PHOTOS BY Mandy Schaffer

Recently, we posed a question we thought would be tricky to several restaurant owners. We asked: “What item on your menu do you love more than anything else?” Surprisingly, they all had a quick answer! Here’s what they said.


Ranch 45

Ranch 45 Steak Salad
This exquisite steak salad pays homage to the early years of General Manager Pam Schwartz’s restaurant career in Upstate New York. It was her comfort food after a grueling day, but she says this version is a heck of a lot better. That’s because they use only the finest ingredients: Imperial Valley Ranch Dutch Steak, iceberg lettuce, crispy onions, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, and house-made buttermilk Ranch dressing.



Pizza Diavola
Directly translated from Italian to English, Pizza Diavola means the devil’s pizza. At this popular Point Loma pizzeria, the devil’s fire is generated from authentic Calabrese Salami, a spicy coarse-ground salami sourced from Calabria, Italy. Owner Fabio Speziali is so fond of it, he could rename it “Pizza Fabio,” but then we’d have no way to anticipate its fiery goodness.


Elixir Juice & Food

Elixir Golden Bowl
The time-tested flavorful herb turmeric gets the credit for the color of this pretty dish, which is a favorite of Elixir’s owner, Randy Gruber. Turmeric also gives the dish its delicious flavor. It’s used in the marinade for the chicken and the broth for the quinoa. Grilled vegetables, lightly sautéed spinach, dried cranberries, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and pine nuts round things out.



Gnocchi Sorrentina
In Sorrento, south of Italy’s Amalfi Coast, this simple, yet succulent, dish is often served as a first course. The plump pillows of house-made gnocchi are smothered in fresh tomato sauce, arugula, and ricotta cheese and baked in the oven. At Pomodoro, Gnocchi Sorrentina is Owner Fabio Speziali’s favorite, because it’s uncomplicated, delicious, and soothing on even the most hectic day.


Homestead Solana Beach

Pastrami Kimchi Reuben
When owners Jamie and Marie Brawn decided to put a Reuben on their menu, they wanted to give the classic sandwich an interesting twist. They decided that, instead of sauerkraut, they would create the perfect recipe for kimchi and make it in-house. The kimchi adds just the right amount of kick to this sandwich. Happily, they now serve the perfect accompaniment: ice cold beer.


Barefoot Coffee Roasters Solana Beach

Avocado Toast with Goat Cheese & Espresso Sunrise
This café is all about sourcing the best ingredients and combining them in fun, inventive ways. Owner Jon Dolin is particularly excited about this new pairing. The Avocado Toast is an irresistible combo of fresh avocado, microgreens, organic tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, and goat cheese on a slice of Prager Brothers Multigrain Bread. The Espresso Sunrise brings a kick of caffeine and refreshes the palate in an unexpected, citrusy way.


Americana Restaurant

Grilled Lamb Chop Salad
Owner Randy Gruber loves lamb, especially in springtime. This delightful Greek Mediterranean–style salad features a generous portion of spring greens including arugula, along with radishes, red onion, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese. Tossed lightly in a house-made lemon oregano vinaigrette, the salad is topped with three marinated grilled New Zealand lamb chops. Since it’s Randy’s self-professed favorite, this dish frequently appears as a special on the lunch menu.


The Broken Yolk Café

Golden State Benedict
With a ginormous, titillating five-page menu, Owner John Gelastopoulos has a lot of delicious dishes to choose from. He says this one’s his favorite because it’s a Southern California twist on a classic eggs benedict: a perfectly toasted English muffin topped with grilled tomato, applewood-smoked bacon, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce—with avocado and a swirl of sriracha. Plus, it’s so colorful!