Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Diego >
Sep 1, 2010 04:57 PM

Downtown reccomendation w/ preferences

My wife and I are spending some time in downtown (between Little Italy and GasLamp) and are looking to have a special evening meal. The key requests are:

- downtown (prefer not to drive, we don't mind a bit of a walk (30 min is fine)
- $100 ish budget with a couple drinks and an appetizer
- great atmosphere and/or view, doesn't need to be romantic but a good vibe/somewhat casual (not a dive bar) atmosphere. No loud booming music but not dead silent either.
- no seafood specific places
- quality / interesting food but not a hardcore foodie/fine dining place

Other than that, open to any suggestions. It doens't need to cost $100, if a great place meets the requirements for less so be it (just more drinks!)



  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Starlite (Not sure where you are exactly and it might be too far to walk)

    1. In addition to Starlite, here are my recs:

      o Cafe Chloe. It's in the Gaslamp, and it's one of my regular haunts. Consider getting a $15 cocktail across the street at Noble Experiment, if you can figure out how to get on The List.

      o Bencotto Italian Kitchen. It's in Little Italy. Relatively new place with a great vibe and great pasta. If you're up for it, get some gelato a few blocks away at Pappalecco.

      o Cowboy Star. It's a short walk from the Gaslamp. Grass-fed steak (and other stuff) with an upscale Western vibe.

      o Cucina Urbana. It's in Banker's Hill, so it's a short drive from Little Italy / downtown. "California-inspired Italian kitchen".

      3 Replies
      1. re: mcgrue

        I think Cowboy Star with a budget of $100 will be nearly impossible, even Cafe Chloe (especially if you order any wine) might be over the budget. We really like the ambience at Cucina Urbana but on our visits so far we had mixed feelings on the food. The food is far from being bad but one of the culinary strength of San Diego is the growing numbers of low to medium priced "bistro-style" restaurants and we feel that there are several other restaurants which offer a nice ambience with similar priced but overall better food, like Alchemy, Urban Solace, Farmhouse Cafe or Starlite.

        1. re: honkman

          Yeah, we recently went to Cucina Urbana, and were half-impressed. Our appetizer items were great, but the entrees were unremarkable.

          1. re: Josh

            I just don't understand the rave reviews for Cucina and I want to really like it as it would be very convenient for me

      2. You won't find a great view and interesting food anywhere within walking distance.

        If you're staying between Little Italy and Gaslamp, Currant at the Sofia hotel on Broadway should satisfy all of your other criteria, and would likely be only a 5 minute walk or so from where you are.

        Another choice would be Jsix at the corner of 6th and J, close to Petco Park and within the Gaslamp. The food here would be a little more interesting, perhaps a little more expensive, and it would be around a 15 minute walk.

        The kitchens at both of these spots actually CARE about the food they prepare and do so with care and respect. Not the case with most other places in the downtown/gaslamp corridor.

        7 Replies
        1. re: mcgrath

          Thanks for the suggestions everyone. Though I think I haven't done a good job of describing what we're looking for. Based on the suggestions so far, I think I should state we are looking for really 'non-foodie' food. Not sure how to describe the 'cuisine' we are fans of, but 'leech gravy' and the sort aren't really up our alley.

          I guess we are looking for more simple food/flavours.. just done well!

          Interesting vibe/view would be nice.. not talking top of 20 story building or anything but a nice outdoor patio or the like would be nice.

          Maybe I'm asking too much.. not that sort of thing in the area?



          We don't mind jumping on a shuttle or something if that makes sense too (more than a one connection is probalby too much).

          1. re: tbgallant

            A lot to unpack there. I wasn't aware foodies ate leech gravy.

            1. re: tbgallant

              Hah, "non-foodie" food for a "special evening meal". You are asking this question on Chowhound.

              1. re: foodiechick

                Ooops.. I meant 'leek' gravy (that was on one of the menus above).

                I realize that most here are orientated to the 'fine dining' realm but I also see lots of posts about just good food. We're just looking for more simple food in a good environment. It is just as tough to find good simple food as it is to find good 'fine dining'. By 'special meal' we just mean we are willing to spend some extra bucks (the rest of the trip will be pretty inexpensive.. which is fine as it matches our tastes fine) for the meal.

                I guess I should just do some more research and then ask for opinions on particular restaurants.



                1. re: tbgallant

                  Your requests are tough. The downtown area is mostly oriented towards tourist/conventioneer-friendly eateries that aren't terribly memorable. The better places down there, though, may be too adventurous for you if you find the concept of leek gravy to be exotic.

                  1. re: tbgallant

                    Currant's menu:
                    ROASTED BEER CAN CHICKEN: rosemary brined, porcini & leek gravy, mashed potatoes.

                    Unofficial translation: It's a chicken that they keep overnight in a bag of salty water and herbs, squat over a hot can of Bud and roast til it's tender, and then serve in a mild sauce of mushrooms and onions with a side of mashers.

                    Sounds like good food to me. ; )