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New to SD -- here's what I've eaten so far

Hi all, recent transplant to your lovely city. Excited to get active on the Chow board, so here goes: (Lengthy post ahead.)

Smashburger – Surprisingly good burgers. I like the skinny onion rings, sweet potato fries, and the rosemary+garlic fries. Yes. I like fries. I had the San Diego burger with cilantro and appreciated the choices of (what I’d consider) regional add-on ingredients like cilantro, avocado slices and lime. It was delicious, kid-friendly and clean. Even more impressive, Mr. DipCone left his iPhone on the table, and they had it waiting for him the next morning when he called panic. They get bonus points for that.


L&L Hawaiian BBQ in Pacific Beach – First exposure to anything remotely related to Hawaiian BBQ, so I don’t have anything to compare this to, but I thought the Lau Lau pork was very good. The Kalua, mmmm, it was okay. Serving macaroni salad and rice seemed weird to me, but I thought the pasta was pretty good. Certainly an inexpensive lunch. Has anyone had breakfast here?

PB Alehouse – Went here on a Tuesday night which turns out to be All You Can Eat Crab night. Crab defined as Alaskan King, not the more delicious Dungeness. But the staff was really nice, and every table in the place had ordered the crab-deal. Beer was good too. Fun night. Not sure I’d go back, but I would if I were 20-something, which I'm not.

Whisknladle – Terrific time here. Was with a fairly big group that liked to share so we tasted plenty. Best cocktails I’ve found so far, but not on par with NYC, Boston or Chicago places that specialize in Prohibition era drinks. We tried everything from the bone marrow and charcuterie to halibut cheeks and fried chicken. I will definitely be back.

Osteria Romantica – Tried to go here one night after spending the day at La Jolla Shores, but the wait was too long for hungry, tired children, though the food coming out of the kitchen looked and smelled delicious. Came back another evening and I’d rate it a disaster. Ordered the Cioppino and something in the dish (mussels?) clearly had gone bad. The smell was rotten. Strong enough, in fact, that I was shocked the kitchen sent it out. Certainly, they had to have smelled it. Sent it back and ordered a smoked chicken w/ cream sauce on special which was overpowered by the amount of “smokiness” that I suspect was added with liquid smoke, and derived from wood -- the old fashioned way. Kid number two ordered pasta with sausage. Seemed to like it and ate quite a lot of it, but when he got home, he started to feel ill, and, cough, was. Definitely, we will not be back.

Longboards – Stopped by on a whim in the afternoon. It was just okay. Good service, but food-wise, nothing interesting, nor anything that was delicious enough to bring us back.

Bencotto – While I’m kind of new to your board, I understand there’s a buzz about this place. I thought it was just okay. I didn’t care for the “choose your pasta/choose your sauce” concept, and the execution of it was unimpressive. The riso fritto (which I would call mini arancini) had a nice crisp to them, but were dry, and fairly flavorless. The bresaola e rucola was good, but unremarkable. I chose the arabbiata with tagliatelle and again, just found it okay. Nothing that really sang to me. Leftovers languished in my fridge, and that says a lot on its own.

Buon Appetito – Compared to Bencotto, I’d say this is the winner. A little cheesy with the Italian ambiance, but the food was good, the staff was terrific, and it was a very good experience. Also with a group that evening, and tried a number of items, but the pan-fried chicken liver salad (called Insalata di Rucola con Fegatini di Pollo) was my favorite. The piccata was just okay. I’d rate this one worthy of another visit, but suspect it's hit or miss on some of the dishes.

The Mission – breakfast place in PB. Had the Mission Chilaguiles which came with a surprisingly tasty roasted tomato ginger sauce. Coffee is priced a little steeply, considering it’s just coffee at a breakfast place, but the food was good, the staff was pleasant and the vibe was nice. Good place from what I can tell.

Sweet & Savory Café – Chowed a tri-tip sandwich for lunch one day. It was very good – meat was rubbed with coffee spice, smoked gouda and a garlic mayo. Easy, quick, fairly cheap. I wouldn’t go out of my way to go there, but I did, indeedy, like my sandwich.

Wahoo Fish Taco, La Jolla – I liked this place too. Had a couple of fish tacos with rice and beans. Was wishing the beans had more spicing to them, but the tacos were solid, and the place was clean and bustling, which I take as a good sign. Not sure what the fish was in the taco. I suspect basa, but didn't have the opportunity to ask.

Karl Strauss – I realize there are a few of these, but it was the first time we’d ever heard of it. Beer was good. Our server brought over several samples. The Piggy Bank mac and cheese (with bacon, ham and sausage) was really good. I’m kind of over the mac and cheese thing, but this was good.

So far, the La Jolla Farmers' Market is the only one I’ve had a chance to get to. While I like the ceviche-lady, she’s serving shrimp and supposedly red snapper, neither of which I feel happy about ordering since I try to keep my fish selection on the sustainable side. I’m suspicious she’s not serving red snapper, but she bristled when I started asking the origins of her fish, so I backed off. Does anyone know?

I’ve kept it simple with the crepe lady, staying with the sugar/butter option. Delish. Tried the Filipino pork stew, which was okay. Love the sweet potato pie (and key lime cake) man, Brian. Not impressed with the egg-lady’s eggs. I’ve bought a few times, and was disappointed that there didn’t seem to be a lot of strength in the shell when I cracked it, nor did the whites/yolks really stand up the way they should for extremely fresh eggs. And some of the farmers I’m having a harder time understanding exactly where it is they’re coming from. They don’t seem like “small farmers” to me, and I’ve had some disappointing results when I got home and dug deeper in that basket of tomatoes only to find some tired ones hidden underneath. That makes me feel a little swindled. Not a feeling you want to have when you come home from a farmers market. I’ve heard there are better farmers markets to try, including Hillcrest and the one in Little Italy.

Excited to be here. Looking forward to hearing your chow-worthy spots. Hope I didn't wear out my welcome in my first post!

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Buon Appetito
1609 India St, San Diego, CA 92101

Whisknladle
1044 Wall Street, La Jolla, CA 92037

Wahoo Fish Taco
1006 N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024

Osteria Romantica
2151 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037

Sweet & Savory Cafe
4614 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109

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  1. Wow -- impressive report -- thanks! I've been meaning to get to Osteria Romantica, but now I think I'll pass. If you liked Smashburger, be sure to try Burger Lounge in La Jolla on Wall, kitty-corner from Karl Strauss. Also, check out the Coffee Cup next door to Burger Lounge for breakfast.

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    Osteria Romantica
    2151 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037

    Coffee Cup
    1109 Wall St, La Jolla, CA 92037

    1. Hi DipCone, welcome to the board

      Since you've been to a couple of places in Little Italy, you might want to check out the Farmer's Market there every Saturday morning. It's on Date St. between Kettner and State (I think). The prepared food vendors are all on the south side of Date and almost all the farmers and other non-prepared food vendors are on the north side of Date. It works out pretty well. I've had good luck with the eggs from the San Pascual Academy that are sold at the LI farmers market.

      As you correctly surmised, fish labeled Red Snapper here in SD is not usually true Red Snapper. It is most often one of the west coast rock fish varieties.

      1. Hawaiian plate lunch always comes with rice AND macaroni salad. It is part of what makes a plate lunch a "plate lunch." L & L is decent for plate lunch, certainly cheaper than flying to HI for the real deal. However, I've found their kalbi to be on the greasy side for me. There's another plate lunch place in Liberty Station, Da Kine's. They're not too bad, although I recall their standard plate not being as "large" as one associates with plate lunch and ended up getting more kalbi b/c I wasn't full enough.

        I 2nd the rec for Coffee Cup on Wall St for breakfast. It's one of our favorite breakfast/brunch places.

        El Pescador in La Jolla is supposed to be quite good, although I have never been.

        I think some of the vendors at the LJFM get their produce from the standard produce sources and aren't really truly "farmers" or "local." They are the ones that don't have a banner above their stand that has the name of their farm on it. The guys from Reedley have pretty good peaches and nectarines in the summer (although they picked their Satsuma tangerines WAAAY too early last year and tried to pass the acidity off as they way the fruit is supposed to be...NOT.) Valdivia Farms from Carlsbad have decent squashes, tomatoes (decent enough that if we're too lazy to get them from Chino Farms, we'll get theirs) and blueberries. The organic guys that sell grapes, apples, blueberries and cherries are pretty decent as well. Their stand is usually on the end of the row, closest to the entrance. The biker guys towards the back of the aisles have good lettuces, beets and root vegetables. There is a citrus stand (farm is in Valley Center or somewhere way up north) that has good oro blanco, pink grapefruit and oranges.

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        Coffee Cup
        1109 Wall St, La Jolla, CA 92037

        1. Great report. I would urge you to try the Little Italy, Hillcrest, North Park or Adams Avenue Farmer's Markets over LJ (and I live very near the latter). Wahoo's Fish Tacos are pretty good, but next time you are tempted to go back to the LJ location, walk across the parking lot and get a fantastic, and large fresh grilled fish torta (or salad) at El Pescador! Welcome.

          1 Reply
          1. re: foodiechick

            Second the recommendation for El Pescador.

            Having been to Whisknladle multiple times recently over a very short time span (work, etc...), I've decided I really like it, but I agree re their cocktails. There always seems to be a lack of balance with every one I get. Not anything huge, but just a little too much alcohol here, or a smidge too much lime there, to make it less-than-great.

            If you want good cocktails, perhaps you should check out Noble Experiment. I'm fairly new to SD too and haven't had the chance to go myself, but everyone seems to agree that they have the best cocktails in SD.

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            Whisknladle
            1044 Wall Street, La Jolla, CA 92037

          2. Nice report!

            At Wahoo we always get the spicy white beans and then ask for the cilantro salsa and the super hot salsa for the tacos.