Downtown eateries cater to the locals

Posted: July 7th, 2014 | Featured, Food & Drink | No Comments

Kai Oliver-Kurtin | Downtown News

Making up for a deficiency of grocery stores in the Downtown area, some local eateries are stepping up to the plate to provide gourmet, well-balanced carryout meals to Downtown residents and the commuters who spend time there.

So, skip the greasy fast food and stop by these neighborhood cafes to pick up a home-cooked meal for the whole family.

Waters Fine Foods & Catering

Over 2,000 people receive the Waters Fine Foods & Catering daily email newsletter announcing each day’s specials, which many subscribers use to plan their meals. Waters has three San Diego locations: Bay Park, Solana Beach and Downtown near the Santa Fe Train Depot.

Take out options line the shelves at Waters (Courtesy Waters Fine Foods & Catering)

Take out options line the shelves at Waters (Courtesy Waters Fine Foods & Catering)

A popular Downtown lunch spot, Waters offers sandwiches, paninis, salads, wraps, burgers, soup, pizzas, quiches, entree specials and sides. Their boxed meals and pre-prepared selections make for quick takeout options. The Marina District location recently extended its operating hours to carryover into dinnertime, and added a weekday happy hour that includes beer and wine.

“People don’t want to go out to dinner every single night,” said owner Mary Kay Waters, who attended the Culinary Institute of America, L’Academie de Cuisine and also holds a degree in nutrition.

“Here they can mix-and-match and put together their own dinner. It’s fun and easy, and great if you’re having people over,” she said.

With many customers coming in daily, the cafes have several daily specials to enhance the standard menu. When planning menu specials, the Waters team first considers the weather forecast to gauge what customers will be in the mood to eat. Next they look at a list of available ingredients from farms and food purveyors to come up with fresh meal ideas.

Sensitive to dietary restrictions and preferences, Waters offers several vegan, gluten-free and nondairy options. Customer menu requests are welcomed.

“I never want to serve food to customers that I wouldn’t feed to my children and my family,” Waters said.

Waters is located at 555 W. C St. For daily menus and catering information, visit

Sonata Bistro

Sonata Bistro opened in Symphony Towers on June 9 as the first full-service restaurant in the 34-story office building.

Sonata is the newest venture from Giuseppe Restaurants & Fine Catering, the company behind the cafes at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and San Diego Museum of Art.

“When the spaces became available at Symphony Towers it was music to my ears,” said Giuseppe Ciuffa, Sonata Bistro’s owner. “I started my culinary career Downtown, so it was the perfect place for me to go next.”

Sonata Bistro's Rotisserie Chicken

Sonata Bistro’s Rotisserie Chicken

People working in Symphony Towers and the surrounding buildings don’t have to leave their office to enjoy lunch at Sonata. Providing delivery within a two-block radius for orders over $30, Sonata offers soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, burgers, street tacos, entree bowls and rotisserie chicken combos.

For those feeding a family, whole rotisserie chickens are available to go, and can be made into a complete meal with beans, rice or quinoa, vegetables, tortillas and house sauces.

When developing the menu for Sonata, Ciuffa focused on the people who work Downtown, knowing that many get bored eating the same food every day. His goal was to offer a lot of options and let the ingredients shine in simple, flavorful dishes, while sticking to his Italian heritage by giving the menu an international flare.

“I love to locate my restaurants within centers of entertainment and culture,” Ciuffa said. “As an avid art and music lover, I believe that every dining experience should be a cultural one.”

Sonata also serves breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. Its sister cafe, High Note, is a coffee shop located on the 12th floor.

Sonata is located on the first floor of the office tower at 750 B St. For more information and to view the menu, visit

Bottega Americano

Coming soon to the East Village, Bottega Americano is set to open inside the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in early August. An Italian-inspired restaurant and marketplace, Bottega will have interactive food bars for in-house dining, and sell specialty items and prepared foods for those on the go.

An artist’s rendering of the inside of Bottega Americano (Courtesy Bottega Americano)

An artist’s rendering of the inside of Bottega Americano (Courtesy Bottega Americano)

“Bottega Americano was inspired by Eataly and The Plaza Food Hall in New York,” said partner Greg Van de Velde. “We wanted to bring that same concept to San Diego — a place where diners could interact with chefs and be part of the cooking process.”

Van de Velde has a background in fine dining, most recently at Bertrand at Mister A’s, and hopes to bring that same caliber of service to Bottega but in a more casual atmosphere. Bottega is a partnership between Van de Velde and three other principals — Giuseppe Ciuffa of Giuseppe Restaurants & Fine Catering; David Warner, formerly the chef at JRDN; and local investor Chad Ruyle.

“We’ll have five open kitchens so people can sit at different culinary bars and watch their food being made,” Van de Velde said. “I also think the grab-and-go option will be popular with the young demographic in that area.”

Restaurant offerings will include pizza, pasta, seafood, meats, cheeses, salads, spreads and desserts. Bottega is in the process of working out a student meal plan arrangement with the adjacent law school to expand students’ dining options.

Bottega is located at 1195 Island Ave. For grand opening announcements, visit

—Kai Oliver-Kurtin is a local freelance reporter who also works full-time doing social media marketing for the U.S. Navy. She enjoys covering events, restaurant news, culture and entertainment. Contact her at

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