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5 Nights in San Diego

My family of 4, 2 children under 5, will be in San Diego for 5 nights visiting family. We are staying in the Mission Valley area. The family we are visiting is clueless when it comes to restaurants.

We are looking for some kid friendly places (doesn't have to be Mission Valley area, but closer is better) that also are unique to San Diego and can provide us with some foods we don't get to eat on the East Coast. My family eats almost anything and we are always up for trying something new.

I've searched the board for Mission Valley restaurants, but don't have a feel for what's unique and relevant to San Diego.

Any suggestions would be extremely helpful. Thanks.

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  1. First, don't plan on eating in MV. It's a culinary wasteland.

    A short drive from MV, in Normal Heights, is Blind Lady Ale House. It's kid-friendly, and has a great lineup of local beers (something SD is justifiably famous for), plus pizzas, salads, and snack plates made w/ locally sourced produce. I would probably plan that for a night earlier in the week, near the weekend they get very busy.

    Super Cocina, in City Heights, has great homestyle Mexican food. There isn't really any other place like it in San Diego. It's very authentic food, and is kid-friendly too. Some people may try to dissuade you from going there because it's in a low-income neighborhood, but don't let that put you off. If you're from any big city in the US you'll wonder what the fuss is about.

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

    Blind Lady Ale House
    3416 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA

    1 Reply
    1. re: Josh

      Yes to Super Cocina, the food is excellent, the staff is friendly, they'll give you samples of anything they're serving, the prices are very reasonable and I feel at home in the 'hood.

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

    2. How about the Linkery ? I have seen kids in there a few times, the food is very good, not too expensive, unique for SD (the restaurant which started the farm-to-table movement in SD), has good beer and wine list

      1. Here are some kid friendly places

        In n out. Which kids don't love burgers and fries? There's an in n out next to the mission valley mall.

        Phil's BBQ near sports arena - Beware, line can get really long

        Corvette Diner in liberty station.

        Phil's BBQ
        3750 Sports Arena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110

        1. If you are interested in a good beer selection and need something near the hotel, San Diego Brewing Co. could work for you. Food is nothing special but it is very kid friendly, is in Mission Valley and they can usually seat a big party pretty quickly. They have 1/2 price appetizers for happy hour.

          Mama Testa's on University Ave in Hillcrest (near Balboa Park/Zoo) worked really well for us with a 1 and 2 year old recently. Great salsa bar and tacos. We had our own high chair with us and I can't recall if they had a booster, though.

          Definitely agree with Josh and Honkman's recommendations below (other than sending an East Coaster who wants food unique to SD for pizza :) ) Blind Lady may work better for a very early dinner or weekend lunch due to the crowds and the fact that you have to wait for people to get up and take their table rather than being seated.

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

          San Diego Brewing Co
          10450 Friars Rd Ste L, San Diego, CA 92120

          1. Ricky's Coffee Shop in Mission Valley for some of the best apple pancakes..
            Bully's East for cheeseburger and Prime Rib
            JV's taco chop in Linda Vista
            Bay Park Fish Company for great fish tacos happy hour kid friendly.
            In and Out for double doubles
            Point Loma Seafood

            1 Reply
            1. re: Beach Chick

              2nd Ricky's and 3rd In and Out
              as one Chowhounder put it many years ago, Mission Valley is one of Dante's Circles of Hell for a Chowhounder.

            2. Thank you all for your suggestions. What about if we ventured out a little further? Any can't miss places unique to San Diego where I can take my kids? We eat early.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Phillyfan77

                The Shores restaurant in La Jolla is oceanfront and very kid friendly..the food is decent and the kids can play afterwards in the sand and you can take a nice stroll up to the tidepools.
                George's at the Cove in LJ but I would suggest the ocean terrace...casual and ocean view.


                1. re: Phillyfan77

                  Can't call it unique, but since outstanding Sushi is always left to at but a few restaurants anywhere, there's Kaito Sushi in Encinitas. Much written up on these boards if you're so inclined.

                  However there is a "unique" San Diego angle to a Sushi rec. San Diego, along with Santa Barbara, are both renowned for their Uni. (Though Maine has some excellent, but much less publicized, Uni as well...)

                  Also if you're around on a Saturday, the Little Italy Mercato (farmer's market - S.D.'s best, I'd say) has a vendor that sells live Uni (and live oysters too) to either eat there or take home.

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

                  1. re: Phillyfan77

                    As you've found out, Mission Valley isn't exactly a hotbed of delightful dining.

                    With kids in mind:
                    Mission Valley
                    Corner Bakery
                    King's Fish House
                    Gordon Birsch
                    Sorry, it's mostly chains, but MV is dominated by 2 large shopping malls and office buildings

                    Up the hill (i.e. go south on 163 to 6th Ave. exit, the first one)
                    Pizzaria Bruno
                    Gulf Cost
                    Cafe on Park
                    Mama Testa
                    Tres Porcellinis
                    Burger Lounge
                    And in that general vicinity
                    Park House Eatery
                    Eclipse Chocolate

                    Little Italy and surrounding area
                    Blue Water Grill
                    Mona Lisa
                    Pete's Meats (for to go sandwiches)

                    Beach areas (PB to OB)
                    Isabel Cantina (or Cantina Isabel)
                    World Famous
                    Lotsa Pasta
                    The Fishery
                    Andres (Cuban)
                    Point Loma Seafood
                    Tender Greens (in Liberty Station) (one of my site supervisors takes his 3 kids under the age of 6 there regularly)
                    Corvette Diner, also in Liberty Station
                    Con Pane in Liberty Station.
                    Elegant Truffle, stop in and get the chocolate covered caramels, truly a treat
                    Shades (in OB faces the ocean)
                    Oretgas (on Newport in OB)
                    Nati's (on Bacon in OB)

                    Univeristy Ave. Corridor
                    Super Cocina
                    El Comal
                    The Mission (breakfast/lunch place)
                    Urban Solace (dine early)
                    The Linkery (dine early)
                    Heaven Sent if you need a sugar fix
                    Caffe Calabria if you need a cafeine fix

                    If you are in Balboa Park the food pickin's are pretty slim. The primary sit-down restaurant is The Prado. Drinks and apps are good and large enough to share. The main patio off the dining room is beautiful.

                    Truly, most places are going to be fairly welcoming to your children, especially if you eat early (i.e. before 6 pm) and they are reasonably well behaved.

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

                    3794 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

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

                    Urban Solace Restaurant
                    3823 30th Street, San Diego, CA 92104

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

                    King's Fish House
                    5625 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008

                    Lotsa Pasta
                    1762 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109

                    World Famous
                    3625 Dalbergia St, San Diego, CA 92113

                    El Comal
                    262 3rd Ave, Chula Vista, CA 91910

                    Tender Greens
                    2400 Historic Decatur Rd, San Diego, CA 92106

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

                    Corner Bakery Cafe
                    1025 Camino De La Reina Ste 3, San Diego, CA 92108

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      Just wanted to add that Caffe Calabria is now extending into the evening hours on Fridays and Saturdays with light Mediterranean fare and wine, along with their coffee service. (They'll also throw in a slice of pizza gratis for now, that is until they are copacetic with the powers that be...)

                      I just returned from having a light meal built around nothing more than an antipasti plate. That's the first time in a long time that I truly felt Stateside that I could've been in Mediterranean Europe, where one doesn't have to feel guilty about enjoying a light meal built out of nothing more than a couple of well-sourced items from the Mediterranean pantry... (...not to mention the delight of it being capped with a well-pulled espresso...)

                      Good; honest; unpretentious... Yum!

                      1. re: cgfan

                        How long are they open ? 11pm ?

                        1. re: honkman

                          Yes, their new evening service starts from 4 pm -11 pm...

                          At 4 pm their cafe continues to run but one would enjoy their coffee drinks in the lounge area in the rear, while the front transitions into their dining area. Not sure if there'll be a break in cafe service before 4 pm in order to make the transition.

                          I think this'll cause some confusion until they turn their rear entrance into a dedicated cafe entrance.

                    2. re: Phillyfan77

                      IN MV, Kings fish house. It's a chain, but decent food and extremely accomdating to kids.
                      2nd on The Shores being kid-friendly. One step up is Marine Room, which is kid-friendly if you go early. A bit further north is A.R. Valentien which has mostly fantastic food and being a hotel dining room, is fine for kids.

                      The Linkery, on which I am luke-warm, is beloved by my kids. They love the fresh pasta dishes, octopus dish, seasonal fresh veggie starters, and they have a great kids burger. Unique because of the high-proportion of locally sourced ingredients.

                      Cucina Urbana also gets mixed reviews, but I love the vibe and energy in there (be sure to make reservations) and Mr. DWK and I can enjoy some great wine while the kids make their own pizzas at the table.

                      Station Tavern in South Park. This is a bar/restaurant with a fenced in patio with playground. Food is average to decent, but they have a great beer selection and would offer you a cool local neighborhood experience away from the touristy stuff.

                      As far as things unique to San Diego, try one of the Marisco's trucks. Borrow some lawn chairs from your family and head to the one on 35th and University, about 10 minutes from MV. Alternately, Super Cocina is nearby. Most of the guesas are too spicy for my kids, but they also have carnitas which they adore in tacos.

                      3794 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

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

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

                    3. Try Okan on convoy, if you go early, it is easy to get a good seat for 4. Great food, made with lots of love. I'm pretty sure you don't have anything like this in philly.