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C Simril

Dining in San Diego (Part 2)

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[Host's note:  To avoid an excessive load on our servers this topic has been split.  The discussion continues from here]

 

I'm going to be in San Diego next Feb and have been looking at the Mr A's website as a possibility. I haven't seen it listed on this thread as a reccommended place. Is it all hype? The lobster struedel sounds good, on line at least.


Edited by lesliec Added host's note (log)

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I'm going to be in San Diego next Feb and have been looking at the Mr A's website as a possibility. I haven't seen it listed on this thread as a reccommended place. Is it all hype? The lobster struedel sounds good, on line at least.

No, not hype at all. Mr. A's has been around for over 35 years and doesn't get much buzz because it's not a trendy, new restaurant. It is a very good restaurant turning out very good food. It does have the absolute best views in town and the food is up to the challenge of being on the same par as the view. It's elegant, understated and the food is very good. It attracts an older (i.e. over 35, maybe even over 40) customer base and that customer has disposable income.

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Deja vu... mostly the same list you'd get now, from different posters.

I think Bertram's at Mr A's is worth a visit. Good if not innovative food, unbeatable view.

We really need to start tracking chefs out here. They move around a lot within the area.

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In the Gaslamp, I would recommend Osteria Pane Vino for Italian, Chive for upscale, Blue Point for seafood, Candelas for excellent authentic Mexican, and Taka for Sushi.  The Field is also a great Irish pub with tasty pub food.

Also, Hillcrest is a short cab ride away with some great restaurants.  Laurel is upscale, Hash House A Go Go has wondeful food, and Cafe W for tapas-style food.

Fastidious....

We must share a brain, you literally recommended all the exact places I was going to suggest.

I would also add that Market, a newish place in Del Mar (20 min north of downtown), is supposed to be excellent.

Tin Fish is nice for a casual lunch.

Oceanaire is good for seafood in a steakhouse-type atmosphere.

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Hmm....4 year old thread. A lot has changed.

- All the opening chef's at The W moved on to open their own ventures and Rice is sort of hit or miss these days.

- El Agave is still in Old Town, but the State of CA in their infinite wisdom decided to end the contract with the Bazaar del Mundo vendor and award the concessions contract to Delaware North a contract food service company from the East Coast. As a result, Old Town is more like Dead Town and the hordes of tourists have disappeared. El Agave is still there and probably will be for a long time. It's got the best selection of tequila and mezcal in SD. You can get flights of single village mezcal or boutique tequilas and that's probably the way to go rather than Margaritas. The food is actually usually pretty okay, but their service runs the gamut. If they don't have the A Team working service it's pretty spotty.

Blue Water Grill on India St. right before Washington Blvd. can, and does, give Point Loma Seafood a very good run for the money. Their fish is impeccably fresh and they serve one of the best fish tacos in town.

Other good fish tacos can be found at South Beach Bar & Grill (recently featured in FTVs Diner's and Dive's show) at the end of Newport Ave. in Ocean Beach.

For that "authentic" (whatever that may mean) fish taco experience a trip into a pretty marginal neighborhood to Marsicos German will reward the diner with some really unique and delicious seafood tacos. Ironically, the least successful taco at Mariscos German is the straight fish taco. But the taco de marlyn is outstanding. The fish is smoked marlin and it has a rich, meaty flavor that is more than a little reminesent of carnitas. The tacos gobernadores are also pretty tasty, stuffed with perfectly cooked shrimp and topped with a blanket of ooey-gooey cheese and sauteed peppers and onions. Tacos of callo (bay scallops) and pulpo (octopus) are also worthy choices. Mariscos German is located at 28th and Ocean View in the Barrio Logan.

- Somebody up-thread recommneded Sushi Ota in PB, and it's still going strong. But stronger still is Sakura on Convoy in Kearny Mesa. Or Ba Ren for SD's only Sichuan Chinese.

McCormick & Schmick's offers some great Happy Hour food options including a pretty decent cheeseburger. But in the 4 years since the OP posted her review of where she ate, Oceanaire Seafood Room at 4th and Island has opened and now has the best oyster bar downtown. Frequented by the downtown business set, it's a be and be seen networking locale with really good oysters. Oh, and the food's good too.

In 4 years the restaurant options in SD have changed and evolved and mostly for the better. There are better chefs and better restaurants turning out better food.


Edited by kalypso (log)

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Heard bad things recently from several sources, about service at French Market Grille.

For the next person planning to hang out in the Escondido area,

try Fat Ivor's in Valley Center, for beef ribs.

Yeah verily on Vincent's Sirino's. Mucho gusto.

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.... Region, eh?

Michael Stebner's old place on 5th around Pennslyvania. The space was originally Mixx, then Region and now Celadon.

Region was very good but tended to be uneven. Most of SD didn't "get" what Stebner was trying to do. His rent went up substantially as the real estate boom drove prices in Hillcrest evenhigher. He moved to Phoenix.

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I don't think any trip to San Diego is complete without sampling some Pho:

pho-bowl.JPG

My preferred place is here:

http://www.sdcitybeat.com/article.php?id=1...estaurantReview

You can actually see browned spots on the tables from years of having hot bowls of beef noodle soup served on them day in and day out :)  You'll either love it or you'll hate it, the vermicelli noodle dishes are also good.

how the actual name of the place and maybe the location???

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I'd go to Marisco's German for fish tacos (search for threads here and other boards for all the raves)

I like Santana's for California Burritos (a San Diego invention, I like it with guac subbed in for the sour cream)

I don't like Fidel's, but lots of people strongly recommend Super Cocina for Mexican (again look at chowhound for the myriad threads on it)

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Now, why I didnt remember these guys 2 years ago when the thread was new?....? :hmmm:

Fat Ivor's in Valley Center. Fabulous beef ribs, and a great story of fire, perseverence and customer loyalty to go with them.

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Two Del Mar faves are The Brigantine (GREAT fish tacos) and Pamplemousse (high end california french fusion--try the creme brulee trio for dessert!).  And the best Mexican food I had there was at Fidel's, which is in this weird, residential area called the EG.  If you can find it, it's good.  And if you're not from some other California town where they already exist, I'd suggest a lunch at In-N-Out Burger--truly a fast food revelation.  Ask for your burger Animal Style, and they'll add onions sauteed in mustard.  Yum!   

:smile:

While In-N-Out is absolutely delicious I think there are two awesome dive places that have much better burgers and are not chains. Rocky's in Pacific Beach and Hodad's in Ocean Beach, both are great dive bars with awesome burgers, both have been voted best burger in San Diego numerous times.

I myself am a major sandwich aficionado so I will recommend a few sandwich spots. My personal favorite is E-Z J's in Pacific Beach, their Biter's deluxe is awesome. I also really like the mini chain called Gourmet Bagger.

Saffron, located in Mission Hills, has awesome Thai food and rotisserie chicken.

I will second Bronx pizza, really awesome. I will also second Sushi Ota.

For breakfast spots you can't beat Kono's in PB or Hash House A Go Go in Hillcrest, both are famous San Diego spots with awesome food.

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San Diego. I have eaten in LA and San francisco, and to be honest San Diego is not far behind these other california cities, this all taking population into account. As I brouse forums about San Diego I am constintely reading about how we the dinning scene are not like thse cities, we are San Diego, not them; and should be proud of it. Most comments on the threads are about how bad the dinning scene is rather then suggesting ways to improve it. This doesn't improve anything in my opinion. The dinning scene to me; not only aplies to the people running and working in the restaurants, but the consumer as well.

So I ask...

Why does San Diego recieve no press? Why are chefs hesitant to invest there time and money here? Why do mostly mediocor restaurants recieve the only press in the city? Why is the press refering mediocore restaurants to the public? More importantly If we want to add dinning as a destination topic for our city how are we going to improve. So I envite us all to discuss these issues because it going to happen, its just a shame thats it not here yet. There are a lot of talented passiopnate people in this city and we should support them.


Edited by cjbleid (log)

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cjbleid, I think we're honored that you broke 2.5 years of silence to post on San Diego.

As for din, we're full of places that are very loud.

Re dining - there's good food here. There arent many of us who get to the same restaurants tho, so its hard to build an active discussion.

As for why the press is what it is - we dont have anyone doing cutting edge science-food games. And traditional preparations seem to be panned by the food press. Other than that, I have no ideas as to the general negativity re the available food. Of course, I dont have a lot of experience dining in comparator cities either.

What would you change, and why ? How do you think it would impact things?

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wow it has been 2.5yrs of silence, but alot of obserbing. To your question of what would I change? Well that is very dificult thing to do, swade the preception of a city that thinks they are getting ripped off every time they eat fine dinning. Well I will start here and talk to the city it self (if they post). I have yet to se any form of communication between a chef and the people directly about dinning on a San Diego egullet thread, so I plan to be the first.

Also I know alot of people in the business, I want to go to there restaurant eat and discuss on this thread and personially show that staff, chef, what ever what we thought of the experience. Mabye it will convince them to at least read what were saying if they wont post.

being a chef from boston now living in san diego I simpithise with the consumer, alot of people are paying alot of money for badly exicuted food, but that is where the Union Tribune tells them to go.

What kind of food experience would you like to start to se happening in san diego?

modern cusine, atmosphere, service improvements?

p.s what finially sparked me to post was all the trash talking on chowhound and there refusal to even let a san diego discussion egsist with out being eddited.


Edited by cjbleid (log)

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Welcome, cjbleid! And thanks for stirring stuff up! :biggrin:

Why does San Diego recieve no press?  Why are chefs hesitant to invest there time and money here?  Why do mostly mediocor restaurants recieve the only press in the city?  Why is the press refering mediocore restaurants to the public?    More importantly If we want to add dinning as a destination topic for our city how are we going to improve.  So I envite us all to discuss these issues because it going to happen,  its just a shame thats it not here yet.  There are a lot of talented passiopnate people in this city and we should support them.

Well, here's my theory, for whatever it's worth:

A large proportion of San Diego's restaurant/entertainment business is aimed primarily at vacationers, conventioneers, military staff enjoying R'n'R leave, etc. Nothing against any of these worthy folks doing what they came here to do, but at the risk of massively overgeneralizing, I'd say such a demographic tends to see SD as a destination for partying as opposed to high culture. Many of the vacationers, in addition, are families with kids in tow and thus in need of kid-friendly food options. The restaurants that most cater to those demographics would tend to be chains, family-friendly joints, and other, well, less challenging dining experiences.

Even--or especially--the Gaslamp, with all its flashy high-priced joints, seems geared to the hoards of vacationers and conventioneers and on-leave military more intent on partying than on serious dining. Not to say that there aren't serious dining joints in the Gaslamp--but they have to put the emphasis more on flashy than foody to compete for their proportion of the crowd.

Of course there are restaurants that defy this theory--for that matter, there are certainly tourists, conventioneers, and on-leave military personnel who are foodies too--but hey, the bottom line has to cater to the majority of the demographic, so that's where much of the restaurant business will aim by sheer necessity.

Anyway, that's IMO YMMV LMNOP ... :laugh:

P.S. Truth in advertising: I do confess to a certain prejudice against joints that go for the flashy, even if the food is also excellent.

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being a chef from boston now living in san diego I simpithise with the consumer, alot of people are paying alot of money for badly exicuted food, but that is where the Union Tribune tells them to go.

What kind of food experience would you like to start to se happening in san diego?

modern cusine, atmosphere,  service improvements?

Hi, it looks like we cross-posted just now ... :smile:

Aha, so you're from Boston, where I used to live back in the 1980s. And my recollection from then is that Boston, even though it is a major tourist destination too, is a city with a full three centuries of established culture, including a long-standing upper class with high-class expections; plus those 40-plus colleges and universities encouraging a large population of intelligentsia. Those factors tend to be a lot more fertile ground for discerning gastronomy. Even as an impoverished student, I and my buddies tended to know and seek out the foodie thrills we could afford (my first experience of French press Vienna Roast coffee was in the old Coffee Connection in Harvard Square).

As you may have noticed, San Diego ain't like that. This doesn't mean you can't still find some cool foodie things going on, even though, like I said in my previous post, they're in the relative minority. Personally, I'm fond of the ambitions and aims of The Linkery--I don't think Jay posts here, but he's certainly aware of eGullet; he seems to prefer doing all his internet working of the crowd through the blog on his restaurant's website, which he works very effectively IMO. And there are others with comparable aims in terms of putting the focus on the food first, with the atmosphere important, but in service to the food as opposed to the other way around. That's what I'd like to see more highly valued in this city's dining scene.

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being a chef from boston now living in san diego I simpithise with the consumer, alot of people are paying alot of money for badly exicuted food, but that is where the Union Tribune tells them to go.

What kind of food experience would you like to start to se happening in san diego?

modern cusine, atmosphere,  service improvements?

Hi, it looks like we cross-posted just now ... :smile:

Aha, so you're from Boston, where I used to live back in the 1980s. And my recollection from then is that Boston, even though it is a major tourist destination too, is a city with a full three centuries of established culture, including a long-standing upper class with high-class expections; plus those 40-plus colleges and universities encouraging a large population of intelligentsia. Those factors tend to be a lot more fertile ground for discerning gastronomy. Even as an impoverished student, I and my buddies tended to know and seek out the foodie thrills we could afford (my first experience of French press Vienna Roast coffee was in the old Coffee Connection in Harvard Square).

As you may have noticed, San Diego ain't like that. This doesn't mean you can't still find some cool foodie things going on, even though, like I said in my previous post, they're in the relative minority. Personally, I'm fond of the ambitions and aims of The Linkery--I don't think Jay posts here, but he's certainly aware of eGullet; he seems to prefer doing all his internet working of the crowd through the blog on his restaurant's website, which he works very effectively IMO. And there are others with comparable aims in terms of putting the focus on the food first, with the atmosphere important, but in service to the food as opposed to the other way around. That's what I'd like to see more highly valued in this city's dining scene.

it is a little depressing that many people will spend $200 a night or more on alcohol but claim that fine dinning restaurants are not worth it and to expensive.

But that will change,.. with change

the linkery, as cool place with a great vibe. As blogs directly ascociated with a restaurant thay are communication to an, for the most part an allready established customer base. With only one side of cummincation except commenting, but still a great feature for our generation of restaurants.

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There is no one single reason why SD restaurants are what they are, why the area gets little press and why people tend to write it off. Here are my (native San Diegan) suggestions as to why this may be

1) Even though SD has a long and storied history stretching back several hundred years, it doesn't have an equally storied culinary history on which to draw. Almost everyone who has come to San Diego in the last 400 years has come from some place else and no one group created enough of an enclave to take precedence. Every groups that settled here for more than a few years had to adapt to the environment, semi-arid, desert-like land, clay soil and very little rain or irrigation water.

2) Staying with that everyone's-come-here-from-somewhere-else theme, a huge number of men being discharged from the military elected to settle permanently in San Diego rather than return to the farms and plains of the midwest. Up until the mid-80s or so San Diego had the largest population of Iowans outside of Iowa. As well as substantial numbers of ex-pats from Kansas and Nebraska. They had their wives, lovers and/or families come out and join them. There were many fine cooks among these people, but their food habits and preferences were formed by both the great depression and the straightforward, no nonsense style of cooking common in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas in the first half of the last century.

3) At one point the combined branches of the military owned 60% or more of the land in San Diego county, which is not an insubstantial amount of territory. Quite literally, millions of men and women have passed through San Diego doing basic training or boot camp. Typically, these are young men and women at the beginning of their lives, who haven't traveled very extensively, nor do they have very much expendable income. And the military personnel that is beyond entry level generally has family and not a lot of expendable income.

4) And let's not discount the passing through concept. The border has always been a fairly pourous area. And up until this recent (warranted or not) hysteria about immigration, most of those who crossed into San Diego county didn't stay. They moved on to points north or east where jobs were more plentiful, they already had family, or they thought their risk of getting caught and deported were smaller. Like the millions of people before them, whether coming from the South, East or West, they just passed through San Diego without stopping for very long.

So, let's see...so far we've got early explorers who tended not to settle in one place too long, frugal ex-pat midwesterners, cash strapped military and La Migra fearing immigrants passing through. Not exactly the type of rock solid foundation on which to build a fine dining empire.

But wait...there's more

5) Let's not forget that historically San Diego has been one of the most conservative cities in America. And not just in politics, but in values and lifestyle as well. Tastes were plain and functional, not sophisticated and flamboyant

6) Even though there has been a tremendous change in the last 20-30 years, SD is still not a very sophisticated city. Scratch the surface and you'll still find all those midwest values. SD is not a hotbed of avant-gard art or music, though it can boast a lustrous theater history. That Anthology has survived and thrived for a year is quite an accomplishment and perhaps a forboding of better things to come (BTW, the food at Anthology is really good and the service is better). The arts survive in this town but they do not particularly break new ground.

7) It's sunny 300+ days out of the year. There are so many things to do, places to go, people to see, eating out has to compete for customers with all the tourist attractions and everyday life activities. Oh, and did I mention it was sunny? The U/T did a lengthy article in the sports page about San Diego and sports ennui, but I think it applies to the food scene as well. I'd love to be able to link the article, but the U.T. web page isn't very user friendly and I couldn't find the article. In a nutshell, the article speculated as to why SD sports fans aren't rabid like, say, Steeler or Yankee fans. Why we seem so willing so settle for "less than". Why in only a couple weeks after the Chargers or Padres flame out, it falls off the fan radar and life goes on. Or why SD has yet to be able to sustain an NBA franchise. Their bottom line? It's the weather, and the attractions, and the easy-living lifestyle, and the variety of every day diversions we all have available to us. It's the same for restaurants. Did I mention it's sunny 300+ days out of the year

8) San Diego bills itself as America's Finest City. And it may very well be. But I think it's more apropo to call it America's Don't Worry Be Happy city. It must be in the incredibly hard, god forsaken water.

San Diego doesn't do fine dining because it doesn't have a history of fine dining and it hasn't had a customer base that understood, valued or was willing to pay for it. And while, SD is inching towards respectability in the fine dining arena, it's not going to achieve it overnight.

That said, SD does have very very interesting things happening around town right now and they aren't fine dining. Nor are they hole-in-the-wall ethnic eats, plastic fork, styrofoam plate places either. Head down teh 30th street corridor and you'll find some very interesting eats.

Aperitivo serves up some delicious tapas and wine at very reasonable prices making it a great place for a quick dinner that won't break the budget.

Across the street Caffe Calabria can pull one of the better espressos in town and if the City/County of SD would ever get their permit issues cleared up, they'll be able to fire up their Italian wood burning pizza and turn out the Neopolitan pizzas they've been training to make

(Skip Ranchos, dreadful mexican)

The best thing Heaven Scent Bakery did was to hire a consulting pastry chef. Huge strides in improving the quality of their products. They're not yet Extraordinary Desserts (which could hold it's own in any city in the U.S., including NYC) but then they aren't trying to be.

Urban Solace is capable of turning out some fabulous food, but there's a disconnect between food and service, which is lacking

The Linkery just moved but is the only restaurant that is completely 100% sustainable in SD. It is uneven and sometimes inconsistent but you gotta give 'em credit for sicking with their commitment to sustainability

Ritual Tavern is anything but goth or pagan. Good food, decent service

SeaRocket Bistro just opened (literally) in the old Linkery space and shows a great deal of promise. They, too, will use locally sourced products, heavy on the fish and seafood options, including SDs famed uni.

If I had one last meal to eat in SD it would be at The Better Half in Hillcrest. Excellent food but even better service, something that is in short supply in SD. The service is attentive, professional, but best of all, they really make you feel like they're glad you are there. The half bottle of wine idea clicks because people don't always want to drink a whole bottle, especially if dining alone, and they're getting tired of paying huge mark-ups on wine.

Far too often service, and servers, in this city are too casual, to laid back, poorly trained and seems too much like an after thought. How can you take the food seriously if the service implies casualness?

San Diego is a great place to live and the food is getting better seemingly by the day. San Diego has no pretensions about it's food scene, it's only those of us that whine and dine here that do.


Edited by kalypso (log)

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The Better Half, now thats a restaurant i'm curious about. Has any one been there lately? What did you like outher then the half bottle option, What about some food photos on this thread. I would really like to se what The Better Half is offering.

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The Better Half, now thats a restaurant i'm curious about.  Has any one been there lately?  What did you like outher then the half bottle option,  What about some food photos on this thread.  I would really like to se what The Better Half is offering.

You can check the menu yourself - The Better Half

This is the new summer menu that went up a couple of weeks ago. I've had the tart du jour twice, excellent both times, flaky crust, tender egg, perfect ratio of egg to filling. The house cured gravlax is spectacular and the accompaniments perfect. The charcuterie plate was very good though I thought the housemade lamb sausage was too dry. The whole grain mustard, also made in house, more than made up for the lamb sausage, as did the garnish of deep fried jumbo caper berries. The mussels are great with just a hint of coconut in them, not wild and overpowering. I have not tried the leaning tower of beets app, but know people that have and they adore it. If you're a fan of beets you'd probably like it

The short ribs are tender and rich, the pork scallopini light and well done, and the duck confit a spot on rendition. A friend tried the bison ribs last week and raved.

I am not a fan of bread pudding but the version offered at the Better Half is nothing short of amazing and goes really well with the French press coffee.

App, entree, dessert, coffee, a half bottle of wine, tax and tip will set you back $70-80. Best value in town right now, not to mention the food is really good.


Edited by kalypso (log)

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My friend and I were actually having this discussion a few months back. I go to school in Philadelphia, a city which, though less prominent than close-by New York and DC, has a fantastic food scene. Here we have some of everything, from the best italian meal I've had in this country (Vetri) to some old-guard French Establishments (Le Bec Fin) to the somewhat avant garde (Lacoirx) to the hip and delicious (Amada/Tinto), to the places to be seen rather than to eat, to the sort of signature street food every city dreams of owning (Cheesesteaks, Roast Pork).

What it's missing, on the other hand, is ethnic food. Sure you can find gems if you look hard, but the mexican food here is bad, the chinese food is limited, the korean is almost nonexistant, and the Japanese is only okay. There are obviously exceptions, but for the most part, what I find I love about San Diego is that the ethnic dives are not only plentiful but also incredible. On the other hand, our fine dining seems to, as one post above astutely noted, revolve around the tourist industry, creating views or extravagance with perhaps less attention to the food.

Take Jack's Dining Room, for example. When it first opened I had one of the best meals there, with great and contemporary flavor combinations befitting a Jean Georges alum kitchen. However less than a year later the menu was mostly steak, salmon, or chicken, and the flavors had been toned down. I think part of the problem is that San Diego as a "city" is really more a county, and is therefore far too spread out to have any consistant diners. People in Rancho Santa Fe aren't going to drive downtown to eat every weekend, and as a result, tourists dominate the cash influx to most restaurants.

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My friend and I were actually having this discussion a few months back. I go to school in Philadelphia, a city which, though less prominent than close-by New York and DC, has a fantastic food scene. Here we have some of everything, from the best italian meal I've had in this country (Vetri) to some old-guard French Establishments (Le Bec Fin) to the somewhat avant garde (Lacoirx) to the hip and delicious (Amada/Tinto), to the places to be seen rather than to eat, to the sort of signature street food every city dreams of owning (Cheesesteaks, Roast Pork).

What it's missing, on the other hand, is ethnic food. Sure you can find gems if you look hard, but the mexican food here is bad, the chinese food is limited, the korean is almost nonexistant, and the Japanese is only okay. There are obviously exceptions, but for the most part, what I find I love about San Diego is that the ethnic dives are not only plentiful but also incredible. On the other hand, our fine dining seems to, as one post above astutely noted, revolve around the tourist industry, creating views or extravagance with perhaps less attention to the food.

Take Jack's Dining Room, for example. When it first opened I had one of the best meals there, with great and contemporary flavor combinations befitting a Jean Georges alum kitchen. However less than a year later the menu was mostly steak, salmon, or chicken, and the flavors had been toned down. I think part of the problem is that San Diego as a "city" is really more a county, and is therefore far too spread out to have any consistant diners. People in Rancho Santa Fe aren't going to drive downtown to eat every weekend, and as a result, tourists dominate the cash influx to most restaurants.

jacks dinning room has reconsepted and is now a full italian menu. fyi

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