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San Diego Gaslamp- Where to Eat/Drink

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Visiting San Diego and want to check out the Gaslamp district one afternoon. Suggestions on where to have lunch? And maybe a spot to enjoy a glass of wine later in the afternoon?

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  1. Somewhere other than the Gaslamp.

    :-)

    9 Replies
    1. re: Josh

      Why? Thought it was supposed to be a interesting spot in the city. Is it more of a nightlife area?

      1. re: alexa52

        This will probably get deleted by the mods, but here goes anyway...

        Once upon a time, downtown San Diego was essentially a no-man's land of tattoo parlors and adult-video booth places. It was pretty seedy, and was nowhere anyone wanted to go to spend time. Then in 1985, some serious renovation efforts began, culminating in the present-day "Historic Gaslamp Quarter". It's ersatz historic, though, a completely engineered creation of local developers and the tourism board, designed to provide conventioneers a place to spend lots of money on mediocre food and drink, and local young people a place to feel like they live in a bona-fide city with active nightlife.

        Of course, I'm also a pretty cynical person. ;-)

        If you're staying downtown, then it's not a terrible place to be or anything - it's just not that interesting, IMO. I think there are other neighborhoods in our city that offer a more rewarding experience if you're a tourist - Downtown La Jolla, for example, which offers some legitimately good dining spots, beautiful views and parks, and art galleries with real art in them.

        If you're determined to hang out in the Gaslamp, a good place for food and a glass of wine is Cafe Chloe on 9th and G (which is technically the East VIllage, and not the Gaslamp). In general, I think the restaurants down there are best avoided (with the aforementioned Cafe Chloe an exception) - they're expensive, and offer mediocre food at best.

        Not trying to be negative, just giving one local perspective that a number of people here hold.

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

        1. re: Josh

          2nd Cafe Chloe. It'll do well for lunch AND your glass of wine afterwards.

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

          1. re: Josh

            Good breakdown.

            1. re: Josh

              Hey Josh, This is not negative, this is informative. My friend and I are visiting San Diego this weekend. We are from Seattle and are huge Foodies. Is there a place outside of Gaslamp (not too far incase we want to go there later) that you would recommend. A friend of mine recommended Cucina Urbana but they are all booked for this Saturday. Chloe looked great but if you had somewhere else that was a bit outside the Gaslamp area, We'd love to hear about it.

              1. re: justineveronica

                Alchemy is very good, up in South Park. It's next door to a very good beer bar called Hamiltons Tavern, where you can get a lot of good beer, including many local brews.

                I would definitely recommend sampling one of the mariscos taco trucks, though. There's a good one on Imperial and 22nd. Certainly not a fancy neighborhood, rather run down, but the food is great.

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                Hamiltons Tavern
                1521 30th St, San Diego, CA 92102

                1. re: justineveronica

                  Meh, sorry - didn't see this until now. Guess you've come and gone. Hope you had a good time wherever you wound up.

                2. re: Josh

                  As one who likes cities as much as food, I just want to point out that your beef against the Gaslamp could be applied to nearly every interesting downtown area in the USA. From Hollywood to Union Square to Pike's Place to Times Square, pretty much every lively urban place was at some point in its recent past "pretty seedy" and then underwent a "completely engineered" transformation by an alliance of "local developers and the tourism board". Your downtown now has tons of new residential towers, which probably wouldn't be there if the Gaslamp hadn't led the way. The only reason there's enough people going downtown to support good places like Cafe Chloe and Cowboy Star is because of the Gaslamp and those towers. The interplay between your convention center, baseball stadium, trolley, and the Gaslamp is a marvel of urban engineering. It may have started fake, but it's real now. This development and maturation cycle is how cities have always evolved, even pre-WWII. So come down off your high horse and enjoy what your city has given you.

                  I live in Hollywood. Most of the food here sucks. But there's a few amazing places that weren't here before the tourists and clubbers created a critical mass of activity, following the opening of the subway and related development efforts in the late 1990s.

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

                  1. re: Josh

                    Funny, I was actually going to rec Cafe Chloe too. I'm not necessarily as against the Gaslamp; I mean, I like to meet up there with friends, but it is definitely a fake little city, but I still enjoy it for a night out! But Cafe Chloe is a little place that allows you to escape the fakeness of the Gaslamp.

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

              2. Dobson's is a great spot..mussel bisque is excellent..
                Jsix at the Hotel Solomar or at their rooftop bar.
                Grant Grill at the US Grant hotel is a lovely place.

                www.gaslamp.org

                1. I second the recommendations of Beach Chick, especially Dobson's. If you are looking for something a little less formal, try O'Brother's Hamburgers in Horton Plaza. You can sit by the window and watch the people walking by and the goings-on downtown and enjoy a delicious, well-prepared burger made with organic ingredients.

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                  O'Brothers
                  188 Horton Plaza, San Diego, CA

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: LisaSD

                    I have to disagree w/ O'Brother's Hamburgers. They were passing out samples a few months ago and they were greasy and flavorless. You can do better at In-n-Out.

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                    O'Brothers
                    188 Horton Plaza, San Diego, CA

                  2. Don't worry about the cynics, you can eat just fine in the Gaslamp and have a good time. For lunch, you could sit outside on the bay at Roy's (in/in front of the Marriott hotel), try an Australian-inspired lunch at Bondi on 5th Ave. (the main street running through the Gaslamp) or head over to Cowboy Star for lunch specials and cocktails (10th and Market).

                    For your afternoon wine, you can go for views of the bay (Roy's or the Fish Market (a short walk outside the Gaslamp)), one of the rooftop bars (Jbar at the Hotel Solamar, the pool bar at the Se Hotel or the rooftop at the Ivy Hotel), or any of a number of places in the Gaslamp (Bice at 4th and Island (sit at the cheese bar), Vin de Syrah at 5th and E and Marble Room at 5th and Island are a few that come to mind).

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                    Marble Room
                    535 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: TXGSD

                      Roy's and Cowboy Star are not technically in the Gaslamp.

                      Nor is Fish Market.

                      Vin de Syrah, Marble Room and Bondi are vastly overrated (if anyone even rates them highly) and are nothing special.

                      1. re: stevewag23

                        Sorry stevewag23, I appreciate your opinions on everything, but I'm going to assume that most visitors aren't fixated on the technical boundries of the Gaslamp and are looking for places to go while walking around downtown (hence, the repeated recommendations here for Cafe Chloe). As for what's "special", that depends on the audience. Someone visiting San Diego and looking for more than fast food in a nice/interesting atmosphere is probably going to enjoy the patio at Bondi or Marble Room far more than driving around to find a taco truck in Normal Heights or dumplings on Convoy. And, someone looking for a place to have a glass of wine is certainly going to do better for selection (and, for most people, atmosphere) at any number of places downtown, including Vin de Syrah.

                        For those who want to search out San Diego's hidden gems and get off the beaten path, there are plenty of options touted on this board, but that's not what everyone wants to do.

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

                        Marble Room
                        535 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101

                        1. re: TXGSD

                          I appreciate your take as well, and I see your points of Bondi or Marble Room.

                          Someone should be aware that neither Bondi or Marble room is anywhere near great. Hell, even the union trib dissed Bondi, and the union trib rarely disses anyone.

                          I think it is worth noting what is "in" the gaslamp and what is outside the gaslamp.

                          You need to draw the borders, especially when someone "want to check out the Gaslamp district".

                          If not, you might as well include San Francisco "in" the gaslamp.

                          1. re: stevewag23

                            Would you be happier if it was redesignated "Gaslamp / East Village?" I think you hate the Gaslamp so much that you don't want to allow Cowboy Star or Cafe Chloe to bring up the average, so you are splitting hairs. :)

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

                            1. re: RB Hound

                              Ha.

                              I think the sooner everyone realizes that the gaslamp district is a complete failure, the sooner we can make it a better place.

                              That being said, Chloe between 9th and 10th and Cowboy star on 10th make them clearly outside the gaslamp.

                              If a restaurant is in the central Buisness District, you don't say its in the French Quarter.

                              (Many would also argue that Because they are outside the gaslamp they are able to do good quality food at relatively reasonable prices and value).

                            2. re: stevewag23

                              Just making my final list of places to check out this week. Looks like Bondi is closed. Can anyone confirm?

                              1. re: alexa52

                                Closed Feb or March 2010.

                                1. re: alexa52

                                  yeah, now it is some Flemmings off shoot.

                                  1. re: stevewag23

                                    Donovan's offshoot....close enough

                                    1. re: eatemup

                                      Ha.

                                      Yeah, pretty much the same gig.

                        2. I'll 3rd Cafe Chloe - technically not Gaslamp but walkable and an excellent place for a meal/wine.

                          Sushi bar in the Fish Market (also not in the Gaslamp but walkable) is excellent for lunch. GREAT view as well. But only go for the sushi bar...

                          In the Gaslamp Oceanaire is good (but not open for lunch IIRC)

                          Chocolat in the Gaslmap makes some interesting pannini's and has some decent Gelato but are easily trumped by Pappallecco in Litttle Italy (also walking distance and on the trolly line from Downtown).

                          You can indeed do OK in the Gaslamp, but by stepping just outside the Gaslamp one can do much better.

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

                          Oceanaire
                          San DIego, CA, San DIego, CA

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Ewilensky

                            I think Chocolat makes pretty good gelato (but they are more focused on non-fruit based gelato). I found it better than for example Gelato Vero but not on the same level as Pappallecco

                            1. re: honkman

                              I agree.

                              Chocolat is my Comic Con go-to place - nothing like walking the convention center floor for hours to burn off that serving of chocolate chili gelato.

                              Also rumored to be opening up a location in Hillcrest...

                          2. El Vitral at 815 J Street would be a beautiful spot for a glass of wine, cocktail, or a premium tequila. The bar is spectacular. I wouldnt for back for the food (although the happy hour menu looks pretty good), but the restaurant itself is gorgeous.

                            -----
                            El Vitral Restaurant
                            815 J Street, San Diego, CA 92101

                            1. Great thread. Lot's of info. Coming from Portland, I don't necessarily need to be "in" the Gaslamp area. It's an area that I guess I thought was more popular than it is.

                              I love all the suggestions and look forward to exploring next week (when we visit for a second time)! Truly, I am open to just about anywhere--but thought downtown would be fun to explore. So, if there are other suggestions DT I'd love to know about them!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: alexa52

                                I guess I am confused. Did you come once in 2009 and now are coming (or came) back?

                                I'd add Bice for the Salumi bar, second El Vitral, mention La Puerta and Donovan's Seafood on 5th.

                                -----
                                La Puerta
                                560 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

                                El Vitral Restaurant
                                815 J Ave, San Diego, CA 92118