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Road tripping San Diego to Catalina

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Hello fellow-Chowhounders:

My partner and I are going to be Chow-ing up the coast of southern California for a week in late June, starting out in San Diego, spending a couple of days in La Jolla and Catalina Island apiece, and leaving from LA.

We're looking for cheap good eats, particularly good Mexican choices (being Canadian, our options for good Mexican food are pretty slim), and would prefer to avoid the tourist traps, although we sure wouldn't turn down any recommendations.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Gastronomically yours,


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  1. Folks there are two threads going. If you have tips for Orange and LA Counties (which includes Catalina Island), please give your suggestions here.

    If you have great San Diego County tips, please respond here

    1. La Jolla..
      Alfonso's has great nachos and marg's..big enough to split..not the marg!
      Jose Court Room..decent and a good time.. oceanview from some of the tables at the windows.
      El Pescador for a fab fish sandwich is one of the best ever.
      Happy hour at the Crab Catcher/Roppongi/Sushi on the Rock

      Eric's at the pier for a great cheeseburger and fries and the coldest beer..buffalo nickel has a great happy hour by the heli-port..
      I like drinking/eating/snorkeling at Descanso Beach.
      Make sure you have a buffalo milk..great local cocktail


      1 Reply
      1. re: Beach Chick

        I just ate at Sushi On the Rock and although the price is right on the happy hour menu there are some real clunkers to be avoided. The Agadashi Tofu is gnarly.

      2. Hey, ac06, from which port are you sailing to Catalina? The food on the island has a pretty dismal reputation (deservedly so, based on our last trip there a few months ago) but you might be able to sneak in a decent meal (and/or provisions) before you embark on the boat.

        3 Replies
        1. re: PayOrPlay

          Hi PayOrPlay, we are leaving from Long Beach -- I haven't seen any recommendations for near there, so any thoughts you may have would be much appreciated. Also, do you know if there are good provisions stores on Catalina? Perhaps we could just prepare our own lunches at least. Thanks!

          1. re: ac06

            Since you are leaving out of Long Beach and have a hankering for good Mexican food you have what they call a serendipitous situation here. Enrique's in Long Beach is a wonderful place for Mexican food. Excellent chips and salsa to start and then their pork shank or their take on chile rellenos are both wonderful. But even their shredded beef taco's, etc. will be worth the wait.

            Enriques Mexican Restaurant
            6210 E Pacific Coast Hwy
            Long Beach, CA 90803
            Phone: (562) 498-3622

            1. re: ac06

              There is a Von's in Avalon to get your provisions on Metropole.
              Lori's Good stuff makes really good deli style sandwiches too.

          2. Quality food in Avalon is tough to find (after 35 years there I should know).
            Try Villa Portofino for dinner ... a refined atmosphere with decent food.
            For breakfast or lunch, a somewhat "hidden" spot is the Casino Dock Cafe out by the casino. Very pleasant place to be on a Summer day (all tables are outside; you order at a counter and they bring your order out; good value; good food).

            1. There's a good breakfast burrito at the Downtown Long Beach ferry station. In Avalon, I'd recommend doing the early bird dinner out at the Catalina Country Club.

              1. If you're looking for good mexican food in San Diego (there are lots of places), I suggest going straight to El Indio. A San Diego long time institution. The lines may be long, because the food is good. It is right of the 5 freeway north of Downtown. In Orange County try any one of the Taco Mesa Locations ( I think there are 3 or 4) fresh and made to order.
                I believe both of these places have websites you could view to get info.

                1. On your drive up the 405, I'd suggest stopping off in Little Saigon (Brookhurst Ave). You'll find tons of choices and there are lots of opinions, but here's what I suggest:

                  For a more refined meal (but still casual), check out Xanh Bistro. I highly recommend the claypot fish with the caramelized sauce. Fantastic.

                  For a banh mi sandwich (and this might be good to bring on the ferry because they travel well), I suggest either Banh Mi Che Cali or Lee's Sandwiches. The advantage in going to Lee's is that you can also get a jackfruit smoothie that has huge chunks of jackfruit lurking in it. I'm a fan of the pork pate banh mi, which is probably the most basic version.

                  For spring rolls (yes, I know that's an anglicized name), I suggest Brodard. Get the crispy pork spring rolls. The other food is good there, but that's the best thing on the menu IMO. You can get it to go and it travels well, if that's of any use to you.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: glutton

                    There are also several places to get banh mis in Long Beach on Anahiem in the Cambodian neck of the woods. Pretty much the same as the Vietnamese versions.

                    Oh, and in regards to Brodards, their fresh shrimp or pork 'spring rolls' are the best. No one else makes anything similar or as good as well as the dipping sauce too.

                    1. re: glutton

                      Is this the same Lee's Sandwiches that just opened on Beach Blvd. (at Lampson Ave.) in the Sam's Club shopping area, or a second location? Haven't tried it yet but fellow employees have (we work nearby) and recommended it. That jackfruit smoothie sounds really tempting . . .

                      1. re: Joani Macaroni

                        I don't know the location you're talking about, but I do know that Lee's is a chain. They've got many locations beyond just California, so there is a good chance that the location you're talking about is part of the chain. I know they've got a location in Artesia/Norwalk in the same shopping center as the 99 Ranch Market and they've got another location in the SGV.

                    2. Thank you all, we now have a list and hope to try as many as possible. We'll be back post-trip with our experiences...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ac06

                        Hi Everyone:

                        We're now back from our trip, and wanted to thank you all for your suggestions. I will be posting on Long Beach and Catalina here, and on our drive up from San Diego in the California board. For Catalina, as many of you indicated, the Chow-worthy choices were limited. We headed over to Von's as suggested and bought fixings for guacamole and salsa fresca, and pretty much subsisted on this during the days (no microwave or fridge in our hotel room, so our choices were limited); our dinners out were uninspired and uninspiring. That being said, we did find an excellent tiramisu at the Villa Portofino. Lori's appeared to be closed -- or maybe we just didn't time it right. All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed the hiking/snorkelling/kayaking on the island and had a great trip. At Long Beach, we located Enrique's and yes, thanks to the suggestion here, had the best chille relleno ever; everything else we had there (carnitas, carne asada, shrimp, etc.) was superb, except for the shrimp ceviche, which was just OK. So, thanks again for your time -- you helped make our visit down south memorable.