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Our visit to SD in March, mostly lunch/dinner ideas

I'm going to San Diego the first week in March for business and bringing my wonderful husband along with me to enjoy a respite from the snow and gray.

We'll be arriving Monday morning and departing late Friday night (taking an overnight flight back to the east coast, never done that before!!). I've got conference stuff during the week, but there will be chunks of time that I'm free to wander around.

Each evening I'll be done by 5:30 at the latest, and we'll be free to head out for dinner then. Wednesday and Thursday I get out early, so I'll have those afternoons free, as well. And pretty much all of Friday is free, too, because we don't need to be at the airport until around 8pm.

We'll be staying at the Westin Hotel on Broadway. We won't have a car, but we have no problem riding the bus, ferry, or trolley. Cabs are less desirable because they're more costly.

I'm hoping for restaurant recommendations that aren't going to break the bank, and are the sorts of things we can't get around Vermont (so no venison, thanks ;). We are fond of various ethnic foods, and are willing to try lots of things. Here are some basic guidelines/limitations:

My husband doesn't care for seafood of any sort at all, period. If we go someplace with seafood, there needs to be at least one reasonable alternative for him (that means not just some flabby dried out chicken or a lame hockey puck burger).

We're not looking for high-end cuisine. We're perfectly happy with down home good food.

We are primarily meat eaters, and my husband tends to prefer non-game meats (pork, poultry, beef) to things that taste gamey to him (pheasant, venison, lamb). *I*, however, love all of those things, AND I love seafood.

We both really enjoy Mexican, Mexican-influenced, Tex-Mex, and Ameri-Mex food. I will admit that we even get hankerings for Taco Bell from time to time (there is no Taco Bell anywhere convenient to us in Vermont).

I am more fond of Asian foods than my husband, but he's always willing to try something new. I am also more fond of Indian foods than he is, he likes spicy, but less sweet spices and more hot spices.

We are willing to walk up to around a mile, but more than that might be problematic depending on the timing of things.

If you can make recommendations based on where we'll be going, that would be awesome. We're planning on visiting the USS Midway, Ocean Beach, and Coronado Island.

I have a list of the places Guy Fieri's been to in the area as well as the things we're interested in just checking out to see what they're like since we're in the area:

DDD - Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill
DDD - El Indio, Mexican Restaurant
DDD - Hob Nob Hill Restaurant
DDD - Hodad's Burgers
DDD - Pizzeria Luigi- Golden Hill and Northpark
DDD - Studio Diner
DDD - Tiolis Crazy Burger
In n Out Burger
Krispy Kreme donuts (we've never had them, we're just curious, don't shoot me)

We are not married to anything on this list and are open to suggestions from folks. I know I'm asking a lot, and I have a lot of limitations, so even if you have to poke around outside that, anything you suggest would be great!

I really appreciate any time and effort you take in responding to my query. Thanks!

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  1. Guy Fieri is no arbiter, IMO. El Indio, Luigi, and Hodad's are places best avoided. There are much better examples of all those kinds of food in San Diego.

    Mexican - Mariscos German, Super Cocina, Aqui es Texcoco
    Pizza - Pizzeria Bruno Napoletana
    Burgers - Burger Lounge, Farmhouse Cafe

    2 Replies
    1. re: Josh

      All very wise and well-considered choices!

      Agree with everything that Josh said, except that I'd like to throw out a lifeline out to Hodad's (other than it'll be a mess to get to w/o a car or taxi).

      ...Incomming!...

      Clearly different styles of burgers are at play here, with very different flavor profiles. But in our not too recent past both would have been considered good, quality burgers. (Actually the BL burger might taste so unexpectedly different from old-school norms that the experience could be akin to the "Johnny Be Good" guitar solo scene from "Back to the Future"...)

      The whole debate regarding Hodad's nowadays on these boards is that they're an old-school "pre-enlightenment" burger. (That is it doesn't pay homage to the drive towards sustainable, grass-fed, hormone-free, free range, free Tibet, BPA-free, dolphin-safe, post-partisan, non-nuclear and carbon-neutral sources of food...)

      BTW BL's burger has won me over too, but random and unpredictable nostalgic backflashes still makes me vulnerable to the call from good 'ole Hodad's... And Hodad's is not only about their burgers, but it's also the scene. You can't possibly forget you're in the middle of S.D.'s surf culture when you're at Hodad's...

      1. re: cgfan

        Good points. The only caveat I'd add is that the line there has become so long it's basically impossible to have the experience that Hodad's once offered.

    2. I have said it before, and I will say it again, staying in downtown San Diego without a car will severely reduce the many amazing foodie options San Diego has to offer. Josh's recomendations are excellent, but all but Burger Lounge will be a bitch to get to without a car or an expensive cab ride.

      1. San Diego is difficult to navigate by public transportation, so without using cabs, it could take you a while to get from place to place. There have been many threads with recommendations for places downtown/gaslamp/convention center that could provide you with a lot of help.

        Josh gives great recommendations, but you will spend a significant amount of time getting to many of those places from downtown without a car even though they are not that far.

        If you are already planning on going to Ocean Beach - try Azucar for cuban pastries and sandwiches and get some onion rings and/or a shake at Hodads.

        South Beach Bar and Grill in Ocean Beach gets either slammed or cannonized on this board for serving Americanized fish tacos but their happy hour is very inexpensive - dozen oysters for $12.95 and 1/2 price appetizers, they have non-seafood items for your husband and you can have a beer overlooking the ocean.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JRSD

          Whoops, didn't read closely.

        2. Morgana,

          Blue Water Grill and El Indio are next door to each other. Both are easily reachable from downtown via the Blue Line Trolley. Take it to the Washington St.station. From there you'll need to walk back out to Washington St. and go East (that should be to your left), under the I-5 freeway, through a stoplight and up to India St. Turn right on India and walk down about a block and a half. It's less than a mile and probably not the nicest walk. It's perfectly safe, but mostly businesses and a little bit isolated after dark.

          You'll come to El Indio first and then Blue Water. El Indio used to be very good (a LONG time ago), it's not so great now. Blue Water is good to very good depending upon what you order, but I don't think there would be anything for your non-seafood eating husband. However, on your walk from the trolley stop to the restaurants, you'll pass several other worthy options, all more patronized by locals than tourists.

          Lucha Libre is the first place you'll come to. It's a taco shop that was opened by 4 brothers from Tijuana using lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) as the them. The food is usually pretty good and the interior is a hoot. You definitely would not find anything like this in Vermont. You'd be eating with almost all locals. http://www.tacosmackdown.com/

          Vero Gelato is on the corner of Washington and India and would be a good bet for dessert after where ever you eat.

          Saffron does delicious rotisserie chicken with Asian-inspired sides. You can do take-out or there are some small patio tables available. http://www.saffronsandiego.com/sumeiy...

          Above Saffron is The Wine Vault Bistro which does some really great prix-fixe dinners at very reasonable prices. http://www.winevaultbistro.com/

          And for a different change of pace you could stop into the Shakespeare Pub for a pint or two and some good fun and fairly decent food. http://www.shakespearepub.com/

          You will have very easy access to Little Italy via the Blue Line Trolley as well. There are tons of places to eat in LI, not all of them good mind you, just a ton of choices.

          I think you'd be hard pressed to find Kripsy Kremes here in SD. They came to town, did great business for a couple of years, and their star has faded.

          To get to Ocean Beach from downtown you can take the Blue Line Trolley to the old Town transit station, which is the last stop on the Blue Line. Get off and follow the signs to the bus pad and hop on a MTS route 35 bus to OB. They run approximately every 30 minutes. The trolley trip will take about 15 minutess, the bus trip probably at least 30 minutes if you don't have to wait for a bus. Rapid transit in SD isn't really very rapid ;-)

          3 Replies
          1. re: DiningDiva

            There are two Krispy Kremes remaining in San Diego County (I think there were at least six, and maybe eight, around 2006, before the bottom fell out). One is in Clairemont Mesa, the other in Chula Vista. MTS Bus 50 will get you out to the shopping center in Clairemont Mesa in about 30 minutes, but I cannot imagine a bigger waste of your time. If you are going to burn calories, Extraordinary Desserts in Little Italy or Hillcrest (even for all of its foibles) is a better use of your time.

            1. re: RB Hound

              But there's still something to be said about the pursuit of freshly fried dough done well. Perhaps a CH'ers upgrade more in keeping with the OP's KK thought might be a search for the Churros cart on University?

              Ever so humble and not overblown to KK's ridiculous corporate proportions, it's just good, freshly-fried and tasty dough.

              (...and if you have the taxi side up to the cart and roll your window down, you'll also simulate KK's drive-through experience... Oh I can picture a limo doing that right about now...)

            2. re: DiningDiva

              Given that you have no car, Saffron is your best bet for Asian. Cab rides get pricey and if you want a larger variety of Asian food, rent a car and head into the Convoy area, which is roughly 15 min north of downtown.

            3. you've already gotten lots of great suggestions, and i love dantaat's idea of perhaps renting a car just for the day to get your Asian fix on Convoy.

              i just wanted to chime in to add this recent thread that might give you a few more options:
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/684104