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Oct 27, 2010 07:26 AM

Restaurants that transport you to another country.

I am looking for restaurants anywhere in San Diego County that make you feel like you are eating in another country.

For example, it could be a French bistro where the ambiance, the authentic menu scrawled on a chalkboard, the vin rouge served in tumblers, and the French-speaking staff combine to make you feel as though you were transported to some cute little place in Paris's 4th Arrondissement.

Game on!

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  1. Hey Dave!
    Hacienda de Vega always brings me back to a lovely restaurant in Cuernvaca.
    Mille Fleurs in RSF has the feel of a Country French home.
    Does the Blue Bayou in Dinneyland count?
    ; )

    1 Reply
    1. re: Beach Chick

      Depends, were you thinking New Orleans or Orlando?

    2. That's a tall order. I can't say I've had an experience like that here, at least not fully.

      Pizzeria Bruno, food-wise, is very reminiscent of the pizzas we ate in Italy. Atmosphere isn't quite the same though, and the lack of Campari beverages is a real problem.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Josh

        Yeah, I agree. Tall order. Hell, I would be happy if we had more restaurants that transported you to another city. In America. Good idea for a thread though.

        That being said, I think the Yakatori spot can give you that feeling. It is usually 80-90% asian clientele.

        Puerto la Boca is actually pretty good rendition of something you will find in Buenos Aires. Although good, the steaks aren't the same.

        1. re: stevewag23

          Yeah, and I just realized Izakaya Sakura is a good candidate - though I haven't been to Japan, dining there late at night I definitely don't feel like I'm in San Diego, and not just because it's late. ;-)

          1. re: Josh

            Went with japanese friends to Sakura and they mentioned that the food is comparable to some japanese places but the ambience is very American nothing compared to Japan.

            1. re: Josh

              No, not even close... I like to refer to Izakaya Sakura as the most un-Izakaya-like Izakaya around!

              I'd suggest either Yumeya or Oton as being the closest to fitting the bill. It's the tight quarters, simple folksy/Mingei-hin decor and personally attentive service of this family-run sake house that makes Yumeya a little bit of Japan in Leucadia.

              On the other hand at Oton the waitstaff is dressed traditionally and the customers remove their shoes before entering their own private dining rooms. Slippers are provided so customers can make the walk from the private rooms to the restrooms.

              1246 N Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

              1. re: cgfan

                I only meant that Sakura didn't feel like San Diego - certainly wasn't trying to claim it felt like Japan (as I haven't been to Japan).

                1. re: cgfan

                  Oton takes me there a bit, too. So does Nijiya, even though it's not a restaurant- a lot like the market I'd go to when I was a guest at the Kenin-ji shrine in Kyoto for a week some time ago.

                  Does time travel count? Because El Indio takes me back to my grandfather's vision of Old Mexico, down Mexico way circa 1950, where the tequila was strong and the enchiladas were saucy, and all the hookers were named Inez ("eye-nez"), even though I don't think they serve either tequila or hookers there.


          2. El Paisa, in Logan Heights, is kind of like this, actually. Great tacos, but if you sit outside they have two radios playing at high volume, one from the truck, and one from the restaurant, and they're not playing the same music. It's a weird, Charles Ives-esque experience, that in some ways brings to mind the chaotic surroundings of some of TJs taco carts. (I'm guessing this isn't what you're looking for, though.)

            4 Replies
            1. re: Josh

              Cuatros Milpas makes me think I'm in Mexico, specifically, the areas of Mexico that are close to the border. But in the country of Mexico. South of the United States. On the Mexico side of the line that separates Mexico and the US. In Mexico.

              The bar at Mikes Sky Ranch, too. Oh, wait...

              1. re: Fake Name

                "makes me thing I'm in Mexico- border areas"

                Wait, aren't we already "in a Mexico- border area"?

                1. re: stevewag23

                  steve that would be the other thread, "Restaurants that transport you to other parts of San Diego County"

                  1. re: MrKrispy

                    The Local in downtown "transports me to Pacific Beach".

                    And Tower 23 in pacific beach "transports me to the gaslamp".

                    Anyone feel the same way?

            2. KaiserHof. This has to be the most authetic German restaurant, that I have been to outside of Germany.
              The food is consistently an Excellent rendition of what you might taste in the Munich area. The Weinerschnitzel and Red Gabbagd are always a treat, and I hardly can pass them by on the Menu.
              Other Black Board Specials at the Bar are reasonably priced over the Dining room dinners for a more complete meal. Nice with a Cucumber salad.

              11 Replies
              1. re: nutrition

                Wonder if it's as good as Berlin.

                1. re: Josh



                  <insert grass-fed reference here>

                  1. re: Josh

                    Unfortunately not. Kaiserhof is a mediocre, overpriced place with "German" food which can be found much better even in California. (And I don't even want to start a rant that the "typical German food" you find in "German" restaurants in the US have hardly anything to do with actual food in German beside some places for tourists. It's like saying that PF Chang is authentic chinese food

                    1. re: honkman

                      Wait, PF Wangs isn't typical of a restaurant in mainland China?

                      1. re: honkman

                        Yeah, I figured as much.

                        One of my favorite restaurant reviews ever was written about Kaiserhof in City Beat:

                        1. re: honkman

                          Where is this better German food to be found? I lived in Germany for about 6 years of my youth and loved a lot of the food there, but I've found only disappointments like Kaiserhof around here.

                          1. re: Pentagarn

                            I haven't found anything in the US so far which even remotely resembles food you will get today today in German. German had and still has a very high percentage of migrant workers over the last 30 years which had an tremendous impact on food in Germany. German food today has hardly anything to do anymore with the old stereotypes and is one of the more interesting and continuesly evolving cuisines in Europe.
                            If you look for at least good versions of the "old fashion" dishes don't go to disappointing and low quality places like Kaiserhof or Tip Top Meats (but the butcher part of the shop is nice). The only good place for such food in California we have found so far is Brummis in Santa Barbara. Everything is made from scratch and is good:


                        1. re: nutrition

                          Hmmm Kaiserhoff seems to transport me to a German restaurant in the middle of Indiana. Weird.

                            1. re: MrKrispy

                              Kaiserhoff transports me to a San Diego restaurant in the middle of the Bavaria.

                              Which is even weirder if you think about it.