The first “football” match was supposedly contested after a battle between Anglo-Saxon and Danish tribes using the severed head of the losing tribe’s King for a “ball.” While Andres Escobar paid a similar price for his own goal against the United States in 1994, things have generally become a little less violent. Still, sports is the human war instinct sublimated. Nowhere is that more clearly on display than in the World Cup, that quadrennial orgy of furtive worktime futbol-watching and acceptable nationalistic display.
This cycle’s tournament is particularly conducive to lunchtime viewing since the games are being played in Russia. There are the obvious choices: various sports bars, Shakespeare’s Pub & Grille, O’Brien’s Pub(US Soccer’s 2011 Best Soccer Bar of the year), or any Mexican place with a TV come immediately to mind. That, though, isn’t the way I wanted to role. Here, then, are some less evident restaurants to soak up the atmosphere, spirit and flavors of the World Cup peaceably. It’s the way to do World Cup watching the World Fare way.
Taegukgi Korean BBQ House (7655 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard) in the Convoy isn’t either the highest-end or cheapest KBBQ around but it is definitely the best for World Cup watching. Their TV viewing set-up is likely the largest in town and offers both good beer options (if you don’t have to go back to work) and food. Try the beef brisket and pork neck meat. Now, if only South Korea were scheduled to play a lunch-time game in the first round.
There may be no better place to get the feeling you’re in another country than at Awash Ethiopian Restaurant & Café (2884 El Cajon Boulevard). The dining room, in the back of a market, has the look and feel of a backroom off an Addis Ababa back alley far more than a San Diego restaurant. The exoticism of the food only enhances that impression. Order the Meat Combination, a simple and straightforward beer, and watch the game. Sadly, Ethiopia – like the USA – didn’t make the tournament.
Urban India (1041 Fourth Avenue) may be the best option for the final games of the first round – June 25-28 — when multiple games are played simultaneously to help avoid result manipulation. In addition to offering a generous Indian buffet, Urban Inda also offers numerous TV screens showing different games. Keep in mind the food is rich and it’s a long game.
Dim Sum and World Cup don’t seem an obvious pairing. But the pace of the parade of little bites coming off the carts is up to the diner; a plus when lunch has to extend over a whole game. And the massive dining room at Mira Mesa’s Fung Fung Yuen (10660 Camino Ruiz) makes for good viewing. The sense of the exotic as you eat stewed tripe and chicken feet (two of the best options off the carts) is both tangible and fitting.
But no country is more synonymous with World Cup than Brazil. And there’s no food-futbol pairing anywhere better than the churrascaria at Rei De Gado (939 Fourth Avenue) at the edge of the Gaslamp. Churrascaria is all about meat and the beautiful little differences amongst cuts. Brazil is all about the beautiful game. Again, the diner controls the pace and orders what and how often they want. That’s perfect for an extended lunch.
Perhaps, though, no single place more thoroughly captures the flavor and the atmosphere of the World Cup than Costa Brava (1653 Garnet Avenue,) in Pacific Beach. Tapas were made for football and football is best consumed with tapas (and an appropriate beverage, be it Rioja, Txakoli or Estrella Damm). And Spain is one of the world’s great soccer nations. Costa Brava is where you’ll find me today for the Spain-Iran match.
The World Cup is not – contrary to the origin of the sport or its hooligan reputation (and, occasionally, reality – about severed heads or violence. It is about the world coming together to share something so many have in common. And it’s not just a game. Taste it as you watch it!