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Aug 20, 2007 11:47 AM

Help with September visit

My husband and I will be visiting San Diego (staying at Mission Bay) from Asheville, NC beginning September 25 for four nights. I would like to take food back to the condo two nights and then eat out two nights. We have many local restaurants in Asheville that are so wonderful but I would like to have a different food experience in San Diego.

Could you recommend a few romantic places, a couple of take out places (we know about Trader Joe's), and inexpensive lunch places. We plan to hit gaslamp one night and are planning a day at the zoo.


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    1. I have yet to find anyplace really good around the gaslamp district. Get in your car and drive the 5-6 minutes towards the water. The harbor has two or three really excellent restaurants. Surf or turf, you cannot go wrong.

      The zoo is a vast wasteland of forgettable lunch experiences. Eat a large breakfast, and plan on seeing the zoo in around three hours. Bring a picnic lunch (Gelsons or Whole Foods Market can help) and find a grassy spot around Balboa park, it is huge and you will find an almost unlimited supply of shady places to picnic. Research Balboa Park for one or two really interesting things to do during your day there. So much to do (especially museum wise), and never an abundance of people taking advantage of them.

      13 Replies
      1. re: the amazing kimba

        I do not think San Diego has been blessed by Gelson's yet. The closest ones that I'm aware of are in LA.

        There are a few good places in the Gaslamp District--Oceanaire, Cafe Chloe, Bandar, Sadaf, to name a few. Cafe 222 has good, cheap breakfasts and lunch although it's small and can get crowded.

        Mama Testa's in Hillcrest is good for a cheap lunch. Tacos from around Mexico with a terrific salsa bar. They also have fresh churros if you need dessert. Their mashed potato tacos and beef taquitos in spicy beef broth are really good.

        El Cuervo in Hillcrest has good Mexican street food--tacos, burritos, tortas, etc. Cheap, eat in or take out.

        Being from Asheville, I would take advantage of getting some good Asian food. Convoy Ave has the highest concentration and is about 10-15 minutes away. Search the board and you will turn up many options, including Korean BBQ, Japanese BBQ, sushi, spicy Sichuan, udon, etc. There's lots of Vietnamese options around as well.

        Romantic--what is your price range and how far are you willing to drive?

        1. re: daantaat

          For a great meal we can drive. We are staying five days in LA so I'd rather stay around San Diego and not head north. I'm not really worried about the price range (I think around $200 is tops we have paid before in NOLA or at Emerils) as we are staying in a condo and are going to cook some of our meals. We've had the $100 breakfast at Brennan's in NOLA. To me it's not about the money but the experience and we only really splurge like this on vacation, but I wouldn't want to spend more than $250.

          1. re: leanpig

            There's an amazing japanese restaurant on Convoy called Sakura. I would highly recommend it. There's plenty of threads on the board about it.

            It doesn't have a sign, and is in between two military recruitment depots. But it's worth the search.

            1. re: ekomega

              Sakura is in the same mall as Original Pancake House.

            2. re: leanpig

              LA is a good 2-3 hours north of here and there's all of Orange County in-between. The best/better (formal) restaraunts in SD are in La Jolla and Del Mar, roughly 15-30 min north of you, depending on traffic). You have to get out of the Gaslamp District which is touristy and caters to such if you want "better" food.

              La Jolla:
              Jack's La Jolla Formal Dining Room
              George's (downstairs formal dining room)--big plus is their ocean view
              AR Valentien

              Del Mar:

              Santaluz (about 10-15 min east of Del Mar):
              Cavaillon. They also have THE best $10 breakfast ever! Think of fine dining techniques applied to omelettes, beignets and French toast.

              1500 Ocean in Coronado (south of downtown) has gotten thumbs up, but I haven't been.

              There have been many threads and comments on all of these places. Do a search and they'll turn up.

              Izakaya Sakura, mentioned below, has terrific sushi and izakaya style (think Japanese tapas) food. They are very casual (shorts and t-shirts are ok). Keep in mind they are traditional and do not do the "California roll" thing.

              There is also a good Japanese BBQ, Tsuruhashi BBQ, in the same complex as Izakaya Sakura. Grill your own food at the table and wear clothes that you don't mind getting smelly.

              If Asheville is anything like Charleston, SC and lacking in the good Asian food department, you might want to hit up some places in LA and SD while you have the chance.

              1. re: daantaat

                2-3 hours?? Maybe from some particular destination to another, but I've driven to downtown LA in about 75 minutes pretty easily.

                1. re: amyzan

                  I was slightly exaggerating the 3 hrs. We can get into the Valley without traffic in roughly 2 hrs, provided traffic is light around LAX.

                  1. re: daantaat

                    that's a pretty big if. . .two to three hours is more likely.

                    1. re: jmtreg

                      we've gotten lucky by leaving SD around 8-9 pm, booking it up the 5 and 405 into the Valley. by they time we hit W. LA/Santa Monica, traffic is usually moving at a fairly decent pace. But a 2 hour trip can't be repeated in the middle of the day! :-)

          2. re: the amazing kimba

            When I visited the zoo a few years ago, we packed a lunch in a soft sided cooler bag and stowed it in the zoo's rentable lockers. There are tables not far from the lockers, and this plan enabled us to take in the whole zoo on foot at our leisure. I think we spent 8 hours there, and really enjoyed ourselves for the most part. (The cat habitats are depressing, though maybe they've improved? If not, they should really just move those poor stressed out cats to the Wild Animal Park.)

            There is a nice cheese shop, Venissimo, and a great German owned shop for cold cuts and sausages (dingy but good product) in Mission Hills. Venissimo usually has bread from Bread and Cie too, I think.

            Sausage King
            811 W Washington St, San Diego, CA 92103

            Venissimo Cheese
            754 W Washington St, San Diego, CA 92103

            1. re: amyzan

              The closest good Mongolian BBQ to us is four hours away. Would there happen to be a good Mongolian BBQ in San Diego?

              1. re: leanpig

                i agree with daantat regarding gaslamp restaurants: oceanaire for a great dinner, cafe chloe for a wonderful lunch. i would also add vagabond to the list for dinner, which is located in south park, not too far from downtown.

            2. re: the amazing kimba

              Gelsons? This isn't LA.

              This is somewhat OT, but last time I went to Gelson's I was struck by how lame it was compared to Whole Foods. It's really of another era, and the shelves are chock full of highly processed foods. Their produce was really kind of weak, as well. And no heirloom tomatoes!

            3. For the Gaslamp/Downtown, I would recommend Chive, Oceanaire Seafood Room, Red Pearl Kitchen, Dobson's or Cafe Chloe. I also like Parallel 33, in the Mission Hills area, and there are a few other good places in North County/La Jolla, like Market and Tapenade.

              For a meal closer to where you are staying, I'd recommend Costa Brava, a Spanish place on Garnet in Pacific Beach. I stopped by there to pick up some takeout a couple of weeks ago, and was really impressed with the atmosphere and the food - it's not terribly expensive either - they have a nice indoor/outdoor seating area and patio. There's also a Peruvian place on Garnet called Latin Chef that is getting some good press lately and is highly recommended by a trusted Peruvian friend of mine.

              Takeout places are kind of tough - Whole Foods in Hillcrest or La Jolla and the takeout shop at Waters Catering on Morena Blvd are probably the best options. You might also consider getting some carne asada burritos at a local taco shop - Nico's (on Morena), Taco Surf and JV Taco Shop are all relatively close by. Limonz in Pacific Beach is also a popular spot for takeout. Rocky's Crown Pub is also a popular spot for burgers in Pacific Beach, and Hodad's in Ocean Beach is a great spot for some local color and a good burger.

              Here are some links, I also have a list of more of my local favorites (unique to the are) on my blog at - if you scroll down it's on the sidebar on the right.

              Good luck and enjoy your trip!

              Waters Fine Catering & Foods
              1115 W Morena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110

              Taco Surf Taco Shop
              4657 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109

              JV's Mexican Food
              1112 Morena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110

              Latin Chef
              1142 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109

              Limonz mexican tacos
              978 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109

              Rocky's Crown Pub
              3786 Ingraham St, San Diego, CA 92109

              Cafe Chloe
              721 9th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

              Dobson's Bar & Restaurant
              956 Broadway Circle, San Diego, CA 92101

              Market Restaurant & Bar
              3702 Via de la Valle, Del Mar, CA 92014

              1. Everyone here as given you great restaurant advice..
                JV's on Morena across from Mission Bay has good Mex take-out
                Rocky's in PB for a great cheeseburger
                El Pescador in La Jolla for some of the best fish sandwiches ever
                I would go to George's at the Cove in LJ and sit on the terrace
                Gaslamp, Taka for sushi is good and people love Stingaree..I have not been
                JRDN for a great meal on the water at Tower 23 in PB
                Baleen at Paradise Point is good but pricey
                Brigantine for seafood happy fish tacos for around $2 in Shelter Island/Pt Loma
                Maybe the Prado outside of the SD Zoo in Balboa Park for lunch.
                Hotel Del in Coronado has 1500 Ocean.
                Drinks at the Marine Room in LJ
                Have fun!


                1 Reply
                1. re: Beach Chick

                  Thanks for all the advice. I'll post a foodie report upon our return.

                2. If you love seafood you gotta try Point Loma seafood!!! I use to do once a week visits!