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nyc hounds need recs for first visit to SD

My boyfriend and I are heading to San Diego for a long weekend, 2 nights on Coronado Island and 2 nights in Mission Beach. We are NYers and looking for some great food/dining experiences that we can’t get in NYC (seafood, Mexican, beachfront dining, etc.) We have a car and willing to travel (and understand that Coronado is fairly isolated.) Most of our meals will be quick/casual but looking for a splurge or two ($20-25 entrees). Outdoor dining is preferred since the weather has been so crappy in NYC recently! After some initial research on this site, we’ve come up with the following list:

Super Cocina (Mexican)
Phoung Trang (Vietnamese)
South Beach (fish tacos in Ocean Beach)
Taco Surf (fish tacos in Pacific Beach)
Cafe Chloe – possibly breaking the rule, since it is not near beach and French, but sounds like a restaurant I would enjoy in NY - worth visiting?
The Linkery – ditto
Sushi Ota or Sushi Ono - not necessarily looking for the best sushi but a good value


Bottom line – we want the best food/value and care less about ambiance, with the hope we can get some great food along the beach or with outdoor seating as well.

Thanks in advance!!

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  1. Fantastic list. Great first choice!

    1. I would add Marisco's German to the list..

      1. Um, respectfully, I would suggest avoiding Peohe's. Yes, it has a nice view, but that's the only thing to recommend it, and being from NYC you'll probably find the food even worse than a local might.

        Linkery re-opens this week, so you should be fine going there. Urban Solace isn't as good, IMO - I think Linkery's food is more interesting, and Linkery has a great selection of San Diego's craft brews, which are among the top in the US.

        South Beach Bar and Grill used to be the go-to place for fish tacos in San Diego, but I think Mariscos German has them easily bested. The marlin tacos there can be stunning.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Josh

          I strongly 3rd Josh's rec to avoid Peohe's. Food is mediocre and overpriced but one of those typical places that stays open b/c they have a great view. I would not recommend it to a NYorker.

          I'd put Jake's in the higher end of the category of "stays open b/c they have a view." Food is decent, but nothing that will blow your socks off. Wouldn't make a special trip to Del Mar just to eat there. There's better eating w/o a view in Del Mar.

          Skip Sushi on the Rock and Zenbu for sushi. Zenbu struck me as on the expensive side for ok sushi in a trendy place where you can have a martini w/ your sushi. Sushi on the Rock is good "if" you're into rolls. Lots of rolls. If you're looking for more traditional sushi, Ota is good, but we prefer Izakaya Sakura better. Less attitude, not as crowded and you can get a ton of izakaya dishes along w/ your sushi. Ambience is very casual and relaxed.

          Definitely go to Cafe Chloe. It's good and would totally fit in NYC. Really good pomme frites.

          for Mexican, add Mama Testa's in Hillcrest. Not cheap by street vendor prices for tacos, but their tacos and salsa are very good. Definitely better than what's on the East Coast. Their mashed potato tacos and beef taquitos in spicy beef broth are REALLY good. If you're into churros, they make them fresh.

          Piatti's in La Jolla is a good, moderately priced place for lunch and dinner. The outdoor patio is nicely decorated w/ lots of trees and plants.

          Roppongi's in La Jolla has an all appetizers/"tapas" 50% off every day from 4-6 pm. One of the best deals around, as 2-3 "tapas" make a meal.

          1. re: Josh

            I know Mariscos German is the board darling at the moment (and I'm looking forward to getting there myself), but it vs. South Beach hardly seems like an "either or" to me. Especially given that the OP was looking for beachfront dining, South Beach seems like a perfect choice.

            1. re: menuinprogress

              Not saying "either/or", but for people who are foodies from another city with food as good as can be found in NYC, I think Mariscos German is a lot more interesting than South Beach. Grilled fish pieces with ranch dressing on flour tortillas with yellow cheese vs. the wide variety of seafood prepared by Baja natives is no contest, as far as I'm concerned.

              But then I'm a guy that took a train for 45 minutes from Manhattan just to get a slice at DiFara's.

              I know South Beach is a hallowed San Diego institution, and I ate a lot of their fish tacos when I lived in OB. I predict that once you make it to Mariscos German you'll be another proponent.

              1. re: Josh

                I guess my point was that, even though both places do seafood, they seem like completely different animals to me. Ditto Mariscos German vs Taco Surf down thread.

                If the question is "where is the best authentic mexican food in town", then I agree with you - it's no contest. But then that's not the question I'm asking when I think of places like Taco Surf and South Beach.

                Instead, they are quintessential San Diego beach spots that are very different in their own right from anything you can get in NYC. Not to mention very different from anything you can get in Mexico - after traveling for 2 months in Mexico recently, one of the first things I did when I got back was hit up Taco Surf :-)

                1. re: menuinprogress

                  No worries about "either", menu and Josh - I plan go to both! And judge. I will pass on Taco Surf unless we are near there and hungry. I assume Super Cocina is also a "must"?

                  1. re: swim12

                    I would say SC is a must, yes. Some meals are better than others. Breakfast and lunch are great. Dinner is good if you get there relatively early in the evening. Too late, and stuff has been sitting too long (IMO).

                  2. re: menuinprogress

                    Hey MiP,
                    What do you like specifically at Taco Surf? I live two blocks away and do not eat there very often. Am I missing out on something really good on the menu?

                    1. re: Captain Jack

                      I don't order anything particularly out of the ordinary. My usual fare there is the veggie burrito (beans plus 4 additional toppings of your choice). I like their guac and their hot sauce. They also make a good carne asada burrito. Oh, and I like their breakfast burrito too.

                      Just solid taco-shop food with a nice vibe and a good location.

                      1. re: Captain Jack

                        Fish tacos, bean & cheese burritos, tostada grande with chicken, chicken fajita burrito were my favs when I worked in the area. Not super autentico, but good food, fairly priced.


                  3. re: menuinprogress

                    "Mariscos German is the board darling at the moment"..it's not a moment thing..
                    It's here to stay!

                    Well stated Josh..

                2. RE: Sushi Ota, that's one of the better sushi spots in San Diego. It's not cheap, but by NY prices you'll be happy I'm sure.

                  Cafe Chloe is really good, but I'd suggest looking at going there for weekend brunch.

                  If you have your heart set on dining with an ocean view, I'd actually suggest doing a lunch in La Jolla, which is only about 20 minutes from Mission Bay. It's a beautiful place to walk around (assuming you don't catch the June gloom), and George's Terrace or Bar have amazing views with good California-style cuisine.

                  1. Very good list.

                    I would replace:

                    Taco Surf with Mariscos German (best fish tacos in town).

                    I would replace the Sushi picks with the Fish Market Sushi Bar. Fish is fresh. Quality is good. Servings are generous. Not the most inventive sushi in town, but you cannot beat the view of the Bay and Coronado from the Sushi Bar. Go at sunset and enjoy. We take guests here all the time and they rave about it.

                    If you're hungry when you land, and you land in the afternoon Pt. Loma Seafood is great for sandwiches. Get them to go. Then make the 5 minute drive to the end of Pt. Loma and enjoy the 360 degree views.

                    I'd also maybe switch Cafe Chloe (one of my favorites) with The Better Half.

                    That said, if you take nothing I say to heart, and go with your original picks you are going to have one incredible San Diego dining experience.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Ewilensky

                      If you'd like a really nice ocean side experience, head to the La Jolla Cove area. There are several good restaurants which have views of the cove (George's, Trattoria Acqua), and it's a fun area to walk around with shops and galleries on the town side and the beautiful cove on the water side. Hubby and I enjoy going to the La Valencia hotel for pre-dinner drinks; sit outside and enjoy the sunset. Another La Jolla area is the neighborhood by the Shores. There are a couple of good Italian places (Piatti, Osteria Romantica) within walking distance of the beach, but this is a residential area so no shops or galleries. Either way, I think you'll really enjoy La Jolla -- it's one of the best ocean experiences in San Diego.

                      1. re: SDgirl

                        another vote for george's - it's a great california experience.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          But only the upscale restaurant. The terrace has a beautiful view but the food was just OK.

                          1. re: honkman

                            Just had lunch at the rooftop place a couple of months ago, and the food was better than it was a year ago - I think it has improved slightly. The price difference is significant.

                            1. re: honkman

                              oooh, yes, i should have clarified. thanks for catching that.

                              the formal restaurant downstairs is worth the trip for dinner, but stick to drinks & maybe an appetizer on the upper levels.

                        1. You may wish to add Kono's in Pacific Beach for a huge breakfast for a deal and you're right on the beach.

                          1. JRDN at the Tower 23 hotel in Pacific Beach has a patio that overlooks the ocean and is also close to Mission Beach. You are paying more for the setting, but the brunch entrees are generally less than $15. I had a seafood salad there that was very good and my guests enjoyed the crabcake benedict. Cocktails are expensive - $11 for a maker's manhattan...

                            I eat there for dinner during restaurant week and had an excellent meal, but can't comment on the value, except to say that prices there seem high when looking at the menu. They also have a sushi bar and you can order sushi on the patio.

                            You should also search the board for PB and/or Pacific Beach as that area has been the subject of recent threads, and included a rec for less expensive sushi than Ota, IIRC.

                            JRDN Steak & Seafood at Tower23 Hotel
                            723 Felspar Street, San Diego, CA 92109

                            1. Thanks for the recs! I will definitely add Marisco's German to the list (not afraid of an "unsavory" neighborhood!) Looking forward to trying some of the other mentioned restaurants as well. I will report back :)

                              1. despite the multiple mentions of piatti, i'd skip it - the food doesn't hold a candle to the italian you can get at home. the only one that even comes close is trattoria aqua, which does happen to be a wonderful, cozy spot right on the water [no view, though] - so if you must have italian in la jolla, that should be your pick.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  Trattoria Acqua's food is wildly inconsistent - at least in my experience. They do have a couple of parts of the dining room with nice views - you would probably have to ask special if you make a reservation there.

                                  Personally though, I probably wouldn't recommend any of our local Italian places (at least in the tourist areas) to New Yorkers - based on what the New Yorkers I know have to say about our local Italian food!

                                  1. re: Alice Q

                                    hmmm, i'm sorry you've had that experience at trattoria acqua. when i lived in SD, every meal i had there was excellent...and i was raised on old-school NY italian. it's the only italian restaurant in the area i would ever recommend to anyone from NY.

                                2. Cafe Chloe is a great choice - one of the most sophisticated places in SD with a nice urban feel. They have small tables and it can be a little cramped, so try to go with a small group if you can.
                                  The Linkery is good, but may be going through some changes while you're here with the move - so it might not be a typical experience.
                                  Other places along those lines to try -
                                  Starlite - great local fresh cuisine at very good prices, in a hip setting
                                  Bite in Hillcrest - affordable small plates and great service
                                  The Guild in Barrio Logan - just across the Coronado bridge
                                  Jayne's Gastropub in North Park
                                  Urban Solace in North Park
                                  Farmhouse Cafe in University Heights
                                  Neighborhood downtown - gourmet burgers and beer

                                  For outdoor dining - try JRDN at the Tower 23 hotel in Pacific Beach - fine dining prices at dinner, but they do breakfast and lunch too.
                                  George's Ocean Terrace is pretty good and has the view to die for. The downstairs might be over your price point. The mid-level is a bar that has a few outdoor tables, nice for a drink. I also like having breakfast at the Brockton Villa on the deck which overlooks La Jolla Cove. Another nice view experience - drinks at the top of the Plaza Del Mar, in (of course!) Del Mar.

                                  For more casual food - here are some of my favorites:
                                  For fish tacos - Don Chuy in Solana Beach
                                  For other Mexican seafood and tacos - Mariscos German - feels like you're in Mexico - just an exit or two S. of the Coronado bridge in Logan Heights (the immediate neighborhood is nothing to worry about)
                                  Las Cuatros Milpas - in Barrio Logan - very famous and popular - some say overrated - it is at least unique.
                                  El Porvenir in the same neighborhood is also known for their carnitas.
                                  Mama's Lebanese in North Park - best falafel anywhere
                                  As a bonus, Eclipse Chocolat just around the corner - try a cupcake!
                                  Bahn Mi and iced coffee at K Sandwiches in Linda Vista\
                                  Hodad's in OB for burgers (instead of S. Beach)
                                  El Pescador in LJ for Fish Sandwiches
                                  Point Loma Seafoods for fresh fish - mostly fried items - you can eat outside
                                  For sushi - Ono is pretty good, I also really like Japengo. I was disappointed in Ota, but I've never eaten at the bar, which is supposedly the only way to go. They're known for giving better food to regulars. Another good place for sushi is Izakaya Sakura in Kearny Mesa. It's close to a great Japanese market called Nijiya, which would be fun to check out. There are a lot of other good Asian restaurants in that area as well but I'm not as knowledgeable about them as some others on this board.

                                  1. You did well. As long as you're in the beach areas you will find lots of surprises. 3rd Corner in Ocean Beach is worth visiting, open late which is rare in SD. Basically a wine shop but with good food and the patio is great on warm evenings. Point Loma Seafood is unique, eat on the marina. Karinga Thai in Mission Beach has good authentic curry.
                                    Trader Joe's and Henry's markets are on the main drag in Mission Beach and have great picnic makings. You can get morning coffee and great go withs at Charlie's Best Breads in the shopping center at 1808 Garnet. Broken Yolk is across the street and is a busy breakfast place. Have a great time and post your experiences.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: P Macias

                                      Trader Joe's, Henry's, and Karinya Thai are on Garnet Ave. in Pacific Beach, not Mission Beach.

                                      1. re: Captain Jack

                                        Oops, sorry. I can't walk and chew gum.

                                    2. Like some others, I prefer Izakaya Sakura for sushi - and for the great range of cooked dishes also. But in any case, you need to have some fresh uni while in SD. Many folks (including Jeffrey Steingarten) consider it the best in the world. It's certainly the best I've ever had. Visiting SD from NYC and not having the uni would be a shame. Plus, sushi is almost as much a San Diegan native food as Mexican.


                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Ed Dibble

                                        Ed is so right about the uni. I love uni and San Diego THE place to enjoy this wonderful delicacy.

                                      2. THe Linkery (mentioned several times, for good reason) is open and ready to serve. If you want some cheap yum Mexican aside from fish tacos, try Livingston's on Ocean Beach. A hole in the wall, but some of the best chicken dinners in town. If you want something still in the Mexican vein, but a little more creative after all those fish tacos, try Ortega's Mexican Bistro in Hillcrest on University. More a Baja bistro then mexican. Not pricey, but not a taco shop either. Their snow crab enchiladas with the tangy tomatillo verde sauce is GOOD! And the margaritas and mojitos are original.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: alyd

                                          I'm on the linkery mailing list and they are not open yet. They are serving a few people tonight on a trial run (pretty much by invitation) and are still waiting on a couple of permits. They hope to open some time this weekend but are unsure of the timeline, so I wouldn't send an out of town guest there on a gamble...but put it on the must-do list for next time.

                                        2. I'm glad to see Phuong Trang on your list. It's been bashed for being mediocre, but it's one of those places with a big menu and a good meal depends on ordering the correct stuff. Their pho is decent, but nothing special. I enjoy their broken rice plates and I recently had an excellent meal there with the egg rolls, broken rice plate, and beef rolled in caul fat. The last dish was a pleasant surprise... we knew they did a good job, but this past time was excellent.

                                          With that said, if you want to try something non-pho, but Vietnamese, try Mien Trung on Mesa College Drive (next to the K Sandwiches strip mall) for a good bowl of bun bo hue or bun rieu.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: geekyfoodie

                                            2nd the broken rice at PT, it is excellent. I like the Com Tam Dac Biet with the addition of a fried egg on top. I also enjoy the Cha Gio, and Goi Cuon. You are right GF, you just have to know what to order there. I am not a big pho guy so their mediocre phos do not effect me

                                            1. re: Captain Jack

                                              It's one of the few Vietnamese places I've seen where the cha gio is rolled with rice paper vs. the Chinese egg roll wrappers, which contain flour and egg. That scored major points with me and especially Mr. Geeky, who sees himself as a big eggroll connoisseur.

                                          2. The raw bar at the Brig in Del Mar is a must IMO. Especially if you sit on the deck enjoying the best fish taco in San Diego while overlooking the race track and the beach. Their house brew (BrigBrew nade By Carl Staus is tasty too). I usually try to hit this with my out of town guests for the quintessential SD experience.

                                            The deck at the Del Mar Plaza for cocktails at sunset is a fantastic place to take in the beach scene as well.