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Jun 15, 2010 03:02 PM

Are there any restaurant or fast food chains you desire for San Diego?

Although it is always nice to dine at quality homegrown establishments, for some foods, I find that chains are better options than the food available at our local establishments (chain or non-chain). Also, there is nostalgia for chains you grew up with. With that in mind, I list 3 chains that I wish opened an outlet in San Diego.

White Castle
White Castle, creator of the slider, is the original fast food chain. It is the hamburger I grew up with in New York. In my opinion, there is nothing like it, with the perfect melding of the bun, grilled onions, and hamburger patty. (As a side note, their sliders are awful as cheeseburgers, although some people appear to love them.

Probability of establishing an outlet in San Diego: 0.0%

Lucille’s BBQ
Lucille’s is a chain that now has 13 restaurants, 11 in California. They offer true smoke bbq, and their menu is extensive and creative. I love their smoked tri-tip. They also have a great inexpensive kids menu.

Probability of establishing an outlet in San Diego: 35%; If they did open an outlet in San Diego, I suspect it would be in the Sports Arena area.


Portillo’s is an Illinois-based chain of giant cafeteria-like restaurants that has opened 2 establishments in California (Buena Park and Moreno Valley) in the last few years.Their Italian beef sandwiches are very good and cheap (< $5). Their Chicago style hot dogs are also pretty good.

Probability of establishing an outlet in San Diego: >5%

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  1. This East Coaster is hard up for some Dunkin' Donuts.

    7 Replies
    1. re: mayache

      Costco usually carries DD coffee.

      1. re: cstr

        I'm actually not a coffee drinker. I'm in it for the donuts (mmm...DD Boston Kreme...), for which there are no substitutes that I can find. I even tried VG's, but while they were fancier and perhaps technically better, taste-wise I gotta give it to Dunkin'.

      2. re: mayache

        Dunkin' Donuts might be the only chain I wish was in San Diego. We do buy the coffee from Costco, but it's not really the same.

        I can think of a few chains we always visit when we travel to certain parts of the country, but we really don't eat at chains regularly enough to miss them when we come home. I still haven't been to the Sonic that opened up and I rarely stop at In 'n Out, either. Even if we did have a DD, we wouldn't go every morning. But it would definitely replace the occasional Starbucks run on weekends.

        1. re: mayache

          DD had several locations here in San Diego until the early 1990's or thereabouts. IIRC, most of them were taken over by Golden Donuts and they are still fairly close in style to DD. Seems unlikely that DD would try to re-establish themselves in San Diego given their history.

          1. re: mikec

            I'm glad I'm not the only one who remembers that we used to have Dunkin' Donuts in San Diego. Its interesting that they didn't last here.

          2. re: mayache


            Never understood what the big deal about their coffee is but I really miss the donuts.

            1. re: mayache

              They used to have Dunkin' Donuts but they all went out of business because they couldn't compete against the local shops.

            2. I've seen a few Lucille's up in Orange County but never eaten there. Might have to give it a try next time. Have you been to Woodfire Ranch? It's another chain that exists up in LA that I haven't seen in SD. I ate there once and the food was ok but nothing to write home about. I'm wondering how Lucille's compares.

              In any case it would be interesting to see another BBQ joint go head to head with Phils in the Sports Arena area.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mliew

                I heard of it but haven't dined there. I'm a little suspicious of a bbq joint with an extensive wine menu.

                1. re: mliew

                  it's Wood Ranch, not Woodfire. i met a friend at the one at the Grove in LA to watch a game once, and the only thing i remember about the food is that whatever i had, i wasn't interested in it beyond the second bite.

                2. I'd be curious to know which foods you think chains are better for.

                  Anymore, after reading so much about the industrialization of our food supply, I've come to see the vast majority of restaurants (chain and "independent" included) as little more than Sysco reassembly fronts - with pre-made commodity food defrosted, reconfigured, and assembled by low-paid, unskilled workers. Chains in particular exemplify this depressing trend.

                  Also, historically, I'm pretty sure the dubious honor of inventing the fast food chain goes to Carl's Jr.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Josh

                    Totally agree, I try to avoid all food chains. I'm for the local guy.

                    1. re: Josh

                      White Castle was founded in 1921 and had multiple locations by 1923. Carl's Jr. was founded in 1941 (hot dog carts) and didn't have an actual restaurant until 1946.

                      1. re: mikec

                        Burger Lounge is a chain that I really like, but usually I find the independent restaurantes more interesting and prefer to support them for the reasons already stated.

                        1. re: mikec

                          Interesting - this prompted me to do more digging, and it looks like there's some dispute between whether or not A&W or White Castle is the second fast-food restaurant. New York's Automat is considered the first fast food place. The MacDonald brothers are credited with the first hamburger-oriented fast food place, with a menu limited to burgers and fries only, and assembly line production.

                          1. re: Josh

                            If wikipedia is right (as it usually is about everything, excluding bios and politically charged topics), the first automat (Horn and Hardart) opened in Philadelphia in 1902. The first automat in New York (also Horn and Hardart) opened in 1912.

                            White Castle is "hamburger-oriented" and is fast food, so why would you state that McDonald's is the first "hamburger oriented" fast food place?

                            1. re: Encinitan

                              Seeing the name Horn and Hardart is a blast from the past! I used to go there as a kin growing up in Philly. It was the highlight of a trip downtown.

                      2. I like Le Pain Quotidien. I tried it in NYC and know they are in SoCal and not SD yet. The tartines are really nice for lunch. I also actually like the Pret a Manger chain in NYC for a quick decent lunch to go (or stay).