Thanks, San Diego--the big payback
I posted a couple of weeks ago looking for recommendations since I was coming to SD (heh, after doing some research first, which seemed to garner me the amusingly profuse thanks of SD chowhounds) and now that I've since come back I thought I'd post shortly about where I ended up going for posterity. Since I ate so well on the strength of your suggestions, it's the least I can do...
Overall, I didn't really have any bad meals while I was there. Since my hotel was in the Gaslamp, I unfortunately didn't make it to a couple of the farther flung joints I'd hoped to try--though I did venture out a couple of times for worthwhile meals. Close to the hotel, I had really solid dinners at both Bandar (where I had chicken kebabs) and Sadaf, where I ate shiratzi salad and eggplant boryani. At both of these spots I initially thought the $20+ I was spending was a bit rich, but then both times got enough food for me to eat for lunch in my hotel room the next day. Also close to the hotel I ate a few breakfasts at The Cheese Shop, which had great egg sandwiches and better biscuits and gravy than the breakfast place near my hotel in Kansas City when I went to the same conference there last year.
Further away, i made it up to the Italian section and hit up Pete's Meats for a steak sandwich, which was really great. There are few things I love more than solid, old style sandwich joints and this is sure one of those. Cash only, totally limited menu and really tasty reasonably priced food. It really wasn't that far a walk from the Gaslamp either, and given the weather in SD I enjoyed strolling up there. I swung by Papalecco on the way back and ate way too much gelato (I got a serving that had hazelnut, chocolate and pistachio, whew) and picked up the walnut/pear/cheese salad that Dining Diva suggested, since by late in the week I was suffering from serious leafy green vegetable deficiency. Both of these items were really good--the gelato was really silky and rich and the salad was loaded with good cheese and the promised prosecco soaked pears. Really good.
I also made it out to a couple spots a few miles away--Yakitori Yakyudori and Super Cocina. The former was a really nice and bustling Japanese spot with excellent food--i had the geso (squid tentacle), okura and a really toothsome monfish liver that was on the specials board. I even sat next to a really nice Japanese expat who had moved to SD and claimed that he liked this spot even more than his fave yakitori joint in Tokyo! As to Super Cocina, the day I went to the zoo I decided that I'd head out on the bus past it and eat lunch there first. This actually was really easy, since the bus drops you off right nearby the restaurant and though I suppose some might find the neighborhood a little sketchy (the stop for the bus back to town is right in front of the strip club, for example) it seemed fine to me. Ended up eating chicharones with green mole and some kind of empenada-type thing filled with meat and topped with cheese and lettuce. Due to my incredibly poor Spanish, I'm not totally sure what these were--but they were good. Actually, what is sort of amusing about this is that since I had read here that I shouldn't expect a lot of English to be spoken at SC, I got through my order with the sweet waitress using my lame and broken "Spanglish". Then, as I sat down to eat my lunch three totally gringo businessmen types came in to eat, and so she went in the back and brought out a guy who spoke perfect english who proceeded to give them a totally comprehensive rundown of everything that was available that day. If I'd just played dumb I could have had this treatment too! ;) In any case, my only real disappointment here was that I was a little early for lunch Mexican-style, and so the carnitas were still frio, which needless to say nearly broke mi corazon. This is the type of spot I really wish was nearby instead of thousands of miles away, since I imagine eating through the rotating menu must be a really great pastime.
So that was about it for me in SD. I did miss a couple spots (Mariscos German, Asia Cafe and Izakaya Sakura primarily) and i also did try to go to Athens Market Taverna but after standing in there for five minutes at 5 PM and having no one bother to come see if I felt like eating dinner I ended up leaving, which was about my only poor experience while in town. I also failed to eat the famous San Diego uni which was a disappointment to me, but well--you can't eat everything. Overall though I feasted quite well while I was there and thanks much to all of you posters who helped make it all possible.
I will further the thanks for the the report back! It was great and I am excited that you were able to try some places off the beaten path from the usual gaslamp!
Also, we really do appreciate the "homework" and the report back! Hopefully you can make it back to try some other places and if we need help in your locale all us SD chowhounders know we can count on some excellent help!
Thanks for the report. It's nice to hear about good experiences, and you made some good choices.
Super Cocina is definitely better if you ask for tastes of the different dishes before choosing. The owner(?), who speaks English and clearly cares about good food, will be happy to explain things to you and give suggestions, as he seems to have done for the gringos who came in afterward. Some of the dishes at Super Cocina are just okay, but there is almost always two or three great ones each day.
This is what I love to see on CH - people who truly take dining suggestions to task and report back. I'm sorry your experience at Athens wasn't better because I do love their food. I've dined there for lunch, but many, many times, and service has always been excellent. Maybe dinner isn't the best time to go. Glad you made it to Super Cocina. It's such a diamond in the rough in our city. For our proximity to the border, San Diego really should have better Mexican fare. Thank goodness for SC and a few others who offer up some *real* Mexican home-cooking.
Pete's has a limited menu because the deli portion wasn't always there. Pete is the father of a friend of mine, and it was Pete's daughter and son-in-law who had the idea to start up the deli. I'm glad they did, though, because it's a nice alternative to Grab-N-Go (also makes good sandwiches).
Thanks so much for reporting back!