Del Mar area casual but good?
Sorry for not digging through the California Board, but I'm looking for recommendations for
Del Mar area
Good, fresh food
Lunch &/or dinner
Doesn't need to have a view or atmosphere.
No Mexican, fish tacos, Thai , Indian, hamburgers or sushi.
Don't really want to drive all over the place.
A good gourmet grocery might do also.
In the immediate Del Mar area, it is a limited option. Americana is decent for brunch and lunch; dinner is hit and miss. Pacifica Breeze Cafe is good for casual breakfast and lunch. We have not been to Crepes and Cork but that may be another option for lunch and dinner.
If you're willing to drive over the 5 freeway into Carmel Valley, Sammy's Woodfired Pizza has good gourmet style pizzas, salads and pasta.
Closest gourmet grocery is either south in UTC (Whole Foods, Bristol Farms) or north in Cardiff (Seaside Market).
The Del Mar Highlands mall has a Jimbo's (similar to whole foods) and Eli's, which does have some gourmet items. Between the two of them, you should be set.
Champagne bistro is in the same mall and might suit your needs.
Also in the Piazza Carmel mall just slightly south, is an Italian restaurant called Via Capri that may fit the bill.
Aniata Cheese Shop (mentioned below) is now Venissimo Cheese Shop. Still a really good cheese place. Get the burrata cheese and then head to Chino Farms down a ways to get fresh heirloom tomatoes to eat it with. If you need a high-end chocolate fix, they also sell Vosges Haute Chocolate bars.
Champagne Bakery and Bistro is ok, if that. The food is ok and feels overpriced for what it is.
Went to Via Capri a long time ago and was not impressed. Food was fresh but lacking in flavor. Maybe it's different now. I would rather spend my $$ at the Souplantation across the parking lot.
No Mexican, fish tacos, Thai, Indian, hamburgers or sushi? What's left?
Seriously though, there is a Harvest Ranch Market in the Del Mar Plaza.
As for casual dining in Del Mar, The Brigantine and Epazote's are both decent. However, your better bet may be to head north to Solana Beach. The Fish Market, Pacific Coast Grill and Pizza Port are all good and Blanca is very good although not technically "casual" dining despite what San Diegans to dinner.
Il Fornaio is doing some pretty good Italian in DM (had recently some excellent house made pasta) for lunch with a nice ocean view.
Harvest Ranch in DM Plaza has good meat and some produce, but everything else is pretty limited. Best gourmet groceries are Whole Foods in LJ and Bristol Farms (about 1 minute southeast of Whole Foods). Bristols produce section is like a magazine layout: you'll want everything. Their meats are also excellent. They carry high end items like Hawaiian honey and specialty chocolate, soda, beer, etc. Their eat-in/take out prepared food is not as good as it once was, but I've never had a bad sushi box (and they can't keep the poke in stock!). Sorry I can't help on the restaurants. It is rather bleak in DM, and it's unfortunate that chains like Sammy's, Soup Plantation and Champagne Bakery are the majority of recommendations. Maybe some wise and wonderful cook will see the gap, and fill it with a restaurant that we would all be eager to recommend!
Crepes and Corks is definitely worth trying. I met friends there for lunch a few weeks ago and we all had delicious crepes and salads. The service was a little slow, but it looked like it was being operated by one guy (who was very friendly - perhaps the owner?) and one other server. It's pretty tiny - maybe 8 tables total, but very pleasant and casual. Very well prepared, fresh food with a European/French feel to it. We will definitely go back.
You can also try Stratford Court Cafe for very casual lunches on their outside deck. It's hard to find, tucked in behind some hedges on 13th Street, one block down from 101. Good salads, sandwiches, coffee drinks. I'd choose Crepes and Corks instead, but it's another option.
If you like Asian fusion/Chinese, check out Rendezvous in the Del Mar Plaza. We love their food, and get takeout from there every couple weeks. We always get the Crispy Pungent Chicken, and I have friends who love the Walnut Shrimp, but it's a little rich for me.
If you want a good gourmet grocery, I'd stay away from Harvest Ranch, except for in a pinch. The other closest places are Jimbo's, which would be my pick, and Eli's, which is next to Jimbo's in the Del Mar Highlands shopping center (lower part) on the corner of El Camino Real and Del Mar Heights Rd. Jimbo's is wonderful and has delicious prepared foods made w/organic ingredients. Eli's has a fabulous wine selection and a nice variety of other gourmet items and cheeses.
Tried Crepes & Corks today and really can't recommend it. Produce and other ingredients weren't fresh. Crepes were somewhat doughy, i.e., not as thin as traditional. Didn't have wine.
I've always loved Stratford. Good fresh food, good coffee drinks, and a great location that a lot of people don't know about, just a block away from C&C. Not open as late though. Close at 4 every day, or something like that.
Oh, that's a shame. As mentioned, I only tried it once, but I thought it had promise. So many of the places here in Del Mar are mediocre - we sure don't need another. I'm scheduled to meet a friend there next week, so I'll give it another try in the hopes that maybe it was an off day for them when you tried it.
Honkman, I think you are right and it has really improved over the last year. Very good breads brought in, nice (not great) pastry counter, nice prepared foods to go (home-replacement meal?), fantastic meat counter (the only beef they sell now is brant) and very, very nice produce.