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Feeling uninspired... penny for your thoughts.

Well, gang, it's that time again... I'm ringing in another year of existence. Want to do something great for dinner tomorrow night (just me and Mr. G), but none of the website menus are drawing me in. My first choice is Cucina Urbana, but there are no reservations. Also considering Wine Vault and I usually have good meals there, but Friday nights are crowded and my most recent meal there was actually kind of bad. Looked at Starlite and I hear their food is good, but the sample menu just made me groan... feels like every restaurant in San Diego's doing that kind of food.

Where would you go? Somewhere with a little pizzazz, a little different from the norm. And don't tell me San Diego doesn't have it!

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  1. I just wrote a review of Kous Kous in another thread, had an awesome dinner there last night. If you like Moroccan food, you'll enjoy it for sure. And no short ribs or mac and cheese!

    1. It's not about pizazz here, but it will provide a unique and different experience unlike any other in S.D...

      See if you can convince Oton to let you have one of their raised Japanese rooms (I've always been with a group, so don't know if they'll handle a party of 2), then enjoy a nice, comforting meal with some Sake. For me Japanese traditional dining almost always means physical relaxation and a chance to destress, so take your shoes off, relax, and enjoy your meal!

      For the next few hours you'll swear you're in Japan where as much as they cant' seem to stop working, they really know how to wind down too!

      1. Kaito never disappoints. Have you been?

        1. How about a lobster dinner for 2 at The Palm, $89.95 for a 4 lb Maine lobster with all the fix'ins. Nice place and a great deal. Remember, you never get old, just better.


          1. Happy hour at the Marine Room with the waves crashing against the glass..
            Nine-Ten in LJ for dinner and then a nice walk down to LJ Cove sitting on a bench, kissing the night away!
            Whaling bar at La V for an after dinner drink..just make sure your lip gloss is back on.. ; )

            1 Reply
            1. re: Beach Chick

              BC, I love the way you think :-)

              If La Jolla isn't the destination, my alternative would be drinks at the JBar and then dinner at JSix

              1. Thanks everyone, for your replies! I can always count on y'all to shed some light when I'm in a eating rut. I also wanted a fabulous meal, but not a big to-do for tonight. Next year, when I ring in the big 3-0, is going to be a big party. But for now, lots of choices to think about!

                Mayache- I have been to Kous Kous and it's delightful (desserts were not fabulous, but who cares?). I wish I had the patience to make couscous properly, because theirs had me thinking about perfectly fluffy couscous for a long time. Not sure if I'm in a Moroccan mood right now, but I won't rule it out.

                Cgfan- Hahaha, great minds think alike... your post came on as I was pondering Japanese. Oton is a possibility and we've been thinking about going for a while.

                Josh- I was thinking about Kaito when I was pondering Japanese and the only thing that held me back was the Torrey Pines-North Park-Encinitas drive is a bit of a haul, esp. on Friday night with fair traffic, etc.

                Cstr- Hrm... very intriguing! I like lobster. Mr. G doesn't, but it's still a steakhouse. Birthday with a bib... haven't had one of those in a while. ;)

                BC- You really know how to ring one in, don't you? ;) This might have to be a Chowdown, BC-style.

                Steve- Hrm... also a maybe if we head for Japanese.

                DD- Not sure about JSix's menu, but drinks in the Gaslamp sound like fun. How about El Vitral?

                Two other things we were tossing around... Sab-E-Lee Santee or Cowboy Star. I'll report back!

                1 Reply
                1. re: geekyfoodie

                  DD... nevermind, saw your thoughts on El Vitral on another thread. Love alta cocina, but I can't handle inconsistency. I really must get out to Rick Bayless' restaurants in Chicago.

                2. I mightbe late and it might be not the mist romantic location but what about Sakura. (And I strongly second DD with JSix, especially their seasonal tasting menu).

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: honkman

                    Not late at all, Honkman. Between med school apps (me) and severe sciatic pain + promotion at work (him), we haven't given celebrating much thought, hence the last-minute post for tonight's dinner. Seasonal tasting menu, eh? Hm... JSix is climbing higher on the list.

                    1. re: geekyfoodie

                      I haven't tried JSix regular menu yet but they have a very seasonal tasting menu which we tried recently which was nothing fancy but really focussing on the seasonal ingredients. I think Chef Graves doesn't get the recognition he should get for his ability to work seasonal ingredients. Everytime somebody asks for good restaurants in downtown you will always hear Cafe Chloe and Cowboy Star, based on our tasting menu JSix is easily on the same level of quality.

                  2. what about El Take It Easy? or Farmhouse Cafe?

                    El Take It Easy
                    3926 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: DougOLis

                      El Take It Easy is definitely out of the norm and has pizzazz, but I'm going to go back for something a little more casual... beer with friends or a post-work snack. Mr. Geeky was not at all pleased with our meal there and we were both annoyed with being snapped at when all of the tables around us were being treated really well. It was one server and not even the one we primarily dealt with, but I don't need that sort of BS on my birthday and have to pay 18% for it. ;)

                      Farmhouse's menu does look a bit typical of San Diego fine-dining, but escargot risotto? Very intrigued. I have a soft spot for escargot. The execution is some of the best in SD, isn't it? Also, if it weren't for you, I wouldn't have seen the Alesmith lunch/tasting they're having on the 31st. Definitely making reservations for that. Thanks, Doug!

                      1. re: geekyfoodie

                        Ahh, I forgot you were the initial report with the spotty service.

                        Yes, the execution at Farmhouse is very good. Some items are more standard but there's usually something different on the menu and I've never had a bad meal there. Hadn't seen that special Alesmith lunch but it sounds great. I can't plan that far out but I'll definitely keep it on my radar.

                    2. There's always Cafe Chloe - one of my perennial favorites. I also like the JSix idea, or George's CA Modern or 1500 Ocean at the Hotel Del. You could go casual at Blind Lady Ale House, just had a great meal there last night. Have you tried Bankers Hill yet? It's nothing earthshattering, but kind of fun and not super expensive.

                      Also just a note - the last couple of times I've been to Cucina Urbana I've gone for lunch, and it's been excellent and not crowded at all.

                      Cafe Chloe
                      721 9th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

                      JSix Restaurant
                      616 J Street, San Diego, CA 92101

                      1500 Ocean
                      1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA 92118

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Alice Q

                        Went to George's CA Modern for my birthday earlier this year. Terrific experience. Grabbed a table by the window around the sunset hour. Severs treated us very well, and they gave me a bottle of their house EVOO as a gift, which was a REALLY nice touch!

                        1. re: Alice Q

                          I tried talking Mr. Geeky into meeting me for lunch at CU, but apparently he felt work was more important. On a Friday. My birthday. Say what? ;)

                          We like BLAH a lot, but hate crowds, so we try to go at 5-ish before the rush starts. Wasn't a possibility on Friday, though. :( Liked Bankers Hill a lot, too, but haven't been since they first opened. The stories about the service were scaring me a little, but we definitely want to go back. It ended up on the list Friday night.

                          I like George's CA Modern... I haven't been in ages. Ipsit, love the free oil! Fantastic touch and just the kind of b-day gift I love!

                        2. Thanks again, everyone, for your thoughts! I was being really wishy-washy about the whole thing... ambivalence about my birthday, busy month, and slight bitterness because our original plan was to have my b-day dinner at Ad Hoc, but our trip north was canceled last-minute. Oh, well.

                          So, uncharacteristically, I proposed a plan that involved almost no plan. No reservations and no definitive choice. We decided to leave after 8pm, taking advantage of San Diego's unwillingness to eat late (aren't you proud, Stevewag23? ;)), and roam from restaurant to restaurant until we found one with a short or no wait. Cucina Urbana, Bankers Hill, JSix, and Farmhouse Cafe were our starting list. Japanese was out because our two good friends were not huge fans (I thought it'd be the two of us, but Mr. G invited them along last-minute... not that I mind!).

                          CU was packed and the hostess apologetically told me there were no tables (which we knew), although we could wait and see if four seats opened up at the bar or one of the communal tables. We debated waiting and most of the people at one of the communal tables had been there for over 3 hours. Just as we were about to leave for Bankers Hill, the hostess grabbed us and said that a table opened up. Why? Not sure... maybe a no show?

                          Friday night, Cucina Urbana, four people, no reservation. We waited less than 15 minutes overall. Someone was smiling upon me that night.

                          A bottle of their cheaper syrah (only two syrahs on the wine list... probably my only complaint about the place) kicked us off:

                          Fried zucchini blossoms with ricotta and herbs, served with purple basil pesto- Incredible. The flash-fried blossom was crisp and the ricotta perfectly balanced with herbs.

                          Summer corn risotto- guanciale, crisped cilantro, and perfectly cooked arborio. Pork makes everything great and this is something I could eat by the truckload.

                          House cured salmon corsetti with cream sauce grilled lemon and lemon verbena- Fabulously executed and beautiful salmon, but corzetti wasn't the best pasta to be drenched in a pool of cream sauce. Delicious, though, and perfect for a summer evening.

                          Mr. G's short rib pappardelle was delicious and hearty. Our friends ordered pizzas... margherita (San Marzano tomatoes, housemade mozzarella, basil) and pepperoni (pepperoni, fennel sausage, mozzarella, peppadew peppers) and loved them.

                          We split two bittersweet chocolate budinos between the four of us for dessert. All I can say is nom nom nom. So good.

                          And that's another birthday under the belt. Thanks for all of your help... that list has plenty of places we need to try or revisit, so it'll be put to good use for the rest of the summer!

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: geekyfoodie

                            sounds like your b-day turned out pretty good after all!

                            1. re: daantaat

                              Indeed... it was one of those times where everything shouldn't have worked out, but it did!

                            2. re: geekyfoodie

                              Glad you had a good meal & happy birthday!!

                              1. re: geekyfoodie

                                You made a great choice! Best restaurant for the price in SD. Aren't those squash blossoms awesome?

                                1. re: mayache

                                  They're incredible. To top things off... my in-laws gave me a gift cert. to CU for my birthday. Woohoo!

                                  1. re: geekyfoodie

                                    Nothing to add but happy belated birthday.