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Jun 2, 2011 05:24 PM

Anxious about 1st trip and looking for advice

I'm planning a solo trip for September and will be staying at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. What I'm hoping for is some suggestions for casual places within walking distance that have a bar where I won't stick out when I'm dining alone. I would love to try Dungeness Crab, Abalone or local fish. Coming from Boston, I appreciate good seafood. I also absolutely love anything spicy and I'm open to trying any ethnic cuisene. I understand that my post is somewhat vague, and I have done some searching on the boards (trying to do my research) but am really hoping that someone out there will help to get me focused. What do you think?

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  1. First of all relax :-). San Diego is very relaxed and no one will care if you're dining alone or not and the area you're going to be in is pretty safe. You'll be able to get around downtown on foot or by using the downtown trolley loop.

    I don't think we'll be in Dungeness season in Sept.

    9 Replies
    1. re: DiningDiva

      Thanks. I've never visited and wasn't sure what to expect. Disappointed about the Dungeness but that's okay. When is the season?

      1. re: DiningDiva

        I believe crab season runs Nov through July. In San Diego most of the crabs caught locally are yellow or brown rock crab and spider crab though about 1% of the local catch is the rare southern strain of dungeness so while they are rare locally they are found. About three years ago I went out in April with some friends on a friend's boat and in addition to a boat load of tuna and dorado we caught about ten crabs (five large spiders, four yellow rock crabs, and one dungeness). The shell on the spider crab is too thick to bother with unless it is an exceptionally large crab (that is you have to break a lot of very thick shell to get not a lot of meat) but the rock crabs have a ton of meat in the large claws while the dungeness crab is ALWAYS a treat.

        In season you can usually even find the odd local dungeness crab sold at places like Point Loma Seafoods where they buy them directly from local fishermen. Prices for the locally caught stuff are high but if you don't absolutely have to have local then you can usually buy crab caught in northern California.

        1. re: oerdin

          Thanks so much. Next trip I'll plan around the season. Here in the Boston area, I'm used to being able to get Maine crab pretty much year round. Do you have any recommendations for a good place to stop for a glass of wine and some oysters?

          1. re: Pegmeister

            Pegmeister, you should make a very early stop at the Fish Market for your requested oysters and wine. It's a 7 minute walk from your hotel--ask anyone at your hotel for direction. it starts getting real crowded there around 5 PM, so go before that if you want a little elbow room. Check out the full menu, as it is extensive and everything is very fresh. Much of the seafood is grilled over mesquite, a preparation you probably don't find too often in Boston. The Fish Market is not mentioned much here because it's perceived to be a tourist spot, but it will nicely satisfy your initial needs.

            Our Little Italy is a 12 minute walk from your hotel. It won't compare with your Italian nighborhoods in Boston, but there are some nice spots to visit there, including Solunto Bakery for an inexpensive breakfast and Mona Lisa, which is a market and restaurant.

            If you want to see the Gaslamp District, it's about a 10 minute walk from your hotel. I wouldn't necessarily plan on eating there unless you find a place that looks appealing. Oceanaire is upscale and serves seafood; it also has a very nice Oyster Bar that I'm sure would suit you.

            I can't think of any really spicy food nearby that I'd recommend. I love it too, and usually get my fix at hole in the wall Mexican joints that just aren't nearby nor in meighborhoods a solo female diner would feel comfortable. I like Barrio Star for slightly upscale Mexican cuisine; it's a few miles away and a pretty easy cab ride.

            San DIego, CA, San DIego, CA

            1. re: mcgrath

              Hey mc..
              Too bad there isn't a place like Jalousie Plantation in St. Lucia in SD..
              ; )

              1. re: Beach Chick

                No.. you weren't in St. Lucia were you?

                1. re: cstr

                  Beach Chick recommended this spot to me in St. Lucia on another board and she was spot on.

                  1. re: mcgrath

                    Thanks mcgrath!
                    It's a wonderful place and I'm so glad you listened to me..snorkeling between the Pitons is incredible.

                    peg..the mariscos german seafood truck is so good and different than what you get in BOS.

        2. Coming from BOS, you'll experience different seafood, some excellent sushi and if you like Mex marisco's some of the best ever. Also, we have some excellent food trucks but, nothing like a Neptune. How many days are you going to be in SD? If you like places like Highlan Kitchen, you may want to get to Jaynes Gastropub or Hamilton Tavern. SD has some great craft beers to taste.

          1. Gosh, love if we could get a Neptune's here in SD, that would be so sweet..

            You'll be fine on dining alone and SD is a very relaxed, great vibe.

            September is one of the best months to visit with warm weather and ocean temps too.

            You can hit up the Oyster Bar at the Fish Market downtown or the outside patio...have a drink and some steamers, chowder..sushi bar is quite good too.

            Roy's has some decent Hawaiian fusion and coming from BOS, that could be great for you...SD Marriott down the way from the Manchester Grand.

            You can take the water taxi over to Coronado and have drinks and app's at Candela's..

            Great way to enjoy the view and the waterfront.

            I'm sure others will chime in on the spicy ethnic..



            5 Replies
            1. re: Beach Chick

              Thanks so much for all the great suggestions. The Fish Market definitely sounds like a place I would like. We have an Oceanaire in Boston which is great, but guess I want something more local. I will be there for 8 days so I'll have time to try a fair amount of places. The German seafood truck sounds like it would be perfect as well. It's so funny to hear people comment about Neptune. It is well loved in Boston and with good reason. I'm making up a list from your recommendations and will do some further research.

              San DIego, CA, San DIego, CA

              1. re: Pegmeister

                I guess we should ask if you're going to have a car or not. If not, how much are you willing to spring for on a taxi and will you do rapid transit? If you're relying solely on foot power and the trolley to get around downtown we'd better start limiting our suggestions to that area!

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  Probably will not rent a car. When visiting an area for the first time, I really prefer walking, have no problem spending money on a cab and would not shy away from public transport. Please don't limit recommendations because I'm prepared to pay for cab fare. The way I figure it, I would spend $$$ for car rental for a week and if I spend $$$$$ for a trip here and there I'm still ahead. I'm totally intrigued about food trucks. Boston has been lacking in this area. Last summer they started allowing the trucks in and this year they issued a number of licenses so we'll see. This is my first solo trip in quite awhile and I just want to regroup and enjoy what SD has to offer. I'm also pretty low maintenance, here at home I love local dive bars with a good burger as much as a high end place. I also tend to eat out quite early, 5:00 is not unusual for me. My experience has been that the earlier dining time generally gives you the opportunity to take your time and not worry about people waiting for a table to turn over.

                2. re: Pegmeister

                  The Manchester Grand is a lovely hotel... I've stayed there several times for business. On a non-food related topic: ask for a room with the "good" view of the bridge. It's really beautiful if you're on a higher floor.

                  I second Beach Chick's rec to head over to Coronado for a day. There's some good food and snacking to be found over there. And at the least, the vibe is great and very unique to SD. It's not what you asked for, but they have wonderful cafes for lunch, ice cream, and sweets.

                  As for SD itself, the layout of downtown is kind of confusing to an "outsider" like myself, but ethnic restaurants are easy to find by neighborhood. Eat some burritos! SD is famous for them. If you like Mexican, you will probably be in heaven.

                  Hope you enjoy your trip! The staff at the Manchester are super accomodating with directions, maps, and calling cabs. I've never had a bad stay there. There are a few restaurants in the hotel which are often full, but I've only had breakfast at the cafes, which was decent (coffee, fresh fruit, pastries).

                  1. re: nothingswrong

                    Thank you. I love Mexican and Boston is sorely lacking in good choices. I've added Coronado to my to do list as well. Please know I appreciate all the responses, and while my vacation is not until September, I promise to report back on all my experiences. Posters on this board have been extremely accomodating.

              2. I live outside of San Diego and used to live in Providence. If your main interest is seafood, you may be disappointed. Compared to New England, I have really not found comparable seafood here that has the same flavor you get from the cold waters of the Atlantic. That said, there is all kinds of wonderful food in San Diego, especially Asian and Mexican, that you're not likely to find in Boston so I would recommend focusing on that. (Sorry if I offended anyone, just my opinion.)

                21 Replies
                1. re: escondido123

                  ES123 glad to see you posting on your home board :-). Don't worry about offending anyone, most of the regulars here would agree with your statement. Even tho' the waters off California are, in general, cold, the fish here and the approach to it is different, which is probably appropriate.

                  Comparisons to what we're used to are easy, as long as the OP keeps an open mind to trying different seafood and different preparations, she should be okay, no?

                  1. re: escondido123

                    I live in San Diego (north county coastal) but I'm also originally from New England (grew up in CT, went to school in Boston, worked/lived for 20 yrs in NYC), so I wholeheartedly agree that the seafood is not comparable here. Especially this time of year, I crave a plain steamed lobster with lemon and butter, or a great lobster roll, or steamers, or littlenecks on the halfshell, or...oh, I better not go on or I'll cry!

                    BUT, there are a few seafood dishes that I think we do better in San Diego than in New England. For one, although I had several favorite sushi spots in NYC, I have never found anyplace in the U.S. better than Kaito, in Encinitas, which is about 20 miles north of downtown San Diego. The downside is that it would be a hefty cab fare to get there from where you'll be staying. The other type of seafood to sample in San Diego is the type found at Marisco's German truck, which was already mentioned. Wonderful fish tacos, shrimp tacos, ceviche and soup. There are other Marisco's locations that others can chime in on, but I love the truck on University around 35th.

                    Personally, if I were still living on the east coast but visiting SD, I'd skip places like Pt Loma Seafood and maybe even Fish Market since you can get similar fish that's at least as good in Boston. Fish Market does have a nice sushi bar and a great view from up top, but other than that, for a purely seafood experience, it's not as unique as either Marisco's or Kaito.

                    1. re: carli

                      I tend to gravitate towards seafood always, but like the idea that the warmer waters will produce a different type of seafood. I can have Maine lobsters every day at home if I want to but I am looking for a different experience. So far, I'm thinking the Fish Market for oysters and wine and mesquite cooked fish; fish or shrimp tacos at Mariscos German Seafood Truck and while Roy's looks interesting, their website feels like it would be more formal than I am looking for? I also think I need to make time to take the water taxi over to Coronado. Now, I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions for a good burrito within walking distance of the hotel, or I'm assuming that Old Town isnt too far; cab ride 10 - 15 minutes?

                      Mariscos German
                      3515 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104

                      1. re: Pegmeister

                        You'll like the Marisco's truck, in the same area just a few block up from Univ & 35th, is Super Cocina, excellent authentic Mex stews and other slow cooked dishes. They give tastes of anything they're serving, at least a dozen or so dishes. That's one BOS can touch. They recently added their website.

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

                        1. re: Pegmeister

                          Hey Peg..

                          Knowing BOS seafood which I frigging jones for every moment of the day vs. native SD chicka with seafood here that is different but just as good and in some ways better because I love the way it incorporates with the Mex vibe.

                          Fish Market, I wouldn't do the sit down restaurant....only the O-Bar, Sushi, bar or outside bayfront patio for kumamoto's oyster (clean, small) glass of wine and maybe some cheesy bread..

                          Marisco's German truck in a dirt lot in front of the liquor store is so good..sitting with others at the plastic table making yummy sounds is a wonderful thing.

                          Roy's is casual and it's Hawaiian fusion and though Roy's are better in the islands, the Hawaiian fish selection of Butterfish, Onaga, Ahi with tons of veggies, gives you another perspective of seafood that is out of the box from BOS.

                          I wouldn't wear Daisy Dukes and a Red Sox tube top.. ; )

                          To me, nothing like a baseball cut of fresh Ahi, seared rare and dunk with a little soy and wasabi...

                          You want to hit up El Pescador in LJ for a fish sandwich of sea bass or grilled scallop at Point Loma Seafood...

                          Fish tacos are unique to SD and you can walk over to Tin Fish next to Petco which is decent..Brigantine has some of the best fish tacos for their everyday happy hour and they have one in Coronado..

                          I would try and rent a bike once you take the water taxi over and cruise around the quaint island....they have segway rentals too.

                          Make sure you walk through the famous Hotel Del Coronado..maybe have a drink and soak it all in.

                          1. re: Beach Chick

                            OMG you gave me such a good laugh, daisy dukes and a Red Sox tube top!! That would not be a pretty picture. I'm interested in the Hotel Del Coronado as that was one of the places I thought about staying but then decided the Hyatt was a better location. Now tell me what is barramundi like. That's not something you would see on a menu in Boston, we do, however, frequently, have kumamotos at Neptune and I like them even better than our local Island Creeks.

                            1. re: Pegmeister

                              I've had barramundi while in Sydney and its a very popular fish and from what I recall, it tasted like sea bass.
                              If you go to Roy's, they'll have fishes that you won't see in BOS and that is why I suggested you go, plus, it's next door to your hotel..
                              If they have Butterfish, I would get that..outstanding.
                              Kumamoto oysters are some of my fave's..clean, small and delicious.
                              Head over to Dobson's in the Gaslamp for some of the best mussel bisque en croute that is so fab..

                              1. re: Beach Chick

                                Roy's is definitely back on the list now that I see how close it is, and that it's not as formal as I thought. I'll need to keep an open mind about the butterfish and give it a try. When I googled it, the fish was described as oily which is not usually my choice, but I'm open to giving it a go. Dobson's looks pretty comfortable and I love mussels, also was intrigued with the crab hash I saw on the menu. I'm really getting a nice list together thanks to everyone on this board.

                                1. re: Pegmeister

                                  I just had butterfish in the islands and I wouldn't qualify it as 'oily' but super you get lots of fresh Ahi in BOS?

                                  Hawaiian fusion with the fresh fish and the veggies will give you a whole another take on seafood..they'll steer you at Roy's in the right direction what is fresh.

                                  For me, nothing like fresh Ahi seared rare..Dobson's is great bar dining and that mussel bisque has this puff pastry and they dash in the sherry and with a glass of wine and some sourdough bread is so good..

                                  Basic for pizza is excellent and they have a wonderful happy hour.

                                  Check out the Padres baseball schedule since it gets really busy in the Gaslamp at the bars and restaurants..

                                  It's a great ballpark and you can get a park pass for $7 and though it doesn't include a seat, you can cruise around and they have lots of great promotions.

                                  Rooftop bars at the Marriott across from Petco Park is a fun time during games and you get the vibe of SD.

                                  Jsix at the Hotel Solamar is one of my fave's for rooftop drinks and app's.

                                  Cafe Chloe in East Village for French bistro food that is quite good..lunch or dinner.

                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                    Thanks for the tip on the Padres schedule. I'm really starting to get a good vision on location etc. It's the same here for the Fenway Park area. By the way if you haven't been it's a wonderful ball park. I'm definitely going to give butterfish a try. Ahi is very big here in Boston and is on almost every menu in the city, although I'll say that few really get it right. I'm also totally sold on Roys. Given that I'll be there for 8 days I am really excited about all the options. In case I get tired of seafood, which is probably unlikely, what do you recommend for a place to stop for steak? I did check out the menu for Cafe Chloe and it is totally different from anything here in Boston, however, it does look like I would probably need a reservation.

                                    Cafe Chloe
                                    721 9th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

                                  2. re: Pegmeister

                                    I have a Roys restaurant close by work and have used it several times for business dinners and was happy that I didn't have to pay with my own money as the food is average at best for quite high prices. Also I often think when visiting a new city is best to visit restaurants which have some relationship to the city. Roys is a big chain with many different locations throughout the US and has nothing "San Diego specific". You have many other interesting restaurants reasonable close by which have a much stronger SD connections - Cafe Chloe (French bistro but serving their dishes with a California twist. Menu is constantly changing and the online normnally outdated. They don't take reservation but it's relatively easy to find a table or a place at the bar), JSix (inside a hotel but far from hotel food. Chef Graves is one of the chefs in SD which takes farm-to-table very serious and can do great things with a few local ingredients), Cowboy Star (most likely the best steak house in SD). If you are willing to spend some money for a cab, restaurants like Linkery, Alchemy, Urban Solace, Starlite offer very good options.

                                    1. re: honkman

                                      Agree with Honkman re: Roy’s as a chain (corporate menu; Roy won’t be there), but like Beach Chick said, they prepare things you won’t find back in Boston, and it’s good (although I’ve never eaten at the Roy’s downtown), just not exceptional or localized to San Diego. Btw butterfish is oily, but in a good way, like black cod (silky with delicate flavor). It’s not overpowering, like bluefish is.

                                      Blue Water Seafood on India St. is a possibility for fresh fish with a local flavor. Simple preparations, and it’s very casual. No view, possible long line (unfortunately, it’s been featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives). Short trolley ride on orange and blue lines to Washington St. station from your hotel, and a short walk up the hill to India St., or reasonably short cab ride.

                                      Speakin’ of the Padres, your visit might coincide with a block party in the East Village neighborhood (right next to Petco Park), if the Pads are in town on the Friday you’re here (they’re only out of town on 9/9), which could mean several food trucks (not necessarily seafood) and good local beer in the same location. There was a party there last September and a rockin’ one on home opening day this year. Check online before your visit to see if there’ll be a party.

                                      Blue Water Seafood
                                      3667 India St, San Diego, CA 92103

                                      1. re: beantowntitletown

                                        I'm thinking Roy's may be a good option on the day I arrive. After a six hour flight, I'll probably be a bit of a slug and won't venture far. I've made a note to check out the Padres schedule and have lots of homework to do with checking out the websites of spots I'm interested in. Just wondering if anyone has experienced the "Dinner with Six Strangers" at Alchemy?

                                        1. re: Pegmeister

                                          I would encourage you to try Dinner with Six Strangers. I know a couple of people that have gone and enjoyed it immensely. Alchemy is worth the cab ride from downtown whether you do the special dinner or not.

                                        2. re: beantowntitletown

                                          I was at Opening Day with the Food Truck parade with Stone Pale and it was a blast!

                                          They have that every Pad home game?

                                          Each Roy's is different, and the one in HNL that I just dined at was on par with some of the best restaurants in HNL...this is one of the Roy's where you'll find Roy sometimes behind the scenes..unless, he's hitting the drums.

                                          Haven't been in awhile to the SD location but I think Peg will really enjoy the Hawaiian fusion that is not available in BOS..

                                          Cafe Chloe has a bar to sit and dine, imho, is better since the chairs are horridly uncomfortable!

                                          Cowboy Star has a Fried Chicken Sunday that I hear is off the chain..

                                        3. re: honkman

                                          Nothing like the Roy's in Berlin...

                                      2. re: Beach Chick

                                        Back at Roy's for lunch today. The outside bar works out perfectly. I'll admit to being somewhat apprehensive about ordering butterfish, but decided I really needed to get outside my zone, so I ordered the trio, which had ahi tuna, salmon and butterfish. As it turns out I liked the butterfish the best. The sauce had soy and there was a bit of a spicy kick. I didn't find the fish to be oiley which is what I feared, and it did have a somewhat fatty texture which was foreign to me. I liked it. Thanks for the suggestion. Tomorrow, I'm heading to Coronado, and think I'll just wing it and go with what looks interesting.

                                        1. re: Pegmeister

                                          On Coronado for lunch you might check out Burger Lounge for a grass fed burger, Candelas for upscale Mexican, Tartine for quiches and the Coronado Brewing Co. for brews.

                                          For views, Sheerwater in the Hotel del Coronado is okay, Candelas will have a view from the bay side. There are more restaurants in the complex where Candelas is, but none I'd recommend based solely on the food. Il Fornaio is good for what it is, a chain Italian place, I do love their breads, but fair to middling food. For really casual in the Ferry Landing there is a Greek gyro place and a bbq place that are both okay as well, but the views are great, looking back to downtown.

                                          1106 1st St, Coronado, CA 92118

                                          1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA 92118

                                          Il Fornaio
                                          1333 1st St, Coronado, CA 92118

                                          1. re: scottca075

                                            I found myself in Coronado very early in the day, so I ended up having lunch in Old Town at Cafe Coyate. Chicken with a cream sauce (jalepenos) on rice and fresh tortillas was quite good, especially the tortillas. I did see the burger place in Coronado and wondered about it. I'm sure by the end of the week I'll be looking for something other than seafood. That said I know I'll end up going back to Fish Market for more of their uni. It's funny I look at the original title of my post and now don't know why I was so anxious. San Diego is very easy to get around and I've met a lot of nice people.

                              2. re: escondido123

                                One type of local seafood that OP should not miss is the outstanding uni (sea urchin) harvested from local waters. Jeffrey Steingarden calls it the best in the world.

                                1. re: Ed Dibble

                                  I love uni. At home I use it to make a sauce for lobster ravioli. I'll be sure to give it a try when I'm there.

                              3. Another question, In general how necessary is it to make a reservation? Here at home as long as you plan on dining before 6:00 you can pretty much walk in without reservation even in the very busy North End restaurants.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Pegmeister

                                  At that time of day, you should be fine, especially the casual places and during Happy Hour. The exception, Cafe Chloe.

                                  Cafe Chloe
                                  721 9th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101