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San Diego hounds-- What do you do better than LA? (cheap!)

Hi SD Hounds!

Bottom line: What cheap eats does San Diego do BETTER than Los Angeles?

As a whole, it seems that SD doesn't have as many excellent (but cheap) places as LA has (generally I'm talking about super cheap ethnic hole-in-the-wall eateries like in LA's Thai Town, Little Saigon, East LA, San Gabriel Valley) that fill this city. Plate of Thai Pud See Ew = $5-6.00. Taco truck tacos = $1.00. Huge bowl of hand pulled noodles in spicy stewed beef soup = $5.00 (enough for 2). Satay sticks at Wat Thai temple = $1.00 or papaya salad for $3.00. In LA, the price you pay is not necessarily proportional to the sheer deliciousness of the meal.

To give you an indication of our cheap SD eats experience:

We went to Super Cocina once and was excellent (would definitely go back). Also we had a burger at Rocky's a while back, which was very good but not particularly special. (We had a great meal at the Linkery thinking sausages would be cheap, but that is WAY out of the price range for this post). We've had a huge, cheap breakfast burrio at a beachside surfer joint in OB (can't remember the name-- they have two patios, one disconnected from the restaurant where the servers run your order to you across the boardwalk). We've been to El Zarape for fish/scallop/shrimp tacos but compared to mexico (and to Tacos Baja Ensenada in LA) they did not measure up. Also, a few years back we hit up a decent, authentic dumpling place but as we visit the restaurants in San Gabriel quite frequently, it was just okay.

With such close proximity to Mexico, certainly there must be a dozen outstanding fish taco places in San Diego... where are they? (the east LA fish taco joint which many LA hounds rave about, Tacos Baja Ensenada, is nothing compared to the insane deliciousness of the roadside tacos we had at a little cart in Ensenada Mexico... somehow they stayed crispy even after being doused in crema.

We don't care about decor, service, etc. All we care about is cheap, delicious food. Please, no chains! (If you're even thinking about recommending Rubio's for cheap fish tacos, please reserve your comments!)

THANKS HOUNDS

Mr Taster
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  1. We do burritos better than L.A. We may all whine and bitch about this place or that place, but the San Diego-style burrito is a unique thing. So much so, as a matter of fact, that the first thing San Diego ex-pats do when they come back to town is go to their old favorite taco place.

    So, while you're here, stop by the local taco shop (Valentino's on 9th and Market is a good start) and grab a burrito. In particular, get the California burrito, which is a San Diego creation.

    10 Replies
    1. re: jmtreg

      which burrito place would you say does a unique burrito. Cause all the burritos i have at taco shops are the same in LA and SD.

      1. re: clayfu

        Really? It may be a prevalence thing, I suppose. Every ex-San Diegan I know who now lives in LA has to make a "Bertos" run every time they come down here. The California Burrito (carne asada, salsa fresca, cheese, fries and sometimes guacamole) is definitely a local creation of the "chain" Santana's. The rest are pretty standard - though San Diego does does do burritos with grilled tortillas, no beans (except for a bean burrito, of course), and limited toppings.

        On a different note: Tacos El Gordo in Chula Vista is the favorite chain in TJ that has an outlet in Chula Vista. Keep in mind that TJ is an entity unto itself, with a population similar to, if not larger than San Diego.

        1. re: jmtreg

          Its true, I have never encountered a real California burrito in LA. It seems north of here, 'California' just means that there is avocado in it.

          and Santana's is pure awesome.

          1. re: jmtreg

            The california burrito was started in san diego, but its not exclusive to san diego. I've had a California Burrito in Whittier/Fullerton before i moved down to San Diego 6 years ago.

            1. re: clayfu

              True, but by your standards, the Philly Cheesesteak isn't unique to Philly either.

              1. re: jmtreg

                You said it is unique to san diego, and i said its not. Its not the San Diego Burrito, its the California Burrito. I have no idea why you have the Philly cheesesteak originality.

                Burritos are so very similar that one location could make one just as well as the other (Last time i checked Los Angeles had one of the largest Mexican populations in America) if given the experience. This is nowhere near the same as a Philly cheesesteak/Chicago deep dish/NY pizza comparison.

                http://clayfood.blogspot.com

                1. re: clayfu

                  Born & raised in San Diego lived in LA for 8 years for Undergrad and grad and the burritos in LA are just different and not as great as San Diego burritos. Not sure why they are so far appart on the taste scale but that is just the way it is.

                  1. re: clayfu

                    Look, a steak sandwich is fairly common everywhere, but Philly created the "Cheesesteak" which was then recreated elsewhere. Similarly, there are burritos everywhere, but San Diego created the "California Burrito," which is a variation of the Carne Asada Burrito, which is extremely popular in San Diego. Whether that burrito has been recreated elsewhere, its true home is San Diego, just as the Cheesesteak's true home is Philadelphia.

                    Look, LA may be much larger than San Diego, but that doesn't mean that you do everything better than us. The fact is that LA had the same ingredients as San Diego, and didn't come up with this burrito. There may even be places in LA that sell such a burrito, but it was invented here, and it is prevalent here.

                    1. re: jmtreg

                      A california burrito and a carne asada burrito , a philly cheese steak and a steak sandwich are completely different analogies.

                      A carne asada burrito, and a california burrito are split by ONE THING. Potatoes. (maybe sour cream and cheese). Its not hard to put in some potatoes.

                      A philly cheesesteak? You start getting into the specific rolls from Philly, certain types of beef, certain types of cheese/cheese whip, vegetables if they even use any and so on so forth.

                      This conversation has nothing to do with where something's true home is. Its if someone is better in SD than in LA. And i'm saying they are both comparable. One person's potatoes are no better than another's. You can follow the recipe for a california burrito to a T anywhere in the country and you'll probably come out with the same exact thing. Hell, i doubt anyone would be in unison on where they think the best California burrito is in san diego.

                      Btw, i've lived in san diego the last 7 years of my life, i love it.. but its just not the same as LA food wise.

                      http://clayfood.blogspot.com

                      1. re: clayfu

                        LA definitely has a far more interesting food scene than San Diego. The number of choices for certain kinds of food there seriously dwarfs San Diego. When I moved from LA to SD 20+ years ago, everyone in my family noticed that there seemed to be a kind of SD inferiority complex, with locals insisting on the greatness of some really very average (and in some cases incredibly sub-par) places. The biggest shock was probably how terrible the deli food was here in comparison.

                        I will disagree with you though on how easy it would be to make carne asada burritos anywhere in the country - without access to good, fresh tortillas, and the ingredients for a decent salsa fresca, it's gonna be one lousy burrito.

        2. How 'bout Pho? Most LA-LA land friends of mine don't know what Pho is, or if they do, they've never had it as good as you can get it here in San Diego. From the Convoy area up to Mira Mesa, there are Pho restaurants everywhere, and MAN ... $4.00 will get you dinner and lunch the next day. Ooooooooo-eeee!

          4 Replies
          1. re: ohm86

            Westminster is close enough to LA, and the Pho there is vastly superior than San Diego.

            1. re: clayfu

              amen to Little Saigon in OC. Sorry San Diego is not close on pho

            2. re: clayfu

              Hey, good to know. Maybe those LA friends of mine should venture to the outskirts of their city now and again. =)
              I have been taken to (but never ventured in solo) a Pho place on Linda Vista and Comstock, hidden back between the Vien Dong III and Le's. I can't for the life of me remember the name, and I don't even remember if there's an English menu ... a coworker takes me there occasionally and he (and the owners, the clientele, etc) speak Vietnamese exclusively. The first time I was there, I hesitated for about two seconds before trying to order, and the woman behind the counter got pretty annoyed, which makes me think they don't get too many food tourists in there. Now my coworker just orders for me =) But yup, $4 Pho. And I think it's pretty awesome. When I'm going on my own, I usually go to Pho Cali, which is cleaner, brighter, and the menus are in English, but it is pricier.

              1. re: ohm86

                really. i go there every week. I have yet to get out of there for under 7$ after tax and tip.

                http://clayfood.blogspot.com

            3. I would definitely say Mexican food in general is best in San Diego - I am a big carne asada fries fan, as well as rolled tacos (it's an SD thing, not an LA thing, truly). My first stop in SD is always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS Adalberto's near the airport on Rosecranz. The advantage that LA has is that they have more people and more diverse of a population than SD does. SD also has really good Filipino food and I've also had some really top notch Thai food in SD as well.

              3 Replies
              1. re: BernaDiva

                top notch Thai food in SD ? - Where ?

                1. re: honkman

                  The one in particular I am thinking of is:

                  Lanna Thai
                  4501 Mission Bay Dr
                  San Diego, CA 92109
                  858-274-8424

                  There are a few more that I've been to, but alas, I do not remember names. My family takes me to random restaurants when I visit, and when I don't remember names or get a business card, I forget to write about it.

                  1. re: BernaDiva

                    Can Lanna Thai top Saladang Song in Pasadena or Top Thai in Reseda??

              2. San Diego does microbreweries and good beer spots better.

                8 Replies
                1. re: Diana

                  this is absolutely true. LA is certainly lacking in great beer spots which SD has absolutely no shortage of.

                  http://clayfood.blogspot.com

                  1. re: Diana

                    Totally agree. In fact, I'd say San Diego (including North County) does microbreweries better than anywhere else in the entire country. And I've twice lived in the traditionally mentioned beer mecca, Portland, Oregon. When it comes to quality, variety, and ingenuity, San Diego has everywhere beat, hands down. Pizza Port, Solana Beach alone trumps most regions entire beer scene.

                    1. re: spaceout

                      I don't know if I agree that San Diego beats out Portland, but it's definitely competitive. L.A. is woefully lacking in microbreweries (and more importantly to me, the brewpubs).

                      Pizza Port, Solana Beach ... indulge then walk on that lovely beach.

                      1. re: dustchick

                        Don't get me wrong, Portland has some great brewpubs and it's one of my overall favorite cities on the west coast (is there anything more awesome than hanging out a Laurelwood in the summer?!). However, I believe the city's brewing scene tends to rest on its laurels a bit, whereas, San Diego continues to innovate and offer an unparalleled variety of styles. There was a time where Portland had everyone beat, but, IMO, those days are over (of course, this could always change). One prime example are the oak-aged ales that first emerged from the San Diego area a couple of years ago. Now many top breweries are following suit, and trying to catch up with San Diego in regards to this trend. I sampled my first oak-aged beer in San Diego, almost a full year prior to seeing a single brewery in Portland attempt the style...and frankly the effort was lackluster. I've still yet to taste a decent oak-aged ale to come out of Portland.

                        Bottom line, they are both excellent beer cities, that put just about every other city in the country (and, frankly, most of the world) to shame.

                        You're right about Pizza Port and its proximity to the beach; a slice of heaven for sure!

                        1. re: spaceout

                          Interesting commentary on the oak-aged ales. I believe we're in total agreement that Mr. Taster should go to brewpubs in San Diego, because we've totally got L.A. beat for that. ;)

                          1. re: dustchick

                            OK... brewpubs and CA burritos. Got it!

                            What else?

                            I'm back home in LA now, but I need fuel for next time........

                            Mr Taster
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                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              There are some posts about the brewpubs in SD. Just follow the recommendations and you will have enough fuel for the next few trips.

                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                My LA friends who spent time here down dream of the fine machaca burritos (shredded beef, green pepper and egg) you can get in SD. Not sure if it's an SD-specific food, but seems to thrive here. A simple, kickass version at El Porvenir in Barrio Logan. Check it out.

                    2. A new thread has been started for brewpubs with good food, here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/43870...