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Visiting SD soon to consider moving from East Coast. Any recommendations for Thai, Korean BBQ and authentic Mexican that's not touristy please?

ChowHound has always been a trustworthy source for great food- any advice on websites to gain perspective about living in San Diego- neighborhoods to look into etc..We are considering LaJolla, DelMar, Encinitas but they are so overpriced, would be grateful for recommendations on the equivalent where real estate is not blown out of proportion.

Much appreciation!

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  1. Thai- Lanna Thai (in Mission Bay) though you'll find alot of discussion on this topic...
    Korean- Havent found a favorite, but I think Buga or Boo Choo (Convoy Area/Kearny Mesa)
    Mexican- Mama Testa's , Dos Brasas (taco shop).

    As for neighborhoods, the Reader (www.sdreader.com) has some insights, but everything is high priced here. I would drive around and find the vibe you are looking for... Good Luck!

    2 Replies
    1. re: sds

      Yes, VIBE is quite important. Thanks. Others have recommended Buga and BooChoo so we'll have to check it out, and MamaTesta's. Dos Brasas sounds like a great taqueria.

      1. re: LCM

        Boo Cho does not exist anymore. It got bought out twice and the new owners changed the name. Kirk K went back recently and gave it a so-so review. Buga is still better.

    2. LCM, you sound like me a few short years ago! We moved from the northeast, where my husband and I had lived/worked in and around NYC for most of our lives. Although we miss a lot of things about the east coast (especially NYC food), we would never move back and are now happily living in Del Mar about 5 blocks from the beach. Yes, it's unbelievably expensive (never thought it could be worse than Manhattan or Ffld County, CT but it is). Still, it's sooooo worth it and we are loving life.

      Now, back to the food - there aren't as many great ethnic places here as you would expect, and I don't know why that is. Maybe it's just because I can't help but compare to NYC, which is a whole different ballgame. Anyway, there are definitely some good Japanese places (our favorite sushi spots are Masuo's in Solana Beach and Kaito in Encinitas), Mexican (we like Bety's in Encinitas on Encinitas Boulevard and Raul's, which is a hole in the wall in downtown Encinitas on Rte 101). We also like Rendezvous for Asian/kind of Chinese, which is in downtown Del Mar. There are some good casual places in La Jolla, like El Pescador for casual grilled fish sandwiches. I also think Buga is the best place for Korean, although it's in San Diego/Kearny Mesa area, and the areas you mentioned you're looking to live in are in north county.

      I totally agree that vibe is so important...when we moved here, we went for the casual (albeit outrageously expensive!) beachy place vibe because we love to run and walk our dog on the beach, but there are definitely much more interesting neighborhoods like North Park, Kensington, Hillcrest and others, where you can find homes for less money with much a more eclectic vibe although for us, proximity to the beach was the number one priority. If the same is true for you, check out Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, and sometimes you can find homes for a decent price in Leucadia and Encinitas. Best of luck.

      1 Reply
      1. re: susan3733

        Thanks Susan...sounds like we may think along the same lines. It's going to be a BIG adjust. We also have a dog, am an avid hiker so it's important to find dog friendly parks, places to hike (off leash). Surprised that Torrey Pines won't even let you take dogs on leashes.

        We have traveled extensively internationally and enjoy all types of food. Looking for NICE, low key neighborhoods- not too "toney" or overly moneyed....Our visit will help us decide - food-wise and living-wise. It's got to "feel right."

      2. Anywhere along the Southern California coast will be pricey, because in December when it is a perfect 75 degrees with the sun shining brightly, it is worth it. Almost everyone I know who has visited the coastal San Diego area has wanted to move here if price was no object. There is only so much coast in California, and that is why it is expensive. I grew up in Los Gatos (San Francisco Bay Area-where it is even more expensive than San Diego) and went to professional school in So Cal and got sucked in by the weather and stayed. I think the areas are not overpriced considering all that you can do here outside all year around.

        Considering the large Latino population we have here, there are plenty of authentic restaurants that are non touristy from here to LA. I can bet most people here in SD have some type of tortilla in their kitchen.

        But my favorite thai restaurant is Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas

        1 Reply
        1. re: septocaine_queen

          Actually, the Mexican food in San Diego is average at best and with only a few exceptions not terribly "authentic", whatever that means.

        2. There are no neighborhoods in southern costal CA where real estate isn't overpriced right now, and I don't think mods would like us discussing particular neighborhoods. I'm sure there are forums where this is discussed, but I'm sorry I have no links or references.

          As to food, Buga is the better choice for Korean BBQ right now. They don't use charcoal like Boo Choo did, but the quality of the meat is all there, and their marinades are pretty good. Panchan is average to good, though a bit uneven at times--always plentiful, though.

          Aunthentic Mexican is harder--Super Cocina does homestyle dishes, cafeteria like atmophere. Do a search and you should find many interesting threads on this subject, if you have any luck with the search option!

          I don't think there's a lot of good Thai in SD. I'm planning to venture up to Thaitown in LA next month, and I'm sure there's good food there! Not so bad of a drive If I'm blessed with good traffic.

          Check out Kirk's blog for good reviews of Asian and many other restaurants in SD, plus some road trips to LA, etc. http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/

          1. Here's a list of my favorites by type:

            Thai - Celadon Royalty Thai

            Best Asian Fusion - Roppongi

            Best Vietnamese - Phuong Trang (though I like Pho Wa Cali in Mira Mesa since it is close to where I live).

            Korean - Arirang House in Clairemont on Convoy St.

            Best non touristy authentic Mexican - Rancho Cusina or just the old standby or Roberto's.

            BBQ - Real BBQ is hard to come by in San Diego if you mean real smoked ribs & meat with smoke rings in them which have been slow cooked on low heat for 8 hours with just a dry rub and a nice mesquite flavor. Sure, we have lots of places serving par boiled ribs which are lightly smoked for an hour but those don't count. The only place I've found that does BBQ the real slow old fashioned way is a butcher shop in Escondido called Specialty Meats which keeps its smoker full on the weekends. It's more of a butcher shop which sells smoked meats on the weekends (not on the weekdays) but it is the best honest to god BBQ in the city.

            As for neighborhoods to move to it really depends on your price range. Anything on the west side of I5 it will be hard to find a house under $800k with places like La Jolla starting at around $1million for a small place. If you don't mind moving inland a bit but still getting that nice coastal breeze then try Carmel Valley, 4S Ranch, or Scrippes Ranch. Mira Mesa is fairly far west and is affordable (relatively) but it is an older area having been built in the 1970's and 1980's. You can find a number of suburban homes in Mira Mesa for around $500k and up while the newer areas seem to start around $600k. Some of the areas of Chula Vista are new with in the last 5 years and are fairly affordable but they're to far south for my taste and they tend to be town homes instead of detached single family houses. I hope that helps.