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Ten Nights of help Needed [SD]

Hello SD Chowhounders. Midwest CHer here.
Staying at Hilton Bayfront.
Wife at conference 11/6-11/9 No car, will rely on taxi or public tran.
Trying to avoid the Gaslamp area for all if not most of the stay(Are the restaurants really that bad there ?)
For Fri/Sat lunch I'll be on my own and looking for a good beer bar(30-50 or more beers) Also want fish tacos and one post I saw mentioned lobster tacos...sorry about the drool.

For the rest of the stay 11/10-11/14(will have car) we will need a couple breakfast places for varieties sake.
Not really worried about lunch unless there's a place you think we must try.
For dinner I'll need 2-3 all the way $$$$$ upscale, 4-5 $$-$$$ places and 2-3 Triple D type places.
Wife hates bars. A wine bar with good food is ok.
Wife not fond of seafood so restaurants should have a good variety of choices.
Would like some good Cali cuisine recs, French, Mexican, maybe one Italian.Skip the Asian and steak places(plenty where I live)
Will also need a couple of recs up the coast as far as Del Mar. A great view would be fantastic.
I hope this is specific without being overbearing....

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  1. Thanks for your specific requests. It is actually very helpful. The restaurants in the Gaslamp are generally not the greatest but there are some gems.

    Cafe Chloe is a wonderful little french bistro that does Breakfast through Dinner and does all very well.
    Oceanaire in the Gaslamp does lovely seafood and their happy hour is amazing, dollar oysters.
    Also, Jsix downtown is pretty darn good restaurant that gets overlooked.
    I have heard good things about the restuarant in your hotel, reviewed in sdreader.com
    If you do a search on the board there are lots of threads regarding fish tacos.
    While you have a car I recently had amazing fish/lobster/carnitas tacos in Cardiff.
    A bit north of Del Mar but right on a cliff. They have a website bulltacocardiff (I think.) When you have a car Whisknladle and 910 are very good
    Good luck and I am sure others will chime in regarding your other questions.

    1. If you want good beer, you hit a great weekend to be in SD since it will be San Diego Beer Week.


      Is a great resource for beer events, bars and breweries in the area.

      Downtown Johnny Browns and Neighborhood downtown have great beer choices and Hamiltons is a lengthy bus ride/close cab ride away. Dont make the mistake of going to the Yard House just because it meets your goal of 30-50 beers at once, since you probably won't try 30 beers in a night anyway. The food at Neighborhood and Hamiltons is much better than the food at Johnny Browns, though.

      Also, Karl Strauss location downtown has a restaurant feeling to it where you might be able to get good beer without annoying your wife (very, very important).

      1. $$$$$ upscale--Addison in Carmel Valley (just east of Del Mar). No ocean views, but it's located on a very plushy golf course resort. Very plushy interior with outstanding food and service.
        $$$$ in Del Mar--Market. Falls in the Cali cuisine category. Excellent food, a tad more casual than Addison.
        $$$ in Santaluz, approx 10 min east of Del Mar--Cavaillon for French. They also have an outstanding Sunday brunch, best deal in town for 4 star cooking.

        View and great food do not necessarily go hand in hand. The best combo of both is George's on the Cove in La Jolla, downstairs formal dining room only.

        2nd Cafe Chloe and Oceanaire. Oceanaire has an ample side dish menu and you can easily make a meal out of them.

        Breakfast--Mission Coffee Cup in La Jolla or Cavaillon for Sunday brunch. I think Cafe Chloe has a breakfast menu and/or a Sunday brunch menu.

        1. "Trying to avoid the Gaslamp area for all if not most of the stay(Are the restaurants really that bad there ?)"

          Unfortunately yes.

          Most places on 5th follow the $30 entree, $15 app, mediocre food formula.

          Oceanaire is the only spot in the gaslamp with a visit.

          Cafe Chloe is close by and good.

          1. I find it rather amusing that the OP said he wanted to avoid the Gaslamp, but the replies keep giving him recs down there.

            Given your location, there are two places that have good lobster tacos that come to mind. World Famous in Pacific Beach has them and a great beach front location with view. I also like South Beach Bar and Grill in Ocean Beach though some on this board feel they are over sauced and dislike the fact that they do not use authentic Mexican Cheese. They are a bit messy, but I like them a lot. SBB&G also has a view of the ocean from the bar.

            For breakfast JRDN at Tower 23 in Pacific Beach has upscale breakfast items in a strikingly modern dining space with a great ocean front view (Sat, Sun only). A block away you can enjoy cheap breakfast eats with the locals at Kono's Surf Club. Stick to the excellent egg burritos #1 - #4 and the Kono's potatoes. The rest of the menu is nothing special. They have tables across the boardwalk where you can watch the surfers in action. Two blocks inland on Felspar St. is Isabel's Cantina. They have great coconut french toast and banana blackberry pancakes in a cool, pan asian setting.

            For French, try Tapenade in La Jolla, or Cavaillon in Santa Luz. Both have very good to excellent French fare in moderately upscale settings (Tapenade is the fancier of the two).

            1 Reply
            1. re: Captain Jack

              Sorry, after gf's post I realized that I confused Hilton Bayfront with the Hilton on Mission Bay. The Bayfront location makes my recs more difficult to get to without a car. The #30 bus services Pacific Beach and La Jolla from Downtown.

            2. Public transportation between downtown and North Park/Hillcrest isn't too bad. Bring a Google maps printout of each neighborhood to help you navigate once you're off the bus.


              Use the trip planner and pick up a hardcopy of the bus' route/schedule when you board. Another tip is, if you're using Google Maps, zoom in and bus stops will be represented with little bus icons. Click on the icon and find out which routes run by your desired location. Then, use the MTS website to find route maps or use the trip planner.

              "For Fri/Sat lunch I'll be on my own and looking for a good beer bar(30-50 or more beers)"

              Hamilton's Tavern is a great rec, but Toronado (www.toronadosd.com) is just as good and easier to access by public transport. Toronado's food is decent... I've had some good dishes there and the most memorable was a maple/mascarpone cheesecake for dessert.

              To Toronado from Convention Ctr: From your hotel, walk out to the trolley line (Orange Line) and take it towards Gillespie Field. Get off one or two stops later (depending on where you board) at America Plaza and walk out to Broadway. Cross the street and find the nearest bus stop. Make sure it has route 7 on it. Route 7, when it picks you up, should be heading east on Broadway. It's a long-ish ride (about half an hour), but you'll get off at the intersection of University Ave. and 30th St. Walk north on 30th St. for 1 1/2 blocks and Toronado will be to your left.

              30th St. also has Urban Solace ($$-type place), Heaven Sent Desserts if you have a sweet tooth, and if you walk east on University Ave. for 1/4 mile, there's Splash, a new wine bar that has some decent buzz.

              If you're going to Toronado and are willing to transition to another bus, you can get off Route 7 at 30th/University and wait for the Route 10 Eastbound. Take it to 35th and University and have tacos at the Mariscos German taco truck (seafood tacos... marlin, octopus, shrimp... not sure about lobster... and they do a great classic fried fish taco for $0.99). It closes around 4-5pm, so do this for lunch.

              For a great finer-dining place, take a taxi to Wine Vault and Bistro (you can also access it via trolley to the Washington St. station) on India St. on the northern end of Little Italy. Check out their website for menus and wine flight pairings. I went last night and their venison Wellington blew me away.


              Side note for wine bar: I like Wine Steals at Hillcrest. Also not hard to access by bus or taxi. Food is pretty good... lively atmosphere, good wine. If you are going to Wine Steals, it's a few doors down from Bite (www.bitesd.com), which is pretty good.

              Perry's Cafe is a breakfast diner dive, but if you want to do the tourist thing and spend an hour or two at Old Town, then Perry's is across the street from the Old Town Transit Center. Great classic American and Mexican breakfast dishes.

              Heading up north, one of my favorite stops is Pizza Port. Great beer and the pizza is classic Cali style. I don't do a great deal of fine-dining up north, so no help there, but I'll second daantaat's rec of Market.

              Have fun!

              5 Replies
              1. re: geekyfoodie

                I'll x2 Geeky's recs and 3rd Cafe Chloe as well (yes, downtown but technically out of the Gaslamp district)...

                1. re: geekyfoodie

                  I would agree that Wine Vault offers some of the better, more unusual food that I have had in SD. I also had the venison wellington which I enjoyed but it seemed like it had more of the taste of beef wellington. I have not had venison in a while but I recalled it having a more distinct taste. We are actually heading back there tonight. Their Friday 3 course dinner is usually a great deal and very good.

                  1. re: sdaints

                    "venison wellington"

                    Good to know. I don't think I have ever seen that on a menu in san diego.

                    1. re: sdaints

                      Venison is supposed to be pretty gamey and I noticed that the venison wellington wasn't as richly flavored as I thought it would be. However, the texture was definitely not beef, so I thought that perhaps they were using a lower-quality cut? What blew me away about the dish was the execution: the amazing flaky shell, the truffle jus, roasted parsnips and chanterelles... all of it just went together perfectly. That's what I like about Wine Vault... great prices and I rarely encounter a dish that isn't very well-executed.

                      1. re: geekyfoodie

                        I couldn't agree with you more. Whether it was beef or venison, it was all well presented and tasty. I enjoyed all of the courses I had which is part of the reason that I am heading back there. I typically like trying different places but I like to have a few places that are consistently good.

                  2. I'm not going to put this out there as San Diego's best Mexican, or even close to it. But it is within easy walking distance, and it has some classic San Diego style Mexican food. Might be fun.

                    Just north of you is the ballpark and Lolitas At The Park. This is gringo Mexican rather than authentic Mexican but it's the sort of food popular with the locals. Particular local flavor will be found in carne asada fries, fish tacos, California burritos, and carne asada burritos. Whether you like that sort of thing, I don't know, but huge masses of people here do.

                    If you feel like better Mexican food you'll need to leave the downtown area. If you are taking a taxi and want to avoid seafood only options I'd recommend El Comal for some authentic Mexican, or Mama Testa for some interesting tacos.

                    Also a taxi ride away - If I was going to take Midwest guests for some Mexican they'd remember I might take them to Tacos El Paisa. Great authentic street tacos. But that might be a bit off the beaten path for out of towners.

                    1. Addison was very good a few years ago but while the service is still good the fare has suffered.
                      Cafe Chloe is very good.
                      Oceanaire is okay...not great
                      Cavaillon..great space..wonderful Chef. Make reservations early
                      A.R. Valentien at Lodge in Torrey Pines is good. Lovely this time of the year with the fireplace burning.

                      Cafe Chloe
                      721 9th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

                      San DIego, CA, San DIego, CA

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mbro

                        We had an excellent dinner at Addison's about a month ago. I still think it's one of the best in SD. What exactly has suffered?

                      2. Stay out of Gas Lamp.

                        Lobster Burrito: Don Bahia in Bird Rock. Go mid-afternoon. Get a beer and sit outside on the tiny terrace bar and catch a glimpse of the Pacific.

                        JRDN: great reco for a true SD place. Food is up and down but the view, the bar, the vibe is great. One of the best Al Fresco experiences in SD.

                        Yes, Tacos Al Paisa.

                        A R Valentien for drinks or lunch. No more beautiful terrace in SD. Overlooks Torrey Pines Golf Course and Pacific. AND rare Torrey Pines. Named in top ten farm-to-table restaurants in US by Epicurious.

                        Yes, Georges.

                        Yes, Coffee Cup, La Jolla for breakfast.


                        A R Valentien
                        11480 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037

                        Coffee Cup
                        1109 Wall St, La Jolla, CA 92037

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: pickypicky

                          2nd AR Valentein, Mission Coffee Cup and George's (downstairs dining only).

                          Mission Coffee Cup Cafe
                          1111 Wall Street, La Jolla, CA

                          Coffee Cup
                          1109 Wall St, La Jolla, CA 92037

                          1. re: daantaat

                            I like George's bar with open windows to the Cove. . .

                            1. re: pickypicky

                              I think the food downstairs is better than the bar and rooftop.

                              1. re: daantaat

                                AND noise level is better downstairs. you're right.