Entertainment Book - San Diego
I know that a lot of people don't like the entertainment book and think there are only crappy restaurants included (and most likely I will get banned from Chowhound after this post :)) but I think it is a good way to test a few restaurants and quite often you find something interesting. Soemtimes it is even only one dish you like and go back. I am just curious if other chowhounds use their EB and found anything good.
Here are some restaurant I tested with the EB and found good enough to return:
- California Cuisine (If you like Region or Cafe Cerise you should give it a try)
- Chilango (best "upscale" Mexican in SD)
- Russo's Pasta (Encinitas, small shop specialized in selling fresh pasta, but have also few tables for lunch. You want to buy fresh pasta in SD, this is your place)
- Pizzicato (Encinitas, best pizza in SD)
- Kontinental Deli (Escondido, really small shop which sells some German and Dutch stuff but has also the best Kassler (smoked pork chops) with sauerkraut in SD. Has also great liverwurst and liver loaf).
- El Pollo Loco (I know it is a chain but their chicken is damn good)
- Chicken plus Greek Cuisine (Escondido, I only go for the lamb shanks but they are great)
- Garden Grill (India Street, good Mediterrean Cuisine)
- Da Nino's (Morena Blvd., always go for the Spaghetti Carbonara)
- Tropical Star (Balboa Ave., good South American dishes)
- Spice & Rice (La Jolla, good Thai)
- Pollos Maria (Carlsbad, good chicken)
- La Torta (PB, you want Mexican Torta, that is your place)
- Bety's Restaurant (Encinitas, small Mexican with good food)
- Miramar Cafe (for some reason they have the best Gyros I can find in SD)
- Sammy's Woodfired Pizza (small chain, but very good pizza and good tapas menu)
- Thai Garden (Oceanside, great Thai)
- Joe's Italian Dinner (Escondido, I go for the home made tortellinis)
- Mama Testa's (Hillcrest, if you want tacos, go should go there)
- El Callejon (Encinitas, good for Mexican fish dishes)
- Wired (UTC, good quiches)
- Honey Bistro & Bakery (Encinitas, good breakfast)
My brother has been a rabid fan of the Entertainment Book in the past, but he noticed with the last book that a lot of the restaurants are in the north part of San Diego. Since he's value-minded (cheap, Ha!), he won't travel that far and waste gas just to save money on a meal.
If this year's book is the same with a lot of the restaurants in the north, he's said he'll stop buying them.
way to go honkman, my wife and I have been using the EB for the past eight months it's a great way to find new places to eat and well worth the $40.00 price tag. We've had some hit's (Mariscos Ensenda/Oceanside) and some strikes, but overall it's been great to try different places and not spend big $$.
I tried a few more restaurants from the Entertainment book:
- Islander Grill (Guam cuisine, cheap and tasty)
- Swami's (Encinitas, surprisingly good wraps, sandwiches and very good fresh juices)
- Lotsa Pasta (PB, reasonable pasta)
- Mozy's (Encinitas, organic/vegetarian cafe with good wraps)
- Luna Grill (PQ, interesting place which serves good persian/greek food)
- Ocean Thai Cuisine (Oceanside, place got some good recommendation on CH. Can't really understand why, quite disappointing Thai food. Thai Garden in Oceanside is much better.)
- Island Pasta (Coronado, surprisingly good place with homemade pasta. Good for a cheap lunch or dinner on Coronado)
- Spicy Pickle (Poway, first franchise from a chain in SD. We really liked their paninis, some of the best we had in a very long time. They also sell pizza with very thin crust which we will try next time).
I only used 2 coupons:
1) Anita's Mexican in Oceanside - liked my steak burrito and my nephew enjoyed his burger (duh-burger in a Mexican resto ??) but our favorite from this place is their crispy quesadillas.
2) L & L Hawaiian BBQ - value for money and the mac salad is hard to resist
That's funny about EB and tipping. The one similar experience we had was at The French Gourmet. Though the food was worth having again, we wouldn't go back after the waiter handwrote on the bill something like "Please remember to base your tip on the pre-discounted bill". My wife paid, and I think she made a different decision.... He was a rather annoying server anyway, definitely detracted from the food. If it's that important to them, I'd rather they just pre-calculate the tip.
We tried EB for about 2 years and definitely think the successes are exceptions to the rule. We also recommend California Cuisine, as above (their specialty coffee with cinnamon schnapps was good). As for La Torta, I remember the original location in La Mesa being better, but haven't been to any of them in a while.
Most of the places in EB are either not good, or they're good but include themselves in the book because they're suffering for business and often close in a few months anyway. My empoloyer provides it free of charge though, so I keep it in the car anyway; just for the "card" places, I don't like dealing with coupons.
I wouldn't call the coupon restaurants as bad restaurants. Most of them are not meant to be high end restaurant and a lot of them are quite good for what they do, IMO. And I use the the EB for the last four years and only a relative small number of them went out of business, especially from the "card" places.
Two places I recently tried were Terra (I think this restaurant is quite underrated in SD. Some of the dishes (pumpkin ravioli with roasted corn cream, grilled salmon with spinach gnocchi and collard greens) were outstanding, some of them not as good but still on a similar level as Region/California Cuisine/Cafe Cerise (Kobe Beef Sliders, Duck Confit). http://www.terrasd.com
The second place was Kafe Yen in PB which is an interesting mix of different asian cuisines and has a relaxed ambience. http://www.kafe-yen.com/
There are two versions of the EG, the $40 version has the upscale restaurant discounts, such as Fresh, Roppongi, and California Cuisine. There is no coupon for these places, there is a EG card with lots of numbers. I always call in advance to insure the EG is honored by the place.
Also, many of the restaurants will charge a certain % for the tip in the final bill...usually it is around 18%. Which has its good and bad points.
I had never the experience that they would charge a certain % for the tip in the final bill.
I only made once in SD a bad experience with tips and final bills (without the EB) when I was in a restaurant and spoke German with my wife and the waiter decided to add 20% on the final bill because Germans don't know how to tip. (And the service wasn't even good. We decided to pay only 10% tip, but would have paid 15-20% like we normally do when he wouldn't have added it)
I love Pizzicato. They're actually a chain out of Portland. The owner moved to San Diego and opened a branch here. Some of my favorite pizza. When I used to visit Portland I'd want to eat there daily.
I just wish they had a more southern location.
Not sure I'd rank them above Lefty's or Bronx - I'd say for their style of pizza (gourmet/unusual toppings) they are the best in town, no question.
Similarly, mightyxx sports radio (check out www.mighty1090.com and look for Mighty Matire d' and Padres Maitre D' links) offers 50$ gift certificates for 25$ and 100$ certificates for 50$ every Wed. and Fri. AM. We have used the ones for Cafe Pacifica and for Chive and were quite happy with both places. They tend to sell out same day if the place is popular, but is a really nice way to check out a place without paying full price.
At Cafe Pacifica I got the feeling that our waiter gave us service as if he was expecting us not to tip on the whole check, and when we went back w/o using the certificate got much better service.
We went yesterday to another new restaurant with the entertainment book: Cocina D. Sanchez. It is across from Cafe Lestat in Normal Heights.
Overall a mixed feeling after the dinner. We had Chilorio Sinaloa: The meat was quite good but the rice, guacamole and beans weren't as good as we hoped. But we also had the Birria (with lamb not goat) which was really good. I also liked that we got an extra plate with fresh cilantro, onions and lemon.
The restaurant has some dishes like Birria which you don't find at many other restaurants in SD and also quite a lot of seafood dishes. Does anybody has some experience with other dishes at Cocina D. Sanchez ? Are there any other not-to-miss dishes like Birria.
Great post honkman. The wife and I got a chance to try some good places because of the EB. Such as:
Black Horse Grill
Spice & Rice
We still have more to explore...any more suggestions?