Also going to San Diego, but with different needs
Going to San Diego from L.A. this weekend. Going to be staying at the Paradise Point resort on Vacation Island. What are the great, not-to-be-missed restaurants in that area and in greater san diego? Looking for recs for breakfast, lunch, and especially dinner. Price is not as important as quality. I am coming from L.A., so I'm not particularly interested in ethnic food that is easily obtained in my neck of the woods (e.g., Mexican, sushi), unless it's truly spectacular. Would prefer an experience I can't replicate up here.
Some local detractors claim that not much in San Diego is better than what you can find in LA. If you include the whole LA/Orange/Riverside/San Bernardino/Santa Barbara area, I think it would be a bit of an unfair comparison... when I was growing up in Nor Cal, we use to include San Diego as part of greater Los Angeles.
But there are some good choices here. I hope you might consider a couple of "ethnic" options which might be different than those available in LA, at least those in the city itself.
"n't recommend the best one myself) and a few other interesting options, like Russian (Pomegranate) and Laotian (Asia Cafe).
Breakfast is also good here. I like The Mission (in North Park or at the beach), but others have suggested some fancier options including some spectacular brunches. (http://sandiegosundaybrunchmaster.com/)
Perhaps someone else can respond with their favorite brunch? We haven't tried the "price unimportant" options...
If you are looking for fine dining with classly service, check out these recent threads:
"Best Restaurant in San Diego?": http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
"You Haven't Tasted San Diego Until You've Had": http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
And of course, The Rotation: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
You know what, I'm tired comparing SD to LA.
According to wikipedia, the greater LA area includes parts of 5 counties with almost 20 million people on over 33,000 square miles of land - that's comparable to all of New England. San Diego is but one county with only 3 million people.
If we are going to be fair, I think San Diego needs to be able to expand a little. Imperial county isn't much help, but Northern Baja might do; Tijuana is our twin city.
So upon due consideration, I submit Laja (http://www.lajamexico.com/) as the best restaurant in metro San Diego, worthy of comparison with the best of NY, SF and LA.
"Is it worth driving to baja for the food?": http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
(Perhaps I jest, but the constant comparison does seem a little unfair to our humble town, America's Finest City)
Oh, please, what can you not replicate in Los Angeles that is in San Diego. Perhaps the $.99 fish taco at El Zarape, but not likely, or perhaps the ubiquitous "california" burrito of carne asada and french fries, but you said you didn't want Mexican.
Beleen is the primary restaurant for Paradise Point. It has recently (as in the last 6 months) undergone a chef change with very positive results. Breakfast? Try Cafe 222 downtown, Cantina Panaderia in Pacific Beach or any of The Mission locations (North Park, Hillcrest or La Jolla). Or for something funky and a bit quirky try the Ocean Beach Pier Cafe and order their mango pancakes. Certainly not the worlds best pancakes but it is 3/4 of the way out on the longest pier in California totally over the water. Indoor or outdoor seating with an unobstructed view of people fishing off the pier, surfers and jets taking off from Lindbergh overhead.
An interesting question: "Oh, please, what can you not replicate in Los Angeles that is in San Diego."
Off the top of my head, I would propose that San Diego's collection of craft breweries -- led by AleSmith, Alpine, Stone, Port/Abbey, Green Flash/Reaper, and Ballast Point, along with others I may be forgetting at the moment -- is, to my knowledge, pretty clearly superior to L.A.'s.
Our wine country (Guadalupe Valley), while I wouldn't say superior to L.A.'s (Santa Barbara), is, I think, not at all replicated in L.A. in terms of style, terroir, varietals, or ambience. And the quality can be, IMO, first class, thinking of wines by Casa de Piedra, Lafarga, Baron Balche, Mogor Badan, and others.
To a visitor wanting a culinary experience unique to our region (and didn't want Mexican food), an easy recommendation would be to 1) try some of our beers at pubs such as Liars Club in Mission Beach, O'Briens in Convoy, or Hamilton's in South Park (which is brand-new), and 2) visit our local wine country in the Guadalupe Valley (about a 2 hour drive), and, while there, check out Laja. What Joseph above posted about Laja -- best restuarant in San Diego area, worthy of comparison with the best of NY, SF and LA -- is, in my opinion, an understatement.
Another thought... Spread in North Park is, I believe, a peanut-butter-centric vegetarian restaurant featuring local produce, myriad flavors, and, for accent, flowers as food. Is there something like that in Los Angeles?
That's what comes to my mind at the moment.
Full Disclosure: I own a restaurant not mentioned in this post.
Since your only in SD for the weekend I'll give you some selections near the beach/Vacation Isle. For breakfast I would go w/Cantina Panaderia on Cass St, The Mission in La Jolla or Mission Beach, Zanzabar on has solid breakfast cafe style, coffee is also decent. As for Lunch; Rocky's makes the best burger in town and is on Ingram right down the street, I'm a big fan of South Beach at the end of Newport in Ocean Beach, bar and grill style w/ lot of good seafood options, Lair's club has the best SD brews on tap (also full bar, best bloody mary in town, topped w/ a bacon wrapped shrimp) and my favorite sandwhich of all time the Fuego Steak Melt. For dinner I would go w/ Tapenade or Nine-Ten. Plenty of post about both these places. If your looking for a Steakhouse, Donnavan's is one of the best I've been to, it's east of the 5, but not by much. Enjoy.