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Best of San Diego 2007

End of last year we had a discussion where everybody mentioned the highlights of eating in SD in 2006. I thought that was a nice idea and we could do it again this year. So what are your highlights of 2007 in San Diego ?

For my wife and me we had many good restaurant visits this year in SD but nothing that was outstanding. So our choice as best of San Diego 2007 is that we have Cafe Chloe, The Linkery and Urban Solace on our rotation (at least one visit a month each, often two or three times a month) and they all didn't disappoint us over the whole year.

Outside of SD we had several outstanding tasting menues at Spago (LA), Blend (Palm Springs) and Rosemary (LV).

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  1. Our best high-quality breakfast find for 2007 is Cavaillon. Best deal for $10-12/person. Even better, there's no wait and it's blissfully quiet out there on Sunday mornings.

    2nd best breakfast find was not in SD, it was at Payard at Caesar's in Vegas. Think of having dessert options for breakfast and that describes my pain perdu w/ berries and chocolate waffle w/ Nutella and sauteed bananas. If Payard and Cavaillon were next door to each other, I would gain 5 lbs/wk. :-)

    Best Indian find is Surati Farsan. Lots of things on the menu that we have not seen at other Indian places and good quality and value to boot.

    Buga Korean BBQ is still on our regular rotation. As a matter of fact, I am stuffed from their kalbi, bulgogi and panchan from earlier tonight. And kicking myself b/c I forgot to bring home our take-out container of an entire order of jap chae.....

    Little Sheep Mongolian BBQ for the newest find along the Convoy environs.

    We've always enjoyed Nine-Ten and got to have lunch there (finally). They have a 3 course lunch for something like $27. A real steal, all year round and you don't have to wait for SDRW.

    Izakaya Sakura has spoiled me for most other places for sushi.

    Market has not disappointed us once, all the times we've been this year (at least 6-7).

    Best local bakery find, thanks to the board, is Elizabethan Desserts. Every time I go in there, I end up with 1-2 boxes full of cupcakes, buckles, pies, cookies and everything else that looks good. I have trouble keeping to the "list" of things I went to get b/c all her stuff is SOOO good!

    Best frozen yogurt (disclaimer: I have not tried all the Pinkberry wannabees in SD yet) is Yogurt World, noise and crowds notwithstanding. So far, I like their variety and flavors better than Pinkberry and Frutti Yogurt (in UTC) and keep going back when the craving hits.

    I'll post more if I think of more places. I'm still comatose from Korean BBQ and dark chocolate pudding pie.

    1. in no partiuclar order: Addison, Market, Cavaillon, Tapenade, Guild, Cafe Chloe.

      1. Lunch on the terrace at A R Valentien with Rosemary Harris, in town performing at the Globe. Fish sandwiches at El Pescador served by the yummiest guys in San Diego. Baguettes hot from the oven at Bread & Cie (Thank you, Charles!) Bless the coffee at Cafe Calabria! The Hillcrest Farmer's Market, the Mexican Market on Imperial, the lobster burrito at Bahia Bird Rock. RIP Chilango's and Delirio's.

        1. As a San Diego newbie, I find that my contributions are a bit limited. However, as a San Francisco and LA foodie transplant, I've made it a bit of a mission to get out and try new things. Here are some of my favorites from the past 6 months. Ichiro's on Convoy for sushi ---particularly on Tuesdays and Fridays. There is a sushi chef, who's name escapes me, who has a following of customers. He's been a sushi chef for the past 20 years and worked at a lot of the usual hot spots in SD. Thai House across the streed from the SD Union Tribune offices in Mission Valley, Tajima's on Convoy for pub style Japanese, Gringos in PB when the students are out of town, K sandwiches and Pho Pasteur on Linda Vista, and the Mission Cafe in North Park for breakfast, and C Level (outside part of Island Prime) near sea world. Dumpling Inn on Convoy.

          Runner up: Rendezvous in Del Mar (owned by the same family that own Dumpling Inn on Convoy). 1/2 price bottles of wine on Sundays. Service is a bit spotty though.

          3 Replies
          1. re: bclum1974

            Wow, I never would have thought someone would recognize Ichiro on Convoy -- I thought I was the only one who liked this place. The sushi at Ichiro is top-notch -- almost up to par with Sushi Ota. The chef whom you are referring to is Yasu -- He'll do a wonderful Omakase (chef's choice sushi menu) for you and he's got a unique charm and personality that'll bring a smile to your face (definitely not the prototypical stern and serious sushi chef). Oh yeah, Yasu introduced me to the joys of Uni (sea urchin) so definitely try it there.

            1. re: Esqo

              Most of the top Sushi places in SoCal all get their sea food from San Diego's Catalina Offshore Products. San Diego has a wealth of fresh local sea food and our local sea urchin is even supplied to the dinner table of the Emperor of Japan.


              1. re: Esqo

                Yasu definitely makes the experience worth the trip. He's now doing Sushi Wednesday -Saturday.

            2. Best Meal: The Dining Room Jack's La Jolla - The flavors here were just perfect and spot on. I'm a huge fan of acid and a hint of sweet, and this is exactly how Tony DiSalvo (because of his mentor Jean Georges Vongerichten) cooks. I would be hard pressed, I think, to find a better meal here.

              Best Under-$50/person Meal: The Better Half technically I ate here in 2008, but I would be remiss not to note this place. The food was exceptional, the inclusion of amuses and intermezzos in the meal is a great touch, and the service is outstanding, warm and friendly. My only complaint is that it's all very heavy and the portions are a bit large (but I don't know many people who would complain about that).

              3 Replies
              1. re: bagwhat

                I should also add that my biggest disappointment of 2007 was Market, where I had an outstanding appetizer (the tempura prawns with cabbage, spicy peanut sauce, and grapefruit slices), but a very boring main course (a lamb duo with ribs and sausage) in which the best component was a pretty good apple-cheddar gratin. The dessert I had was also not so great, with the best component being the tiny dollop of "pretzel" icecream (great sweet-salty flavor) that was flanked by standard chocolate cakes/tarts

                1. re: bagwhat

                  If that was your biggest disappointment, you must have had a great year! :-) I do think this place is somewhat overhyped at times. It's very good, but not particularly innovative and certainly not transcendent. It kind of sounds like the food you received was what it was supposed to be though, unless there's something you're not telling us?

                  1. re: Alice Q

                    It actually was a great year for eating here, considering how little time I spent in San Diego (I go to school in Philadelphia). Yeah the food was exactly what it was supposed to be, which I guess would be great if it was my style. I guess the real disappointment was finding that Market wasn't my favorite kind of food. But those tempura prawns...I could eat those forever.

              2. Just didn't get enough time in San Diego last year, but Latin Chef is a real pleasure, and Mien Trung has some incredible Vietnamese soups (bun rieu & bun bo hue).
                Otherwise mostly ate at places where I have eaten previously.


                1 Reply
                1. re: Ed Dibble

                  Mien Trung is easily top of the list for cheap/quick eats. Absolute thanks to Kirk for introducing me to this puppy.

                2. Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot and the Stone Smoked Porter Milkshake at Ritual Tavern were my SD food highlights of 2007. Both amazing.

                  1. Tacos El Gordo - A hole in the wall taco joint, turned almost franchised, there are several tacos el gordos in the area, the first one in TJ. The tacos el gordo on H street in chula vista is the best out of the several they have. The only reason I go there are for the adobada (marinated pork) tacos and orange bang. Very delicious.

                    Jack's La Jolla - The second floor is great.

                    Flavor Thai on convoy - I've tried several thai spots in SD, this one has the best beef panang and beef salad in SD I've tried so far, the only discouraging thing is the pad thai here is not that great.

                    Buga on clairemont mesa - The best Korean BBQ in SD hands down, but a bit pricey.

                    Sushi Ota - Sushi is marginally better than Sushi Deli in downtown, although sushi deli is much much cheaper, Sushi Ota has the best albacore tuna hands down. It melts in your mouth.

                    Pho Hoa cali - In Mira mesa, I like this place better than the adjacent pho restaurant, Pho ca dao. This is the place where vietnamese go eat their pho. Just don't expect the best service.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: drowz

                      Is sushi deli downtown like the one in hillcrest/mission hills? because the mission hills one is cheap! but not exactly top notch... If I want sushi for $10, I'lll go there, but its almost all rice and dry fish.

                    2. Latin Chef in PB and Urban Solace were two memorable places. I did like Bite's innovation, but the execution didn't "wow" me, so it comes in 3rd.

                      I still have a long list to go through... 2008 will be a delicious year, kicked off by my first dinner at Market.

                      1. Places that were new (at least to me):

                        Cavaillon - two of the best meals I've ever had in San Diego
                        The Better Half - potentially outstanding
                        El Comal - a decent sit-down regional Mexican place, I hope their location doesn't kill them...
                        Little Sheep Hot Pot
                        Private Reserve Wine Bar (by Rosie O'Grady's bar on Adams) - some of the best gringo-mex food in town and good for "standard bar food" (e.g. burgers).

                        Biggest Disappointments (new places):

                        Crab Hut - awful, inedible, dreadful, words fail me. I wouldn't even bother to return to sack the smoking ruins.
                        Blue Boheme - not bad, but should be 2x times better for the price, and 3-4x times better given the people involved.
                        Burger Lounge (Kensington) - OK, but nothing special. Private Reserve/Rosie O'Grady's (in the same neighborhood) burgers are better (though I almost always order Mexican food there).

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: mikec

                          "Crab Hut - awful, inedible, dreadful, words fail me. I wouldn't even bother to return to sack the smoking ruins." - Just curious, can you give some details ?

                          1. re: honkman

                            Sure. We ordered shrimp and crayfish. The shrimp tasted like crap (literally) and was horribly mushy. My wife and son took one shrimp and just spit them out, I ate maybe three or four (I kept thinking that maybe it was just a bad shrimp or two). I spent the next two or three days with the runs.

                        2. My two cents.

                          The Best: Market Del Mar -- Cal Cuisine at its best, fairly priced and good service. IMHO it's San Diego's best. The Lounge at Blanca -- great food and a fun vibe, however, the dining room is just too pricey for what it offers. Kaito -- terrific sushi and a great Chowhoud recommendation.

                          Biggest Disappointments: Jack's Grille -- mediocre food, mediocre room and expensive. Apparently, The Dining Room at Jack's is the place to go. Any high end chain steak house -- The Palm, Fleming's etc. I just don't get the appeal of gigantic portions of unseasoned meat with creamed spinach. Rubio's -- once upon a time their fish tacos were a San Diego institution. However, they've become terribly inconsistent and just aren't what they used to be. Maybe it's just me, but I swear they've changed their batter and it's terrible.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: wanker

                            I think Rubios has changed all around - I used to love their food, but on my last few visits it's been nearly inedible. It was sold a few years ago, and has gone downhill slowly since.

                            1. re: Alice Q

                              The only items I ever liked from Rubios were the pesky taco and 'old' quesedilla- made with guacamole in it.

                              The new quesedilla is expensive and not as good.

                              If you go on $1 fish taco Tuesday, when they are making them constantly, and eat inside, then you can get good and fresh fish tacos. I get the 40ยข small 'side' of guacamole to make it pesky-ish.

                              1. re: Cathy

                                Guac on a fish Tac.. doesn't it mask the flavor? or do you want it to?

                                1. re: cstr

                                  It's a Pesky Taco...what Rubios was known for...

                                  It was the first fish taco I ever had. I liked. Nothing else tastes like it.

                            2. re: wanker

                              Steak places are what they are. If you're not into dry-aged prime beef, then you're not going to be happy. I've never had a bad or disappointing meal at Flemming's. And I usually split a rib-eye with my wife or son. My only complaint about Flemming's is that they no longer make Potatoes Lyonnaise. They were killer. (Just ask my cardiologist...).

                              1. re: mikec

                                I have some bad news for you. Flemings does not serve dry aged beef. THey serve wet aged beef as do almost all of the premium steak chains. Dry aged beef is a very different animal so to speak.

                                I personally love to taste a good steak that isn't hidden with a sauce. I love sauce but a steak cooked in the blast furnaces of the big steak houses has a fantastic carmelized crunch to the exterior that is hard to beat.

                                1. re: SeanT

                                  Good catch, Sean. I hadn't realized that nearly all the major steak chains had gone to wet-aged over the last few years and carefully avoid mentioning that...

                            3. Best Sushi.. Kaito
                              People always say Ota, but frankly no one has ever said anything other than the albacore is excellent there. Kaito has never even served albacore to me. Tonight we had namako for the first time and we won't forget it! I do like my sea pineapple hoya better for flavor, however namako has a great texture. Crunchy between an awabi and a miruguai. Just sit at the bar and tell Morita-san or Joe-san you want omakase, you won't be disappointed.
                              Kaito pics:

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Pablo

                                Pablo - I'm still voting for Nobu ;-)

                              2. Can I add yet another vote for Cavaillon? I don't get out as much as I'd like to, but that was one of the most memorable meals I had last year - I sat at the bar with a friend and grazed through all the appetizers (my preferred mode of dining); each one was stunning and the wine and service as well. Congratulations to the chef and staff on all the praise they've garnered here.
                                My favorite casual/neighborhood place was Ritual Tavern - simple but perfectly executed food (with local ingredients!), great friendly service and amazing beer list.
                                My favorite wine spot was Wine Steals Point Loma - cool space with nice wines and good tasting events, great cheese boards.
                                Favorite food to go was Trader Joe's prepared meals - it's so nice that they package, for example, pork chops with rosemary and bacon, ready to throw in the oven. And in small portions. I mean, it's not a crime to be single, is it?

                                1. Chinese - I love ChinaMax at Convoy. Taste of Dim Sum is real like Hong Kong Chef, and quality of food is way good.
                                  Japanese - I perfer ChopStix, good taste, good price (not only sushi, but other Japanese noodle bowl are really good though, udon with BBQ pork and ramen noodle, its really soft and tender)
                                  American - Jack's LaJolla and Prime Island, it's killer view, but food is also good.
                                  Thai - I like Antique Thai in Point Loma, Taste is much more like Thai, good taste and quality of food is good, pad thai with shrimp (pad thai noodle is soft and tender), green curry with chicken (green curry is kind of fresh feeling here), crab fried rice-more like Thai taste. and my thai friends ordered Crispy flake fish with sweet and sour salad on top for sharing, she said it's yummy and famous dish in thai.

                                  1. Out of state opinion -

                                    Market in Del Mar


                                    1. Best duck and foie gras for me was Vincents. Best steak was Nine Ten. Best coffee was 150 Grand. Best Italian was Ciao. Best Thai was House of Thanon. Best desert was California Bistro at Aviara. Best Mexican was El Ranchero. Best seafood was Aviara's Friday seafood buffet. Best wine list for value and selection was Thee Bungalow, a 94 Staglin for $68? . Best meal overall, which includes service, ambiance, food, and just overall dining experience was Mille Fleur. So there it is, my best list. Some Chateau Lafit for me or a rusty can of worms for someone else.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Paul Weller

                                        Is the italian restaurant Ciao located in la mesa?

                                        1. re: lovesfood11

                                          No. It's in Vista on the North end of town on Vista Way. Great homestyle Italian food, and the owner just remolded so it's pretty nice inside.

                                          1. re: Paul Weller

                                            please tell me more about ciao. It is so rare to find a "best" in North County. thanks

                                            1. re: SeanT

                                              The place is run by a guy named Guiseppi. He makes his own gnochi noodles and sauces. Prices for most pasta dishes are around 10 to 12 bucks, with seafood dishes being slightly more. The salads can easily be shared by 2 or 3 people, and the bread is baked onsite. He also does catering. http://ciao2.com/ristorante.htm

                                              1. re: Paul Weller

                                                It's also rare to find a good italian restaurant in San Diego that does everything right including bread, salad and the pasta dish.