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Mid-week, moderately priced dinner for 10 scientists in San Diego/Gaslamp

We're trying to find a good spot for a midweek dinner in the Gaslamp to take 10 scientists to dinner in December. Probably ethnic, as we'd like to keep costs down. Within easy walking distance of the convention center. Only real criteria is it needs to be ok for 10 people whose tastes we don't really know (although most are university professors and are generally ok with standard ethnic) and that the set up be quiet enough that people can talk.

We're considering:

Red Pearl Kitchen
Chopahn
RoyalThai
Royal India - read some not-so-great things on this board, ??, but indian would probably be a safe choice.
Banndar

I'd love to hear your recommendations.

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  1. Of those listed, my pick would be Bandar.

    1. May I ask what exactly are your budget constraints? Such as $20 per person without alchohol? Maybe $15? And are you set on ethnic because you think it will be less be expensive or because you prefer ethnic?

      1. Gaslamp isn't san diego's best hood for "ethnic".

        Not familiar with Chopan (which is most likely a bad thing).

        The other places you mention are mostly tourist geared places trying to suck up the last remnants of corporate plastic in America.

        I have heard decent things about Banndar, although nothing great.

        If you want the best in that area, go to Oceanaire or Cafe Chloe.

        10 Replies
        1. re: stevewag23

          I heard actually pretty good things about Chopahn and would pick it out of the five suggested restaurants.

          1. re: honkman

            Interesting. I don't know anyone who has been.

            1. re: honkman

              I actually ate at Chopahn a couple years ago. Had some kind of braised meat on the bone, maybe lamb. Decent food, owner on premises and very gracious. Kind of a tired atmosphere. Not expensive. Strikes me, for some reason, as a place 10 scientists would like.

                1. re: stevewag23

                  No, not yet. I have had the Afghan food from the vendor in the Sorrento Valley food court next to Staples. Afghan food is kind of like Indian but with less complexity on the spices and milder in the spicy heat category. Definitely Central Asian, if you think about it. Reminded me a little of traveling in Xinjiang province.

                  1. re: stevewag23

                    I've been to Chopahn and liked it. Not everything is stellar, but it's reasonably priced Afghan food and some of the dishes are really delicious.

                    1. re: Josh

                      Good to know.

                      I actually drove by that place last night, I never really noticed it before.

                      Dead empty at 9pm.

                      1. re: stevewag23

                        Yeah, it's never been very busy that I can tell. Miraculous to me that he's survived all this time.

                2. re: stevewag23

                  Chopahn would definitely be my pick out of that list.

                3. Cafe Chloe has a room kind of in the back that would hold your party I believe. I enjoyed it very much last January and actually ate there two nights in a row. I took a cab to the restaurant but walked back to the hotel (nice to walk off a little of the wine I drank)

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

                  1. Thanks all, very helpful. I'd like to keep it around $20 per person w/o alcohol. Probably not a typical chowhound stance but I'm not looking for a stellar, memorable culinary adventure, just not terrible. We live in SD but generally avoid the gaslamp. The few forays I've had to make from the convention center to grab a bite without any preplanning were horrifically, comically, startlingly, how-is-this-place-in-business? bad, which is what I'm trying to avoid. So, to refine my original post - $20 entrees, easy walking distance to the conv.center, quiet enough to talk, and on the pretty good side of not terrible.

                    @mcgrath - It doesn't have to be a place like that but I know what you mean and it's an apt description.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: citydock2000

                      I read Chowhound using Google Reader and I missed your initial post, but when I read your latest post, my first thought was Chopahn. If the people in your party are willing to be a tiny bit adventurous, I think you will all enjoy it. And the space would be conducive to carrying on a conversation, too. Be sure to get some Kaddo (Afghani pumpkin)!

                      1. re: citydock2000

                        The added $20 piece of the puzzle makes it tricky.

                        It seems like so many places in the gaslamp go with the $25-35 mediocre entree, $15-18 average appetizer formula.

                        Since I have no idea about Chopahn, that might be your magic key.

                        1. re: citydock2000

                          $20/head at Chopahn is doable. It's vegetarian-friendly, too, and is reasonably quiet.