I’ve spent a lot of time this summer in Balboa Park. Either I’m visiting nighttime zoo or catching a performance at the Old Globe. I’ve always been a sucker for Shakespeare, and his plays can’t be enjoyed on an empty stomach. As a result of eating before or after visits, I’ve found some great bites in the Hillcrest area, from a handmade bowl of udon to tater tots that blow any school lunch out of the water. Coincidentally, they also make good drunken eats, but Shakespeare + booze? Drinking game, perhaps?
Yu Me Ya is an Encinitas establishment, but it was always a little too far for me until the Hillcrest location opened (3884 Fourth Ave.,). I will say one thing about this Japanese pub: They know how to fry food. My favorite is the takoyaki, fried balls of breaded octopus topped with salty bonito flakes. Despite my unnatural love of fried food, I’d be perfectly content dropping by this tiny restaurant for an ice-cold Japanese microbrew and a bowl of udon with hand-pulled noodles. The chew on the noodles is so perfect that I almost didn’t care about the broth, which wasn’t bad.
Speaking of fried things, when I think tater tots, I think of the cylindrical pegs that were served in my school lunch as a kid. The ones at R-Gang Eatery (2683 Fifth Ave.), however, actually have sizable bits of potato in each tot. I had the traditional tots, served with chipotle aioli, and was very glad to have a beer to pair with them. They also make a mean dish of Brussels sprouts with bacon, but we’re not here to talk about vegetables.
For late-night dining that goes well with libations, Dharma Dogs (usually parked at 820 University Ave.) is a food truck that’s open late and gussies up the average hot dog, like the 206 Dog with cream cheese, brown mustard, grilled onions and sriracha. They make donuts from scratch and, well, I don’t have to say much about fried sweet dough covered with sugar or chocolate glaze, do I?
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Marie blogs at meanderingeats.com and you can follow her on Twitter at @moowiesqrd.