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Family-style, neighbourhood places in San Diego

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ChristianW Oct 15, 2009 06:14 PM

Oh My..............Soon we'll be coming to town. Someof us live near NYC, DC, Chi, & NO.
Gimme some pretty good stuff on my plate. Price, decor, who cares.........Nov. early I'll be there. Chowhounds has never failed me. Seeking small, family style, neighborhood places where someone cares about feeding me well is the goal. Pasta Mia in DC, long lost Trataria d'Alfredo in NYC, Nora's Cuisine in Las Vegas (& that Thai place holy cow) , Mandina's in NO, on and on...........don't let me down Chowhounds, where do I go in Dan Diego, California?

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  1. DiningDiva RE: ChristianW Oct 15, 2009 08:51 PM

    Well, there are many places in San Diego that meet your needs. Where to eat in San Diego with parameters similar to yours is probably one of the most common post on this board. The archives - and not old, out of date info - is jam packed with suggstions. Reading and tagging onto the end of what was arguable the most negative post about this city on the entire board isn't going to help you much.

    San Diego is a sprawling city. Where are you staying and will you have a car? Rapid tranist and taxis are not an efficient way to get around San Diego, with the exception of the trolley around downtown. Fine Dining is not San Diego's claim to fame. It does, however, have a number of interesting mid-range, casual, bistro-style eateries that are well worth seeking out and that have eater-friendly price points. Many can be found along the 30th St. corridor in North Park. Like beer? San Diego is your place. Mexican? Not so much. We've got taco shops galore but there's way more to Mexican food than tacos and burritos. You'll find tons of recs for all these things and much more in the archives...but not on this thread.

    Either read the archives or start your own thread, just don't expect much help from this thread. It's been devisive since the first post

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      gorbegozo RE: ChristianW Oct 16, 2009 05:07 PM

      The Station Tavern in South Park is a great family place. It's a burger place with many beers on tap.

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        stevewag23 RE: ChristianW Oct 16, 2009 10:31 PM

        Yeah, give us which part of town and we can break it down for you.

        7 Replies
        1. re: stevewag23
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          ChristianW RE: stevewag23 Oct 17, 2009 01:09 PM

          Chowhound is really a wonderful site for a traveler whose interests lie beyond the ho-hum. I certainly appreciate being redirected to find assistance. I will be attending the National Realtors Convention held near downtown where more than 30k can be accomodated. For dinner I prefer a table cloth and cotton napkin. It is wonderful to have a server who is proud of their work & plate. A neighborhood establishment whose owners like feeding hungrey appreciative guests is my kind of place. For some post 7 PM dinner suggestions I would be truly grateful.

          1. re: ChristianW
            Beach Chick RE: ChristianW Oct 17, 2009 01:21 PM

            Dobson's in the Gaslamp for the mussel bisque en croute is to die for..great burger too.
            Cafe Chloe in East Village/Gaslamp is wonderful French bistro.
            Cowboy Star gets lots of love on this board for the meat lover.
            Oceanaire in the Gaslamp for seafood.
            Grant Grill at the US Grant in the Gaslamp..excellent fine dining
            Baci's for some of the best Italian on Morena blvd./Sea World Drive.
            Fish Market Downtown at the Oyster bar or sushi bar is really good..drinks and app's on the bayfront patio..restaurant is average and the upstairs Top of the market is pricey but good.
            Waterfront in Little Italy for the great dive bar experience and a good burger..fries blow.
            Bertrand at Mister A's for drinks and app's..killer views of SD.
            Top of the Hyatt in the Gaslamp for after dinner drinks.

            some of these are not 'Family Style' but good anyway..have fun Christian and report back!

            1. re: Beach Chick
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              ChristianW RE: Beach Chick Oct 17, 2009 04:00 PM

              Wonderful post, BC. From here I can surely find a place where some good friends, who rarely get together, can spend some time to enjoy the food, San Diego weather and good company. Many thanks.

              1. re: ChristianW
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                stevewag23 RE: ChristianW Oct 17, 2009 06:36 PM

                I third the suggestion for Cafe Chloe.

                If you are looking for recomendations near the Gaslamp, it is pretty simple: Cafe Chloe.

                (Just make sure you want to call it an early night).

                Oceanaire for oysters.

                Skip the rest.

                1. re: stevewag23
                  honkman RE: stevewag23 Oct 17, 2009 06:55 PM

                  You really should try Cowboy Star. We weren't sure what to expect but were quite impressed with the food (and normally we are not really steak eaters). It's also nice to see a restaurant with sweetbreads on the menu

                  1. re: honkman
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                    stevewag23 RE: honkman Oct 17, 2009 09:32 PM

                    You know I have been for lunch before and I did like it.

                    Never been for dinner.

                    I should give it a shot.

                    Sweetbreads sounds good. What else do you recommend?

              2. re: Beach Chick
                honkman RE: Beach Chick Oct 17, 2009 05:33 PM

                Strongly second Cafe Chloe and Cowboy Star. Cafe Chloe is the restaurant we frequent most after Better Half closed and Cowboy Star was also great after our first visit.
                BTW, I would stay away from Italian restaurants (including Baci's) in SD. Italian food is really not the strength of SD. You might get some average (often overpriced americanized Italian (like Baci's) but nothing beyond this.

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            pickypicky RE: ChristianW Oct 18, 2009 07:05 AM

            What you're asking for, CW, doesn't really exist in SD. The places that have been around forever are terrible. SD is not a "neighborhood" city. Our biz is tourists, making money, and copying what restaurants other places do five years after they did it. If you have a car, try the Farmhouse Cafe in North Park. It's a bistro (with French chef owner) sometimes patronized by neighbor locals. Blind Lady Ale House also in North Park is a CA-style pizza joint with incredible artisan beers (best selection in SD). In BirdRock/La Jolla, you'll find locals (and their too many kids) at Don Bravo Bahia eating lobster burritos and enchiladas. Yes, there are places in "neighborhoods" but mostly "neighbors" are busy driving across town to other places. You won't find much of that camaraderie here except among bar patrons which, again, are probably not locals/neighbors.

            1 Reply
            1. re: pickypicky
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              stevewag23 RE: pickypicky Oct 18, 2009 01:58 PM

              Farmhouse Cafe is a good suggestion.

              The only knock against the place is it is kind of hard to package with something else.

              It is a great spot if you lived close by.

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              pickypicky RE: ChristianW Oct 18, 2009 07:07 AM

              Oooops. I missed your "cloth napkin" requirement. Scratch the Ale House and Bahia.

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                pickypicky RE: ChristianW Oct 18, 2009 07:15 AM

                One more place: The Fishery in Pacific Beach. Chef Paul, by way of LA and Cape Cod, has made this local place sing. It's owned by the fish market wholesalers on the premises, so you can't get fish any fresher. (On my last visit I had harpooned swordfish.) The locals walk there for fish tacos, Baja lobster, and fish and chips, but we drive there for the inventive entrees and eclectic wine list.

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                  ChristianW RE: ChristianW Oct 19, 2009 07:04 AM

                  As I said in the initial Post, Chowhound has never failed me. What a great site! It is so helpful when people like you make concise, meaningful suggestions. Thank you all so much for being what we Southerners call "hometown friendly". Watch for a report in November.

                  17 Replies
                  1. re: ChristianW
                    stevuchan RE: ChristianW Oct 19, 2009 07:40 AM

                    You should give the Wine Vault a shot, they white table cloth, family owned, neighborhood spot using fresh local ingredients. Best value is SD, 3 course $20 and 5 course $30 check there web site, not too far from Gaslamp. There were early concerns about consistency but over the last year it has been firing on all cylinders.

                    1. re: stevuchan
                      geekyfoodie RE: stevuchan Oct 19, 2009 10:48 AM

                      Throwing in my vote for Wine Vault. One of the best deals you'll find in SD and in a decent setting. Service has been good every time I've been there, but the place can be a little loud when it's crowded. When it's not crowded, however, it's cozy and a lot like the neighborhood feeling you're looking for.

                      I posted some photos from past visits: http://www.adventuresofanamateurfoodi...

                      Parking isn't bad if you're willing to walk. It's lousy if you're looking for a nearby space, but if you're willing to walk a couple of blocks, here's my suggestion:

                      From downtown, take 5 North and exit Washington St. The ramp actually merges into India St. Head north until you pass Chalmers St. Right after Chalmers, there's a fork in the road. The path to the right will take you to Wine Vault. The path to the left is San Diego Ave. and usually has decent parking. Park there, cross the fork towards El Indio and Wine Vault's a few doors north of El Indio. It's upstairs, so look for a set of stairs right by the pizza place.

                      Wine Vault's website has a calendar of their dinners and more parking suggestions:

                      http://www.winevaultbistro.com/

                      1. re: stevuchan
                        honkman RE: stevuchan Oct 19, 2009 11:22 AM

                        Wine Vault is a good call. Not really fine dining but a very good (especially for the prices) neighborhood restaurant. We just went again this Saturday to their 5-course tasting menu and it was excellent. And parking isn't as easy as in other parts of SD but not a big issue and we are always able to find a spot close by.

                        1. re: stevuchan
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                          stevewag23 RE: stevuchan Oct 19, 2009 11:54 AM

                          What is the best night to go?

                          Do you need reservations?

                          1. re: stevewag23
                            honkman RE: stevewag23 Oct 19, 2009 12:01 PM

                            I have only tried the Saturday 5-course tasting menu and you definitely need reservations (often at least a week ahead) since it is always sold out soon.

                            1. re: stevewag23
                              geekyfoodie RE: stevewag23 Oct 19, 2009 01:46 PM

                              I like the Thursday and Friday dinners for $20. If you want quiet, I'd pick Thursday. If you want lively, go Friday. Reservations are definitely a good idea. Even if they're not full, I had the impression that they don't particularly like walk-ins. That was just from observing a couple of walk-ins when I was dining there, so I could be wrong.

                              1. re: geekyfoodie
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                                stevewag23 RE: geekyfoodie Oct 19, 2009 02:25 PM

                                honkman and geekyfoodie, thanks for the tips.

                                When does the kitchen close?

                                1. re: stevewag23
                                  honkman RE: stevewag23 Oct 19, 2009 02:44 PM

                                  10pm on Saturdays

                                  1. re: honkman
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                                    stevewag23 RE: honkman Oct 19, 2009 04:51 PM

                                    Smooth. Doable.

                                    1. re: stevewag23
                                      honkman RE: stevewag23 Oct 20, 2009 03:10 PM

                                      One thing to add - I like small portions in a tasting menu and normally don't have any complains about getting enough food but Wine Vault tends to serve quite small portions (and also seem to stop bread service based on our last visit) and last Saturday I felt that the portions could have been a little bit bigger.

                              2. re: stevewag23
                                stevuchan RE: stevewag23 Oct 19, 2009 02:25 PM

                                I always make a reservation, even if it is the night of. Sign up for the email news letter on their website it has all menus and upcommng wine maker dinners. News letter is great just for inspiration when in a cooking rut at home, as it often features local seasonal ingredients available in SD.

                                1. re: stevuchan
                                  stevuchan RE: stevuchan Oct 20, 2009 02:47 PM

                                  Exhibit A - here is today's email for the upcoming wine makers dinner. Drooling.

                                  Bartlett Pear Salad | Smoked Burrata Cheese | Wild Arugula | Spiced Walnuts | Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
                                  2008 Stolpman Sauvignon Blanc (5 oz. pour)

                                  Pan Roasted Swordfish | Garnet Yam Puree | Preserved Lemon | Baby Fennel | Blistered Shishitos
                                  2007 Stolpman "La Coppa" Blanc Rhone White (3 oz. pour)

                                  Butternut Squash Soup | Brioche | Cardamom Mascarpone
                                  2007 Stolpman Grenache (3 oz. pour)

                                  Pancetta + Chestnut Ravioli | Celery Root Puree | Roasted Onions | Micro Arugula
                                  2006 Stolpman Sangiovese (3 oz. pour)

                                  Herb Roasted Pork Belly | Stone Ground Grits | Hen of the Woods Mushrooms | Gremolata
                                  2006 Stolpman "Estate" Syrah (3 oz. pour)

                                  Red Wine Braised Beef Cheeks | Cauliflower | Black Truffle
                                  2006 Stolpman "La Croce" Syrah/Sangiovese Blend (3 oz. pour)

                                  1. re: stevuchan
                                    honkman RE: stevuchan Oct 20, 2009 03:27 PM

                                    I am a little bit sceptical about their wine maker dinners I found their sequence of dishes for the different wine maker dinners (there is another one this Thursday) odd (their Saturday tasting menus are much better) so that you don't have a good flow within the tasting menu which I think is critical for a good tasting menu. They also seems to reuse a lot of dishes from Saturday dinners for their wine maker dinners instead of customize it more to the wines for the wine maker dinners.

                                    1. re: honkman
                                      geekyfoodie RE: honkman Oct 21, 2009 06:25 PM

                                      Reusing dishes is something they definitely do. I've seen "repeats" where the flavor of a sauce or the garnishing veggies change according to seasonality, but the dish itself remains the same. As someone who doesn't follow winemakers religiously, the winemaker dinners don't really appeal to me and at $50-70/person, they're a little steep unless you're really, really into a specific winemaker.

                              3. re: stevuchan
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                                ChristianW RE: stevuchan Nov 19, 2009 04:16 AM

                                Chowhound 's did it again. Home run!. After many suggestions (see below) by such nice people, "Steveuchan" suggested this treasure. Others chimed in. Wine Vault is not a bright lights-big city place, but it is surely big fun and taste- that is if you like nice people, visits about great food and wine followed up by creative presentations of the real deal. Owners M/M Gluck & Server Kirsten put their culinary arms around me & fed me like a regular. Starter to 3rd course, all offered opportunitites for adventure. Chris' suggestion of appropriate wine for the starter of 'blistered shishito peppers" was spot on, so I took his advice all down the line. The Wine Vault reservation was ontime, Kristen knew her biz & how reach out to new friends, each menu item was delightful fun, & THEN I HAD TO PAY THE PIPER. They really should charge what their art is worth! Try it, you'll like it.

                                Thank you all for taking the time to comment on my original post. There is little doubt that Chowhound.com is the place for nice people to touch base using their favorite cookies.

                                1. re: ChristianW
                                  stevuchan RE: ChristianW Nov 19, 2009 08:52 AM

                                  Really happy you had a good experience. I'm headed back to the Wine Vault on Sunday for the Paso wine makers dinner, really looking forward to it.

                              4. re: ChristianW
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                                pickypicky RE: ChristianW Oct 19, 2009 09:02 AM

                                Christian-- just so you know. I AM a southerner which explains the courtesy of my reply to you. SD is a weird place. I've tried for 10 years to love it and haven't. There is not much "hometown friendly" here, imo. Hence my comment about SD's raison d'etre being tourists, money, driving cars, and fakey imitations (Cowboy Star) of other places. One of my favorite things though-- and something SD does quite well if the weather is right-- is a drink at JRDN, sunset, on the Pacific Beach boardwalk. Gorgeous. Also, the comment below about Wine Vault is a great suggestion for a unique place, although the parking situation is impossible.

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                                cookieshoes RE: ChristianW Oct 19, 2009 11:10 PM

                                For "Family Style" I would highly recommend Cucina Urbana. They make a point of offering wonderful dishes in group portions. The size of the place isn't too big to be unmanageable, and you can make a killing ordering from the wine selection they have, which they sell at retail + corkage. Excellent service too.

                                As for the age-old "San Diego is not (insert your city name here)" argument...you're right, it isn't. We have far too much widespread affluence and good weather to have to hole up in a restaurant to make ourselves feel better. Yet, we still have great food, unique culture, and world-class beer here. If you want compromise, go to Boston or New York. I have yet to meet a local from either of those towns who doesn't envy our lifestyle balance here. Just as I have yet to meet a Southerner who would prefer their hometown cooking over our job market, if they really had to choose.

                                18 Replies
                                1. re: cookieshoes
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                                  stevewag23 RE: cookieshoes Oct 19, 2009 11:37 PM

                                  Cucina Urbana's food is ok. It is really nothing special. I do like it compared to many offerings in our great city though.

                                  Serivce I have found to be spotty as well and many times amateurish.

                                  "good weather to have to hole up in a restaurant to make ourselves feel better"

                                  Not sure if I completely agree with this. Outdoor dining can be done as well, and until recently restaurants in san diego have never taken advantage of this. Or open air.

                                  It is almost puzzling.

                                  Great weather is no excuse for poor food. (see Spain, Sydney, Melbourne, Italy, France, Miami Beach, Argentina, Los Angeles etc)

                                  "If you want compromise, go to Boston or New York."

                                  Great advice. Just spent Sept in NYC. Great weather and Great food.

                                  1. re: stevewag23
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                                    deeznuts RE: stevewag23 Oct 19, 2009 11:50 PM

                                    Go there now. :D September is a great month for NYC though, as that was the month I went. I would love to spend an extended time there, but not to live permanently.

                                    Wine vault Another great looking place I must now try, thanks to Chow.

                                    1. re: deeznuts
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                                      stevewag23 RE: deeznuts Oct 19, 2009 11:56 PM

                                      Ha, no thanks. Sept for NYC.

                                      Now is time for miami beach. 80 degrees and warm water vs 68 degrees and cold water.

                                      Topless girls, cuban food, balmy ocean breezes, kitchens open till 12am and outdoor open air dining.

                                      "Wine vault Another great looking place I must now try, thanks to Chow."

                                      Agreed. Seen the place a million times, but never knew anyone that went.

                                      Chowhound is the greatest.

                                    2. re: stevewag23
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                                      cookieshoes RE: stevewag23 Oct 20, 2009 12:22 AM

                                      "Great weather is no excuse for poor food. (see Spain, Sydney, Melbourne, Italy, France, Miami Beach, Argentina, Los Angeles etc)"

                                      Nor is crap weather or inner-city crunch a free-pass to be blanketly considered a "food town". France, as a country, has many restaurants that destroy any place in the world. But does that make them better than other spots on the globe? Madrid has insane late-night indulgence that would knock any city's offerings on its arse. It's all culture, environment, and perspective all rolled into one. Which is why San Diego will always hold its own. Because it has its own flavor. No two towns are alike. Well, maybe Cheyenne aside. Ugh.

                                      Speaking of San Diego, if anyone does go to Cucina Urbana, be sure NOT to order the ahi crudo. But by all means DO order the caprese. As well as the squash blossoms. And, if you get Rebecca as your server, you will be very well taken care of.

                                      1. re: cookieshoes
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                                        stevewag23 RE: cookieshoes Oct 20, 2009 09:28 AM

                                        "Nor is crap weather or inner-city crunch a free-pass to be blanketly considered a "food town".

                                        I don't think anyone has every thought this or said this. Since the beginning of time.

                                        I just wanted to dispute the age-old "San Diego is has beautiful weather so its ok that our food is crap and our service is incompetent" argument. Most places with great weather around the globe also have great food.

                                        "if anyone does go to Cucina Urbana, be sure NOT to order the ahi crudo. But by all means DO order the caprese"

                                        This is my point exactly about Cucina Urbana. It seems almost every restaurant in the last five years in san diego has those two dishes (and I have yet to really have a great version). After a while it gets pretty boring.

                                        San Diego is non stop ahi tartare and caprese salad.

                                        1. re: stevewag23
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                                          cookieshoes RE: stevewag23 Oct 20, 2009 11:19 AM

                                          "I just wanted to dispute the age-old "San Diego is has beautiful weather so its ok that our food is crap and our service is incompetent" argument. Most places with great weather around the globe also have great food."

                                          See, I don't think the food is crap, or that the service is incompetent. That's a huge generalization. There is excellent service at many places in town. Just as there are great meals at many. Don't default to the same "San Diego is not New York" schtick. San Diego isn't New Orleans either. Yet you don't see flocks of people running around here desperate for a place that serves decent crawdad and red beans and rice and constantly complaining about it.

                                          You're right, San Diego has a ton of places that serve ahi and caprese, just like every other state in the country does. Dishes like those have become as ubiquitous as the Caesar Salad. That's like commenting that there are a lot of places here that serve filet mignon.

                                          Cucina Urbana's caprese is fantastic, give it a try. Heirloom tomatoes, house buratta cheese, prosciutto. Excellent.

                                          1. re: cookieshoes
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                                            stevewag23 RE: cookieshoes Oct 20, 2009 11:35 AM

                                            "There is excellent service at many places in town."

                                            Where is a place that really has "excellent" service? When compared to other cities not just compared to other restaurants in san diego?

                                            "you don't see flocks of people running around here desperate for a place that serves decent crawdad and red beans and rice and constantly complaining about it."

                                            It would be nice to have a great creole restaurant though.

                                            "San Diego has a ton of places that serve ahi and caprese, just like every other state in the country does."

                                            Not nearly to the extent that san diego does. At least not now. 15 years ago maybe.

                                            "Cucina Urbana's caprese is fantastic, give it a try. "

                                            Will do. Thanks for the tip.

                                            1. re: cookieshoes
                                              foodiechick RE: cookieshoes Oct 20, 2009 11:45 AM

                                              Well, I'm certainly not a flock, but I would love to see some decent NOLA food in this town.

                                          2. re: cookieshoes
                                            honkman RE: cookieshoes Oct 20, 2009 10:29 AM

                                            "Because it has its own flavor." - What's the culinary flavor of San Diego which makes it unique to other cities ?

                                            1. re: honkman
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                                              cookieshoes RE: honkman Oct 20, 2009 11:10 AM

                                              What's its flavor? Don't you live here? You mean to tell me that there isn't one positive thing that one can say to describe the mix of foods and culture in San Diego?

                                              That's just it, we are spoiled here with so many things, so there ends up being this dire need to find something fundamentally wrong with the town. The easy one is the restaurants. Cue the endless parade of comments on this board where San Diego is compared to other cities, and San Diego gets slammed for not re-inventing the culinary wheel. Endless nit-picking and the search for labels.

                                              The trouble is, no one city is some culinary paradise which does it all. And apart from the very few true innovators in American cooking, there actually aren't that many unique chefs going around. So, it's not as if every city in the country is just overflowing with brilliance. Yeah, New York has wonderful restaurants. Vegas, Chicago, Seattle, etc. By far the number and quality of restaurants in each town is way over anything offered in San Diego. But that has nothing to do with San Diego's own merits, so it's pointless that it keeps getting brought up. Of course San Diego isn't New York, only New York is New York.

                                              For an example, the mexican food in San Diego absolutely kills the mexican food in most every other state. The only place it doesn't is when one starts comparing it to other cities in California. So, there becomes endless discussion on how San Diego's Mexican food isn't as good as Los Angeles. Same goes for the Chinese and other Asian food served here. Rather than just enjoying the variety of excellent places on Convoy, the first thing out of people's mouths is that the food isn't as good as it is in the San Gabriel Valley.

                                              It's all very very tired.

                                              1. re: cookieshoes
                                                Beach Chick RE: cookieshoes Oct 20, 2009 11:44 AM

                                                Great post cookieshoes!

                                                I wrote a post yesterday but it got pulled by the mod's of the bloviated redundant rhetoric that gets spewed on the CA board against SD...gets very old and why do you think that well respected Chowhounder's don't post here anymore?

                                                1. re: Beach Chick
                                                  SaltyRaisins RE: Beach Chick Oct 20, 2009 07:25 PM

                                                  Not thrilled with my inability to not chime in ... just that I wasn't aware that there was a consensus on the lack of well respected posters on the California/San Diego board. Ad hominem attacks aside, I feel that there is a great depth of expertise on this board: local experts in Japanese, Mexican, Latin, Chinese, etcetera. And even one who specializes in gastro-dives...ahem...you, Beach Chick. I may not always appreciate the finer details of your self-expression, but I have learned about quite a few places from you, and whether or not I agree with your taste is beside the point- I respect you in your way and am able to infer a lot about a place from your opinions. We'd be better served throwing around a bit more respect in general here ...

                                                  ... and the Wine Vault is certainly something special that would be out of place in NYC or any other big city, but fits SD like a glove: good location, not entirely predictable menu, family owned and operated, great wines, and a serious bargain when compared with the same thing, say, Los Angeles.

                                                  1. re: SaltyRaisins
                                                    honkman RE: SaltyRaisins Oct 21, 2009 09:10 AM

                                                    "and the Wine Vault is certainly something special that would be out of place in NYC or any other big city..." - I like Wine Vault but to say it is special to SD and wouldn't work in other cities is completely wrong. Have you ever been to Bistro LQ for example in LA. I am just wondering where do you normally eat in LA if you believe that something like Wine Vault wouldn't work there.

                                                    1. re: honkman
                                                      SaltyRaisins RE: honkman Oct 21, 2009 06:27 PM

                                                      Out of place in the sense that a restaurant with a similar mission in a big city would be quite pricey in comparison to TWV- prohibitively expensive for the quality of ingredients and the menu that can be had at The Wine Vault for a reasonably good value on a given weeknight. It fits SD like a glove in the sense that they have made interesting dining with very good wine a casual thing- and not casual in a dumbed-down sense. I have yet to see something that is truly similar in New York. I'll have to try Bistro LQ, if you think a comparison would set me straight.

                                                      1. re: SaltyRaisins
                                                        honkman RE: SaltyRaisins Oct 21, 2009 07:11 PM

                                                        You should try Bistro LQ. Laurent Quenioux is doing amazing things for very cheap prices for the quality you get. (He is even offering 1/2 portions of all his dishes so that you can try as much as possible) The only "caveat" is that Wine Vault cuisine is very mainstream but you have to be very open-minded for Bistro LQ. (And I know for a lot of people Bistro LQ is too unusual/ hard to understand the thoughts behind all the dishes.

                                                2. re: cookieshoes
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                                                  daantaat RE: cookieshoes Oct 20, 2009 08:30 PM

                                                  "Rather than just enjoying the variety of excellent places on Convoy, the first thing out of people's mouths is that the food isn't as good as it is in the San Gabriel Valley."

                                                  This generalization needs to be qualified by saying that the dim sum (which does not cover "all" Asian cuisine) in SD does not compare to SGV. Same for the Cantonese food in SD. Being one who frequently enjoys what Convoy and the surrounding area has to offer, there are many Asian, non-dim sum/Cantonese places that are very good and we do enjoy them. Just not for dim sum.

                                                  1. re: cookieshoes
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                                                    csils RE: cookieshoes Oct 22, 2009 08:38 AM

                                                    I couldn't agree more cookie. Foodies looking for a good bite need to understand that there are those here who approach the restaurant with an attitude of excited curiosity and those who approach with the insight of an educated critic...I for one am the former.

                                                    Having not been blessed with the experience of a 42 oz texas porterhouse having had the fortune to dine in one of manhattan's elite, I relate San Diego's food and restaurants not by comparison of what they "could" be, but by what they are. Sometimes I am impressed and amazed, other times I am not.

                                                    What we do have however is an amazing cornucopia of options. I can on a whim decide I want thai/chinese/italian/steak/seafood/mexican/creole/french/burgers/upscale/beachy/________(fill in the blank) and within minutes be on my way to a great meal. The "scene" certainly has it's ups and downs, and when you compare "le french gourmet" with France...your bound to lose...but honestly....I have nothing to complain about and love San Diego altogether. I will continue to expand my horizon's....but can honestly say I will always appreciate what SD has to offer.

                                                    1. re: csils
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                                                      stevewag23 RE: csils Oct 22, 2009 09:14 AM

                                                      Where do you have great creole meals in san diego?

                                                      And great french meals in san diego?

                                                      Would love some tips.

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                                            4wino RE: ChristianW Oct 20, 2009 08:09 PM

                                            If you get to La Mesa, try Antica Trattoria for Italian food.

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                                              ChristianW RE: ChristianW Nov 19, 2009 03:57 AM

                                              Chowhound 's did it again. Home run. After many suggestions (see below) by such nice people, "Steveuchan" suggested this place. Others chimed in. Wine Vault is not a brgith lights- big city place, but it is surely big fun and taste- that is if you like nice people, visits about great food and wine followed up by creative presentations of the real deal. Owners M/M Gluck & Server Kirsten put their culinary arms around me & fed me like a regular. Starter to 3 courses, all offered opportunitites for adventure. Chris' suggestion of appropriate wine for the starter of 'blistered shishito peppers" was spot on, so I took his advice all down the line. The Wine Vault reservation was ontime, Kristen knew her biz & how reach out to new friends, each menu item was delightful fun, & THEN I HAD TO PAY THE PIPER. They really should charge what their art is worth! Try it, you'll like it.

                                              Thank you all for taking the time to comment on my original post. There is little doubt that Chowhound.com is the place for nice people touch base using their favorite medium.

                                              -----
                                              Wine Vault & Bistro
                                              3731 India St, San Diego, CA 92103

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                                                ChristianW RE: ChristianW Nov 19, 2009 04:20 AM

                                                I am not sure if all you Chowhounds will notice the comments about The Wine Vault. They are posted in the thread just under SteveuChan's suggestion. HOME RUN! Thank you all for help. I like San Diego, and upon my return, overall your commnets were exactly on target. It is a lovely clean, city with friendly people & deserves attention as a wonderful choice for a holiday.

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