San Diego is one of the top culinary cities in the nation. Many of the world’s best chefs call America’s Finest City home and Bite San Diego allows tourists and locals alike to satisfy their appetites. With walking tours mapped out all over the city, Bite San Diego pairs culinary hot spots with historical bits of trivia, creating the perfect combination.
I had the opportunity to experience the Downtown/Little Italy Food Tour, which begins in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter and ends in what I learned is the largest Little Italy neighborhood in the country. There were six delicious stops of the tour:
- Royal India (329 Market St.)
- Berkeley Pizza (539 Island)
- Magnolia Tap + Kitchen (624 E. St.)
- Zymology 21 (750 5th Ave.)
- Na Pizza (1702 India St.)
- Davanti Enoteca (1655 India St.)
For this particular tour don’t let the “bite” reference fool you. This four-hour adventure will fill you up. Bring your appetite!
The tour began at Royal India where we were greeted by our guide, Eddie. Each guest on the tour was allowed one trip to the buffet to fill up an appetizer plate. I joked that in any other country, an appetizer plate would most likely be considered a normal-sized portion. I scooped up the basmati rice, chicken tikka masala, vegetable vindaloo, and a vegetable samosa. A delicious start to a long afternoon of eating.
Before heading to Berkeley Pizza, we stopped along the way to learn some of the history of downtown and more about one of the city’s most infamous residents, Wyatt Earp. Berkeley Pizza is owned and operated by three brothers who have created a sort of hybrid of pizza styles or as Eddie described it, “Think of it as if Chicago and New York pizza had a baby.”
We sampled the garlic and pesto pizza, the traditional pepperoni, and their signature mushroom and spinach pie, the last of which is their specialty. All the slices were drool worthy, but the mushroom and spinach definitely took the cake, er, pie.
Our first two stops were filling, so the slightly longer walk to Magnolia Tap + Kitchen, a place known for its craft cocktails and Southern-inspired menu, was appreciated. The snacks we were served included a habanero cornbread and beer-brined fries. The savory cornbread had good flavor and didn’t overwhelm with heat. Their specialty fries are hand cut daily, soaked in beer, before being sent to the fryer. The taste and crisp of the taters is spot on.
A newer spot on the tour (and to downtown’s rotating doors) was Zymology 21. The chemistry-inspired venue takes mixology to another level with its quirky and innovative way of serving up cocktails and food. Water came in beakers and a glance at their extensive menu showed some interesting choices, like the homemade lobster sausage. They served up flavorful bites of salmon tartare and pork belly appetizers, but the star of the stop was the four-cheese fondue served with crusty chunks of charred bread and slightly sweet heirloom carrots.
Four stops down, two to go, we headed down Broadway on our way to Little Italy and learned more about the Gaslamp Quarter and 5th Avenue along the way. Did you know at one time 5th Avenue was known as the Red Light District complete with intriguing tales of brothels and shady politicians?
Na Pizza was a sweet (almost) last stop where we were all more than happy to sample their delicious Nutella pizza. The Nutella is not the store-bought kind, but imported from Italy where it’s made with cane sugar rather than artificial sweetener. Somehow there’s always room for something sweet and this treat was a favorite of the tour.
Davanti Enoteca was the final spot. The restaurant has been named as one of the top in the nation. The focaccia di Recco was an excellent ending to a delicious day. The foccacia is baked with soft cow cheese and topped with honeycomb. It’s a harmonious blend of flavors and really ended the tour on a high note.
If you feel like indulging and learning more about what makes this city so fine, then Bite San Diego will feed you full of history and dining delights. Our tour guide kept the pace moving with captivating stories and recommendations of other things to do and places to eat. Even if you’re a local, the tour is worth it as it gives you a new perspective and a true taste of what the city has to offer.
To schedule a tour, go to: http://www.bitesandiego.com/. They offer weekend tours as well as bookings for private groups.
Note: Restaurants on the website are subject to change as new restaurants open and old favorites close.
Courtney Hartmann is a freelance writer and social media junkie. Korea-born and Kansas-bred, this girl has a zest for life on the move. She’s called both coasts home, NYC for a brief period and San Diego since 2010, to explore new opportunities and fun adventures. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram at @mscourtneybeth.