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The Smoking Gun is one of the newest bars in downtown San Diego, complete with a retro vibe and comfort food headed by powerhouse chef Kevin Templeton. We were invited to check out the new southern menu and dropped by to see what new direction this would take the location. I still remembered items like alcoholic slushies from Wet Willie's and asian fusion from Blush East+West Kitchen, the predecessors.

Once October rolled around, our minds had already drifted toward the annual Taste of North Park event. Due to travel and other things, we had not attended since 2014 (or 2015 if you count the mini taste) but this year was finally GAME ON. The event was held Saturday October 15, 2017 between 11-3am and we had a ticket that included beer and food ($45). There were also food only ($35) or beer only ($15) options when purchasing in advance. This new separation was a nice change especially since certain friends of mine admitted they only came for the beer! With ticket in hand, we walked between the various businesses in search of the best samples. Check out the highlights below!

It's a long and winding road to Nick and G's but this new spot in Rancho Santa Fe is a destination to add to your foodie list. The restaurant serves Mediterranean and Italian food and is located on the quiet street of Paseo Delicias. Dennis mentioned that he and his friends have biked through this area but had never eaten in this mellow neighborhood. Time to change that!

Several of the staff, including our main waiter Johnny, recommended the Crispy Parmesan Brussels Sprouts.

The second annual Burgers and Beer event by San Diego Reader was held in early September. I brought a friend last year and this time Dennis joined me at Golden Hill Park. I was thrilled with the addition of many beer and drink vendors rather than the limited 4-item beer booth the previous year. It finally felt like the paradise that "burgers and beer" should be! Below are some highlights and pictures from our experience at this year's event!

If you're a fan of tacos, then Tacotopia is a MUST! San Diego Reader holds two events each year, one at Golden Hill in May and one at the Del Mar Racetrack in September. We missed the first event due to our Europe vacation but did have a blast taco tasting in 2016. Below are some highlights and pictures from this year's event!

Pacifica Del Mar provides sensational seafood dishes with a ocean view within the beautiful community of Del Mar. We last visited 2 years ago for our anniversary dinner and were delighted to return for a San Diego Restaurant Week (SDRW) preview as media! Rather than being limited to a pre-selected menu, diners pretty much have free reign over the entire menu (premium items have an additional charge). Their SDRW lunch is $20 for two courses and dinner is $40 for three courses! This promotion starts on September 24 until October 1 here and at other participating restaurants.

We came in for an early Sunday dinner while the sun was still out. Outside on the patio, you can see downtown Del Mar as well as peek at the ocean views to the west.

Red Card Cafe recently celebrated one year of business in the Bay Park area of San Diego. In July the restaurant welcomed the talented Executive Chef Jeff Larson (from Napa’s Michelin recommended Goose & Gander), who has introduced all-new dinner, lunch and brunch menus with an increased focus on quality, local farms and seasonal fare. It was finally the opportunity for Dennis to join me at this spot after my initial visit last year.

Chino Farms Yellow Heirloom Gazpacho (sample) - basil, chili, olive oil

The chef sent out a sampling of his gazpacho prior to our appetizers. I never knew gazpacho could look this grand!

After a quick transformation period over three days, Romesco Mexiterranean Cocina opened in LIttle Italy, taking over the space previously occupied by the popular Bracero Cocina de Raiz. We were invited to check out the new brunch menu and immediately noticed one familiar item after another... especially the Albacore Two Ways. Our knowledgeable server James confirmed that the menu carried over many signature dishes from Bracero but also added in special dishes from Romesco in Bonita. We asked several staff about their favorites but with so many delicious options, not even they could agree on just one or two!

Sesame Seared Yellowfin Tuna Sashimi (9.95) - jalapeno, ponzu

The sashimi made the initial cut for appetizers. The thickly sliced tuna showcased fresh fish with a beautifully seared edge. We loved the texture of the sesame seeds along with the subtle jalapeño bite.

The Rail in the Hillcrest neighborhood recently added a weekend brunch between 10am-3pm, headed by two Vegas chefs, Chef Chad Brunette and Sous Chef John Hamaker. The restaurant is next to the long standing breakfast/brunch spot Crest Cafe but carves its own path with a creative spin on its brunch menu. The business (formerly known as The Brass Rail) underwent a huge remodel last December and looks fantastic. In the evenings, the space returns to the energetic nightclub vibe.

The bartenders can mix up fun weekend cocktails to accompany your meal. We didn't order our usual drinks this time but will partake in a future visit.

Shrimp & Grits ($12) | cheese grits served with tomato chutney, poached egg and grilled shrimp

This brunch item came out piping hot served in a mini glass jar.

The night was still young on this Taco Tuesday and a small party of ladies (plus Dennis) arrived at El Chingon, a new and eclectic Mexican restaurant in downtown San Diego. Believe it or not, we had JUST finished an influencer pairing at Meze Greek Fusion and were ready for part two of the evening!

A mariachi band serenaded guests right outside the door and our smiles broadened as we walked to our table inside.

BEST SIGN EVER plus guacamole, salsa and chips

Laughter errupted as we read the sign on our table - "Reserved - This ain't your table ese". It was a must-have in the chips and salsa pic and just the first snapshot of badass-ery running amuck in this bar. Additional phrases on the wall added more fuel for though. Meanwhile, the two fistfuls worth of guacamole were lightly limed and salted. The creamy texture was punctured with avocado chunks and topped with tomatos and onions. Lucky for us, the mellowed onions didn't overwhelm the rest of the ingredients. I forgot to sample the salsas in my excitement.