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Restaurant Row In San Marcos

So, if you will recall, we are somewhat new to the area, not yet a year old. Anyways, does anyone have anything to say about the plethora of restaurants located in restaurant row in San Marcos?

I have read that Fish House Vera Cruz is very good and actually we will be dining there tonight but at the Carlsbad location.

So, when I have found myself in San Marcos, I have been kind of lost when it comes to eating (a horrible condition to be in lol). I usually just head back to my neck of the coast where I know what is what, since I have not yet resorted to carrying my laptop with me wherever I go so I can log on to Chowhound to figure out where to eat when I am in a strange land. This is becoming quite problematic at times for me. Imagine, if you will, me and my sweetie standing in front of a restaurant in a neighborhood that is new to us, and me saying, "I just don't know. I do not remember what the people on Chowhound have to say about it. or if they have said something about it. maybe someone said something about it? Do you think there is an internet cafe near-by where we can check?".

I have driven by "Restaurant Row" or "Old California Restaurant Row" (as I have found to be its official name after my travels on the internets) and thought, "Hmmmmm, wonder if there is one good restaurant in that bunch?" But I have not been brave enough yest to stop and see. Because, well, a clump of restaurants all together, does not usually make for a yummy meal, I have found.

I'm rambling, I see.

Any thoughts?

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  1. Most are mediocre. If you're looking for a concentration of restaurants look in the Del Mar area. Market, Arterra, Pamplemousse, Tractons, Pacifica Del Mar, etc.

    1. i had a very salty experience at friar's folly. I do enjoy FS vera cruz, but the C'bad location is super close to me. I think a majority of the restaurants are one step above TGIF.

      I agree with PGB with the restaurant recc's. I had a very nice meal at Arterra this weekend with panna cotta with fresh citrus to die for.

      Also it is good to see you on tripadvisor.

      1. San Marcos Brewing Co. is in there, and they make some very good beer. India Princess has decent indian food, provided you stay away from the buffet.

        1. Bruno's has been there for many years and is consistant. Decent pizza and homemade pasta and sausage.

          1 Reply
          1. re: kitchenhag

            Here's a permalink to a post I made on Bruno's from another thread...


            ...and another one on Fish House Vera Cruz...


          2. Hate to say it but the only place we go there is FHVC. Everything else has always been kinda ehh.

            1. Thanks for your responses, everyone.

              Pretty much what I had already intuited.

              Fish House Vera Cruz was great, btw. Again, we ate at the Carlsbad location, but I am assuming you get the same quality in San Marcos.

              1. OK..this is my neighborhood and we have been to most of the restaurants....we live a couple of miles away.
                Fish House is good and it is the only place i buy fish to make for dinner. The selection is always super fresh and they have a high turnover so nothing sits around. We go to the Market St. Cafe Bakery for breakfast all the time and it is good...nice pastries!! Delicious eggs benedict, french toast and omelettes. Surprisingly their croissants are pretty darn close to what we had in France last spring and the Onion soup is really great. They have sausage from T&H prime meats (also in San Marcos) and they serve it in a delicious sandwich at lunch.Lunch is good and so is dinner. Again...the pastry case is quite decadent!! My love is the cross brioche...brioche dough and custard together....it is soooo delicious!!
                King and I Thai place is decent. Friar's Folly has a nice atmosphere but the food was really disappointing the last 2 times so we have not gone since. It used to be a great place to go and have a glass of wine and sit outside by the fire..I do not know what happened..I even wrote an email to the owner.
                Marietta's Mexican is tasty...good carnitas and carne asada. I even like Katsu for sushi.
                The Mining company has an amazing Prime Baseball steak..nice, thick and juicy top sirloin and the smoked chicken is yummy too. We also like the smoked Tri-Tip. The atmosphere is similar to a chain but the food is great.
                Bruno's has huge giant portions but the pizza is good...we do not eat their often.
                OK...these are all casual restaurants...we're not talking Del Mar and the prices correspond to it. The brewery has good beer and typical pub food.

                If I had to drive to any of the places I would pick Market St. and the Mining company for the baseball steak. I like Pho San Marcos for the best bowl of $5 soup..it is on the corner of Rancho Santa Fe and San Marcos Blvd. Also for a cheese steak try http://www.phillyfranks.com/

                I think the jewel of San Marcos is T&H Prime Meats for their amazing sausage selection and always fabulous prime steaks... I think the selection is better than Tip Top so T&H is a biweekly trip for me to stock up.... I always get Hot Italian, Moroccan Lamb, Maple cured bacon, ground beef and pork and whatever else looks and smells good. They are always cooking up sausage for the customers to try.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Ela0427

                  A second (or third) for Philly Franks. I went to college just outside Philadelphia and have spent lots of time since in Philly and they come the closest to the cheesesteak as I know it.

                2. It has been several years since I've been up there, but I've had many good meals at Katsu. I recommend the Mickey roll and if you sit at the bar you might even get Mickey (Mitzuru) to make it for you. The chef's special B (panko breaded calamari) is quite good, as is the sake marinated sesame chicken. They also have teppanyaki, Bennihana style.

                  I've also enjoyed India Princess there, but when I tried the location they opened in Hillcrest I was sorely disappointed.

                  When I lived up there I would only have fish at the Fish House Veracruz. I prefered getting it and preparing it myself though, as I found their sides to be quite lackluster. However their Cocktail Vercruz & Rockafeller Bread (fresh loaf of sourdough covered in a spinach and cheese mixture and baked until golden and bubbly) are both excellent.

                  The Mining Company used to have a really good Bourbon Apple Chicken. I never liked much else from there, though. Same with the SM Brewery, only it was their Tortilla Soup. I always had some of that to go whenever I felt under the weather.

                  Pho San Marcos is pretty good. Papa Bambinos, which is in the same center, has really good Cappellini Pomodoro.

                  Philly Frank's has yummy sandwiches.

                  Grandpa Allens (on SM Blvd, a little East of OCRR) is a greasy spoon where you are remembered after coming back a second time. I always stuck to breakfast or pie, which is made fresh daily. The sausage is also house made.

                  Nattiya's Thai (across from the Best Buy center on San Marcos Blvd) is hit and miss, but the one consistent thing there was always the Basil Salmon. I actually miss that.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: soulshine

                    Grandpa Allen is now called Grandma Kat's or something like that...same owners. Had a huge craving for pie last week and we got slices of awesome pecan and boysenberry. It is a greasy place perfect for breakfast...never had lunch or dinner there.
                    I forgot about Papa Bambinos....we usually get our pizza there... I ask for it extra crispy so the thin slices are nice and crisp when we get it home.

                    1. re: soulshine

                      Was it not at Katsu that one drunk beat the snot out of another drunk last saturday? Hmmm, I think I will take a pass on that place for a while.

                      1. re: littlestevie

                        I wouldn't know about that, like I said it's been a few years since I dined there. But I can't say that I would judge a restaurant by the behavior of a couple of miscreants though. By logical extension, anywhere that serves alcohol to it's patrons runs the risk of that sort of incident occurring in their establishment.

                        1. re: soulshine

                          Lots of places serve alcohol, but most places control their patrons. When I read in the UT about someone getting thrown in jail after a fight in front of a restaurant, I feel that there may be issues with the management of that restaurant, and if I read about it in the paper, I have to wonder if similar things happen their that do not get reported. Therefore, I would choose to go somewhere else. There is a sushi place in Del Mar on Durante that is notorious for that kind of behavior, Yes I have never been there and I do not plan on going there. There is no reason for me to go there, there are plenty of fun places that have great sushi, for me to be even bothered with them.

                          1. re: littlestevie

                            I must say that Katsu is a really calm place usually and the ladies there are super friendly and nice. Ummmm their Dragonroll sounds really good right now.
                            I judge a place by their food first... that is most important to me. Their food is good and the sushi is fresh.

                      2. re: soulshine

                        After spending a day at Kaiser in San Marcos, I drove over to Philly Franks. Thanks for the sugggestion gang-- a great sandwich.

                      3. i live in escondido, but go to san marcos occasionally. Sammy's woodfired pizza is good. if you go to del mar, Crepe and Cork is an excellent, romantic french bistro. It's tiny--less than 10 tables. his specialty is, predictably, crepes. Escondido has some nice places on Grand Ave. The main thing i've noticed (here and other places) is if it looks "touristy" or overly advertised, the food's probably disappointing.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: beth1

                          You have a location for Crepe and Cork? I don't see it in the yellow pages.

                          1. re: mikec

                            crepes and corks is brand new (they just got their beer and wine license right before Valentine's Day). it is (858) 847-3382
                            1328 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014
                            their website is crepesandcorks.com

                        2. It cannot be said enough times that FHVC has the best and freshest fish in the county and the prices are very reasonable although they have been creeping up uncomfortably over the past few years. The preparation is basic and simple which highlights the quality and freshness of the fish instead of trying to cover up with some fancy sauce. I find the SM location is larger and faster to get a table than Carlsbad. Its true the side dishes are lacking. We usually order the Manhattan clam chowder as a starter.

                          1. I just remember going there in 2004 after the San Diego Fair, and all the restaurants, except the "chop shop" had a long wait time, something more than 45 minutes, and we were starving. It was a Monday night, not even a weekend night. We drove around and found this great little tacqueria (I think it was the main street on the way to Restaurant Row) in the middle of a parking lot of a strip mall. The food was cheap and very good. If anyone knows the name of it, I would really appreciate it. It's part of my journaling my scrapbook, and it's the only restaurant that we didn't have the name of. Thanks.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: boltnut55

                              Was the taco shop behind an Arby's or was it in the parking lot of Albertson's (there is a Starbucks and a Quizno's in that strip mall).There are a few taco shops on San Marcos Blvd.. anything that you could remember will help me get you the name.

                              1. re: boltnut55

                                Sorry! I didn't mean to post and disappear for three months! I don't remember any of the shops nearby, and it could have been GREAT because we were SO hungry. :-)

                                I just remember that we entered through glass doors and order, then head towards the left to pickup the food. Once we had the food, we could sit either in front of the counter area (where we order and pick up food) or I think, also to the right of it. My husband doesn't remember this, but I also thought there were some steps we had to climb up before the front door. Thanks.

                              2. Being a taco shop in the middle of a parking lot next to a strip mall makes me think you are talking about Santana's which is down the street from restaurant row. They are very, very good!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: LisaSD

                                  I was thinking of Santana's too...they are behind Arby's....cannot see it from SM Blvd. The other place I was thinking off is in the Albertson's parking lot and I cannot think of the name but I will drive by today.... That place is OK.

                                  1. re: Ela0427

                                    The one in the Albertsons is Los Panchos, unless it has since changed names. When I lived up there we used to go there for the shrimp ceviche or soup and to Santana's for everything else. That is, after the Jaunita's (in a strip center on San Marcos Blvd, right next to Enterprise Rentals) closed down. It turned in to some other taco shop that was unremarkable. Taco Pablo's is also in a strip center on SM Blvd., and they are even less remarkable.

                                  2. re: LisaSD

                                    I agree with Santana's; whenever it's late and I need a a nosh, I get their carne asada burrito. Don't forget the hot sauce. It's a great complement.

                                    Nacho's Tacos next to the Von's is a great little taqueria. Been going there off and on since probably 1991. They have a great carnitas burrito.

                                  3. Having lived in San Marcos and the close by La Costa for over 10 years, I think that I can say that I've probably eaten at every iteration of restaurant that has been in Restaurant Row. The best places are still there, but at best are just OK. Because of their centralized location they get a lot of traffic, especially Friday nights, when it's nearly impossible to park. Fish House Vera Cruz is very consistent with their menu selections and while the dishes are unimaginative, the quality has always been very good. The mesquite grilled monkfish was one of my favorites and the grilled scallops were usually very tasty, when they weren't over done. It has been many years since I was there last, so your mileage may vary. :-)

                                    My wife and I have recently started going to the new shopping center over on Grand and Las Posas and have really enjoyed the sushi bar there, Love Boat. The sushi and sashimi is always of very high quality and of course, extremely fresh tasting and really moderately priced.