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Two lunches - San Diego to Carlsbad?

The weekend after Memorial Day, I am flying into San Diego to attend a 25-year reunion in Carlsbad. That leaves me two lunches; one on Saturday after I have arrived and one on Sunday, before I fly back to San Francisco.

I lived in San Diego almost 15+ years ago; back then, a happy lunch for me was Ichiban in Hillcrest followed by a slice of cake at Extraordinary Desserts. Or Ida Bailey's in the Gaslamp (where I first remember having raspberry vinaigrette!) I was also a fan of the old Piret's Bistro in Encinitas... Ah, the good ole days!

As I have to make my way to Carlsbad for the reunion, I would be interested in any spots between the airport and the drive up the coast highway. Haute Cuisine is hardly necessary - just some great lunch spot that I can re-awaken my love of San Diego and all it has to offer. I have plenty of time to explore!

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  1. Piret's...how I miss their places, especially Canes in Hillcrest. Anyway, for a great coastal lunch spot, can't beat the beach/ocean view at Poseidon in Del Mar. You'll get plenty of other good reccs, I'm sure. Oh, and by the way, there is an In-n-out burger in Carlsbad, a hop, skip and jump away from Coast Hwy

    2 Replies
    1. re: ibstatguy

      I have to disagree about the Posedion rec. The place is beautiful and drinks are tasty but the food is horrible. I was making better food for dinner & parties when I was 15. Go for the view but skip the food.
      I would recommend a drink at Posedion and then a carnitas or carne asada burrito at Juanita's on Highway 101 in Leucadia for some good ol' SD tacoshop fare.

      1. re: jturtle

        you'll note that I did not recommend the food...to say the food is horrible though is a bit strong but then that's merely MHO. It certainly is not in the class of restaurants that I have previously recommended on other threads on this board.

    2. point loma seafoods-
      I get the fish sandwich and white chowder

      3 Replies
      1. re: septocaine_queen

        How about Codys in la Jolla...great ambience view..great food.. very Californian.. weather should be good..otherwise del Mar.. Pacifica or Epazote or Il Fornaio.. great view again....or if youre ready for lunch Sallys at Seaport village at the Hyatt,outside at the marina..

        1. re: karenc

          lots of choices in the Del Mar Plaza

          1. re: ibstatguy

            Better choices in Del Mar for brunch/lunch are Americana or Pacifica Breeze Cafe, both off Camino del Mar and 15th St.

            I strongly second Cantina Panaderia and Mama Testa's.

            Another lunch spot closer to downtown is Cafe Chloe (near the ballpark) or Saffron on India Street, just off the Washington exit from the 5 freeway.

            Beach Grass Cafe in Solana Beach off Hwy 101 is pretty decent as well.

      2. I would recommend Mama Testa in Hillcrest as one lunch spot. Very unique "upscale" taco shop:


        The second lunch spot could be the new Extraordinary Desserts in Little Italy which now also serves good sandwiches etc.


        1. Cantina Panaderia in Pacific Beach, on Feldspar, cross street is Cass

          1. There's Le Passage French Bistro in Carlsbad--very yummy and only about 2 streets down from coast highway.
            Bellefleur in the outlet mall off of Paseo del Norte serves a bitchin' Sunday brunch well into the afternoon.
            For the best Chimichanga (I'm talking greasy spoon, here) in town, head to Kotija's on the Oceanside/Carlsbad border in the Marshalls/Dollar Tree shopping center off of Marron Road.
            Don's Country Kitchen in Carlsbad Village serves breakfast till 2pm and has some of the best biscuits around!
            I'm not sure if they're open for lunch, but Vigilucci's is RIGHT on Coast Highway and has great steaks.
            I positively DREAM about Pizza Shuttle... it must be the sauce! Great pizza, just off the freeway on Tamarack. Not a sit-down place, but great to take out and eat on the beach.


            1. I would do one of the lunches on the terrace of George's in LJ..great food and view
              El Pescador is outstanding for a fresh caught fish sandwich..super casual
              The Cottage or Zenbu in LJ is excellent as well..
              Las Olas in Cardiff or the Jake's Del Mar
              I miss Piret's too..

              6 Replies
              1. re: Beach Chick

                I have to disagree on Zenbu. Overpriced, average sushi and their sushi dishes (ie: sushi salad, etc) gets drowned in sauce. There are too many other great sushi places to blow money on.

                1. re: daantaat

                  Yes, there are, especially the one right off the freeway between San Diego and Carlsbad that happens to serve the best sushi in San Diego: Sushi Ota.

                  The Cottage has nice atmosphere but the food was bad the one time I tried it. Like Brockton Villa (also in La Jolla, another place with bad food that people like to rave about), it gets away with it due to location and atmosphere.

                  1. re: mangiatore

                    As it happens, I live across the street from Japantown in San Francisco so having sushi in San Diego seems pointless for this trip...

                    1. re: mangiatore

                      What meal did you go for at The Cottage? I found they do breakfasts best. And I agree on Brockton Villa--it totally gets away by being on the beach. However, I have to say that in comparison to The Beach House in Cardiff, they have slightly better food.

                      1. re: daantaat

                        I had breakfast at The Cottage. With so many good breakfast joints in San Diego (probably the best thing we do, along with craft beer), I just don't see any reason to compromise on quality (maybe I just got unlucky at The Cottage, but the meal really was pretty bad). Never been to The Beach House.

                        1. re: mangiatore

                          you haven't missed anything by not going to The Beach House!

                2. I've had a slight amendment to my plans -- I now HAVE to find a decent brunch place for a business meeting on Sunday. I will be staying in Carlsbad Saturday night and the person I am meeting will be driving from Escondido (meaning some of the great San Diego and Encinitas breakfast joints will probably be too far for him).

                  Looks like I am down to Four Seasons Aviara and Bellefleur in Carlsbad unless there is some other fabulous selection in Vista, San Marcos, Escondido, or Oceanside (keeping in mind that I have to be able to get back to catch a 4:00 flight out of San Diego).

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Carrie 218

                    I think your choices are good choices since it is for business. Aviara is lovely, although I have never had brunch there. I like real B'fast food but that would probably not be appropriate. Up there, Original Pancake in Encinitas or Tip Top meats are great, but not for a real "brunch."

                    The only time I would recommend the Beach House is for out of towners for brunch which might be your case). The food is not great but it is a pretty decent deal for the view. It would not be for the culinary experience!!

                    Let us know where you end up.

                    1. re: domino1

                      The Stone Brewery is out in Escondido.. if you are really into food this is great.. they follow the whole slow food movement,everything is wonderful.the setting is so beautiful as well with wonderful gardens.. its off in an industrial park //becuase it is a brewery.. but it is very nice..

                  2. Here's my report:

                    Just returned from my mini-trip to San Diego. Immediately upon landing, I headed straight to the Extraordinary Desserts on Fifth (it was the one I always knew of before Krasne's Little Italy one opened up). Still relatively early in the morning, a small latte and a blackberry scone were more than ample.

                    Not food related, I then met a noted metals artist at Taboo Studio to peruse some recent work (and make some purchases). She was hoping to eat at Indigo Grill but didn't realize they were not open for lunch on Saturdays. Instead, we simply walked down the street and headed towards the first place she had never eaten at: Buon Appetito. We were served bread with a bowl of very fresh chopped/pureed tomatoes. I ordered a few glasses of a Merlot/Sangiovese blend which seemed a nice start. Being lunch (and having just had a scone), we both decided to eat light and two salads were ordered; Insalata di Rucola con Fegatini di Pollo, pan-fried chicken livers on a bed of fresh arugola and radicchio with house dressing and Insalata d'Anatra, fresh baby spinach with slow-roasted duck breast tossed in a warm house dressing with pine nuts and goat cheese. The chicken livers were quite nice and the duck breast tender and moist, but in both cases, the salad leaves were over-dressed. Oh well - this trip was about seeing old friends and not a grand culinary adventure.

                    Continuing on the non-food related note, my lunch date recommended the Mingei exhibit of Jewelry from Five Continents but also mentioned a pre-Raphaelite exhibit in the nearby Museum of Art. Since I had a few hours after our lunch before I had to be at my evening destination, back to Balboa park I headed and if one lives in the area and is even remotely interested, the pre-Raphaelite exhibit is astounding.

                    Well - what can I saw about my old friends that I was meeting after 25 years? Dinner on Saturday evening was at Buca di Beppo and by-and-large, my friends were impressed. <groan> It was the Claim Jumper of mediocre Italian food: Obscenely giant portions of tasteless, pasty attempts towards pasta with sauce that could only have come from a can. Pity my poor friends, dear lord, they know not what they eat....

                    Finishing up, my Sunday business meeting had to cancel at the last minute and the comradery from the previous evening continued so a local favorite was chosen for Sunday brunch; The Potato Shack in Encinitas. To its credit, it was pretty good. We ordered a single pancake for the table (they ARE bigger than the plate upon which they sit and are quite thick and fluffy). I opted for eggs scrambled with chunks of ham and to my potatoes, I added mushrooms which <hoorah!> were quite bountiful. The squaw bread toast I had along with my breakfast was thickly-cut and I noticed others' toast was equally as thick (3/4" slices, at least).

                    Before heading back towards the hotel, I managed a dash across the street to acquire a large box of Chuao Chocolates. The eye-catcher; a piece with a Magritte pipe transferred atop with the inscription: "This is not a pipe." The filling? A ganache infused with tobacco and cognac. It is very, very subtle and not nearly as overwhelming as it could have been or as I was preparing for. And besides that one, I've got another 25 to taste!

                    On a last note, the city of San Diego is far more beautiful than I remember. The whole new Little Italy's build-up is stunning with its modern architecture and bright, stylistic colors. I can't wait to go back...

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Carrie 218

                      Ummmmm CHuao is very tasty. That will be my hubby's Father's Day present.

                      1. re: Ela0427

                        Having eaten several pieces last evening, I am actually a bit disappointed; the flavors are almost too subtle. The Green Tea Ginger had *some* ginger taste but no discernable Green Tea.

                        Here in San Francisco I have access to both Cocoa Bella and Rechiutti chocolates, both of which I think are superior.

                        1. re: Carrie 218

                          I think Chuao does best with it's chile and tropical fruit based bon-bons. Their most popular confeciton has been the goat cheese bon-bon. I don't care for it very much, but mine is the minority opinion. Now... their chile, raisin and cabernet bon-bon might not quite convince me to write bad checks, but it can make me swoon.

                          But it's hard, I've been eating See's for 50 years and don't really see much of a need to change ;-)

                          1. re: DiningDiva

                            Amen on See's... I'm a fan and there is nothing better than a Bordeaux!