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Jul 10, 2009 11:30 AM

Best Margarita in SD area?

Hi all
We're going to San Diego (staying in Encinitas) in a couple of weeks and I was hoping to find a place with awesome margaritas (on the rocks). I'm sure they must be better out there than up here in the northeast.

I'm looking for the plain old lime kind, no mango or other things like that (I'm allergic to almost all fruits, that's why, I'm sure they're delicious). We were there a couple of years ago, but I wasn't able to find any I liked. I sent the one I ordered at the Old Town Cafe (I know, it's a tourist trap, but we went anyway) back 3 or 4 times, and it got worse each time.

If there's a place that also have a wide selection of local beers, that would be even better. Hubby is a huge CA beer fan.

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  1. El Agave in OT has great margs. Expensive but STRONG and not icky sweet like most of the tourist trap margs in Old Town.

    1 Reply
    1. Can't help much with the margaritas - after a few awful ones in San Diego, I decided I'd rather make my own of wait for my next trip to Mexico.
      Finding a great local beer selection and great margaritas in the same bar is unlikely - many of San Diego's best beer bars do not offer full liquor, just beer and wine.
      However, Cantina Mayahuel (which has a reputation for great tequilas and margaritas) is very close to two great beer places, Toronado and Blind Lady Ale House. If you are interested in visiting more than one bar, 30th Street (home to Mayahuel and Toronado) is a great place to do it because there are many bars and restaurants accessible by walking, the number 2 bus, or very short cab rides. Many establishments on or near 30th Street offer local beers, wine, and food. If that appeals to you there is lots of great information on

      1. I don't know if it's "the best" margarita in the S.D. area, but iIf you are staying in Encinitas,
        El Callejon's house margaritas will make you happy. It's right there on Hwy. 101.

        Check it out:

        1. My solution to bad margaritas: anywhere with a reasonable bar ask for 1 oz tequila, 1 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice, 1 oz triplesec. have it served up. Perfect. (for on the rocks, maybe double proportions)

          1 Reply
          1. re: pickypicky

            Thank you all for those suggestions! Will definitely check out 30th street and El Callejon (although my husband will not be happy with the beer choices there, I looked at their online menu). That's a great page (the 30th street one), I love how they've listed who serves what and where there's a sunny patio. I saw mixed reviews for Cantina Mayahuel on Yelp, but I think we may just go and make up our own minds about it. It looks adorable.

          2. I've had some pretty good kick ass margaritas at Hacienda de Vega in Escondido..
            Love this place..from the food, patio with the huge waterfall, its a great place to dine.


            21 Replies
            1. re: Beach Chick

              oh, that looks so cozy! Just my kind of place. But isn't that quite far from Encinitas? We will go to the Wild Animal Park one day, but that evening, my husband has decided we're going to Stone brewery.

              On another note, I saw somewhere that someone said people in SD eat early and some restaurants close at 9 already - is that true? That's around the time we like to eat dinner... (I grew up in Europe)

              1. re: Cattie

                "is that true? That's around the time we like to eat dinner... (I grew up in Europe)" - Yes (I also grew up in Europe and can understand your pain). Better plan eating early. If you want to start eating dinner at 9pm with decent food (and not feeling rushed) you choices are very, very limited in SD.

                1. re: Cattie

                  Hey Cattie..
                  I would do this over at Stone is rocks..
                  This is right behind the North County Fair Mall and Wild Animal Park is 5 minutes away..
                  You can go the back way from Encinitas through the Ranch and Lake Hodges..takes 30 minutes..
                  Hacienda de Vega is a wonderful setting and the food is really good too!
                  Tell your husband that this is way better..tell him I said so!
                  I do business in Paris and I do feel your eating later but in SD, it just ain't happening.. :(

                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    I definitely agree with Beach Chick. Eat at the Hacienda first, then go to Stone.

                    1. re: Beach Chick

                      Beach Chick - I really am not going out of my way to pedantically pick at your posts, but it seems I often find myself doing so.

                      Pedantic point #155: it is about a 6-7 mile drive from Hacienda De Vega to the Wild Animal Park, a lot of it on city streets and/or curvy roads, depending on which route you choose. There is absolutely no way you can get between those two places in 10 minutes, much less 5. 15 minutes is probably a much safer estimate.

                      It sounds like Cattie's husband *really* is a beer fan, and going to Stone might be like a pilgrimage for him. Food might be of a lesser consequence here. According to their web site, Stone is open until midnight on Friday and Saturday and 11 PM otherwise, with dinner hours ending at 10 PM every night.

                      Pedantic points aside, making a loop from WAP to Hacienda De Vega to Stone is easy (and actually makes for a slightly nicer drive, I think, but I digress). Different animals, though. Stone has a lot of "creative" items on their menu; Hacienda De Vega is decent (at least in my opinion) Mexican. Skip the margaritas if you are going to Stone afterwards, though - one of you has to drive, unless you have a separate driver.

                      Recommendation for Cattie's hubby - in Encinitas, you are not far from either the Carlsbad or Solana Beach Pizza Port locations. Pizza Port is a must stop for a CA beer fan, IMHO.

                      1. re: RB Hound

                        Obviously, you're not driving a 911 Carrera S..

                        1. re: Beach Chick

                          If you were driving fast enough to get from WAP to Hacienda De Vega in 5 minutes, they'd be picking that Porsche out of the grape vines at Orfila. But, that would take care of the pre dinner glass of wine, wouldn't it?

                        2. re: RB Hound

                          You're absolutely right RB Hound, hubby is a HUGE CA beer fan and Stone would be one of highlights of the trip for him (we are also going to Ballast Point - another of his favorites). I think we might go from the wild animal park to the Hacienda for dinner (and a margarita for me) and then to Stone. I guess I'll be driving home...

                          We actually did go to the Solana Beach Pizza Port the last time we were in San Diego (2006) and loved, loved, loved it. We're definitely going back.

                          1. re: Cattie

                            Both Ballast Point locations are simply tasting rooms set up in their breweries (which in San Diego are usually pretty much warehouses with tanks). Which one are you visiting? If you are going to the Miramar area warehouse, you will be a stone's throw away from some fairly popular Indian holes-in-the-wall, if that is your thing.

                            1. re: RB Hound

                              Alesmith is right there too but they have pretty limited hours

                              1. re: RB Hound

                                Not sure which one he had in mind... do you recommend one over the other? We did know that they're just tasting rooms, but that's fine. We'll find a spot for dinner later. We do like Indian, but I think we'd probably want more of a sit down dinner sort of thing since we're on vacation and have the time. And we do a lot of Indian takeout here (live around the corner from a great place) so I think we'll probably go for something we can't get at home. I'm guessing we'll be eating lots of Mexican food, which is great, I love it and you can't get half the stuff you have here (read about mashed potato tacos, fish tacos, lobster quesadillas - yum!)

                                DougOLis, I think hubby looked at Alesmith, not sure what he decided on that one. Would you recommend it?

                                1. re: Cattie

                                  I would definitely recommend Alesmith. Speedway Stout is probably my favorite Russian Imperial Stout and Summer Yulesmith is a damned fine IIPA. The rest of their beers are quite good as well.

                                  1. re: DougOLis

                                    Good to know, we both love Stout (although that might be a tad much in the middle of summer). Hubby loves IPAs, I prefer less bitter beers personally. I'll definitely tell him about that, I'm sure it will be added to the list.

                                    1. re: DougOLis

                                      So I looked at Alesmith's website, and it looks like they're only open a few hours Fri and Sat afternoons. Do you know if that's for tours or the whole place?

                                      1. re: Cattie

                                        From what I've been told, the "whole place" is just a warehouse unit within an industrial park complex. It nothing fancy compared to the Stone Brewery and the tour offered there, but it's still great beer.

                                        1. re: srk

                                          That's correct. Like Lost Abbey or Green Flash it is a unit in a warehouse complex. You might want to check with them ahead of time about getting a tour, especially if it's in hours other than advertised.

                                          1. re: DougOLis

                                            I think a lot of people, beer fans included, are used to the microbreweries being tied to / part of a brewpub. In San Diego, that seems to be more the exception than the rule - a lot of the "tasting rooms" are just little bars set up in a nice corner of the warehouse. :)

                                            Unless one *really* is a fan of a particular brewery (e.g. Alesmith) or wants to experience the San Diego warehouse brewing experience, they are probably better off visiting a bar with a selection of local brews on tap (for example, Pizza Port or O'Briens). I can think of a lot better places to be on a hot summer afternoon than a warehouse in the Miramar area. :)

                                            1. re: RB Hound

                                              You're right, around here the few breweries that are left have pubs and/or restaurants attached to them. I'm going to have to see how hubby feels about the warehouse setting... (I'm all for skipping that!)

                                              1. re: RB Hound

                                                Reporting back

                                                We had a great time in San Diego, just got back, and I wanted to report back to let you all know what we ate and drank. :-)

                                                El Callejon - We actually ended up eating here 3 nights, sat in the cozy bar every time, loved the margaritas, food was good too (had shrimp tacos, rajas quesadillas and grilled shrimp).

                                                Ritual Tavern - stopped for beer and a snack only. Our first try was on a Monday, unfortunately - they are closed on Mondays. The next try was on a Wednesday, we drove up sunburnt and exhausted from a day at the beach at 5 pm, and it turned out they opened at 5:30. Even my beer-loving husband was ready to give up at that point (annoyed by the limited opening hours), but we took a little walk around (pretty scary neighborhood, we thought) and came back at 5:30. Had 2 very good beers, although hubby was a bit disappointed that they didn't have more on tap (only 8 beers I think). Snacked on a crazily overpriced cheese plate. I was disappointed that the cheeses weren't local.

                                                Pizza Port in Solana Beach. We had dinner here once when we were in CA 3 years ago, loved it then, love it now. The pizzas are sooooo good! We ate here twice this time and had the pizza with black bean sacue, cilantro and other interesting things, forget the name, but it was delicious. And a variety of beer of course. Can't remember which ones, but hubby was very happy.

                                                Stone Brewery. We stopped for a beer and snack only after nearly passing out from heat stroke at the Wild Animal Park, not sure if that made us like the beer even more than we ordinarily would, but they were great. Hubby had Lagunita's A Little Sumpin Sumpin (sp?) and I had a german weiss beer (I kept trying to find local weiss beers or hefeweisen, but never managed to), they were both awesome. We snacked on soft pretzels with a special mustard (made with one of Stone's beers) and a cheddar dip, it was all delicious. We found the "hipper than thou" attitude a bit annoying, but the place was beautiful. We had planned to go to Hacienda de Vega after, but decided to just drive home instead, since we were so beat from the heat.

                                                Mama Testa's. I had such high expectations and was really disappointed. When we got there, the line was out the door, but we waited anyway since I had heard so many great things about it. When we finally got a table, we waited for quite some time before our server appeared, ordered drinks which arrived promptly with (really good) chips. Got some salsa from the salsa cart and waited for our server to return for our dinner order. And waited. And waited. Meanwhile, the people at the tables on either side of us, both whom had sat down after we did, got to place their orders AND receive their food before it was our turn. In all fairness, it wasn't completely our servers fault, it was crazy busy, and I got the feeling they had gotten too popular too fast or something. The food we had was only ok, but maybe we didn't order the right thing. I had avocado tacos (I wanted to try the mashed potato ones, but then I saw that they were fried, and fried food does not agree with me) and hubby had chorizo tacos. They were both ok, but not more than that.

                                                Bety's Tacos. We LOVED this place! This was the best meal of the trip and if we could pick one restaurant to go back to, this would be it. The atmosphere was festive and friendly, service prompt and the food! I will dream about my dish - shrimp enchiladas with salsa verde - for months to come. The shrimp were perfectly grilled, the salsa awesome and the beans outstanding. Hubby had the shrimp and fish taco combo plate and loved it. The chips and salsa (which arrived immediately after we sat down) were also delicious. If I had to find faults with Bety's, it would be the lighting (flourescent, I would turn that off and put candles on the tables), the lack of margaritas (not their fault, I know) and the not so great wine choices. But then again, beer goes better with mexican food anyway. Hubby went back to get takeout our last day there while I was cleaning and packing, and we were just as happy with everything the second time. I only had chips and salsa (that salsa is to die for!) and hubby had a chorizo/potato sandwich which came in a very interesting marinated bread (amazing). The guy with the mohawk told him that another mexican restaurant (a chain?) was going to open next door (or close by) so they are a bit worried about what's going to happen. I really hope they stay in business, both for their sake and ours!

                                                We ended up not going to any of the breweries after learning about the "warehouse in an office park" settings (thanks for the warning, RB Hound). Cantina mayahuel was on our list, but we never made it there. Next time!

                                                Thank you all for your input, it was a huge help! :-)

                            2. re: Cattie

                              Since you are coming from the East Coast, when it is 9 pm here, it will be midnight on your internal time clock, so you probably will be pretty hungry before then anyhow, at least at the beginning of your vacation.

                              1. re: Cathy

                                Good point, Cathy. I'll have to switch my eating/drinking schedule, I think. I like to have my drinks before I eat, once I'm done with dinner, that's usually it for me for the night. But maybe I'll just go wild and crazy on my vacation and have drinks after dinner! :-)

                                I'm adding the Hacienda to our must-try list right now!