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Casual Romance in San Diego

  • j

SO has lived in SD for several years but doesn't eat out much (this will change). I will be in town from PIttsburgh for President's Day weekend and would love some suggestions for a casual but intimate place to eat. SO is ovo-lacto-pesco vegetarian and I am omnivorous. We like all kinds of food and LOVE southeast asian and seafood. Would prefer something moderately priced ($50 for two without wine or so) and not a totally mobbed "scene".

Based on other links The Linkery looks great. Any other suggestions?

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  1. I like the Linkery, and would also recommend Cafe Chloe, Vagabond, Cafe Cerise, Modus, or Red Pearl Kitchen - these places are popular, but shouldn't be mobbed (with the possible exception of Red Pearl Kitchen). They are all in the metro area. I also have some other local favorite spots around town linked on my blog - scroll down on the right hand side - www.aliceqfoodie.com

    Enjoy your visit!

    1. Roppongi's in La Jolla fits the Asian fusion, your price range (especially if you go for their 50% off all tapas between 4-6 pm) and not too much of a scene.

      Cavaillon in Santaluz would definitely fit the "casual romantic" bill for good food. Will run you a little above $50/2 people for 3 courses but they have a Monday night $32 prix fixe if you want to do an early Valentine's Day dinner. French bistro.

      Parallel 33 in Hillcrest is small, cozy and romantic in a different way. Will run closer to $30-40/person but the food is excellent. Fusion food from all the countries on the 33rd parallel.

      2 Replies
      1. re: daantaat

        I actually just went to Roppongi last week, and it was not good. The service was terrible - bording on rude - and the food was not as good as it usually is. We've been there many many times and always enjoyed it, but we might never go back after this visit.

        1. re: daantaat

          I second Cavaillon but would avoid Parallel 33 which has rather disappointing food (though the concept is nice) and bad service.

        2. Cafe Chloe is as romantic as it gets. heavy, true french food with a cozy atmosphere.

          2 Replies
          1. re: drliu

            I agree- and the pomme frites are great share food. Oops, found a photo...


            1. re: drliu

              I really like Cafe Chloe (I was there yesterday) but I wouldn't call it romantic.

            2. Jyoti Bihanga on Adams Avenue! This would be more appropriate for a casual meal, but they have a wonderful selection of vegetarian and vegan cusine.


              1. Jyoti Bihanga is romantic????? Sorry, i'd have to Strongly disagree with that assessment. Decent food, but an odd place. I would second Modus, and am told Vagabond is cozy and romantic.

                1. Something to consider is La Taverna in La Jolla. Tiny little Italian place it is adorable and very cozy. There should be something there for both of you and for the ominvore, I would add some of their homemade sausage to any of their dishes (gnocchi is my personal fav). I also agree with Vagabond, although it is much much busier and crowded. Another place to consider, which I just had lunch at yesterday and loved it soo much I ran home to write about it (http://whatwedig.com/?p=53) is Dobson's right downtown. The upstairs section has this tight, New York/French bistro feel to it. I love the place and the Mussel Bisque is ridiculous. I would make sure to get reservations at all of these places. Nice thing about downtown, is you can go for a drink at the top of the Hyatt after dinner if you are up for it. Take a look at Dobson's menu though, I think I am pushing your budget.

                  Oh and for future reference, something to consider for a Romantic night a bit more up on the budget scale (mid $20s to mid $30s entrees) is Candelas downtown. Dark, exposed brick, candle light and Gourmet Mexico City flavor.

                  All of these are on our favorites list on our blog.

                  Oh and while we love Modus it has a sort of coldness to it. It is dark and all, but a bit too modern to be called romantic in our book. Thought we are not nearly as chic as Alice Q, so always trust her opinion on such things. And we love Cafe Chloe, it is small, cute and French. Not quite as romantic as some of the other places discussed, but a great place for a couple to dine nonetheless.

                  Have fun!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: whatwedig

                    Apart from the quality of food at Modus which is very much lacking for the price you pay in comparison to many other SD restaurants Modus is the least romantic place I could imagine. I don't know when you were there but in our case it was everything else than dark and I wouldn't called it modern.

                  2. Well, we agree it isn't romantic. Curious that you don't think of it as modern though. Retro chic, perhaps. I get that it isn't industrial or anything like that. But the lines are very square and sharp, dark colors, dark gray walls... Feels modern to me. But as I mentioned, hip and cool, I'm not. :-)

                    Re the food. I concur the price point is way off. But we have actually enjoyed the food when we have gone. My first visit involved a pork tenderloin with a sweet potato mash and mushrooms in this amazing sauce. They also have La Brea bakery bread which we really liked. We have heard it can be inconsistent though -- we have just not experienced that.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: whatwedig

                      We were quite disappointed by the food. I started a thread some time ago about it and with an interesting discussion:


                      Due too much work in the last year we hadn't too much possibilities to go to more upscale restaurants but in the last two weeks we had the chances to eat at Cavaillon and Cafe Chloe (both serve a relative comparable style of food as Modus) and now I am even more dissapointed by Modus. The steak and frites at Cafe Chloe (for nearly half of the price as Modus) are worlds apart from Modus. Amazing fries (in my opinion better than the ones I had at Bouchon) much better meat. (Only downside at Cafe Chloe was the dessert which was one of the worst we ever had). At Cavaillon we had two different ways of braised meat which were outstanding and great Foie gras. Both restaurants are definitely worth going back whereas with Modus I think that there now more and more better restaurants in SD that if they don't improve in the quality of the food they might have a hard time to survive.

                      1. re: honkman

                        Honkman - I'm really curious as to what dessert you had that was bad at Cafe Chloe? I love their affogato and pot de creme, and it's kind of hard to screw those up - but I know they do some rotating specials.

                        Modus is not terribly romantic - but I think it fits the description given the price range. It's at least as intimate as the Linkery! I also really liked the duck confit - but I thought a lot of the menu was pretty ordinary. I am going again next week, and I will definitely order it again - if my opinion changes, I will let you know!

                        1. re: Alice Q

                          We both took the bread pudding. When ordering it the waiteress told us that it would take 20 minutes because they would make it fresh. When they brought it out and we started eating the bread pudding was nearly frozen in the middle and it was obvious that it was everything else then fresh. I guess the bread pudding stood for a longer time in a freezer and water started to freeze inside so that it was strange soggy and watery. Hard to describe but not really what you expect from a bread pudding. Beside this Cafe Chloe was really good.

                      2. re: whatwedig

                        Totally aggree about the price at Modus. For the same amount you could go to Laurell and have better food and service. I think Modus has missed the mark!

                      3. Very interesting. Disappointing they haven't impressed folks. We thought it had some potential when we first went there. And the one consistent thing I have read is that everything is way too expensive and as I mentioned above, we agree. I think we split the entree the first time and it was still $100 with two (may be 3) glasses of wine. Oh and that reminds me, their wine pours are stingy. Penny wise and pound foolish...

                        Re Chloe, we definitely like it there (just not sure it fits the intimate portion of the request above). Haven't been to Cavaillon, but we will definitely add it to our list of places to try.

                        1. I appreciate all of the suggestions thus far. I'm keeping track of all of this as I'll most likely be moving to your fair city over the summer. I've checked out the websites for all of places recommended so far and Cafe Chloe and the Linkery look like winners. I suspect the SO will want to get a fish taco and a beer and sit on the beach but with some gentle coaxing we may get out for something a bit nicer (nothing wrong with that but variety is nice).

                          I'll have to start another thread asking about the best Vietnamese food in SD. I could live on banh mi.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jweg

                            before you start a thread asking about Vietnamese food, go to Kirk K's blog, mmm-yoso.typepad.com (I think--or do a Google search for mmm-yoso and it'll come up). He's got THE best blog for Asian food in SD (and where ever else he travels) and his critiques are spot on. you'll save yourself a lot of time.

                          2. Ok... I forgot one and want to reinforce one of the suggestions above.. Appertivo in North Park (it is on 30th and University). Sorry to keep going Italian on you, but this place has some great food, atmosphere and prices. It is Italian tappas. They have a little bit of everything. While it is an big room, it has an intimate side in the small tables. We wrote about it (http://whatwedig.com/?p=6) if you want more info on it.

                            And, we just got home from the Linkery and it was excellent. We had not been there since they first opened and so I was not thnking it was that intimate, but it really is. Low lighting, cozy and some really tasty food. We'll likely post something on it over the weekend, but I am sure there are a ton of posts here about it.

                            1. Just Fabulous in Kensington is intimate & delicious. The food is fabulous and the staff is pleasant. They also have fantastic desserts! It is on the casual side but, it is very small and does get busy. Their menu is diverse, they have some seafood and asian flavors but, it is not a seafood or asian restaurant. Their kobe burger is amazing! Food is reasonably priced and the quality is great. I have had great romantic nights there.

                              1. If you will be here this summer, be sure to check out South Beach Bar and Grill, located in what we affectionately refer to as the People's Republic of Ocean Beach. The atmosphere is totally, like, laid back, like you know? They operate on surfer-summer-beach time, so go when you a day to hang out, drink beer and eat endless fish tacos.

                                1. Cavaillon, Cavaillon, Cavaillon. We had an absolutely outstanding dinner here on our recent visit to SD. Classic recipes from the south of France along with Mediterranean inspired dishes served in a quiet, softly-lit dining room. Service is top-notch--attentive but not obstrusive. We particularly enjoyed the duck let confit, the wild mushroom raviolis and a venison special. The restaurant is a bit out of the way in Rancho Bernardo but it's definitely worth the trip.

                                  1. would have to strongly 2nd Cavaillon--is intimate, casually classy, a little quieter than Cafe Chloe. atmosphere is French countryside bistro style. definitely not a "scene" or anything close to touristy b/c it's in a suburban area. Prices are lower than the Gaslamp Quarter, Del Mar or La Jolla b/c of it's location (ie: lower rent).

                                    1. Does anyone have a website for Cavaillon? I have searched, googled and no luck. I would like to go there this saturday!

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