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Apr 1, 2011 07:57 AM

San Diego for a week...with child

Hello all,

I'm travelling to San Diego for a week's vacation in two weeks. I'm staying in Little Italy. We have a two year-old and will have a car. Hoping you can help me choose some great places.

Here's what I like:
Casual dining, mostly
Yakitori (there are a couple in San Diego, I believe)
Mexican (Toronto has terrible Mexican food)
Farmers markets (it's still winter up here...California produce, locally purchased, is haunting my dreams)
Anything unique to the area.

IF there are any spots that may not be the best for eating, but offer breathtaking views or whatever, I'm all for that too.

Cheers, and thank you in advance.

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  1. The Little Italy farmers market on Saturday mornings (beginning at the civilized hour of 9 am) is a lot of fun. Lots of people, good energy, nice mix of farmers and prepared food vendors. It's on Date between Kettner and State. Depending on where you're staying in LI, you can probably walk to it. If the market isn't just packed, the view from the East end of the market looking down towards the bay is nice, especially if the weather is good.

    You won't be too far from Blue Water Grill. It's a small seafood restaurant/retail fish market. They do salads, sandwiches, plates and fish tacos. I like their sandwiches, and a lot of people like their fish tacos. Very casual; you wait in line to order, then sit down and they'll bring it to you. They were featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives about 18 months ago which increased their business substantially. I think they've lost a step since then, BUT, it's still pretty good and with a 2 y.o. you can get in and out in a reasonable amount of time.

    Point Loma Seafood in the Point Loma/Shelter Island area is also a retail fish market/restaurant. Once again, it is very casual and you can take your food outside and eat by the water (or at least very close to it). If the weather is nice, this is a really great option. BWG and PLS are both very popular locations and usually pretty busy at lunch. Blue Water is open for dinner, not sure that PLS is.

    If the zoo is on your agena you've got a few reasonable options for Mexican. Super Cocina is on University Ave. between Cherokee and 37th (probably about 5 miles from the zoo). They do homestyle Mexican cooking and it really is homestyle. Everything is served from steamtables, but don't let that put you off, a lot of the options are guisados which tend to be soupy and stewy and actually benefit from the warm, moist heat. The counter staff is very helpful and they'll give you a sample of whatever you want to try. Spanish is the primary language but there are enough English speakers on staff that you shouldn't have any difficulty ordering. You would also probably not have any difficulty with a 2 y.o. here. Super Cocina also does a pretty decent breakfast, having a plate of their chilaquiles before hitting the zoo might be an idea.

    Also on University (at Richmond) and only about 2 miles from the zoo is Mama Testas. It's a tacos only place. Even though it's owned by a Mexican, it's more Americanized and in the higer rent district of University Ave. There is a taco that (alledgedly) represents every state in Mexico. Some are better than others. The Asi Yasado (grilled chicken soft taco) is very good as are the Empapados (hard shell mashed potato tacos) and the Yucatecos (cochinita pibil) and tacos with the housemade chorizo. The most unusual dish are the Mojados, which are short lengths of rolled tacos floating in a spicy broth. Comes as chicken or beef, with the beef being the better option. The salsa bar is fun; there are usually about 10 salsas offered, all made fresh daily. Radishes, grilled knob onions and pickled carrots are often in the salsa bar as well.

    In the LI neighorhood where you are staying you might want to check out Pete's Meats and Mona Lisa for good sandwiches which can be purchased to go.

    Enjoy your stay.

    Mama Testa
    1417 University Ave Ste A, San Diego, CA 92103

    Point Loma Seafoods
    2805 Emerson St, San Diego, CA 92106

    Super Cocina
    3627 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92104

    4 Replies
    1. re: DiningDiva

      I'll agree with everything DD said.

      A few other options:
      The Sunday Farmer's Market in Hillcrest is great as well. Also, you might want to pay a visit to Chino Farms up in Del Mar.

      The best spots for beer are probably O'Brien's, Toronado, Hamilton's, Downtown Johnny Brown's and Blind Lady but I'm not sure how good any of them would be with a 2 year old in tow. Your best option might be Pizza Port Ocean Beach who makes excellent beers and usually has a few good guest beers on tap as well.

      The 2 best Yakitori places are Yakitori Yakyudori and its sibling Yakitori Yakyudori & Ramen. The original is closer to where you'll be but the other one might be slightly better (and really not a whole lot further when you factor in traffic & parking). The new location is also very close to O'Brien's as well.

      I'd think about hitting up one of the Mariscos German trucks for great Mexican seafood.

      1. re: DougOLis

        O'Brien's and Downtown Johnny Brown's has been fine when we've gone out with our friends and their 2 year old. URBN in North Park, too.

        Downtown Johnny Brown's
        1220 3rd Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

        1. re: DougOLis

          2nd Yakitori Yakyudori. The Convoy location is a heck of a lot easier to park at. It's also bigger inside, leaving more room for a high chair.

          Chino Farms is great, although you are right next to the Little Italy farmer's market.

          2nd Mama Testa's.

          Oton and Okan in the Convoy/Clairemont Mesa area are both terrific and 2 y/o friendly.

          Mama Testa
          1417 University Ave Ste A, San Diego, CA 92103

          Yakitori Yakyudori
          3739 6th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103

          1. re: DougOLis

            On the Yakyudori rec I'd say that the better one is which ever shop Nabe-san happens to be on the grill at the time. However outside of his time on the grill I'd say that I've had better meals with the folks at the Convoy location over the original Hillcrest shop.

            That being said the original location does offer more Yakitori items, though the Convoy location has a broader non-Yakitori menu. OTOH the Convoy location has the big advantage of having a much, much larger counter, which is definitely the way to go with Yakitori!

            In reality you can't go wrong with either location, far better than the few Yakitori shops that have come before or since to S.D.

        2. Further up on India St, Shakespeare has great fish & chips and a pretty good beer selection. Strawberries are tasting sweet, you can find them at the farmers market or directly at the farm stands. Neighbor, Ritual Tavern or Jaynes Gastropub for nice craft beer selections and pretty good food, 2 yr old should be OK if you go early.

          Ritual Tavern
          4095 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

          4 Replies
          1. re: cstr

            Actually, the Regal Beagle has a better selection than Shakespeare's (which has a pretty blah beer selection, IMHO).

            1. re: jmtreg

              Yeah, Shakespeare's beer selection is weak. The one bright spot in the lineup is Firestone Walker's Union Jack IPA.

              1. re: Josh

                Oh, the FW Union Jack IPA is a GREAT beer.

              2. re: jmtreg

                Yah, I think their best for the fish & chips, British style and for the beer, well like Josh said, they have a few to lean on.

            2. Thanks for the suggestions, folks...keep'em coming.

              A few questions...Toronado is a place in SF I had planned on going to, but never went. I'll try to check out the San Diego version. My brother is travelling with us, so maybe we get a night off and check it out, without the little one.

              Yakitori Yakyuodori sounds great. How is the ramen at the "&ramen" location?

              Something else I love...oysters. I remember at Farmers markets in SF and LA just buying them from the local vendors. Is that possible in San Diego? Also, any restaurants with good oyster selection would be of interest.

              Ok, I just looked at Point Loma and Blue Water menus...I'm sure we'll hit one of these spots.

              Point Loma Cafe
              4856 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92106

              5 Replies
              1. re: grandgourmand

                The best uni in the world is harvested just off San Diego. You can buy uni at the LIttle Italy farmers market. The vendor will cut it open for you to eat on the spot. Can't get better than that :-)

                The topic of where are the best oysters in SD gets discussed on the board with some regularity. If you do a board search you can probably turn up a few of the old threads.

                1. re: grandgourmand

                  The ramen is excellent at Yakitori Yakyudori & Ramen. I would check out some of cgfan's posts on it if you want information but the ramen alone probably tips that location for me.

                  Carlsbad Aquafarms has some very good oysters and they'll sell them or shuck them for you at the Hillcrest Farmer's Market. I'm not sure if they're at Little Italy though. There is another fish guy at Little Italy that does sell oysters but they're not quite as good as Carlsbad.

                  1. re: grandgourmand

                    While Yakyudori serves several styles of Ramen, their real strength is in their Shio ("salt") Ramen, which happily is my favorite Ramen style. They really do excel at their Shio broth. They also do a Shoyu ("soy sauce") and Miso ("fermented soy bean paste") Ramen, but I still haven't found a shop in San Diego that truly excels either of these styles. For a Tonkotsu ("pork bones - read 'marrow' ") style I'd suggest Santouka in the Mitsuwa Marketplace, which being in Kearny Mesa is very close to Yakyudori.

                    (BTW just to avoid future confusion, Yakyudori's Ramen location is called Yakyudori Ramen & Yakitori, while the original "non-Ramen" location is called Yakitori Yakyudori.)

                    For oysters I'd suggest the oyster bar at Oceanaire. S.D. really could use a much wider selection of well-stocked oyster bars, but Oceanaire is just about the only one (besides, perhaps, King's Fish House, but given your location Oceanaire's the obvious choice...).

                    Though not an oyster bar if you also love Sushi you'll have to make room for Kaito Sushi in Encinitas, our best destination for traditional Sushi hounds. In fact I'd call it a destination restaurant. They regularly source some of the most flavorful Kumamoto oysters I've tasted yet, even tastier than the ones farmed elsewhere including the Kumamotos from the famed Hog Island Oysters of Tomales Bay. (They get their Kumamotos from an oyster farm in Washington state...)

                    Yakitori Yakyudori
                    3739 6th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103

                    Kaito Sushi
                    130-A N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024

                    San DIego, CA, San DIego, CA

                    Mitsuwa Marketplace
                    4240 Kearny Mesa Rd # 119, San Diego, CA

                    King's Fish House
                    825 Camino De La Reina, San Diego, CA 92108

                    1. re: cgfan

                      Ok, yes, Sushi Kaito is on our list. There's some flexibility to have adults-only meals (three adults, so rotational babysitting).

                      A couple questions...what's the cost for the omakase? And, does anyone know if there's been a disruption to their offerings due to the earthquake in Japan?

                      1. re: grandgourmand

                        Their Omakase will of course vary depending on what you end-up eating. For me I find it usually falls within the range of $50-70 before drinks. Having Sashimi as part of your course will tend to nudge the range a bit higher.

                        Great that you're interested in their Omakase, the only way to go to truly "get" Kaito. From observing many of their customers I find that invariably their meals tend to completely bypass a true Kaito experience as soon as they request a menu.

                        From the standpoint of the number of offerings, I have not sensed any disruptions since the quake. One can get an idea of this "first hand" by monitoring their Twitter feed of ingredient arrivals, though they don't post everyday -!/kaito_sushi

                        Keep in mind that Kaito gets deliveries from two major fish markets in Japan, so they're well-covered. Add to that deliveries from the east coast, the northwest Pacific, sometimes European waters and of course local or Santa Barbara Uni, they're well-covered.

                  2. Jaynes, Ritual Tavern, The Linkery, and URBN North Park all offer a great beer selection and are perfectly kid-friendly. Toronado is very cool, but unfortunately won't allow the little one in, so put it on your babysitter list. Cucina Urbana is more upscale, but also still manages to be casual. They have a make your own pizza thing for kids which really keeps them entertained.

                    Kings Fish house has a great oyster selection *most* of the time. I hate to give props to a chain restaurant when SD has so many fantastic local places. However, I have to say that they are so accomodating with little ones that it has become our go-to oyster place.

                    We take guests to George's Ocean Terrace for lunch, sometimes the food is meh and the service can be spotty, but if it's a nice day, you can't beat the view. Also, a nice splurge with a view is A.R. Valentien up in La Jolla.

                    3794 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

                    Ritual Tavern
                    4095 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

                    George's Ocean Terrace
                    1250 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA 92037

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: diningwithkids

                      Is Toronado not letting kids in a recent thing? I've seen plenty of kidlets there in the past.

                      1. re: Jenkay

                        I think after a certain time of day they don't let kids in.

                    2. Apologies, I've mistaken my location. I'll actually be in Mission Beach. We had been looking at a rental in Little Italy, and I assumed that's where we were still going (my wife does all the trip planning, I just map out where we eat).

                      Anyhow, the suggestions you've provided so far will still be useful. We've got a car, access to bikes, etc.

                      I've got a few more specific questions now...of note, I'd like to know a good spot for happy hour nearby. I've stumbled across a recommendation for South Beach Bar & Grille. Happy hour, with half-priced apps, fish tacos, etc...I love that stuff. Is that the kind of place you can bring a 2-year old? Obviously, we're not planning on staying until last call with the kid, but some places that are more adult-oriented can be accessible for families if you get started earlier in the day/evening.

                      Thanks for the Uni and oyster recommendations, I'll be all over that. I've only had Uni a few times and it was amazing. I imagine that it can only be better when it's so fresh.

                      Looking at the San Diego map on google, jeeze you guys sure have lots of parks. I'm really looking forward to the trip. 2 weeks away.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: grandgourmand

                        South Beach Bar & Grill in Ocean Beach can get a bit wild, not sure it's the appropriate place for a 2 y.o. at happy hour. Great view though. In the same general vicinty, tho', is Pizza Port with a pretty decent selectin of craft brews and decent pizza.

                        You'll be in beach communities during Spring Break, except some college craziness to ensure. I think you're going to have to do a little bit of exploration once you've arrived and settled in and then use your judgement as to what might work with your little one.

                        1. re: grandgourmand

                          I'm pretty sure South Beach is strictly 21+, so I don't think they would let your 2-year-old in.

                          1. re: Katherine H

                            Just noticed that on their website. Thanks. I'll probably check it out with my brother.