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San Diego Restaurant Week 2009

Where's everyone going? Some places haven't put out their menus yet, but what are the best bets for a great meal? I like Terra in Hillcrest, but I'm not excited by their menu offer this year.

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  1. Ok, I'll bite.
    The menus that tempt me are:

    Hexagone....I'll give them another try...food is good
    Nine-Ten...always excellent
    Jsix....tempting menu
    Inn at the Park..if they have any space left
    WineVault and Bistro...excellent choices

    If I could choose only one it would be Inn at the Park. Parking is a problem here.

    1. Ok, I'll bite.

      Inn at the Park
      Wine Vault and Bistro

      If I could choose just one it would be Inn at the Park. Bound to be packed and parking is difficult but worth it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: P Macias

        I wrote a inquiry on this topic a week ago and no response so I am glad someone posted it again. Are any of these restaurants suitable for children? or are they more higher end couple romantic places.

      2. I just have a hard time going anymore, because my experiences before were not so much "foodie" experiences as...well, it felt gimmicky. I was hoping it would be a good way to get a peek at the restaurant's quality, but then I hear that during RW, they don't always make the same commitment to food and service. So, maybe it's not such a great way to get a sense of the place. And finally, with places like Wine Vault serving a 5 course (absolutly delicious menu) for $25 or Better Half serving 3 courses for $15...I have a hard time getting excited about paying $40 for 3 courses of questionable quality. I guess with my expanding waistline, I'd rather eat less, but hopefully see their best efforts (and admittedly, pay a little more in some cases) than to possibly waste the calories on mediocre efforts.

        Good luck though and I look forward to reading about your experience!

        1. I'm admittedly nervous for my first San Diego restaurant week, coming from Restaurant Weeks in NYC and Philly for the last few years. I have reservations at Indigo. Thoughts? Any other suggestions?

          1 Reply
          1. re: JJS360

            Indigo is my favorite of the Cohn restaurants, and I think they always have solid crowds that they are turning, so I might be wrong, but I'd be optimistic about their RW menu reflecting the quality of their normal operations. If you have the option and like veggie, the Good Things Growing is unique and fun.

          2. my thoughts are similar to pkt63....at $40 each for the places we want to try I don't feel it is much of a value considering the luck we have had in the past with food & service quality.
            I think we are skipping this round, maybe during the summer.

            10 Replies
            1. re: MrKrispy

              I'm glad someone else asked about this, I was just about to post the same question.

              As per pkt63 and MrKrispys thoughts, yes, I agree that you probably wont get the level of service as on a regular night (actually I know this personally, as I had a very subpar experience--service-wise at least--during the last restaurant week at a certain "high end" restaurant).

              However, I feel its worth the risk, especially for someone like me who cant afford the high end spots usually.

              Anyone have any recs for North County Coastal? I haven't been to Market yet, so would love to try that. Also, any thoughts on Arterra?

              Sbicca seems like a decent price at $30... but then again, I'd like to try somewhere new.

              1. re: tundrah

                Market is excellent, on and off RW. It is a "don't miss." We were at Arterra last year and it was pretty good (non-RW), although I felt like my entree was unbalanced with the acid vs other flavors and I like a fair amount of acid in my food. If you had to pick one over the other, it's Market, hands-down.

                Blanca is pretty solid as well, although I like Market better. Cavaillon is also very, very good.

                Sbicca, IMO, is very overrated and overpriced.

                1. re: daantaat

                  thanks daan. Market it is. And Blanca, ummm, yeah. I had my experience there.

                  1. re: tundrah

                    re: Blanca, eew, not good. I can understand the reluctance to return there...

                    1. re: daantaat

                      That's such a shame! My experience at Blanca was 100x better than at Market. Mostly the service was a lot better, but the food was more well-crafted and exciting at Blanca as well. I've been meaning to go back to Market, but it left a bad taste in our mouths (NPI) at the time so it's hard to get motivated.

                      1. re: pkt63

                        Ditto! We have had exactly the same experiences at both venues.

                        1. re: foodiechick

                          I was in charge of making reservations for a family occasion for 6 next weekend, with proximity to Solana Beach a priority. I have Market at 6 on Fri. and Blanca at 7:45 on Sat. We've been to Market before -- had their four-course prix-fixe meal and loved it. My understanding is that they are continuing the RW specials an additional week -- I don't know if they are serving their normal menu, but I believe so. Blanca will be new -- I'm already warned not to be thrown by its stripmall setting. My notes say that they are just offering the RW special menu.

                          Market had no availability for Saturday when I called a couple days ago. Pamplemousse had openings, but RW ends on Fri. Red Tracton's was nixed, unfortunately. AR Valentien had an opening on Fri. at 8:30, was serving the RW menu only, but that is a bit late for us. Can anyone give some feedback on possible alternatives of Kitchen 1540 or Firefly?

                        2. re: pkt63

                          Went to Blanca a couple of weeks ago with a bottle of 1999 Beaucastel which the hostess took. Had a drink at the bar with my wife. When we got to the table the bottle was waiting there...ALREADY OPENED. Then I ordered a split of champagne for the two of us, low and behold the bottle came to the table again ALREADY OPENED. Love the decor and a couple things on the menu were memorable but it's a shame that the service was not there. I don't think they know how to open a bottle of wine in front of a guest so I guess they dont.

                  2. re: tundrah

                    Same thinking as you guys. I mean really, can you come up with something other than short ribs for your $40 menu?! We are only trying one place this go around. It is one of the very high-end joints that I think has been complained about in the past, but the menu looks good, great value and we have had such good experiences there during non RW forays we haved decided to roll the dice. If it disappoints we will be calling "Uncle" on SDRW for good.

                    1. re: foodiechick

                      I'm totally missing what everyone sees in Market. I think that Arterra is a million times better. Last year's RW menu between Market and Arterra were so similar it's like they were doing it on purpose. I think Arterra did a better job. Blanca is boring they get rid of their regular menu and just do restaurant week menu. How many times can you have their short ribs? Unfortunately I don't think Blanca is going to be around much longer. They haven't made a menu change in so long. Other north county hopefuls would have to be Amaya in the Grand Del Mar or Kitchen 1540 in the new l'auberge hotel in Del mar. These would have to be my top two pics.

                2. I'm wondering if, with all the prevailing "meal deals" around town, if RW still has any relevence. When Better Half is running $15 specials (and not participating in RW) and the Wine Vault and Bistro is running $25 - 5 course meals and even the Marine Room has $40 lobster Mondays, why is RW important. But, in spite of that next week I'm doing
                  the Better Half off RW and JSix on RW.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    totally with you diva. with some many restaurants offering better prix fixe and specials, oftentimes they are LESS than the RW menus. seems pretty silly to me. for the sake of getting together with our group, we are going to bleu boheme. we've been for lunch before, but never dinner. their RW menu doesn't thrill me. i will likely just order mussels off their regular menu.

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      Best advantage of restaurant week - I called Friday night around 530 to The Better Half and got reservations for the next day for 6 people at 7:30pm - saved my procrastinating hide! Service was great, loved the 1/2 bottles of wine, ostrich was a hit, toer of beets & quail a keeper, mahi special, not so special. Amuse bouche very nice. All in all so glad we chose Better Half and not one of those participating in RW.

                    2. Never been to SD Restaurant Week and probably never will..no disrespect to those that do.
                      It just seems so 'pedesterian' to me..throngs of people, overpriced small bites of food.
                      It's just my two elitist cents..

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Beach Chick

                        2nd that BC, last year I was surprised at the many restaurants that had up charges for their RW menu, so the $40 dinner was now $50., I opt to go and try their regular menu on my schedule.

                      2. Not at all a fan of Restaurant week. I'm actually surprised that any foodie would be, given the fact that many of the people here already eat out regularly.

                        Yes, it's an opportunity for a bunch of local restaurants to get exposure, and for the public to get a taste at a presumed discount. But most all of the good ones already get enough attention, and many of us have been to these places before. So, it ends up being a rushed, and sub-par experience, if for no other reason than the fact that the general public crowds the party. And, in my experience, this increased business brings down the quality of the experience at most places. By the end of the week, the servers are wasted from all of the business.

                        If anything, I would stick with a newer restaurant and not any of the already-established popular ones. That way, you get a deal at a place that people haven't heard about yet or perhaps hadn't thought of "wasting" the bargain on.

                        Otherwise, if you see a menu on the Restaurant Week site that piques your interest, my advice is to make a trip to that restaurant at a later time. Yes, you'll pay more, and you won't have gone during "The Week". But, you'll probably find that you're not paying all that much more (the discount is never really a discount), and you get a better menu and experience for it.

                        Just my 2 cents on it. For those going, have fun.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: cookieshoes

                          It'll definitely be interesting to see what the participation is like this year. I think it will be down. Did you actually get the RW web page to work, I've tried to several times over the last few days and can never get it to load.

                          1. re: DiningDiva

                            I just tried, and it worked.

                            Here's a link to the participating restaurants page:


                            1. re: cookieshoes

                              I love AR Valentiena and we're going at the request of friends but I dread the whole concept of RW. And $40 for 3 courses that aren't the highest end with no wine is not such a deal. really. I'll see.................

                              1. re: keena

                                I agree that RW menu's can be a letdown BUT we always hit 1500 Ocean for RW. The $40 is a steal for that place and the food is always wonderful and the service is just as good. Its not a place we would normally go for dinner as its sooo expensive.

                              2. re: cookieshoes

                                Thanks, I got it to work last night.

                          2. Just got a table for 2 at Bleu Boheme. Never been there, so it will be a new experience for us.

                            1. Went to Coronado Boathouse 1887 this evening, and we were seated without any reference to SDRW; we were only given a menu when we later asked the hostess for one. Chalked it up to opening night and went about our business.

                              As we were finishing dessert, a family of four, obviously tourists, were seated next to us. They were also given the regular menu; the waiter went so far as to suggest the Macadamia Halibut (which was excellent, BTW) without bothering to mention it was a much better deal on the SDRW menu. As we were leaving I did let them know they should request the other menu. Hadn't been to this venue since it was a Charthouse, and only went this evening for the view; the food was good, and in regular portions. However, the dishonesty (it seemed to us, after the second occurrence, that they were deliberately trying to gauge out-of-towners and presenting them with the regular menu) of "forgetting" to give select diners the SDRW menu will keep me from ever going back.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: dennisdster

                                I called and spoke with the manager of the Coronado Boathouse 1887 this morning with regard to our experience last night. He indicated his restaurant's policy was to only give SDRW menus when the event was mentioned at the time of reservation, or if requested at seating. He indicated this to be a common practice at most participating restaurants, which I know is not the case; in the past two years we've eaten at Mille Fleurs, George's, the Marine Room, Pamplemousse Grill, Island Prime and several others, and ALL have openly acknowledged it was restaurant week and provided the regular and special menu. The manager at Coronado also indicated that most participating restaurants restrict SDRW reservations to 5 pm and after 9 pm, another statement I know is not true.

                                It seemed as if there was some resentment about the event on his part; I would hope he would choose not to participate in the future. I know I will not be eating there again.

                                1. re: dennisdster

                                  Well, to be fair, the parameters do say that the diner should specifically ask for the RW menu. However, his statement about "most restaurant" only doing RW before 5pm and after 10pm is patently false! I've never heard of that at a single other place. I agree, someone so resentful of RW just shouldn't have their resto participate.

                                  1. re: dennisdster

                                    A few years ago my wife and I and some friends went to Osetra during RW. We went there because they were on the RW list. We made the reservation through OpenTable, but did not realize that reservations made through OT at the time were not part of RW process. We ended up spending WAY more than expected because of that and no one at Osetra made any mention of RW or the menu. They just wanted to get us seated, fed and out of there before we wised up. I'm sure that this attitude varies from establishment to establishment and especially this year. I read in the North County Times that because of the economy the dining out segment was suffering, so there were 70 more restaurants added.

                                    1. re: araknd

                                      IIRC, restaurants have to pay to participate in RW

                                2. A friend and I went to Cowboy Star list night and had a great time and a stellar meal. We went at 5pm because I needed to eat early and that was a real benefit. Since the place was dead the service was outstanding. I had the lamb shortribs app w/ potato dumpling - it was tasty, a little fatty. Friend had the crabcake, delish. I had the petit filet and it was just beef heaven on a fork. Perfectly done (medium), so well seasoned, I literally moaned (a la "what about Bob?") in my first bite. Overall I was very pleased with this RW choice. I think I'm going to do Cavillion on Wednesday.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: tanne

                                    First and last time doing restaurant week. Went to AR Valentiens which normally I like. Worst part: very bad waitress, forgot the order or got the wrong one, forgot drinks, dumped all the silverware on my lap when clearing. Complained about having to work two shifts. Didn't know the menu or how to pronounce things despite it being the 6th night of RW. The appetizers were good. The charcuterie was good but not the best. Gnocchi quite nice. Main courses: Pork was good but not wonderful; pork belly was not impressive and tough. Ditto chicken and the fish was overcooked big time. Chocolate dessert good. Tangerine puff pastry not---should have been good but you needed major knife action to cut the tangerines. Bill for each couple includes the $40 meal and a glass of wine per person was $125. That was not a deal and it wasn't great. So no more restaurant week for me; it's a gimmick to get people in on the slowest week of the year.

                                    1. re: keena

                                      We were at A.R.Valenien this evening and experienced the exact opposite of you. Actually received an rsvp confirmation call with the time 1/2 off what I reserved. When I called they were gracious in accommodating the time I booked. Great, attentive service, very knowledgeable. Our charcuterie (which is one of my faves and award winning) was a fantastic value compared to what they normally charge on the regular dinner menu. Perfectly cooked pork loin was accompanied by a refreshing frisee and apple salad and a foil of crisp and salty pork belly, never had a restaurant do a better job than this dish. Lovely, undercooked fish. The tangerine Feuilletee did need the help of a knive, but that was the only trouble at all. And the Nickle and Nickle Syrah - OMG! We even witnessed George Haeur enjoying himself 2 tables away. Sorry your experience was disappointing. We thought this venue had one of the best values we have run across in all our adventures of SD Rest. Week.

                                      1. re: foodiechick

                                        Sounds like we were in two different places with two different chefs! I think with a competent waitress, it wouldn't have felt quite like this. And as I've said, we've been here before and loved it. Other friends of ours went to Jack's last night and loved it. We'd been to Piatti (not participating in RW) the night before and that was really a lovely meal with great service.

                                  2. My wife and I, and different friends, have done RW every night and here are my recommendations in order of preference:

                                    1. A. R. Valentien - Everything was perfect; huge portions and gr8 taste, fab service
                                    2. Market Restaurant - food was gr8 but they downsized the shortribs; good service
                                    3. Tapenade - The Cassoulet was outstanding; rest was good; fair service
                                    4. Bertrand at Mr. A's - gr8 appetier (baked mussels) downsized steak, lousy desserts
                                    5. Nobu - tiny portions, steak was good but the rest was mediocre; okay service
                                    6. Pamplemousse - packed like sardines, food was fair, sea bass very plain

                                    Tonight, after only going to $40 meals, we're going to a $20 RW meal at Albie's Beef Inn. So we'll see!

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: La Jolla Food Maven

                                      WOW. Who woulda thunk it. Albie's Beef Inn was gr8!! The Caesar Salad was okay. They ran out of the filet mignon, so they substituted the prime rib and it was awesomely good. The twice baked potato was yummy. The bread pudding was disappointing but the raspberry cheesecake and the chocolate cake were the cat's pajamas. For $20, are you kidding me :-)

                                      For those interested in my top 6 list (previous post), you can get detailed reports of each restaurant at yelp.com

                                      1. re: La Jolla Food Maven

                                        I live in Mission Valley, and Albie's is my dirty little secret for when I want an old fashioned restaurant meal like I enjoyed as a kid with my parents. Thousand Island dressing on my salad? Nowhere else but Albie's. Big steak, twice baked, classic cocktail and colorful clientele? Love it!

                                        1. re: La Jolla Food Maven

                                          This is a blast from the past :-D. Growing up we used to go to Albie's Beef Inn on a fairly regular basis. It was one of those "dress up" places my parents used to take us to when they wanted to eat out. The bartenders made the BEST Shirley Temples in town! I still have fond memories though I haven't been there in ages

                                          1. re: La Jolla Food Maven

                                            We would always go as kids with the parents to Albies Beef Inn or Lubach's..
                                            What great times..
                                            I need to go back to Albies..do they still have the rubenesque woman paintings?
                                            Thanks LJ Food Maven for bringing back great memories!

                                            1. re: Beach Chick

                                              Albie's is EXACTLY like you remembered it. Still have the paintings on the walls of the bar area; and I'll bet the piano player is the same guy from 20 years ago :-)
                                              Our prime rib, which was hige and cooked to perfection, was accompanied by those delicious twice-baked potatoes and a huge carrot cooked in sugar water. YUMMY!.
                                              Our waitress, Mary, is a bartender who was recruited to wait tables because they were so busy. If you see her, tell her you have a picture of the way you like your steak cooked. I did and she gave me a raft of sh_t the rest of the night about it (but in a good way) :-)

                                              This place reminds me of the food at the VFW in my little home town. And that's a great recommendation. If they sign up for RW next September for $20, I'm there in a heartbeat.

                                              By the way, are you all familiar with the Cohn groups $20.09 3 course meal specials 1/22-28? Check out their website.

                                        2. Notwithstanding my earlier post semi-condeming RW, I actually ended up going. We took my neighbor out to thank her for cat-sitting, so it was fun to share it with someone else who doesn't get out to restaurants much, although I still wouldn't just go with my husband.

                                          We went to La Bastide, which is 1/2 mile from my home. I realized it's such a shame we don't visit more often. They have a lovely tapas-style menu that I want to go back for and our experience that night was 4...ok, 4.25 out of 5 stars. The downers were it took quite a while for the server to get to us. I am pretty patient with this, and still it was long. They were quite busy, and it disturbs me when places don't staff properly for these kind of things. But, in LB's case, it was just a smidge beyond what would have been proper. There were a couple other minor instances of this, like water refills and bread. But overall, it was to a minor degree and I know their service is quite up to standard in general. The other downer was the cassoulet of duck confit with white beans. It was a fine duck, but overall, rather bland.

                                          Everything else was wonderful. The mussels (which, having gotten sick on them as a kid I have never completely come back around to - that night though got me real close!), my salad with goat chese croutons was Divine with a capital D, my bacon-wrapped fish was just about perfect, and I loved the fruit clafoutis. My husband's creme brulee was tasty and my neighbor adored her chocolate mousse. RW did its job, at least, in reminding me I need to take advantage of this restaurant more often. And since i can walk there and back, maybe I won't have to feel guilty about the calories!