Suggestion for San Diego
My girlfriend and I are heading (from Los Angeles) down to San Diego this weekend for a little get away. We would be staying at the Marriot in Gaslamp District. My plan is to visit the wild animal park, Balboa park, Conorado, Old Town, and possibly Carlsbad Premium Outlet. We have about $300 to spend for food for the entire weekend and we don't have any preference....well, nice view of the city or the ocean would be great. I would greatly appreciate any suggestion for great dining experiences.
For a nice view of the ocean, you can't beat either the Marine Room or George's in La Jolla. However, Marine Room will likely eat up half of your weekend food budget in one shot.
While George's main dining room is similarly dear, they have a couple of more budget-conscious options that still have spectacular ocean views. One is the bar, which has a pared-down menu, and the other is the terrace. The terrace is on the roof, so bring sunglasses, and the view is amazing. Food is good too. Probably the best nexus of view/value.
Those are both in La Jolla, which is about 30 minutes north of downtown San Diego. I actually don't have any recommendations for downtown. Downtown's big tourist area is the "historic" Gaslamp Quarter, but I've yet to have a meal there that I thought was worth either the premium price, or the soul-crushing assault of "beautiful people" all over the place.
If you want nice views outside of Downtown, then La Jolla is your best bet. Fortunately it's home to a lot of good dining.
There are probably some good places I don't know of in North County, which you could hit on your drive to or from Carlsbad.
Josh, if you haven't tried Oceanaire yet, go. The meal I had there last week was extremely good as was the service. I'd say this meal ranked up there in the top 3 or 4 that I've had since I got back in town 5 years ago. Made going to the Gaslamp - which I generally don't have a problem with - worth the hassle. I posted a quick recap of the meal on this board yesteday, but it was moved to the "chains" board even though it was specific to San Diego.
DoveLedgend, Oceanaire doesn't have ocean or coastal views, but it does have good food and portions are HUGE, definitely designed to be shared. My dining companion and I had 6 oysters on the half shell, 1 appetizer, 2 entrees, 2 sides, 1 cocktail, 1 glass of wine, and 1 coffee (the birthday dessert was gratis) and our bill came to $130 including tax and tip. We took home a huge amount of food too. You could do a splurge here by sharing an app and ordering only 1 side and probably get out for under $100 including tax and tip.
The Wild Animal Park is up by Escondido. If you opt to eat in Escondido try Asia-Vous http://www.asiavousrestaurant.com/ it's well worth it. They don't do lunch on weekends, but they are open for dinner by 6 PM.
Close to Old Town is Perry's Breakfast Cafe, which is a good place to fuel up for the day. Large portions, low prices, better than decent food. Very good value for the price you'll pay.
For nice views without blowing your budget you might want to try having cocktails at Bertrand @ Mr. A's, George's at the Cove or the Marine Room. I also like breakfast at the Pannikin Brockton Villa, or on the beach at the Mission II in Mission Beach - both have a lot of local atmosphere for not a lot of $$.
For dinner, you should definitely take advantage of your proximity to the Gaslamp, since you won't have to drive, etc. I really like Red Pearl Kitchen and Cafe Chloe. If you like steak, you could try the Gaslamp Strip Club, where you cook your own on the open grills. The Stingaree also got a pretty good write up in the local weekly. They are offering a three course meal and admission to the club for $60. on weekends. It's the new hot place to go out these days. I have also read good things about Confidential and Cafe Cerise.
In North County, you could stop at Poseidon or the bar at the top of Plaza Del Mar for drinks - Poseidon also has pretty good food, and is not terribly expensive. There's nothing really close to the Wild Animal Park unless you go into Escondido. Near the Zoo you could go to the Prado for drinks & appetizers (the setting is nice but the food is pretty mediocre) or there's a cafe in the Sculpture Garden of the art museum that has good sandwiches and picnic-style fare. You're also not too far away from Extraordinary Desserts, which is on 5th Avenue, one street over from the park.
I have a few more recommendations on my site - most of the places I list are local to San Diego. Enjoy your trip!
If you like Asian food and don't mind being inconvenienced a bit, Roppongi in LaJolla has a great deal from 4:30 through 6:30. Asian tapas and sushi are half priced. Two people can have a really excellent meal fo first rate appetizers for $50-60, depending on your alcohol consumption.
I strongly second Cafe Chloe--they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, all fairly reasonably priced and in the downtown area.
Might also want to try Cafe 222 in the downtown area--haven't made it there yet for breakfast but heard good things about it.
Roppongi's is probably one of the best deals around if you go for their happy hour. We always end up stuffed when we leave.
For breakfast in La Jolla, Mission Cup Cafe has great food for cheap prices. I think it's much better than Brockton Villa.
The Carlsbad Outlets have a few eating places within the mall. Bellefleur is ok, nothing that will blow your socks off. There is an In-n-Out across the freeway from the outlets as well as King's Fish House. King's Fish House has pretty good seafood for moderate prices.
If you go further south from Carlsbad to the Carlsbad Forum off Leucadia Blvd (more shopping--Anthropologie, Ann Taylor Loft, Borders, etc), there are some decent eating places. Buca di Beppo, Panera Bread and Yellow Coyote Tortilla Factory are all there. Chuao Chocolates is in the Forum--great bonbons and coffee/chocolate drinks. Sushi on the Rock has trendy, good sushi.