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Del Mar area casual but good?

  • m

Sorry for not digging through the California Board, but I'm looking for recommendations for

Del Mar area
Casual atmosphere
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.


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  1. 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).

    8 Replies
    1. re: daantaat

      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.

      1. re: mermaidsd

        Thank you both.

        Adding links for myself!

        Americana Restaurant
        1454 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014

        Pacifica Breeze Cafe
        1555 Camino Del Mar # 209, Del Mar, CA

        Crepes & Corks Cafe
        1328 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014

        1. re: mermaidsd

          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.

          1. re: daantaat

            I'd rather spend my money at Spices Thai...

            1. re: ibstatguy

              ooh, I'd still do Souplantation over Spices Thai. I've had better Thai than at Spices (outside of SD county, that is).

              1. re: daantaat

                But Spices Thai is sadly enough not bad for SD (and better than Souplanation, IMO).

                1. re: honkman

                  It is sad the Spices Thai is not bad for SD. However, I have a hard time eating mediocre Asian food and if it was between Spices Thai and Souplantation, I'd head to Souplantation, for what it's worth. :-)

        2. Aniata Cheese Shop in Flower Hill in Del Mar is really nice.
          I like sitting at the oyster bar at the Fish Market or you can go to Beach Grass Cafe in Solana Beach.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Beach Chick

            I saw Beach Grass Cafe but by the time my brain registered, it was too late to pull over. It's in my notes for next time.

          2. 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.

            2 Replies
            1. re: wanker

              Epazote went through a very expensive renovation and is now a very expensive steak house/sw restaurant.

              1. re: foodiechick

                I'd avoid Epazote. As foodiechick stated, it's way overpriced for the mediocre food. Jimbo's Market, which is inland DM, is a great choice for salads and light vegetarian dishes.

            2. Il Fornaio is doing some pretty good Italian in DM (had recently some excellent house made pasta) for lunch with a nice ocean view.

              1. 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!

                5 Replies
                1. re: kpsd

                  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.


                  1. re: susan3733

                    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.

                    1. re: kimxchris

                      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.

                  2. re: kpsd

                    For gourmet grocery I would add Jonathan's in LJ which is better than BF, IMO.

                    1. re: honkman

                      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.

                  3. Thanks for all of the suggestions, I did get to try Americana and it was pretty much just what I was looking for, so thank you. I had the chicken sandwich that comes with fresh mozzarella, roasted red pepper etc. Just fine. And pleasant during the week with parking right there on the same block.

                    We went to the main Pacifica Restaurant for dinner one night...cougar city! I've been to the Palm Desert branch. My reaction to Pacifica was that it was middling. Kind of limp mixed greens. Just okay.

                    Actually I was happier with the piece of halibut over quinoa that I had for an early bird dinner at Albert's inside the San Diego Zoo. Slightly off topic as far as Del Mar location, but a very pleasant surprise. They have sunset dinner pricing between 3pm and 5pm. The dish I had was $14 instead of $22 and the fountain was working on the back patio.

                    I stopped at the Henry's on Park, on the way back from the zoo (baby panda!!!) I was able to purchase a nice piece of fresh sea bass, coffee and some produce which carried me through for remainder of the stay.

                    Thai rec's not needed....I live in LA. Hence the no Mexican, Indian etc... and I don't eat burgers!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: mlgb

                      Nice to see Albert's mentioned on Chowhound. Definitely overpriced for the quality of the food, but it's non-profit, so you can feel good about it. And if it's a summer weeknight and you can get one of the tables on the patio by the waterfall, it's actually some of the better al fresco dining in San Diego (surprisingly). A lot of people don't realize it's there, at the base of the "treehouse" near the gorillas. Didn't know about the early bird. If you're there before 6:45 or so, stop in and see the bonobos while visiting--separated from humans by just a few million years of evolution and not unlikely to become extinct in the wild during our lifetimes.

                      1. re: kimxchris

                        Watching the bonobos is one of my favorite stops along with the orangs who are just as hard to find!

                    2. i'm late to the party on this one, but i'd recommend the 2nd installment of 3rd corner in encinitas. my husband and i have really been enjoying this place! nothing priced over $18, well prepared food, interesting wine selection and $5 corkage. the gorgonzola drizzled with lavender honey on their cheese board is so yummy. mussels are a really good value at $12 and are good and plentiful.

                      1. i'm late to the party on this one, but i'd recommend the 2nd installment of 3rd corner in encinitas. my husband and i have really been enjoying this place! nothing priced over $18, well prepared food, interesting wine selection and $5 corkage. the gorgonzola drizzled with lavender honey on their cheese board is so yummy. mussels are a really good value at $12 and are good and plentiful.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: beachbunnySD

                          No problem, I'm coming back in mid-August.

                          Are there any farmers markets (area north of Torrey Pines to probably not farther than Solano Beach)?

                          Also, anyone have any comments on those few restaurants on Carmel Valley Road just back of the lagoon from Torrey Pines State Beach?. That's where I"ll be at.

                          1. re: mlgb

                            There are a few farmers markets in that area - I think the best up there is the Del Mar market on Saturday afternoon. Not huge, but lovely offerings. There are markets in Encinitas and Solana Beach on Sunday but they're tiny. The La Jolla market on Sunday morning is more food court than anything IMO.

                            1. re: sandshark

                              The farmer's market in Solana Beach has gotten much bigger and has added some great vendors. I think at this point it's larger than Del Mar. Solana Beach farmer's market is on Cedros Ave, down towards the Via de la Valle end of it, on Sundays from 2-5. Del Mar farmer's market is in the parking lot behind City Hall, just off Camino del Mar between 10th and 11th Streets and it takes place on Saturdays from 1-4.

                              1. re: susan3733

                                Thanks for the detailed information! I'll be at one or both this weekend.

                            2. re: mlgb

                              I can recommend Trattoria Ponte Vecchio on Carmel Valley Road - it's tucked in between Iris and the Quick-E mart. Good Italian with fresh ingredients, a nice staff. The owner is the chef.

                              1. re: mlgb

                                Go north of the 5 fwy on Via de la Valle about 2-3 miles- turn right at the first street after orange "Farm Stand" sign and you will be at Chino Farms. Local fare, supplies food to many area restaurants. I believe they close at 1 p.m. on weekends, not sure about weekdays.

                            3. Jake's
                              Right on the beach. fresh food, very reasonable prices, great service. Jake's has it all.