
The restaurant’s historic building was constructed in 1929, and housed North Park’s first department store.
Tamarindo’s patio is pet-friendly, so bring your hairy heartthrob, too! Food and drink specials’ all day and night will start your weekend early!
Sicilian Thing Pizza
No need to get spruced up. Pull on yoga pants and grab the car keys for a little slice of heaven at this North Park restaurant!
Sicilian Thing flung open their doors 13 years ago and have been tossing homemade dough in the air ever since. The staff makes you feel at home with their ever-present smiles and dry sense of humor.
The place isn’t fancy, but the New York and Sicilian style pizza sings on your tongue. Go gaga over their stromboli’s flaky dough filled with an avalanche of meats, cheeses, and tomatoes, then baked. Eat in, take out. Either way it’s perfect for a night you don’t want to cook.
Original 40 Brewing Company
One of the newer jewels in North Park’s tiara of restaurants.
It’s named after the 40-acres purchased in 1893 by James Monroe Hartley that is now North Park. Owners’ Steve and Patricia Billings live in the neighborhood, qualifying the fresh, sunny tavern as a ma and pa watering hole. In-house brewed beers range from IPA, lager, pilsner, and sour. Even stout that packs a whopping 12.8% alcohol. That’s more than wine! Partner the ale with delish food from their full menu. Charcuterie boards and gougeres pair perfectly with Original 40 brewpubs 24 taps.
Dunedin New Zealand Eats
Two words — meat pie!
Yup, the Kiwi’s know how to meld seasoned beef, cheddar cheese, and pastry into a carnivores’ delight. Another NZ fave, humorously named Sheila’s Cracked, will activate your sensory pleasure as well, with grass fed beef, edam cheese, a fried egg and beets. If your mouth’s not watering yet, the béchamel bread pudding croque madame or Dutch baked pancakes with fried chicken will have you salivating.
The lavender blueberry lemonade is divine. Although I surmise many patrons opt for the six different beer cocktails — stout topped off with framboise, or a Bloody Mary mixed with lager to name a couple. Coffee and fizzy drinks round out the intoxicating libations. Visit when you have time to hang out among Dunedin’s lush plant filled patio.
They’re open Monday through Friday for three squares, and Sunday brunch.
One Door North
Decor and dessert make this North Park restaurant fun.
I applaud their creativity of lining the back wall with camping tents suspend above long tables and chairs, illuminated with antler chandeliers. The perfect cocoon of warmth for their s’mores platter complete with Sterno to roast marshmallows.
The remaining dining room is suffused with strands of Edison lights above dark wooden tables. They provide enough glow so you don’t need the aid of your cell phone flashlight to read the menu. Chef owned and operated, Fred Piehl and his wife love the outdoors so they infused nature into One Door North. Le Cordon Blue trained, Chef’s small plates of mini cornbread muffins with pimento cheese and honey butter, or the petit filet medallions are a few offerings showcasing his talents.
Relinquish your calorie count for the day and dive into their selection of sweet aphrodisiacs.
Why settle for the mediocrity of a donut chain when you can savor white chocolate mint pastries drizzled with jalapeño passionfruit? Located smack-dab in the middle of North Park, it’s entertaining to sit and watch the world go by as you relish pink lemonade or old fashion vanilla sumptuous treats baked that morning.
Nomad Donuts opens before sunrise and close at 2p.m., or when they sell out, whichever comes first.
The vegan donuts received much praise from the press. Kolaches, originating in Central Europe, is another favorite, with jam overflowing from the top. Patrons with a savory palette will go bonkers for the bagels made on the premises. This North Park back shop is a treasure trove of yummy.