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Nov 12, 2008 07:46 AM

Carlsbag, Solano Beach, San Diego

Spending Thanksgiving week in Solana Beach. We'll be golfing and sight-seeing in the area. Would love recommendations for outstanding restaurants in the area (but under $100 per person per meal, with drinks, tax & tip included), especially on Thanksgiving Day (turkey would be nice but not necessary). We're coming from DC where there is not really good Mexican so we'll want some of that. Fresh seafood is good, which could be in raw form. No need to recommend steakhouses/kebabs or other mainly red meat joints. Places we'll be going definitely include the Zoo, Legoland, Balboa Park, Gas Lamp District.


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  1. For great Mexican food close by, try Tony's Jacal or Don Chuy. They're on Valley Avenue in the Eden Gardens section of Solana Beach.
    Unique pizzas and micro-brews at Pizza Port on the Coast Highway in Solana Beach.
    A five-minute drive north up the coast highway into Encinitas would land you some of the best Italian food in San Diego at Trattoria i Trulli (highway 101 and K Street).
    Hope you enjoy our area on your visit!!

    10 Replies
    1. re: encinitaseater

      Unique pizzas and micro-brews at Pizza Port on the Coast Highway in Solana Beach.

      Its only unique in that the picnic tables and floor are covered with dried beer film and seems to be a scene right out of animal house. Some of the beer is good and some of it is over the top undrinkable. The Pizza is very mediocre IMHO.

      1. re: pantani

        Agree. The beer is good but the pizza lousy. For pizza in this area I would pick Pizzicato

        1. re: honkman

          It seems like the same places get rec'd on this site over and over again (Bety's, Pizzacato, La Especial, etc.) and any new rec's get crushed by posters who insist the same old places are the only worthy ones. Has anyone else noticed that?

          1. re: encinitaseater

            Two people object to *one* of your recommendations, and you refer to that as being "crushed?" Methinx you are being a tad bit sensitive, encinitaseater - most people seem OK with most of your recs.

            I'm not sure I've seen anybody laud the pizza at Pizza Port; beyond a "passable food for having with their beers" statement. Though the focus here is on food, I also one should describe the atmosphere there before sending people for dinner. Instead, it's probably better to say "go for happy hour, and stay for dinner if you get schnockered."

            1. re: encinitaseater

              What new recs get crushed ? I haven't seen any new recs in this disucssion which wasn't discussed on the CH multiple times over the last few years. You can't expect that just because you suggest some restaurants that everybody will agree but that is part of every discussion board. If you can't take the heat don't go into the kitchen

              1. re: encinitaseater

                Another good Pizza not mentioned is Bongiornio's in Solana Beach. I recently discovered their Miramar location and was impressed with the Pizza there. The crust is sublime and toppings are excellent. I have not actually been to the Solana Beach location but I imagine it is as good as the Miramar one.

                1. re: pantani

                  OP is from the east coast. Why oh why would you recommend San Diego area pizza places to someone visiting from back east? OP is from D.C., a very short drive from Baltimore. Why not a thread on crab cakes for the visit?

                  1. re: nosh

                    Every restauranbt in the mid-atlantic regios does crab cakes. I rather eat a whole crab than crab cakes.

                    1. re: Ericandblueboy

                      San Diego is not the land of the whole crab, unfortunately, for delicious, freshly caught whole Dungeness crab, you would need to go north, as in San Francisco. Oh how I miss freshly caught Dungeness. (You can find them fresh here, they are just not caught down here as the water is too warm for them).

            2. re: pantani

              Pizza Port: great beer, mediocre pizza.

          2. Best Mexican to be had (imho) in the area is to be found at Bety's Tacos in Encinitas. It is a small, down-home and delicious. Owner (Bety) is from Mexico City.

            Best fish (raw) Kaito Sushi in Encinitas- amazing food

            Kaito Sushi
            130-A N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024

            Betty's Tacos Restaurant
            1464 Encinitas Blvd, Encinitas, CA 92024

            2 Replies
            1. re: Enorah

              I will second Enorah's recs, these are great places. The sushi at Kaito is some of the best in California, it's small so make a reservation and sit at the bar, dinner only. Would be a good stop after a day at Legoland. Check their sushi blog for updates on what fish is coming in: http://sushikaito.com/SushiBlog.aspx

              In the same area Yumeya would fit your bill, Japanese izakaya style, not a raw fish sushi place. Small family run sake house in Encinitas, no reservations on the weekends so you have to get there early. See this thread for more info:

              1. re: Pablo

                I strongly 2nd Yumeya--went there tonight and had another great dinner!
                Also 3rd, 4th, 5th (or whatever) Kaito--good traditional sushi for very reasonable prices.

                for tongue, tripe, etc, look for posts by kare_raisu and Dining Diva. They know their non-Tex Mex Mexican well! I think kare-raisu and cgfan had a post in the last week or two about soup--can't remember if it was tripe or menudo.

            2. For the best Cal-Cuisine in SD County try Blanca in Solana Beach and Market in Del Mar. Both are outstanding. For sushi Samauri in Solana Beach is solid, and Kaito in Encinitas is terrific. Tony's Jacal, Fidel's and Don Chuy's in Solana Beach all provide solid Tex-Mex. Also the Brigantine in Del Mar and Pacific Coast Grille in Solana Beach both have good happy hours for a light dinner.

              9 Replies
              1. re: wanker

                I mistakenly read the OP's post to say he wanted to stay below $100 for a couple, which is why I left Market and Blanca off my list. Definitely try to make it to Market. It's on Via de la Valle about 5 minutes east of I-5.

                1. re: wanker

                  wanker's suggestions are spot-on, except that i'd never mention Samurai & Kaito in the same breath. you'll get much better sushi at Kaito.

                  also, if you happen to make it to La Jolla Cove, Trattoria Acqua has excellent italian food, and George's California Modern is great for upscale Cal cuisine in the downstairs dining room [they have a rooftop patio with a fantastic view, but the food up there is mediocre, not nearly as good as in the dining room].

                  1. re: wanker

                    Not really looking for Tex-Mex. Looking for tongue tacos, tripe soup, etc. Does that change your recs?

                    1. re: Ericandblueboy

                      With all due respect to Wanker, I'm not sure how what Tony's, Fidel's, and Don Chuy's do would qualify as "Tex Mex." Each offers what I'd think is traditional Mexican fare, not what you'd expect to find in Texas or New Mexico. My favorite of the three is probably Tony's Jacal, as they specialize in using turkey (tacos, enchiladas, etc.)

                      1. re: encinitaseater

                        With all due respect to Wanker, I'm not sure how what Tony's, Fidel's, and Don Chuy's do would qualify as "Tex Mex."

                        They're not. They're barely passible American/Mexican.

                        1. re: The Old Man

                          Tex-Mex = Mexican American cooking. The style Northern Mexican cuisine influenced by Eurpoean ranchers that arouse in the American Southwest. The use of beef, flour tortillas, red chile sauces and cheese is all indicative of this style of cusine and is the style of Mexican food that most Americans are familiar with -- burritos, tacos, enchiladas etc. etc.

                          1. re: wanker

                            I will bow to your knowledge and revise my statement. They're barely passible Tex-Mex.

                      2. re: Ericandblueboy

                        If it's menudo you are looking for, with many thanks to the good intel provided by kare_raisu, the best bowl I've found yet is at Las Brisas in Fallbrook. Mind you this will entail somewhat of a journey, even from North Coastal S.D. County. But if you think of it as a leisurely Sunday drive, you will find yourself rewarded with one of the most soulful bowls of soup one can ever have. Figure on a 40-50 minute drive from Solana Beach. Make sure you order it with the bone!


                        For sushi, there is no other - Kaito Sushi. Other traditional sushi bars in S.D. may get their mention, but Kaito Sushi stands apart clearly ahead of the others.


                        For the very best carne asada I've yet to find, there's Rudy's in the Eden Gardens area of Solana Beach, as well as a new location in La Costa. Their carne asada is so beefy as to taste much like a rustic, artisan-made beef jerky, but with none of the toughness. One of the best features of their carne asada is the "just right" amount of char that they achieve. I think it's best presented in their torta, which is where I think the coarsely cut morsels are best tasted, especially when eaten open-faced (I usually discard the top of the bun in order to strike a better balance between the beef and the bread)...


                        Betty's Tacos is also a very good choice. Everything is lovingly made to order, so allow yourself to relax either in their patio, or in their charming room painted in a rustic mustard yellow.

                        Yumeya is a little family-run hidden gem, featuring what is probably the largest sake selection in the county. Though Izakaya Sakura in Kearny Mesa does a better job presenting izakaya-style food, Yumeya has them beat hands down for atmosphere and in the graciousness of the hosts.

                        Kaito Sushi
                        130-A N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024

                        1246 N Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

                        Betty's Tacos Restaurant
                        1464 Encinitas Blvd, Encinitas, CA 92024

                        Las Brisas Taqueria
                        1005 S Main Ave Ste A, Fallbrook, CA 92028

                        Rudy's Taco Shop
                        524 Stevens Ave, Solana Beach, CA 92075

                        Rudy's Tacos
                        7662 El Camino Real Ste 102, Carlsbad, CA 92009

                      3. re: wanker

                        Dang, neither Blanca or Market is open on Thanksgiving.

                      4. First, if my experiences are accurate, you can trust the recommendations by enorah and encinitaseater -- this is their area of San Diego. I have not tried Bety's yet, but for very casual, amazingly inexpensive, order at the counter Mexican, I really like Juanita's on the beach side of Pacific Coast Highway in Solana Beach near Cardiff. A line out the door during lunch rush. I like the al pastor, the carnitas, and the crunchy tacos -- the fish tacos had what seemed like a grade-school cafeteria fish stick in them, and the quesadilla was boring. Order what the regulars are getting.

                        Market will strain your $100 per person all-inclusive price point, but is well worth it for your splurge meal. Cutting edge Cal cuisine, using produce from the nearby Chino Farms. They offer a four-course prix fixe meal with two or three choices for each course that runs about $60, if my memory serves, and was remarkably well-executed and memorable -- I still have vivid memories of three courses, a mushroom soup with outstanding flavor and spice, shortribs with a roasted onion that were tender and succulent, and a lemon tartlet with huckleberry that was delicate in texture and exploded with sweet tart flavor.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: nosh

                          Juanita's is excellent. It is located on Coast Highway in Leucadia, about a mile north of Encinitas Boulevard.

                          1. re: encinitaseater

                            You might also want to try Especial norte or Karina's both a bit further up coast highway in Leucadia. I know there has been some griping on this board about the lousy menudo at Especial, but I still love the chicken caldo and I would not know a good menudo if it hit me over the head. I know TOM thinks Fidel's is terrible but the happy hour bar tacos are really pretty good.

                        2. I enjoyed eating at Albert's inside the Zoo. Nice atmosphere. Food better than expected.

                          In Balboa Park, Prado has a great setting and the food was decent (maybe overpriced but to be expected).