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Sep 30, 2009 06:00 AM

San Diego recomendations

Coming In November from Philly for Eagles/Chargers game. We are total foodies looking for great places to eat in San Diego and surrounding areas. Also one of the nights is my birthday!! So would appreciate other foodie recomendations also looking for some sight seeing tips.

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  1. I am from SD but now live in Philly, and the one thing I miss the most is mexican food. I find that Philly actually does fancy mexican food (Xochitl, Distrito, etc.) better than SD, but when I want a taco or a burrito, even the vaunted Philly spots don't do it for me.

    Do a search of the California board (LA is for LA, not the rest of SoCal), but off the top of my head you want to try the Marlyn tacos at Marisco's German, some barbacoa at Aqui es Texcoco, and all the other things people recommend.

    The other thing I find is that SD has better pho than Philly. Again a search will be more helpful, but the Mira Mesa area has a lot of good pho.

    Finally, you're probably going to want some special occasion dinner spots for your birthday. I find when I'm visiting home that I prefer just to indulge in the cheap chow in SD and save my budget for the fantastic Philly higher-end dining spots, but Market, in Del Mar, George's, in La Jolla and a range of spots downtown/in HIllcrest (that I don't visit much because I live further north) will probably be recommended. Just pick a menu that looks good to you. The Linkery is another good spot that's not as fancy, but makes some pretty great food (though I stay away from the sausages and kraut and choose off the daily market specials).

    1. Which part of town are you staying in and will you have a car?

      3 Replies
      1. re: Josh

        Yes I will have a car and I am staying in Pacific Beach.

        1. re: gtvlad

          I live in Pacific Beach near Crystal Pier. This is a fun party town loaded with college age hotties. You can get whiplash walking down Garnet Ave. on a weekend night. Try Latin Chef on Garnet Ave. for very good house-made Peruvian fare. I love their Anticuchos and Aji de Galina. Treat yourself to a cat sized #1 egg burrito with sausage, cheese, onions, avocado, and an order of Kono's potatoes at Kono's Surf Club at the base of Garnet at Crystal Pier. You can enjoy it at the outdoor tables across the boardwalk and watch the local surfers in action. Try a lamb burger with blue cheese-mint dressing at Bare Back Grill on Mission Ave. at Emerald. They are super juicy and flavorfull. If you want to be stumbling distance after dinner on your birthday, JRDN at the swanky Tower 23 hotel is right on the boardwalk (at Felspar St.) with a great view, modern decor, and pretty good chow. I like their ricotta gnocci, grilled baby octopus, roasted quail and the seasonal risotto. They also have a raw menu that is good as well. La Playa is a whole-in-the-wall Mexican joint just south of the Catamaran Hotel on Mission Blvd. (same side of the street). They have excellent carnitas tacos, and amazing albondigas soup. Don't be scared off by La Playa's appearance. Rent a bike and have a blast.

          P.S. Pacific Beach is home to many bars for you to choose from to drown your sorrows after what I am sure will be a painful eagle's loss to our San Diego Super Chargers.

          1. re: Captain Jack

            Also, if the OP is into beer, the Tap Room on Garnet has a very good selection.

      2. Whatever you do, please do not look for a Philly cheese steak sandwich in San Diego.


        2 Replies
        1. re: RB Hound

          Pop's makes a damn good cheesesteak. But I have no idea why someone would come *from* Philly and get a cheesesteak in SD. Just sayin...... Pop's.

          1. re: y6y6y6

            I have to agree with y6, surprisingly, San Diego has several very good cheesesteak options.

        2. Secondling the Mexican food idea.

          One thing tourists seems to latch onto for SD is the fish taco idea. Just be aware that a fish taco is peasant food rather than foodie food. Certainly worth checking out, but keep it in perspective. My suggestion would be El Cuervo for a traditional SD fish taco. You'll find plenty of other good taco options there as well. Sort of a hole in the wall local place, but very tourist friendly. Be aware it's not an SD fish taco unless you squeeze on plenty of fresh lime.

          If you don't mind driving into a somewhat run down part of town and eating in a dirt parking lot, Meriscos German truck is a place I would highly recommend. I suggest the truck off University. The marlyn (smoked fish) and gobnerador tacos are really good.

          For authentic street tacos I'd suggest Tacos El Paisa.

          For homestyle and authentic Mexican food, El Comal is a good tourist friendly place. Or for something a bit more adventurous, Super Cocina is outstanding.

          If you don't mind driving a bit further afield, TJ Oyster Bar in Bonita is someplace I would always try to bring out of town guests to. I love love love the seafood tacos there, and the ceviche. I avoid the tacos with cheese though. Even the 99 cent fish tacos are good here.

          Mama Testa is a place I'd recommend for authentic tacos with style.

          You may read on some touristy websites about Old Town Mexican Cafe and El Indio being the go-to Mexican places in San Diego. That would be false.

          2 Replies
          1. re: y6y6y6

            y6's mention of TJ's got me thinking of Baja style seafood cocktails, a must try for out of towners. La Playita, the tiny dive on Clairmont Mesa Blvd. at Limerick makes fantastic ones. My fave is the Vuelve ala Vida (mixed seafood).


            1. re: Captain Jack

              Speaking of which they now have a Poway outpost at the farmers Market, if you are out that way.

          2. San Diego is limited in its choices for foodies, but some of the restaurants listed so far are great: Market, George's (though it can be a bit overseasoned), and The Linkery (unique, artisan, local, reasonably portioned). I also offer El Agave, a fantastic high end Mexican restaurant with quality and abundant tequilas. If you really want an experience not to forget, then Addison is off the charts. The best neighborhood restaurant in town is Kensington Grill, which gives a great feel off the tourist path (and not far from Qualcomm). If you happen to be downtown, the Grant Grill is consistently great and often doesn't get enough press for how good it is. I also have to disagree with the Pacific Beach post. There is absolutely no restaurant worthy of an East Coast foodie in that part of town unless you are nursing a hangover or have a hankering for bar food.

            As for sights, Balboa Park is not to be missed. Even if you aren't into museums, the grounds and buildings are nice to walk around and the Zoo is nearby. We always take out of town guests to the patio at the Prado for drinks and it is a hit, you might even see a small wedding on the lower terrace. I'd avoid a meal there. It is another restaurant that is overhyped, overseasoned and overpriced.

            9 Replies
            1. re: fork

              "I also have to disagree with the Pacific Beach post. There is absolutely no restaurant worthy of an East Coast foodie"

              What an arrogant statement. You imply East Coast foodies are inherently superior. I beg to differ. The OP is staying in PB so I tossed out some interesting local finds for him/her. Have you been to Latin Chef and if so have your tried the anticuchos? I'll take those delicious grilled beef hearts over the ubiquitous, over salted, over priced, and stringy short ribs at Market any day. The Bare li'l lamb at Bare Back rocks, and while most of Kono's menu is sketchy, the #1 - #4 egg burritos and the Kono's potatoes are fantastic. The fact that they were born out of San Diego's surfing culture can be facinating to out of towners as well. San Diego's foodie choices are far from limited. Our forte, fork, is just not high end dining.

              1. re: fork

                ". . .there is absolutely no restaurant worthy of an East Coast foodie in that part of town unless you are nursing a hangover or have a hankering for bar food."

                How very silly. I've been here several months now and have found a few restaurants in PB worthy of checking out: Costa Brava, The Fishery, Bare Back just to name a few.

                1. re: globocity

                  I'd skip Costa Brava and try Sushi Ota.

                  1. re: thirtyeyes

                    thirtyeyes mention of Sushi Ota made me think of Uni. San Diego's waters are home to some ot the finest sea urchins in the world. gtvlad, you should definitely indulge in some local uni while in town. A top notch sushi bar like Ota in PB or Kaito in Encinitas will fit the bill. You also have the option of going directly to the distributor, Catalina Offshore Products. Though not a retail outlet, they will sell to the private sector. Their California Gold uni is off the charts fantastic. Call ahead to let them know you are coming.


                    1. re: Captain Jack

                      you can also buy uni at little italy farmers market.

                      1. re: stevewag23

                        Yup, they have live ones you can take away and crack yourself. It is a bit of a grab bag since sea urchins can't be graded until they are cracked open and the lobes are inspected. On the other hand, your not going to get any uni fresher than this.

                      2. re: Captain Jack

                        Speaking of which, someone just started a thread asking where to get the best San Diego Uni...

                      3. re: thirtyeyes

                        "I'd skip Costa Brava and try Sushi Ota"

                        Those are two totally different cuisines. If the OP wants to try Spanish fare, Costa Brava would be a good choice. They accommodate birthday parties and have a fun atmosphere.

                        For sushi, yes, Sushi Ota is a great recommendation. I don't understand the Skip This For That.

                        OP asked for recommendationS. Have fun, try a few places, see what you think.

                        1. re: globocity

                          The sangria at Costa Brava is excellent.