|EDSD Founder Edwin Real repping one of his favorite spots|
The description reads: "Food in Real Time. Open to all passionate eaters and drinkers in San Diego. Share all your tips, all your gossip, all your favorite places in the county." Edwin Real started the Facebook Group Eating and Drinking In San Diego in January 2015 and in a year's time, the group has accumulated over 7,300 members, made up entirely of San Diego residents. It's a place where local chefs, restaurateurs, industry insiders and foodies share photos, recommendations and openly discuss the food trends in San Diego's evolving culinary community. We recently sat down with Edwin and discussed his passion for food, his local favorites and the inspiration behind EDSD.
We have been trying to get this interview published since September, but Edwin is a busy man! When he's not overseeing his growing Facebook group, he is exploring the San Diego food scene, attending local culinary events, and planning his own events, including an upcoming Grilled Cheese Challenge and EDSD's 1 Year Anniversary Celebration.
What is your trade/profession?
I am currently a freelance business development consultant. I have an IT Background.
Any notable experience in the restaurant/service industry?
I owned a pastry shop in Otay Ranch from 2004-2008. We did retail, catering and wholesale. Through wholesale accounts, I got a lot of contacts in the industry.
Why did you start EDSD?I know a lot of people in the industry and a lot of people who just love to eat. I wanted a place that was free of politics, sports and real world things. Just food and drinks and San Diego.
How long have you lived in SD? In what neighborhoods have you lived?
I have been here since 1987 (aged 14). I have lived in Shelltown, Paradise Hills, Normal Heights, Gaslamp, Spring Valley, Talmadge, and City Heights.
Do you usually stay in your own neighborhood to eat or are you constantly traveling all over SD to find new eats?
I usually stay in mid-city, but I do love going on food sorties throughout the county.
It's your last day on Earth, where in San Diego would you go and what do you eat?
I think I would go to Cowboy Star. I would ask Garth Flood to make me a cocktail. Drink a local beer. Then would sit at the Chef’s Counter and ask either Chef Victor or Chef Chris to just keep sending out dishes until I wave the white flag.
When dining out, do you more often return to an old favorite or choose to try something new?
I have my own philosophy and pattern to my eating. I like to eat at mom & pops, independent eateries and small hole in the walls in my day to day eating…I like feeling anonymous when dining out. I only “fine dine” during beer brunches, beer pairings and special events.
Do you think the SD food scene is on an uprise, decline or plateau and where do you see it 10 years from now?
I most definitely think it is on the uprise. I see San Diego becoming a true food destination. I don’t know if we will ever reach the levels of LA, SF or NYC, but I can see us getting more respectability in the next few years. In ten years, I would love to see a world class culinary program in San Diego that helps bring and keep talent in San Diego. I also think San Diego’s beer industry will thrive and will bring the food up with it. Beer has shown us how important it is to collaborate, and many of the upcoming chefs have this collaborative spirit ingrained in them. That bodes well for the local food scene.
Do you think a chef makes a restaurant or a restaurant makes a chef?
That’s a difficult question. The restaurant first starts with money…so where does that fit in? But a chef can make or break a restaurant, but both can exist without the other. If a chef leaves a restaurant, there is a good chance it can replace that chef. Sure, people loyal to the chef will follow him, but there are also many people that don’t care. I think part of the problem is the idolization of chefs. 90% of the restaurants that I eat at have cooks, and no “chef”.
Do you see higher quality food on the street vendor level or upscale restaurants?
Obviously, upscale restaurants will have higher quality food. But sometimes, it is NOT a value. You will usually get better service at upscale restaurants, but you are also paying for that service.
Do you cook at home? If so, what's your go to dish?
I cook at home a few nights a week…when my son is home with me. I am a master of pasta and stinky cheese.
What is your favorite/least favorite part of playing moderator of EDSD?
Things can be worse, I am sure. But herding cats has been a full time job. Favorite – interacting with people. Interjecting with local history, humor, foul and vulgarity. Least – hate mail. Dealing with spammers. Making sure that people who want to be members of the group are legit. Being called a food snob…because if people knew how I ate on a daily basis, they probably would not really call me a food snob. I eat what is good. I don’t care where it is from.
Where would you like to see EDSD go?
Hopefully gain some traction on the west coast. Adding to my offerings here. Through more events, more collaboration dinners, bus tours, podcasts, YouTube channel and a website. I want to take things one thing at a time and learn to do that well. And move to the next thing.
Do you base your favorite restos on just the food or does service, ambiance and aspects like good beer selection come into play? What is your criteria in order of importance to you, personally, for what makes a place EDSD worthy?
My favorite restaurants start with food. If the food is good/great, then everything else is forgivable. I like a true value, and value doesn’t mean cheap. It means I get what I pay for. An In & Out Burger is a value, just as much as a meal at The Cork & Craft is. I don’t drink beer, often, but for me, a tap list is very indicative of the restaurant and what they are trying to do. You can read a lot about a restaurant based on their tap list – is it full of micro, local, regional beers. Is it playing it safe? Or are there things on the list that are pleasant surprises? I also hang out with a lot of people who love beer, so it usually is important to have some decent taps for them. More often than not, I will order a cocktail, or have someone order me a beer that is based on styles that I like. A place is EDSD worthy if they are consistent. What’s the point of recommending a place or telling people to avoid a place if they are inconsistent? For me, I think consistency is the key to success. The food can be great, but if people have inconsistent experiences time and again, my guess is that they won’t be back and won’t recommend the place.
San Diego-based food lovers can join EDSD by visiting facebook.com/groups/eatdrinksd, but be careful - trolling, self promotion and verbal attacks are not tolerated. Edwin is a diligent moderator and does not endorse that sort of thing.