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15 Chefs in SD? **Updated**

It seems the plans have changed! The group is staying at the San Diego Doubletree Mission Valley, not downtown. I called the hotel, they said the closest neighborhoods for good restaurants are Hillcrest, North Park & Old Town. Can anyone help with these areas?
The dinners are on consecutive Friday nights, so nobody wants to spend tons of time traveling after full days of working, particularly during busy Friday rush hour times
Again, I am taking 15-20 executive chefs for dinner, I need a great spot, comfortable, with excellent food! My first rec was California Cuisine, anyone know this?
Thanks for all the help!

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  1. Actually, Hillcrest and North Park are really good suggestions based on where you're going to be. While traffic will be heavy on a Friday night, it's manageable and both can actually be reached without having to get on the freeway. Parking will probably be more the issue, particularly in Hillcrest

    Happy Hour
    In the same complex as the hotel is Prego's. Their bar is very pleasant and they usually put out some fairly edible munchies and the bar food is fine.
    Bully's East is just down the street from your hotel. It's probably the best happy hour in the valley. The bar tenders know how to pour a good drink and they usually have a couple of chafers of rib tips going. Bully's has been in business for eons, the restaurant is steak/prime rib/seafood. Their prime rib is excellent and not as expensive as some of the other upscale steak houses.

    Hillcrest - here are some of the more frequently mentioned places (in on particular order)
    The Better Half
    Terra
    Bite
    Kemo Sabe (architectural food as it's best...or worst depending upon one's POV)
    Corvette Grille
    Monsoon
    California Cuisine (much debated on this board)
    Ortegas
    Arrividerci
    Cafe Bleu (newly opened)
    There are something like 97 restaurants in a 10 square block radius in Hillcrest, and the area get discussed frequently on this board

    North Park
    30th St. through North Park is one of the hottest new restaurant areas in town. Lots of new, trendy and interesting stuff happening, and at fair prices.
    El Comal
    Apperitivo
    Caffe Calabria
    Heaven Scent
    Urban Solace
    Ritual Tavern
    Commonwealth Cafe
    Alexander's
    The Linkery

    4 Replies
    1. re: DiningDiva

      Dining Diva pretty much nails it. However, if the space/reservations are available The Linkery or The Better Half is probably your best bet for something a bit different. With your chef friends, I'll venture to guess they'd like to try something more unique and these two suggestions should fit the bill -- I'm sure the last thing they want is another Cal Cuisine Ahi sesame crusted appetizer.

      1. re: DiningDiva

        From DiningDiva's list (which covers the biggies) I'd go with -
        Hillcrest:
        The Better Half
        Terra
        Bite

        North Park:
        The Linkery
        Urban Solace
        Appertivo
        Ritual Tavern

        I hated Kemo Sabe the one time I went and I wouldn't recommend it you. I don't think the Corvette Diner is exactly what you're looking for either; it's kind of a throwback 50s diner. I like the Rory Burger (peanut butter and bacon) and the shakes/malts, but it's geared more towards pleasing kids.

        1. re: DougOLis

          I'm not very wild about Kemo Sabe either. It's too noisy but a lot of people seem to like it (for whatever reason) and the chef is one of the higher profile chefs in the city. Presentations are way, way, way over the top, too bad the food doesn't quite reach the same heights ;-), although the brie appetizer is excellent

        2. I haven't been to some of these places, but if you want to do the better half or some of those places in north park like ritual, you'd better call now to talk to someone as 15-20 people is large group for some small spaces!

          (I would consider The Better Half if they can accommodate your party.)

          1. I think California Cuisine is a fine choice - I'd also suggest consider Urban Solace in North Park and Bite in Hillcrest. Both are chef-owned and up to the task, and have the space to accommodate your group.

            I probably would not recommend Aperitivo, Heaven Sent Desserts, Commonwealth Cafe, Alexanders, Kemo Sabe, the Corvette Diner or Ortegas. I don't think those would be what you're looking for.

            Another possibilitity if you're willing to eat relatively early is to take them for a Mexican feast at Super Cocina or Mariscos German - let them try something unique to San Diego. It would be relatively affordable and I think they would enjoy the food. Might be fun to do one night like that and something more fine dining on the other night?

            4 Replies
            1. re: Alice Q

              Hmm, don't know that I would take 15 executive chefs to Mariscos German for a unique SD experience. The Barrio hardly shows off SD at it's best and a juke box blaring ranchero and norteno music at top volume isn't exactly relaxing. But the biggest issue is that 15 of them would completely fill the restaurant and they've only got a tiny galley kitchen with 1 cook. The food trickles out as it's done, not all at once. I think 15 people, let alone 15 chefs descending on MG all at once might be a little too overwhelming for it. Super Cocina is probably better equipped to handle it. With advanced notice I think they could handle it, but they'd probably be a little hard pressed as well.

              I think any of the North Park restaurants would have difficulty accommodating a group of 15 on a Friday night. In Hillcrest only the biggest or best functioning kitchens are going to be able to absorb 15 on a Friday night. These are not easy groups to accommodate on one of the busiest service nights of the week.

              1. re: DiningDiva

                You make good points - I'm assuming they'd call ahead wherever they go, and a group of 15 would be tough for one of the Mexican places, but I think it would be doable as long as they're flexible.

                I took a group of people attending the Fancy Food Show to Northgate and they didn't flinch when we drove through the Barrio on the way there - we also went to the Guild on another tour and it was the group's favorite stop on that tour (which included Bite, Starlite, Urban Solace and Cafe Chloe - all of which were also good) We got the VIP treatment with a private room, special tasting menu, etc. That might actually be a good choice - come to think of it.

                Took a while to get to it, but my point is - I don't think sophisticated diners are likely to be scared off by the neighborhood.

                1. re: Alice Q

                  I completely agree with your last point Alice Q.

                2. re: DiningDiva

                  Super Cocina should be fine with 15 extra diners. They usually have a large amount of food ready on the steam table at the beginning of each meal period. But seating would be tight.