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Good takeout in San Diego

I have a new baby so instead of eating out, I'm doing take out. I'm in UTC and these are our winners so far:

Opera Cafe in Sorrento Valley - great crepes and lunch specials
Jasmine's Express - all the menu of Jasmine's dim sum but no wait, just take and go in a few minutes.

Sushi Ota - If you know what to order, this is a great sushi experience.
Piatti - Great Italian food, like their Mussels, Osso Bucco pasta, spinach side, bean side. Great tiramisu, as good as most places I've had in Italy
Outback - Same as the outback we know, though the 15 minute drive will let the steaks sit a bit. Even has a parking spot just for take-out
Whole Foods - Pricey but they have a couple of great stuff here. Perfect Rotisserie Chicken, chicken curry salad, salad bar, Beef Bourgogne soup, plenty of gems here.

Any suggestions on take-out friendly places? Looking for delicious and relatively healthy food at a decent value.

Places I'll be trying in the future:
Soup Plantation
Celadon Thai
Sammy's Wood Fried - any better pizza recommendations? Thin crust preferred

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  1. Not in UTC, but our go-to is Waters. You do have to choose carefully, though. I'm sure the $25/lb entrees are quite good, but out of our price range. But their chicken pot pies are excellent, the chicken is always great, and the desserts are very good.

    But not cheap.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Fake Name

      Sounds great! Price is not an issue since with the baby, we're using take-out to replace dining out. =) We cook 5 out of 7 days, so this is just a way to bring back some sanity and treat ourselves after a busy week.

      Looking at their website Waters is definitely a place I'd try. We go to Opera's often because it's close but time to try something new.

      Waters is just 20 minutes from UTC if you avoid traffic (i.e. after 4:30pm on weekdays), or take the 5 instead of 805 during rush hour (to avoid the entrance lanes).

      Thanks for the suggestion, this is definitely what we're looking for!

      1. re: Fake Name

        Thanks to your suggestion, we tried Waters (near Sea World) and it was awesome. It's like a mini-Whole Foods but much better. They said the steak salad was popular and offered a sample, and this was a winner. Expensive like you said, but to me cheaper than eating out. The food tastes much better than it looks, and as far as the steak salad goes the vegetables were top quality and steak perfectly seasoned, and their dressing was made for this salad. Photo included.

        Although the side dishes like steak salad or casserole can be expensive (in the case of steak salad, justifiably so), there are plenty of great deals here. I ordered a portobello sandwitch for $7 and a large soup for $5 and they turned out great. They had a perfect portabello and peppers and grilled onions, better than I expected. Soup was a chicken curry soup of the day, and they got that right too.

        Getting to the branch on W Morena can be a little tricky the first time, but I'll definitely be going again in the future. This is like a gourmet Whole Foods as far as to go is concerned:

        Since you can get samples of things like the steak salad, ask for one if you're not sure. It might be a lot better than you expected. =) If not, you've got a lot of very reasonably priced items to choose from.

        1. re: royaljester

          Glad you liked it! Sign up for their email blast- they send every day, and it's always good to know what they have that day.

          1. re: Fake Name

            I really would like to try this place. I subscribed to their email over a year ago and have gotten nada. Just went to their website and it is an unresponsive mess. Every time I drive by it looks closed (Morena location). Do you happen to know what their hours are? Sorry to be negative but I'm frustrated as I would really like to know what they are featuring before I spend time driving there. Thanks.

            1. re: foodiechick

              Try calling them at 619-276-0568..I went about 2pm yesterday. I notice the pdf links don't work on the site but try the "today's menu" link next to san diego and solana beach.

              Thanks for all your suggestions in the past!

              1. re: foodiechick

                Tsk-tsk. Always so negative! Such a hater! ; )

                I encourage you to give them another try. I'll forward the latest email to you and you can sign up from there, or email them directly to be sure you get on the list. It's our family default system. The Caesar salads are a staple, and the desserts rock. Set aside your pre-conceived and limited point of view, raise your empathy, and reach for the stars once again.

                Or, just give them a try.

                1. re: Fake Name

                  Humbly accepting my talking down. Thanks for the help. I'm now onboard. ;)

                  1. re: foodiechick

                    To answer your question, they seem to close at 7pm. The menu is different each day but available online, and to see it go to http://waterscatering.com/ and click "To Go" and "Today's Menu".

        2. If you're in the UTC area, the Island Style Cafe (Hawaiian Plate Lunch/creperie) is a straight shot down the 52 to the Santo Road exit, and then right there.

          Their Loco Moco (with fried rice, served on a massive savory pancake, all slathered in gravy) travelled well to Sorrento Valley, as did their other items. Their regular salad (home-made dressings) and mac salad are better than most, too.

          1 Reply
          1. re: The Office Goat

            Thanks, looks like an easy stop after groceries in Convoy. =)

          2. Sab E Lee for Thai
            K Sandwiches for Banh Mi
            Ba Ren for Szechuan Chinese
            Surati Farsan Mart for Indian
            Punjabi Tandoor for Indian
            Croutons for salads/soups/sandwiches (much better than Soup Plantation IMO)
            Smokin' Joey's for BBQ

            2 Replies
            1. re: DougOLis

              Gotta second K Sandwitch, great subs (about $3-$4) and nice strong Vietnamese ice coffee, not far from Nijiya/Mitsuwa.

              Crouton's is also great and quick. There's one in La Jolla Village Square, as well as one next to Opera in Sorrento Valley.

              I've gone to Ba Ren once and had some good stuff, but don't know what to order yet. Any suggestions? I had these noodles in spicy sauce that were great.

              I've been meaning to try out Punjabi Tandoor, and your other suggestions sound great thanks!

              1. re: royaljester

                I'm a big fan of the stir fried dried beef, the hot pepper prawns, cold sichuan noodles, and twice cooked fish.

            2. Sammy's Woodfired Pizza is good. I haven't had a bad pizza there. They have these "gourmet" style pizzas where the crust is made from puff pastry (?)--stuff like smoked cheese and sliced pears on top.
              Z Pizza in UTC
              2nd Sab E Lee, Surati Farsan Mart and Punjabi Tandoori
              Sitar for Indian is not too bad, if you don't want to schlep to Punjabi Tandoori
              CPK, believe it or not, has decent take out
              Okan on Convoy does take out from their daily rotating side dishes. I suspect you can get the rest of the menu for take out
              Tofu House on Convoy (the one next to O'Brien's)
              Dumpling Inn
              Bud's Louisiana Cafe in Tierrasanta

              2 Replies
              1. re: daantaat

                Thanks, great recommendations as always. I'm a big fan of Okan, so I'll give takeout a shot next time I'm at Nijiya. They've have some great daily specials on their menu - favorite so far has been their gratin. I have to second Z Pizza as well, and my wife like Sammy's (I've never been, but my work orders their catering).

                Thanks again!

                1. re: royaljester

                  forgot to add Edo Sushi in the Renassaince Towne Center in UTC is pretty decent for Japanese, if you don't want to run down to Convoy or Sushi Ota.

                  Cafe Athena and that little Peruvian place that I cannot remember for the life of me in PB both have good takeout.

              2. Kirk K's blog just reviewed Convoy Sushi & Fish Market and their $5 takeout specials, looks pretty good and alot of food for the money:


                1 Reply
                1. re: Green_Turtle

                  I'm going to try this out, especially if they have good uni. I was actually going to drive much further south for the same thing. =)

                2. This is Sushi Ota takeout. Rolls I've especially liked are spicy tuna, tempura roll, caterpillar roll. I especially like Hamachi, Salmon belly (better than main Salmon), Halibut, but all are good.

                  You could get cheaper sushi at many places, but none as good as Sushi Ota in my experience. And once I look at cheaper alternatives, I'm thinking Katsudon and Ramen anyways. =) Kaito sushi in Encinitas is really great too.

                  Sushi is served on rice and normally 2 pieces an order. Sashimi is without rice, typically 5 pieces an order.

                  You can see Ota's menu at:

                  1. Saffron on India street has great takeout. They have a complete picnic basket dinner to go that easily feeds 4 good eaters. they also offer a great selection of Thai noodle dishes that can satisfy any hunger!!!

                    Call in you order and when you get their, do not worry about parking, you just have to call them when you are outside in your car, and they will bring it to you, they make it very easy for you.

                    3731 India St, San Diego, CA 92103

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                      Love Saffron. . .the chicken is the best. When Lefty's opens I will officially be in takeout heaven.

                      1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                        Thanks for the tip! Any good Thai food to go is always appreciated. =) I grew up in LA and have been looking for some good roast chicken asian style, healthy alternative to all the beef and pork we use at home.

                      2. So today I got cakes to go, from Sage Cafe next to Nijiya in Convoy. This is my favorite place because they get every cake right, not overly sweet but with perfect texture made from scratch every day. The owner trained in Japan and these are as good or better than most cake shops I go to in Tokyo. He's always making a new cake when I go, they make everything on the premises including custom order cakes.

                        My favorite is the chocolate mousse, which has a fluffy texture like tiramisu and a great chocolate flavoring similar to whipped light fudge. My wife's favorite is the cheese souffle. Photos attached.

                        This place closes around 6 or 7pm at night so I either go early or on weekends. The only place that serves anything like it is Cafe Blanc in Costa Mesa. Yes, I'll drive 1 1/2 hours to get good dessert! Cafe Blanc:

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: royaljester

                          Did you pop into Okan? We were there a few weeks ago and had really good hijiki salad and tempura fish.

                          1. re: daantaat

                            Not yet but maybe soon, we used to go before the baby. They make great homestyle cooking and try their dessert puddings. =) They serve a lot of Japanese dishes you don't often see in the US, lots of daily specials too.

                        2. "Opera Cafe in Sorrento Valley - great crepes and lunch specials"

                          I'm glad you like it but it's actually in Mira Mesa and not Sorrento Valley. Everything east of the 805 and west of the 15 is Mira Mesa. Heck, Opera Cafe is on a side street off of Mira Mesa Blvd so that should have given you a hint. ;)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: oerdin

                            Thanks Magellan :-), but you are mistaken. Camino Ruiz is the western border of Mira Mesa, also El Cajon Blvd goes through may parts of the city not just El Cajon

                            From the Opera Cafe web site

                            New location NOW OPEN in Sorrento Valley!
                            9254 Scranton Rd. Suite 101
                            San Diego, CA 92121
                            Phone: 858.458.9050

                            Also a map

                          2. Tried takeout at Arrivederci in Hillcrest, got Lasagna, Shrimp Scampi, Salad, and Minestrone. From UTC I usually go to Piatti for Italian, but we've tried everything on the menu twice so this is a fresh change! Different style of Italian, lots of good use of tomatoes, cheese, and mushrooms.

                            Their Lasagna is what homemade lasagna should be like. Great tomato meat sauce, cheese, layers of pasta, and a good use of carrots and zucchini. Very filling and good portions. Their minestrone was pesto based and my wife especially liked it. I also recommend the minestrone at Barolo in UTC. They got the shrimp scampi the right texture and flavor, on top of tomato sauce. Also, the salad uses great ingredients including their goat cheese and salad base, with a basalmic vinegrette.

                            It was $39 for the order, so a good deal for what we got. We've done Piatti takeout as well, and each offers you a different style of Italian. In fact, I'm not sure anything on their menus intersect in terms of way of preparation and emphasis so we've doubled our menu now. Arrivederci also serves a great lunch, perfect ravioli. Great quality of cheese and mushrooms.