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Too Cold for Outdoor Dining in San Diego?

r
rageorge Jan 12, 2007 09:33 PM

We'll be in San Diego next week and have dinner reservations for the Ocean Terrace at George's at the Cove at 8:15. Having just checked the weather channel and noted that the on the date we'll be there the high is predicted to be 62 and the low 48, I'm wondering if I should be concerned. Do they have heaters for the terrace area? I also note there is a chance of showers and wonder if they have a plan B for rain.

We also have reservations one night at Trattoria Acqua. In addition, we're looking for recommendations for the Balboa Park and downtown areas. We have pretty eclectic tastes so anything from an ethnic hole-in-the-wall to fine dining would be welcomed. It's our first visit to San Diego and we're looking forward to exploring new dining territory.

  1. r
    rageorge Jan 28, 2007 10:36 AM

    Trip Report: Los Angeles
    Our two nights in LA before heading to San Diego did not include any great culinary experiences. Dinner at the The Magic Castle was decent enough but the real reason to go is to see the magic shows. Be aware you can get in only if you are a member of the Academy of Magical Arts or are staing at the affiliated Magic Castle Hotel next door. We very much liked the hotel–not only because it gave us access to the Castle, but also for the just-off-Hollywood Blvd. location, the clean, comfortable accommodations, the affordable rates, and the helpful, friendly staff. Complimentary continental breakfast includes pastries from Susina Bakery, among LA’s best.

    We also had dinner at the Pig and Whistle, an historic pub on Hollywood Boulevard. While the food was ok, we were astounded to find a 15% tip added for our party of two, especially since the menu clearly stated (in several languages in a section labeled “For Our International Guests”) that “no gratuity has been added to your bill.” When asked later by hotel staff how dinner was, we mentioned this. Surprised, the employee immediately said he would call the restaurant since they had recommended it.

    Trip Report: San Diego
    In San Diego we had some good meals and one great one. For our morning coffee fix we managed to avoid Starbucks and enjoyed Big City Bagels, Bakery and Cie (which has terrific baked goods) and a coffee shop next door (Peet’s Coffee?); all are on University Drive and are quite close to Balboa Park.

    Despite slow service during a fairly un-busy time, we enjoyed lunching on an outdoor patio at The Prado in Balboa Park. Paella was excellent and the fish tacos were fine but not particularly memorable.

    Dinner at El Bizcocho was somewhat disappointing. While everything was ok (we had the seafood and the grand tasting menus) it was not the first-class dining experience we had hoped for. The sommelier seemed a bit inexperienced and overall the service was not as attentive as one expects from a restaurant of this purported caliber. Pacing of the wine service, for example, was such that wines often arrived too far ahead of the food course they were supposed to accompany. The food was well-prepared and presented, although some courses were strangely proportioned. For one, the skate wing course was way to large for a tasting menu.

    The culinary highlight of our trip was Cavaillon (thank you “daantaat” and “nutrition!”). The atmosphere was relaxed, service attentive and the food absolutely outstanding. We had the mushroom raviolis, the duck leg confit and a venison special and each dish was a gem; it was obvious that a master chef was at work in the kitchen. Chef Philippe Verpiand and his wife Monica have given the San Diego area a French restaurant of which local chowhounds should be proud. I wish we had a comparable French place in Atlanta. (I understand that they serve a great Sunday brunch as well.)

    Thanks to everyone for the recommendations!

    2 Replies
    1. re: rageorge
      d
      daantaat Jan 28, 2007 02:53 PM

      Sorry to hear El Bizcocho was not up to par. I'm wondering if it has to do w/ the head chef preparing for his international culinary competition. He was written up in this week's TIME magazine.

      Glad you liked Cavaillon! It's one of those great places that is laid-back but serves great food!

      I'm also surprised that you didn't manage a great meal in LA--there's so many great options up there.

      1. re: daantaat
        r
        rageorge Jan 29, 2007 01:43 PM

        I'm sure we could have had a great meal in LA but we really didn't try. We were only there two nights. One night was committed to the Magic Castle Club and the other night we were just too tired. We'll "do" LA the next time. Thanks again for the Cavaillon recommendation. El Bizcocho was good; it just wasn't great in our opinion. We know restaurants can have an off night and it may well have had to do to do with the chef's mind (and or he himself) being somewhere else.

    2. n
      nutrition Jan 15, 2007 03:53 PM

      I must be the only one, who was not impressed in the least with El Biz! Tried it twice and left hungry both times. Last year, it was for Restaurant week. It is stuffy, and old enough to feel outdated. Upon leaving, found the more casual hipper dining room down stairs. Even the menu looked more interesting for a casual dinner.

      Just down the street are two of my favorites. Bernardo'Os and French Market Place. Don't even have to think about wanting to go there, I just go when I want some good and decent sized french food flavor. Never disappointed.

      But now, my very favorite is CAVAILLON, a few miles West of Rancho Bernardo on I-15 in all new Santa Luz area of Carmel Valley. The Monday Prix Fixe $32 dinners are not to be missed, if you are thinking of 'sampling' their fine creations. At that price, it even beats Restaurant Week! See you there!

      1. howefortunate Jan 15, 2007 03:48 PM

        El Prado in Balboa Park is a beautiful restaurant with great food. They have indoor or outdoor dining. It's located in a great area of the park to enjoy a stroll before or after dinner. When went once around sunset and there was a warm orange glow reflected off the buildings and fountains that was beautiful.

        1. r
          rageorge Jan 15, 2007 01:31 PM

          Thanks for the input re El Bizcocho and Cavaillon. I made a reservation yesterday at El Bizcocho. Actually one of the the reasons we were thinking about Trattoria Acqua is for the view but as the weather forecasts get more iffy for outdoor dining I'm starting to reconsider. We're going to be in San Diego for five days so we'll have plenty of other opportunities to see the ocean. I think I'll call Cavaillon later today and see if we can get a table for Sunday night.

          Thanks again.

          1. r
            rageorge Jan 14, 2007 07:06 PM

            Thanks everyone for your suggestions. We're thinking we'll probably pass on George's at the Cove due to the weather (It's 70 degrees here today [Atlanta] and I can't believe we're going to be in Southern California during a record cold wave!).

            What does anyone know about El Bizcocho at the Rancho Bernardo Inn? We're actually staying at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rancho Bernardo and El Bizcocho is just five minutes away. What I've seen on-line looks good.

            2 Replies
            1. re: rageorge
              Josh Jan 14, 2007 08:13 PM

              Haven't eaten there, but heard many raves.

              1. re: rageorge
                d
                daantaat Jan 15, 2007 03:43 AM

                El Bizcocho is one of the best in SD. The head chef is going to one of the international food competition this year, I think. Excellent food and service. We'd go more often if we weren't traveling in traffic during dinner hours. Definitely a "not miss," especially being in RB.

                Since you're in RB, I'd also add Cavaillon in Santaluz (towards your neck of the woods). Certainly closer than La Jolla and the food easily matches what you can find in La Jolla for cheaper. French bistro in a small, cozy setting. They also have brunch.

                I'd go to El Bizcocho or Cavaillon over Trattoria Aqua.

              2. Paladar Jan 14, 2007 04:37 PM

                For the Balboa Park area, I'd recommend Vagabond. It's on 30th and Juniper in South Park. Another Chowhound has given it a nice long review at:

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/88946...

                We went for dinner last week and were able to make reservations for our party of four. Also, I'd like to throw in my two cents for the Kung Pao calamari appetizer -- not too spicy but loads of flavor. I've been craving it since both my meals there.

                1. j
                  jennywenny Jan 13, 2007 04:14 AM

                  I've been to the ocean terrace in the day and it was breezy and chilly although they have heaters. I found the bar was much nicer, it has the view and similar menu and prices although you cant book, you just show up and put your name down and have a few drinks while you wait. Trattoria Acqua is also outside mostly but a lot more enclosed so wont be so chilly.

                  If you're in La Jolla then you could try Zenbu sushi, Jacks seems to be highly recommended.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jennywenny
                    d
                    daantaat Jan 14, 2007 12:52 AM

                    Zenbu is overpriced, average sushi. Only reason to go there is if you must have a martini with your sushi. If you want sushi in La Jolla, Sushi on the Rock is much better.

                    Jack's is excellent but the bar area (Jack's Grille) is all exposed to the elements, save a roof over your head and some interior walls. Jack's Fine Dining is completely enclosed except for the area near the bar. Their "windows" are actually clear tarp. It would have been much colder this week had it not been for a floor heater that they brought for us!

                    Trattoria Aqua is mostly outdoors seating, although they have some indoor tables.

                    Near Balboa Park is an excellent Mexican place, Mama Testa's. Their entire menu is made of tacos from around Mexico--steamed, crispy, soft and floating in broth! Cheap, casual place but really good food!

                  2. Josh Jan 13, 2007 12:02 AM

                    There are heaters, but it can be pretty windy up there. I'd suggest moving your reservation to their main dining room downstairs.

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