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Austin, TX native in SD for 2 weeks.

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Hey good Californians. I'm here in San Diego for 2 weeks (today through March 2) and need a little help w/ some good eats. I've looked around the board a little bit and as far as sushi goes, I get the impression that Ota is great stuff, but expensive and hard to get seated. Short of that, Sakura sounds like the place to try. Any other sushi insight?

Other greats that i'm looking for:

- Vietnamese/Pho (there doesn't seem to be a consensus here)
- Indian
- California-style Mexican (i.e. not Tex-Mex)
- cheap, casual seafood
- any other recommendations, of any style

also, if it helps, I'm staying up near the Hazard Center, near the intersection of I-8 and 163. There seems to be a lot of chains here, but are there any nearby hidden gems?


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  1. Sushi - Try Sushi Dokoro Shirahama on Convoy St. Very authentic like Sakura, but completely sushi-centric with lots of unusual fish options.

    Vietnamese - I suggest Pho Pasteur on Linda Vista Rd. and Mesa College Dr. Another good choice is Pho T Cali on Clairemont Mesa Blvd. by the 805. I've heard good things about Saigon in City Heights but have yet to go.

    Indian - A lot of people on here like Punjabi Tandoor. For me it's been hit-and-miss - but when it's good it's very good. Another place I like is India Princess in Hillcrest on 4th Ave.

    Mexican - Super Cocina (which you'll see me mentioning a lot on here!) for good homestyle Mexican. For California-style Mexican, Casa Guadalajara just north of Old Town is pretty good. I'd definitely suggest trying a real taco shop though - El Cuervo in Hillcrest is a great example and they have a really good carnitas burrito. If you can handle the calories and the size, the "Special Quesadilla" with carne asada at La Posta in Hillcrest is an obscene creation: two burrito-sized flour tortillas made into a quesadilla, then rolled around carne asada burrito filling.

    Cheap casual seafood - A few good options here. South Beach Bar and Grill in OB has great fresh fish tacos. Blue Water Grill in Mission Hills has good fish dishes of all kinds.

    Mission Valley is kind of a culinary wasteland. If you have a rental car then your best bet will be to avoid eating near where you're staying.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Josh

      Pho T Cali was closed for remodeling two weekends ago (Feb 3-4). I don't know if they've reopened yet.

      I would skip Ashoka the Great for Indian food. Bland, lacks the layered complex spiciness that good Indian food needs. India Princess is decent but not great. Punjabi Tandoor is better but can vary, depending on who's cooking. Punjabi Tandoor is not afraid to put the heat in their food.

      I would strongly second El Cuervo and Mama Testa's.

      Edo Sushi in UTC has good, decently priced sushi.

      In Mission Valley and elsewhere, In N Out Burger is good for cheap, fast hamburgers and cheeseburgers. Definitely a CA tradition.

    2. Vietnamese - if you just want a bowl of pho most places you find will do. Around the Hazard Center next to the Hooters there is a Pho Ha Cali. its not the best but its clean and not too expensive.

      Indian: you can try Ashaka the great off miramar and black mountain road. just up the 163 north to the 15 north off of Mirmar exit (probably 15 minutes from you).

      Mexican: you are actually not too far from Super Sergio on Convoy street. Delicious burritos, just a lil slow on the take out.

      Mission valley had one notable item, the In-Cahoots bar. On thursday nights they have 5.95 steak + potato + beer. Not bad to be honest.


      1. Ono Sushi in Hillcrest is a really fun place. Not as authentic as some of the others, but they've got some fun rolls. Try the triple fantasy roll; the head chef makes the best version, with razor-thin shavings of JalapeƱo.

        For authentic sushi, Ota is the best I've tried, but I've never tried Sakura (at least not for sushi) or Shirahama.

        A lot of people seem to like Harney Sushi in Old Town, although I think it's more like Ono.

        1. The recommendations about Mexican and Japanese have been good.

          We often eat out for Vietnamese in the east-central part of San Diego. In that area there are a number of good places.

          Saigon is good, but is more Chinese/Vietnamese; Pho is fine and there is live shellfish available in tanks.

          Pho Ca Dao serves Pho and little else, but the soup is great, and very affordable. The place is also bright and clean, service is efficient.

          Thien Thanh is a clean, family-run place with excellent fresh garnishes and vegetables, and several interesting items are available on the menu. We like it quite a bit, and have never had less than a good dish there. Kirk has no less than three reviews of the place, from a half-dozen visits or more, on his blog (mmm-yoso.typepad.com). If you are adventurous, it is a good bet.

          1. Okay, Josh is right that you're pretty much in the middle of a culinary wasteland in MV, but there are options.

            Not one of your listed cuisines, but go east on Friar's Rd. to the Qualcomm exit and turn right at the bottom of the exit. Follow this to the 4th (or maybe it's the 5th) stoplight at Camino del Rio South. Turn left and and you're at Bully's East. They do what is probably the best happy hour in Mission Valley and their steaks and prime rib are pretty darned good and won't break the bank. Their bartenders know how to make a good cocktail; comfortable and clubby.

            In the same general area is Wahoo's for fish tacos. East on Friar's to Qualcomm, right at the bottom of the exit then right at the first stoplight. Wahoo's will be on your left about 1 block up.

            Go south on 163 to the 6th St. exit. At the top of that exit- University Ave. - you can go right or left and you'll be in Hillcrest and have more options than you can possible try. Turn right and between 2nd and 1st is Chilango's. Turn left and between Vermont and Richmond is Mama's Testa's. Two very different Mexican restaurants and neither is Tex-Mex. Chilango's is more upscale and focuses on the food of Central Mexico. Mama Testa's serves nothing but tacos, in fact, a taco that is representative of every state in the Republic of Mexico. Some of the better tacos - depending upon tastes of course - are the pibil, grilled chicken, chorizo (housemade) and the crunchy mashed potato taco. Tacos Mojado is a well seasoned soup with sections of rolled tacos, and it is divine, especially on cold rainy days like yesterday. The salsa bar offers about 10 selections, if you go be sure to try the salsa escalera (it's bright orange, you can't miss it) or the one with sesame seeds.

            Go north on 163 to the Mesa College Dr. exit, at the top of the exit turn left and go over the freeway. The first intersection will be Linda Vista Rd. Pho Pasteur that was mentioned up-thread is in the little shopping center on that corner. K Sandwiches is worth a try as is La Basil and the Vietnamese place next to La Basil. All 4 of these places are on that corner. If that doesn't appeal, turn right onto Linda Visat Rd. which will become Convoy St. in a mile or two. Once it does you will be entering Asian food central, and once again, you'll have more choices than you can try. Sakura is in the same little shopping center as the Original Pancake House (which is highly visible from the street and a good choice for breakfast), use it as a landmark because Sakura is not marked. It's in back next to the Army recruiters and the Philly cheesesteak place. Among the many other places on Convoy St. are Spicy City (which has it's follwers, including a misguided Jeffery Steingarten), China Max and Emerald.

            Happy eating.

            1. Fantastic, guys. Thanks a ton for all the great recommendations. I haven't been able to stray very far from here yet (that'll happen this weekend), but so far I've tried:

              - Old Town Mexican Cafe: my boss was with me and it was raining on us on Monday so we ducked in the first place we walked by that looked open. I could instantly tell that this was one of these places that *used* to be great, but probably has waned in quality due to popularity. The food was passable. We both had the carnitas, which were ok once we dumped the recommended red sauce all over them. Probably won't be back.

              - Berta's: LOVED this place! The charm of the place immediately took me in... relaxed and simple atmosphere. I had the Cuban lamb fricasse. MMMMM...MMMM. Excellent tender lamb in a delicious tomato-based stew. The flavors were very well-balanced. I love that the wine and beer menu also offers mainly latin-american locals. I can't wait to go back and try a couple of other things. The prices are a little steep for what you get, but it's on the company tab, so I don't really care.
              - Seau's: I went in hopes of a fun place to watch my Aggies whoop up on Oklahoma State last night. It was not, and the pizza I had was pretty disgusting. Left at halftime.

              My co-worker who is here with me is Chinese and has already scouted out the good Chinese places on Convoy (her assessment matched the recommendations here). I'll have her as a tour guide for me next week.

              Back with more after this weekend. THANKS!

              1. You might want to try Dao San which serves some spicy vietnamese and japanese dishes. I like the lemongrass chicken, garlic chicken, garlic fish, and their gyoza and vietnamese egg rolls. They have many other choices, but I've never tried the pho. I first went there about 8 years ago and they didn't serve pho back then. Its a fairly recent addition so I figured I'd give them a bit longer to get it right. Its along El Cajon Bl just west of Texas St.

                I happen to be going to Austin in a couple weeks. Any recommendations you might have for some BBQ would be appreciated!

                1. Jimmy Carter's Mexican Cafe in Mission Hills has excellent Mexican food. Try the Carnitas plate.
                  Bronx Pizza is just a little farther down on Washington Street and they have great pizza by the slice.
                  Phils BBQ is a block away from Jimmy Carter's Mex and they have the best BBQ in town.
                  Definitely need to eat at In N Out while in town but Hodads in Ocean Beach has awesome burgers as well. Comparable to Hut's.