Never in a million years did I think I would be a guest on a podcast. To be perfectly honest, I had never even listened to a podcast until a week before mine was recorded. I know I know, I live in the dark ages, haha. But when the opportunity arose, I figured the experience was worth challenging my comfort zone, so I jumped at the chance! So before we dive in, I just want to formally thank Matty D. (and Madeleine) again for inviting me to share my story and having my first podcast experience. I thought it would also be fun to put this in writing too for people who want to get to know me a little better.
So people often ask what made me start San Diego Food Girl? The funny part is is that it wasn’t even my idea. Just over 2 years ago my friend was in town for a marketing conference and when it wrapped up, he met me at happy hour in Mission Beach and said “I know what you should do…you should be a food blogger.” And the next day over an açaí bowl I came up with a brand name, locked down the name on all social media platforms, and raided my personal social media because I am THAT girl who was already posting all about my food and drinks. It’s been an amazing experience and it definitely feels like one of those “when life gives you lemons” kind of moments.
People are often curious about the face behind the brand. I chose to run my brand anonymously because I wanted to get organic and genuine feedback of whether or not people liked my pictures, liked my style, and overall liked what I had to offer. My decision to do so has, thankfully, been received really well. I’ve gotten comments from people saying how refreshing it is and admittedly the mystery is a bit fun. Meeting Brian Malarkey, a huge restauranteur in San Diego was a hilarious encounter of my anonymity.
I guess when I stop to think about it, I’ve always been a foodie because food is the epicenter of growing up and in an Italian family. I grew up watching my mom and grandma hovered over the stove teaching me how to cook and bake. On the cooking side, one big foodie association is when there’s a big pot of sauce simmering away on the stove and the only true way of tasting it is to dunk a piece of Italian bread in it. Caution: doing so usually results in burning the roof of your mouth, but it’s soo worth it! Or making Italian wedding soup with your grandmother who makes every critical ingredient from scratch including making her own broth, rolling each and every tiny meatball and cracker that goes into the soup, and making sure the vegetables are diced into equivalent sizes. On the baking side, you haven’t experienced a true Italian Christmas until you’ve seen the plethora and variety of Christmas cookies that are collected under one roof.
I was born and raised near Chicago and I’m full of those “Midwest values” that you hear about. If you’re familiar, Chicago is known for some amazing food! Literally to this day if I hear someone is going to Chicago, my foodie instincts kick in, and I immediately ask them to bring me some deep dish pizza from Giordano’s or Gino’s East, some Garrett’s Mix popcorn, and some Trinidads, Pixies, and Meltaways from Fannie May chocolates.
I landed in San Diego just over five years ago from the Pittsburgh area. Similarly to Chicago, when I’m back in town, there are certain foodie things I need back in my life. If you aren’t familiar, Pittsburgh is known for a couple things. One, Primanti Bros. specializing in mile-high sandwiches like Pastrami with fresh cut fries and coleslaw. And two, this might sound crazy, but what do you think about french fries on a salad? Don’t knock it till you try it, but fries on a chicken or steak salad, covered in shredded melted cheese is amazing. But honestly what I miss most food-wise is a gas station, LOL! Sheetz has a full kitchen ready to make you anything from a blended coffee, to mozzarella sticks (my favorite!), to a hot meatball sub at any hour of the day. San Diego realllllly needs a Sheetz!
As expected, I’m often asked what my favorites are. I think very categorically, so I’ll typically ask what you are hungry for? If you want some authentic Italian food and a great Happy Hour, I’ll send you to Isola Pizza Bar. If you’re looking for fish tacos, I’d suggest South Beach Bar and Grill. It’s the first place in San Diego that I tried a fish taco, and it still reigns as my favorite along with a peaceful ocean view. If you’re looking for a fun rooftop with some great Baja style Mexican food and killer guacamole, you should check out Pueblo. I created a Travel Guide on my website with other recommendations as well and the best part is when people let me know that they’ve taken my suggestions and loved the restaurant that I featured. It always puts a big smile on my face.
I started San Diego Food Girl for fun, but when I started to get some traction, I realized that this was more than just a hobby. Soon after I started my brand, I fell into obtaining a logo and it really just solidified that this was going to be something. I had an opportunity early on to be a guest blogger for The San Diego Lifestyle and I think that really gave me some groundwork for building the brand and gaining the following that I have now, along with opening doors for more opportunities, especially with the consulting.
San Diego Food Girl isn’t just your average foodie with an Instagram account. So what makes me different? The number one thing to me has always been authenticity. I don’t post something just to gain followers and I’m not into hype. While a lot of people went crazy over the Unicorn Frappuccino, I steered clear. That isn’t something I personally want to consume, and I certainly won’t promote it for my brand either. I have never bought followers, I don’t play the follow for follow game, and I’ve never paid to boost or promote a post. And it’s usually pretty evident to spot someone who takes that route when their post to follower ratio is way off, or the engagement is super low despite a high follower count, or someone pops up overnight and they suddenly have ten thousand followers.
It’s taken me two years of building my brand to get to where I am now, and it’s been an amazing journey full of determination and a whole lot of hustle. I am humbled and grateful for each and every organic follower that I have and I strive to showcase the BEST of San Diego. And it’s important for me to show my gratitude, which is why I do frequent giveaways. I wouldn’t be here without my followers and I want them to feel special and valued by winning some cool stuff for being awesome! Engagement is key and it’s an incredibly rewarding feeling every time someone reposts my pictures, or sends me a message to ask for recommendations, or comments to say they love my account! THAT is what makes this all worthwhile – even when Instagram algorithms screw with me!
As you’ve seen, I primarily do a lot of restaurant reviews and promotion through social media and blogging. What I started to notice was my passion for connecting businesses with each other and building community between influencers like myself and business owners. I love supporting small food businesses and restaurants as well. Small businesses are the focal point of the community and they deserve any attention I can give them with the platform I have.
I discovered in the last year that my feedback was turning into more of an action plan for change and I decided to channel that into offering consulting services to clients. Services can include giving feedback from a foodie perspective, running a social media campaign, social media review and management, and so much more.
I hope you get a chance to listen to the podcast to hear even more name dropping and shout-outs about this awesome city that we live in, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this bit of insight with the girl behind San Diego Food Girl! I’d LOVE to hear your feedback on the podcast or this podcast transcript so to speak. Share your thought below, and until next time, #StayClassySanDiego!