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Long weekend in San Diego / Tijuana: research in progress, comments welcome

I am charged with finding good eatin' for a group of guys (most from NYC) visiting San Diego for a long weekend in December in honor of our buddy's upcoming nuptials.

We're staying at the Marriott Hotel & Marina (by the convention center).

Below are our plans and what we're looking for in each meal.

THURSDAY DINNER (5 people)

Casual but nice with a decent wine list or BYO. Preferably walking distance from the Marriott. Likely choice = Cafe Chloe

FRIDAY LUNCH (5-6 people)

Inexpensive take-out we can bring back to the hotel--something we can't (or ordinarily wouldn't) get in NYC. We will likely have a car available and be on our way from the Mission Bay area to downtown, so anywhere roughly on the way will work. Likely candidates = In-N-Out Burger or a fish taco place (Bahia? El Zarape? South Beach Cafe?).

FRIDAY DINNER (8-9 people)

Top-notch restaurant with a solid winelist where we can be a bit boisterous without disturbing other patrons (too much), but where the room isn't too loud (we want to be able to hear each other around the table). We will likely have a van available, but would prefer to find something within walking distance of the hotel. Budget comes second to great food/wine/ambiance. From poking around this board, it seems Donovan's is the top steak place, if we decide to go that route. But we'd probably prefer a place that has more non-steak options. Would Parallel 33 be a good choice? AR Valentien? Something else?

SATURDAY LUNCH

Probably another take-out option like Friday. This time we'll be headed back downtown from Escondido, so something along I-15 would be ideal.

We'll be headed to Tijuana in the afternoon, though, so maybe we should just wait until we cross the border and grab some tacos on the other side? Is El Guero still in business? Still good?

SATURDAY DINNER

La Diferencia seems to be the most consistently recommended Tijuana joint on chowhound. Does it still get the thumbs up? Is it walkable from Ave. Revolucion? If not, is it safe to take taxis there? Do we need reservations?

SUNDAY BREAKFAST

Take-out we can bring back to the hotel, preferably something we can't get in NYC (i.e., not bagels or donuts). Any good breakfast take-out joints near the Marriott?

Any other tips, criticisms, or suggestions are welcome.

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  1. For your Friday lunch thing, South Beach Bar and Grill in OB is a great choice for fish tacos, but they're not going to travel well. If you can swing it, I'd strongly advise you to eat them on the premeses. If that's not an option, and you really do need something to take back to the hotel, I've heard good things about the fish tacos at Tin Fish in downtown San Diego.

    For Friday dinner, I'd suggest Cafe Cerise. It's on 6th between B and C, and has awesome food and a very nice wine list. It's not a loud place, but you can be loud if you want to.
    http://www.cafecerise.com

    Saturday lunch, if time allows, you might want to consider hitting up the Stone Brewing Company's bistro. They're in Escondido, on a hill overlooking the 78 and the 15. The food is unusual and good, and they have a great beer selection.
    http://www.stoneworldbistro.com

    Another option you might consider is O'Brien's Pub in Kearny Mesa, they're off the 163, which is what you'll be taking from the 15 to get back to Downtown. They have a great beer selection as well, and pretty solid food. Nothing fancy, but it would be a good way to sample some of San Diego's great craft brews that you don't see in NYC.
    http://www.obrienspub.net

    1. A couple questions & comments. For your Friday night dinner I highly recommend Cafe Chloe but you may want to call ahead and reserve as they only seem to have one large table. For your Sat night dinner do you want to go "out" afterwards? If so, you might want to think about Confidential or Stingaree downtown. Both have remarkably good menus and after 9ish turn into very "happening" spots. Have fun!

      1. Thanks for the responses so far. Keep 'em coming! The clubby suggestions were great if that was our kind of scene, but I'd say we're more nerdy than clubby.

        Another place we're considering for Friday dinner is Bertrand at Mister A's. It's a lot closer than some of the other places, and sounds pretty good. Any thoughts?

        In particular, the "romantic-ness" of the place concerns me. Will we not fit in?

        After speaking with some of the other attendees, it seems we have a fair number of non-red-meat eaters in the group, so a steak place probably isn't ideal. What are the best fish places in town?

        3 Replies
        1. re: themicah

          Tin Fish for casual dining isn't bad and is within walking distance of your hotel. Parallel 33 does really well with fish. Oceanaire Seafood Room does fish extremely well and is, once again, within walking distance of your hotel. Anthony's Fish Grotto is a high volume operation and has been in business for about 60 years. If you grew up in San Diego you probably have fond memories of it. If you didn't, you might think it rather average, but they are quick, fairly inexpensive and the fish and chips pretty darn good. Anthony's is within walking distance of your hotel. And finally, don't discount your hotel. Molly's in the hotel is pretty good.

          1. re: DiningDiva

            How does Oceanaire compare with McCormick & Schmick's? I've been to M&S in NYC and Philly, and from Oceanaire's website it looks like a similar chain.

            Are there places like these that are more unique to SD?

            1. re: themicah

              I have not eaten at the McCormick & Schmicks in San Diego, though I ate at the one in San Francisco many times when I lived in the Bay Area. Oceanaire in San Deigo is better. It is my understanding, however,that McCormick & Schmicks here in San Diego does an amazing Happy Hour that is worth checkign out. It's within walking distance of your hotel.

              Anthony's is a homegrown seafood restaurant. You'll find it has mixed reviews here. You can hop the Orange trolley to American Plaza and transfer to the Blue line trolley going to Old Town. Go to the Little Italy stop, should be the second one, get off and walk up 1 block to India St. This is Little Italy, there are a ton of restaurants here, many of them doing seafood, usually Italian style. Start at Sogno di Vino for wine and apps and then just kind of work your way down the street. No chains here, I'm not even sure there's a Starbucks

        2. Folks-

          Tijuana chow is discussed on the Mexico board, please post any queries or recommendations for chow south of the border on the Mexico board.

          Thanks.

          1 Reply
          1. re: The Chowhound Team

            Sorry for breaking the rules. Looks like part of this thread was shunted off to the Mexico board:

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/342516

            Is it not common policy on Chowhound to provide cross-referencing links when breaking up threads?

          2. For your friday night dinner my personal experiences are always much better in La jolla/Prospect than Downtown.

            if you dont mind driving about 15 minutes, the restaurants in Prospect are classy and well done, much more NYC style than downtown San diego.

            to rattle of a few i like, nine-ten, george's, crab catcher. All wonderful