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San Diego Restaurant Quandry

I have been scouring the chowhound boards (as well as yelp and others) trying to come up with a place to go eat.

I have a group of about 12 people for a late(r) dinner (8pm) on a tuesday. We are in town for a a convention, thus will be staying down in the gaslamp area. I have been to San Diego a few times, and have not had much success eating in this area. I blame myself for that, I really didn't have enough time to plan. To complicate things slightly more, a few people are coming from a reception where there will be some small bites...so it would be great to have a place that has small plates (and 'big' plates). No cars, so walking distance or not horribly expensive cab ride-distance is needed. I am craving fish or lobster tacos...so anywhere that has those would be great, but not a requirement. Don't really want to go to old town...it is a trip, and I have been disappointed when I have eaten there (was taken...not my choice!).

A few places that seemed appropriate

-La Puerta - I have never been...is this more of a bar type place? Location is good, and seems like it could be fun.

-Oceanaire - I ate here last time I was in town...it was good...but kind of pricey, and maybe a bit too 'fancy' (for lack of a better word?)

-Neighborhood - I like beer. The menu seems pretty tasty.

-Cafe Chloe - looked very tasty.

-Was thinking maybe tinfish would be 'okay' but it closes early.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

(ALSO as an aside, I will be exploring solo the rest of the week...any great hole in the wall places for anything at all, let me know)

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  1. While some may have a bias against corporate chains, the McCormick & Schmick restaurant in the Omni Hotel next to the ballpark fits nicely into all your criteria. It's an easy walk from anywhere in the Gaslamp, has a clean, modern ambience that will easily accomodate your group with either inside or outside dining, and has an extensive seafood menu that changes daily of small bites up to large plates. Best to go after 7:00 PM, as its prety crowded until after the ballgame starts.

    1. Neighborhood is a great spot to hit on your solo exploring but is a bar and it may be difficult to seat a group of 12 at once. Cafe Chloe is also a great spot and will likely be too small, but I am less certain of that. I don't think that either will take a reservation for a group of 12 - so definitely call before making a decision.

      If you are interested in trying great local beer go to Downtown Johnny Browns, which is walking distance from the gaslamp on the other side of broadway, or Hamiltons, which is in South Park and a short cab/ medium bus ride away.

      Hamiltons Tavern
      1521 30th St, San Diego, CA 92102

      Downtown Johnny Browns
      San Diego, Ca, San Diego, Ca

      1. Love Jsix at the Hotel Solamar in the Gaslamp..


        1. JRDN at Tower 23, Pacific Beach. Good food, room to take a large group, happening vibe, great location. Parking in the building. Bar menu or dinner menu. (website isn't working. http://www.tower23hotel.com/pages/dine

          Starlight Lounge, outside. http://www.starlitesandiego.com/

          2 Replies
          1. re: pickypicky

            Good places both, but JRDN is a $50 roundtrip cab ride and Starlight Lounge, while closer to Gaslamp, is still going to be $10-15 by cab each way.

          2. When you're travelling solo you should get your fish taco fix at Mariscos German which isn't too bad of a cab ride. It could easily hold 12 people but I'm not sure if it's the atmosphere you're shooting for.

            Neighborhood and Cafe Chloe are great, but as JRSD said, it could be difficult fitting 12 people in.

            pickypicky's Starlite suggestion could be good. It's not super close but it's a reasonable cab ride and the food is good.

            Cowboy Star in East Village is great and could easily fit 12 people

            El Vitral is a pretty new more upscale Mexican restaurant in East Village that's been getting some attention. I can't really speak for it myself but maybe someone can provide a better recommendation.

            5 Replies
              1. re: DougOLis

                Don't think Mariscos German is open at night; they were closed when I drove by last Friday at 5:00 PM

                1. re: mcgrath

                  I've been to the restaurant around 7 before but it's possible they've changed the hours.

                2. re: DougOLis

                  Mariscos German....is the actual restaurant closer to the 'gaslamp' than any of the trucks? I definitely need to get some tacos there.

                3. Confidential was pretty good last time I went, but it's been about a year now since I've been.

                  901 Fourth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101

                  10 Replies
                      1. re: SDGourmand

                        Read a short blurb in last week's UT. Some type of private venture that's not a restaurant, I believe, but is culinary related. Afraid I can't be any more specific.

                        1. re: mcgrath

                          Wasn't Chris Walsh the original chef at Confidential ? He is still in SD and is heading Bite currently

                        2. re: SDGourmand

                          "As of the end of May, Top Chef season 5 contestant and executive chef at Confidential in the Gaslamp, Richard Sweeney, has left his post to work on opening his own restaurant in San Diego."

                          1. re: stevewag23

                            I don't know if he's ready to run his own restaurant IMHO. I'm curious to see what type of concept he goes for. Best of luck to him either way.

                            1. re: SDGourmand

                              Richard Sweeney, there is a space open where Crescent Heights (San Diego's Best New Restaurant of 2009) once stood.

                    1. Thanks everybody for the input. Still haven't decided...waiting to hear the final # of people.

                      El Vitral sounds interesting....anybody been and liked it?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: superk73

                        Yes, loved it. Not sure how to get at my recent post about it, but search this board for the restaurant name and it should come up. Excellent all the way around!

                        1. re: sbgirl

                          What night did you go?

                          Was it busy?

                      2. I'd do Cafe Chloe. It has a mix of big and small plates, a great by-the-glass wine list, and a respectable beer list, plus good coffee and desserts.

                        If you make a reservation ahead of time, they should be able to do a party of 12, no problem. I was there for brunch recently, and a bridal shower was dining there with a party of what looked to be 20 people.

                        1. Unless your group is much farther along on the age spectrum, I'd definitely go with Starlite. One of my all-time favs, and with a call ahead they would definitely accommodate you. It'd be a short cab ride and worth it. Amazing decor, creative (but not cheesy) cocktails, good seasonal dishes, nice servers.

                          I know others keep recommending Cafe Chloe, but I have a hard time picturing where they'd jam 12 people in there, much less be happy about it. The one time (I know, only once) I was there they were less than accommodating with only three of us, and we were an easy going group... the food was good, but my experience overall left me a little cold.

                          1. As to the last part of your post

                            For excellent coffee:

                            Unity Coffee (a kiosk at 450 B street) and Pappalecco at 1602 State Street (corner of Cedar and State). Pappalecco also has THE best gelato.

                            1. I want to second mcgrath's recommendation to McCormick and Schmick's. They have a wonderfully priced (and BUSY) bar at happy hour with a great menu. Their entrees in the restaurant can be as low as $14...

                              Cafe Chloe is always highly recommended...

                              1. I posted on another about these places, but here's my suggestions.

                                Sammy's Woodfired Pizza(on 4th in the Gaslamp right next to the parking entrance for Horton Plaza). Great food, Low key and not very expensive. Not much of a Seafood place, though they do have really good Ahi Burgers and Shrimp Taco's

                                For the rest of the week, my must visits are Point Loma Seafoods (I would reserve for a sunny day lunch) and my personal favorite, Blue water seafood.

                                As well, I have never been to La Puerta, but i've heard rave reviews.