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Fish tacos in downtown San Diego

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We're going to San Diego this week, and I hear that fish tacos are THE thing to eat there, so I'd love some ideas for you favorite fish tacos in San Diego. Thanks!

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  1. If you are sticking to the downtown (for the most part, "Gaslamp") area, I'd recommend, Tin Fish, which is right across the street from the Civic Center.

    I shudder when I hear grandiose statements like "fish tacos are THE thing to eat here". Sure, one should make them part of their San Diego experience, but we are talking about fast food for the most part - they should not be considered the centerpiece of one's culinary experience.

    12 Replies
    1. re: RB Hound

      haha! that's a good point. I really meant in terms of street/junk/fast food, that's what I heard people eat. i'll also be checking out Jayne's Gastropub and possibly Cafe Chloe while there. Any ideas for breakfast? cafe-ish style would be nice.

      1. re: polyhymnia

        I would go to Cafe Chloe over Jayne's in a heartbeat.
        And if you really want the "fish taco" experience well I would send you to South Beach in Ocean Beach (if you have a car?) which has great fish tacos and lots of interesting local color.
        My favorite breakfast in Parkhouse Eatery on Park Blvd. They also have great mimosas, if it is that type of morning. For cafe's I like the Pannikin (locations in Encinitas, Del Mar, and La Jolla) but others on the board have much stronger opinions about coffee on the board and they may be a better help if you are serious about coffee.

        1. re: jturtle

          Completely agree with the comment about Jayne's and Cafe Chloe. Jayne's delivers overpriced and average food whereas Cafe Chloe has much better quality and better execution.

          1. re: honkman

            Have you eaten at Jayne's Honkman? Last time I saw you post about it you said you hadn't. I wonder if you had some specific feedback? I'm curious as to what you ordered and what you thought of it. I have liked some of their dishes better than others, but overall it's been pretty good on our visits.

            1. re: Alice Q

              Yes, we went to Jayne's a few weeks ago and had overall mixed results which were pretty much a long the lines what Naomi Wise published a few weeks later. For appetizer we had calamari and gambas. We liked the calamari a lot which were very tender but a good restaurant should also know something about portion size and this was definitely too much calamari. On the other side we had just three (!) gambas (ok but nothing special) with four ridiculous large pieces of bread. As entrees we order braised short ribs and steak frites. The garlic mashed potatoes for the short ribs were excellent, the vegetables below average and the meat could have braised an hour longer. For steak frites we compare in SD everything to Cafe Chloe in the moment as the standard (and they just improved it even further with substituting the asparagus with haricot verts and mixed mushrooms and adding a little bit of gorgonzola on top of the steak) and Jayne's doesn't even come close. The steak was ok but could have been more tender, the frites are disappointing and definitely not made fresh but those prepacked frites, and the braised greens could also have been braised a little bit longer. As dessert we shared butterscotch creme brulee which was ok but nothing special compared to other butterscotch creme brulees we had before and about the coffee... let's just say it is really not one of their strength.
              Overall I really hope the restaurant will make it because it is good for SD if the restaurant scene is developing further but they should try to improve the food and not trying to push their "gastropub" hype. They are far from being a gastropub (for that they should have at least a decent beer list, theirs is lousy and by definition a gastropub should have a menu that complements their beer and wines list which Jayne's is not doing, IMO) but a bistro (and nothing wrong about that). Compared to other restaurants (Region, Cafe Chloe, Cafe Cerise, Linkery) their prices for the quality they are delivering are definitely (too) high. And one last issue - the service: There are not too many tables at Jayne's and even if all are occupied the waiters should be trained enough that they don't get stressed out easily (and even if they are it shouldn't be obvious). We went very recently to Mozza in LA and with the current hype you can see there what a fully booked restaurants means but service was still perfect. I think one of the biggest problems with most restaurants in SD in general is their service which is often very unprofessional and Jayne's is just another example.

              1. re: honkman

                Interesting. I've never had any service issues there - that actually surprises me a lot. I am also amazed that you only had 3 gambas - I think we've always had five. - usually one for each (four diners) and one left over to split between two people. I can kind of see the criticism on the "gastropub" angle, it's really more of a cafe in some ways, but I am hoping they will grow on that end. I was also pretty sure the fries were fresh when I was there - what makes you think they are frozen?

                We're going up to LA for a show in a couple of weeks, maybe we'll try Mozza for dinner - I will have to look into the location to see if it's convenient. I assume you liked it?

                1. re: Alice Q

                  Mozza is a little bit complicated to describe without going into the discussion what is a good pizza and what not. They definitely use great quality products but I think their pizza dough is not as good as I hoped (too thick and tastes too much like bread). For us it tasted overall more like very good bread covered with great pizza ingredients instead of a great pizza (but as you know it is very hard to get to any kind of agreement about how a good pizza should taste like). Their appetizers are outstanding (e.g. chicken livers bruschette, asparagus al forno, marinated beets with horseradish) and worth a trip alone. (The dessert were the biggest disappointment and below average). Overall we liked it but you shouldn't be afraid of very crowded, loud rooms (and don't be annoyed by TV cameras filming you pizza).
                  If you have time and money I highly recommend to go for the tasting menu at Spago - the best meal we ever had. I was surprised to see that on the LA Chowhound board they voted Spago as the second best restaurant last year (old restaurants tend to be become less attractive over time) but now I understand why.

                  1. re: honkman

                    Thanks for the description! We probably can't do Spago (though I'd love to) since we need a quickie meal before the show. We might try to go to the Hungry Cat or Lucques. They are both pretty close by and I've been wanting to try one of Suzanne Goin's restaurants, since I like her cookbook. I would have expected a thin crackerlike crust rather than bready too, so I can imagine that would be disappointing!

                    1. re: Alice Q

                      Go to Lucques! The food is fantastic, and they are so knowledgeable about their wine. My mom picked a glass that she didn't like and they steered her really well to a replacement glass.

                    2. re: honkman

                      Ah, Honkman you manged to dredge up a very old memory :-). One of the absolute best meals I've ever had was at Chinoise on Main in Santa Monica, part of Wolfgang Puck's empire. It was just about perfect in every respect from cocktails to food to service and, of course, that wonderful casual, beachy, yet somehow elegant ambiance. I know we dropped in excess of $500 for the meal and that was 20 years ago. I seem to remember something about lobster and tempura, though maybe not in the same dish. Thanks for the memory!!

          2. re: polyhymnia

            For breakfast, I would second the Parkhouse Eatery, and add Cafe 222 downtown, The Mission (it's a local chain and I like the one in North Park), The Original Pancake House on Convoy, and Cantina Panaderia in PB.

            1. re: polyhymnia

              Cafe Chloe would be a good choice for breakfast. Bread and Cie in Hillcrest is also nice for sitting outside and having the "cafe experience."

              As far as fish tacos, really the most important thing is that they're freshly fried (they get soggy quickly with all of the stuff in the tortilla) Beyond that, my personal point of view is the simpler the better. Some people swear by South Beach Bar and Grill in Ocean Beach or the Brigantine. El Zarape in Hillcrest has pretty good ones, and I really like Don Chuy's in Solana Beach (though that might be a little far for you!) In a pinch, Rubios are just fine too, as long as they're fresh.

          3. I'll throw in a suggestion that you go to Guild, 1810 Newton, in the Barrio. Not quite downtown but a lot closer than Jayne's. Try their taco's..