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Starvin' in San Diego

Please help a poor San Franciscan relocating to SD. What are the top ten restaurants in the immediate San Diego area regardless of price, etc? I feel lost with Gary Bauer et al.

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  1. Did you mean Michael Bauer? Just to let you know your post is going to generate quite a bit of "San Diego restaurants suck" blah blah blah.
    If you did mean restaurant reviewers there are some competent ones in the SD;generally not at the UT (but please don't boot my answer for talking about restaurant reviewers chowhound mods...)
    But here are my tops in no particular order:
    Marine Room (money no object La Jolla)
    Taco Surf (San Diego style clean taco shop--in Pacific Beach)
    Jaunitas (Encinitas)
    Waterfront (downtown/little italy neighborhood old old bar with great hamburgers--some people don't like their fries but I think that they are tasty)
    Oceanaire (downtown)
    Cafe Chloe (East Village)
    Modus (Banker's Hill--lots of detractors but I like the vibe and the food)
    South Beach (Ocean Bach Great fish tacos etc...I personally like the fried oyster tostada. Its not on the menu I just asked them to make it. Amazing.)
    Laurel (Banker's Hill--happy hour Lamby Joes I am addicted at the moment)

    11 Replies
    1. re: jturtle

      jturtle, I like your posts so don't take this personally, but I have to say that the Waterfront is to hamburgers what Saffron is to Thai food -- somehow it got a reputation for great food when it has awful food. I mean, are those buns from the highschool cafeteria? I'm pretty sure the patties are from the Von's freezer.

      1. re: mangiatore

        I knew one of those restaurants was going to create some sort of response...
        Clearly your Vons has better burgers then my Vons. When I go to the Waterfront I generally sit at the bar and watch them form my patty's sometimes they are misshapen and don't fit on the bun (hence why I am pretty sure they are actually making them in the back) but they are always well seasoned and nice and drippy. Sometimes they are a wee bit too drippy but if I am going to go sit at a divey bar I am okay with a little too drippy.
        OP didn't put down his neighborhood so I threw out my neighborhood bar where I get a good solid hamburger on a Wednesday night. Sometimes I get chili cheese fries as I think they are good there too. I wasn't saying it is the culinary masterpiece of San Diego but for being a neighborhood bar it does a fairly decent burger. Perhaps if I lived in PB I would attempt to go to Rocky's enough to figure out why everyone thinks that is the best burger.

        It just seemed that OP was looking for suggestions for good solid food not stuff to rival SF and every now and then a neighborhood joint is what you are looking for.

        1. re: mangiatore

          IMHO the Texas burger with cheese and grilled onions is one of the better burgers in town; I do fall into the camp that thinks their fries suck.

          1. re: mangiatore

            I have found that Saffron provides fantastic food. We go there often and they are also great for take out. The owner offers daily specials and she often on site overseeing the quality of the food.

            1. re: normalheightsfoodie

              NOrmal---Finally something that you say that i can Agreee with. All i have to say is that you need to go to saffron get Two Thighs of roast Chicken over red Rice with that Peanut Sauce. For 7$ is is the best fast meal in San diego.
              Saffron rocks!!!

            2. re: mangiatore

              For my money, I like Hodads in OB. One of the best hamburgers in town. Also I am surprised no one mentioned Perrys - down by the Old Town train station for breakfast. Just great. Always crowded and very good. What Say?

              1. re: wcarpenter

                Perry's actually get mentions on the SD breakfast threads as they come up. Some people don't like it because they don't think it's "quality" enough. Personally, I love the place (and the one in El Cajon too), their hash browns are wonderful, some of the best straight up hash browns in town. Those line cooks and waitresses certainly earn their wages!

                I think breakfast is the one meal where San Diego really does outshine San Francisco. I don't think Perry's is quite what the OP had in mind, but there really isn't much like Perry's in San Francisco.

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  I think I'm going down to Perry's right now...it has been too long!

                  1. re: ibstatguy

                    Have some hash browns for me :-). Their coffee is pretty good too.

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      They sure do know how to cook their hashbrowns. This'll probably freak some people out, but lately I've been ordering a side of hashbrowns with a side of the Jus for the French Dip, which I pour over the hashbrowns.

                2. re: wcarpenter

                  Perry's is one of the few restaurants where I'm willing to wait a long time for my meal. They're one of the few places that have waffles done in the classic style, not Belgian. I'm not a fan of Belgian waffles because they're too fluffy and, when topped, become very soggy. Perry's makes a fantastic waffle and the coffee is good, so I'm a happy camper.

                  I realized that I replied to this thread in April 2007... funny thing is that I'd probably have a different list 8 months later.

            3. Good luck my friend. SF is one of the best cities in the country for food, SD is one of the worst.

              Quick Tips:
              - avoid the Gaslamp
              - avoid Hillcrest (with a few exceptions)
              - manage your expectations

              Here are some places I like because I don't feel like I'm getting ripped off:

              Wine Sellar - excellent all around. Ignore the fact that you're in a tech. park in Mira Mesa.
              Sushi Ota - excellent (if you sit at the sushi bar)
              Park House Diner - excellent breakfast
              Amarin Thai
              Morton's - I'm not a steak expert, but the Porterhouse was one of the best things I've tasted in SD.
              Golden Dragon - good for the price
              Spices Thai - lunch specials are good for the price
              Izakaya Sakura - not as good as people say, but good.
              South Beach - for fish/lobster tacos, vodka oyster shooters, good/cheap beer
              Buon Appetito - not bad. I didn't feel like I got ripped off.
              Pomegranate - Georgian-Russian restaurant in Northpark. Ironically, it serves some of the best food around.
              Cafe Chloe - great food, great beer list
              Sushi Ono - great modern sushi (go to Ota for nigiri, here for creative roles)

              3 Replies
              1. re: mangiatore

                I think that Hillcrest (I know that you wrote with a few expections) has some very good restaurants which are very much underappreciated and often some of the best in SD for what they do, so I really wouldn't avoid Hillcrest. In compariosn to other parts of SD Hillcrest has higher number of good restaurants:

                California Cuisine
                Terra
                Mama Testa
                Extraordinary Dessert
                Kous Kous (haven't tried it yet but heard very good things about)
                Pizza Nova

                1. re: honkman

                  Restaurants I enjoy in Hillcrest:

                  Kous Kous (Moroccan)
                  Amarin Thai
                  Khyber Pass (Afghani)
                  Sambuca (Italian)
                  Wholefoods (organic hot and cold bar, deli, muliticultural selections)

                  Cheaper:
                  Ramsses (Mediterranean)
                  India Palace (cheap lunch buffet)

                  Desserts and drinks/ breakfast
                  Extraordinary Desserts
                  Bread & Cie (sandwiches etc are very good too)
                  Pasha (Mediterranean restaurant, but I go for the desserts)
                  Wholefoods (yummy blueberry pancakes in the morning, gelato, large pastry selection)
                  Bassam's cafe (yummy and huge dark hot chocolate and huge tea selection)
                  Chocolat - muy rico

                  Outside Hillcrest:
                  Banker's Hill area - Hexagone (French)
                  Mira Mesa -- Indian center on Black Mountain Rd -grocery and restaurants
                  La Mesa -- Himalayan cuisine (Indian, Nepalese, Tibetan)
                  Linda Vista - Sab E Lee -- hole in the wall authentic Thai
                  Downtown - Chloe's Cafe, Westgate Hotel Sunday brunch $70/person -- lots of seafood, elegant atmosphere
                  College area - Saigon (Vietnamese) but watch out for MSG (i don't go as much bec of this)
                  El Cajon Blvd - Harar (Ethiopian) fun hole in the wall, big portions
                  North Park - Vo (Vietnamese) - looks like a stand, primitive, but cheap and huge portions
                  La Jolla -- Alfonso's (Mexican); Mandarin House (Chinese)
                  Pacific Beach -- Sushi Ota, Ichiban (cheap HIW), Tokyo House (some good), Outback (organic burgers, has lamb burgers), PB Sushi,

                  1. re: pamina

                    Does the original poster even live in san diego anymore?

              2. I will have to agree with my fellow Chowhounds. Being from SF, you will be disappointed w/ the food here. However, there are a few gems. It's more than ten, the first ten being my fav. ten.

                Jacks La Jolla
                Nine-Ten
                Donovans Steakhouse
                China Max - good new Hong Kong cooking
                Molly's
                Taka - I know, it's downtown, and pricy, but it's really good sushi
                The Linkery
                Buga Korean BBQ (I hear SF has some bad Korean food)
                Emerald - good dim sum
                Rocky's in PB for burgers
                Laurel - good happy hour
                Kensington Grill - ok food, good "neighborhood eatery" vibe
                Sushi Ota - the other really good high end sushi spot in SD
                Modus - ok food, good vibe, probably the best thing is that the kitchen is open late
                Fresh Restaurant (haven't been in a while, but last visit was good)
                Buon Appetito
                Taste of Thai
                Cafe Chloe - ok food, good vibe

                Good luck.

                1 Reply
                1. re: JKP

                  For Chinese try Dumpling Inn on Convoy north of Balboa. Always a line, no reservations, big portions. If you call ahead they'll put your name on the list so you don't have to wait as long. Bring your own beer.

                2. I'm from LA, love to go to SF to eat...Clemintine, Del Fina, Hog Island...
                  Many ok meals in SD (My brother lives there. ) I've enjoyed Laurel and Vagabond the most.
                  Laurel: beautiful room, great service, nice wine list, great cocktails...I guess, by reading the other posts, I must try the happy hour.
                  Vagabond was perfect every time.
                  I'm all about food more than hoopla. The place is small the food is amazing but it can get pretty crowded. If you love wine, all the dishes are worth bringing a special bottle from your cellar but you may not need too (keep in mind, this is not formal dining, this is more like when one of you high-end wine-friends cooks an amazing dinner and cracks open some great bottles type-o-place)...the wine list is extensive with no snobbery, point chasing, or lable-whore-ishness involved.
                  There are the perfect mussles and fries, an incredible Cassoulet (sp?), and many other dishes and beyond-good desserts. I've never had a bad meal there.
                  I prefer sitting at the bar because the people pouring are passionate about the wine-if you are adventuous they will help you explore...plenty of wines by the glass each night. The owners are very friendly and like to see their guest comfortable...one night, while sitting at the bar, I kicked of my Jimmy Choos, and crossed my legs in my seat...the owner came over and I thought he was going to ask me to put my shoes back on...instead, he said: "Now that's what I like to see, a lady who feels comfortable enough here to kick off her shoes to enjoy her dinner." and of course, it was another perfect meal.

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