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May 19, 2011 10:07 AM

Can't Miss Eats in San Diego

I'm going on a family trip to San Diego the first week in June. There are seven of us coming from Manhattan, DC and Santa Fe. We'll have one baby on the trip, the rest of us are mid-twenties and older, several of us are moderate foodies, looking for the best San Diego has to offer!

I'd love suggestions for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. We are up for anything from local hole-in-the-wall spots to more upscale dinners, looking for a good mix!

We'll be staying in Mission beach for one week, will have cars and will probably travel to La Jolla and elsewhere.


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  1. Unfortunately, from a culinary standpoint, you're not staying in the best spot. Doubly unfortunately, any Manhattanites will probably be tough to impress.

    I think the things that we have here that do stand up to the best of other cities are the smaller, ethnic holes-in-the-wall, that offer food it's hard to find elsewhere.

    Super Cocina is a good breakfast or lunch option. Authentic homestyle Mexican cooking, with dishes from all over Mexico.

    You should probably also make sure to try mariscos (Mexican seafood) from one of the many taco trucks around town. Mariscos German's truck on University and 36th is probably the most accessible, but I prefer the Mariscos German Beyer truck on Imperial and 22nd. Either is good, though. Standard fish tacos are ok, but the gems are things like the marlin taco and the gobernador, or the cockteles, like the campechana.

    San Diego is home to a lot of great beer, so I'd suggest checking out a place like Blind Lady Ale House. People take babies there, and they have a really good beer selection. They make a lot of pizzas, but the pizza is just OK. Other food on the menu is better, like the cheese and charcuterie plates.

    Linkery is up in that same neighborhood, and has pretty good food and beer, and features locally sourced produce and all farm-raised meats from small ranchers. It's the closest thing we have here to the kind of place you might find in Williamsburg.

    3794 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

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

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

    Mariscos German
    3515 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104

    2 Replies
    1. re: Josh

      I second these recs, but let me add a few other things - first, even though we nitpick the various hole-in-the-wall Mexican taco shops around here, you cannot get a decent burrito in NYC (I tried once). So, take the time to swing by a taco shop while you're here and grab a carne asada burrito or rolled tacos. There are a half dozen or so places in Mission Beach that fit the bill. For us, a taco shop is similar to a pizzeria in New York and like NYC; and so some are good, some are so-so, some are awful, but all are better than what you'd find anywhere else.

      1. re: jmtreg

        Good point. There's actually a place in north PB called Los 2 Pedros that's a pretty good specimen, or at least it was when I lived there 10 years ago.

    2. In La Jolla, I love George's California Modern and Whisnladdle,

        1. Fine Dining:
          - Blanca - farm to table, tasting menus or $58 for 4 courses
          - Rancho Valencia - farm to table, (you'll need to call ahead to arrange a tasting menu)

          - Cowboy Star - steak
          - Kaito Sushi - best sushi, go omakase
          - Wine Vault

          - Cafe Chloe
          - Cavaillon - sunday brunch (assuming Chef Verpiand hasn't left yet)

          - In-N-Out
          - Super Cocina - mexican stews
          - Pizzeria Bruno Napoletano - Italian brick oven pizza
          - Mariscos Taco Trucks - mexican seafood tacos
          - Devilicious Food Truck - probably lunch only - you'll have to find where they are parked for the day
          - Craft Brewery Tours
          - make sure you go to at least Lost Abbey and Stone
          - Seersucker - (apparently I always spell this place wrong) If you're into Top Chef

          - Elizabethan Desserts - this is truly the good dessert place
          - Extraordinary Desserts - this place will be more convenient and more trendy (don't order anything besides cakes, ice creams, and coffee/tea though)

          4 Replies
          1. re: karaethon

            I would add Kitchen 1540, Georges, 9-10 for fine dining.
            For dinner I would add JSix, Cafe Chloe, Alchemy, Linkery, Starlite, Urban Solace (and I personally would drop Cowboy Star as it is a good steak house but nothing special with rather average appetizers and desserts and sides)
            For Extraordinary Desserts I would stay away from the ice creams, even though some of them are good, too many are just mediocre.

            1. re: honkman

              For breakfast I would add The Mission or Isabel's Cantina - they are both close, have great food, and are kid-friendly.

              For lunch I'd grab a sandwich, lemonade & oatmeal cookie at The Cheese Shop before hitting La Jolla Shores. They have a great playground there for your little one.

              Another lunch option closer to the San Diego Zoo is Mama Testa's for great tacos and a nice kid menu. My favorite tacos are the empapados (mashed potatoes) and my little ones love their bean & cheese tacos with a side of rice.

              Have a great vacation and remember to pack a sweater: it can be chilly here in June..

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

              1. re: melee

                Thank you all for the great suggestions!
                We ended up cooking more often than going out (it was trickier to coordinate the large group + baby than we had anticipated, and local produce was hard to resist), but we did have a few great meals!

                Breakfast at The Mission was delicious; I had the Soy Chorizo and Eggs, which were very tasty, I also had the Mexican Hot Chocolate, which was amazing.

                We did take-out from R-Gang Eatery one night, and most of the dishes were great. A couple of us went to pick it up and had drinks at the bar while we waited. I had "The Devil's Kiss" their amazing margarita with habanero infused 1800 silver tequila...perfectly tart with a hint of sweetness and just the right amount of kick from the habanero. I couldn't decide what to order, so the bar tender sold me on the Tuna Noodle Casserole with potato chip crusted seared ahi tuna over egg noodles with marsala cream sauce and veggies. This ended up being my least favorite dish; maybe its because we ordered it to go, but the "potato chip crust" was soggy and barely recognizable on the slices of over-cooked ahi. The cream sauce was pretty bland as well. I also ordered the melon, burrata and proscuitto salad, which was perfect, and tried bites of the other dishes, which were all pretty good (spiced scallops with couscous, shrimp and grits, burger and rosemary fries, monkey bread and orange rocket salad).

                We had a great breakfast at Cafe 976, which had perfect outdoor seating for our large group and rambunctious baby. I had the Spanish Oaxacan breakfast, all of the elements were good and well-seasoned, the corn tortillas were great. Everyone else was equally satisfied with their meals. I also had a Mexican hot chocolate which was not as good as The Mission's.

                For my last night, we finally made it to Alchemy and were very happy that we did! We all shared a bunch of the "street food" small plates, and a couple people ordered entrees (the roast chicken and the sea bass). The fried green tomatoes were great, I loved the cayenne remoulade, as were the elote, Tod Mun Pla and squash blossoms. The black garlic pad thai was good also, but I was hoping for something a bit more unique. I wasn't a huge fan of the Eggplant Involtini, but others loved it. I thought the lima beans and yellow tomatoes that came with the chicken were amazing. I had "The Keep's Pleasure" cocktail, fresh muddled strawberries, basil and lemon with vodka...delicious, refreshing, and not overly sweet.

                I only managed to make it out to a taco stand once on the first night after a few drinks...I think it was Sarah's next to The Beach Comber...the black bean tostada was amazing (but it could have been the Stone IPAs talking).

                We had a couple disappointing meals out of convenience as well...The Wave House on the boardwalk and Joe's Crab Shack...not places I'd normally pick, but sometimes you just have to follow the crowd. After those two meals the family opted to let me cook/pick restaurants for the rest of the trip.

                Cafe 976
                976 Felspar St, San Diego, CA 92109

                Wave House
                3125 Ocean Front Walk, San Diego, CA 92109

            2. For a "local" very casual spot in Pacific Beach try: PB Fish Shop. Lots of great seafood choices prepared in different ways. The fish counter is beautiful. It's not a huge place and the locals love it. Great for lunch or light dinner.
              For breakfast The Mission in Mission Beach is a fun spot with good choices for breakfast. Not sure where you are staying but you can prob walk there. Cafe Chloe is very good, also, but it's downtown.
              For a tad more upscale but very casual dinner with great atmosphere, Cucina Urbana is one of our favs. Great wine choices. It's on Fifth Street just north of downtown.
              Extraordinary deserts is wonderful. Coffee and desert, and it's worth it to just go peruse the beautiful cakes and other goodies in the cases. Beautiful work, great desert!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Swimmomonthego

                Welllllll, okay...the post is two years old, but excellent effort!

                1. re: deckape

                  My bad. So glad you pointed it out though.