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Our San Diego plan - would love your feedback & suggestions

Hi all,

We head to San Diego later next month for a conference. We'll have a couple of unstructured days when we first arrive. We are staying in the downtown area near the convention center & we will have a car. We like good food and wine, we're not really big fans of seafood, surely interested in some good Mexican, and don't want to spend a ton of money (though happy to do a couple higher end places that have a good return for the money!).

Would love to hear any feedback on our choices and any alternative suggestions.

The Cheese Shop - near our hotel downtown
South Beach Bar & Grille - the day we visit Cabrillo
Either Girard Gourmet or Piatti - the day we visit La Jolla and Torrey Pines
Terra - for Sunday brunch

Dinners (we are looking to stay near the downtown area for these):
Old Town Mexican Cafe
Rama - in the Gaslamp area
El Agave - Old Town
Dobson's - downtown

We were also looking at San Diego Wine & Culinary Center as a possibility. And considered Cafe Chloe and wonder if we are making mistake not including this one in our plans.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts & suggestions!


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  1. Old Town Mexican Cafe is not a place anybody should eat, IMO.

    Girard Gourmet rocks.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Josh

      Agreed on Old Town Mexican Cafe. Last time I was there, the food was barely warm. I'd hit up Cafe Guadalajara in Old Town instead.

      I'd definitely include Cafe Chloe. It's a few blocks east of The Cheese Shop, and well worth it.

      Good choices!

    2. I say definitely try Cafe Chloe - you could go there for brunch or dinner. IMO OTMC is ok for some margaritas and and an order of taquitos at the bar - but not worth the wait for a table. I also like Girard Gourmet, but I think there are better options for you on the day you go to LJ and Torrey Pines. The Lodge at Torrey Pines has a grill that serves a great burger, and in LJ George's Ocean Terrace offers decent food and some great views (in nice weather) The bar at Georges has the same food indoors. There's also a Cheese Shop outlet in LJ Shores (right across the street from Piatti) that I think is better than the one downtown - so that's actually a possibility on that day too.

      I personally think South Beach is overrated and would suggest either Hodad's in OB for burgers, or Con Pane in Point Loma for sandwiches on the day you go to Cabrillo.

      I really like Dobson's - the mussel bisque is excellent, they have a small one too called a "baby bisque" that you can ask for, it's not on the menu.

      Other places you might want to consider adding to your itinerary - Bread and Cie, Bite, The Guild, The Linkery, Jayne's Gastropub, Extraordinary Desserts, and Urban Solace. Enjoy!

      1. Thanks everyone! Great to have some confirmations, the heads up on OTMC and some new suggestions.

        1. Agree with most of the posters and I would do George's Modern/George's at the Cove on the terrace for lunch...it's pretty reasonable for lunch.
          If not, Girard Gourmet is outstanding and there is a Cheese Shop in the LJ Shores and I really enjoy Piatti's too..
          I love to have Marg's and nachos at Alfonso's in LJ...
          Dobson's for the mussel bisque with the puff pastry is out of this world good.


          1. Definitely do not miss Cafe Chloe. They also do breakfast/brunch as well as an afternoon tea.

            I think Mission Cup Cafe is up and running in La Jolla. Good place for casual breakfast or lunch. Their Double Happiness bowl (grilled chicken and beef over brown rice dressed with their teriyaki-ish like sauce) is really good, as are their Coconut French Toast.

            Nine-Ten in La Jolla does a 3 course prix-fixe lunch for something like $24-27. Really good food.

            1. Everbody just slams OTMC, and while it is not great, you can sure have a very good meal there. I really like their carnitas and their homemade tortillas. My so loves their rotisserie sp? chicken. Yeah it is a tourist trap but it is a lot of fun and let us support places in old town that are local, and not some corp like deleware north. Yeah old town has changed since Diane got booted out, but let us support El Fandango, OTMC and Guadalajara. Have a margerita, have some fun and man life could be a lot worse than sipping on a marg and enjoying some chips and salsa in SD

              3 Replies
              1. re: littlestevie

                Everyone slams it because there are probably at least half a dozen better options, some in the immediate vicinity. Why go there when there are so many better choices?

                1. re: Josh

                  What is a better option in the immediate vicinity? Rockin Lobster? Coyote Cafe? La Pinata? Aucopukeo? Zocolo? El Indio? I agree Agave is better, but it is more upscale. For a casaual place I think OTMC or Guadalajara are better bets in Old Town. Don't get me wrong I am not going to wait an hour plus to eat at OTMC, but there are lots worse places.

                  1. re: littlestevie

                    I think Guadalajara is a much better choice if that's the kind of food they want, and the area they want to be in. My personal favorite in Old Town is Berta's, though it's Latin American, not Mexican.

              2. I would not to Terra for brunch.. or lunch dinner either for that matter. There are better places to go with a much nicer view/ambience..
                Codys in La Jolla,Tower 23, and Cafe Chole... also downtown is Zanzibar which is very casual but fun and great food.That would be in walking distance for you..

                1. Piatti is worth a visit. They have an awesome dipping oil and bread to start a meal. This stuff is absolutely amazing, made witholive oil, garlic and red peppers. They also personalize menus if you call in advance. I've had "Happy Anniversary" "Happy Birthday" and "Congrats on your name Job, (insert name here)" printed on the menus. And you can take it home too as a keepsake...The food is great and the overall atmosphere is nice as well.

                  1. I'm not sure if Hillcrest is near enough downtown for you (everyone has different standards), but I would suggest Chilango's for your Mexican food. I haven't been to The Better Half in Hillcrest yet, but everyone is loving it so far.

                    I agree with everyone else that Cafe Chloe is a must in downtown.

                    Rama is good, one of the better Thai places in San Diego.

                    Maybe check out Bondi. It's a fun place with good Australian beers and food.

                    1. Hi everyone,

                      Thanks for all the great feedback & suggestions! I've made some revisions to the food plan based on some of your thoughts. Here's the gameplan:

                      Zanzibar (Sunday brunch)
                      The Cheese Shop
                      George's Ocean Terrace
                      Con Pane

                      Cafe Chloe
                      El Agave
                      Casa Guadalajara

                      When we get back home, I'll let you know what we thought/what we would do again and if there are any we would not do again!