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Dining in San Diego


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Hey everyone,

This Philly Egulleteer and her DC gulleeter boyfriend are coming to San Diego for a conference--we'll be in town for a week & need plenty of suggestions.

Most importantly we need ideas nearby 3 hotels: the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego and the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina (where the conference is being held) and the Westin (where we're staying).

Here's what I'm looking for:

1. Good inexpensive lunch spots near those conferences hotels. Any kind of food, no more than $10/per person.

2. Places for happy hours drinks near any of those hotels, but not IN the hotels.

3. Fantastic sushi--anywhere in the area or La Jolla. Big creative selection like that I struggle to get here in Philly.

4. Fish tacos!!

5. Wine bars

Thanks in advance. We get to town April 12th.

:biggrin:

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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The DC boyfriend speaks:

As we won't have access to a car while staying in town, we are also looking for a few places to have a nice dinner in the downtown area/Gaslight District. We'd also consider heading to a "must visit" type of place as long as it is accessible by cab and not too far away. (Do you all have cabs in San Diego?!?!) :shock:

A few interesting places I've read about in earlier San Diego eGullet postings: Bacchus Wine Market/Tasting Room, Blue Point, Chive, Prado, Taka. Comments on any of those? Worth a visit?

And--has Cafe W recovered from its fire?

Thanks in advance!

Liam

Eat it, eat it

If it's gettin' cold, reheat it

Have a big dinner, have a light snack

If you don't like it, you can't send it back

Just eat it -- Weird Al Yankovic

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The DC boyfriend speaks:

As we won't have access to a car while staying in town, we are also looking for a few places to have a nice dinner in the downtown area/Gaslight District. We'd also consider heading to a "must visit" type of place as long as it is accessible by cab and not too far away. (Do you all have cabs in San Diego?!?!) :shock:

From the Gaslight District, you can easily catch the trolley to Old Town. Highly recommend Cafe Pacifica there. And yeah there are cabs.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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For the first ten years of my adult life, I lived in San Diego and miss it terribly. There ARE taxis in San Diego but unless you are planning on heading out of downtown, I don't think you really need one. It is a great walking town and the only area I might recommend using a taxi to get to would be Hillcrest (up Fifth Street) or into Balboa Park.

Favorite restaurants in downtown include Ida Bailey's in the Horton Grand Hotel (Ida Bailey was a notorious San Diego Madame at the turn of the century - the restaurant has definite old world charm).

Walking the Gaslamp will provide a wealth of fabulous restaurants - I visit once a year and each time go to a new place so I can't exactly recommend a specific restaurant there (I've never been disappointed, though!).

A MUST visit, however, is Extraordinary Desserts at 2929 Fifth Avenue. It is adjacent to the Park and HIGHLY recommended (lovely garden setting where fabulous cakes and pastries are served in beautiful surroundings).

Have a great time!

Edited to add that I always liked the Horton Grand Hotel for breakfasts as back in the 80's, they were one of the first to serve artisinal, handmade sausages...

Edited by Carolyn Tillie (log)
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Candela's in the Gaslamp has hands down the best service in town. Although a little spendy for Mexican, it is amazing, romantic and unique.

My favorite place for a good first drink out of work is at The Bitter End. They have a black martini, which is espresso and booze. Picks you up and puts you down. Lou and Mickey's also has some classic cocktails that cannot be beat---several from which more than one person can drink.

Taka Sushi really is the best Sushi in town and it happens to be in the Gaslamp. Here is their website: http://www.takasushi.com/

Wahoo's although a chain, still my favorite fish tacos. There is one in La Jolla, a block from where I live so I eat them at least once a week.

Anthony's Fish Grotto is the classic San Diego seafood joint. http://www.gofishanthonys.com/

And finally, what I have deamed as my best overall dining experience in San Diego---dum.dum.dum The Marine Room. It's in La Jolla so you would have to take a cab but they have a great tasting menu and paired with wine it really is a great deal. In addition they are right on the beach and during high tide the waves actually crash against the windows.

I've been meaning to get to the Beach at the W--the roof top bar and

Chive is on my list of must get to restaurants. Everyone I talk to says it's good.

Have fun!

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And finally, what I have deamed as my best overall dining experience in San Diego---dum.dum.dum The Marine Room. It's in La Jolla so you would have to take a cab but they have a great tasting menu and paired with wine it really is a great deal. In addition they are right on the beach and during high tide the waves actually crash against the windows.

BTW, Lixey, welcome to eGullet!

On the La Jolla recommendation, I agree, but that would be an awfully expensive taxi ride...

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I moved to the area 20+ years ago. The food scene was pretty dismal then. I remember when the local paper asked food people for recommendations for various kinds of food, and for Italian, several said "a plane ticket to San Francisco." It's gotten a lot better, but it's still not San Francisco.

For moderately priced lunches near your hotels, I would recommend:

Athen's Market, 109 W F St., good Greek food, friendly atmosphere, nice surroundings.

Royal Thai, 467 Fifth Ave., Nice people, Thai food at good prices.

Panda Inn, Top of Horton Plaza, right near the Westin, pretty good Chinese food.

Sammy's Woodfired Pizza, 770 Fourth Avenue, adjacent to Horton Plaza. This is thin-crusted, California pizza with things on it you'll probably never see on a pizza in Philly. Good salads, too. Hey, you are in California, give it a try.

Karl Strauss Brewery, 1157 Columbia Street, has great beer and decent food.

I'm probably not the guy to recommend happy hour places, since my idea of a good happy hour is a quiet place with good drinks and a pianist playing Cole Porter. (The Westgate Hotel Bar is THE place if you are looking for this.) I do also like Lou and Mickey's (suggested previously) though. It was previously called the Royale Brasserie, but our downtown wasn't ready for a big French brasserie, so the same owners reopened it as Lou and Mickey's. The inside is the same, including a great zinc bar they brought all the way from Paris. Lively bar scene, although stick to the happy hour specials or you can run up a tab. They have good oysters and other cold seafood. No Cole Porter, but often they have live music. Fifth Avenue has many happy hour choices within walking distance of the hotels.

Taka is the only place I can think of for sushi downtown. I can't think of anyplace for fish tacos downtown. There must be a Rubio's somewhere near, but I'm not a big Rubio's fan. The only wine bar I can think of is WineSellar & Brasserie, and it's way too far from downtown.

Your post says you will be here for a week. If you are free during any day for an extended period of time, I would say my my number one spot for lunch would be the rooftop of George's at the Cove in La Jolla. It's a very long cab ride. You might be better off renting a car. The rooftop is open air, and I think it embodies Southern California at its best on a nice day. Bring your shades. The food, which includes some very good (somewhat inauthentic) fish tacos; sandwiches like ahi, burgers, portabello mushroom; salads; fish soup, and some more substantial dishes, is moderately priced and very, very good for lunch or early dinner. The view down to La Jolla Cove is awesome. If you have the whole day, you could have lunch there, do some shopping, check out the aquarium at Scripps, and then have dinner at the aforementioned Marine Room, which is truly first-class. The chef has a way with seafood. You should have to get there before dark for the view of the beach though. If you get a car, you could start early and check out the Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma for a little history of California and a great view back to the city.

The Gaslamp has a lot of dinner choices. The Prado is unique and a short cab ride from downtown. I'm dying to try Candela's. If you are jazz fans, you might check out Dizzy's on 7th. It's a jazz club without alcohol, which is to say it's all about the music. There is a cover of $5-$10 and they have snacks and non-alcoholic drinks.

Have a nice trip.

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Other than Kantoro Sushi in Carson (yet again, proving my theory that the quality oriental food of all types is inversely proportional to the quality of the strip mall it occupies. If the strip mall has a check cashing place, an oriental grocery, and a low rent video store you can bet that it is going to be great, as they have nothing to sell but good food because they sure aren't selling atmosphere) I think that my favorite West Coast Sushi Joint is Sushi Ota in San Diego. Located on Mission Blvd. and right next to a 7-11, you will find some of the best fish and presentation that you can find. The place is usually filled with salarymen and other Japanese expats who seem to enjoy the place as much as I do. It is definitely not a dive, the decor is pleasant and comfortable. I reccomend sitting at the sushi bar. The chefs are nice guys and I just like sitting up there.

I second all of the recs. for Rubio's. Were all fast food served with the quality that they vend their fine tacos, there would be no room to gripe about fast food. I love those things.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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First off, bring tennis shoes and a sweater.

The tennis shoes are for a comfortable walk from your hotel to the San Diego Marriott Hotel & the Manchester Hyatt. It may look close on a map but it's still quite a walk (these are big downtown-sized blocks). The Manchester, practically being right on the water, is closer to the Marriott but comfortable shoes will still come in handy (you'll also want to do the tourist thing and take a stroll through Seaport Village, which is next to the Manchester).

You may need the sweater because San Diego has a marine layer that comes in at night and sometimes stays around until it gets burned off by the sun around 10am or so. So, it may eventually be a great sunny day once the marine layer is gone, but the nights can get nippy when it comes back in).

Trivia fact: In the month of June, San Diego gets the least sun of cities in all the continental US thanks to the marine layer that comes in but doesn't leave. It's nicknamed "June Gloom" and "May Gray" by the locals because during those 2 months, the sun is but a mere memory.

All three hotels you mentioned are either in or are near the Gaslamp District. You will find many good restaurants there. You can also see what's in your price range by looking here, which is a listing of the Gaslamp restaurants.

Horton Plaza, a shopping mall, will have places to eat, as well.

You mention La Jolla which is nowhere near Downtown. Do you know where in La Jolla you will be? What is actually considered the "real" La Jolla is a very small area on the coast but developers have stretched the name to cover buildings and shopping centers that are miles away from the actual "town". I was Googling for "La Jolla Sushi" and found places nowhere near the actual "town" of La Jolla. Be aware of that.

I Googled this downtown wine bar. I haven't been there so I can't attest to it.

For Fish Tacos, I'd say Rubio's, too. They are a fast food restaurant chain now but they are the ones who started it all in San Diego.

I would also recommend taking advantage of your hotel's concierge if the service is free. They can make recommendations that will fit your budget. Call the concierge before you get to San Diego if you want to plan out your meals & entertainment in advance. It will help develop a bond with them, too, so when you show up they will know who you are. You may get better service. :wink:

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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i also have to recommend the roberto's chain: some of the best chicken burritos i have ever had. (they don't put rice or beans in it, so while it's very...uh....juicy....it's also just filled with chicken and veggies, so you don't feel like you're getting the short end of the stick because of a burrito that is 3/4 rice and beans).

Damn straight! I like their Carne Asada burritos. It's just meat, salsa and guacamole in a tortilla. No rice. No beans. Wow.

God, I miss them. :sad:

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Go to Point Loma Seafood for lunch. Take a taxi; what you save in food will more than pay for it.

Bruce

I have said it before and I will say it again, Point Loma Seafoods is amazing. I whole-heartedly agree that it is worth the cab fare. While there, if you have a few hours a stroll around the area would also be nice, the terrain is quite a bit different than the convention center area (steep hills in Point Loma vs low marina areas by the bay).

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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These suggestions are great, thanks!

It looks like I'm going to have to kill about 3 hrs in LAX waiting for Liam to arrive on our first day in town. I'll have defended my dissertation the day before and be looking to celebrate. However, I'll also have plenty of luggage with me. So, any suggestions for where to have a nice long lunch in the airport?? (I'm flying US AIR)

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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You might try the Encounter Restaurant in the theme building in the middle of the airport. I haven't been there in probably 15 years, but the food actually used to be decent. The view is nice. Three hours probably isn't enough to leave the airport. I don't think they let you store luggage in lockers anymore.

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I think we may stay in La Jolla one evening on our way back up to L.A. to take advantage of what it has to offer. Any other La Jolla recommendations would also be appeciated, in addition to LAX recommendations for sara.

Thanks for the recommendations so far!

Edited by liamdc (log)

Liam

Eat it, eat it

If it's gettin' cold, reheat it

Have a big dinner, have a light snack

If you don't like it, you can't send it back

Just eat it -- Weird Al Yankovic

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Carolyn, thanks for the welcome. I just moved to La Jolla, and am a librarian at a culinary school in Mission Valley. I came across eGullet in my research---

Part of me really misses that town - until I come down and realize how bad the traffic has become!

Now that you live there, you must also hunt down Ichicban. There is one in P.B. but I used to eat at the one on University in Hillcrest. To this day, it remains one of the best whole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurants. During the stormy months, I survived on their Stamina Bowls which was a huge bowl of Udon with lots of other nifty bits added in. And let me know what you think of Extraordinary Desserts! Walk through Balboa Park (geez, I got married there over 20 years ago!) It IS a beautiful town...

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I remember Extraordinary Desserts. Is that in Hillcrest? I think it is. It's a small freestanding building where you can get huge slices of cake for $7 a slice. Nice lil patio area. I don't remember the flavors, but they were decent.

I want to go to Encinitas again to give Chuao Chocolatier another try. I got some grainy centered chocs there the last time. Expensive.

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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I remember Extraordinary Desserts. Is that in Hillcrest? I think it is. It's a small freestanding building where you can get huge slices of cake for $7 a slice. Nice lil patio area. I don't remember the flavors, but they were decent.

I want to go to Encinitas again to give Chuao Chocolatier another try. I got some grainy centered chocs there the last time. Expensive.

Kinda... Extraordinary Desserts in on 5th, about halfway between downtown and Hillcrest, about a block away from Balboa Park (to the west). Lovely patio and the cakes are always plated with a sauce. Rivals Sweet Lady Jane's in L.A. (IMHO).

Didn't know about the Encinitas place... and I was there last weekend!

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I've never had grainy chocolates at Chuao. My wife demands them now on special occassions. She says they are much better than the ones in the gold box. My favorites by far are flavored with pasilla chiles. They make very rich, hot chocolate with pasillas at the store, also. It's amazing how the chile and the chocolate blend. But then anyone who has tried a good Mexican mole sauce knows that.

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Oh wow, pasilla chili chocolates! Gotta get me some of those... :biggrin:

I am also interested in going to Chino Farms--I read about it in a Steingarten book. Anyone have information on going there? I know it's in Rancho Sante Fe and is open 10-4--that's what I found by googling it. More info? Is it shopping only--do they have a cafe or anything, etc? I'm thinking of stocking up on veggies to cart home to Philadelphia. Any must haves?

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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It's shopping only at Chino Farms, at a stand with no prices. Nice people though and they will tell you the prices. Off I-5 north from San Diego at Via de la Valle east about 2-3 miles maybe- look for the sign on the right. Turn right after it and down about a half mile.

Chauo is in Encinitas, not far away.

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These suggestions are great, thanks!

It looks like I'm going to have to kill about 3 hrs in LAX waiting for Liam to arrive on our first day in town. I'll have defended my dissertation the day before and be looking to celebrate. However, I'll also have plenty of luggage with me. So, any suggestions for where to have a nice long lunch in the airport?? (I'm flying US AIR)

Stash your bags with left luggage, and take a taxi to Point Loma Seafoods. It's close to the airport, and you can get back in more than enough time.

Otherwise, there's nothing good to eat in the airport.

Bruce

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