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Must eats: first visit to San Diego

chopstix417 May 18, 2009 03:52 PM

What are your recommendations for San Diego?

I will be going to a Padre's game on my first night there, so perhaps a good place in that area. Also, my hotel is in Mission Valley.

I am pretty much open to ALL cuisines (minus Chinese or Thai). Cheap eats are a plus but not a requirement if it is an excellent meal. "Uniquely SD" would also be nice. I must visit an excellent tacqueria during this trip!

Thank you all in advance for your tips!

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  1. d
    DougOLis RE: chopstix417 May 19, 2009 08:12 AM

    How many nights are you going to be here? Will you have access to a car?

    Jay Porter (owner of the Linkery)'s primer on GaslampBall is probably a good place to start. http://www.gaslampball.com/2009/2/23/...

    Other places I would add to his post: Neighborhood, The Kebab Shop, Cafe Chloe, Cowboy Star, Alchemy

    The best taco shop near the ballpark is probably Las Cuatro Milpas. There are better places (Aqui es Texcoco, Super Cocina, Mariscos German, Mariscos Godoy, Tacos El Paisa) but that's probably the easiest to get to.

    1. s
      stevewag23 RE: chopstix417 May 19, 2009 10:12 AM

      Point Loma Seafoods.

      1. t
        trauty32 RE: chopstix417 May 19, 2009 12:26 PM

        After my first visit to San Diego a couple weeks ago I suggest you must try Super Cocina and Blue Water Seafood. Also I second Cowboy Star.

        1 Reply
        1. re: trauty32
          Ewilensky RE: trauty32 May 19, 2009 01:45 PM

          For the Padre game I'd suggest Basic Urban Kitchen...

        2. c
          chopstix417 RE: chopstix417 May 19, 2009 09:22 PM

          Thank you! I will look into all of those suggestions!

          I know that Mexican and taco trucks are SD's specialty, but are there any other types of restaurants that will knock me off my feet?

          Oh, and I will have access to a car for my three day/two night stay.

          19 Replies
          1. re: chopstix417
            DiningDiva RE: chopstix417 May 20, 2009 08:34 AM

            Actually, Mexican and taco trucks isn't SD's specialty. They are here and some of them are actually quite good but it's not quintessential San Diego.

            You have as good or better Mexican in Chicago than we do here. San Diego is a "pass-through" location for Mexican migration. L.A., Chicago and other points North and East are immigration destinations because employment opportunities are better.

            1. re: DiningDiva
              SeanT RE: DiningDiva May 24, 2009 12:36 AM

              YOur "pass thru" comment borders(ha Ha) on the absurd.

              1. re: SeanT
                DiningDiva RE: SeanT May 24, 2009 07:35 AM

                Yeah, bad joke dude. Why absurd, SD is just a stop forbmost immigrants on their way to other places. Few stay here very long unless they've got family already established here. The U/T had an article on this very topic in last Sunday's paper, and made the exact same point.

                1. re: DiningDiva
                  stevewag23 RE: DiningDiva May 25, 2009 09:27 AM

                  Yeah, I saw that article. It really confirmed many of my thoughts about San Diego.

                  San Diego, for being a border town does not seem very "Latin".

                  Spanish is rarely heard or spoken compared to many other cities.

                  Hell, there are neighborhoods in Washington, DC that are more "latin" than the majority of San Diego.

                  1. re: stevewag23
                    cstr RE: stevewag23 May 25, 2009 10:38 AM

                    SD Latin influence, is that spelled 'Mexican', for Latin culture you need to drop down to S. America. I wish we had some authentic Latin culture and cuisine in SD.

                    1. re: stevewag23
                      olc RE: stevewag23 May 25, 2009 11:14 AM

                      San Diego not very Latin? From Carlsbad to Escondido to El Cajon to Chula Vista there are hundreds of thosusands of Latinos.

                      1. re: olc
                        stevewag23 RE: olc May 25, 2009 12:17 PM

                        Comparatively to other cities.

                        The Union trib article stated that San Diego is 30% hispanic.

                        The least percentage of Southern California cities.

                        1. re: stevewag23
                          sdnosh RE: stevewag23 Jun 6, 2009 05:39 PM

                          I find that percentage hard to believe. Did they go to Barrio Logan, City Heights, Sherman Heights, Chula Vista and San Ysidro. There are parts of these cities that don't have any signs in English. The interesting part of this is that not only are most restaraunt's kitchens mostly staffed with Mexican employees, but the food culture has permeated the menu. You often see mexican ingredients and influences on most "fusion" menus. I can't count how many breakfast menus have ciliquilles (sp). I seem to see many, many mexican restaurants, hole in the walls and trucks. And even when you see posts on favorite burrito, carnitas, etc., every neighborhood has one.

                          1. re: sdnosh
                            stevewag23 RE: sdnosh Jun 6, 2009 10:52 PM

                            "Barrio Logan, City Heights, Sherman Heights, Chula Vista and San Ysidro"

                            Super small percentage of the total population.

                            But you are right, there is no doubt of the influence of Mexican cuisine on the local food scene here.

                            Think about it, think about how hard it is to get a decent sandwich in town.

                            And how easy it is to get a decent taco.

                          2. re: stevewag23
                            ginael RE: stevewag23 Jun 6, 2009 07:21 PM

                            Yeah, I am going to trust statistics from the Union Trib, one of the weakest excuses for periodicals in this state.

                            Sorry, but that percentage is sure to be much higher than 30%.

                            1. re: ginael
                              stevewag23 RE: ginael Jun 6, 2009 10:49 PM

                              "Sorry, but that percentage is sure to be much higher than 30%."

                              I really think this is common thinking that is simply incorrect.

                              Agreed that the union trib is very weak.

                              Wikipedia has San Diego as "Hispanic/Latino of any race (25.4%)"

                              So maybe they overshot it.

                              1. re: ginael
                                DiningDiva RE: ginael Jun 7, 2009 08:19 AM

                                That was the whole point of the article. That in spite of local perceptions, the population of SD remains predominately white. I tried to find the article to post a link, but the U/T website is not very user friendly and I couldn't locate it in their archives. I'm sure it's there, I just couldn't find it.

                                Anyway, the article went on to say that SD has the smallest Hispanic population of any metropolitan area in CA and some of the reasons why. Two of the biggest reasons cited were

                                1) lack of industrially based jobs - factory jobs are not common in SD
                                2) many who cross go north or east because they already have established family members in other parts of the U.S. so the social safety net for many lies in other areas, not SD.

                                I think we're all agreed that the U/T needs improvement (and let's hope the new publisher can facilitate that). But, comparatively speaking, the U/Ts (English language) Mexico coverage is actually fairly decent. It's still a little conservative, and follows the PAN party line, but many (tho'certainly not all) articles do show a better understanding of Mexico and what's happening there than does much of the mainstream U.S. press (certainly Washington D.C.) The U/T gives it's readers lots of reasons to diss it, but if one reads the Mexico coverage with care and a discerning mind, it can be surprisingly insightful.

                                1. re: DiningDiva
                                  stevewag23 RE: DiningDiva Jun 7, 2009 03:09 PM

                                  I think that is a great point.

                                  The union trib does cover Mexico pretty well.

                                  Now only if there food section would step it up and make the website more user friendly!

                                  1. re: stevewag23
                                    DiningDiva RE: stevewag23 Jun 7, 2009 06:27 PM

                                    Most of the mainstream press has been roundly excoriating Mexico for the drug problems and corruption. About 2 1/2 years ago the U/T started running Op/Ed pieces raising the question of U.S. culpability in the drug war. It was one of first news outlets to actually print pieces relating the U.S. consumption of illicit drugs and the unchecked and unregulated flow of guns south into Mexico to the drug war and violence, which had only just begun. The U/T Op/Ed page was one of the first places I read the argument that the the U.S. "War on drugs" was a failed program/policy in need of overhaul or discontinuance. These ideas were seeing the light of day in the U/T long before the rest of the mainstream press got on the band wagon.

                                    Yeah, the food section basically sucks. I really like Caroline Dipping, but the the wire pieces they choose to surround her with are pretty lame. I don't think they reflect what's really happening in SD or how what many San Diegans are eating is evolving. Arlan Hackett's history column something has some interesting stuff in it, but by and large it's a pretty unremarkable few pages.

                  2. re: chopstix417
                    DougOLis RE: chopstix417 May 20, 2009 10:32 AM

                    Kaito Sushi - uni is very fresh and good from San Diego and this is probably be the best sushi spot in the county. Sea Rocket Bistro has good unrchin as well.
                    Given that Chinese and Thai are out, I'm not sure if Vietnamese is out as well, but we have good Vietnamese food around here. Maybe get a banh mi from Cafe Dore.

                    1. re: DougOLis
                      KirkK RE: DougOLis May 20, 2009 09:11 PM

                      If you're around on Saturday I found some excellent live uni at the San Diego Kelp Bed Products booth at the Little Italy Farmer's Market. Uni was going for $4 each. Nice folks so I'm sure they'll prep one for you if they find out you're from out of town. San Diego does have some of the best uni, this might be a nice way to check it out yourself without paying an arm and a leg. Plus you can "pet a live uni" if you ever wanted too.


                      1. re: DougOLis
                        cgfan RE: DougOLis May 21, 2009 10:37 AM

                        Ditto DougOLis on Kaito Sushi. If you're going to have sushi at any one place during your visit, make it to Kaito Sushi and you'll have a taste experience that you will always remember.

                        Sure looking for sea urchin alone is fine, but why not extend that to all the denizens of the sea, each astoundingly unique and mindblowing when fresh, knowledgeably procured, and at the top of its season. They also maintain a sushi blog of ingredient arrivals, updated 1-2 times per week: http://sushikaito.com/SushiBlog.aspx

                        BTW they're the only sushi bar in San Diego that I know of that regularly fillets their Anago in-house. Since fresh Anago is a rare find in the States, Kaito's Anago might be considered one of their specialties, which is all the more sensational given the quality of their traditionally-prepared Anago sauce...

                        1. re: cgfan
                          Gypsy Jan RE: cgfan May 21, 2009 11:39 AM

                          Uhmm - sushi, fresh anago, well prepared and considered cooked or raw other presentations = destination meal indulgence.

                          I hope we can travel to Kaito soon for omakase, I am willing surrender to the chef.

                      2. re: chopstix417
                        petradish RE: chopstix417 Jun 5, 2009 09:34 AM

                        Just to clarify, "Taco Shops" are a SD specialty, esp. for things like rolled tacos and burritos.

                      3. Beach Chick RE: chopstix417 May 20, 2009 10:51 AM

                        when we go to the Padre games we usually hit up Basic for some of the best pizza or we go to the Omni at McCormicks and Schmicks next door to Petco for the best happy hour and drinks and then get stamped to walk over the Ped Bridge..
                        Make sure you get to Mariscos German for some of the best marlin tacos and hit up Las Cuatro Milpas for some great burritos..

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Beach Chick
                          Cathy RE: Beach Chick May 20, 2009 10:53 AM

                          Does M&S do happy hour on game days now?

                          to theOP: I think of Point Loma Seafoods as unique to San Diego.

                          1. re: Cathy
                            Beach Chick RE: Cathy May 20, 2009 11:00 AM

                            we had it for opening day..they say the hours are limited (3-5pm on game day)..quarter pounder cheeseburger with fries for $2.95..perfect for sopping up all those cocktails before hand..
                            ; )

                          2. re: Beach Chick
                            sd4life RE: Beach Chick May 21, 2009 06:45 PM

                            I've always wanted to walk across that bridge. I'll have to try it Friday night when I go. The 3 dollar cheesburger sounds good too.

                          3. lawyerbriefs RE: chopstix417 May 20, 2009 08:01 PM

                            Ditto Ewilensky and Beach Chick on Basic Urban Pizza. My wife and I are from Tucson and never miss Basic Urban when we're in San Diego, sometimes doing lunch and dinner there. (Only once, actually, and my wife's first time there!) I've also enjoyed the Tin Fish for casual fish, fries and beer; not fabulous, but good, fun--patio with lots of "street action" and next door to Petco.

                            1. n
                              neener41 RE: chopstix417 May 20, 2009 09:27 PM

                              For a pretty good cheap burger I would go to The Waterfront. Definitely Cafe Chloe. Get their mac and cheese. Ridiculous. Ciro's pizza is pretty good. I would go to El Indio for some good mexican. I also like Mama's Bakery for good lebanese. Love their falafel

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: neener41
                                Josh RE: neener41 May 20, 2009 10:50 PM

                                El Indio is some of the worst "Mexican" food in San Diego. Your other picks are good, but you need to get over to Super Cocina!

                              2. l
                                live22eat RE: chopstix417 May 21, 2009 09:41 AM

                                Super Cocina: down to earth Mexican home cooking, very authentic
                                Karina's: Mexican seafood, very good prawns and ceviches
                                Farm House Cafe: excellent farm-fresh rustic french
                                Piatti: home style Italian
                                Okan: good authentic Japanese

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: live22eat
                                  honkman RE: live22eat May 21, 2009 10:27 AM

                                  Piatti might be (sadly) one of the best options for decent Italian food in SD but has nothing to do with home style Italian. It is only one of the least americanized Italian (which doesn't mean much in SD) restaurants in SD.

                                2. c
                                  chopstix417 RE: chopstix417 May 21, 2009 07:27 PM

                                  I am overwhelmed by all your suggestions, Chowhound! Thanks again! I hope I can fit many of these suggestions in my three day stay and report back!

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