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Driving myself crazy, need one specific dinner rec, please help!!!

Like many of you, I am crazy about food. I need help with a dinner recommendation for this coming Monday night. I need dishes made with passion and confidence. I need the best dining experience San Diego has to offer on a Monday night, budget $50-$200 for 2 not including drinks. I have read your boards, perused your admirable spreadsheets, but I am afraid that no single restaurant has called out to me, so I am asking for your help. I'm there on business (Manchester Hyatt) for a few days and will be taken to Bertrand at Mr. A's one night and De Medici another night. Monday night is my dime, and so it's personal. I thought I would go to Cafe Chloe on Monday night, and the fact that they don't accept reservations isn't what deterred me, rather that I noticed someone mentioned uncomfortable, hard wooden chairs. I know there is a bar there, but I'm looking for a table. If I am going to get my wish, I think your recommendation must be a meal that can only be had in San Diego, one that defines what San Diego is all about. I read all the yelp reviews of Oceanaire Room...I want to tell myself that it will be excellent, but having lived in Hong Kong for 10 years and traveled all over China, particularly southern China, I am not easily impressed with seafood. I had an 8 lb crab in Cebu once, now that was a crab. Oysters from Normandy eaten in Paris in the winter can hang with fresh Hong Kong seafood any day....I now live in Hawaii and we have some very respectable sushi here, meaning that while Kaito sounds good, I am not hankering for sushi. I went to London last year and a fellow food-crazed female chowhound directed me to Barrafina, a Spanish Tapas restaurant in Soho. I was traveling with my jaded 60 year old boss who used to regularly eat at French Laundry before the hype, and he was making all kinds of adolescent noises over the sardines at Barrafina, noises he never made before or since. The flavors in those dishes were heavenly. Is there a food heaven on a Monday night in San Diego?

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

Oceanaire
San DIego, CA, San DIego, CA

Hong Kong Restaurant
3871 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103

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  1. Jsix at the Hotel Solamar in the Gaslamp
    George's Modern in La Jolla

    www.georgesatthecove.com
    www.jsixrestaurant.com

    1. There is no restaurant which defines any city - Barrafina hardly defines London cuisine. I think you will be disappoined than independently of the recommendations. You should help by narrowing down what you like most - fine dining or bistro style food (strength of SD, e.g. Cafe Chloe or The Linkery (true farm-to-table which uses nearly only local ingredients, produce which is some of the best you will find anywhere in the US) or a ethnic highlight (Supercocina, Okan). You will have to make some decisions in the beginning in which general direction you want to go ( including price, ambience) so that people can help you better otherwise you will be disappointed in SD ( or any other city)

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      Linkery
      3794 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

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

      1 Reply
      1. re: honkman

        I agree with honkman, I think you need to narrow your direction and decide whether ambiance, chairs, lighting fixtures etc are more important than the food. It's quite apparent that you dined at some excellent places all over the world, so offering a rec on the most $$$ places won't cut it for you. I'd suggest, and 2nd, Super Cocina or even hitting some food trucks.

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

      2. Craft beers really define San Diego as well... Since you probably don't have time to do a string of breweries, going to a place with a wide array of local beers is probably a good choice (although this can just be after dinner). For the beer, I recommend Neighborhood, but I would advice against the food...

        I think I would recommend a trip to Super cocina for dinner followed by a trip to Neighborhood for beer and after-dinner snacks... This will give you a good idea about authentic mexican food in the region followed by the craft beer that also defines the region.

        1. You are getting some interesting suggestions, but as much as I am a Super Cocina booster, it's not a place I usually recommend for dinner. For one, they close early, and secondly, their food isn't at its best come dinner time.

          You are also issuing something of a tall order, since fine dining isn't really our city's strong suit.

          If you like bistro-style food, I suggest a trip to Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park. They have a new chef/partner, and his food is really good and very interesting. He makes extensive use of local produce and seafood, which many will argue are the two biggest strengths of San Diego from an ingredient perspective. He also does some quite creative dishes, like a poached albino beet salad bound with smoked-fish spiked horseradish cream, plated with oranges and frisee.

          Aother place worth trying in that same neighborhood is El Take It Easy, which is a baja-med gastro cantina. Very creative drinks on their menu, with creative dishes to match. We had a griddled pork cheek with cucumber dashi that was off-the-charts good.

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          Sea Rocket Bistro
          3382 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

          El Take It Easy
          3926 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

          3 Replies
          1. re: Josh

            Try Pomodoro's in Point Loma. While it isn't high dollar like the Marine Room or Mr. A's, it is very high quality in my book. I lived in Sicily for a number of years and in the decade plus that I've been back in the States I hadn't had a Spaghetti Carbonara that even came close to what I had regularly over there...until Pomodoro. I've taken Italian friends there who usually save the Italian food for home cooked meals here in the US but even they were completely impressed and loved it all. In fact, we probably sat there for an extra hour each time while they talked in Italian with the wait staff. I can't speak to everything on the menu since I almost always end up with the Spaghetti Carbonara...but I'm certain you won't be disappointed.

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

            Pomodoro
            2833 Avenida De Portugal, San Diego, CA 92106

            1. re: ChowBaccus

              <the following post is not offered as an expert opinion, nor does producer of this post suggest, in any way, to be expert in any cuisine. Post that follows is offered solely and exclusively for the consideration of fellow pack members. Poster stipulates, in advance, that there is much better food in any number of locations spanning the globe, including Berlin, New Jersey.>

              The Mrs and I went to Pomodoro this evening withe the express intent of having the Carbonara. We were not disappointed. Very much enjoyed the dish, along with two salads and a single glass of wine. Service was prompt and attentive, flavors well-developed and we enjoyed the experience. Thank you, Mr ChowBaccus, for the recommendation.

              We will return.

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              Pomodoro
              2833 Avenida De Portugal, San Diego, CA 92106

          2. Agree with Josh, Super Cocina is not what you want. It's nice homestyle Mexican food, but hardly definitive of the genre.

            If you're bringing your passport you could do worse than head south of the border to Mision 19. Interesting local food, well done, classy and comfortable ambiance. Walk across border, grab a cab but make sure you bring the address, have dinner, restaurant will call you a cab, walk back across the border. Blue line trolley goes all the way to the border from downtown. From the Manchester Hyatt, orange line to America Plaza, then transfer to the blue line to San Ysidro. It's an adventure.

            Not up for a border crossing? I also agree that checking out the craft beer scene is a great idea. The 30th St. corridor is an ideal place to do that. From Adams down to South Park you can find excellent beer and some interesting food to match. Blind Lady Ale House (BLAH), Jayne's Gastropub, Ritual Tavern, The Linkery, Urban Solace, Smoking Goat, Sea Rocket, Alchemy, and those are just the bistros.

            Upscale fine dining isn't San Diego's "thing". Affordable, competent bistro style dining with some laid back cross border influences is.

            Also remember, not all restaurants are open on Monday night. Call before you go.

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            Linkery
            3794 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

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

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

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

            Ritual Tavern
            4095 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

            3 Replies
            1. re: DiningDiva

              DD, what's the dress code at Mision 19? Newspaper articles described suits for men.

              1. re: CTDub

                Definitely not that formal :-).

                I'd call it business casual. I've seen men there in sports coats, no tie and shirts open at the collar. I've also seen upscale cowboy attire as well...great jeans, nice shirt, suede jacket (yes, with fringe) boots and a stetson. Women have been dressed uniformly in business casual, even mix between dresses/skirts and nice pants/jeans.

                It's a very contemporary setting but with a very relaxed vibe. I think if you went in a suit and tie you'd be uncomfortable

              2. re: DiningDiva

                I would look very seriously at Mision 19 or possibly, its American cousin, Romesco Baja Med.

                Here are a couple of good blogs with pics for Mision 19.

                http://www.streetgourmetla.com/2011/0...
                http://gastronomyblog.com/2011/05/18/...

                For craft beer don't forget Small Bar, Jayne's Gastropub (limited beer, really good food) and Toronado (really good beer, okay food).

              3. First off, thank you!!!! I am feeling much more at ease now with the excellent advice you have provided. I will attempt a quick response to all you kind people:

                Beach Chick: I will look at both recs, thank you
                Honkman: I like you. We could have a good conversation. While Barrafina is hardly Brit pub food, it is a marvelous example of how far the world of London cuisine has progressed. I mentioned budget, $50-$200 for 2 not incl drinks, and the implied meaning is that I am looking for a nice sit down meal ranging from a nice mom and pop to a more highfalutin affair.

                CSTR: thank you, Super Cocina looks great, a gem. I will try to steal a breakfast or lunch here, but my schedule is packed, but I will try...

                Karaethon: thank you. You have touched a tender nerve in my soul. I very much appreciate your advice, but I can't follow it. I started collecting beers from around the world around age 12. I even went to a couple beer can conventions, but I didn't quite fit in with the can collectors as I was really a flavor collector. How I loved being in Brussels for the first time when I was 16 and enjoying my first perfect Belgian ale. I was the guy who built beer bongs in high school. I was the only guy in high school who could bong a Colt 45. I later added wine, cognac, armangac to the fields I enjoyed wandering in. Alas, I ran into a woman who could tame me. I haven't had a drink in 8 years. Gather ye rosy ales while ye may.

                Josh: though I didn't specify fine dining, your recs look perfect, thank you!

                ChowBaccus: thank you, the rec of a Carbonara above all others is golden and much appreciated!

                Dining Diva: thank you. The last time I was in San Diego was 1991. I was 19 years old, and it was an adventure. I was sitting in Houston that summer wanting very badly to get myself to San Diego. So my already active and somewhat off-the-wall brain concocted a scheme to get myself from Houston to San Dieo for pennies on the dollar. My friends dropped me off on the outskirts of Houston. I stuck my thumb out and made my way to Laredo. This is really the only time I have truly hitchhiked in my life. The first guy that picked me up got me to Victoria. I rode in the back of his pick-up. He pulled into a Whataburger and told me to get whatever I wanted. I got a double whataburger w cheese and jalapenos, extra mustard, and it was probably one of the most memorable burgers of my life. I'll cut a good story short: Laredo to Monterrey where a cousin let me crash for a few days and introduced me to yummy tortas, and then 3 days on a non air-conditioned bus from Monterrey to Tijuana. While I love adventure, I guess I'd like to find a meal in San Diego, not south of the border, but thank you again for the rec and for taking a walk down memory lane w me.

                I will post what happens when I get back. Beach Chick and Josh -- thank you for being so fluent in the lingo of 'crazy for food'.

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

                3 Replies
                1. re: szfoster

                  I actually would go to Kitchen 1540 and ask the chef to cook a multi course menu.

                    1. re: honkman

                      For some reasons I can't edit posts on the Iphone and wanted just add that 1540 is a great mix of use of local produce with very refined execution - one of the few restaurants in SD which would be also successful un any other city

                  1. If it were me, all things considered--I'd phone up Bice (not far from where you'll be staying) and ask to speak to the Chef and make sure he will be there--he usually does cook on Monday nights. He is very nice and accomodating. I'd tell him that I want him to put together a tasting menu for 2 of whatever good seasonal stuff he has on hand.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: davidnaimark

                      Another excellent idea, thank you.

                      For all the boyfriends and wannabe boyfrieds, take notice on how to begin an unforgettable evening...

                    2. I'd suggest Whisknladle in La Jolla just because I like it; good food, slightly beachy/slightly upscale atmosphere, good cocktails. They'll serve Sweetbreads & Bone Marrow done damn near perfectly. But I usually only stick to appetizers & cocktails and don't go for entrées, not just because they're cheaper but because they really nail the appetizers & cocktails.

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                      Whisknladle
                      1044 Wall Street, La Jolla, CA 92037

                      1. George's California Modern has a new offering similar to Kitchen 1540. Introducing TBL3. Give it a go!

                        http://www.georgesatthecove.com/TBL3

                        1. Aloha Everyone,

                          First off, I want to thank each one of you for your advice. I got in last night (Sunday) around 9:30 and decided I better go for a long walk, both to burn a few calories, but also to gain a lay of the land. I walked up and down 4th, 5th and 6th, stopping rather frequently to peruse the posted menus. After a couple hours, I heard the still small voice in the back of my head whisper that I would need to head out of 'town' to find San Diego, and so last night I decided on Kitchen 1540.

                          I am happy to report that you chowhounders do not need to worry about me as I just finished a very perfect meal. John, the server, was awesome, six stars. The beet salad, six stars. The feel of the place was perfect, and fulfilled my unreasonable demand that a restaurant represent a city. The hamachi was a 9 out of ten for flavor, but a 10 for creativity. The rabbit was very yummy. Basically, I had a great time. If anyone is looking for a perfect dinner in 'San Diego', you need look no farther. Enjoy a walk down to the park overlooking the beach beforehand. Thank you SD hounds for coming through for me!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: szfoster

                            Great to read your report, and thanks for checking in. I often tire of the same old discussion here, and it's fun to have a fresh perspective.

                            "After reading a lot of overheated puffery about your new cook, you know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?"
                            -Anton Ego (and on the FakeName dining room wall)