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First visit to San Diego! Where to eat?!

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sarahinthecity Jun 27, 2008 05:30 PM

We're going to San Diego in August for our first visit to California! We're not spending any money for the next two months to save up for amazing dinners and drinks on vacation. What cant-miss restaurants should I look into?

Were from DC. I love spots with great views and upscale food. Were young, but not into anything too trendy or clubby, just light and classy with awesome food. Not too much into unfamiliar foreign or vegetarian places. If you know DC, we love Ray's the Steaks, Ceiba, DC Coast, the view at Indigo Landing and Px in Old Town for drinks.

Recommendations for well-known, can't-miss restaurants; and under-the-radar spots; and places with great cocktails would be awesome.

We'll be there for a week, so at least 4-5 nights will be reserved for expensive dinners. Also, open to cheap places with amazing food or locations.

I'm so excited, help us have some great dinners?!

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    nutrition RE: sarahinthecity Jun 27, 2008 06:49 PM

    AZUL in LaJolla has the best coastal view of the coast and Sunset!, and very nicely prepared food. It is always a treat, when I go there! Friends always love the view and the food, and want to go back.
    Good bar menu and prices.

    1. d
      DougOLis RE: sarahinthecity Jun 28, 2008 11:03 PM

      In general a lot of the better "foodie" places aren't the restaurants with the best views, but there are a few that meet both criteria. Bertrand At Mr. A's provides an excellent view from the top of an office building on the hill over the Airport and bay. If you can get a window seat it's fun to watch the planes come in at basically your eye level and it's especially beautiful at sunset. The food is pretty good too and I've been please with my visits. Marine Room in La Jolla has an awesome view of the ocean (particularly during high tide and sunset) and has better than average food. For a couple other places with great views and decent food you could try Island Prime (Harbor Island) or George's Ocean Terrace (La Jolla).

      For great food without a view, I would consider The Better Half, Cavaillon, Market, Blanca, Cafe Chloe, The Linkery, Farmhouse Cafe, Sushi Ota, Kaito Sushi, or Izakaya Sakura.

      Cheap and casual food:
      Super Cocina - excellent homestyle cafeteria Mexican food
      Mariscos German - Mexican seafood
      Aqui es Texcoco - lamb centric Mexican food
      K Sandwiches or Cafe Dore - Banh Mi
      Ba Ren - Szechuan style Chinese
      Blue Water Grill or El Pescador - fresh fish sandwiches (and other seafood dishes at Blue Water Grill)

      4 Replies
      1. re: DougOLis
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        daantaat RE: DougOLis Jun 29, 2008 10:01 PM

        George's California Modern has great water and sunset views from their downstairs dining room. I'm happy to say that we had a great meal there last week. I'd put it above The Marine Room.

        DougOLis has a good list going...

        1. re: daantaat
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          ginael RE: daantaat Jul 2, 2008 07:01 PM

          I'd skip Marine Room. Definitely check out George's in La Jolla.

        2. re: DougOLis
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          DougOLis RE: DougOLis Jul 3, 2008 09:21 AM

          You might like JRDN at Tower 23 in Pacific Beach. It's a bit trendy but it's right on the beach and is definitely more upscale than most other places in PB. I've only had food their once (appetizers I think) and thought it was good; it was awhile ago and I don't remember the details but it might fit the bill. One of the nice things about there as opposed to many other dining options in San Diego is that they have a full bar.

          1. re: DougOLis
            foodiechick RE: DougOLis Jul 3, 2008 10:20 AM

            very good rec.

        3. c
          cstr RE: sarahinthecity Jun 29, 2008 08:55 AM

          For steaks, Donovan's in LaJolla is excellent but no views, also El Pescador for a fish taco or South Beach Grill in Ocean Beach. For a coffee break Brockton VIlla has an excellent view but, I wouldn't order any food there. In the harbor area for a great view there's Island Prime, again the food can be just so..so. The Fish Market by the convention center is also pretty good.

          1 Reply
          1. re: cstr
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            keena RE: cstr Jul 1, 2008 11:47 PM

            If you are in LJ and the ocean view is not mandatory (after all, a post-dinner 5 minute stroll to it is so invigoratingI highly advise Tapenade. Gorgeous and delicious food and so beautifully served (French). There is a happy hour menu too that is quite nice...or even the lunch menu. Another lovely LJ spot is Sante Ristorante. Also an easy post dinner beach stroll.

          2. zoememel RE: sarahinthecity Jul 2, 2008 02:27 PM

            this is embarassing, but i can't remember the name of the restaruant i went to but it is a diner, and it was featured on the food network show, dinner, drive-ins , and dives, and if you go on the website you will find it. I think it is called studio diner. yep that is it i jst remembered. well, yes that isi th place, amazing atmosphere and all the food is amazing, you can even watch clips of the restaurants on food network because they filmed there. the milkshakes are amazing and the mac & cheese, crab cakes, shrimp quesadillas, and all the hamburgers are awesome. plus, the experience is worth it for sure.

            2 Replies
            1. re: zoememel
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              PGB RE: zoememel Jul 2, 2008 10:53 PM

              Studio Diner?

              1. re: PGB
                zoememel RE: PGB Jul 6, 2008 06:51 PM

                yes, it is amazing. go to food network.com and look it up. i know i usually hate diners but this is great, plus the feel of the place is amazing and is a blast from the past. don't judge by a name.

            2. foodiechick RE: sarahinthecity Jul 3, 2008 12:13 AM

              I would tell you to have one of your lunch dates on the balcony of La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla. Decent food, great service and incredible views of Scripps Park, the pacific and surrounding cliffs up the coast. Many people like the glass-enclosed patio at Trattoria Acqua in La Jolla, although we find it a little stifling, close and noisy. Very nice italian food (i really would stick with lunch though), but we like the couple of tables indoors with wide open windows that lets the ocean breeze blow through in the summer , looking towards Del Mar and beyond. Enjoy.

              1. p
                pickypicky RE: sarahinthecity Jul 4, 2008 08:53 AM

                FOR FOOD AND VIEW:

                JRDN, Pacific Beach in Tower 23. Great SD style, on the boardwalk, eat inside or out, and tasty food. Check their website. My east coast friends love it.

                A R VALENTIEN, reserve on the terrace for pretty view of Torrey Pines Golf Course, site of US Open-- with ocean in the distance. Sadly, their website sucks but google online for reviews. This is as close as San Diego gets to great, classic California dining. As a former Virginian who dined well in DC, I believe this is a place you'll love.

                Absolutely GEORGE'S. I like the bar view (dining) best but all is uniquely La Jolla. Chef Trey is outstanding.

                No view except of cute fishmongers and a secret known only to locals: EL PESCADOR fish market next to Mitch's Surf Shop, Pearl Street, La Jolla. Killer fish sandwiches.

                1. s
                  sarahinthecity RE: sarahinthecity Jul 27, 2008 03:17 PM

                  Thanks for the great input. I did some research on my own too. Here's my list: If you had to choose 7 of them, which would you pick?

                  Marine Room
                  The Linkery
                  Georges at the Cove Upstairs
                  Bertrand at Mr. A’s
                  Peohe's (brunch?)
                  Hacienda De Vega
                  Island Prime
                  Trattoria Acqua
                  Zocalo
                  Azul
                  Studio Diner (lunch?)
                  JRDN Restaurant

                  For fish tacos: El Pescador, Brigantine, or South Beach Bar & Grille

                  Cocktails: Starlite and JSix. Any more drinks recommendations?

                  Also, will I need to make reservations for these places? Thank you!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: sarahinthecity
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                    DougOLis RE: sarahinthecity Jul 27, 2008 09:52 PM

                    The Linkery
                    George's
                    Mr. A's
                    Hacienda de Vega
                    JRDN
                    Trattoria Acqua
                    Marine Room

                    I would also strongly consider going off that list to a place with less of a view but arguably better food like The Better Half, Cavaillon, Blanca, or Market too. You should try and do a lunch at Super Cocina if you like Mexican.

                    Fish tacos: Mariscos German all the way but from your list I might choose the Brigantine. I love El Pescador but the sandwiches are superior to the tacos there.

                    Additional drink recs: JRDN. Do you drink beer? We have some of the best beer bars around and you should check out Hamilton's, O'Brien's, Toronado, or The Liar's Club

                    1. re: DougOLis
                      pbhomey RE: DougOLis Jul 27, 2008 09:59 PM

                      JRDN Restaurant
                      Azul
                      Marine Room
                      The Linkery
                      Bertrand at Mr. A’s
                      Hacienda De Vega
                      Island Prime

                  2. foodiechick RE: sarahinthecity Jul 27, 2008 11:45 PM

                    I agree with the last posts of Doug and pbhomey, except I say drop the Marine Room. Very, very expensive and IMHO pretentious and strange flavor combinations. Maybe substitute the new Jacks La Jolla italian restaurant Viaggio.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: foodiechick
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                      FoodieAAA RE: foodiechick Jul 28, 2008 07:53 AM

                      If you like fine dining I would suggest Tapenade. My sister ate at Jack's new restaurant Viaggio and said that the service was good and the food was probably the best Italian pasta she has had. The price was very reasonable for the quality. I also like Sante and Whiskand Ladle is good.

                      1. re: FoodieAAA
                        kare_raisu RE: FoodieAAA Jul 28, 2008 08:09 AM

                        second tapenade

                    2. s
                      sarahinthecity RE: sarahinthecity Jul 31, 2008 03:44 PM

                      Thanks! Any ideas for Sunday Brunch?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: sarahinthecity
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                        daantaat RE: sarahinthecity Jul 31, 2008 08:18 PM

                        Cavaillon
                        Coffee Cup Cafe in La Jolla

                      2. b
                        butterbutt RE: sarahinthecity Aug 1, 2008 07:47 AM

                        I would add Clays...outstanding view.. better than all the others.. in a different way.. high up so you can see more.. dinner or lunch..but they have a killer happy hour too. And music during the end of the week and weekends..I would do that over Starlite..and Jsix..

                        1. s
                          sarahinthecity RE: sarahinthecity Aug 24, 2008 07:03 AM

                          Thanks, you all have been so helpful! Two final questions before we leave (in 3 days!). Here is my short list of places to go: Azul, Hacienda de Vega, the Linkery, George's California Modern, the Better Half, Cavillion for brunch, Mr. A's, and C Level at Island Prime.

                          I've never been to San Diego before, should I be worried about parking at those places? Paying $20 every night for valet will put a damper on dinner (and my budget!).

                          Also, I don't know what to wear, should I just figure on skipping jeans and sticking to skirts or capris with pretty shirts? Or fancier?

                          Thank you again!! I can't wait to leave!

                          23 Replies
                          1. re: sarahinthecity
                            DiningDiva RE: sarahinthecity Aug 24, 2008 08:46 AM

                            Don't worry about $20 parking, it doesn't really exist at the places you've mentioned above, unless maybe you use the parking garage underneath Mr A's. In fact, at most of them you can probably find someplace to park for free on the street or a 2-hour parking meter that'll set you back all of about $2-3. BTW, almost all parking meters in SD are free after 6 pm and on Sunday. La Jolla may be the exception where parking can be a little difficult during the summer months, but even valet parking in La Jolla is reasonable at the places you mentioned...under $10 the last time I used it.

                            There is free street parking one block west of Mr. A's on 3rd and the area is safe to walk in after dark.There are also lots of metered parking spaces on the street. Plus, you can park for free in the Union Bank building at 4th and Laurel. (My hairdresser is in the Mr. A's building, I'm pretty familiar with the parking options <gg>)

                            There is a reasonably priced parking structure across the street from the Linkery, but if you're patient you can probably find a free parking place on the surrounding streets if you just drive around a little. Same with the Better Half. I think they do have valet parking, but you can almost always find parking by driving around the neighborhood. If you get there on a weekday after 5 pm, you can park on 1st St. between University and Washington in front of the elementary school in the spaces normally reserved for the school busses. C Level has it's own large parking lot and it's free.

                            At any of the places you've mentioned you'll be in areas where it would be no problem to park a few blocks away and walk to and from the restaurant, even after dark. All of these are in neighborhoods that, historically, have been very, very safe.

                            As to what to wear, my best advice is to be comfortable. San Diego is very laid back and casual, and probably much more casual than you're used to in Washington DC. I would dress up for Mr. A's, or at least go business casual or a notch up. (I'm often amazed <and not in a good way> at what some people will wear to a fine dining place in SD).

                            The rest you could get away with good (i.e. pressed, no holes, well fitting) jeans and a nice top. La Jolla tends to be a little more formal than the rest of SD so you might want to consider being a little less than jeans casual for those as well. As long as your clothes fit well and the way you're dressed is neat, clean, reasonably stylish and well accessorized, you won't feel out of place. The reality is that most people in SD don't really care how you dress; wear what you would normally wear in order to feel comfortable (i.e. not conspicuous) in a nice restaurant in DC.

                            San Diego isn't not called America's Finest City for nothing :-D. The weather has been glorious this weekend and should be just as good for your trip. Enjoy your trip and have a great time.

                            1. re: sarahinthecity
                              Beach Chick RE: sarahinthecity Aug 24, 2008 01:46 PM

                              I wanted to answer before I jump in the pool on this one for you sarah..
                              Love George's on the patio, Hacienda de Vega is lovely but in Escondido..
                              C level is great for drinks and some app's but I wouldn't spend a ton of money..they have a great happy hour which I go to quite a bit.
                              Where are you staying in SD?
                              I love rooftop bars in the Gaslamp that are romantic and great views of city/bay..
                              Ivy Hotel, Hotel Solamar, Stingaree..
                              La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla out in the back patio for drinks is my fav..killer views of the ocean and up the coast..also, Clay's or the Hotel LJ Shores..casual but oceanfront.
                              I wear capri's all the time with a nice shirt or mini-skirt with sandals..light jacket/sweater for evening.
                              Have a great time and report back!

                              1. re: sarahinthecity
                                Alice Q RE: sarahinthecity Aug 24, 2008 03:18 PM

                                Hi Sarah - I see you've put a lot of thought into this - and this is just my opinion, but I think in a couple of cases, there are better choices out there for the type of food you are looking for. I also think you've chosen a few places that are a little bit too similar to each other, and you might want to mix it up a little bit.

                                1) Azul and George's have almost exactly the same view. Instead of Azul, I'd suggest going a little further up the coast to Blanca in Solana Beach - a somewhat odd location in a strip mall on PCH, but some of the best, most sophisticated food in town. Nice low key atmosphere too.
                                2) The Linkery is a fine idea - be sure to try some of the local beers they have on tap or cask.
                                3) I'd strongly suggest Cafe Chloe or The Farmhouse Cafe over Cavaillon/Better Half. Cavaillon is waay out of the way in kind of a boring residential neighborhood - about a 45 minute drive from downtown, and I think the food at Chloe and Farmhouse is better than Better Half.
                                4) Instead of going to C Level, I'd up the ante and just go to Island Prime. The food is a lot better and it's not any more expensive than an ordinary steakhouse.
                                5) If you find yourselves in Balboa Park, you could have lunch at the Prado, in the middle of the park - kind of a quintessential San Diego experience. You could also pick up sandwiches for a picnic at Bread and Cie, or grab something at the Waters Sculpture Garden Cafe.
                                6) Instead of dinner at George's California Modern, you could have lunch at the rooftop Ocean Terrace. It's casual and the food is pretty good, and relatively inexpensive - and they have that spectacular view. I also like the Coast Toast at the Brockton Villa overlooking LJ Cove - if you're looking for ocean views it's a nice place for breakfast.
                                7) Another great lunch spot is AR Valentien - at the Torrey Pines Lodge. If you're into hiking, the Torrey Pines State Reserve is nearby and has some great trails down to the beach. Stay away from the cliffs though!
                                8) Another nice place is the 1500 Ocean restaurant at the Hotel Del. Coronado is sort of a quintessential San Diego experience, and they have opened up the dining room with nice ocean views and it's fun to stroll around the Victorian era hotel.

                                You might want to bring one "dressy dress" for Mr. A's or the like, but in most places you will be more than fine in capris and a nice shirt. It will probably be pretty warm while you're here, so shorts will be good during the day. I think - though I'm not absolutely sure - that the valet parking for Mr. A's (which is in the back of the building on the 4th Avenue side, not the large parking structure that wraps around the building) is free if you dine there. It was when I worked in the building a few years ago, but that was before the remodel.

                                If you're looking for more ideas - I have a list on my blog www.aliceqfoodie.com - it's on the righthand side if you scroll down. Hope you have a fantastic time!

                                1. re: Alice Q
                                  honkman RE: Alice Q Aug 24, 2008 03:40 PM

                                  Sorry, but I have to disagree on a few points:

                                  - Especially Farmhouse is quite disappointing and not worth a visit for somebody who just visits SD for a few days. I also think that the quality of the food at Cavaillon is definitely worth a 30 minute drive.

                                  - I wouldn't skip a dinner at George's California Modern for a lunch at the Ocean Terrace which has a great view but disappointing food. Also Brockton Villa based on their quality of food would be out of business without their view.

                                  - I would skip Prado which again isn't know for even average food.

                                  1. re: honkman
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                                    daantaat RE: honkman Aug 25, 2008 09:37 PM

                                    Alice Q, I have to agree w/ honkman that Cavaillon is worth the drive and food. Same about Brockton Villa, which I know we have playfully sparred with each other about in the past! :-)

                                    I think from your likes and dislikes, you prefer to have a certain kind of ambience and atmosphere w/ your meals. To a certain extent for me, the food comes first, then the rest.

                                    1. re: daantaat
                                      Alice Q RE: daantaat Aug 25, 2008 11:49 PM

                                      Oh my goodness... Cavaillon is sort of a non issue at this point, since she's staying in Rancho Bernardo - it's close, that's fine. I do think it's a little sterile around there, and four of us had pretty mediocre food on my one visit - I don't plan to go back and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone from out of town unless they were - like Sarah, staying nearby.

                                      Not sure where you're going with the ambiance comment. Does K Sandwiches have a certain kind of ambiance? How about Tacos el Paisa or Mama's Lebanese? Maybe Dao Son? I think you may be misjudging me, if I may be so bold.

                                      The recommendations I offered were intended for someone who is visiting from out of town and wants to have a quintessential San Diego experience - views and atmosphere as well as location are usually considered there, at least in my experience.

                                      1. re: Alice Q
                                        honkman RE: Alice Q Aug 26, 2008 12:24 AM

                                        I don't think that a quintessential San Diego experience for somebody who is just some days in SD should be be ignoring the food and just focusing on the views and atmosphere. Some of the suggestions are tourist traps, e.g. Brockton Villa, Prado or have average food at best like Ocean Terrace, Farmhouse Cafe. I don't see what any of these places have to do with a quintessential San Diego experience (as long as you don't believe that mediocrity is the quintessence of San Diego). And restaurants like Cavaillon and Better Half have some of the best food in San Diego (if you believe the large majority of reviews on this board) and should be of interest for somebody out of town even if they are not staying very close by.

                                        1. re: honkman
                                          foodiechick RE: honkman Aug 26, 2008 01:07 AM

                                          Believe me, I have a fairly good idea of what out of town visitors want in at least some of their San Diego experiences, having entertained 6 serious foodie couples from out of town this summer. Sure they want the newest and brightest new spots based on food. But they are also escaping the mundane of their everyday atmosphere and/or heat of their home cities. Hence, Georges Ocean Terrace is always a huge hit with out-of-town foodie friends from NYC, LA, Chicago and Dallas. Sometimes it is about the view and decent (not four star) food on a sunny day in San Diego! They are thrilled. You make good points on places serious foodies may want to check out (even if some of us disagree - which I do about your assessment of Farmhouse), but if you are visiting for a long weekend, I think it is also a little about the "chill" in a beach city. Every meal need not be so serious, go to a taco shop.

                                          1. re: foodiechick
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                                            The Old Man RE: foodiechick Aug 26, 2008 09:01 AM

                                            "But they are also escaping the mundane of their everyday atmosphere and/or heat of their home cities."
                                            Nothing like escaping the mundane of Chicago or New York to escape to this vibrant city. They are so culturally deprived and certainly have no great eating spots. But we do have great weather.

                                            1. re: foodiechick
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                                              DougOLis RE: foodiechick Aug 26, 2008 09:49 AM

                                              well said

                                              1. re: foodiechick
                                                honkman RE: foodiechick Aug 26, 2008 11:53 AM

                                                As Alice wrote down below correctly it comes all down to different ideas about how to "present" San Diego to out of town visitors. My own experience (and obviously everybody has a different view and none of them is right or wrong) is that my visitors prefer to have San Diego experience during the day by visiting/exploring quintessential parts of San Diego but couldn't care less about the view/atmosphere of the restaurant as long as the food is outstanding. But I think it is good to have a (sometimes heated) discussion on this board and disagree on some restaurants otherwise it would be too boring if everybody agrees on everything.

                                              2. re: honkman
                                                kare_raisu RE: honkman Aug 26, 2008 09:57 AM

                                                You might want to amend your assessment of what Alice considers points of a San Diego 'experience.'

                                                Last time I checked, she was the leader of the fancy food tours when the show was in town and she puts in the time and effort into the resource that is her blog.

                                                Other than raving about maybe 2 high end restaurants in San Diego - where has your pessimism brought us in the realm of San Diego gastronomie?

                                                1. re: honkman
                                                  Alice Q RE: honkman Aug 26, 2008 10:09 AM

                                                  Cavaillon and Better Half did not serve me some of the best food in town, and that's all I have to go on. I really don't need to argue with you about the quality of a meal that I ate. You've had a different experience, so be it.

                                                  I take most recommendations on these boards with a handful of salt - since I frequently see recommendations for places I don't care for, while better restaurants are ignored (again - obviously - in my opinion.) It seems to me that these boards have a tendency to create "darlings" that gather steam with a "piling-on" effect, some warranted, some not so much.

                                                  As far as what out of town guests like to experience, I guess you and I just have different ideas about that. Even if the food isn't five star, I do think the places I recommended are enjoyable for non-locals - and not nearly as bad as you make them out to be.

                                              3. re: daantaat
                                                kare_raisu RE: daantaat Aug 26, 2008 09:59 AM

                                                I think you need to come more places with me and Alice a la Aqui es Texcoco, Tacos El Paisa, Mariscos German, Imperial Farmers Market before you make an assumption on her preferences.

                                                1. re: kare_raisu
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                                                  daantaat RE: kare_raisu Aug 26, 2008 12:32 PM

                                                  Alice Q and kare_raisu--my comment about putting atmosphere over food was based on what places you comment about on this board. To the best of my memory, most of what you recommend are not the hole in the wall, cheap places (or at least, that is where we agree and differ on which ones are better, so that is what sticks out in my mind). Obviously, my memory is not always 100% accurate.

                                                  1. re: daantaat
                                                    Alice Q RE: daantaat Aug 26, 2008 01:41 PM

                                                    Maybe that's because you and I both tend to post on threads about upper end restaurants in LJ and N. County. Generally I will go anywhere for a good meal - but I think you may be right in that I prefer a certain kind of atmosphere in a dining out experience. I like it to be lively but not too noisy - and I appreciate good design and decor - I can't help it, I think it enhances the experience, and attention to detail in the front of the house generally follows attention to detail in the back of the house, or so I'm told. For ex. - I posted recently that I was turned off by dirty furniture and worn out fixtures at 910 recently, and I have repeatedly stated that I prefer Blanca over Market both for food and atmosphere.

                                                    1. re: Alice Q
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                                                      daantaat RE: Alice Q Aug 26, 2008 07:55 PM

                                                      Yeah, I agree about what places we tend to post and opine about. My take on atmosphere is that if I'm in an upper end place, the decor "needs" to follow suit. Dirty furniture in a place like Nine-Ten doesn't cut it. However, I'm willing to forgive a lot in atmosphere (except for flat out dirtiness) if the food is good in a cheaper establishment.

                                            2. re: Alice Q
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                                              The Old Man RE: Alice Q Aug 26, 2008 10:17 AM

                                              I wish Ocean 1500 was up to the view. I think the space they created is very nice, but the food has always let me down (three tries). It's also hotel food expensive.

                                              1. re: The Old Man
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                                                pickypicky RE: The Old Man Aug 26, 2008 03:14 PM

                                                What a terrific sub-thread! Glad to see I'm not the only one Honkman goes after. His (her?) moniker does seem kinda apt. I've always pictured you, Honkman, chasing down the thread like an angry goose, honking. I say that affectionately, because, Lord YES! This kind of discussion is far more interesting than SmartyPantsKnowITALLness. As a former East Coaster, who must entertain lots of visitors to San Diego from all over the US and California, Foodiechick says it perfectly. When my friends, family, and associates come, they always ask to dine outside (which I must add is oddly one of SD's weaknesses. Not enough great outside dining.) They ask for casual. They ask for great Mexican or seafood. They ask for great food but never "Fine Dining" because usually where they're from has Fine Dining that Runs Circles around Ours. They love Imperial Avenue, George's, Jrdn's, Bahia lobster burritos, El Pescador, panaderias. Anything they can't get at home and that makes them feel far far away from "the mundane of their everyday." Yes, they'd LOVE Prada-- because it's Balboa Park, but instead I steer them to the Waters- Catered Sculpture Garden. Is this a Male/Feminine Divide? This atmosphere+food vs. food-only divide?

                                                1. re: pickypicky
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                                                  Work4Tips RE: pickypicky Sep 9, 2008 07:41 PM

                                                  Dined at the Prado a year ago and loved it. Have seen it given mediocre reviews on this board before but IMO it's worth the trip for out of town visitors. The patio seating is beautiful (dine on the early side so you can enjoy it), the dishes we ordered were excellent and the service top notch (had a caring young waiter who made the evening). I was very pleased and would return in a heartbeat.

                                            3. re: sarahinthecity
                                              s
                                              sarahinthecity RE: sarahinthecity Aug 24, 2008 04:15 PM

                                              Thanks for the thoughtful replies. Were staying at the Rancho Bernardo, so Cavillion and Hacienda de Vega are close by.

                                              1. re: sarahinthecity
                                                DiningDiva RE: sarahinthecity Aug 25, 2008 08:52 AM

                                                Sarah, close to RB and a place definitely worth considering is - http://labastidebistro.signonsandiego... . It's in a grocery shopping center, but it is very good. Nice bar at the back pouring decent wine, good food, leisurely pace. Good value for the dollar. Dress is comfortable and casual.

                                                1. re: sarahinthecity
                                                  Alice Q RE: sarahinthecity Aug 25, 2008 02:20 PM

                                                  Oh - well in that case, you're much closer to those 2 places than the other ones I mentioned! I notice Honkman doesn't say anything about what he agrees with, only what he doesn't agree with. Oh well...

                                                  To each his own - but I've been to the Farmhouse on several occasions, and it is not only better but more affordable (with nothing over $20.) than many of the other bistros in town - Better Half included. Try to get to Cafe Chloe if you can, even though it's a trek - it's one of the best places we have here in SD.

                                                  There are other fine dining restaurants I'd choose over CA Modern, but the rooftop Ocean Terrace has all the views, and is a lot less expensive. It's been completely redone in the past year with an all new menu, and it's improved quite a bit.

                                                  There's a reason I recommended a specific dish at Brockton Villa - it's the best thing they have. The view and the atmosphere there are the main draw - but they are really nice, and worth the trip, IMO. Likewise, the Prado has a lovely setting in the park - especially if you sit outside. For lunch, especially, I think you'll be ok on the food.

                                              2. lawyerbriefs RE: sarahinthecity Aug 26, 2008 09:21 PM

                                                Sarah:

                                                I hope you had/are having lots of fun. I'll put my 2 cents in for Peohe's. The food is more than adequate, but nothing special. What's fun, though, is taking the ferry from downtown, walking into the restaurant before the ferry has left the dock for its return trip and sitting on the patio looking at an extraordinary view of downtown, tons of activity of all sorts on the bay and the kids playing on the itty-bitty beach on the other side of the ferry dock. Prices are not super high, drinks are great and the onion rings are exceptional. And when you're done, you take the ferry back to downtown. ( My guilty pleasure is onion rings and a martini, topped off with a walk from the ferry to Extraordinary Desserts for take out treats and a walk back downtown, to walk off the rings and get ready for dessert.)

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                                                  sarahinthecity RE: sarahinthecity Aug 28, 2008 08:11 AM

                                                  Hey all, were here! Went to Azul last night. The food was great, really memorable macadamia crusted sea bass, but I have to say the atmosphere wasn't my style. Cards on the table, were 23, mature for our age, but Azul seemed geared for way older people than us. White linen table clothes, old carpeting, not trendy at all, tables filled with business dinners, and no young people. I'm worried that the other places I picked are going to be the same. George's, Mr. A's, Island Prime, etc... what do you think?

                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: sarahinthecity
                                                    lawyerbriefs RE: sarahinthecity Aug 28, 2008 08:32 AM

                                                    I'm 50, from Arizona and not very familiar with the places you mentioned. That said, I don't think there are many 20-somethings who are as focused on fine dining as you all are.

                                                    1. re: sarahinthecity
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                                                      Ewilensky RE: sarahinthecity Aug 28, 2008 08:47 AM

                                                      These tend to skew to older expense account diners but you also ate there mid-week and San Diego doesn't really get hopping until Thursday night (and some would argue it never gets hopping).

                                                      If you want to go younger Starlight Lounge might be a fun night out

                                                      http://www.starlitesandiego.com/main.php

                                                      It made your short list up above.

                                                      1. re: sarahinthecity
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                                                        DougOLis RE: sarahinthecity Aug 28, 2008 09:40 AM

                                                        I've never been to Azul so I'm not sure what the decor is inside, but George's and Mr. A's are both pretty nice inside. They both have white linens and are upscale but in a modern way. I'm not sure if I would consider them stuffy and elite, but I don't think I would consider them young and hip either. The Ocean Terrace at George's might provide a more relaxed atmosphere. I don't recall Island Prime having white table clothes and it is a bit more contemporary than the other 2 you mentioned.

                                                        From the others on your list:
                                                        The Linkery - no problem here, easy going atmosphere, contemporary
                                                        The Better Half - not hip, more of a low key environment, it's in like an old house
                                                        Cavaillon - like The Better Half it's not young/hip/modern but it's slightly more sterile. I'm not sure how you would interpret their environment
                                                        Hacienda de Vega - I don't really see a problem with this location

                                                        Other contemporary and modern options:
                                                        The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma
                                                        Starlite Lounge
                                                        Bite
                                                        The Guild
                                                        JRDN
                                                        maybe Blanca (it's pretty formal but in a modern way, lovely space)

                                                        1. re: DougOLis
                                                          lawyerbriefs RE: DougOLis Aug 28, 2008 09:53 AM

                                                          For lots of fun and great pizza in a younger atmosphere, try Urban Bar, downtown across form the baseball stadium.

                                                          1. re: DougOLis
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                                                            The Old Man RE: DougOLis Aug 28, 2008 11:28 AM

                                                            "Hacienda de Vega - I don't really see a problem with this location"

                                                            Except the food. But the decor is very pleasant and the drinks are fun.

                                                          2. re: sarahinthecity
                                                            foodiechick RE: sarahinthecity Aug 28, 2008 11:02 AM

                                                            George's has more of a vibe than Azul (I really dislike that interior) and the remodel makes it more hip, I have seen all ages there. Mister A's will absolutely trend older being one of the most expensive restaurants in the city (and I do find it stuffy). Like George's, I have seen all walks of life at Island Prime. It is pretty modern decor and I think the best views in the city, pretty decent food. I would stick with it, it is the complete package. Ewilensky makes a good point about the mid-week thing and Starlite is a great suggestion, great atmosphere and food.

                                                            1. re: sarahinthecity
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                                                              sarahinthecity RE: sarahinthecity Aug 29, 2008 08:43 AM

                                                              Alright, thanks, I think I'll cancel Mr. A's.

                                                              1. re: sarahinthecity
                                                                Beach Chick RE: sarahinthecity Aug 29, 2008 09:51 PM

                                                                Gaslamp sounds to me..where you need to hang.
                                                                Love George's, JRDN, Starlite and Stingaree..
                                                                Have a great time!

                                                                www.gaslamp.org

                                                                1. re: sarahinthecity
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                                                                  sarahinthecity RE: sarahinthecity Aug 31, 2008 08:17 AM

                                                                  I loved George's! We ate at California Modern, it was just what I was looking for! Might go back for the Ocean Terrace later this week. And the Linkery and Hacienda de Vega were really fun too! I think I'll try Starlite tonight for drinks and dinner, then head to Jsix for drinks.

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                                                                sarahinthecity RE: sarahinthecity Sep 8, 2008 04:02 PM

                                                                Ok! Were home, time to run down our fabulous San Diego dinners.

                                                                Thursday we went to the Linkery which was an awesome place. Great decor and lighting, we got a burger which was yummy, not the best ever but good, and some sausages which were only okay. Good beer list and tasty Sangria! When we told the waiter at our hotel where we went, he indicated that it was in a bad neighborhood, which we thought was funny because were originally from Philly, so we'd know a bad neighborhood when we see one!

                                                                Friday we went to Hacienda de Vega which was such a good atmosphere, live band and good Mexican food. Although the drinks were big and mediocre, the carnitas and polla nevado were very tasty. It was my boyfriend's favorite meal of the trip, he said they had the best carnitas ever.

                                                                Saturday we went to George's California Modern. We got a drink at the ocean terrace first which I loved, that was so California just like you all said. The bartender was fairly rude though and didn't acknowledge us standing there for 15 minutes. But, California Modern was delicious, I got sea bass and black forbidden rice (I loved the one I had at Azul so much, I ordered it again, but Azul's was better), it was very good. It was cooked to medium which made it a bit hard to get pieces apart to eat because it wouldn't flake. I got a nicely paired (by our server) half glass of white wine which was a nice feature. I loved the atmosphere there and really great service.

                                                                Sunday we went to Cavillion for brunch and sat on the patio which was so tranquil and lovely. We had beignets which were just poofy funnel cakes in my opinion, but good. We had steak and eggs, and braised short ribs and eggs, came with rosemary potatoes and toast. All very good. We really enjoyed Cavillion, especially the patio. Also, fantastic service.

                                                                Sunday night went to Starlite for dinner, what a cute space. Cocktails were just okay, not what I expected, but DC may have spoiled me, although my boyfriend loved the cucumber martini. I really disliked our waitress, she kept forgetting about us, and getting the showy couple next to us everything they asked for quickly. They ran out of the special slow cooked beef, so we both got steak, it was fine. For appetizers, we had mac n cheese and octopus, both were good. They had no side dishes for the steak other than salad, so I ordered pomme frites which the server forgot to bring until I was done with my steak, and she never noticed and charged me anyway. It was a really strange crowd in there which made us laugh, full of crazy hair, leather, and other eccentricities. Didn't feel very loungey or up scale because a bunch of people had on jeans and t-shirts. If I went back, it wouldn't be on a Sunday night.

                                                                Anyway, afterward we went to Jsix which was so pretty and so California, nothing like that in DC! I got a good Sidecar to drink there. I think it would be better with less loud rap music and fewer bottles of beer in favor of cocktails, but hey, that's just me. I'm really glad we went over there, it was cool, and we found $3 parking! Monday we went to Temecula and ended up skipping dinner, I had wanted to try the Better Half, but they were closed Sunday (for labor day) and Monday.

                                                                We had lunch Tuesday at Mariscos German, we got fish tacos. No one told me the menu would be all in spanish, so we just got two grilled, one fried, one shrimp. I loved the fried one, the tortilla was nice and hearty and the fish was really tasty.

                                                                Tuesday we had our last San Diego dinner at C Level which I loved! What a beautiful place. I got a great cocktail with dark rum and orange zest, best one of the trip. We had the lobster bisque and she-crab soup, both delicious, although I preferred the lobster with the big claw meat in the middle. Then, I had the black and white sesame salmon with wasabi mashed potatoes, and my boyfriend had a bacon-wrapped filet mingon with goat cheese mashed potatoes and asparagus. The portions were gigantic, I only finished half of mine, both were very good though. But, the goat cheese mashed potatoes were out of this world, I can't get them out of my head! We each got a wine flight, we had the eclectic whites with Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and one other and the interested reds with tempranillo, and two others I can't remember. We did save room for dessert, we had a trio with Mojito sorbet, orange sorbet, and Oreo cookie ice cream. The Oreo cookie ice cream looked chocolatey, but it wasn't, it tasted exactly like a frozen Oreo. It was really out of this world. One of the best ice creams I've ever had, and I have a small obsession with the stuff :-).

                                                                All in all, we had some fantastic meals and drinks at unique, fun restaurants. Thank you all so much for your input, we wouldn't have had such a fabulous time without you. I would recommend all of those restaurants to friends. I appreciate all of your responses and ideas!

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: sarahinthecity
                                                                  Beach Chick RE: sarahinthecity Sep 9, 2008 08:51 AM

                                                                  Glad you had a blast in SD!
                                                                  I really enjoy Hacienda de Vega and Friday night is a fun time to go with the music and everyone is in a festive mood.
                                                                  C-Level has some great views and the food can be spotty but when Deb the owner/chef is there, food is better..imo.
                                                                  sounds like you had nightmare time at Starlite..I would let mgmt know.

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