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Jul 17, 2009 11:55 PM

San Diego 8 Day Vacation

We will be in town from Aug 8 to the 16 and need to try to the best and most interesting that SD has to offer! We are staying at the Embassy Suites downtown and will have a car for half the trip. Money is no option but we all know great food can be had cheaply. We have little kids (6,7) but they are fine in the best restaurants and they can eat anything.

Where should we eat lunch in La Jolla after the Birch Aquarium?
Need a recommendation for the evening in La Jolla or by Belmont Park.
Something for Dinner in the Gaslamp.
Something with a Great View.
Dinner in Old Town.
Classic San Diego foods... How about great Mexican as we live in Florida and the mexican here sucks. How about some great fish tacos?

We are open to anything and eat everything (although Italian isn't our favorite)! Not sure we will ever be in San Diego again so consider this a request to give us your recommendations of what we can't leave town without having!

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  1. I am doing the same. We will be in La Jolla for six nights at the end of August. I've done research and still compiling my list. Look at these two posts that have really helped me:

    "San Diego, Best Food, Best View?" -


    "10 Best Things to Eat in San Diego" -

    3 Replies
    1. re: scjohann

      Scjohann has the right idea with the SD 10 Best Things to Eat list (and link) above. That's the best thread I've ever seen on Chow for SD. Study it and you'll know exactly where to go. The posters on the thread are the most experienced Chow-ers (from my experience here the last 3 years) and in most cases you can trust their happiest eating moments.

      MEXICAN: --El Paisa for tacos. Your kids will love the homemade "aguas" fruit drinks and handmade corn tortillas. You'll love the carne asada. . .

      --Fish tacos at the new taco truck Mariscos German Beyer on Imperial Avenue at approx. 22nd - across the street is a mexican market that's fun to stroll. This is in the barrio but just off Interstate 5. Easiest, best taco truck for SD visitors.

      --El Pescador for Fish Sandwiches - crowded, small fish market with killer sandwiches. ask for avocado on yours. right next door to best surf shop in SD, Mitch's. Good for teeshirts, etc.
      --Lodge at Torrey Pines -- which might be good after the aquarium. The craftsman style hotel (worth a tour on its own) has two restaurants. The GRILL sits on the Torrey Pines city-owned Golf Course (site of 2008 US Open). You can sit outside and watch golfers putt or amazing view of Pacific and torrey pine trees (only found in two spots in the world.) Upstairs at the Lodge, The A R VALENTIEN may be too upscale for your children-- but it is my favorite San Diego restaurant. (sadly, their website sucks and gives no idea of how beautiful or special dining there is.) The ARV was voted one of the top ten locavore restaurants in the US by Epicurious.
      --Bahia Don Bravo for lobster burritos, tacos and enchildadas. (they have standard fare as well.) This is a dive with a view. Perfect for families. This is the only lobster burrito I know of in SD.

      Finally, GREAT Farmer's Markets with good food and lots of action Saturday morning at Little Italy and Sunday morning in Hillcrest. Lots of posts and threads regarding these two.

      1. re: pickypicky

        I will second Kono's, but I recomend you stick to the fabulous egg burritos #1 through #4, and the excellent Kono's potatoes. This is what the locals I know are willing to wait in line for. The rest of the menu is Denny's level crap.

        I also agree that most Old Town food is geared towards tourists and is mediocre. A noteable exception is the more upscale El Agave which has very good moles, and an extensive tequila selection.

        1. re: Captain Jack

          I'd file Berta's under the exception list as well. They have some tasty, decidedly non-touristy Latin American offerings.

    2. LJ lunch: Nine-Ten or Tapenade

      LJ Dinner: Same

      Dinner near Belmont Park: Just say no.

      Great View Dining: Island Prime / C Level on Harbor Island (5 min. drive from your hotel)
      Hotel Del Coronado (1500 Ocean or Sheerwater) 10 min. drive
      Fish Market / Top of the Market (walk from your hotel)

      Dinner in Old Town: Only tourists eat there; my advice, stay away

      Mexican: Las Cuatro Milpas for barest of bare bones ambience in the middle of the barrio (ten minute drive from hotel)

      Classic S.D.: I always recommend Kono's for breakfast in Pacific Beach at Crystal Pier for great breakfast with Mex. influences, great ocean views across alley on deck, and surf culture all around; very casual. Kids will never forget the experience.

      3 Replies
      1. re: mcgrath

        Oops, my post was supposed to go here.

        1. re: mcgrath

          While I've heard amazing things about Las Quatro Milpas (and am dying to go, but have not yet) I think it's fair to warn people that it is in the Barrio. It is in Barrio Logan basically under the bridge. While i feel it is perfectly safe of a place, the locale might frighten an unsuspecting out of towner.... this is furthest from a tourist trap as you might find. From what I understand though, thwey start serving food around 10 or 11 and there's a line out the door until they run out of food for the day at which point they close up shop.

          1. re: csils

            For the hours that LCM is open it is absolutely perfectly safe. When they've finished eating they can walk down to the strip mall on the corner, check out Panchitas and get a few Mexican sweets to snack on later.

        2. This will be out 14th summer in La Jolla. Some of my recommendations for families:

          1) Near Birch Aquarium- Porkyland is cheap and fun. El Pescador or even Wahoo Tacos in La Jolla (I know its a chain but still very good!) Jeffs Burgers near La Jolla Shores is my kids favorite - still has bubble gum ice cream! Of course, for cheap burgers for the family, you can't go wrong with IN and OUT.

          2) How about a picnic on the Cove in La Jolla at sunset? Kids will love seeing the seals and its still alittle romantic for the adults :) You can get take out at several places in the village.

          3) My kids LOVE Point Loma seafood. We have seen all kinds of sealife in the marina while we eat and fun to watch the fishermen come in with their catch of the day. Thier favorite CHEESY dinner (and I mean cheesy!) is Rockin Baja Lobster. They love it- we tolerate it! In Del mar , we take them to Pacifica Cafe. It is alittle pricey but worth it. I also second the recommendation for Torrey Pines Lodge. We go and sit on the patio and order several appetizers.

          4) Hodads and any of the beachside restaurants at Ocean beach are also always on our list. They also like the Crystal Beach area. Besure and visit the rollar coaster at Mission Beach. There are several beachside options for lunch there also.

          My ONLY dilemna this year is one of our favorites (South Beach Bar and Grill) is now not allowing anyone under 21- anyone have suggestions for where to go now for clam steamers????

          2 Replies
          1. re: kimc

            Warning on people planning to picnic at the Cove - the seagulls are VERY aggressive about getting at food. Do not leave food outside,unattended, unless you have it in a cooler or something else too heavy for the gulls to open.

            I'm down at the Cove about once a week (to pick up my wife from work), and one of the things my daughter and I like to do is to watch the gulls go to work.

            1. re: RB Hound

              You're so right! I should have posted a warning. Our favorite seagull story is when a few years ago we were cooking a few ribeyes at the LJBTC and a few seagulls decided that was their dinner instead of ours. Have not left any food unattended since!

          2. I also forgot- if you are there on a Sunday. Go to the La Jolla Farmers Market (held at the elementary school until 1 pm) We shop and either eat breakfast or lunch. The kids love the crepes- and I love the grllled Lemongrass chicken. I also find several varieties of fresh cheese and appetizers. Needless to say, the fruit is also delicious!

            4 Replies
            1. re: kimc

              I agree, local Farmer's Markets are a great suggestion! It was the La Jolla Farmer's Market where we found some really good olive oil from a guy in Escondido who gets the olives near a golf course in the East County. Chef Michael Stebner, originally from Nine-Ten, was the person who recommended this olive oil. (Go to Nine-Ten in L.J., it's still fabulous...)

              Ever been to Balboa Park? Maybe you are 2 good places to nibble at:
              1) WATERS CAFE at the SDMA is great for a late afternoon lunch when most of the lunch crowds leave. Tables, shade, a water exhibit, sculpture garden and an ecletic menu to choose from. Someone in your party is bound to love their chocolate chip cookies.
              2) The PRADO, diagonally across from the SDMA, is fun too. We prefer to dine at the bar for either an early lunch or early dinner. The crabcake appetizer is actually pretty good and I do enjoy having a mojito or a sangria along with it. And yes, they do have a kids menu.

              1. re: Sampaguita

                I LOVED Waters @ the sculpture garden but someone on here told me they've left and someone else has the concession.

                1. re: pickypicky

                  On your tip, I called Waters' corporate office and alas, they indeed have moved out of the Balboa Park location. Giuseppe, who also runs the cafe at the museum in La Jolla, has taken it's place. They also told me that if anyone has a great idea for a new location, don't hesitate to let them know where the next Waters Cafe should be.
         Thanks PP!

                  1. re: Sampaguita

                    Thanks for update. IMO Waters beats Giuseppe hands down. Waters was exceptional for museum fare-- in my long life from coast to coast.

            2. La Jolla lunch after Birch:
              Coffee Cup Cafe in La Jolla
              Z Pizza in UTC (3 minutes east of Birch)--cheap
              Sammy's Woodfired Pizza in La Jolla and UTC

              La Jolla dinner:
              Roppongi's (go between 5-7 pm and all their apps/tapas are 50% off. They have large servings and 2-3 of them will fill an adult for a meal)

              Cafe Chloe or Oceanaire

              Mama Testa's has really, really good mashed potato tacos. In Hillcrest, about 5 min north of downtown.

              search the threads that scjohann posted as well...