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5 Nights, Different eats in San Diego, Under 15pp

Three girls and I are going to San Diego in Mid April. We are staying in the Chula Vista Area. We are pretty much up for anything, however we are all young and on a budget. Most of the places I have seen in these posts, while all very interesting, are at best affordable for us at lunch time. Could you please suggest a few places that are good but cheap?

PS: I am from the south and Magnolias looks pretty authentic upon browsing the menu.

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  1. Convoy Avenue. Convoy Avenue. Convoy Avenue.

    10 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      I googled this, is it a business or just a street/district where good/cheap food is located?

      1. re: shockingbluerose

        It's a street with tons of Asian restaurants. Not very close to Chula Vista (30 min. at least). While there are some fun little restaurants, I don't know if it would be worth it unless you are already planning on being in that general area.

        1. re: mangiatore

          I know we are planning to spend a day in the down town area, a day in the fashion vally mall area (because from my last very short visit, I think that's the biggest mall in the area) and a day at the Zoo/Balboa park.

          1. re: shockingbluerose

            A HUGE new mall opened at Otay Lakes within the last couple of months. It's probably bigger than Fashion Valley, although FV now has the only Bloomingdale's in San Diego. Also, the Las Americas (outlet) mall is located in San Ysidro and is known to be pretty good shopping. Otay and San Ysidro are both much closer to Chula Vista than Fashion Valley.

              1. re: shockingbluerose

                There's a pretty decent sushi place in downtown Chula Vista called California Sushi. It's on 3rd Ave, a block south of F St. The Lemon Roll is a favorite of mine.

              2. re: DiningDiva

                Not directly related to food, but the stores at Otay Lakes are a little different than Fashion Valley. I haven't been to Otay Lakes, but I think they're the kind of mall where they aren't anchored by big department stores. They have smaller, upscale stores like Anthropologie, Talbots, J. Jill, etc. Las Americas Outlets have Coach, Nike, BCBG, etc. Fashion Valley has the only Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Burberry in the county--good for gawking.

                For food at Fashion Valley, Nordstrom's Cafe has pretty good food as well as The Cheesecake Factory. Share your dishes at The Cheesecake Factory and you'll leave stuffed with extra $$ in your wallet for more shopping!

                Convoy Ave is about 10 minutes north of Fashion Valley.

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  What's the address for this new mall ? I couldn't find anything on google.

        2. Kearny Mesa (which is where Convoy St. is) is going to be your best bet. Numerous good Asian restaurants, and not very expensive.

          1. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/86702

            The above link is an older post but has a decent list of places in Chula Vista. Might give you a starting point.

            I would also add Mama Testa's in Hillcrest for tacos and excellent salsas, Bronx Pizza and El Cuervo (also both in Hillcrest).

            I would third Convoy Ave.

            1. If you're not afraid of venturing south, some of the best cheapest food in the area can be found at Tijuana's street taco stands.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mangiatore

                We were actually thinking of venturing a little further than that to Ensenada for a day.

                1. re: shockingbluerose

                  If you are truly on a budget, I would ignore any recommendations that you visit Puerto Nuevo (between Tijuana and Ensenada, famous for lobster). It's a fun and the food can be good, but it's not cheap. Unless you're obsessed with lobster, the food you get on the side of the road is every bit as good if not better, and you can fill your stomach for 1/3 the price.

              2. I grew up in Chula Vista, and still head down there about once every few months to La Bella's Pizza. This place has been family-owned and operated for over 50 years. Maybe it's a childhood thing but I still love their pizza. Good eats, and inexpensive. It's on 3rd Avenue between Parkway and G Street. Down by the bay in Chula Vista is The Galley, which has a nice view and decent "usual" fare (burgers, pasta, etc.). Close to it is Bob's by the Bay. Okay for food, pricier than The Galley, but nice bar and view. Both have outdoor seating. I agree with the other posters - you won't find better "cheap eats" combined with good food any one location like you will on Convoy Steet. I'm just trying to give you some options closer to where you'll be staying. Have fun, and report back on your dining experiences!

                1 Reply
                1. re: phee

                  Thank you! I was hoping for a good outdoor place and also a pizza place. Those will go on the list for sure!

                2. Eduard (A Taste of Europe) is in Chula Vista and they make some of the best macaroons, scones and other pastries I've found in San Diego.

                  Eduard is located at 1392 Palomar St (619-934-9622)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mimosa

                    Thank you, I know that is one all 4 of us will enjoy!

                  2. Try Bronx Pizza on Washington Street.

                    Sushi Deli on Washington is also affortable. There are 2 Suchi Deli's, you want the one located on Wshington. It is across the street from Bronx Pizza.

                    1. "Young and on a budget"

                      Well...to me, young is in your 20s??? Get OUT of Chula Vista and head north west, my sister!

                      Hit Pacific Beach. Lots and lots of very cute guys, great little shops and beautiful ocean, too. Rent a surfboard to work up an appetite!

                      Fabulous new(er) place right on the beach is JRDN in Tower 23. For $10, you can get the best cheeseburger you've ever had and a mound of delicious, super-thin crispy fries seasoned with herbs. They grind their beef on-site, so it's super fresh and the bread the burger is served on is soft and yummy. It's right on the beach, so the people watching on their spacious patio is a nice plus. You can't beat this place for outdoor. They also do lobster BLT on brioche for $13 and have a full sushi bar. Cantina in PB does great Asian-Latino healthy fusion for $8-$15 a head at lunch...and Cass St. Bar & Grill is a fun dive for night-time. Food is very good for a dive bar. Asian Chicken Salad, Teriyaki Steak Sandwich and their Fish Burgers (not ground fish, but fresh-catch filets of the day) are all great. Cass St. is cash only.

                      Another fantastic burger joint is Hodad's in Ocean Beach. More of a dive (JRDN is more upscale, yet not pretentious), but the burgers are bomb and OB is a fun little beach town.

                      Roppongi in La Jolla has a fabulous Happy Hour at their bar where everything is 1/2 off between 4-6 weekdays. Another great, fun place with lots of beautiful people. Down the street, the restaurant (Guiseppe's) at the Museum has great lunch fare as well.

                      Point Loma Seafood was featured on $40 A Day. They have loads of amazing seafood, including a sandwich of fried scallops on white bread (around $7) which is mighty tasty.

                      I tend to think the Gaslamp (downtown) is trendy, expensive and overrated, but Cafe Sevilla does nice tapas in a wide range of prices. They also have great sangria and a fun bar downstairs with salsa dancing. For lunch, Masala restaurant Group does nice Indian lunch buffets at all of their restaurants - Masala, Bombay (in Hillcrest), Blue Ginger (Chinese) - for around $11.

                      Especial Norte on Highway 101 has amazing mexican soups...but it's still Mexican food...which I love, but tend to find heavy and unimaginative. And Chinese here...well, save it for the Bay Area. It's my favorite kind of food...and San Diego isn't the place to find stellar Asian chow. China City on Convoy is pretty good, but there are better choices for the money than our Asian fare.

                      San Diego is about Coastal living and beachy food. Have fun where you go...but go fun places!

                      For pizza, Bronx Pizza is terrific. I also love Leucadia Pizza on Highway 101 in Encinitas.

                      Welcome... ;)

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: 1HotTomato

                        Those all sound fabulous, yes we're all in our 20's, really looking forward to hitting the beach now :-P

                        1. re: shockingbluerose

                          I've never been to Leucadia pizza, but let's be serious here -- if you're going to venture up to North County for pizza, you have to go to Pizza Port, which makes great pizza and brews their own beer. There's one in Solana Beach and one in Carlsbad.

                          I agree with 1HotTomato on the teriyaki beef sandwich at Cass St. Bar Grill. It's one of the single best bar food items in San Diego. I also agree that Cantina makes very good food. Fresh, healthy, tasty. Not super cheap though, from what I remember.

                          Hodad's is good, but the best reason to hit Ocean Beach is the fish/shrimp/lobster tacos at South Beach. I think people will almost universally agree with me on this one. Best fish tacos this side of the border, end of story. They also have giant, ridiculously cheap pitchers of quality beer on special every day.

                          1. re: mangiatore

                            The beer at Pizza Port might be good but the pizza is not good/lousy and on the same level as Leucedia. (If I have to chose between both of them for the pizza I would most likely eat the one from leucedia). If you want to eat good pizza in this area (Encinitas) go to Pizzicato, even Today's Pizza and Pasta is better than Pizza Port.

                            1. re: honkman

                              Let me revise my original comment a bit. Pizza Port is certainly not authentic Italian, Chicago, or New York style pizza, it's great "American style" pizza (think Round Table or Papa John's but good).

                              1. re: mangiatore

                                I have to disgree here. Independently which style you would name pizza at Pizza Port they delivery bad quality and it is nowhere close to calling it "great "American style" pizza".

                                1. re: honkman

                                  They wouldn't be doing the business they're doing if that were true. This isn't the Gaslamp where foot traffic is a given. It's in a place where only Solana/Carlsbad locals would find it if it weren't for the reputation. They were doing so much business in Solana that they opened a second, larger location.

                                  1. re: mangiatore

                                    By your argument Olive Garden is one of the best places for Italian food in the US. They are constantly opening new location everywhere. That a lot of people go to Pizza Port doesn't mean that they make good pizza. Most people I know go there mainly for the beer selection (which is very good) and have to settle for a below average pizza and would prefer to have a restaurant which would serve good beer AND good pizza.

                                    1. re: honkman

                                      I wish Pizza Port had better food. It's one of the main reasons I don't go there very often. In terms of beer/food in San Diego, Linkery and Cafe Chloe are probably the two best spots.

                                      1. re: Josh

                                        You guys are referring to an entirely different class of food here. I don't disagree at all that The Linkery and Cafe Chloe are better than Pizza Port (I mean, c'mon) but the OP is asking for cheap eats.

                                        I guess when it comes to pizza I'm not as anal as I am about other foods. Pizza is one of those cases where I'd rather go to a cheap place and get whatever food than an expensive place where I have to pay $20 and it still ain't the real thing.

                                        1. re: mangiatore

                                          I guess we have a different idea about quality of food in general. I think food should have always a good quality and I don't see a reason why this should differ for any kind of food and somebody should settle for less and go to Pizza Port.

                                          1. re: honkman

                                            No, I agree that food should always be good quality, I just think you exaggerate how un-good the pizza at Pizza Port is. If I need to choose a pizza place in that class/price range, I'd much rather go to P.Port and watch surf videos, drink good beer, and play video games with cute women than go to some random place with similar food that lacks those elements.

                                      2. re: honkman

                                        It was a hit before they ever started making beer. I think it's good for the class it's in. Not fine cuisine, just a place to stop for pizza and beer.

                                2. re: honkman

                                  Pizzicato is some of my favorite pizza around. I used to go there all the time when I'd visit Portland. Great stuff. I wish we had one further south.

                                3. re: mangiatore

                                  You're absolutely right...how could I have forgotten about Pizza Port??? Trumps Leucadia by far...


                              2. re: 1HotTomato

                                Leucadia Pizza is just "ok." Have been to the Encinitas one several times and not overly impressed with their food. Service was also pretty abysmal the last time (had to flag down our server multiple times for extra plates after we told her we were sharing the salad; also to get more water, utensils, bill, etc.). Their pizza dough lacks any flavor and their toppings are just "ok." I recall the salad being nothing special or different, especially at their price point. Costco, CPK, Pizzicato, BJ's, Z Pizza and Bronx Pizza all have better food.

                              3. I grew up in this area, my mother and sister still live there AND now I work there. I know the place like the back of my hand... I'd agree with others to venture NORTH. However, for some truly good and cheap eats in Chula, and most of these places are, to my knowledge, hidden little gems that few know about...

                                Tropical Fruits 1410 Broadway, 619.427.5181: It's this little green house converted into restaurant, only open for lunch. Everything is super fresh and high quality. They offer healthy alternatives like whole wheat bread, wheat torta bread, lowfat mayo. I love the Torta's de milanesa, lomo or if you are feeling healthy try their wonderful fruit salad that has fresh mango, papaya, melons and much more. The tuna salad is yummy too, always served with beautifully green avocado. They have amazing fries and don't forget to eat them with their delicious chipotle mayo. They make their own chipotle sauce that is very spicy - when mixed with the mayo its hot but very flavorful and adds to any of their sandwiches. They also have fresh fruit smoothies and juices. Family owned and run - they are always there and great people.

                                Casa Don Diego 1199 3rd Ave 619.426.6131 - I love their carne asada plate with enchilada, I believe it is called Tampiquena. Really good, basic Mexican, think of it as an upscale Roberto's.

                                Dos Panchos 2511 Coronado Ave, 619.515.1444 - total little hole in the strip mall (next to a good mexican bakery - try the bolillos stuffed with beans and cheese) - open from 8 - 4. They run out of their items and specials pretty early. My all time favorite is their Caldo de Rez. I also enjoy the huevos rancheros, carnitas and carnes en su jugo. This place is family run, you always see the same faces. I like to go there because everything is fresh and well done - It tastes homemade - makes me think that if my mom had a restaurant, this is what she'd serve. The fresh salsa they serve you with the tortilla chips is sooo good - hot with amazing flavor (my mom makes the best salsas, so I know this stuff). It's fresh, smokey, tangy, yummy.

                                Arizona, 2650 Main street 619.575.1513 - It is what I would call Mexican chinese food. There is a significant Chinese population in Mexico - chinese restaurants have a distinct style and taste - Arizona is done in this way or at least, what I've seen done in Tijuana. The spare ribs and pork appetizer is really really good. The wor won ton soup also. Some of it reminds me of the chinese I used to get in New York City and Philly.

                                Kanpai 301 Palomar St, 619.426.1200 - I already saw California Sushi mentioned which is good. This is another great place to get sushi, ramen and other Japanese basics. It's cheaper than California Sushi and just as good...

                                Mariscos Mazatlan, 1237 3rd Ave, 619.422.3311 - this is the stuff you will find when you go toward Rosarito and Ensenada. My favorite meal that is a total steal is a cup of the fish consume (it has the most amazing, rich seafood flavor - it has knocked the socks off of everyone I've introduced it too), a ceviche (fish) tostada (w/mayo) AND a shrimp taco - All this will cost well under 10 bucks. They have shrimp ceviche too and all kinds of cocktails. The whole fried fish is GOOD. The fish varies on availability and season I believe - it's either red snapper, sea bass - these are the only I recall. Sundays they have Paella. Try a Michelada with Tecate (beer, ice, lemon, in a salted rim goblet) - it is very refreshing. The fresh salsa they serve with their tortilla chips is also very good, not sure if as good or better than Dos Panchos. It's milder but great flavor.

                                Fresh ingredients and care of product combined with great prices already draws a lot of neighborhood locals. I have trouble getting my caldo de rez every visit. When I walk in they usually inform me if there is any left as soon as they see me. These places are not glamorous, but it would be worth visiting at least one.

                                My office for the company I work for is the only San Diego office in the country - I get corporate visitors often from LA, New York and Chicago - when I take them to certain of these restaurants for the first time they always look a little scared and then give me this, "you're kidding" look - BUT always rave about it and request to be taken back.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: tartare

                                  We're not afraid of hole in the wall type places, we eat at them often here in our home town. They tend to have the most interesting foods. I will definently give these a shot! :-D

                                  1. re: shockingbluerose

                                    There are numerous good Vietnamese places along El Cajon Blvd from about 40th to 54th. Saigon, Thanh Thiet, Pho Ca Dao spring to mind but there are at least a dozen others worth eating at though the 'hood there is a bit scary at night. All are inexpensive and they mostly prepare food for the large Vietnamese community.

                                    I also like many of the Asian spots on Convoy.


                                  2. re: tartare

                                    Tartare, can you describe the carne in su jugo. The avatar I'm using here on Chowhound is carne en su jugo from Karne Garabaldi in Guadalajara. KG is in the Guiness Book of Records as having the fastest service in the world....they do, and their carne en su jugo is pretty darned good as well. Tell me what it's like so I can decide if it's worth a trip down to CV to check it out. Actually, all your recommendations sound really good, it's just a matter of getting there........

                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                      It is probably made the same, my aunt is from guadalajara and makes the best carne en su jugo and it is similar at Dos Panchos, but you never know, it could be different than what you know. The best description is like a wet machaca - it is a really simple dish made of tender beef, seasoned with salt, usually served with fresh salsa verde and beans (de la olla).

                                      Oh, also not to be missed are the chilaquiles, my mother and sister always order the Micha which is a plate with machaca and chilaquiles (available in red or green salsa) - I love them too but eating a plate of fried tortilla chips in salsa has never felt like a proper meal. I have no problem helping myself to theirs, though - they must love me.

                                      they are open 8 to 4 every day and weekends are very popular. Also, carne en su jugo is a special not served everday, and that sells out quickly when they do have it... just an fyi.

                                      1. re: tartare

                                        Here in Yuma, the dish is beef strips and bacon with beans in liquid, and it is touted as Guadalajara style.


                                    2. re: tartare

                                      Wow, Tartare, thanks for the post. I didn't know Casa Don Diego was still there! I used to be a teller at a bank in the area YEARS ago, and the owner was my favourite customer (I worked the merchant teller window). I always liked their food, too. It was a standard for a bunch of us to have lunch there every Friday.

                                    3. You owe it to yourself to go to Old Town. It is essentially a very large outdoor museum with a lot of inexpensive Mexican restaurants, bars, and shops. It is a wonderful place to wander on a warm evening as it stays open late. I especially like dinner on the fountain patio at Bandini and the carnitas at Old Town Cafe. If you arrive around dinner time, expect a 1-2 hour wait for a table. El Agave is also in Old Town and very nice, but it is a white tablecloth type of place with $40 per shot tequilas.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: tnilsson

                                        Casa de Bandini is no longer in Old Town.