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Quintessential San Diego Food...?

We're moving to Chicago - my favorite foodie haven - in a week, and looking for suggestions of food/places that we won't find outside of San Diego...or better outside of San Diego.

My mind is blank. I started perusing the 10 Best Things to Eat in San Diego list, but a lot of the suggestions are include foods that can be found anywhere...and perhaps better...?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. One thing you won't get in Chicago will be great fish taco's. I'd hit up a Marisco's truck before departing and maybe even Marisco's Godoy for some excellent authentic Mex seafood offerings. PS buy a snow shovel when you get there!

    1. California Gold Uni from Catalina Offshore Products, (or some live ones if you want to roll the dice).

      1 Reply
      1. re: Captain Jack

        Just want to reemphasize your point. SD has arguably the world's best uni (at least according to J Steingarden), and it's certainly the best I've ever had. It is, of course, extremely fresh here as well.

      2. Carne asada - burritos or tortas. We drive from SD to Detroit every year at Thanksgiving and after only nine days, the first place we hit here a taco shop; *any* taco shop, to fill that craving.

        I have a friend who moved to Florida in 2000. I still get the phone call, down to three times a year, to overnight carne asada burritos. I have to buy 6, freeze then pack in one of many 6 pack coolers I find on sale, box and then head over to FedEx or the Post office. It costs more to send than to purchase. She does not care.

        1. Don't forget, Chicago has excellent Mexican food.

          1 Reply
          1. If I were away from San Diego for a long time, when I came back I would seek out:

            - Local yellowtail and local(ish) sierra mackerel
            - Local avocados, figs, blood oranges, loquats and strawberries (all in season, of course)
            - Barbacoa (goat)
            - Tacos from Tacos Mazateño, or failing that, a Gobernador taco from a truck
            - Greens, specifically from La Milpa Organica and Suzie's Farm
            - Uni and abalone

            We have excellent raw ingredients here, especially seafood and produce. For the dishes, like barbacoa or Gobernadors, there are plenty of uninspiring ones available but the best are world-class.

            9 Replies
            1. re: jayporter

              What's Tacos Mazateño Jay? I've never heard of it.

              1. re: DougOLis

                A Mazateño is someone from Mazatlan. Mazatlan is famous for it's shrimp. My guess would be a shrimp taco. I'd further refine my guess and say that Jay *might* be referring to the spicy shrimp tacos (tacos de camarones enchilados) at Mariscos Mazateño in Tijuana...but that's only a guess. An educated guess, but just a guess.

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  Your inference is correct, DD. I only know the place as Tacos Mazateño, and always forget the name of the taco itself, but I think in addition to its actual name they accept orders for it as a "taco Mazateño" or something similar.

                  1. re: jayporter

                    The tacos served there are Tacos de Camaron Enchilado.

                    1. re: kare_raisu

                      Thanks Jay and Kare. I might be heading down there this weekend so I'll keep Tacos Mazateno in mind.

              2. re: jayporter

                I'll be visiting SD in about a week....where would you recommend for Uni and Abalone?

                1. re: mdzehnder

                  Buy it fresh at little italy farmers market.

                  1. re: mdzehnder

                    I've heard various people say to make sure you get our local San Diego Uni, and some even emphasize obtaining the largest grades. I find that that tastewise misses the point, and depending on the local weather and kelp conditions either San Diego or Santa Barbara Uni can each top the other at any one time. And size does not have much to do with Uni quality either, though I've heard many (though not on these boards) equate size to quality.

                    I find the best and most reliable predictor of Uni quality is the Uni processor and grader, of which I've found Matsushita's product to be by far the best. They're a boutique traditional processor and supplier in Los Angeles whose product is normally bought up by the best of L.A.'s Sushi bars. However this year I've seen it in Kaito Sushi's case on well over 50% of the time. (I've heard that it's recent availability in San Diego is ironically due to the poor economy, where even some of the better Sushi bars in L.A. are holding back their purchases of the Matsushita Uni, allowing shops like Kaito to buy it up whenever available...)

                    The Matsushita Uni is consistently better than Uni from other sources. It's always very low (for Uni) in water content and incredibly dense in flavor and creamy. If one can read Kanji it can easily be recognized by the label on the tray with the name "松下". I believe they source their Uni from either San Diego or Santa Barabara, but the operative point is that they are extremely picky and careful in their process and grading.

                    BTW Maine also sources some incredible Uni, (and size-wise they happen to be very tiny as well), but unfortunately is an extremely rare find at local Sushi bars.

                    BTW "fresh" Uni in the shell is always fun, but it can be a bit of a gimmick. LIke most Sushi Neta the flavor intensifies and concentrates over time. There is also no opportunity to remove some of the moisture out of the Uni, nor to grade the Uni. Opening up an Uni is like a spin of the roulette wheel in that you will not know the final grade until it has been opened. Thus the advantages of sourcing pre-graded and traditionally processed Uni. Of course one can do the processing at home, but you're still left with the initial gamble in quality vs. buying pre-graded trays from a reputable and traditional processor.

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                    Kaito Sushi
                    130-A N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024