Each month we ask one of our favorite San Diegans the question:

If you only had 24 hours to show a friend the best that urban San Diego has to offer, where would you take them?

Claudia Sandoval

Master Chef Winner,  http://chefclaudiascocina.com
Live: La Mesa
Work: Little Italy
How Long: San Diego native

With the 100 people I met when I first hit Los Angeles on my quest for the coveted MasterChef apron, I knew I was developing friendships with like-minded people who loved food and all things culinary just as much as I do. My closest friend from the show, Amanda Saab, came to visit me from Seattle, and these were my recommendations.

BREAKFAST: Let’s get one thing straight — breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. And nothing screams amazing to me like a hearty, no frills breakfast. For all things breakfast, including special dietary accommodations, I like Fig Tree Café. Their Gluten-Free French Toast is my favorite plate hands down, beating any gluten packed French toast I have had around town — and I am not even gluten intolerant!

LUNCH: For Lunch, I would recommend a place close to my office in Little Italy, Craft and Commerce. They are a short walk away from me and serve up some of the best sandwich plates around. Seriously, just indulge in the BBQ Bahn Mi — extra cilantro for me! Oh, and if you can get away with it, a punch bowl shared with friends or colleagues will have you wondering if it’s Friday yet!

DINNER: If you know anything about me you know that I cook and thrive on Mexican food, so I want to share with you a low-cost option that I can stand behind, and that is Común Taqueria. There is something about anything carnitas at this place that just gets me every time. The fact that Chef Chad White has no qualms about making a Habanero sauce makes me respect him that much more.

However, if you really want to know my Achilles heel for a fancy dinner it will always be Italian. I am specifically a huge fan of gnocchi. While I have tried a great many times to find a place that can at least equate to the level of Bencotto in Little Italy, the truth is, there is just no comparison. Their perfect pillows of delicious amazingness smothered in their traditional pink sauce are something I dream about on a weekly basis.

DRINKS: I kept trying to come up with recommendations that wouldn’t give away favorite places to go to for a drink. Simply put, people might read these things and then your favorite place becomes the hot spot you can’t find a seat at anymore. But the truth is, this was inevitable because the drinks at Prepkitchen Little Italy have continued to get better and better. Thirsty Thursday never tasted so good. Their special infusions and purees always manage to get the best of me. If peaches are in season, ask Adam Lockridge for a La Pharmacia.

And, if you want some late night cocktails and you have never been, Prohibition is my spot. That speakeasy, 1930’s style ambiance and smoky Islay whisky will have you dancing to the tunes of jazz and soul in a heartbeat.