Staying at the Lodge at Torrey Pines, but transportationally challenged...
I am taking my two kids, 6 and 8, for a railroad-centric tour up the pacific coast (no rental car allowed). In the San Diego area, we are staying at the Lodge at Torrey Pines. I've been to Valentien before and had a good meal, but was wondering if there are places that would be worth hopping in a cab for that would suit better. My kids are relatively adventurous (we live in NYC), love all things Italian, are getting to know "california cuisine" better (whatever that really means). If there are places you would recommend given our special needs, it would be greatly appreciated. A place with some view of the water might be good, but wouldnt want to get sucked into a tourist trap just to see the Pacific. I have read posts about 1540, Market (probably too much, but not sure) and Trattoria Ponte Vecchio. Thanks
Trattoria Ponte Vecchio
2334 Carmel Valley Rd, Del Mar, CA 92014
If you take a cab to La Jolla Shores, there's Piatti, Barbarella, and a sushi place. There's also an olde SD tradition, the Cheese Shop, which has great sandwiches for a beach picnic and another hangout called Jeff's Burgers. None of them are stellar but it's a great area to walk, and there are shops the kids may like (Rusty, Surf Diva, and Ocean Girl) La Jolla Shores Beach is a few blocks away. Walking north on the beach, if the tides are right, you'll hit tidal pools and great rocks for climbing for the kids. IF you need a daytime idea. . .
2152 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037
Sounds like a great trip!
Definitely hit up the Torrey Pines gliderport, which is right down the street and around the corner from the Lodge (although you'd probably still want to hop a ride in the hotel van). Not that the food is outstanding, (but they do make a great BLT), it's just the setting is jaw-dropping and unique and your kids will probably be entranced by the guys with paragliders running down the grassy slope and jumping off the cliff over the Pacific, sailing out and circling back. Here's a link to the Cliff Hanger Cafe, where you can get a good sandwich and spend some time watching the action (try to go on a weekend when paragliders are out in full force especially with good wind) - http://www.flytorrey.com/cms/index.ph...
Also nearby, either by hotel van or rental car is Roberto's taco shop on Carmel Valley Rd, near the entrance to the parking lot for Torrey Pines State Beach (not the beachside parking but the parking lot which is across the lagoon). This is a classic super casual California taco stand with picnic tables outside, and while it's certainly not the best Mexican that the entire area has to offer, you can get a good carne asada burrito and other very casual Mexican food there and it's very close to your hotel. We live in Del Mar and have had many out-of-area visitors who insist on a stop at Roberto's after a morning of surfing. It's kind of an institution.
The closest village to your hotel is Del Mar with La Jolla Shores a close second in the opposite direction further south down the coast. Both have many good dining options.
You've already mentioned Kitchen 1540, which is our favorite special occasion place in Del Mar. Definitely try to go for lunch or dinner, but try to eat on the patio overlooking the pool and ocean before (or during) sunset.
For more casual fare, on Camino Del Mar (which is also Hwy 101) we go to Cafe Secret (around 12th St) for their good empanadas, Prepkitchen around 13th, I think (good organic, simple stuff but it's pricey and not really worth it when we take our whole family since I feel like we also cook in that style at home), and Americana on the corner of 15th and Camino Del Mar.
If we want to eat or have a drink at the beach, we go to Poseidon because the best thing about it is that you can eat on a patio/deck basically sitting on the beach. Food is fine, but not special. Jake's is another option next door on the beach, but with no outside seating it seems a little too insulated from the beach so if we're in the mood to eat at the beach, we definitely prefer Poseidon.
In the Del Mar plaza (at 15th St and Camino Del Mar, across from Kitchen 1540 at L'Auberge) our kids love Smashburger, which makes a good quality burger, has a lively, hip atmosphere and is an order-at-the-counter kind of place also serving some decent beer/wine. Has tables w/umbrellas outside on busy Camino Del Mar. Further west walking towards the beach, our kids also love to go to Del Mar Pizza and grab a slice to take to the beach. Very tasty basic pizza.
Heading the other way from your hotel, you can check out similar good options at either La Jolla Shores or the village of La Jolla, which is a little further. The Del Mar places are close enough (under 5 miles) so that the hotel van would probably drop you and pick you up, although I certainly don't know hotel policy on that.
Del Mar Pizza
211 15th St, Del Mar, CA 92014
1140 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014
The Lodge has a courtesy shuttle that will take you to the village in LJ..remember to tip.
Kids would love the LJ Shores for the beach, tidepools...Piatti's has great food.
Jeff's burgers is good after boogie boarding or the Cheese Shop.
Del Mar...Brigantine, Jake's Del Mar, Flavor, Kitchen 1540..
Glider Port is great and you can sometimes catch a tandem with the hang gliders..
Hiking next door at the stunning Torrey Pines reserve is a must...dolphins hang out at Black's.
Seals at Children's Cove and then a messy sundae at Sammy's Pizza is something the kids would love.
Jake's Del Mar
1660 Coast Blvd, Del Mar, CA 92014
The 101 bus route passes right by the Lodge. Taking the bus going north could be a nice car-free way to coast the PCH, and will expand your choices to Del Mar, Solana Beach, Cardiff-by-the-sea and Encinitas (about a 40 minute ride each way to Encinitas). Bull Taco in Cardiff is a local favorite and the ocean views cant be beat. Blue Ribbon Pizza or Q'ero further up in Encinitas are also good possibilities.
Agree that Q'ero is a very good option but would definitely avoid Bull Taco. We went there very recently for the first time after about a year and never felt before that it was anything exceptional but the last visit was just awful and only the nice view saved it but not the lousy food.