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Which beach for excellent food?

I'm planning to spend one week in the San Diego area and I'd like to stay at the beach that has the highest concentration of great places to eat. "Solana Beach" showed up quite a bit in my search. Is this a destination?

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  1. This will be tough to answer. Are you looking for a place to stay that is on the beach, or will walking distance to the beach suffice? Do you have a price point or type of place to eat that you prefer? Are you looking to eat at the beach?

    That being said, La Jolla, Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach all have excellent places to eat. Depending on what you like and how much you want to spend on lodging, all could work.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JRSD

      Walking to the beach will suffice. I don't need to eat on the beach either; my only concern is that I can walk or cycle easily to the ocean and to great food. As for eating out, I'd really love to focus on local or Southern California cuisine (if this even exists) and Mexican while not exceeding a budget of $30/pp per meal excluding drinks (with the exception of maybe one or two restos over budget).

    2. Short answer: Solana Beach isn't the one where I'd go if I was looking for good food.

      La Jolla probably has the greatest concentration of good food for a beach neighborhood.

      15 Replies
      1. re: Josh

        I agree wtih Josh on this one. La Jolla probably has the best selection of restaurants in a concentrated area. For fun and funkiness, however, I'd probably go with OB

        1. re: Josh

          As a rule, the closer you are to the beach, the less likely you are to find good food. In Solana Beach, doubly so. The few places I've eaten there were meals I didn't finish. It was like being served straight off of a Sysco truck.

          There's perfectly edible food at Mission Beach, and several places that rise to a B- in La Jolla. I'd agree with the funkiness angle in OB, probably your best choice.

          1. re: Indirect Heat

            B- in La Jolla? Tapenade, Cafe 910, George's...these are B-?

            OB isn't comparable to La Jolla, food-wise, IMO.

            1. re: Josh

              George's isn't a B-. George's is a D+ in my book. Nice view, though.

              1. re: Indirect Heat

                If Georges downstairs is a D+ everything in Mission Beach and Ocean Beach is of the charts bad. Just curious which restaruant in Mission and Ocean Beach delivers better food than Georges.

                1. re: honkman

                  Better for the price? Or better? Sure, George's has marginally better food than most of the dives in OB, but it charges obscene prices for that marginally better food. They should be in completely different categories. Sadly, they're not.

                  In any other city, for the prices George's charges, you'd get *good* food. All you get in George's is the view.

                  I really can't understand why George's stays in business.

                  1. re: Indirect Heat

                    So what you're saying, correct me if I'm wrong, is that the food at George's is only marginally better than the food at Hodad's? Am I understanding you?

                    Hodads Restaurant
                    5010 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107

                    1. re: Indirect Heat

                      "George's has marginally better food than most of the dives in OB" - Which dive in OB has only marginally worse food than George's ? And when have you eaten the last time at George's ? You mentioned the price which is bit surprising since their prices, e.g. tasting menu are lower than most other "higher end" places in SD. Just curious, which upscale restaurants in SD do you prefer ?

                      1. re: honkman

                        I've only been to two upscale restaurants in SD that I thought came close to being worth their price. Cowboy Star is quite good. And Addison is very good. But generally, when we want upscale food, we go to L.A. We've had too many expensive failures in S.D.

                        1. re: Indirect Heat

                          I don't disagree with you about upscale restaurants here being a lot less good than in other cities, but I do think it's a pretty big stretch to say that places like Tapenade, Nine-Ten, and George's are only marginally better than OB dives. I lived in OB for a long time and know the dives there very well. It's a pretty unfair exaggeration you're making, IMO.

                          1. re: Josh

                            I can't speak to Tapenade and Nine-Ten, but George's seems to be a fancy version of Chili's. At least the OB dives are authentic. George's dishes are prettier than many places, but they're certainly no tastier. I know a lot of folks on the SD CH disagree with me, but for the life of me, I can't understand why George's is still in business. Different strokes, I guess.

                            1. re: Indirect Heat

                              umm, are we talking about the same George's? Cause the one I've been to has nothing in common with Chili's. The fact that you just made that comparison invalidates anything you've ever said in my book.

                              1. re: Indirect Heat

                                If you haven't eaten at Tapenade or Nine-Ten, and are seriously comparing George's to Chili's, then it sounds to me like your knowledge is seriously out of date. It reminds me of the people who compare Marine Room to Denny's, based on eating there during their dark years in the '80s and '90s before they hired a new chef and revamped their menu.

                                1. re: Indirect Heat

                                  "George's seems to be a fancy version of Chili's" - It 's one thing not to like George's but to compare it to Chili's is simply showing no knowledge of food.

                              2. re: Indirect Heat

                                I don't disagree that upscale restaurants in SD (and Cowboy Star is not even upscale for me) are not really exciting but that doesn't mean that the few we have are on the same level (or even close) as some dives in OB.

                2. I don't think of Solana Beach when thinking of excellent food..
                  LJ would be my choice.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    I really don't think of Solana Beach as having a good beach. It really is narrow with the cliffs so don't get stuck. I think Encinitas has a much better food scene and a way better beach. Sez the person that moved from Solana Beach to Encinitas.

                    1. re: littlestevie

                      I agree. There are so many better beaches elsewhere.. Same with the food. Eat in LJ, OB, Del Mar or anywhere else for that matter. Meanwhile, I love my peaceful, empty beaches and surf breaks of SB. (oops, did I say that out loud?)

                  2. La Jolla, specifically, La Jolla Shores. You can make the rounds of Piatti, Barbarella, Marine Room, then head up the hill and wind your way through the Village (910, George's, Trattoria Acqua). Rinse, then repeat.

                    Trattoria Acqua
                    1298 Prospect St., La Jolla, CA 92037

                    Marine Room Restaurant
                    2000 Spindrift Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: bizzwriter

                      I went to Piatti last night with an out of town guest and some colleagues and was unimpressed. Food was good, but not great, and service was lacking. One person ordered the Stone Levitation Ale on draft and was brought the Stone IPA (bottled) because they were out of the former. The server did not check if it was ok before making the substitution. They did offer to comp that beverage, but the person who ordered declined. The actual check had the originally requested item (which was more expensive). We also had drinks at the bar while waiting for everyone to arrive, and had the two bills combined. They charged us for two beers at the bar instead of the one which was ordered. I didn't complain because of the group setting, but my overall impression of their service is very poor.

                    2. Thank you everyone for your responses. I think I'll start looking into a place to stay in La Jolla, but I'll keep Ocean and Pacific Beaches in mind as alternatives. Just so I know so I can avoid it or try it, the George's everyone is disagreeing about is George's at the Cove?

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: schtroumpfette

                        George's At The Cove is the former name. A few years ago the name was changed to George's California Modern, to reflect the new menu. I would ignore the negative comments made by some. You should try it yourself and form your own conclusions. If you don't want to commit to dinner in the more expensive downstairs dining room, have lunch on the Terrace or in the bar.

                        1. re: schtroumpfette

                          Everyone is not disagreeing about Georges at the Cove. Indirect is a statistical outlier. The comparison with Chili's is ludicrous.

                          Pacific Beach is a fun alternative to La Jolla. It has a much younger, college age demographic. The boardwalk that runs from PB to the South Mission jetty is where the action is. The food scene is decidedly more downscale than La Jolla, but there are plenty of good places to eat which are more in line with your $30 budget. Latin Chef, Olde City Bar & Grill, and The Fishery are all good examples. For your one or two special nights, La Jolla is a short bus ride away.

                          1. re: Captain Jack

                            I missed the $30 budget. La Jolla is probably too spendy, agreed.

                            1. re: Josh

                              $30 per person per meal (not day) excluding drinks seems doable. Yeah, George's would probably go over but I feel like you could keep enough meals underneath.

                          2. re: schtroumpfette

                            There are several restaurants involved at George's. The one being disputed up-thread is George's California Modern. I think it's better than Indirect Heat is giving it credit for, but not as good as Josh and Honkman imply. It also may not be in your budget of $30pp, tho' I think with some judicious choices you could swing it. What is in your budget is George's Terrace or the bar.

                            La Jolla is pretty upscale and has always attracted a lot of money. It's a pretty well manicured area all around. If SD had an "old money" enclave, La Jolla would be it. Most of the rest of the beach communities in SD are pretty informal and that is reflected in their dining options. You could eat very well within your budget in OB and PB, but most things would be considerably more downscale.

                            One of things you might do is to check out http://www.signonsandiego.com and http://www.sdreader.com not so much for the restaurant reviews, but you can pull up restaurant menus from both sites, and both sites will let you filter your searches by area, including "Beaches" and "La Jolla". Then you can see which areas have menus and food to suit your tastes and your budget

                            1. re: DiningDiva

                              This is a great source, thank you! After doing a bit more research and considering everyone's comments on LJ, I'm now looking into renting in OB or PB. This way I can enjoy the vibe, save a bit, then maybe splurge elsewhere during the week. Thanks again!

                              1. re: schtroumpfette

                                If I understand correctly you will have a car so that you don't have to stay very close to the interesting restaurants. It is of course always personal preferences and what kind of vacation/vibe you are looking for in general but I like PB for some of the restaurants but otherwise it is a place where a lot of young college student live who for the first time don't live at home and are mainly interested to get drunk and party. OB has a more laid back/relaxed vibe but personally if I would look for a place with nice beaches and a relaxed vibe I would mostly like pick Del Mar (and even some of the restaurants are very good - Kitchen 1540 (went a few times for different cooking events and was very impressed), and it is also easy to get everywhere in SD from Del Mar.

                          3. Pacific Beach, no question.

                            There's no such thing in any town as a "perfect" tourist beach spot, but I think that Pacific Beach (and Carlsbad up north) are as close as we have in San Diego. The rest are either too cost prohibitive, lack variety, or are just too congested. Add on to that the lack of hotels in certain areas, and the potentially unattractive "charm" (i.e. dumpy beach vibe) of certain spots.

                            La Jolla has Whisk n Ladle, Porkyland, Raponggi, George's, Cafe 910, El Pescador, Marine Room and the wonderful La Jolla Shores beach. But the shores are too far from the downtown area to consider comfortable to bike or walk (especially with that hill), and the area thrives on being the "pricey" place in San Diego, so everything is more expensive, more exclusive, and the town overall doesn't really have that much else to it except for the shopping scene, the seals, the cove, and the museum - none of which would hold your attention for very long.

                            In Ocean Beach, I adore the Vine, Thee Bungalow and 3rd Corner, but the rest is pretty unremarkable stuff. Not really any tourist setup in OB, either. The hotels/motels in the area are all pretty dumpy, as is the town in general (sorry folks, it's true). Same goes for the beach, which is one of the smallest in all of San Diego. OB may work for locals, but for out-of-towners it makes absolutely no sense to send people over there. It's not our finest part of town. Sure, everyone loves the laidback vibe to it, but there is really nothing over there that will hold someone's interest or make it a "must-see". Worst off, once you're in OB, you are isolated from everything else in San Diego. No short bike or walk will get you anywhere.

                            Whereas, if you stay at a central place in PB, you can have access to Mission Bay, Sea World, Belmont Park, and can dip into La Jolla if you feel adventurous. The roads connecting the two towns is flat enough so that a bike ride would be easy to do, there and back.

                            PB also has great variety, far more over OB or La Jolla. The Fishery, Latin Chef, Cafe 976, Rocky's, Sushi Ota, Broken Yolk, Charlie's Bread, Bird Rock, and a ton of other little hole-in-the-wall sandwich, ethnic, and mexican spots, as well as all of the beach bars. Best of, PB has the best beach front of all of the south san diego spots. You can walk from the beach to plenty of good spots nearby. Rent a bike and cruise down to Mission Beach, bike around Mission Bay, take sailing lessons or go kayaking.

                            Also, PB has a Henry's and a Trader Joes, as well as a Smart and Final and major grocery chains. So, you have access to pretty much all the grocery shopping needs you might have, so that you don't have to eat out every night if you don't want to.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: cookieshoes

                              I lived in OB for many years, and I enthusiastically second your comments about it. I'd never send a tourist there, especially not one looking for food.

                              1. re: Josh

                                One clear exception here, I would, without any reservations, recommend the Marisco's truck in OB rather than sending them uptown.

                                1. re: Josh

                                  I agree cookieshoes, that is why I live here. I use my beach cruiser more than my cars or motorcycles. Sundays at The Wavehouse in Mission Beach should be gearing up with Summer aproaching, and that makes for quite an afternoon (short bike ride south on the boardwalk).

                                  Smart & Final closed and has been replaced with Urban Outfitters.

                                  OB is amusing for an afternoon, but I think it is a bit run down, and would make for a depressing vacation destination. It is also too isolated for me (though I do covet their Mariscos German truck).

                              2. There is no good answer to this question because you have to drive around in SD to find good food. La Jolla probably has the highest concentration of good restaurants but it's also probably beyond your budget. Pacific Beach has some decent budget options (Kono's for breakfast, Kafe Yen, Cafe Athena, The Broken Yolk for absurd omelettes, whatever that Peruvian place is called), Ocean Beach is kind of a rat trap but can be fun and has some good budget options, namely Mariscos German (taco truck), Pizza Port (just opened) and, if you really want to piss off the SD Chowhounds, South Beach for the unauthentic but insanely popular (and IMO, tasty) fish tacos.

                                Mariscos German
                                2802 Ocean View Blvd, San Diego, CA

                                Cafe Athena
                                1846 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109

                                Kafe Yen
                                4516 Mission Blvd Ste E, San Diego, CA 92109

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: mangiatore

                                  but but *snort* food can't be tasty if it uses American cheeze!!!!!!!

                                  1. re: MrKrispy

                                    With all that sloppy goodness and fried fish batter, I barely notice the cheese, but it doesn't taste bad anyway. South Beach's fish tacos defy explanation. Somehow that combination they came up with tastes really good.

                                    1. re: MrKrispy

                                      And don't forget to be outraged at their use of one form of commodity mayo product instead of another.

                                      1. re: menuinprogress

                                        When I'm craving Italian food, I go to the Spaghetti Factory. After all, one form of tomato-based sauce is totally equal to any other.

                                        1. re: Josh

                                          Josh, If I'm understanding your comments correctly, you're referring to my comments on the amatriciana at Bencotto. If so, nicely-crated, backhanded commentary. But South Beach is not trying to pose as a source of authentic Baja seafood. The fish tacos at South Beach fall into a different category than legit fish tacos, whereas Bencotto is trying to pass off its amatriciana as a legit amatriciana.

                                          1. re: mangiatore

                                            I wasn't referencing Bencotto, and I'm not that clever. ;-)

                                            I was just making a claim I view as similarly absurd as the mayonnaise one. If you cook, hearing someone say that because two sauces involve mayo they're "close enough" chafes a bit (at least it does me).

                                            Ranch dressing has buttermilk, garlic powder, and other seasonings that make it quite a different thing from the simple white sauce that's on a real fish taco.

                                            I know that South Beach doesn't purport to offer anything authentic - but if people are gonna ask for a good place to get a fish taco, I'm going to direct them to a place like Mariscos German or Mariscos El Pescador. I just think a well-made, baja-style fish taco is much more enjoyable than the flour tortilla, yellow cheese, ranch dressing adorned version at South Beach.

                                            (And I ate a ton of those South Beach tacos when I lived in OB and mariscos trucks were nowhere to be found)

                                            Mariscos German
                                            3515 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104

                                            1. re: Josh

                                              So humble -- you are definitely clever enough. Anyway, I'm totally with you in supporting places like Mariscos German (haven't been to Mariscos El Pescador yet). But you know how it is when you're traveling: you want to have fun and try new places. Very few people have had fish tacos and yet, as time goes on, more and more people have heard about them and associate San Diego with them. I'm from Santa Cruz; over the past decade or so fish tacos have become a big thing in Northern California (at least from what I see). I notice it every time I visit...everyone recommending them..."Oh, you have to try the fish tacos." The taco arrives and it's some weird concoction with rice, beans, who knows what. The fish tacos at South Beach may be different but they are still a variation of the real thing, and I think they are at least in the spirit of the real thing. That's my theory, anyway...

                                              Mariscos German
                                              3515 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104

                                      2. re: MrKrispy

                                        I have no problem agreeing with that.

                                    2. I've always liked Coronado Beach as it is the classic California large white sand beach with a very family orientated feel to it. There are some decent eateries in Coronado and downtown is just across the bridge.

                                      On the upside Coronado State Beach was also just named the 3rd best beach in the entire USA (it was the only beach in California to make the list): http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/20...