HOME > Chowhound > San Diego >


Fabulous dinner in San Diego???

  • p

I want to take someone out for a birthday dinner in San Diego--want wonderful food (almost any cuisine would be fine) and a restaurant that will be a delightful dining experience--okay, it's my mother, and it's her birthday, and she doesn't need it to be superelegant (though it's better if the restaurant isn't too loud), though elegant is okay, but it should be delicious and a special place--but we neither of us know the city, and I need some guidance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. What part of town are you staying in? Any preferences or taboos (e.g., seafood)?

    1. Do you have a price range?

      1. In La Jolla (Moms love La Jolla!) - Jacks, George's, 910, Tapenade and the Marine Room are all good choices.

        In the downtown area I'd recommend Cafe Chloe (it's a Parisian style bistro/cafe, but would be nice if it's just you and your mom) or Parallel 33.

        Others might have more ideas for you in North County.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Alice Q

          I just dined at Cafe Chloe last night. Excellent food, great atmosphere, and good service even at max capacity. My date and I started with the Lychee Tea and Pomme Frites -- the 3 dipping sauces were interesting. The most interesting sauce was the green one, you'll never guess what flavor it is: watercress. Every taste feels like the first shocking taste -- It's not particularly a great flavor, but its continually surprising. We followed with the Steak & Frites (too much frites after the appetizer...) and Duck Confit. Finished with the creme brulee. Good food and moderate prices. I'm usually pretty picky about my tea, and Cafe Chloe's did not disappoint. Highly recommended for a date ;)

        2. A.R. Valentien at the Lodge at Torrey Pines. Excellent food, quiet and warm interior with lots of pretty California craftsman/Mission Oak replica furnishings. The service is great. I'm sure your mom would find something she found delectable on the menu. Not too avante garde - though very elegant presentations.

          3 Replies
          1. re: ahavajava

            in fact, we are staying at the La Jolla Marriott--won't have a car, but willing to be somewhat intrepid with taxis--both reasonably adventurous eaters (and other more casual suggestions in the area for breakfast or lunch or dinner are welcome!), price not a major consideration, and as I say, I am hoping to find someplace with delicious food that feels like a special occasion place--but doesn't have to be super super elegant--thanks for all the ideas so far. thought I would just give you our coordinates and see if any more thoughts came to mind...

            1. re: Pearl

              I think the Marriott is across the street from the UTC mall. In the general area, Donovan's has the best steak in the city (and pricey to boot but worth it). There is an Italian place on/around Executive Square that is decent. The name escapes me but your concierge will know what I'm talking about.

              A short taxi ride away is Roy's Hawaiian Cusine. Good food, slightly overpriced but good nonetheless. In the same complex as Roy's is Bristol Farms. Their deli area serves breakfast, lunch and casual dinner.

              In the Aventine complex by the La Jolla Hyatt, Cafe Japengo has good lunch and dinner. Asian fusion, can be "sceney" and loud at dinner. Fleming's Steakhouse is also good, although it is loud at dinner.

              Whole Foods has a great take out section, pizzas, sandwiches, salads, baked goods. BJ's Pizzeria in the same complex does good deep dish Chicago style pizza. Skip Elijah's Deli, especially if you are used to good deli. It's average, at best.

              Edo Sushi has good sushi and bento boxes. It's either a short cab ride or a healthy walk down from the mall. In the same complex as Long's Drugs.

              1. re: daantaat

                There are a couple of decent Italian joints, one is Harry's Bar, most comfortable booths in the city, if it were socialy acceptable to eat naked....sorry, and Barolo that is down the street in the Longs plaza on Towne Centre Drive. Tuto Mare is also by the Marriot (Harry's and Tuto both owned by Spectrum Foods), Harry's is much better. My rec. is to take a Cab or eat a Donovann's.

          2. What about the Del Coronado? We always go there when we visit SD. The view is spectacular, the service kind, and food delicious.

            1. I personally like Humphrey's La Jolla in the Radisson Hotel. It's right off La Jolla Village Drive and it is in the Entertainment Book if you can get your hands on one. The place is quiet, good food for dinner and not overly priced. One of my favorite things there is the Macadamia Halibut or the Taste of San Diego Shrimp. They don't rush you, you can eat at your leisure but I would suggest reservations. It's a nice place to take your mom for her birthday.

              1. The La Valencia in La Jolla never disappoints....ocean views, beautifully elegant dining room, old-fashioned service and delicious food. You would have to take a taxi from your hotel but it would be fun to walk around La Jolla before or after dinner. The hotel/restaurant will then help you get a taxi back.

                3 Replies
                1. re: charlotteowens

                  La Valencia has some of the worst food I had in SD. It is the last place in La Jolla I would go for dinner.

                  1. re: honkman

                    Interesting. I've eaten at the Whaling Bar and enjoyed it, though it certainly wasn't life-changing or anything. I've read good things about the Sky Room, too. Which restaurant did you go to?

                    1. re: Josh

                      When we planned our wedding awhile ago we decided to have it very much focused on excellent food (non-buffet style). So we did a lot of research on what restaurants/hotels are good (and are willing to give us a good room, which turned out to be a major problems because we were only a very small group). One of the hotels was also the Hotel Valencia. We went there a first time and discussed about different rooms and also asked how their kitchen works. And we were told that there is more or less one kitchen responsible to make the food for all three restaurants inside of Valencia and we should go to the Mediterreane restaurant to test the food. We did this and the food was just bad and very disappointing. I don't want to go to a restaurant and eat something which I can easily make better at home. From the five restaurants/hotels we tested Valencia was clearly the worst of all.

                2. Pamplemousse, and you will enjoy it too.

                  1. The Marine Room in LaJolla is a special restaurant. What makes it so unique is that the ocean waves are just inches from the panoramic glass window. This is an elegant restaurant that your mother would probably enjoy.

                    Another restaurant I'd recommend is El Prado in Balboa Park. The historic building, bright decorations, and great food make this a great restaurant as well.


                    1. If you want a special meal within a short distance go to George's in La Jolla. It's one of the best restaurants in the area. Also just a 15 minute cab ride away is Winesellar Brasserie. El Prado is a beautiful venue, but mediocre food and service. Marine Room is very good.

                      1. Thank you all so much for the advice--at the moment, I am leaning toward the Marine Room, since it will take advantage of the setting, and we are from out of town--we'll go early so it won't be too dark--and maybe the next day we'll go in search of something more informal (are there great fish tacos anywhere in La Jolla??? Is there any way to combine a walk along the water with interesting food?)--but I want to make the birthday dinner special, and I appreciate all the help!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Pearl

                          You'll be very happy with Marine Room. It's just great.

                          1. re: Pearl

                            Try Pescador in La Jolla for fish tacos--same little mini mall as Wahoos so you could compare if you want...
                            You won't be that far from the villiage so you could do a little walking around afterwards.

                          2. I'm a big fan of wahoo's fish tacos on pearl. If you're looking for a nice view, georges ocean terrace does fish tacos with a great view!

                            Azul does a really nice brunch too and is also on prospect. Either of those combined with a walk along the ocean in la jolla would be a lovely morning

                            1. I got caught up in this thread -- dreaming of sunny San Diego while listening to the wind howl outside here in NYC. the Marine Room caught my attention. Please do post about your experience there! I hope it's a wonderful birthday experience for both your mom and you, Pearl!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: amyleechen

                                Every post here has some great places for you to choose from. The Marine Room is probably the most solid all round choice in La Jolla. It is a staple there and Chef Bernard is one of the true original great chefs in SD that has risen the bar for dining out here from years past.

                                However if you choose to step out of La Jolla and head downtown....Chef Deborah Scott has some nice restaurants. Her newest is Island Prime and has what I consider, the best view of San Diego from the bay hands down. The food isnt too bad either ;-) Just google it

                              2. The Marine Room has my vote, hands down! They are perfect and the food and atmosphere cannot be beat. It is well worth the money and the special service you get there is awesome.

                                1. Definitely go to Marine Room. You'd need to take a cab to go there though.
                                  Roys is good... their hot choc souffle is TDF.
                                  Don't go to El Prado... the scenery is pretty but food is not that good. Marine room has much better food.

                                  1. chef bernard is no longer at the marine room...check out cafe chloe downtown (9th & g) for dinner or Humphrey's, but only for sunday brunch...

                                    3 Replies
                                      1. re: mise in place

                                        I called the Marine Room today and Chef Bernard is still there. Not sure what you are talking about.....

                                        1. re: Food_Surfer

                                          I was surprised to read about his leaving Marine Room too and asked a food writer I know about it. He said it was untrue and that Bernard has a very busy travel schedule. Apparently he just returned from the big to-do in France where Gavin from El Bizcocho was representing the US. So consider this rumor officially debunked.

                                      2. by the way, the prado is all about scenery, not food...

                                        1. Jake's in Del Mar is a bit further North, but clean and classy, good food, and views of the Ocean in big booths (ask for one).

                                          1. jake's is good (not great) food but an amazing view. In that same area I'd head to Market (on Via de la Valle-1 mile east of I-5) for superb food (but no view)

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Bob Foster

                                              I would have to agree with Bob Foster. Market is the place to go in the Del Mar area for excellent food. Don't really notice that there's no view!

                                            2. Go to Tapenade. Go nowhere else. Go now.


                                              1. Why? Crowded, expensive and noisy detract from the food.

                                                1. Posidion in Del Mar..right on the sand. Good happy hour although they close for about 1/2 hour between lunch and happy hour.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: charlotteowens

                                                    If I would have to nominate the worst restaurant in SD it would be most likely Poseidon. I had to eat there once but would never go back there. Really lousy food.

                                                  2. I'm going to San Diego in the next month. I figured the info on here is pretty old, so I was looking for newer suggestions. If you had one meal to have SD, where would you go? Any cuisine? Price is not important. Just looking for a knockout dining experience that says "San Diego."

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: sweisman

                                                      Hmm I stick to the lower end of the price range but if you want to get a sense of SD and its place on the Pacific Rim try El Comal for Mexican, Sab E Lee for Thai, Dumpling Inn for Chinese, and then if you want somewhere "nice" go to Prado for some "California cuisine." The Mission for brunch for an authentic SD vibe. Hodad's in Ocean Beach for a damn fine burger with surfers on the side.

                                                      1. re: Bobierto

                                                        bobierto, did you read the guys question. Hodads, for a nice dinning experience? Good burger but what are you thinking? Dude!! The mission? What!!

                                                        1. re: bigjoe001

                                                          I stand corrected. I was replying to sweisman without referring back up to the original post. Thanks for keeping me on the straight and narrow path ...