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San Diego- Need recs for seafood and Mexican

My wife and I will be in SD in May for a conference, staying in the Mission Valley area. Need recs. for fresh seafood and Mexican (non Tex-Mex). Would appreciate recs. in all price ranges and some idea of where the locals really like to go.

Also, a little off-topic, I will be needing to kill time during the day while she's in the conference. Other than the obvious sights to see (zoo, etc.) are there some really good locally owned bookstores and CD shops anyone could recommend? Many thanks.

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  1. are your expectations of Fresh seafood and Mexican to be at the same restaurant? or is it two different requests

    1. You'll need to venture out of Mission Valley for all of the above. Mission Valley is San Diego's mall and giant chain headquarters.

      For Mexican, two great places are Super Cocina and Mama Testa. Super Cocina is genuine homestyle Mexican cooking, and Mama Testa is a taqueria specializing in tacos from all over Mexico. Mama Testa is a little more gringo-friendly than Super Cocina is.

      For fresh seafood, Blue Water Grill on India St. is a great choice. Lots of fresh fish options on a big blackboard. Available as sandwiches, fish tacos, or plates w/ rice and salad. They also serve beer from one of our better local breweries, Ballast Point.

      Another good option for fresh fish in a casual setting is South Beach Bar and Grill in OB. They make great fish tacos from freshly-grilled fish.

      On your off-topic question, for a good locally-owned bookstore, you might want to check out DG Wills in La Jolla. Since the closing of John Cole's (also in La Jolla) that's one of the last holdouts. There are a variety of used bookstores also to be found along Adams Ave. traversing the neighborhoods of Normal Heights and Kensington. Some of these are rare book dealers, others are your standard used book stores.

      Hillcrest also has some independent bookstores, though they also tend more towards the used/rare book dealers.

      Locally owned CD shops you're looking at M-Theory or Off The Record. San Diego is kind of hurting in the cultural dept.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Josh

        I think the best used bookstore on Adams Ave is Adams Ave Bookstore -3502 Adams.

        Don't know if OP's original seafood request would include sushi, but SD does have some wonderful sushi bars. A quick search would locate recs for several places.

        Though not perfect, the Fishery in Pacific Beach certainly features fresh fish in a slightly less casual setting - though still not too expensive and too fancy.


      2. Mission Valley, unfortunately is all chains but good food is only a short drive away. Head downtown to the Fish Market for very fresh seafood and sushi or Point Loma Seafood for a very casual but on the water great seafood place. Thier clam chowder is the best in town.

        1. Jeez, you guys, Mission Valley isn't a complete waste land. King's Fish House is perfectly respectable and the fish is pretty darned tasty. The fish tacos at Wahoo's are decent and, of course, Bully's has the requisite salmon alternative to prime rib.

          Now, Mexican in MV is another story. I'll make no recommendations on that except may be to stop by Sombrero's and pick up some rolled tacos (aka taquitos) and guacamole for a snack. The rest is pretty boring.

          1 Reply
          1. re: DiningDiva

            I agree with DD about King's. Maybe not the absolute best seafood in town, but definitely acceptable. And if you're looking for casual seafood, you can do a lot worse than The Little Fish Market in the Costco center.

            For the record, The Fish Market (w/The Little Fish Market) is also a chain.

          2. Head downtown to Wahrenbrock's Books on Broadway. I could get lost in that place. Here's a link: http://www.abebooks.com/home/WAHRENBR/

            I second Off The Record in Hillcrest, and, if you feel like heading up the coast, check out Lou's Records in Encinitas.

            The Mexican and seafood recs have been covered very well, so I have nothing to add there!

            1. II'd agree that Mission Valley isn't exactly a gourmet hotspot ... but you will be very close to (ie 5 minute drive from) places where you can get good Mex and/or seafood.

              I second (or third, fourth, whatever) the rec for Blue Water Seafood on India, just south of Washington. If you want the "harbor" experience, Point Loma Seafoods is good for lunch on a sunny day - you order at the counter and eat outside near the docks. If you like smoked fish, this is the place for you.

              Old Town gets a lot of grumbles on this board, but I've been happy at a few places down there: Casa Guadalajara has a good atmosphere, women making tortillas in the front of the store, decent 'ritas, and solid mexican food. My favorite dish there tends to be the Pescado guadalajara, so that would fit both the seafood and mexican bill. =) You're really very very close to Old Town, so search the board for some other rec's in that area to satisfy your south-of-the-border cravings.

              On your off-topic, just up the hill (to the South) from MV is Hillcrest, which is a fun area to walk around, if you're looking to kill time. It's one of San Diego's only urban "neighborhoods," where shops, restaurants, and residences all co-exist in a way they do in other major cities. Just South of Hillcrest is Balboa Park, which, in addition to containing museums and the zoo, is just a nice place to stroll through the canyons on miles and miles of trails. Also a fun place to people-watch.

              Also, if you have a car, has anyone recommended the Wild Animal Park to you? It usually seems that everyone hears about the zoo, but I actually prefer the Wild Animal Park (about a thousand times over the zoo, actually). It's about 40 minutes North of MV off of I-15. If you have a full day, or most of one, consider heading out. Lots of cities have zoos - the W.A.P. is a very unique experience.

              4 Replies
              1. re: ohm86

                A small point: Old Town gets grumbles for good reason, since Diane Powers' was forced out. She owned Casa De Pico, Casa De Bandini, and Casa Guadalajara. Of these, only Guadalajara remains because it's actually outside Old Town. I readily recommend Guadalajara to people, but the places actually in the park at Old Town are no bueno.

                1. re: Josh

                  I'm curious - I actually like Old Town Mexican Cafe, wonder why Chowhounds don't like it?

                  1. re: aurora50

                    I dont think chers dont like it...just why settle for less when there is better to be had[and less touristas to deal with? I love their tortillas.

                    1. re: aurora50

                      I don't think Josh was commenting on Old Town Mexican Cafe specifically, I think he was talking about the old Casa di Bandini, Casa de Pico, etc. restaurants that used to be run by Dianne Powers and are now run by a big national park-oriented concessionaire.

                2. I would second Mama Testa's in Hillcrest.

                  for bookstores, Warwick's in La Jolla sells new books and is near a lot of good food. They're also a stationery shop and it's fun to see what high-end paper they have. Pannikin's in Del Mar (and I think another one in La Jolla) is another locally owned bookstore, although I haven't been for a while. Pannikin's in Del Mar is in the Flower HIll Mall, where a great cheese shop, Aniata Cheese Shop, is also located.

                  There's been several good posts and reviews on Mexican places in Escondido, where the Wild Animal Park is. kaire_raisu is the poster.

                  1. I second the Fish Market (downtown area). Also if you are willing to drive, Jake's Del Mar is nice (and romantic!), Also Charlie By the Sea in Cardiff. Not really seafood or Mexican (though it has both) if you are a football fan, Seau's actually has pretty good food for the type of place it is (new to Chowhound so everyone here may scoff at Seau's).

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: aafflyer

                      Actually, I don't think anyone's really mentioned Seau's here for quite some while. Stick around and you'll discover Mission Valley in general is treated with great disdain on this board. While it's not a primary destination, it's also not a total loss. I for one am not beneath slumming in MV every now and again.

                      1. re: DiningDiva

                        This reminds me, I had some surprisingly good sushi at Seau's back during football season. I was trying to pay attention to the game but I heard it comes from an adjacent sushi bar.

                        1. re: mangiatore

                          I didn't weigh in earlier b/c I haven't been there in a while, but Seau's sushi bar used to be very good. They have some good happy hour half price deals too.

                      2. re: aafflyer

                        I'll scoff at Charlie's and recommend Las Olas down the way for decent Cal-mex. :-)

                      3. Try El Zarape University heights and El Indio on Washington St in Mission Hills. El Indio is the birthpace of the Tacquito.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: sdft

                          El Zarape serves what is probably the definitive fish taco in SD, and for $.99 it's probably the best value in fish tacos too! But El Indio? Past it's prime and now mostly a tourist stop.

                          1. re: DiningDiva

                            I agree the chips are the only thing they have that are worthwhile. I remember when it used to be just a little hole in the wall - it was sooo much better then!

                            1. re: Alice Q

                              Another vote against El Indio. So many better places...

                            2. re: DiningDiva

                              Visited El Zarape over the weekend while on vacation. The fish tacos were good, but I found the shrimp, scallop and lobster tacos to be even better! I could do without the white sauce they lather on top of the tacos.

                          2. The best seafood I have had is Bay Park Seafood. It's head and shoulders above Fish Market. It has very high quality fish and very imaginative dishes really well prepared. Their calamari is great, swordfish and tuna all sushi grade. Tonite I had fish tacos with halibut and they were the best fish tacos in ages. Most of the portions are very large. It's located off of Morena Blvd around the corner from Bacci. One of their true bargains is seafood stew for $7. It's a good lunch or a large appetizer for dinner. I consider this place a real find. It's just 10-15 minutes from Mission Valley, as well.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: PGB

                              Yup, I love this place, too. Very neighborhoody, friendly, casual. The fish tacos are a steal (calamari, too!). I've never had the seafood stew, but now I must try it the next time around.

                            2. We were in SD last week on the way back from Mexico for spring vacation. The only places we went were the Zoo and then the Old Town Mexican Cafe. We really liked the OTMC. It is a large place with its own parking. They do so much business the food is very fresh. it actually seemed to be a good mix of locals and tourists. My food was great even after eating in Mexico.They had a large selection of tequillas and maragritas and the fresh corn and flour tortillas being made right in the window.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Got Cake

                                their corn tortillas are top - I usually get a few to take home

                              2. As for seafood, I had a pretty good meal at Fresh in La Jolla

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: BigBelt

                                  I'm curious as to how long ago you ate there? I haven't been since Sami Ladeki sold it - but I have heard good things.

                                  1. re: Alice Q

                                    You may have got me there, It has been a while. I guess I'll have to go and check it out again. I'll call it "Research" :P