Foodie on a mission: everything you want is right in front of you

Waters Fine Foods & Catering serves paninis, pastas, salads and more.

By Katelyn McCullough

Often what you’re looking for is right under your nose. This is the case of Waters Fine Foods & Catering down the hill on Morena Boulevard. In the corner of a mini strip market Waters would be easily missed if it were not next to a certain Mexican food place called JV’s Mexican Food. But one good review can have people clawing at the door.

Waters’ main focus is the customer; they want to provide whoever dines with them the freshest of ingredients, dependent on seasonality, in conjunction with a comforting space to dine in. The small chain of the Waters Fine Foods & Catering has been in business for almost 20 years, beginning in Bay Park and then branching out to San Diego Linda Vista area in 2001 and downtown.

Owner Mary Kay Waters founded Waters on the tenets of simplicity in food and style to showcase the freshness of the local ingredients. Everything is made fresh in-house, which one can confirm for themselves upon entering. One is able to select food from a case that houses all of the special sides and entrees of the day. However, if something in the case is not of interest, then a signature salad and panini is always an option.

There are only a few tables at Waters and perhaps accurately foreseen considering the low foot traffic, but this doesn’t detract from the comfort of the restaurant by any means. The décor is simple in a minimalistic kind of way. There are no bright colors, mostly white and brown as can be seen by the walls and tables. Waters is a place where people can feel comfortable going to, whether it is for lunch, dinner or just to relax and study. The restaurant is a calmer Starbucks that serves food instead of a wide selection of energy boosters.

When ordering, patrons order at the counter and then the food is brought out when ready. Considering that Waters uses seasonal ingredients, the menu changes daily. There is always a daily dinner special that could include anything from chicken, sausage and artichoke lasagna to turkey meatballs and stews. There is always a different pasta option for the day as well as sides which include roasted vegetables, salads, brown rice medleys, etc. Being that variety is the spice of life, Waters is very accommodating in appeasing those who like to try different things.

The mainstay of Waters is its freshly made sandwiches and paninis and crisp focaccia bread. They have a plethora of choices including a smoked turkey with roasted red peppers and pesto (one of the favorites), a butternut panini, polenta gratin and mac ‘n’ cheese as well as vegetarian options such as the Vegetarian with goat cheese, pesto, roasted red peppers and arugula. If stuck between two options, Waters also allows half paninis.

Lunch for two is easily under $15. That includes two sides and two half paninis. When I went to Waters for the first time, I was craving a vegetarian panini and a side of butternut squash salad. The panini was not traditional in the way one thinks of a panini, succulent and dripping with savory juices. No, this panini was light and clean; the flavors were clearly distinct and it didn’t call for a messy eating experience. The butternut squash salad was in one word, addicting; the savory combination of the butternut squash and sweet onions was a match made in heaven.

Waters is a great hangout place with friends, as the environment vies more for peace than a raging pad. Ultimately, would I saw that Waters has the greatest panini that I have ever tried? Probably not. But it is definitely a place that I recommend trying at least once.

And besides, the freshly baked desserts were calling out pretty loudly.