North Park San Diego - I'm out of ideas!
I organize a monthly night out for parents in my kid's playgroup (moms & dads). People tend to not want to stray far from the North Park/Hillcrest/Normal Heights area. I try to keep the cost fairly reasonable (it's nice if there are entrees in the $12 range, just to not exclude anyone). And we have some people who don't eat red meat. And it's nice if we can make reservations. Easy, right?
Places we've gone:
Saigon (on El Cajon)
Takeout from Lefty's & Phil's
Brazil by the Hill
Anything that's not on my radar?
I'm thinking about that Mexican place that replaced Tazablanca.
Khyber Pass (but parking is soooo bad around there).
I think Jayne's might be a little pricey. Maybe the Linkery?
Here's the Union Tribune's list of good restaurants in the North Park area:
I noticed you haven't been to the following excellent places Zensei Sushi, Lefty's Chicago Pizzeria (best Chicago stuffed pizza in town), Alexander's, or Ranchos Cocina (best Mexican style burrito joint in the area).
There's also Park House Eatery and Adams Avenue Grill in University Heights/North Park (not sure where the dividing line is) and if you're willing to travel a little south into Golden Hill, there's Luigis Pizza (maybe more casual than you want to go) and the retro Turf Club (there's a large bar, but I've seen kids in there before.
Park House is my favorite breakfast joint in San Diego, but I'd avoid it like the plague for dinner. It's waaaay overpriced for the level of quality and refinement you get. The wine list is similar.
The Linkery is a really fun place, but expect some hits and some misses. The hits and the atmosphere make it worth it.
Ono Sushi is good for modern sushi (rolls, etc.).
Say what you will about the restaurant itself, which is "unique" to say the least, but I think Pomegranate has the best food in the area.
I would suggest Mama Testa and I am sure if you called the owner in advance he would reserve some tables for you. There are tasty vegetarian options on the menu and if you search the boards there are lots of recommendations.
Also, The Gathering in Mission Hills just re-opened. Food price is close to what you want and there are several vegetarian items. Keep in mind they just re-opened and service is a little slow and uneven but that is what happens when a restaurant opens (or re-opens).
Across the street from The Gathering is Jimmy Carter's Mexican Cafe which I think is good and fits your price.
A little farther (with a wee bit of a hassle for parking) is Shakespeare's that has tasty pub food. Less options for the vegetarian but still good.
FYI - Just Fabulous has been sold - I'm not sure if anything has replaced it yet.
I'd recommend Dao Son, the aforementioned Linkery and Jaynes is worth a visit - they have a couple of entrees in that range, the burger, the fish and chips and a couple of pasta dishes - but most are in the 20's. Bite, Chris Walsh's new small-bites restaurant has also just opened in Hillcrest. I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but early buzz is good!
I also haven't tried Alexander's yet. I've heard the decor is cool but the food is middling.
-Sushi Ono is a lot of fun - if not the most Japanese of experiences.
-Ichiban on the Rocks opened where Antico Trattoria was, it might fit your bill
-Cafe Eleven has decent food that's certainly well priced.
- Rancho's has lots of veg-friendly options and good food overall
Also, if your group is a decent size and you go mid-week, it doesn't hurt to call the restaurant in advance and see if they'll work a pre-fixe menu for you. We've done it where we get 3 courses for a set price that includes a few different options as opposed to the whole menu. If that's of interest, I'd recommend Kensington Grille (last 3 times we've been to Ponce's, it's been SRO while KG has been e-m-p-t-y. Another consideration would be either California Cuisine or Terra.
I would certainly add the linkery to that rotation. Good food, reasonably priced and lots of vegetarian options. Alexanders (across the street) is getting some good word of mouth. I have also had good success at Dmood. Just fabulous is small and kind of cramped........but the food is good.