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Cohn restaurants- if you had to choose one (SD)

No, it's not a rhetorical question.

The in-laws bought us a certificate to any Cohn restaurant and I have very little experience with them, so I'm not sure where to use it. The one I'm most familiar with is Corvette Diner and my most recent experience involved the server taking a big fistful of straws (about 20-30) and throwing them all, overhand and end-first, into my face as I looked at the menu. Since she was standing about 2 feet from me, it sucked to get nailed in the eye with a straw. My dining companions and I apparently didn't find that funny, so she and another server harassed us for a good five minutes. Towards the end of our mediocre meal, she grabbed a fistful of Bazooka bubblegum and threw it at our table... most of the pieces ended up in our food... that we were still eating.

So, no Corvette Diner, because a repeat of that experience might result in some Jersey Shore-esque fighting.

Given all of the other ones... Island Prime... Kemo Sabe... the Strip Club (I've been to the downtown one once)... and all of the others... where would you go?

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  1. Great question.

    How much do I dislike Cohn restaurants?

    I have had a $100 Cohn group gift certificate for 2 years and still haven't used it.

    If I was going to actually ever use it, I would go to the Prado, but only for drinks. I do like Balboa park.

    That being said, even the Prado's bar has a terrible set up.

    2 Replies
    1. re: stevewag23

      You can order just apps with your cocktails in order to get an outside table. I have had a few good meals at Indigo Grill.

      1. re: jturtle

        Ditto on Indigo Grill. I've enjoyed drinks appetizers there as well. Obviously, the view at Island Prime is world class, and if you order a burger on patio the experience is rather enjoyable.

    2. My wife, her mother and I had a terrible dinner at Kemo Sabe, but that was a few years ago, but based on that experience we swore off Kemo Sabe. We've been to the Prado and the food was decent, the service was pretty good.

      I guess that of all the restaurants that they own, I would go with Thee Bungalow. I'm sure that it's not as good as the old days, but I think that French Country cuisine would be much better than a place where you have to pay to cook your own steak, and the wine list would probably be better also.

      1. I have not been to all of their places but of the few that I have tried I like Kemo Sabe and Indigo Grill the best. I would probably say that Indigo has a more interesting menu. I know that a lot of people are not fans of the Cohn restaurants. Personally, I think some of their restaurants are enjoyable. I had a similar experience to you at Corvette and probably wouldn't go back there. I agree that it might not be the best food in town but they do some things well and it is certainly better than going to a chain restaurant.

        1. Thee Bungalow. Just based on Chef Celebration dinners the chef can create some good dishes.

          1. Island Prime for cocktails and view.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mmjgam

              Good tip. That would be my second choice.

            2. LOL. Don't you just love enforced wackiness? I've always hated that aspect of Corvette's.

              I'd probably pick Thee Bungalow. They have some legitimately good food, and the atmosphere is kind of cool.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Josh

                "Don't you just love enforced wackiness? I've always hated that aspect of Corvette's."

                Me too. That why I have never stepped in that "Dick's Last Resort" place either.

                What's up with san diego and all this "wacky" dining?

                1. re: stevewag23

                  What I especially love is how if you don't like this, you get accused of being a fun-hating curmudgeonly grouch.

                2. re: Josh

                  Definitely an atmosphere that works better for kids than adults (re: Corvette Diner)

                3. I would go to Blue Point and get the raw seafood. We had a meal there where the cooked food was unmemorable but the seafood tower and raw oysters were very good.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: JRSD

                    I wish I'd known this when we went to spend a gift certificate there. Our meal was completely unmemorable. The meal didn't suck, but for the price, it may as well have. Without a gift certificate, I certainly won't return.

                  2. ever think of re-gifting? maybe donating the cert to the salvation army.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: cstr

                      Hand it to one of the people standing in line at the O--v- --r--n or R-- --b---r

                      1. re: cstr

                        I have thought of that, but I also had a friend that tried to redeem the gift certificates and he said the Cohn group made it a real pain.

                        So I am not sure I want to put someone through that.

                      2. island prime/c-level. c-level has a great mac and cheese and burger, also drinks are pretty good

                        1. I'd drink it all on the patio at Island Prime for the $5 happy hour with friends..
                          Thee Bungalow as a back-up.
                          If your in Kapalua, Maui..use it for mai tais and ahi at Pineapple Grill.

                            1. I'd wait for a nice afternoon and sit on the patio at C Level for drinks. I might order the parmesean truffle fries but I'd ask for ketchup because they will have no parmesean or truffle flavor.

                              1. Well, we're going for it... reservations pre-Old Globe for Wednesday night. Any recs for dishes at Indigo Grill?

                                17 Replies
                                1. re: geekyfoodie

                                  So, it turns out Mr. Geeky's mom bought this with Indigo Grill in mind, so he didn't want to use it for another restaurant. It's a shame because, based on the recs, I probably would have gone for Thee Bungalow. Our meal wasn't bad, but I wouldn't necessarily call it a great meal, either. Service was great, as was my Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale (bottle). Ambiance is great... warm setting, lots of light, nice decor, and great location.

                                  Two major downsides: the overuse of jalapenos and the woman at the next table. She had a very loud and whiny voice and, I kid you not, didn't stop blathering the entire time. Her dining companion tried to shush her and she admonished him for caring more about the other diners than about her. She was loud enough for us to figure that we probably couldn't move far enough away to not hear her, so we resolved to be entertained instead.

                                  -Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with cilantro pesto, roasted corn, beet puree, creme fraiche

                                  The puree and pesto were very tasty. The roasted corn would have been, too, if it wasn't basically 2:1 corn:chopped jalapenos. I'm fine with a small amount of jalapenos, but I don't care for the flavor and they completely overwhelmed the corn and even the soup, which had no butternut squash flavor and tasted like curry powder.

                                  -Alderwood Plank Salmon with cucumber-dill moleto, flatbread, squid ink pasta & smoked aged farmer's cheese

                                  I have no idea why they call it "moleto," but it's basically a salsa with chopped cucumbers and a sprinkling of dill. Would have been good without the obnoxious chopped jalapenos. Also, the salsa dominated the entree. The salmon was roughly 3 ounces and the pasta about 5 ounces, divided by a huge mound of cucumber salsa. I ate all of the cucumber and still had a large pile of jalapenos and bell peppers left. Anyway, the salmon was perfectly cooked and delicious. If anything, they should drop the Southwester-Mex theme, ditch the salsa and the plank, and serve the awesome squid ink pasta with the salmon alone. I also don't know what they mean by "farmer's cheese", but it looked and tasted like Parmesan.

                                  -Chocolate Pistachio Torte with raspberry sorbet

                                  The winner of the evening. It was absolutely wonderful... dense chocolate with a band of pistachio paste. Four big wedges were served with a refreshing raspberry sorbet. Definitely right up with some of the better desserts I've had in San Diego.

                                  And that's it... certainly not as odious as Corvette Diner, but not a place I'd return to readily. Redeeming the certificate was no trouble at all.

                                  1. re: geekyfoodie

                                    Sorry you didn';t know about Corvette's in advance. That's definitely for kids.

                                    It's been a few years since I've been to Indigo Grill, but what you had sounds like my husband's last meal there. I think he had all 3 and the crusted brie. I don't care for salmon, but he thought it was cooked perfectly too. So sad to hear about the overuse of jalapenos especially the soup. We loved that soup and often got it for take out when in the area. . It tasted like Thanksgiving with interest and definitely squash flavor, not curry. Sounds like they played with it and turned it into something I'd hate. Bummer.

                                    My favorite is C Level at Island Prime for drinks, apps and small plates. I love the view. Haven't been to Kemo Sabe since it first opened years ago and i liked what I ate, maybe because the fusion flavor thing seemed so new, to me at least, but never been back because the tables were jammed together. Much more close than Indigo Grill. I can't handle that, especially now that so many people yack on their cell phones.

                                    -----
                                    Indigo Grill
                                    1536 India Street, San Diego, CA 92101

                                    Island Prime
                                    880 Harbor Island Drive, San Diego, CA 92101

                                    Kemo Sabe
                                    3958 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103

                                    C Level Restaurant
                                    880 Harbor Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

                                    1. re: Island

                                      Alas, all of my visits to Corvette's have been at someone else's whim... usually people who knew what to expect and wanted to experience the enforced wackiness.

                                      I was pretty sad about the soup, too. It had a lot of potential and it looks like someone with a heavy hand prepped it, along with anything that involved jalapenos. :) That kind of thing annoys me, because it's just carelessness. It didn't seem carefully made nor was it checked before serving. Mr. Geeky had the tortilla soup, which was much better.

                                      All in all, it just seemed like they tried to force the Mex fusion thing a little too hard and it fell flat. I would have much preferred a squash soup to remind me of Thanksgiving.

                                      1. re: geekyfoodie

                                        I recall it was more Southwest , New Mexico-ish. Layered flavors, not heat. Paled in comparison to the real thing, but I'd take what I can get. Now it's more Mexican? Great , just what we don't need.

                                        1. re: Island

                                          That's where I was a little lost... I couldn't tell what they were aiming for. There's mole on the menu, but there's also pasta. The steak with chimichurri isn't exactly Mexican, but further south. My entree of salmon and squid ink pasta is nowhere near Southwest or Mex, but they kind of force it with the salsa. It's like they thought adding peppers to everything would lend it a vaguely Southwestern, quasi-Mexican, quasi-Tex-Mex theme.

                                          I would have loved to see them aim solidly for the Southwest. Lots of smoked chiles, sopapillas, some Tex-Mex dishes. It's almost like they're trying not to scare anyone, so they're just aiming for thematic instead of working with great flavors and good technique.

                                          If anything, I felt Corvette Diner's food was very similar. It was all bland and poorly prepared when it could have been great burgers, shakes, fries, and other diner staples.

                                          1. re: Island

                                            Actually, we DO need more Mexican. What we don't need is another taco shop or combo plate cafe. El Vitral, Candelas and El Agave all flirt with alta cocina but can't commit, which is a real shame. There is no decent upscale Mexican in SD. If there was, I'd be eating there every day...

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

                                            El Agave
                                            2304 San Diego Ave Ste B, San Diego, CA 92110

                                            1. re: DiningDiva

                                              "If there was, I'd be eating there every day..." - You and some others from CH would do it (including myself) but it wouldn't be enough that the restaurant would survive more than one year, IMO.

                                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                                You're right Diva. East Coast transplant here who never had Mexican food until moving to SD and I've had very little beyond the usual taco buritto offerings and I don't care fro rice or beans so that narrows it down further. Had some incredible mole here and there, but would be nice to experience more from other regions and less border food.

                                                1. re: Island

                                                  Try Super Cocina.

                                                  -----
                                                  Super Cocina
                                                  3627 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92104

                                                  1. re: Josh

                                                    Josh any favorites? That don't involve organ meats, offal; that's just not my thing. Thanks.

                                                      1. re: geekyfoodie

                                                        Awh yes!! Great thread; thanks. I'm adding it to my list of where to feed my face.

                                                      2. re: Island

                                                        Super Cocina isn't really an organ meats kind of place. Any of the daily guisados should interest you.

                                                        -----
                                                        Super Cocina
                                                        3627 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92104

                                              2. re: geekyfoodie

                                                The zaniness of Corvette's is truly grating.

                                                1. re: Josh

                                                  It's "upscale'"Chuckie Cheese! The land of kiddy birthday parties.
                                                  Didn't cohn restaurants start with a burger joint on Mission Gorge called Rory's. Anyone go back that far? Great burgers and fries, packed at lunch and no gimmicks except the burgers had 1950's names and people with classic USA cars met up there now and then.

                                                  1. re: Island

                                                    Didn't they also own the T-Bird Diner in Escondido eons ago? I was really into all the 50's nostalgia back in my own high school days and I loved going to Corvette Diner (Grease is and will always be one of my favorite all time movies) but as I got older I just didn't need the noise and chaos while I was trying to eat my Rory Burger (Bacon & Peanut Butter...mmmboy!).

                                                    1. re: Coffeehead2

                                                      I didn't know anything about Escondido when Rory's was around, but if they held that classic car thing on the main drag then it sounds like T-Bird would fit right in. I remember Rory's had that peanut butter burger, but I never had it. Was never there in the evening, but it was blissfully child free during the work week.