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Jun 4, 2008 09:21 AM

Rehearsal Dinner, San Diego

Looking for a spot to host about 50 people in February, 2009. The bride has requested "on the water," and as parents of the groom, we'd like a venue with great food and drinks and a convivial, family-style atmosphere -- what we could offer in our home if we weren't from out of town. This will be on a Friday evening, and I'd prefer south of La Jolla.


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  1. are you looking for a restaurant, hotel, or a venue with off-premise catering?

    star of the sea just opened their renovated event space and it's literally on the water.
    it would be perfect for your group size.

    10 Replies
    1. re: beachbunnySD

      I'm open. The reception will be in a hotel, so I'd like a slightly different experience. Have you been in the Star of the Sea space? Any catering suggestions? Thanks!

      1. re: jallenby

        The space, location, and views are fabulous and would definately provide the WOW factor for your guests. I have heard good things about The French Gourmet catering. I enjoy the French Bistro fare in their Pacific Beach restaurant location. I bet it aint cheap though, so get that American Express Black card ready.

        1. re: Captain Jack

          actually the French Gourmet is pretty affordable compared to some other caterers in town - but wouldn't the star of the sea make you use their catering?

          1. re: Alice Q

            Star of the Sea has a list of preferred caterers to choose from and FG is one of them. Others are Continental, Urban, Crown Point, Culinary Concepts,and Festivities Catering. I didn't mean to imply FG is expensive, but I bet booking out the Star of the Sea is.

            1. re: Captain Jack

              Ah - sorry, I agree with you there!

              1. re: Alice Q

                My fault, upon rereading my reply, I see it was not structured properly to make my point clear. Thanks for helping me clarify. :)

              2. re: Captain Jack

                I can't speak to the food, but my dealings with both Crown Point and Festivities were disappointing. The reps were incredibly uppity and sneered at my budget restraints, which weren't low by any means. Crown Point's quote came in just a smidge higher than French Gourmet's, but their fees for equipment rentals and staffing were quite high vs. the food, which was actually the lowest price of all of the quotes we received.

                Festivites didn't even provide a quote because their rep couldn't convince me to spend more on catering and she wouldn't just leave it at "we start at x amount per guest" and let me make the decision. She didn't like my budget, but really felt like she could convince me how we "should" do things. They also refused to let us taste the food prior to signing a contract. I've heard wonderful things about their work, but the particular rep I spoke with didn't exactly sell the company well.

                Continental's staff is much friendlier, but I've heard mixed reviews about the food. I'll be tasting soon, so I'll report in when I do.

            2. re: Captain Jack

              I read recently that The French Gourmet was busted pretty bad by the INS. I'm not sure if that's disrupted their operations at all, but it's something to consider.

              1. re: DougOLis

                Well, Mr. Geeky and I have recently embarked on the craziness of wedding planning and FG was our first choice caterer on a very short venue-required list. We'd scheduled a tasting before the ICE raid occurred and we were wondering how it would affect things. The tasting was yesterday and went off incredibly well. On the surface, at least, the company seems to be running smoothly.

                1. re: geekyfoodie

                  So great to hear, really love that company/restaurant.

        2. Unfortunately, this isn't on the water, but Urban Solace (it's a restaurant) would be a beautiful location for a rehearsal dinner. The courtyard would be great for mingling and has brink and wrought-iron details. The food is great and word has it the owners are pretty approachable, so you could probably work with them for a good meal. It's warm and has the atmosphere you're looking for.

          Are you located in SD? Maybe you could take the couple to Urban Solace for dinner to check it out. It might be good enough that the ocean-proximity factor won't matter.

          Urban Solace Restaurant
          3823 30th Street, San Diego, CA 92104

          1. I agree with the Star of the Sea as a venue but if you're foodies, I would think twice about FG - there are other caterers on the preferred list with much better food. Probably more expensive too but worth it if food quality is important. Other places to consider (where food is at least good to above average):

            Island Prime
            Ruth's Chris
            San Diego Wine and Culinary Center (the outsource their food to caterers usually but the wine + atmosphere is warm)

            9 Replies
            1. re: specialksd

              Which caterers are you referring to? It'd be great to hear more about the other caterers on that list. Chowhound's a great resource for food and the bridal sites out there aren't exactly repositories of great chow-related information.

              1. re: specialksd

                I would not recommend Island Prime or Peohe's to foodies, and Ruth Chris doesn't really fit the convivial family-style atmosphere that the OP is looking for. I find Peohe's a tired, run-down, cliche of a tourist trap, and while the setting at Island Prime is really ideal, I have never had anything there that was anything above average (though, for a rehearsal dinner party, the food may be more of a distraction anyway. ) I think it may be hard to find the atmosphere they are looking for "on the water", "south of La Jolla". I fear that most places that fit that criteria are high-end, expensive hotels with overpriced catering options or touristy options with low-end food. To the latter point I would offer Red Sails on Shelter Island - I have seen many wedding functions on the patio overlooking the marina (but no, the food is certainly not "foodie-worthy".) Humphrey's by the Bay recently completed an extensive renovation and I believe installed a new chef, maybe somebody on the board has dined there since the concert season started. In the really fun atmosphere realm (but not right on the water) there is The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Dining poolside would be cool and they have brought on a talented chef who is doing some interesting things in the kitchen (we are trying it on Sat. night), and I know they do rent the space out for special events. My last suggestion would be to look into Jrdn restautant at Tower 23 hotel on the boardwalk in Pacific Beach. Really hip and cool space right by Crystal Pier, overlooking the Pacific. The food has been fairly good with usual the high and low points. It's not exactly a "foodie" place but I think it balances out well in all the criteria (I would try to reserve the area by the fire rocks).

                1. re: foodiechick

                  Thanks, everybody, for your thoughtful suggestions (and keep them coming, if you think of other options). As geekiefoodie suggests, the bridal sites aren't particularly helpful. While I'd like to honor the bride's request for waterside dining, I'm more concerned with avoiding the tourist-focused careless meals that often accompany a good view. I'm probably the biggest foodie in the bunch -- so I care -- but I mostly want to spend wisely and have a memorable evening. There will be an ex-husband present, which adds to the overall dynamics. :-)

                  1. re: jallenby

                    If you or anyone connected with the wedding knows a member of the San Diego Yacht Club, you might want to check into having the rehearsal dinner there (you must have a reference from a club member). The setting is just what you are looking for. The food is consistently good (not great) and the kitchen and staff work very hard to provide an enjoyable experience. I dined at Humphrey's last weekend; the food was very good and the new dining room is beautiful. Another place to consider is the Bali Hai Restaurant on Shelter Island. Its kitchy (1950's Polynesian) but the view across to bay to the downtown skyline is spectacular. On the opposite end of Shelter Island is the Kona Kai Resort. The location would suit your needs but I havent dined there in years, so I cant vouch for the food. Good luck! You are on the hot seat!!


                    1. re: sdnativa

                      Mr. Geeky's graduation dinner was at Bali Hai and it was memorable. Unfortunately, it wasn't memorable in a good way. I ordered an ahi tuna filet and it came cooked all the way through and completely dried out. The view is spectacular, but I'm going to have to give a nay to Bali Hai.

                      1. re: geekyfoodie

                        I would have to agree on Bali Hai. We ate there last summer a few times before concerts and I couldn't take more than two bites of anything that was served. After giving it three attempts I finally had to tell the significant other that I would not be returning (unless it is for an evening mai tai which ARE fantastic - and dangerous.)

                        1. re: foodiechick

                          I hereby withdraw my nomination for Bali Hai. I had had a couple of unsatisfactory experiences there myself. I was hoping it had gotten better and seemed to fit the OP's needs but it hasnt improved, so skip it.

                  2. re: foodiechick

                    JRDN at Tower 23 is a good suggestion FC. I frequently see the space by the fire rocks being used for private parties. There are a few foodie worthy items on the menu that I enjoy: Wagyu Beef Tartar, excellent Lobster Bisque, Braised Berkshire Pork Belly, and 5 Spiced Duck Breast.

                    1. re: foodiechick

                      I 2nd the thumbs down on Peohe's. Food is barely average for what you pay and if you are a chowhound/foodie, you'll be disappointed. They have a great view of downtown and that's the best part about the restaurant.

                      Probably the closest match to the "on the water" and "good food" would be George's California Modern in La Jolla. However, the formal dining room downstairs doesn't scream "family style atmosphere."

                  3. Just a thought - in February, in the evening, you won't be able to see the water much - it will be dark by 6 PM. Not that it's not still nice, but unless you do it earlier in the day you won't get much benefit from a water view. I was just at the Loews Coronado Resort today for an event, and they have a lot of nice event spaces and it looks like they do a lot of events there - the Mistral restaurant there is very good. It's right on the water with a nice view of downtown.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Alice Q

                      For a sophisticated option, using Urban Kitchen catering at Star of the Sea would work. JRDN is a great setting but the bar crowd consumes the place IMO, unless you can afford to reserve the whole space. On the more budget-conscious side, Bali Hai's sister operation Tom Hamm's Lighthouse also has a great view of the bay, slightly less ersatz Polynesian in terms of menu. And Nick's at the Pier in OB has a great view. The day to day menu is quality, if not breathtaking, and the same group owns Third Corner so there's talent there - maybe they could design a special menu.

                      1. re: sandshark

                        The space by the fire rocks at JRDN is on the far south side of the dining space, and is well insulated from the hectic bar which is located on the far north end.

                        1. re: Captain Jack

                          Good to know Cap'n - will that area seat 50, do you think?

                          1. re: sandshark

                            There is also a back room adjacent to that outdoor area that would hold that number and might work out even better given a nod to Alice's point about the time it gets dark that time of year. I would also recommend Trattoria Acqua in La Jolla. There is some water view from almost very room and I have seen each area being used for private functions - including rehearsal dinners. The food is usually very good and it is a lovely and romantic spot.

                            1. re: foodiechick

                              When we were there in December, a law firm or company was having their holiday party there, so it should be big enough - the outdoor patio area is not all that large - but it's adjacent to the space and not open to the public when there's an event going on. It's all the way through the dining room on the far side of the restaurant. The fire would be nice in the winter months - and it has that "on the water" feeling - near the beach. It's also a nice place - modern architecture, attentive service, etc.

                      2. I would try Jack's La Jolla - The food is great, and the DJ - dance floor has ocean views and is outside under the stars.