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Small wedding reception in San Diego -- where should I NOT go?

Hey everyone. Thanks for the awesome suggestions for places in SD for small wedding receptions/rehearsal dinners. So, I have a list, and was wondering how to narrow down the choices. Which place would NOT be worth it, based on food, beers, and ambiance? We're coming in from the East Coast, so we want something that has good food, good beer, preferably with a nice view and outside, private space.

Here's the details:
There will be 25-40 guests for my small wedding next May. I'm looking to spend about $50-75 per person on dinner, up to $100 if it's an absolutely awesome place. We're staying in PB, but we will travel to good food. We're looking for a relaxed atmosphere (no Marine Room please), but keep in mind that it's a wedding reception (so no Fishery).

Here's the options (there are different reasons why each place is on the list):
Breeze Cafe in Del Mar
The Prado
Stone Brewery (he just loves Stone IPAs)
Brockton Villa (renting out the whole location for dinner)
Urban Solace
Top of the Market
George's Cali Modern

So, which ones would you cut (and why)?

Thanks so much!

PS- we're adventurous eaters and like the idea of local foods IF it's well executed. We typically eat Asian fusion foods. Cali and "new American" are also good choices for us. We don't often eat Meditterean/Italian/French. We love Mexican, but probably not a good choice for a wedding reception.

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  1. From your list I would immediately eliminate The Prado. Great location, louzy food.

    I would also recommend George's. Great location, great food.

    1 Reply
    1. re: 4wino

      +1 on both of those suggestions.

      -the food at the Prado is pretty mediocre.
      - George's has a terrific view, and a lovely Cal-modern menu with a focus on local ingredients.
      - i'd lose Breeze cafe in Del Mar. great location, but the food is nothing special.
      - you might also want to eliminate Oceanaire simply because it's a chain, and not necessarily something special to San Diego.

    2. Mega triple NO on the Prado. Urban Solace is good comfort food with a slight twist. Have you considered Market? I think they have a private dining area.

      1. I would avoid Breeze Cafe, Brockton Villa, Prado and Top of the Market. All of them are not really good in terms of food quality. Urban Solace is nice for some comfort food (but not really outstanding one) but I wouldn't like the location for an wedding reception.

        Have you considered Wine Vault ? I know that there sometimes private parties and they make quite good food (it won't be on the same level as George''s) for good prices.

        1 Reply
        1. re: honkman

          I was going to suggest Wine Vault! I think it would be perfect for a wedding reception/rehearsal dinner.

        2. Yea, I think I was looking for a reason to drop Prado (the space is nice tho).

          I haven't thought about Wine Vault; we don't really drink wine. Fiance drinks nice beers tho. The food looks great.

          I haven't been to Market.. what's the ambiance there?

          5 Replies
          1. re: newfoodie129

            Would your guests drink wine? Wine Vault could help you there and, since it's a private party, you could also ask about bringing in your own beer (SD has a ton of great microbrews to choose from... we went with Ballast Point for our reception).

            I really like honkman's suggestion, because Wine Vault's setting + the food would make a memorable reception.

            1. re: geekyfoodie

              Wow, strong support for Wine Vault. I like to food concepts they have. What does the decor look like inside? I'm not from SD, so I can't go visit it. Does any have any good pictures of the inside by chance?

              1. re: newfoodie129

                It has an upscale quasi-mediterranean look to it. I believe it was once a Greek restaurant, many years ago. The walls are whitewashed, and there are archways. Candle-lit tables, soft lighting. It's a pretty nice space. They also have a heated outdoor patio which could be a cool place for appetizers and cocktails. The beer distributor they work with has a good portfolio of local and import beer, so they should be able to accommodate whatever you want. They have several draft handles.

                1. re: newfoodie129

                  Yeah, wish I could help you, but I only have pictures of the food. To add to Josh's description, there's a great patio with a fire pit, which would be great for receiving/guestbook/drinks/apps. The tables and chairs inside are basic wood with some white detailing (like wood top tables with white legs), so they can easily be dressed up with flowers, runners, and candles. Lots of shelves of wine and lots of neutral colors. There's also a fireplace inside that people can congregate around after dinner to mingle and have dessert. It's a great size for 25-40 guests.

                  The staff has been nothing but helpful each time I've called and visited, so I'm sure someone would be willing to email you a few photos of the interior. I love the food there... the execution is consistently great, so there is little chance you'll be disappointed with your meal.

                  I just got married, so if you need any help with resources outside of Chow's purview, feel free to contact me via my blog (the link's on my profile page). Good luck!

              2. re: newfoodie129

                definitely drop (Pacifica) Breeze Cafe. It's all outdoors but in a small shopping mall and nothing special enough that says "wedding reception."

                drop Brockton Villa. Food is meh, at best.

                Market is "casual upscale," however you define it. Dress code is business casual but you can get away w/ a nice pair of jeans, heels and a nice top. They have an enclosed outdoor patio area that could probably hold your group. It's in Del Mar, roughly 15 minutes north on the freeway from PB.

                George's California Modern is very good and they have nice private rooms. It'd be my top pick on your list.

              3. I would drop JRDN. Terrible service.

                I would also consider The Prado because of the location. I would say its the best one on the list.

                1. I'd drop Stone. It doesn't seem to be oriented towards something like a reception, and if you do a quick search on this board you'll see a lot of "meh" remarks about their food.

                  1. Stone isn't a bad choice - they actually have special pricing and options for wedding receptions. It's a long drive, but the grounds are quite pretty. I'd suggest paying a visit and trying the food out first to see what you think. While their reviews on here are spotty, that was before they brought in Jason Seibert. The food I've had from them recently has been much better than it once was.

                    Wine Vault's name is somewhat deceptive - while their focus is primarily on wine, they serve very good beer, though not a huge selection, and their food is first rate. I would definitely explore this option further.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Josh

                      Defintely reccomend WVB. Food is more than above par and equates to most things coming out of George's. The usually have about 7-8 beer handles at any given time with stone being one or two of them. My company has had 3 private functions there now ranging from 30 to 70 people and I have been impressed every single time with the food and the service.
                      Call there general number (619-295-3939) after 5pm and ask to speak to Marie (one of the owners) about your needs and she will be more than willing to help you out and provide pictures.

                    2. I'm going to take an unpopular stand here...but I think renting the entire Brokton Villa would be genius (if it is actually possible? I've worked over 100 weddings this year, and never one at the Villa). The food could be more creative there, but quality-wise is no worse than others on your list. And I agree with Stevewag that the Prado has the best location for this sort of thing, but this one may trump it if a large number of your party are from out of town- just so cool to eat so close to the cove- very "San Diego," y'know? Extra bonus is that the recent rainy weather has mitigated the smell of birdshit a bit, too! The place would be a lot of fun if you had it to yourselves, and I imagine that a prearranged meal could increase the chances of not having overcooked salmon.


                      19 Replies
                      1. re: SaltyRaisins

                        I have eaten at Brockton Villa several times with guest because if the view and the food was always really mediocre. This place wouldn't survive if they wouldn't have the view. I completely disagree that the quality of food is not different to the other places. This place has by far the worst food of all place on the list.

                        1. re: honkman

                          That's interesting...I have also made the obligatory tourist-escort trips to Brockton Villa more than a few times: while I would not endorse their food on creative grounds, I have had reasonably good service and decent food (a good, if simple, preparation of local mussels, properly prepared salmon). Much better than the reworked deep-fried stuff at the Prado. JRDN is certainly no better (not to mention that the reception would be in full public view if it were held there), and I am firm in that opinion. But for what the OP is looking for in a reception experience, I think that renting out the whole place is a novel and cool idea. The poster is not concerned Honkman's view of the overall longevity of the restaurant. Rather, they are looking for a nice place for a small wedding reception. All to frequently, this choice is given to a hotel- and hotel receptions can be very "cookie-cutter," and blah (people feeling like the open bar is not really that open after an hour and such, staff cleaning up before the event is finished etcetera), so I think it would be reasonable to point him or her in this direction. And they have a killer view...

                          I also like the idea of the Wine Vault.

                          1. re: SaltyRaisins

                            Wine Vault is by far the better choice, especially given the OPs requests. The food is stellar, and they have good beer. You can't eat a view.

                            1. re: Josh

                              Actually, I've eaten many a good view. The good ones were delicious. The bad ones tasted like burning...

                              Like I said- I like Wine Vault too. Just no reason that a fun reception couldn't happen somewhere like BV. Somehow the only good food I've ever had at a wedding was at a friend's restaurant in Spoleto. Isn't predictably average food part of the experience?


                              1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                Actually I think that the view at wedding reception is just only of minor importance but food and service should be top priority (and it seems from the OP post they have similar opinions). I had one reception at BV (chrismas party a few years ago) and the food was definitely not on a quality level that you want to serve it at a wedding reception. I can't remember a single dish which was better than average at best (most of them lousy)

                                1. re: honkman

                                  I think you are misreading the OP's requests: it seems that (don't get me wrong- I love the place and am a regular) the Wine Vault does not meet most of them: good beer selection, good view, outdoor privacy, and a relaxed atmosphere. Brockton Villa does. Ergo, I recommend.

                                  1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                    The only thing WV doesn't meet is a nice view. It has (as Josh wrote before) a good beer selection (most likely better than BV).

                                    1. re: honkman

                                      Ok- perhaps I'm wrong about the beer selection (I usually stick to wine at the Wine Vault), but all this quibbling is moot without knowledge of when the reception is (views disappear after dark) and the final cost of any of these venues. But BV does have an uncovered, outdoor patio with a stunning view. WV has a view of the gas station through the windows. And no parking- at least BV has valet.

                                      Just curious- what was served at your Christmas reception?

                                      1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                        I can't remember the exact details (food wasn't really that memorable) but a number of different things including salads, sliders, fish.

                                        1. re: honkman

                                          Weird...I usually remember really bad food as much as really good food, often better for some reason. But maybe that's just me.

                                          Also, I just checked up on the BV private party menu- looks pretty good, and affordable. Not a slider to be found.

                                          Newfoodie129, do let us know what you end up doing. Very interested in knowing how restaurants do as reception venues in town.


                                          1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                            Even if some people on this board might not believe it I tend in general to see the glass as half full and try to forget bad things, e.g. I often complained about not so good food/service/overall experience at Farmhouse Cafe but still went back recently and even though it is still far from quality levels of Cafe Chloe/Better Half/Cavaillon it was overall better than my experiences last year.

                                    2. re: SaltyRaisins

                                      The only item missing from the OP's list is the view. Their beer selection, while small, is very good, comprised of high-quality beers that are food friendly. If they rent the place out, which their numbers imply is possible, then they would have the privacy, and the atmosphere is definitely relaxed.

                                  2. re: SaltyRaisins

                                    Perfectly average food is too often the standard for weddings. When we got married, we went out of our way to avoid that. I think it's very unfortunate that people resign themselves to that when they don't have to.

                                    1. re: Josh

                                      I will 4th or 5th WVB. The food is outstanding, you can rent out the place for the night really have all their attention focused on your group. They have some nice beers on tap and their wines are focused on good yet inexpensive. Should definitely make fans of non wine drinkers.

                                      1. re: Josh

                                        Yeah- I like the Wine Vault too- I think it would be a good place for a reception. But I also think BV isn't as bad as its rep on this board would suggest, and I question the merit of criticism that's based on a fabrication.

                                        Funny about wedding food. Nice to hear yours was different. I always seem to have good times at weddings and am usually fine with resigning myself to cool plates and things prepped way too early (often, the cocktail hour takes care of this), but have yet to have amazing food at one, with some exceptions- both in Europe. One was an unbelievable cold seafood buffet in Alsace (not maritime, but no matter), and the other in Spoleto where the groom came from a family of restauranteurs and the bride of professional musicians. Looking forward to besting them someday.

                                        1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                          "I question the merit of criticism that's based on a fabrication" - What fabrication ?

                                  3. re: SaltyRaisins

                                    I will strongly 2nd that Brockton Villa has mediocre food and would not survive if it wasn't for its location. Their food is considerably worse than others on the OP's list.

                                    In regards to "average" or "rubber chicken" wedding dinners and "hotel wedding reception food," I think there is an overall trend towards better hotel food as well as good wedding meals. We had our wedding at a hotel w/ stellar views, very good food and excellent service. I do not think these days that "predictably average food" should be an expected part of the wedding experience.

                                    1. re: daantaat

                                      Amen to that. We were not going to settle for poor food at our wedding, and for that reason deliberately chose a venue that didn't force us to use a particular caterer or liquor supplier. It made all the difference.

                                      1. re: daantaat

                                        Not only does BV have lousy overpriced food, the stench from the pelicans and gulls is horrid. I'd opt for Wine Vault because I believe the food is more important than a view, besides this may all take place after the sun sets anyway.

                                2. I'd vote for Urban Solace or something along those lines. I know folks on this board have reported mixed things from FarmHouse, but the times I've been there have been good. A friend of mine was evening planning on having his small reception there...until the wedding got called off.

                                  You might also consider the Linkery, which would be good if your fiance likes craft beers and if your guest list is closer to 20 than 40. We had our rehearsal dinner in their back dining room. It might be a little too small for you -- it could fit 25, but definitely not 40.

                                  My last two cents is that I'm a HUGE fan of having receptions in neighborhood restaurants rather than "wedding factories," like the Prado. We just had our reception at Bleu Boheme, and it was AMAZING. Seriously made the whole event what it was, which was a delicious and insanely fun party. And finally, I wouldn't rule out Mexican entirely -- our photographer recently shot a wedding reception at Casa Guadalajara in Old Town. I can't speak for the food at all, but it looked beautiful. If you find a Mexican restaurant that also has great decoration/atmosphere, it can work and not look too casual. Maybe Candelas?

                                  1. OK. Thanks for all the input. We've narrowed down the options to either jsix or Georges Cali modern. Which would you vote for based on the food and atmosphere. We've has the food at Georges and it was really good but were worried that the decor might be a bit too cool
                                    We havent been to jsix before. Jsix looks a little warmer what does eeveryone else think? Is the food comparable? Thanks to those who have replied to the other post I had asking about jsix itself.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: newfoodie129

                                      I think George's has the benefit of being in a much more scenic location. Parking in either place is probably tough.

                                      1. re: Josh

                                        George's and they have valet!
                                        There is also a parking structure across from the Shell shop that Trattoria Acqua and Crab Catcher use.