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In San Diego/La Jolla this Saturday and need help!

Hubby has a conference in SD this weekend and we're staying at the Hilton Torrey Pines. Thanks to these boards, we've already made a reservation late Friday night at Costa Brava right after getting off the plane!

But I still need help identifying places to eat breakfast and lunch on Saturday, and then a bakery/cheese shop where I can pick up some desserts and/or cheese for friends who are having us over for dinner. Saw a few mixed reviews of dessert/bakeries but some also have closed since the thread posts so I thought I'd just go ahead and post a new query. I'll have a rental car and am thinking of going shopping at the outlets (not sure which ones yet and would love recs!) so it doesn't *have* to be near Torrey Pines.

We're from SF, so I prefer avoiding Asian food or other stuff that I know we can easily get up here. I'm looking for someplace with classic American breakfasts (corned beef hash, eggs benedict) that is not too far from the hotel if possible and then am game for anything for lunch. Is there anything you think SD offers that is difficult to get up here? Or is there a place that just rocks?

If I could figure out what I'm going to do on Saturday, it would make picking a lunch place easier but I'm just as happy to pick a lunch place first and then figure out what to do later since food is the priority! Budget is not an issue. I am eating alone though, so nothing too formal and stuffy.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!


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  1. Am sorry to say, the only thing near the Hilton Hotel is the Torrey Pines golf course.
    Everything ilse is good drive into LaJolla or the other side of I-15 Freeway like Whole Foods with major cheese and dessert selections.

    2 Replies
    1. re: nutrition

      "Everything ilse is good drive into LaJolla or the other side of I-15 Freeway like Whole Foods with major cheese and dessert selections."

      The other side of I-15? I-15 is 10 miles to the east. You mean I-5, and in fact Whole Foods is on the *same* side of I-5 as Torrey Pines (the west). It's a pretty short drive from the TP Hilton to Whole Foods, at least in a San Diego sense. :)

      Bristol Farms, on the west side of Genesee just south of La Jolla Village Drive, has a pretty extensive cheese and dessert selection - it might be worth a visit. Just east of there on the other side of the UTC Mall, off Towne Centre Drive, is Wired - a cafe that has gotten decent press on Chowhound.

      Also, as others have said, the AR Valentien restaurant at the Torrey Pines Lodge has gotten pretty good reviews on Chowhound - certainly an option for lunch and breakfast (if they are open for it - I think they are but I am not certain).

      1. re: RB Hound

        Thank you for the correction for the Freeway being I-5.

    2. For your dessert/cheese needs, I'd suggest Bread and Cie for the former, and Venissimo for the latter. Both are in Hillcrest.

      The Mexican food here is better than what you'll find in SF. You should check out Super Cocina on University Ave. It's good for breakfast or lunch. It's not anywhere near your hotel, unfortunately.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Josh

        Venissimo has a store in the Flower Hill Mall in Del Mar, about 10-15 min north of the TP Hilton. That would be my first pick for cheese. Stuff is fresher and better than Whole Foods and Bristol Farms. It used to be known as Aniata Cheese.

        In La Jolla, Mission Cup Cafe has Latino-Asian-American style breakfasts (pancakes, waffles, scrambled eggs w/ chorizo, breakfast tamales) and lunches. Bristol Farms offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. I've only been for lunch and thought in comparison to Whole Foods, the hot foods weren't as tasty or interesting.
        Nine-Ten also has breakfast, lunch and dinner. We've only done lunch and dinners but all of them were good. Piatti's in La Jolla Shores has a Sunday brunch which is pretty decent.

        Pacifica Breeze Cafe and Americana in Del Mar both have good American style breakfasts.

        formal dining--one of the best and closest to you is AR Valentien.

        1. re: daantaat

          wow. it's only been a year since i left del mar, and i'm already forgetting places.

          the portobello & goat cheese omelette at americana in del mar was always one of my favorite breakfasts. it's insanely good...but the service there is abominable.

      2. you should plan to spend the day down at la jolla cove. you can check out the shops & galleries, go for a stroll on the beach...and there are some great places to eat.

        for "a place that just rocks" for breakfast, i'd suggest the cottage.

        for lunch, you can get terrific fresh fish at el pescador or rimel's...or if you want a great setting, try george's at the cove. the food on the terrace isn't spectacular, but the view is.

        1. The Torrey Pines Lodge is "next door" to your hotel (still a long walk) and has two restaurants, one somewhat formal and one more casual - both are good though, better than what they will have at the Hilton.

          For the cheese - I suggest going to the Flower Hill Mall in Del Mar (north on the 5 fwy to Via de la Valle) and looking for a cheese shop that used to be called Aniata Cheese - they recently merged with another shop in Hillcrest called Venissimo and may have changed their name. Whole Foods is also relatively close, just one fwy exit South at LJ Village Drive.

          For lunch alone I'd recommend Cafe Zinc in Solana Beach or Stratford Cafe in Del Mar both are also good for light breakfast (more cafe style than down home eggs/bacon, etc.) I also like Brockton Villa in La Jolla for their Coast Toast, and Piatti down at LJ Shores also does a nice brunch, but they don't open until 11 AM.

          Other possibilities for coffee-shop style breakfast in LJ - Harry's, The Cottage, Mission Coffee Cup, and Cody's.

          Shopping is kinda off topic for this board, but the best outlets are north, in Carlsbad - there are also some great boutiques on S. Cedros Ave - near Cafe Zinc in Solana Beach, and along PCH in Encinitas. Have fun!

          4 Replies
          1. re: Alice Q

            did the mission coffee cup finally reopen?

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              it did..

              I would also suggest The Breeze in Del Mar for breakfast or lunch.. outside.. so good weather only..

              Bristol Farms is also at Costa Verde.. right off of La Jolla Village for cheese and dessert..

              1. re: butterbutt

                i'm so happy to hear that! i wanted to suggest it, but the last time i did someone said they'd had a fire & were closed indefinitely.

                ok, so in addition to my recs, the mission coffee cup in la jolla also does killer breakfast/brunch.

                oh, and the place at del mar plaza is called pacifica breeze, not the breeze.

            2. re: Alice Q

              My wife and I had too many business lunches at The Torrey Pines Lodge and the Hilton and the more casual restaurant at the Lodge is not really better than the Hilton restaurant.

            3. If you want an easy lunch in the La Jolla area you could pick up a sandwich from El Pescador. They have some of the best fish in San Diego and their sandwiches are excellent.

              I agree with Josh's recommendation for Super Cocina but that's a bit out of the way (probably a 20 minute drive). Likewise, most of the good American style breakfast places are in the North Park/Hillcrest area. Original Pancake House is somewhat in between in Clairemont Mesa.

              1. Hilton Torrey is about 10+ minutes to the village but either you can go to the Lodge for Breakfast or eat in the hotel...Harry's Coffee Shop on Girard..old school coffee shop and you see anybody who is anyone here..love this place..classic Americana food
                Brockton Villa across from the LJ Cove is another option as well as eating on the terrace overlooking the Pacific at La Valencia Hotel..
                I have had some pretty decent breakfasts at Jose's Court Room too..
                Really enjoy George's in LJ and sit on the terrace for lunch or drinks and app's..great ocean views.
                Fish sandwiches at El Pescador are some of the best in town..
                Cheese Shop or Jeff's Burgers in the Shores for sitting out for a picnic.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Beach Chick

                  WOW, I am just blown away by all the fantastic recs! Thank you all! I wish we had more meals down there. I will need to google the SD neighborhoods to figure out what is where and then decide which direction to head in. La Jolla Cove sounds like a great way to spend the day, or maybe even driving up to Carlsbad outlets. I also like the Bristol Farms and Venissimo/Aniata cheese shop suggestions! Yikes, so much to choose from! Thanks again. I'll come back and post where I end up going.

                  1. re: smiles33

                    Further to some of the recommendations for A.R. Valentien at the Lodge at Torrey Pines, I heartily recommend it for breakfast. It is the high-end restaurant at the Lodge and is in a class by itself for the area. First of all, the Lodge is worth touring if you haven't seen it. It's modeled after the Craftsman architecture of Greene & Greene, the architects responsible for the iconic Gamble house in Pasadena and many others. The woodwork, inlays, tilework and glass lighting fixtures are worth a trip in themselves.

                    A.R. Valentien is decorated with original paintings by the eponymous artist and the chef is talented and deeply committed to local sourcing and making his own products. So for breakfast you can have house-smoked salmon and housemade ricotta, for example. The breakfast offerings are varied, sophisticated and truly delicious. The menu goes way beyond the usual omelettes and waffles. But they also have killer homemade jelly doughnuts! My husband and I went there for a long, leisurely breakfast to kill time between medical appointments at Scripps nearby, and believe me, it took the curse off. It also removed about $75 from our wallet for two. But it was so fantastic and memorable. Great people-watching, since at breakfast it tends to be people staying at the hotel.

                2. If I had to fill my weekend keeping busy while my hubby is working, I would probably indulge in a little bit of sleeping in with breakfast in bed...nothing too heavy. Then I would head up the Coast Hwy and stop at the Beach House in Cardiff (sandwiched between the Chart House and Charlie's). Go upstairs to the exhibition cooking and watch Kiki or another chef prepare some scrumptious stuffed artichokes, cajun shrimp pasta, oysters rockefeller, etc. Every time I go there, I engage in fun conversation with fellow foodies who love watching them cook up such delicious meals - most of them are repeat, loyal customers like me who love getting pampered the old-fashioned way.

                  From there, I would head further north up the coast until I saw the exit for Palomar Airport Road (look for the big windmill off to the right) and go east to flower fields sign which signifies the entry to the Carlsbad Forum Outlets. There is a Le Creuset Factory outlet there that will kill a bit of your time (and wallet). I think shipping is free if you spend over $100 (easy to do in that place). There is also a place called Le Gourmet Chef that is fun as well as a Kitchen Collection. Who doesn't need another "gadget"?

                  If you go there, be sure to pick up a savings booklet with your AAA membership at the office. They have a Banana Republic outlet there, Kenneth Cole, Barney's, Cole Haan, etc.

                  On your way back down, take I-5 to the La Costa exit. Go east to the first stoplight where you will find a pretty sizeable corner flower shop/bakery/fruitstand that has the best fruit, fresh guacamole and delicious salsa and chips and some beautiful flowers to take your hosts. Sometimes they have some special desserts (if they haven't already been sold) like chocolate dipped strawberries and some absolutely yummy dipped apples and some tasty sourdough (being as you're the SF gal!), so you might find your dessert to take right there.

                  The Venissimo Cheese shop is off the I-5 on your way back to hotel, so there might be some great pairings to go with your fresh sourdough.

                  Hope you enjoy the trip!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: LisaSD

                    I have to disagree w/ the Beach House. It's one of those places w/ unfortunate food but stays open b/c they're right on the beach. I've been there too many times for lunch and left feeling like I was overcharged for less than mediocre food.

                    1. re: daantaat

                      unfortunately i have to agree with daantaat. the beach house is a local mini-chain that gets away with serving overpriced, sub-par food thanks to a stellar location.

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        The Beach House is great........for the view. However, the food is mediocre at best!!

                        1. re: jaylhorner

                          First day the Beach House opened its doors, it has always been below average on food but great view..when you are upstairs, the acoustics of the place make it so you can hear a whisper of a conversation downstairs.
                          I would rather go to the Chart House or Charlie's next door...or the Kraken but not for the food..cheap cold beer!
                          Anyone remember the Hydra where Charlie's used to be before it burned down?

                  2. I have never eaten at the Beach House downstairs, so it might be mediocre for the price but not upstairs at the bar. You can watch the food being prepared right in front of your eyes and see that it is fresh and made with good quality ingredients. The cajun shrimp fettucine is delicious and so are all the pasta dishes. The salad is topped with hearts of palm and baby shrimp, just the way I like it with a great tasting ranch...not that yucky restaurant bottled stuff. You can have an artichoke stuffed with crabmeat that looks delicious but I am happy with the regular steamed artichoke that they serve with a jalapeno spiced aioli.

                    But, we all have different opinions, daataat. Like I said, I am usually surrounded by the "locals" at the counter who eat there on a regular basis because of the consistent quality of the food. If you do give it another chance, I hope Kiki is cooking upstairs and you ask him to fix you something that you like. He is very accommodating to special requests...I hear him do it all the time.

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: LisaSD

                      Everyone does have different opinions but I have to say recommending the Beach House to someone from San Francisco is probably not the best way to "show off" what San Diego has to offer, perhaps if the person asking for the rec was from a more landlocked area without such great food. I find the Beach House mediocre to poor and the only reason I like to go is that due to the acustics certain seats allow to you eavesdrop on all the other tables. As they poor a mean drink, this can lead to a fun filled evening.

                      I would suggest for fun food fares to bring to your friend's house perhaps some fresh produce from Chino Farms (made famous by Alice Waters) located just down the road from Venissimo Cheese shop as explained above. In the same Flower Hill center there is also a wine shop and a Pannikin coffee shop which is one of my favorite places to have a cup and peruse the bookstore located adjacent (but basically in the coffee shop as they have an interior door.)

                      If you intend to head into La Jolla instead of North there is a great sandwich shop called the Cheese Shop that makes really tasty sandwiches that you can take just about any where.

                      1. re: LisaSD

                        I have eaten upstairs more times than I care to remember and every time the food was blech. I can cook better than they can and save my $$ for better food. If you "really" need a view with your food in Cardiff, Ki's is actually better (for lunch, anyways). Cheaper, a little tastier and still get to see the ocean across the 101 from upstairs.

                        I have to agree w/ jturtle that recommending the Beach House to someone from SF where it is truly a foodie's paradise is not the best call.

                        1. re: daantaat

                          Glad I brought our laptop. Unfortunately, we had a crappy dinner at Costa Brava last night (but the 2 pitchers of sangria kept me fairly happy) so I was too hungover to go out to breakfast. We ordered about 12 different tapas for 3 people (which was way too much food), but the only 2 worth eating were the Dátiles con Tocino (bacon-wrapped dates!) and Pincos Solomillo (a special of the night of skewered filet on a bed of grilled peppers). For a nearly $160 dinner (before tip!), it was extremely disappointing. Still, given that it was a 10:30 pm dinner (our flight was delayed!), Costa Brava made sense since they stay late. I should have checked further to see if many other places stay open until midnight (as we left around 11:30).

                          Anyhow, Hubby had the American breakfast and I had a mango shake at the Hilton's Torreyana Grill (decent but overpriced for $7.50) this morning, as we were not hungry enough for the buffet.

                          I know it's OT, but thanks for the tips re: itineraries. I am now trying to figure out if I have the energy to go shop. But I am VERY intrigued by the Chino Farms/Venissimo itineraries. THANK YOU!

                          1. re: smiles33

                            oooh, i meant to come back and warn you that the food at your hotel can be pretty dreadful. i'm glad breakfast was at least passable but definitely don't eat there for lunch or dinner!

                            there is one last option very close to your hotel...the restaurant at the Estancia Resort. when i lived in Del Mar my family used to stay there every time they visited [after one disastrous weekend at the Hilton, actually], and every meal we had there was excellent. i'm sorry i didn't think of it sooner - they also do a great breakfast.

                            anyway, if you decide you want a good meal that's just a mile or so around the corner from you, the name of the restaurant is Adobe. they also have a nice, relaxed, casual place there called Mustangs & Burros, and the Bodega Wine Bar.

                            1. re: smiles33

                              Sorry to hear you didn't like Costa Brava! Any more specifics about the dishes you didn't like? I am kind of surprised that only 2 or 3 were worth eating. Did you get the patatas bravas? They're not good for you, but they are tasty - fried potatoes tossed with a chili aioli. I do think you would have had a hard time finding anything better at that hour of the night - it would mostly be bar food or maybe a burger.

                              I probably wouldn't worry about going to Chinos (just my $.02) - but a visit to Venissimo and the Pannikin (and Bookworks) would be nice on a cloudy day like today - there's also that S. Cedros area and Cafe Zinc on the West end of Via de la Valle. Hope you enjoyed the rest of the day!

                              1. re: smiles33

                                next visit try Picasso in Hillcrest for tapas and sangria

                                1. re: ibstatguy

                                  About to head to bed, but wanted to quickly reply. I wrote a longer review about the food at Costa Brava on another site (http://www99.epinions.com/review/Cost...) but basically found the food was not well executed. The mussels the waitress swore were very fresh turned out to be briny, chewy, and had a horrible aftertaste. The Potatas alioli (sister-in-law wanted garlic) were too big, so the inside didn't cook well and was still mealy while the outside was crispy. The chorizo was dry and overcooked, the calamari was good but didn't have any flavor or sauce (we ended up dipping it in our patatas alioli). I could go on and on, or just paste my review here.

                                  As far as the rest of the day, I ended up going to the Cheese Shop in La Jolla for sandwiches (fast and easy, decent quality but nothing special)l, Venissimo (LOVED it!), and Sorrento European bakery near the friends (picked up their chocolate mousse cake) and then went to the Carlsbad outlets.

                                  1. re: smiles33

                                    Interesting (and thorough) review! The patatas bravas are always like that - soft and tender inside and crispy on the outside. To each his own I guess! The Cheese Shop roasts their own pork and turkey for their sandwiches, so those are generally the best thing to order - the turkey jack and avocado is my favorite.

                                    1. re: Alice Q

                                      From my experience in Spain, isn't that how patatas bravas are supposed to be?

                                      I agree that it might not be worth visiting Chino Farms at this time of year. I don't think strawberry season has quite started yet (you might be able to get some if you arrive first thing in the morning) and there probably aren't a lot of other fruits. When I recently went it was mostly winter vegetables (which are outstanding there) but kind of useless if you're not cooking.

                                    2. re: smiles33

                                      Venissimo is one of regular stops, great selection and staff. hope you will get a chance to enjoy another visit to san diego.

                                      1. re: ibstatguy

                                        I wasn't saying I expected firm and crunchy potatoes--I was just observing that mealy potatoes with a crisp exterior are an awkward pairing. I haven't been to Spain, but I would hope that mealy potatoes are not the standard. Alice Q's statement about how they should be soft and tender inside the crispy exterior sound much more appetizing to me than mealy ones.

                                        At the Cheese Shop, we ordered the lamb sandwich and a NY special (hubby skipped the rubber chicken hotel lunch). I enjoyed the latter much more, as I found the lamb a little too bland. We nixed the Chino Farms visit as I looked at the reviews on Yelp and figured it's not strawberry season (and we're not big veggie fans). Would love to visit next time if we go down during strawberry season.

                                        Venissimo was wonderful and our friends loved the cheese we got: a clothbound cheddar, a gruyere, and a spanish goat's milk. left the receipt w/the friend so she'd have the address to go back so I can't recall the names. Anyhow, thanks again to all for the very helpful advice!