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Old School Restaurants in San Diego..

There is something so nostalgic about an old school restaurant..one that maybe you used to visit when you were a kid and its still the same...nothing changed!
Here are some of my favorites..

Bully's East ...ode to DD.. ; )
Albie's Beef Inn Mission Valley
Harry's Coffee Shop in LJ
Jalisco's Cafe in Imperial Beach
El Juan's Mex in National City
Red Tracton's Del Mar
Hernandez Hideaway Del Dios Highway
Tony Jacal's in Solana Beach
Charcoal House in La Mesa
Anthony's La Mesa and the Grotto on the bay
Bali Hai..before the remodel
Saska's in Mission Beach

What's yours?

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  1. I didn't grow up in SD, but there are a few restaurants that seem anachronistic, in a nostalgic and good sense.

    Hob Nob in Banker's Hill
    Perry's Cafe
    San Diego Chicken Pie Shop

    Cafe San Diego
    910 Broadway Cir, San Diego, CA 92101

    1. Tracton's (off season), Albie's (for people watching), Grant Grill, Bar at Dobson's, Imperial House, Su Casa, Old Trieste, Imperial House, Bacci, The Godfather, Whaling Bar - La V (although we had a very disappointing lunch there on Saturday - BTW, rumor is that the hotel was sold on Friday).

      Old Trieste Restaurant
      2335 Morena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110

      2 Replies
      1. re: foodiechick

        Oh, one more. Manhattan. Just went thru a big remodel (lost the fish tanks)...but the place is still dedicated to "old blue eyes". You can actually absorb the garlic on the steaks by simply sitting in the general vacinity. Manny from La V has landed there and the infamous bartender-about-town "Big Mike" (there IS a reason for that moniker) is now behind the bar with our fave bartendress Beige (real name).

        1. re: foodiechick

          excellent list foodiechicka!
          Love that Manny is over at Manhattan's..he was such an instuition at La V..do you know who purchased the Grande Dame?

      2. whatever happened to Buccaneer's Bistro in Old Town? had a great meal there one weird night in 1994 (torrential rain, owner's b-day) and then it was gone.

        1. Bacci on Morena, not one of my favs.

          2 Replies
          1. re: cstr

            If it was one of your fav's, you would know that Baci's is with one 'c'..
            ; )

          2. Ditto for -
            Bully's East
            Bali Hai (before the remodel)
            Anthony's La Mesa (their best unit)
            Old Trieste

            Add -
            Mr. A's
            Thee Bungalow (before the Cohn's)
            The Marine Room
            Nicolosi's (if you went to SDSU, you went there)

            Bully's East
            2401 Camino Del Rio S, San Diego, CA 92108

            Bali Hai Restaurant
            2230 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106

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

            Thee Bungalow
            4996 W Point Loma Blvd, San Diego, CA 92107

            Old Trieste Restaurant
            2335 Morena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110

            9 Replies
            1. re: DiningDiva

              Diva, Nicolosi's moved to the Mission Valley location around 1984 or thereabouts. For many, many years prior to that move, they anchored down the corner of 40th and El Cajon Blvd with an old world italian ambiance matched only by Filippi's on India St. Which, by the way, ought to be mentioned in this thread.

                1. re: cstr

                  It reopened about a month later, run by two of the sons.

                2. re: mcgrath

                  Out of curiosity, anyone know how long Mona Lisa has been on India Street?

                  1. re: stevewag23

                    According to my last pizza “to go” box, Mona’ s has been in its current Little Italy location since 1973. Stefano, the founder’s grandson, told me the original Mona Lisa was located downtown.

                  2. re: mcgrath

                    Yeah, my SDSU years pre-date the move to Adobe Falls ;-)

                    BTW, the East County rumor mill has it that Nicolosi's is actually moving to the location recently vacated by the Fish Merchant on Navajo Rd. (which moved in to the spot vacated by the closing of Tivoli's in the Keil's shopping center).

                    I am hoping that rumor has some validity to it.

                    Fish Merchant
                    7005 Navajo Rd, San Diego, CA 92119

                  3. re: DiningDiva

                    Mr. A's of today isn't much like it was the first time I went there. The first time I went there, the cocktail waitresses were wearing costumes that looked like they were hand-me-downs from Caesar's Palace with waist-length blonde falls... I definitely remember the space as being more cut-up and darker.

                    Nicolosi's isn't much like was at it's old location off ECB either, in terms of funky ambiance.

                    The Sky Room at La Valencia
                    Adams Steak and Eggs

                    1. re: mikec

                      Ah, but those waist long blond falls (you dated yourself with that terminology you know <gg>) were all the rage back then. Mister A's, along with Lubachs, the Del and a couple of others were the epitome of upscale dining in this town at one time. At the time I turned 21 I happened to be dating a guy whose birthday was only 2 days before mine. So we got dressed up and went to Mr. A's for our first legal drinks. It was stuffy and of course we got carded, and it was a very long time ago, but it's a nice memory now :-)

                      I really do not like Nicolosi's current location much at all. Frankly, I'm surprised they lasted there as long as they did.

                      Mister A's Restaurant
                      2550 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103

                  4. Rudford's. Been eating there since 1955, when my parents took me there for my first dinner out, ever. Had chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, veggies and a romaine salad with roquefort cheese. Let's see, they did a remodel in about 1957, and since then it's remained exactly the same. San Diego's only true Diner. Probably the model for Corvette Diner and its progeny.

                    Rudford's Restaurant
                    2900 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: mcgrath

                      Wow...Rudford's is still there!
                      Good call on Filippi's too.

                      1. re: mcgrath

                        I still like Rudford's. I may only go once a year or so, and it's usually at some ungodly hour, but it's always decent. I might add that one of their cooks makes some of the best salsa I've ever had. One of the wait staff told me they were trying to convince him to bottle and sell it, but he was fine doing what he was doing.

                        Rudford's Restaurant
                        2900 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104

                      2. I never go there, but there is this restaurant and bar on Coast Highway in Encinitas called Cap'n Keno's. The food quality may be questionable for chowhounders, but the inside decor is intriguing, and it looks like it has stayed the same for about 50 years. Food and bar liquor is insanely cheap from what I know.

                        photos: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/YyALev...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Encinitan

                          Butcher Shop in Kearny Mesa.
                          La Bonne Bouffe in Encinitas.

                          La Bonne Bouffe
                          471 Encinitas Blvd, Encinitas, CA 92024

                        2. Turf Club
                          Mandarin House

                          Mandarin House
                          2604 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Maxmdwinter

                            Riviera Supper Club in La Mesa is owned by the people who started Turf Club. I think Turf Club is being operated by their former landlords. Not sure if they changed Turf Club now that it is under new management.

                            Riviera Supper Club
                            7777 University Ave, La Mesa, CA 91941

                          2. The Red Fox Room on El Cajon. Totally old school. They still serve relish trays.

                            1. Point Break Cafe on Shelter Island Drive. Occupies the former site of Boll Weevil. Decor unchanged since 1963. Tiki-nautical theme. World class tuna melt. Have not yet tried the patty melt, but intend to soon.


                              Point Break Cafe
                              2743 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106

                              1. Red Sails Inn.

                                Red Sails Inn
                                2614 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Fake Name

                                  I love my Red Sails Inn. Dive Bar Extraordinaire. Ssshhh, don't tell anyone, but we stopped in last night. ;D

                                  Red Sails Inn
                                  2614 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106

                                2. Marino's in Pacific Beach.

                                  I can only personally vouch for 15 years or so, but I'm pretty sure it has been there a lot longer than that. Old-school family-run American Italian joint (with all of the good and bad that implies). I haven't been in years, but I'm sure it is exactly the same.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: menuinprogress

                                    Is the blind piano player still there?

                                    1. re: bizzwriter

                                      I'd totally forgotten about the piano player. I don't think he has been there for quite some time.

                                  2. Jack & Giulio's. In Old Town now, but originally was Giulio's in PB when introduced to by friends when I moved here in the 8o's. Never tried anything other than the scampi.

                                    1. Not sure how The Waterfront on Kettner escaped mention this long. While it is more of a dive bar that serves food, it is definitely Old School.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: mcgrath

                                        True. Waterfront is the oldest bar in san diego.

                                      2. Manhattan of La Jolla!!!

                                        Manhattan of La Jolla
                                        7766 Fay Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037

                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: mmjgam

                                          OK, I am ready to be flamed but the Old Town Cafe is certainly a candidate for Old School. It is the first restaurant (in the '70s) where I saw the wonderful ladies that make tortillas showcased out front instead of being hidden in the back kitchen.

                                          The original restaurant in Balboa Park on the Prado before it became a Cohn thing. That is the very first place I saw the "alphabet" ratings posted for restaurant cleanliness. The Prado (?) had an "A" rating, BTW.

                                          The bar at La Valencia. On my sixteenth birthday, my mother and I were at a table in there and Gregory Peck sent over a Shirley Temple drink for me. I have never recovered.

                                          Balboa Park
                                          1549 El Prado Ste 8, San Diego, CA 92101

                                          1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                            Jan, now that's an old-school story.

                                              1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                                Gregory Peck never sent ME a Shirley Temple (it's ok I'll learn how to move on)

                                            1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                              "It is the first restaurant (in the '70s) where I saw the wonderful ladies that make tortillas showcased out front instead of being hidden in the back kitchen."

                                              Not technically a restaurant, but the first time I saw tortillas being made by hand was when my dad took me to the Museum of Man in the very early 1970s (or maybe it was even late '60s?). I took my son there a few years ago just to keep the tradition up.

                                              1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                                "The original restaurant in Balboa Park on the Prado before it became a Cohn thing"

                                                Was it also called "The Prado"?

                                                What was it like?

                                                1. re: stevewag23

                                                  The food was not special, at least what I remember. I was young. Tuna salad and egg salad sandwiches, something, something light to eat for the ladies. My mother made sure that I had a clean handkercheif in my pocket book.

                                                  They had Old School waiters that served you as if you were a member of a European royalty.

                                                  1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                                    Oh my...pocketbook...that's really old school ;-)

                                                    I remember that too. It may have been something like the House of Hospitality Cafe.

                                                      1. re: sdnativa

                                                        CAFE del Rey Moro...once upon a time I had a second job there.

                                                    1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                                      Great story; loved Gregory!
                                                      Godfather in Clairmont is old school.

                                                  2. Someone mentioned Tarantino's and for the life of me, I can remember it but I can't remember where it used to be..
                                                    Help a sista out..

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Beach Chick

                                                      Wasn't it on Harbor Dr, up by Scott St? Close to where Pizza Nova is?

                                                      1. re: deckape

                                                        That's where I was thinking...where Pizza Nova used to be.

                                                    2. I didn't grow up here, but my old school list would include the following:

                                                      Athens Market
                                                      World Famous

                                                      1. Just took the family to Manhattan last night in La Jolla. Now that's old school! Great dinner by the way, with exceptional service.

                                                        8 Replies
                                                        1. re: bizzwriter

                                                          Love love love Manhattan's....did they sing opera?

                                                          1. re: Beach Chick

                                                            No -- but, there was some guy singing old-school rat pack at the piano in the crowded bar. Definitely fit the scene.

                                                            1. re: bizzwriter

                                                              Ahhhh...old school songs at the piano bar...love
                                                              What did you have?

                                                              1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                My wife and I both had a really good linguini frutti di mare concoction (al dente!), one of my sons had a terrific (and very thick) pork chop special, and the other had plain old fettucini alfredo. We also did the tableside caesar salad and desserts, which were quite good. I had a terrific homemade cannoli and there was lots of chocolate happening elsewhere on our table.

                                                              2. re: bizzwriter

                                                                how old would you say the average person in the crowd was?

                                                                1. re: El Chevere

                                                                  Interesting split -- maybe 60:40 older (50+ years) to younger (30-40 years).

                                                                  1. re: bizzwriter

                                                                    Remember Avanti's..sounds like the same demographic ratio but when I was young and being around all those 'old' people singing Sinatra songs and drinking martinis was a great introduction to life, respect for my elders and how much fun it was singing around a piano!

                                                                    Glad to hear they still have the tableside Caesar salad....Rock on Manhattan's!

                                                                    1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                      Singing around a piano is just a whole lot warmer and more human than singing along with a high-tech pitch-correcting karaoke machine.

                                                          2. Su Casa
                                                            Mandarin House
                                                            The Brigantine
                                                            Harry's Coffee Shop

                                                            Does The Mission count because it is the progeny of the Mission Café and Coffeehouse?

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: scottca075

                                                              Craving the Kung Pao at Mandarin House...the best!