Congratulations, you made it to Comic-Con — evil online badge lotteries and expense be damned. You’re officially the envy of every nerd and cool kid on the planet and beyond.
But this week, not even your ticket invincibility is going to grant you more time (wait, they’re already lining up for Saturday’s Stranger Things panel in Hall H?) or money (how’s that $300 a night musty motel room working out for you?).
Enter our omniscient culinary capabilities. Using our savvy superpowers, we’ve shape-shifted a blank page into a list of five affordable downtown San Diego restaurants that will keep you close to all the pop-culture action. So stay strong out there and good luck, or as they say in Klingon, Qapla’!
Why: For anime in a bowl.
What: No dish is hotter right now in San Diego than ramen, and Tajima is the master of this noodle universe. Tajima’s Comic-Con week special Naruto Ramen, named for the Japanese manga series, is available through Sunday. With all the classic chasu pork ramen fixings, plus the young ninja’s favorite bamboo shoots and Naruto fish cakes, it will make you forever forget those instant, plastic-wrapped crimes against cooking humanity.
Where: 901 E St., East Village. 619.431.5820 or tajimasandiego.com
Oscars Mexican Seafood
Why: Because influencers don’t go for the obvious.
What: There’s a reason you’re courted by the movie, TV, comic book and video game industries: You can zero in on the cool in a sea of mainstream mediocrity. So while every one else seeks the best fish taco in town, you go for what really defines San Diego’s Baja-Med cuisine — ceviche. Fresh, vibrant and citrusy, Oscars’ is an action-packed bowl of deliciousness. (The fish tacos are pretty awesome, too.)
Why: Even you have FOMO — “Fear of Missing Out.”
What: Hey, even popular culture has the word popular in it. And according to Yelp, Werewolf is the No. 1 restaurant in San Diego to make a reservation. A self-described dive bar, it’s not fancy nor expensive and offers all of the major food groups, like burgers, pork belly Benedict, bowls and booze. Extra points for a website that looks like a graphic novel. And it promotes reading, sort of, with its Whiskey Book of the Month Club. Plus, it’s called Werewolf, people.
Where: 627 Fourth Ave., Gaslamp Quarter. 619.234.0094 or thewerewolf.net
Why: Say it loud, you’re a geek and you’re proud!
What: You don’t apologize, neither should your restaurant. At Larry’s, food is served with a side of ’tude and confidence, as in their unabashed proclamation: “At Larry’s, we aren’t interested in trends nor do we want to ride the next big foodie wave. We aren’t serving kale salads and you won’t find a craft cocktail here.” Likewise, the food — huge, shareable pastrami sandwiches, stripped-down slaw, addictive homemade potato chips and gorgeously weird pickled purple deviled eggs — is refreshingly, righteously retro.
Where: 323 Seventh Ave., East Village. 619.795.7100 or hungrylarrys.com
Why: You don’t just embrace your inner child, you indulge it.
What: Yes, you are an adult in a costume in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. So yes, not only are you are going to eat dessert first, you’re going to eat it for breakfast. Cafe 21 has a wonderfully nutritious, balanced menu. Good for them. You’ll have the tiramisu pancakes, please. Or the bananas fosters cast iron Dutch pancake. Or the bread pudding French toast — with ricotta mascarpone, no less. Hey, you’re a grown up, you can eat whatever you want.
Where: 802 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp Quarter. 619.795.0721 or cafe-21.com