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C Simril

Dining in San Diego (Part 2)

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Five days ahead of me in San Diego starting 5 hours ago. We're staying in the shadow of the Cortez, and we'll be at the convention centre for most of the time, so we're limited to Gaslamp for lunches.

What's recommended in this area? Dives to high end.

Cheers,

Peter

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Five days ahead of me in San Diego starting 5 hours ago. We're staying in the shadow of the Cortez, and we'll be at the convention centre for most of the time, so we're limited to Gaslamp for lunches.

What's recommended in this area? Dives to high end.

For you Comic-Con dining pleasure

Walking Distance:

Cafe Chloe (charming quasi French place. Get's noisy, but food is consistently good, 9th & Market)

Cowboy Star (upscale steak house and very good, try the bison steak)

Basic Urban Bar (good pizza)

Neighborhood

Noble Experiment

Quality Social

Cafe 222 (2nd and Island, good breakfast, try the pumpkin waffle)

JSix Restaurant (the resto in the Solamar hotel. Almost all local and sustainable. Chef is doing very creative stuff)

Ciros' (cheap pizza)

Bread on Market (between 8th & 9th I think, very, very good sandwiches)

Valentine's (decent taco shop)

Candelas (upscale Mexican)

El Vitral (upscale Mexican, great tequila selection, uneven food)

Short Cab/Bus:

The Linkery (The only fully local and sustainable resto in SD. They will at 18% gratuity to bill. 30th St. corridor in North Park)

Hamilton's Tavern (craft beers and good food, 30th St. corridor in North Park)

Toronado (craft beers and good food, 30th St. corridor in North Park)

El Take It Easy (new cantina from the owner of The Linkery. Local and sustainable only. 30th St. corridor in North Park)

Urban Solace (Great vibe and good food. 30th St. corridor in North Park)

Cucina Urbana (one of the best new restaurants in SD, nothing over $20, 5th and Laurel)

Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant (only open a month, nothing over $20)

Starlite (Innovative cocktails, uneven food. India St, trends young, i.e. under 40)

Blue Water Grill (Great fish tacos and sandwiches, India St.)

Ritual Tavern (Craft beer, good food, 30th St. corridor in North Park)

Jayne's Gastropub (upscale pub, 30th St. at Adams

Farmhouse Cafe (French country, Adams Ave, couple blks east of Park Blvd)

Super Cocina (hands down best Mexican in SD, home-style only, 37th & University)

Tacos el Paisa (al pastor at it's best, BarrioLogan)

Mariscos German (tacos gobenadores, or smoked marlyn (marlin) tacos, taco truck at 35th & University or restaruant at 27th & Ocean View, both areas a bit on the seedy side)

Pizzeria Bruno (true Neopolitan pizza, probably best pizza in SD)

Blind Lady Alehouse (pizza and craft beers, both very, very good)

Cafe Dore (Vietnamese, Bahn Mi)

For these you'll need a car, but the drive is worth it:

Aqui es Texcoco (Mexican Barbacoa, Chula Vista)

Mariscos El Pescador (best fish taco in SD, taco truck in a ToysRUs pakring long, Chula Vista)

Kaito (best sushi in SD, Encinitas

George's California Modern/George's Ocean Terrace (La Jolla)

El Pescador (fish sandwiches, La Jolla)

Sab-e-Lee (Thai, Linda Vista)

Kitchen 1540

Cavaillon (French, Santa Luz/Carmel Valley area)

Also check out the Tin Fork reviews in the SD Reader Tin Fork does a lot of reviews of downtown hole in the walls. Click on the link then once on the Reader site click on the Restaurant link. You can search by Tin Fork (real name Ed Bedford) or simiply search downtown/Gaslamp.

The Gaslamp is San Diego's version of Fisherman's wharf. The locals love to hate it and will often malign it. It is very commercial and geared primarily to tourists.

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Thanks, Kalypso,

I was looking at the Linkery and their offshoots online. They do look good. It's just the distance that'll do me in.

But the schedule of the 'Con is pretty grueling from now on, so I may have to make do with the first part of your list. It's been hit and miss so far, with some blase Mexican (eaten in a desparater 30 minute break from the 'Con - our only meal today), mediocre Cajun at Cafe Indigo (but I liked the Blue Moon lager from Dixie); more beers at Rock Bottom; and a good meal and Capcom games at Analog.

Thanks again.

Gotta go. Venture Bros is on.

Peter

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Thanks, Kalypso,

I was looking at the Linkery and their offshoots online. They do look good. It's just the distance that'll do me in.

But the schedule of the 'Con is pretty grueling from now on, so I may have to make do with the first part of your list. It's been hit and miss so far, with some blase Mexican (eaten in a desparater 30 minute break from the 'Con - our only meal today), mediocre Cajun at Cafe Indigo (but I liked the Blue Moon lager from Dixie); more beers at Rock Bottom; and a good meal and Capcom games at Analog.

True, the Mexican downtown is not particularly good. But whatever you do - even if you are a vegetarian - do not eat at Pokez. It's vegetarian Mexican and really, really not very good. But everyone goes because it's vegetarian and because they mistake bad attitude for being cool. Also stay out of Seaport Village, not much in there worth trying. However, the sushi bar in the Fish Market and the Top of the Market (upstairs at the Fish Market) are both pretty decent. If you're looking to do upscale, go next door to Molly's in the Marriot, it's not your basic hotel food. Very good.

Check out McCormick's & Schmicks in the Omni for their Happy Hour specials. They used to do a $3 cheeseburger (regular size, not a slider) during happy hour.

Downtown Johnny Brown's isn't much too look at and their hamburgers are okay but go here for one of the better selections of craft beers in the downtown area.

Hop on the orange line trollet, which is right across the street from the convention center, and take it 2 stops towards downtown to American Plaza. Get off there and transfer to the northbound Blue Line trolley. There is a Grab & Go Subs right there in America Plaza and believe it or not, they're really pretty good. But back to the blue line trolley...Take the blue line 2 stops north to the Country Center/Little Italy stop and walk up (East) to India St. This is the heart of Little Italy where most of the food is only so-so, but there are a few gems to be found. Pete's Meats does great sandwiches, little hole in the wall, been around for years. Google or GPS the address. If you go north a couple of blocks on India you'll come to Mona Lisa, great sandwiches and check out Assanti too, they sometimes have good to-go type of stuff. Instead of turning on India when you get off the trolley, go up a couple of blocks to State and turn left. You're looking for the intersection of State and Cedar where Pappalecco's is. You go for the gelato but can also get decent sandwiches and salads there as well. Owned by 2 brothers from Pisa.

Also in Little Italy is The Burger Lounge, a local chain using grassfed beef. I don't particularly care for their burger and I think their fries and onion rings are overpriced for what you get, but their turkey burger is pretty decent. One of the better burgers in Little Italy can be found on Kettner at The Waterfront, a dive bar that's gotten some respectability.

If you're willing to increase your radius, stay on the blue line trolley a couple more stop until you get to the Washington St. stop. Get off and walk up (east) Washington St and past the Chevron gas station. The first place you come to will be the Lucha Libre taco shop started by 3 brothers from Tijuana. Food is okay to good, specialties would be the quesataco or TJ dog. The interior is an homage to Mexican wrestling (lucha libre) and one of their specialty booths is the inside of a pink Cadillac. Or, pass Lucha Libre and walk up to the next stoplight. This is where India St. ends. Cross Washington. The first place you come to is Gelato Vero (good) followed by Saffron, which is a take out chicken place (excellent). Above Saffron is one of the best deals in town at the Wine Vault & Bistro. $30 for a 5 course meal, add $20 more for the wine pairings. Dinner only, excellent. Continue down the street and you'll see a line out the door at El Indio (excellent 40 years ago, not so much now). Pass El Indio and 2 doors down is Blue Water Grill, excellent fish tacos, fish sandwiches and salad plates. The trolley is usually 7 minutes (or less) to Washington St. from America Plaza, including stops. If you've got an hour to spare (probably not) you could do the round trip from the convention center to the the restos on and just off of Washington St.

Also, avoid AT ALL COSTS Richard Walkers Pancake House. Noisy, expensive marginal food. Always has a line out the door. Don't be fooled.

If you can get to The Linkery or El Take It Easy go by all means. Not everything on their menu always works all the time and it can be a bit uneven, but as an ode to all sustainable, all local, responsible eating, it works in spades.


Edited by kalypso (log)

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I need a birthday gift for my world traveler BIL who will be living in San Diego for the forseeable future in between trips to Argentina, Portugal, etc. He's late 40's, single, a bit crunchy (drinks green smoothies for breakfast) and very adventuresome in his tastes. Casual is fine, but probably not a real DIVE. It has to be somewhere that will sell us a gift certificate online or on the phone since we are in VA. In one of the posts Costa Brava is mentioned and sounded interesting. Thanks so much for the help!

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I need a birthday gift for my world traveler BIL who will be living in San Diego for the forseeable future in between trips to Argentina, Portugal, etc. He's late 40's, single, a bit crunchy (drinks green smoothies for breakfast) and very adventuresome in his tastes. Casual is fine, but probably not a real DIVE. It has to be somewhere that will sell us a gift certificate online or on the phone since we are in VA. In one of the posts Costa Brava is mentioned and sounded interesting. Thanks so much for the help!

Kim do you happen to know in what part of San Diego he'll be living. We're a pretty big area geographically and it'll be easier to make useful recommendations in his general area. Some of the most interesting and creative dining is actually not in San Diego, it's in Tijuana. That said, here are some local favorites

Tender Greens in Liberty station might fit his "green" agenda

Alchemy

Urban Solace

The Linkery is one of the only true fram-to-table restaurants in SD. It tends to be a little quirky but it's really quite good most of the time

Blanca is a little further north but the food is very good

Market in Del Mar

A.R. Valentein

Take a look at these and see if you think any of them are appropriate. They're all fairly well regarded in SD and solid choices and cover most of the region except for the dreaded East County where finding good dining is a challenge

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In addition to the above I would recommend

  • Nine Ten for local & seasonal upscale food, in La Jolla
  • Cucina Urbana for rustic Italian-Californian fusion, a great place to mingle with the local crowd, located in Banker's Hill between downtown and Hillcrest
  • Whisknladle, another fun & casual Italian-Californian restaurant, located in La Jolla
  • Cafe Chloe downtown for casual French food
  • Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park for local seafood (including sea urchin)
  • Bali Hai on Shelter Island, which has been recently renovated, for a relaxing tiki experience (think Roy's with vintage tiki cocktails and local ingredients)

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Thank you both so for the ideas (and the LINKS - incredible time saver for me). I'll look at all of them as soon as possible. I really don't know where he's going to be living - and neither does he. He's become this major rolling stone since he ditched the corporate world. He sold his house in Phoenix and rented an apartment there and then went off to New Zealand and Patagonia, came back to AZ and decided that since he'd spent the last few years weekending in San Diego anyway, he'd rather have his home base there. So he hasn't actually moved there yet, but will be doing that over the next couple of months. (Yeah, I know...I have to hold my mouth closed in order for the phrase "Must be nice" to stay in my head). Thanks again!

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He's making a wise move, San Diego isn't called America's Finest City without reason. But I may be prejudiced :rolleyes:

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We had dinner last night at Bali Hai to say goodbye to chef Chris Powell, who is unfortunately leaving for Orange Country.

We ordered a few of our favorites including the plank-smoked albacore with seabeans and pickled mustard seeds, the dynamite steak roll with pickled baby mushrooms, the char siu duck with lup cheong sausage, and this kobe beef carpaccio with a touch of truffle oil and layers of delicate flavors (courtesy of the chef). It was great as always. Hopefully the new chef will be able to fill his shoes!

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That looks delicious! It also looks like your loss will be our gain. Where is he moving to in Orange County?

nibor

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Here are a few restaurants that I have discovered recently. I've been only once so I cannot comment on consistency, but I will definitely be back based on my first experience.

The Lion's Share (downtown/Marina district)

Beautiful craft cocktails on par with Noble Experiment, great charcuterie board including house-made terrine, perfectly cooked quail stuffed with dates and served with Puy lentils, excellent tagliatelle buffalo Bolognese with marrow.

Here are the cocktails that we sampled at the Lion's Share.

Federal Buffalo Stamp (left): Buffalo Trace bourbon, lemon, ginger root, maple syrup

Monks Gone Wild (right): Strawberry-infused Pimm's, green Chartreuse, lemon, ginger beer

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Cyn City: Plymouth gin, Cynar, lemon juice, egg white, lemon peel, sugar rim

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The Smoking Goat (North Park)

It’s a tiny restaurant but they are currently expanding. My favorite dishes were the roasted bone marrow, and the duck breast with aligot and braised red cabbage served with a huckleberry gastrique sauce.

Kensington Grill (North Park)

Cucina Urbana’s little sister. The menu seems a little more limited than Cucina Urbana, but they still offer a good selection and interesting cocktails. The “hog bar” is fun for a sampling of pork items. I would avoid the “local farm greens” salad; for $9 it was really nothing special.

Beaumont’s Eatery (Birdrock)

I was pleasantly surprised by this place. The “Korean” duck confit tacos were delicious, and so was the grilled salad with romaine and radicchio.

Phuong Trang (Convoy)

Excellent Vietnamese food. I really liked the fried salted shrimp and the rice-paper wraps with char-grilled pork.

Pho Convoy Noodle House (Convoy)

Really good pho. We have been going to Pho T Cali on Clairemont Mesa Blvd for years, but I thought this was better. I always get the pho with everything (rare steak, flank, fatty brisket, tendon and tripe). We noticed their extensive selection of smoothies (which includes soursop, jackfruit, and durian!) but we did not get a chance to try them.

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We tried another place that seems very promising: Local Habit (Hillcrest). Their chef is a Louisiana native and they had a crawfish boil this weekend.

We ate two platters of this (1.5 lb each):

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We also had andouille sausage, which had already been devoured by the time the picture was taken, and good local beers.

Lastly we had a disappointing experience at Union Kitchen & Tap (Encinitas) for brunch last week. Mediocre food (thick breakfast "flatbread" with greasy toppings, very blend smoked pork sliders with no texture), "craft" cocktail menu full of commercial cocktail mixers... I took a look at other peoples plates when I was leaving the restaurant and they did not look much better than ours. We won't be back any time soon.

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I am adding Blue Ribbon Pizza (Encinitas) to the list of good spots. I finally went there last night after hearing a lot of good things about it. It's a tiny place that gets really packed. We had a table by the wood burning oven which is operated by chef/owner Wade Hageman, formerly of Blanca. The pizza was flawless - my favorite was their signature pizza with mozzarella, ricotta, lemon zest, red onion, and fresh basil with a thin and very flavorful crust. I also had a great burrata salad with arugula, served with toasted rustic bread on the side. The butterscotch pudding with caramel sauce, which is the only dessert on the menu, was really good too and devoured in a few seconds.


Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)

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Prepkitchen (Little Italy)

Although I am a big fan of Whisknladle (same team), I tried Prepkitchen in La Jolla a few times in the past and did not care for its limited menu. The food is usually well prepared, but not particularly memorable. The setting is quite basic too.

A new Prepkitchen opened fairly recently in Little Italy and resembles more Whisknladle with a comfortable room and a more ambitious menu. The large windows overlook Date Street where the farmers market takes place every Saturday. We had brunch there this Saturday and had a great time.

The cocktail menu has a few classics and some new creations.

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I have a weakness for the London Burning that I discovered at Whisknladle but decided to order the Stick and Rudder which, while not completely balanced, had an unexpected caramelized rosemary flavor.

My husband opted for an Ommegang beer.

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We started with a flatbread. Very thin crispy crust, and a topping of heirloom tomatoes and zucchini. A great start to the meal.

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We continued our meal with a couple of pork items: the porchetta sandwich and the pork belly tacos.

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The porchetta sandwich had plenty of meat and was very savory. Not as refined as the porchetta sandwich we had at Ariccia last week maybe, but still delicious.

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The pork belly tacos don't look like much on the picture but they were terrific. The meat was perfectly caramelized, and the sliced radishes were a great touch.

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I'm not from San Diego obviously but... 8 pages and nothing on Saffron? I'm a huge fan of Su-Mei Yu's Thai cookbook, Cracking The Coconut. How is her restaurant - assuming it's still there?

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I'm not from San Diego obviously but... 8 pages and nothing on Saffron? I'm a huge fan of Su-Mei Yu's Thai cookbook, Cracking The Coconut. How is her restaurant - assuming it's still there?

Not very good - if you want Thai food in SD uour best options are Sab-e-lee and Siam Nara, both are decent but not great but still much better than Saffron

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Saffron is quite popular and the food is ok, but it's nothing remarkable.

It is noticeably better when Su-Mei Yu is in the kitchen.

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I went to Saffron last week to see if I wasn't a little harsh with my comments.

The sate chicken was incredibly tough and dry. Avoid (and don't be tempted by the low price).

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The drunken noodles were ok but not exactly subtle. Quite spicy.

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The Vietnamese noodles - superbland. The noodles were under the soy sprouts. Everything was fresh but it was just too basic.

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On the plus side, it is quite cheap. But the place itself is in bad need of a makeover and a major cleaning.

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Another visit to Prepkitchen (Little Italy) last month.

The flatbread was, again, wonderful. The toppings change based on what is available at the local farmers' market.

We had to get the excellent pork belly tacos again. We also tried the chilaquiles from the brunch menu. We had tried something similar at La Jolla's prepkitchen a while back and should have known better. They were a soggy & boring mess.

The cocktails were good: this time we had London's Burning (their gin/avocado/lime/cilantro cocktail which was spicier than usual - actually a little too spicy), Two Cents In (a very tasteful concoction with bourbon, St Germain and Dubonnet) and Death in the Afternoon (Hemingway's classic with champagne and absinthe).

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I like this place a lot but will stay away from the brunch-type items next time, because there are many more interesting options on the menu.

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Speaking of brunch, I think that Craft & Commerce does an excellent job in that area. At first glance, their brunch menu seems fairly limited but everything we have tried so far has been great: the smoked salmon - a generous portion served with soft boiled duck eggs and an herb salad, the chicken & waffle (a big stack of juicy fried chicken), and the duck leg cassoulet which was served with foie gras (!) before the ban. Prices are very reasonable too (around $10 - $12). And the best part - their cocktails are truly outstanding. If you go with a bunch of friends it's fun to share a bowl of punch. Phil Ward's touch on the cocktail program is obvious, and the two punches that I have had a chance to try, Mother's Ruin (gin, sweet vermouth, spiced tea, lemon, grapefruit, champagne) and the Guerilla Monsoon Punch (which is kind of a Mai Tai in punch form with dark Jamaican rum, white rum, lime, orgeat curacao, champagne) are a great value at $42 for the bowl. The punches are served in a vintage milk-glass punch bowl.

Here are a couple of other cocktails that are also very brunch-appropriate: French 75 and the Early Riser (bourbon, lemon, honey maple syrup, bacon bitters).

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