Road tripping San Diego to Catalina
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.
We're now back from our trip, and had the best Mexican meals ever, so thank you all for your suggestions. I will be posting on the Encinitas restaurants here and on Long Beach and Catalina on the LA board. Based on your tips, we decided to stay in Encinitas and immerse ourselves in Mexican food since we did not have enough time to partake of all the recommendations. We went by Raul's Shack, La Especial Norte and Bety's and loved each of them. The beef molcajete (a very cool way of using a molcajete and new to me -- if anyone has recipes for cooking in a molcajete, please do let me know), the snapper in salsa verde, as well as the ubiquitous cabbage salad at La Especial were especially good, and we also loved the Chicken Tlalpeno soup and Mushroom & epazote quesadilla at Bety's. Raul's became a quick favourite for the carnitas burrito and chicken soup (spicy). Unfortunately, we missed Karina's since they were closed on the day we went by. We loved the food in Encinitas, as well as our first taste of surfing, so we're already planning on going back next spring to taste some of the recommendations that we missed on this trip, and try some more of the surf. So, if next year you see some particularly inept surfers near Moonlight Beach, come by and say hello. Thanks all.
Don't skip our SoCal icon - In N Out burger. They are up an down the coast and are the best fast food burgers you will ever have. There is even an entire underground culture surrounding the menu. I like my cheeseburgers with grilled onions and my fries well done.
CA Scotch Chick
In downtown La Jolla you can't beat Alfanso's Of La Jolla. More upscale but Prospect St in a great place to be or walk, right near the water, and many restaurants.
As you start to head up the coast from La Jolla, there is a great Mexican place, in my opinion, in Carlsbad called Las Olas. Great food and atmosphere and beach close.
Gets real crowded at dinner time and on the weekends but worth it. All the way up the Coast Highway from Del Mar to Carlsbad there are many great places and it is a nice drive.
While Alfonso's is fun for margaritas and appetizers on their patio, I certainly would not classify it as chow worthy. The food is just large portions of typical Cali-Mex slop.
Gringo's (I know, what a stupid name) in Pacific Beach is close to La Jolla, and if you stick to the Especiales Regionales portion of the menu there are some solid dishes to choose from. I love the Puebla's Chiles En Nogado, and the Pollo Huitlacoche is worth trying too.
El Agave in Old Town has a good selection of house-made moles.
For Mexican in North County I would recommend La Especial Norte or Betty's Tacos - both in Encinitas.
If you love ceviche then it is Karina's in Encinitas
La Especial and Betty's are full service restaurants. At Karina's you order at the counter.
La Especial Norte
664 N Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024
Betty's Tacos Restaurant
1464 Encinitas Blvd, Encinitas, CA 92024
Karina's Taco Shop
916 N Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024
I love all of Enorah's suggestions above, which can all be found only about 20-30 mins north of La Jolla.
I'd add just one more, which is Raul's Shack on Coast Highway in Encinitas at the main intersection just west of the Encinitas sign that hangs over the road. Great Mexican food made by a Mexican mama and served by her son...or is she the grandma? Anyway, it's great stuff. Don't miss the Mexico city style chicken soup with lots of big chunks of avocado. We also love the chicken rolled tacos, fish tacos, and carne asada burritos there. Raul's is truly a shack with just a takeout window and a couple of picnic tables outside for seating. We always grab our food and go around the corner to Moonlight Beach, where we can sit and watch the sunset.
One nitpicky thing about the above list - I think Bety's is spelled with one "t" instead of two. That's a wonderful place, and would be a better choice if you prefer a sit-down (although still VERY casual) place that serves a nice cold beer with your delicious food. ENJOY!
And while we have you in Encinitas, don't forget to drop by Elizabethan Desserts. I don't think there's a place where you can sit down and eat, but don't let that stop you less you risk missing out on a local, even regional, independent gem, lovingly run by it's namesake, Elizabeth.
Everything I've had there was a revelation of clarity in taste, texture, and ingredient quality, and I am particularly fond of her Cherry Mini-Lattice Pie.
BTW if you prefer things less sweet as I do, she'll gladly handle special-requests on advance notice.
Howver this is no patisserie in the European mold. Her style is unabashedly American nostalgic, which will either take you back to an earlier age, or leave you wondering "did things really taste this good back then"?
Get her mini cherry, strawberry rhubarb and apple pies. I think her pies and buckles (berry and tropical fruit) are her best items. Best cupcakes are her Hot Diggity Dangs (her version of a Hostess Ding Dong), coconut and hot chocolate. If she has them in the case, her Everything cookies and lemon cream cheese with lemon icing mini-cakes are really good too.
There isn't a place to eat them but get a box and take them to go.
It's worth a stop and less than 5 minutes off the 5 freeway on Encinitas Blvd and Quail Gardens Drive, inside the Sunshine Gardens nursery.
Super Cocina - homestyle Mexican food in City Heights neighborhood of San Diego
Mariscos German - Mexican seafood in the Logan Heights area of San Diego
Aqui es Texcoco - lamb centric Mexican taco shop in Chula Vista
Tacos el Gordo - Tijuana style taco shop in Chula Vista
I'm sure Kare_Raisu can add more options. These are a few of the ones that I've come to love off his recommendations (and others) here.
I'd also recommend El Pescador for fish sandwiches (or salads) in La Jolla