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Food & Drink Blotter: July 2018

By Frank Sabatini Jr. | Food and Drink Blotter

Move over Pokez. A new eatery that offers a decent selection of vegan Mexican fare has entered the competition ring, just several blocks away in the Gaslamp Quarter.

Tocaya Organica made its San Diego debut on July 2. It’s one of a dozen-plus location in Southern California where customers can indulge in “modern Mexican organic cuisine” comprising locally-sourced produce and hormone-free meats and fish. Based out of Los Angeles, the menu offers everything from sprightly salads and vegan/vegetarian tacos and burritos as well as others filled with picante turkey, anchiote chicken and beef picadillo. Side dishes include some unlikely suspects such as sweet potato bravas, shaved Brussels sprouts with lime juice, and fruit bowls with chipotle powder.

The new Tocaya Organica offers vegans, vegetarians and carnivores healthy choices. (Facebook)

The fast-casual eatery occupies two floors replete with light-wood tones and a living wall. 755 Fifth Ave., 619-343-2898, tocayaorganica.com.

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This year’s poolside summer jazz series at The Westgate Hotel comes with the availability of “adult popsicles” that match up to the flavors (and buzz) of certain cocktails. Lead mixologist Irving Gonzalez crafted the boozy push-pops in the form of piña colada, mojito and margarita flavors. They sell for $7 each during the jazz events, which are held at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday through Sept. 13 around the fourth-floor pool deck. A $25 minimum food and/or drink purchase per person is required. 1055 Second Ave., 619-238-1818, westgatehotel.com.

Mixed drinks in frozen push-pop form are a new summer sensation at The Westgate Hotel. (Courtesy of Chemistry PR)

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Little Italy’s latest hotspot for pastries, quiche and sandwiches, Frost Me Cafe & Bakery, continues rolling out new menu items in an effort to brand itself as a separate establishment from its original Seaport Village business, Frost Me Gourmet. The latter specializes only in cakes and cupcakes. The company is owned by local couple Audrey Hermes and John Parker, who just added to their Little Italy repertoire nitro cold-brew matcha, dispensed from a tap at 41 degrees. Other new items include a meatless California bagel sandwich and a cinnamon-sugar dusted “morning bun” made with croissant dough. 555 W. Date St., 619-287-2253, frostme.com.

Cold-brew nitro matcha at the new Frost Me Cafe & Bakery (Photo by Ariel Yue)

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After pioneering the way as one of the first restaurants in the East Village 14 years ago, the highly acclaimed Cafe Chloe will offer brunch and dinner for the last time on July 8. Famous for its steak frites, fresh pastries and other French-style bistro fare, founders Alison McGrath and her husband, John, took to Facebook recently to announce the unexpected news.

Their post read in part: “It is with tremendous sadness that we must let you know that we have made the difficult decision to close our beloved Cafe Chloe. The restaurant industry has changed dramatically in the time we have been open, and we are finding it impossible to maintain our standards in food and service without compromising.” 721 Ninth Ave., cafechloe.com.

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A new year-round outdoor market in Little Italy launches July 18 in the recently opened Piazza della Famiglia. Named the Little Italy Wednesday Market, and presented by The Little Italy Association, the weekly event will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. over three blocks of W. Date Street, between Kettner Boulevard and State Street.

The stands will sell produce, pastured eggs, poultry, meat, fish and more by California-based farmers, fishermen and artisan vendors. 619-233-3898, littleitalysd.com.

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From an illegal gambling house in the late 1800s to a couple of Asian restaurants attempted under different owners comes the latest version of Monkey King. The 3,600-square-foot Gaslamp Quarter structure is now part of the GBOD Hospitality Group (Meze Greek Fusion, Prohibition, Havana 1920, and El Chingon Bad Ass Mexican). The company kept the Monkey King name, but revamped the menu. Dishes now include honey-lemongrass chicken, shaking beef, Korean short ribs, chili-lime sea bass and more. In addition, an open-air lounge with exposed bricks sets the stage for South Pacific-inspired cocktails that complement the food. 467 Fifth Ave., 619-359-8897, monkeykingsd.com.

The new operators of a popular Gaslamp Quarter establishment have introduced tropical-theme fare such as this honey-lemongrass chicken. (Courtesy of Monkey King)

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More than 5,000 pounds of baby back ribs and mesquite chicken will be served at the 10th annual Phil’s Big BBQ at the Ballpark, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., July 29, at Petco Park’s tailgate lot on 14th and K streets. The event leads up to when the San Diego Padres go to bat with the Arizona Diamondbacks at 1:10 p.m. the same day. The cost is $25, which includes the meats, two sides, a soft drink and a ticket to the game. Craft brews and spirits will be for sale inside the lot’s beer garden. All proceeds will benefit Operation Bigs, a program through Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County that provides mentors to children of military families. For more information and ticket purchases, visit sdbigs.org/philsbigbbq.

A tailgate charity bash near Petco Park with chicken and ribs from Phil’s BBQ will be held in late July. (Courtesy of Brown Marketing Strategies Inc.)

—Frank Sabatini Jr can be reached at fsabatini@san.rr.com.

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