Help please, I'm coming to San Diego too
Like many before me, I too am coming to San Diego and would love some restaurant advice. Unless my (business) hosts take us out, we've got three dinners and two breakfasts worth of chow. I'll have a couple of colleagues with me of unknown adventuresomeness and/or willingness to travel so I'd love some safer/closer recommendations as backup. We're staying on Pacific Highway, just south of the airport.
Left to my own devices, I think I'd go for
o Mexican (and/or Cal/Mex; fish tacos would be a bonus)
o something close to the airport before our late flight out.
From poking around here, it seems like the board favorites are
o Izakaya Sakura
o Super Cocina
o and ??? (perhaps Point Loma Seafood)
I'm a little concerned that the first two may be a bit far from the hotel for my colleagues and that the (Formica) decor at Super Cocina may be a little too scary. Any other thoughts for closer/safer (yet still delicious) sushi and Mexican would be appreciated, as would any recs near the airport. Then again, I could just ditch the guys from work...
Finally, if any of these places are open late (we arrive at that airport ~8 on the first night), that would be great too.
Thank you all in advance, and if you're ever coming to Boston, please ask on the Boston board, we'd be glad to direct you to deliciousness.
Given where you'll be geographically, for sushi I would recommend Shirahama over Sakura. He consistently carries about the best tane that I've seen at any sushi bar in San Diego. Kaito would have been a good choice too, if only it were closer to where you are staying.
However I would recommend Sakura over any other place in San Diego if you are looking for the ippin-ryori of an izakaya...
In short, Sakura for ippin-ryori, Shirahama for Sushi. (And they're both very close to each other...)
While you're getting familiar with the Kearny Mesa area, if you're at all interested in ramen, I'd also recommend a visit to Tajima. FYI, all three of these eateries are on Convoy St.
Super Cocina isn't exactly haut cuisine. Think stews in a cafeteria-like setting. It's not for everyone and not someplace I'd go with people who aren't total adventurous foodies. The interior isn't the problem, it's the neighborhood (there's a seedy strip club across the street, for example). Mama Testa's on University near Richmond is a much nicer setting in a much nicer neighborhood. El Zarape on Park near Adams is one of the better Mexican seafood places, but it's basically a taco stand with interior seating (but not a sketchy neighborhood like Super Cocina). Aside from mediocre Gringo-mex places (i.e. places not significantly better than, say, El Torito) and marginally adequate taco stands, there's nothing I can think of around the airport in the way of Mexican food.
I'm not a huge fan of Point Loma Seafoods anymore. I think Blue Water on India is superior for a casual seafood place, but parking is a bigger headache there than even PLS. Also The Fishery in Pacific Beach. All these places are OK for a casual lunch or dinner with coworkers, but wouldn't be appropriate for a business meal.
I've been to Super Cocina over a dozen times and never once had a problem. The neighborhood is kind of run down, but I don't think it qualifies as "sketchy" at all. It's home to a large immigrant population, which is part of why it's home to so many authentic eateries. That neighborhood is home to great places to eat, and what a shame it would be to miss out on those out of fear.
True, it's not haut cuisine, but I didn't get the impression from the OP that he was seeking haut cuisine. And El Zerape and Mama Testa certainly aren't haut cuisine either. ;) What he will find at Super Cocina is home-style Mexican cooking that he won't find anywhere else in San Diego.
I'd also dispute that it's only for adventurous foodies. I took two non-adventurous people there and they loved their meals. Granted, they had carnitas and chile rellenos (two dishes they always serve), but they loved the fresh tortillas, rice, and pinto beans, too.
Anyone with chowish inclinations coming to San Diego really shouldn't miss SC, IMO.
Josh, my first thought when I read the original post was the same as mikec, it's not the food, it's the neighborhood. I agree with you that it's not as bad as it looks, but it is on the seedy side and you've got an advantage in that you're a local ;-) You know what to expect and you don't look like a tourist. I would be a little hesitant sending someone I know nothing about into the barrio. Do I think the area around Super Cocina is dangerous? During daylight no, after dark maybe. And if you're a stranger in a strange town, run down neighborhoods aren't everyone's cup of tea, or horchata in this case.
I feel like anyone who thinks that neighborhood is shady hasn't ever really been in a shady neighborhood. On the other hand, I don't know what Boston is like. I look at Super Cocina's neighborhood, and I can't imagine someone from Los Angeles or New York feeling unsafe there.
But I can see your point. There were parts of Brooklyn I've been in where I didn't feel too safe, but I'm sure were perfectly fine.
I didn't mean to imply the neighborhood was "dangerous", and yes, I've been in that neighborhood after dark many, many times. OTOH, I wouldn't send a random tourist into that neighborhood without a bit of a heads up. It's a bit different than Shelter Island or the Gaslamp (which fifteen years ago I would have also described as "sketchy").
I think you also need to explain that Super Cocina isn't a typical sit-down Mexican restaurant. If you're looking for something resembling Gringo-mex burritos/enchiladas/tacos, Super Cocina isn't it. Some people love it, other people detest it.
I agree with Blue Water as a great lunch spot. I would suggest Blue Point downtown in the gaslamp for evening, I've had the best oysters of my life there as well as great salads and appetizers, also my date said the steak he had was fantastic.
Near the airport there is Island Prime, which is a little dressy but they serve a similar menu at their adjoining dining area C Level. The view is unbeatable and they have a good happy hour from 4-6. It is literally a stones throw from the airport so it may be a good place to stop once you've landed.
Also, near the airport is Little Italy where there are two places I would reccomend. Bon Appetito on India street has good food and is open until ten, while the adjoining wine bar is open until midnight I believe. If you find yourself there the warm duck salad is amazing!
Also, for sushi in proximity to the airport, I like Taka in the Gaslamp, though it's relatively expensive, and Kazumi in Hillcrest. Never been to Umi though.
Will you have a car???
The following are locations somewhat close to the airport
I would second Blue Water and Laurel. For location and ambiance and some pretty good food there is also the Prado in Balboa Park I would also recommend for late eats Modus though it is sometimes loud. For breakfast Cafe Chole, very well done French Bistro food. For Mexican close by Chilangos which is very good.
If you do have a car and want to impress you should check out the Marine Room--the waves during high tide actually hit the windows and the food is delish.
As for sushi I also recommend Zen Sushi in Del Mar and Zenbu in La Jolla (the owner has his own fishing company!)
You should check out the San Diego Reader they have lots of good reviews that I think most on this board trust.
That being said I adore Boston and hope you like our city!