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Mar 1, 2008 05:00 PM

Where to take 15 chefs in SD?

Hello San Diego -
I have to plan a dinner for a customer visiting San Diego the last week of March and first week of April. The group is about 20ppl, and happens to include @ 15 respected chefs. I have searched the board for some recommendations, I keep coming up empty. I noticed Market received excellent reviews, however, it's a little far for the group that will be staying in downtown. I really like the looks of Market for style, cuisine, atmosphere, etc. Any suggestions in the downtown areas? Comfortable atmosphere (no suits), good wine list, of course, excellent food, etc.... Where do the chefs go?!
Also, I have to plan TWO dinners for this group (each on a Friday night), so the more recs the better!
Thanks in advance!

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  1. I would go to The Oceanaire in the Gaslamp.
    Maybe 1500 Ocean at the Hotel can take the water taxi over and then cab it.
    Good luck!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Beach Chick

      I'd second the recommendation for 1500 Ocean. I took a group of people to the Guild for a tasting related to the Fancy Food Show and they loved it - they have a nice private room area that would work for you. Bite and the Better Half in Hillcrest and the Linkery or Urban Solace in North Park are also possibilities.

      In North County I'd encourage you to consider A.R. Valentien - Chef Jeff Jackson does "Chef dinners" for larger groups - served family style, I'd recommend calling him to inquire. He's very personable and might go out of his way to accommodate you.

      There was a recent thread about Market - apparently they don't accommodate groups over 8 since their kitchen cannot handle large parties, so that might not work in any event. Blanca and AR Valentien are only about a 20-30 minute drive from downtown without traffic. Arterra is also a possibility, in the same vicinity. It's a hotel restaurant, so they could definitely accommodate your party - possibly with a private room.

    2. With 20 people you could perhaps try to rent out The Better Half. Or what about The LInkery - not high end dining but represents local food in excellent quality.

      1. Better Half in Hillcrest has been getting rave reviews. I'd at least scope it out, they have a pretty highly touted wine selection, and the chef worked under some pretty serious talent.

        1. What kind of chefs are they and are you looking for a fine dining venue, casual venue, relax and unwind type of place? While a lot of chefs I've worked with appreciate and enjoy fine dining, that's not always what they end up choosing when they go out on their own.

          3 Replies
          1. re: DiningDiva

            They are all executive chefs. I mentioned casual venue above, they will enjoy the relax-and-unwind type of places. The Linkery looks like a strong contender, as well as Urban Solace.
            I am based in LA, Los Angeles Magazine did a special a bit back about "Where Do The Chefs Eat?". And, you're right, it's NOT the fancy fine dining places, but enjoyable atmosphere with excellent food.
            Thanks for the all the help everyone!

            1. re: MahiMahiFish

              The Linkery and Urban Solace are really good choices. I think I'd probably be inclined to rank The Better Half a half step above them though. There is just something about the place that's compelling right now; it's got a great vibe and food sensibility. All the wines are half bottles and the food is good to very good, bordering on excellent. All 3 are just different enough from each other and do what they do very well. You probably can't go wrong with any of them.

              JSix is a Kimpton Group property downtown. It opened strongly, fell and had a chef change and has regrouped and come back to pretty respectable. The chef is trying to use as many sustainable products as possible. The JBar on the 3rd (or maybe the 4th) floor is enjoyable as well.

              Oceanaire Seafood Room, also downtown, has a good oyster bar and happy hour and the rest of the menu is good too. Plus, you get last year's Top Chef contestant Brian Malarkey in the deal too as he is the exec. chef there.

              I'd say stay out of Little Italy for dinners but if any of your group want to wander (or trolley) up that way, a glass of wine and appetizer at Songo di Vino is an option. It gets noisy inside, but if the weather is nice, there is a pleasant enough sidewalk patio.

              1. re: DiningDiva

                I would totally rank The Better Half in a different league then Urban Solace & the Linkery.

                My suggestions would also include Molly's at the Marriott downtown, they have a great wine list and really excellent food and I know chefs dine there.

                I also really like what Bite is doing and once again, chefs eat there.

                So my list would be (not including North County spots of Addison, Market and Blanca):

                1500 Ocean
                Bite SD
                The Better Half

          2. Please let us know places that you tried and give us your feedback about the food etc.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cstr

              Tapenade, Oceanaire.

              1500 at your own risk ---see Union Tribune from today.
              I was there about a year ago and I heard the management change did very negative things. I agreed. The tables actually felt greasy and it didn't feel right. The hotel rooms are not worth the price. I'd avoid the Hotel del for now.

              Tapenade is wonderful and they have an area that would be nice for a party of your size. Oceanaire is fun and the chef is very meticulous to have the best seafood with great service too. Another gorgeous place, especially around sunset, with great cuisine is the Lodge at Torrey Pines.