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Sep 29, 2008 04:52 PM

question for san diegans - what is the state of the food "scene" right now?

i am a native san diegan who moved to los angeles about 8 years ago. i'm getting ready to start a family and would love to move back there for multiple reasons, but since coming here, even though it is a daily struggle with the traffic, the smog, and the people, i've really come to love it as a food town. i can go to a different farmer's market every day, there are specialty stores of every manner and culture, and the variety and quality of the restaurants are unparalleled. now granted, i haven't done much serious dining on my visits home. i tend to make stops at well loved holes in the wall like carnitas urapan or canada steakburger. but my general feeling is that san diego is too laid back for a dedicated chowhound, and that there just doesn't seem to be much exciting food happening there. to top it off, one of my goals is to open a restaurant, since after i got to LA i became a chef. and it seems to me that opening a place in san diego would be difficult because at least from where i stand, there doesn't appear to be much heightened interest in food overall, amking it a challenge to get a new spot up and running. i love that the city has been generating more and more topics on this board, but can anyone make a solid argument (besides the aforementioned gripes about the nature of los angeles and the neuroses it has caused) as to why i should abandon my sea of excess and return to america's finest city?

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  1. I moved here a year ago, and have been nothing but overjoyed at the variety of foods available within 30 minutes of home. Our previous town offered fried food, seafood, and fried seafood. Your other choice was mediocre chains. I love that I can have bacon pancakes for breakfast, Japanese for lunch, and Spanish for dinner. And then gelato for dessert. Not to mention, the people on this board who are long-time residents have never steered me wrong. As a result, I've had only great food experiences.

    1. Having lived here for 49 years, I can tell you how happy I am with how far San Diego has come. There are plenty of folks who enjoy bashing our food scene. Philistine I may be, but I'm a happy one.

      1. Native as well and you couldn't pay enough money for me to live in LA..
        SD has some great food choices and we've come along way..
        We have what no other city in the world has and that is the perfect climate, great happy people and one hell of a beautiful city, with great restaurants of all types and some of the best taco shops on the planet.
        I love the soul of our great city..and I do wish you all the best.

        1. I would have to question what you mean by "dedicated chowhound". There are people here who are very interested in food, and finding good stuff to eat, but it sounds to me like you're equating being a chowhound with being a gourmet that only cares about haute cuisine. My understanding of the term has always been to mean someone who enjoys good food, regardless of whether or not it's high or low cuisine.

          San Diego isn't LA, and likely will never be LA. I don't think it has anything to do with being laid back, and is more due to the kinds of people who settled and live here. You can find good food here if you look, but if you're only concerned with haute cuisine then you'll probably be disappointed.

          1. Tastycakes, I , too, am a native San Diegan. I lived in LA for 15 years and SF for 10, and I've been in the food service business for 30 years. Moving back to SD in 2001 was an enormous shock to the culinary system. I had to go to 3 grocery stores to find flat leaf parsley in 2001, now I can go 3/4 of a mile up the street and find it.

            San Diego is not a fine dining destination and it probably won't be in my lifetime, which is okay by me. But what it is doing really well right now are mid-range, sorta bistro-ish places. They're serving interesting food, pulling interesting beers and helping redevelop older neighborhoods. Next time you're visiting, eat your way down 30th St. from North Park to South Park. You will find just about anything you're looking for (except good Mexican). There is a market for more of the type of restaurants opening along the 30th St. corridor than there is for more fine dining, or more Italian in Little Italy. There is a market for it and a consumer base that is getting more and more sophisticated each year and more interested in their food. Will they ever be as passionate as LA or SF? Doubtful, but good food get rewarded in this town.

            San Diego is, as you probably well know, a really great place to grow up and raise a family. It's probably not such a great place to open a restaurant these days. Not that you asked for it, but as a young chef, my advice to you would be move back to SD for a while, get employed by a high end resto and hone your craft, paying special attention to service. Service lacks more in SD than food. Eat your way around town, up and down the food chain. Visit all the local farmers markets and some of the other local vendors, get a feel for what is here, what isn't, and what can be readily and easily sourced. The economy has tanked and it's going to be a few years before it really gets turned around and back on it's feet. Use the economic down cycle to get your business plan in tact and work on your financing. More restaurants fail because of under capitalization than bad food.

            Good luck.