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Gaslamp Quarter in SD...need recommendations from foodies!

b
bkitty Oct 4, 2011 09:11 PM

My husband and I are staying in the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego this weekend (10/6-10/9), and we are looking for restaurants that local foodies recommend (we like to think we are "foodies"...though the definition of a foodie can vary greatly). We are there for a wedding, and from my research, I understand it is pretty touristy. We won't have a car, but are willing to walk a few miles and cab further if necessary. We love great craft beer and locally sourced food. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Cheers!

  1. honkman Oct 4, 2011 10:42 PM

    JSix, Cafe Chloe

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

    JSix Restaurant
    616 J Street, San Diego, CA 92101

    1 Reply
    1. re: honkman
      b
      bkitty Oct 6, 2011 11:13 AM

      Having a a gathering at JSix on Saturday night...looking forward to it:) Menu looks great! Thanks!

      -----
      JSix Restaurant
      616 J Street, San Diego, CA 92101

    2. b
      Beach Chick Oct 5, 2011 06:41 AM

      Jsix at the Hotel Solamar
      Grant Grill at the US Grant hotel
      Cafe Chloe
      Cowboy Star
      Fish Market sushi bar/oyster bar
      Basic for pizza

      www.gaslamp.org

      2 Replies
      1. re: Beach Chick
        b
        bkitty Oct 6, 2011 11:12 AM

        Awesome, thanks Beach Chick!! Will definitely hit up a few of those.

        1. re: Beach Chick
          b
          bkitty Oct 6, 2011 11:14 AM

          Awesome, thanks for all the suggestions Beach Chick:)

        2. s
          sbs401 Oct 5, 2011 07:06 AM

          Not a local but recently had tasty good Mexican food and drinks at
          La Puerta in the heart of gaslamp
          560 4th Avenue
          San Diego, CA 92101-6905

          -----
          La Puerta
          560 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

          1. j
            JRSD Oct 5, 2011 07:46 AM

            Neighborhood, Monkey Paw or Downtown Johnny Brown's for craft beer. I like the food at Neighborhood (especially the chorizo corn dogs) but wouldn't recommend it at Johnny Browns. Havent eaten at Monkey Paw, but I generally like the food at 2 of the owner's other bars - Hamiltons and Small Bar.

            I have also recently had a couple of good meals at Quality Social.

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

            3 Replies
            1. re: JRSD
              scottca075 Oct 5, 2011 04:43 PM

              Not that locally sourced, but Roy's Restaurant in the Marriott Marquis is quite good with a great view and setting.

              There is also Acqua Al 2 Ristorante for Italian, Candelas for upscale Mesican, although I like their Coronado location better, Rama A Thai Restaurant by Celadon and The Hopping Pig for some interesting craft beers.

              -----
              Acqua Al 2 Ristorante
              322 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101

              1. re: scottca075
                b
                bkitty Oct 6, 2011 11:20 AM

                The Hopping Pig looks right up our alley! Thanks for all the suggestions:)

              2. re: JRSD
                b
                bkitty Oct 6, 2011 11:11 AM

                Checked out Neighborhood last night! Loved it!! Planning on checking out Downtown Johnny Brown's today:)

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

              3. s
                srk Oct 6, 2011 11:36 AM

                Haven't been there, but this seems like it might fit your criteria:

                http://knottybarrel.com/

                Also, Proper Gastropub may work, too.

                1. El Chevere Oct 14, 2011 09:22 AM

                  I generally steer people away from the Gaslamp, and I live nearby (i.e. overpriced tourist trap with mediocre quality, predominantly chain--either national or local groups...i.e. think Fisherman's Wharf--if you're visiting SF is that going to be your first choice for food destinations???), but there are a couple of old reliable places you can get good meals at....places I would recommend--from a food perspective--are Dobsons (think old school--mussel bisque is their signature appetizer), Athens Market (Greek), Salvatores (good Italian, decor not my style) and Sadaf (Persian)....off the Gaslamp I do like Cowboy Star (steak). I also like the quality of food at Grant Grill inside the US Grant Hotel.

                  30 Replies
                  1. re: El Chevere
                    scottca075 Oct 15, 2011 06:51 PM

                    I think that criticism of the Gaslamp/Downtown was justified five or six years ago, but not any more. There are more than enough good places (Athens Market not being one unless they were just of the night I went) for someone who is staying in the area to get a pretty decent meal.

                    1. re: scottca075
                      Josh Oct 15, 2011 09:12 PM

                      I think that's only true if you lump the East Village in with the Gaslamp. Technically, the Gaslamp ends at 6th Ave., and I can't think of any noteworthy place to eat there.

                      I do agree that the East Village has some legitimately decent places to eat, though.

                      1. re: Josh
                        El Chevere Oct 16, 2011 07:58 AM

                        I should have added Donovans is good for steak (though I prefer Cowboy Star in E. Village). I live downtown in the nearby Marina district and usually find myself getting in my car when I want a very god meal.

                        1. re: Josh
                          scottca075 Oct 16, 2011 08:28 AM

                          And I disagree, while not my favorite JSix does a nice job, so does the Grant Grill, Quarter Kitchen, Bice - San Diego, Candelas, Escape Fish Bar, Chophan, Searsucker, Currant Brasserie, Donovan's and Cafe 21..... to name a few. Whether or not if you like them personally, they are all restaurants that have very good food, some creative dishes and I don't think any of them were in the Gaslamp more than five or six years ago.

                          There are also the spots like La Puerta, Las Hadas, The Lincoln Room, the Marble Room and Vin De Syrah that are putting out good food in drinking spots. Again, none of these places existed in the Gaslamp five years ago, not even three years ago really, and it is a good thing that the quality has gone way up in the Gaslamp and continues to go up.

                          -----
                          JSix Restaurant
                          616 J Street, San Diego, CA 92101

                          Marble Room
                          535 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101

                          La Puerta
                          560 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

                          Searsucker
                          611 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

                          1. re: scottca075
                            Josh Oct 16, 2011 10:15 AM

                            The ones in your list I've eaten at are OK, but not remarkable.

                            If I wanted to be impressed by a meal in the Gaslamp, of the places you listed above, which would you recommend most and why?

                            1. re: Josh
                              scottca075 Oct 16, 2011 06:23 PM

                              Chophan for many of their dishes, but especially the lamb shanks, Donovan's for a bone-in rib eye that I like better than Cowboy Stars rib eye, the cheese and salumi bar at BICE, the duck at QuarterKitchen, any of the appetizers at Escape.....

                              And I am not saying that the Gaslamp is THE place to go for San Diego's best culinary experiences, but neither is it a place to avoid like it was say ten years ago.

                              1. re: scottca075
                                El Chevere Oct 16, 2011 07:40 PM

                                The bar was set pretty low at the Gaslamp and it's true there are many more offerings now than in the past, but I'm still a quality guy not a quantity guy. I guess my lithmus test is if I moved away or if I lived elsewhere but frequented San Diego is there a restaurant in the Gaslamp that would have my mouth salivating in anticipation of an upcoming visit as, for example, a Peter Luger or Metropolitan Grill steak does on visits to NY or Seattle or a Delfina does on a trip to SF or aVij's does on a trip to Vancouver....the answer is no, but perhaps my standards are high and/or I travel more frequently and have more exposure to these and other places than the average bear.

                                1. re: El Chevere
                                  scottca075 Oct 18, 2011 12:43 PM

                                  >>>if I lived elsewhere but frequented San Diego is there a restaurant in the Gaslamp that would have my mouth salivating in anticipation of an upcoming visit as, for example, a Peter Luger or Metropolitan Grill steak does on visits to NY or Seattle <<<

                                  That isn't the point and I think Donovan's is every bit as good as the Metropolitan Grill. No one is saying the Gaslamp is now the culinary center of San Diego, but neither do you need to leave the Gaslamp any more to get a good, even great meal.

                                  If someone is coming to San Diego and staying Downtown/Gaslamp there are now lots of decent places to send them especially when they say "we are staying in the Gaslamp without a car".

                                  And there is no Peter Luger in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, Chicago or even Manhattan for that matter so should I tell someone there are just no places in those areas that you can salivate over? Maybe you don't travel enough and maybe don't visit the Gaslamp often enough?

                                  1. re: scottca075
                                    Josh Oct 19, 2011 04:43 PM

                                    San Diego's just a city where we all live. We don't need to have a pro sports mentality about our dining options.

                                    Peter Luger is a legendary place, but NYC has a lot of those. Do we have even one?

                                    1. re: scottca075
                                      El Chevere Oct 21, 2011 08:22 AM

                                      Never said there was a Peter Luger in every city (there are only two, both in NY) nor should a city be judged vs. this one and only restaurant. Never even brought up Miami, Chicago, LA, or SF (though I did mention Delfina--guess you were unaware it is in SF or have never eaten there) etc. so I have no clue how they entered into the discussion, which focused on the caliber of Gaslamp restaurants.Furthermore, these 2 restaurants were cited as examples, not meant to be extrapolated as my all inclusive list of the only 2 good restaurants in the world.There are plenty of good places in these and other cities--in fact I am in Portland now ( a place I frequent several times a year) and their dining scene blows away San Diego's. I do travel quite a bit, domestically and internationally (not just Tijuana and Cabo), so you are wrong on that point as well. It would be a lot easier for me to walk to the many Gaslamp restaurants. Yes, I can get some decent--but not spectacular-- meals but it's not as though I am "blown away" by the restaurant offerings there or in surrounding areas. As stated earlier, I am a quality guy, not a quantity guy. The scene may have gotten a little better in the Gaslamp in the past few years but just because there are more or because a restaurant is expensive does not necessarily make it better or good. Even a smaller city such as Long Beach has some great restaurants that I miss and I prefer to the majority of restaurants in the Gaslamp, in particular, and San Diego in general. Perhaps the Gaslamp's proximity to a convention center leads many restauranteurs (defintiion of many = many, not all) to believe they can get away with cutting corners and putting out fair/mediocre food at inflated prices to the masses because they have a hostage population (i.e. many without cars)--this is also the case in many, not all (Vegas being an exception), other convention cities such as Anaheim and Orlando. Yes, you can find some decent, though not spectacular, meals in the Gaslamp but overall it is not a place I frequent nor recommend often. I prefer getting in my car and going elsewhere as opposed to the much closer, 5 minute walk to the Gaslamp from my residence. The fact I also travel to many other cities (domestic and international) also provides me with a greater, not less, frame of reference with which to compare Gaslamp restaurants against.

                                      1. re: El Chevere
                                        Fake Name Oct 21, 2011 08:32 AM

                                        Feel that breeze? It's a finger wagging all the way from Portland OR.

                                        1. re: El Chevere
                                          scottca075 Oct 21, 2011 09:08 AM

                                          But the point is, you mentioned a few places you've been, one of which, Athens, I think is just not good at all when it comes to Greek food and you don't address if you have eaten at Rama Thai, Candelas, JSix, the Quarter Kitchen, Bice, Donovan's Prime Seafood, Escape Fish Bar, Chophan, Searsucker, Currant Brasserie, Cafe 21, the Marble Room, the Lincoln Room, La Puerta, Las Hadas, Vin De Syrah and others.

                                          I assume you have been to Lou & Mickey's, Oceanaire, Fleming's and the like. Yes they are chains, but high end chains that put out good food.

                                          My other point was that someone who avoided the Gaslamp five years ago might be surprised by some of the places that have come in and when someone says, "I don't have a car" there are places you can send them in the Gaslamp and East Village that are Chow worthy.

                                          And yes thank you, I know where Defina is quite well, I've been a follower of Stoll since he was at Palio D’Asti and while I go to Delfina on occasion I still like Quince better.

                                          I can't think of too many places in Long Beach that are notable and certainly none that I would drive to when I could drive to better places in Los Angeles and the Westside.

                                          1. re: scottca075
                                            s
                                            stevewag23 Oct 21, 2011 09:19 AM

                                            Not to jump in on a great debate, but "Rama Thai, Candelas, JSix, the Quarter Kitchen, Bice, Donovan's Prime Seafood, Escape Fish Bar, Chophan, Searsucker, Currant Brasserie, Cafe 21, the Marble Room, the Lincoln Room, La Puerta, Las Hadas, Vin De Syrah "

                                            Is really a pretty forgettable list of restaurants.

                                            1. re: scottca075
                                              El Chevere Oct 21, 2011 09:47 AM

                                              Scott:

                                              You should give Michael's on Naples, Kellys, Cafe Gazelle, and 555 for starters if you are up in the LB area....my favorite place, Christy's (Christy Bono), appears to have closed. Again, my point was not that Long Beach has the best restaurants in all of So Cal--they are a smaller city that has a good food scene and sometimes I don't feel like sitting in traffic for the extra hour+ to drive up to LA or the Westside.

                                              Flemings I definitely do not like (same owner as PF Changs, Lou & Mickey's is better, and Oceanaire is good but I resent the "Mortons"-ization of their menu....only seafood restaurant I have been to where you don't get rice and vegetable with your main course--everything is a la carte--and I've eaten at some great seafood restaurants. I've eaten at some, not all, of the other restaurants mentioned and respectfully maintain my opinion.

                                              1. re: El Chevere
                                                El Chevere Oct 21, 2011 10:20 AM

                                                Also, I will leave you with one example (this does not mean all) of a Gaslamp restaurant practice that leaves a bad taste in my mouth....the owner of Al Acqua 2 is a Mexican American gentleman. On his awning, website, etc. he states locations in San Diego and Florence...yes, there is a restaurant by the same name but he, Martin, does not own it. He pays the owner in Florence an annual license fee to use the name (something like $25K/year)....this is the same practice the downtown nightclubs use--i.e. Fluxx will claim Snoop Dog will be showing up on a given night and pay him $15K to use his name on posters. etc. On the rare chance Snoop actually shows up, they have to pay him additional money. Again, not all engage in this practice, but you might be able to see why this is one more reason, besides the food, I have a hard time with the Gaslamp restaurants.

                                                1. re: El Chevere
                                                  s
                                                  stevewag23 Oct 21, 2011 10:22 AM

                                                  There is a name for this. It's called:

                                                  "The San Diego Hype Machine"

                                                2. re: El Chevere
                                                  scottca075 Oct 21, 2011 02:43 PM

                                                  But with your example of why you would eat at places in Long Beach is my exact point as to why there are places in the Gaslamp that a person staying in Downtown/the Gaslamp (especially without a car) can eat and get good food. No one says the Gaslamp is the innovative heart of culinary San Diego, but neither is it the food backwater it once was.

                                                  As to stevewag23, you been to each of the places listed to make the judgment?

                                                  1. re: scottca075
                                                    s
                                                    stevewag23 Oct 21, 2011 03:05 PM

                                                    Yes.

                                                    I have never been to Escape Fish Bar.

                                                    Quarter Kitchen, the Marble Room, Vin De Syrah, La Puerta, Las Hadas are particularly bad/ extremely overrated.

                                                    I wouldn't go back to any even if I had a free meal.

                                                    1. re: scottca075
                                                      El Chevere Oct 21, 2011 06:51 PM

                                                      Actually, it is not...you misunderstood my point and your analogy is comparing apples to oranges. I would not drive up to Long Beach just for dinner from San Diego. If I were in Long Beach there are plenty of good restaurants without necessitating an hour+ drive in traffic to go to Westwood or LA for good restaurants--these restaurants in Long Beach are considerably higher quality and more reasonably priced than their Gaslamp counterparts.....fortunately, I only have to drive 10-15 minutes to get out of the Gaslamp--not an hour or longer and almost always without any significant traffic--to find restaurants that I enjoy considerably more than those in the Gaslamp. This is not to say there are not any in the Gaslamp, but I do have a car and use it to find meals that I find more satisfying elsewhere and within a relatively short and traffic-free drive.

                                                      1. re: El Chevere
                                                        scottca075 Oct 22, 2011 12:29 PM

                                                        >>>Actually, it is not...you misunderstood my point and your analogy is comparing apples to oranges. I would not drive up to Long Beach just for dinner from San Diego. If I were in Long Beach there are plenty of good restaurants without necessitating an hour+ drive in traffic to go to Westwood or LA for good restaurants--these restaurants in Long Beach are considerably higher quality and more reasonably priced than their Gaslamp counterparts<<<

                                                        I would disagree that the Long Beach places are better than the Gaslamp counter parts are better, especially not 555 East.

                                                        And a drive of 15 minutes is no better than a drive of one hour when you don't have a car.

                                                        The overriding point is, when someone says, "I am staying in the Gaslamp, don't have a car, where can I eat", there are places in the Gaslamp or East Village you can send someone to where you couldn't have 7-8 years ago.

                                                        1. re: scottca075
                                                          Josh Oct 22, 2011 01:40 PM

                                                          I think the disconnect many of us have with your comments is this is Chowhound, not Yelp.

                                                          When I use Chowhound for visiting other cities, I go there to read the perspective of people who really care about quality food. So if they tell me that XYZ is a touristy, overpriced slab of mediocrity, I at least know to set my expectations lower in the absence of any other options.

                                                          You're not exactly turning cartwheels over any of these places yourself. You're conceding they're not great, but are good enough if you need a bite to eat and have no car. That's a far cry from a full-throated recommendation, and the people using this site are presumably also looking for something more in-depth than they can get on Yelp.

                                                          To take Bice as an example, I've been there a few times. I think it's OK, but certainly nothing special. Any recommendation of that place I'd make would be heavily qualified and couched. At the very least, that gives someone a forewarning to lower their expectations and understand that it's not being touted as the alpha and omega.

                                                          1. re: Josh
                                                            El Chevere Oct 22, 2011 02:08 PM

                                                            Josh, thanks for hitting the nail on the head and making a point better than I can. I agree-- if this were Yelp or Tripadvisor, some of the restaurants in the Gaslamp might cut it but on Chowhound we have higher expectations and are more critical.

                                                            Also, I have not eaten at the Bice in San Diego but ate at one in Buenos Aires and was underwhelmed.

                                                            1. re: Josh
                                                              honkman Oct 22, 2011 02:23 PM

                                                              Great points that it's better to be hinedt about the quality of restaurants than judt saying that they are great because there are no better options close by. There is no need to set the bar lower just because it is SD or the Gaslamp.

                                                              1. re: Josh
                                                                scottca075 Oct 23, 2011 07:12 AM

                                                                Well this is one of the first things we've agreed on. No, I am not turning cartwheels over any place in the Gaslamp, but I do recognize how far it has come and I hope it continues to get better.

                                                                There are good restaurants in the Gaslamp that a foodie, without a car or energy to go elsewhere can eat. There are people here who love JSix, I am not a fan, but it isn't bad and I could send someone there with a clear conscious that they haven't been sent to a Cheesecake Factory. Other places in the Gaslamp have similar fans and critics.

                                                                I think when someone asks the question, "where can I eat in the Gaslamp without a car?" there are places they can go that will be good. Just saying "there's nothing good" isn't that helpful and I certainly think the Gaslamp is much better than Fisherman's Wharf.

                                                                If I travel to NYC and stay at the Ritz Battery Park and ask on Chow, where can I walk for a good meal, people trying to send me to Per Se or Daniel aren't helping me.

                                                    2. re: El Chevere
                                                      Josh Oct 21, 2011 10:26 AM

                                                      IMO, anyone who has traveled to, or spent significant time in, a city with a really great dining scene knows that San Diego has a long way to go. We have some gems for sure, but they are few, and certainly the exception not the rule.

                                                      1. re: Josh
                                                        d
                                                        daantaat Oct 21, 2011 06:38 PM

                                                        +1 for Josh...

                                                        1. re: Josh
                                                          El Chevere Oct 21, 2011 06:47 PM

                                                          +2 for Josh

                                                          1. re: Josh
                                                            honkman Oct 21, 2011 06:49 PM

                                                            Where is a "like" button when you need it

                                                            1. re: Josh
                                                              s
                                                              stevewag23 Oct 21, 2011 08:16 PM

                                                              Josh for Mayor of San Diego!

                                                        2. re: El Chevere
                                                          Fake Name Oct 18, 2011 05:15 PM

                                                          While I'm sure everyone's tired of hearing it, if I moved away from SD, I'd salivate at the thought of a CAB from just about anywhere, especially Super Sergios.

                                                          But when I travel to NYC, I don't salivate over Peter Lugers. I'm just not a fan, and I don't see the wonder of the place.

                                                          I do, however, beat a path to Balthazar for Brandade de Morue Croquettes and a Grilled Chicken Palliard.

                                                          Different strokes, right? And so on, and so on, and scooby-doobie-doo.

                                                          I'd salivate over a Cowboy Star Bison Ribeye more than a Peter Luger steak any day.

                                            2. b
                                              bkitty Oct 19, 2011 10:32 PM

                                              I have been reading the thread response to my post and would like to just let you know where we ended up going and my thoughts about each place! Not all of them are in the Gaslamp Quarter, but were within walking distance.

                                              1. Neighborhood. Fabulous beer selection, fabulous atmosphere and we enjoyed some pork belly buns. Overall, a great place that I would recommend.
                                              2. The Noble Experiment. I had a friend that cued me in about this place! Enjoyed some of the best cocktails I’ve had in a while (reminds me of Bradstreet in Minneapolis…if any of you every are in there!).
                                              3. Basic Bar. Wonderful pizza and loved the building. Would highly recommend.
                                              4. Knotty Barrel. Great atmosphere. We had a horrible experience because for some reason our order did not make it to the kitchen. We had a wedding to get to at 2pm. We arrived at 11:45am at Knotty Barrel and had to leave at 1:50pm without any food in our stomachs...so I can't comment on the food. It was super frustrating (the group of 5 that arrived after we arrived got all their food before we left...talk about annoying). I was super excited for my bison burger...but cannot comment on it. Ugh.
                                              5. C Level: post-wedding drinks. Nothing super fabulous or great food and service.
                                              6. Jsix: wedding reception dinner, so didn't really get to pick and choose from the menu, but the steak was fabulous! Great hotel and service.
                                              7. Broken Yolk: post-wedding brunch (also chosen by the bride and groom). It is a chain, but it was a super fun place and I got to witness two people attempt the ironman/woman challenge (over 8.5lbs of food...). Would not have been my first place for brunch, but it worked great for a party of 16.
                                              9. The Local: went here for a couple drinks and a pretzel (I am on the eternal hunt for a pretzel to match the one I had at the Dirty Truth in Northampton, MA). The pretzel here was quite ordinary (seemed to be a frozen one that was simply warmed up and served with some okay cheese sauce).
                                              10. Searsucker. AMAZING. Best meal we had our entire trip. We sat at the bar (which we almost always do) and had just amazing service and conversation. The food was fabulous and I was shocked that this place was on 5th Ave.
                                              11. Prohibition. We got there right when it opened. It was awesome because we got to just hang with the bartenders before the flood of, um, people that showed up later.
                                              12. Craft and Commerce. Awesome. Great atmosphere and my husband was convinced my "whole grain burger" was a 'meat' burger, when in fact, it is a quinoa and lentil patty...so basically, it was quite delicious. Would recommend!

                                              Overall, we didn’t hit up all the suggestions, but for the short stay and for being there for a few days, I would like to think we found a couple fun places☺ I am enjoying the continuing thread and look forward to future San Diego trips!!

                                              -----
                                              C Level Restaurant
                                              880 Harbor Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92101

                                              Searsucker
                                              611 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: bkitty
                                                f
                                                FireFlyFiftyFive Oct 20, 2011 09:44 AM

                                                Thanks for the report back! Sounds like some good hits in there! Kinda glad to see Searsucker get some nice love.

                                                -----
                                                Searsucker
                                                611 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

                                                1. re: bkitty
                                                  globocity Oct 20, 2011 04:15 PM

                                                  Thank you for the report, it is refreshing to read about our local spots from a tourist's perspective. So many times we locals (ok, I) form judgments about places that turn out perfectly good food for visitors.

                                                  You chose well, bkitty, so kudos to you for taking some chances and doing your research.

                                                  Cheers.

                                                  1. re: bkitty
                                                    4
                                                    4wino Oct 22, 2011 04:24 PM

                                                    Thanks for a great write up.

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