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Oct 24, 2011 10:08 PM

Busalacchi Speaks

Q & A with Joe Busalacchi in today's U/T

The last 2 questions might be of interest to this board (hint, it's well trod ground here)

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  1. I agree not to put too much faith in TripAdvisor or Yelp--especially Yelp. I have placed candid and very critical reviews of Panevino and Greystone (same owner) that have been removed (I suspect because they advertise with Yelp).

    I disagree with the last statement that there is more to do in San Diego than San Francisco...same bullcrap argument I hear as to why sports fans support their teams more in the Northeast than they do here in SD--there's more to do...yeah, NYC is a ghost town with nothing to do and one's entire shallow life revolves around 'going to the beach'. I enjoy going to the beach as much as the next person, but what do you do when you are there?--sit on your rear.

    29 Replies
    1. re: El Chevere

      Are your reviews gone gone or were they dumped to the filtered reviews?

      Your assessment of the more things to do seems spot on.

      Is there a restaurant that caters ONLY to the "going to the beach" crowd? Takeaway gourmet picnic baskets maybe at the $20 to $25 price point per person with a variety of snackers? Then plus wine. Oh wait, no wine.

      1. re: FireFlyFiftyFive

        The visiting Aussies took care of the no wine, or alcohol for that matter, a few years ago in PB.....I will have to check into 'filtered reviews'--I received an email stating it was removed for what appeared--to them--to be second hand experience. Not true.

      2. re: El Chevere

        Yeah, I love that reasoning "san diego has so much too do, that's why the restaurants are not as good as other cities". Or, "its because san diego has good weather that it has bad restaurants".

        I am going to kill this argument once and for all:

        As if in Chicago or New Orleans the only thing to do is eating.

        Or as if in Barcelona or southern spain there is no sunshine.

        I was in Spain for two months this summer and the weather was pinned between 80-83 degrees without a cloud in the sky every single day. Two months straight.

        Better weather than san diego.

        And restaurants that were light years away from san diego.

        1. re: stevewag23

          Correct....Rio de Janeiro has great beach weather and great restaurants as well....imagine that--walking and chewing gum at the same time.

          A better excuse might be we have a less demanding, less traveled, and/or less sophistictated populace that does not place as high an emphasis on exceptional food as is the case with other places. Ultimately, I place most of the blame on the residents....if you continue to support or fail to speak out vs.mediocrity (and/or be able to distinguish between exceptional and mediocre), that's what you will receive.

          1. re: El Chevere

            Yeah, there are tons of places on the globe with sunshine, people think san diego has a monopoly on sunshine. It's far from the truth.

            Miami has better weather than us for close to 6 months of the year, and guess what? Better restaurants.

            In fact, I am hard pressed to think of a city on the globe I have been to with similar weather to san diego that has worse restaurants.

            San diego is the only "good weather, disappointing restaurant" city I can think of.

            The "its because san diego has good weather that it has bad restaurants". or "san diego has so much too do, that's why the restaurants are not as good as other cities" argument needs to have the casket closed on it.

            1. re: stevewag23

              Miami, not for me, too much humidity, large bugs that you can ride, the smell of mold everywhere, I think SD has much better weather. Who wants to eat outside on a patio in 100% humidity?

              1. re: cstr

                Go in wintertime, weather is perfect.

              2. re: stevewag23

                Not to speak for Busalcchi, but I think what he is getting at, and what makes SD unique relative to all of the other cities listed here, is that you can participate in vigorous outdoor activities year round without an expectation that it will be too hot/cold or that it will rain/snow. That's combined with a geography conducive outdoor activity and SD has a wonderfully active culture and people who are interested in such activity are drawn to SD. One thing I hear from a lot of out of town visitors is that they feel fat in SD because everyone is in shape (or that when they go back to Chicago or Indy, just how many fat people there are at the airport).

                That being said, since you can't do too many things well, SD's food (and spectator sport!) cultures are less prioritized (I was going to say lacking but that would assume it's trying to be different) relative to other cities. It's not a complete backwater and you do have people in SD who are interested in good food but there's a larger portion of the population whose main interests are not the foodie culture.

                That said, I agree with some of the other posters that there's a bit too much self-flagellation on this board and that there seems to be an expectation that SD needs and wants to be like other cities with regard to the food culture. To me that's unlikely and we're best off celebrating the good and not worrying about where SD "stands the rankings"

                My $0.02.

                1. re: steveprez

                  An astute insight that I think gets at a core truth about San Diego, steveprez. It certainly speaks to my own experience. Since moving to SD 15 years ago, from the east coast and midwest, I have become far less interested in food in general, and cooking in particular. The place in my life that food held while I was living in the land of weather has been supplanted by a life lived outdoors year round -- exercising, gardening, and reveling.

                  1. re: notjustastomach

                    So you're saying you're notjustastomach? :>) Couldn't resist. Yeah, me either.

                    Often too busy enjoying the outdoors to plan when I want to eat and make reservations. That's why I love having a variety of small casual places and multi cultural options all over town where I can grab a bite. Good luck finding that in small midwestern cities or on the road in between. Been to places in the upper midwest where salad only meant coleslaw and in the south a side of veggies only came creamed. Blech. So bad that after a 2 week road trip I would have killed just for a Soup Plantation or El Indio!

                    1. re: notjustastomach

                      Thanks, notjustastomach. That was my experience after moving to SD 8 years ago. I moved here from the Bay Area and while there I took full advantage of the food culture, spent a lot of time at wineries, checked out lots of restaurants, did the winemaker dinners regularly, etc (carried about 20 lbs more bodyfat :( ). After moving to SD we jumped right into the SD food scene. However, in retrospect, slowly over the 8 years I've noticed that I have less and less time to enjoy my food hobby. More and more (primarily outdoor) activity took it's place. I was very active in the Bay Area as well, lots of mountain biking and hiking, but there's a natural pause as the rains come and the weather cools and you need to give up these activities from about Nov thru April, depending on the rains. Here in SD the activity schedule is year round with no let up. My kids are in Adventure Guides and camping trips are scheduled right thru the winter. I love this about San Diego and if the food scene is a little less exciting, that's a trade-off I'll take.

                      1. re: steveprez

                        How much time does the "food hobby" take out of your day?

                        You have to eat anyways, right?

                        Do you end up missing 5-10 meals per week because of nice weather?

                        1. re: stevewag23

                          Steve, you're correct....I also meant to point out to the posters above, the activities they referenced are performed during the day...why would that stop them from pursuing eating in the evening. Apples to oranges.

                      2. re: notjustastomach

                        Except you can do the same things in LA year round and the Bay Area (assuming you are outside the fog belt known as the city ) most of the year-- yet one is able to walk and chew gum at the same time--do the activities you mentioned above AND get better food in these places. While it does rain more in the Bay Area between November - April than it does in San Diego one simply turns their attention to (at least I did) different forms of outside activities--in my case skiing in Tahoe. This did not take away from my appetite nor lower my food standards at restaurants during these months. When I chose to spend more time indoors during this period I also found myself attending a dozen or more professional NHL and/or NBA games --options not available in the San Diego area--as well as remaining active by spending more time working out in the gym.

                        1. re: El Chevere

                          These are fair points but what you, I or any individual chooses to do is irrelevant to my point, which was, given the ideal weather and geography in SD, more people choose to prioritize outdoor activities, and participation sports more generally, in their lives over things like say fine dining and spectator sports. I presented my experience as an example but it's just that. A city's dining scene is the sum total of millions of individual decisions made by providers and consumers.

                          1. re: steveprez


                            The priority of outdoor activities is noted but people still have to eat and, as referenced many times earlier, there are other warm weather cities around the globe where residents also enjoy being outdoors but more fine dining options (and I'im not necessarily referring to higher price points) exist.

                  2. re: El Chevere

                    I would simply say we have a lot of unsophisticated people, period.

                    It's written all over this city.

                    Look at the attempts at jazz clubs that came and went. Anthology is managing to survive by catering to the "I love jazz so much I'm going to loudly talk, drink, eat dinner and wear a shiny suit over it" crowd.

                    1. re: Josh

                      ...and it's written all over SD chowhound. But a little scratching reveals that there's nothing really "broken" in the SD food scene- I can pretty much get all I need here as long as I continue to enjoy cooking for myself and friends, with the occasional jaunt out for a meal at one of the proven favorites, be it Starlite, Super Cocina, or Bruno. That'd be a tall order in most of this country.

                      Actually, Anthology is a very apt analogy to SD. They offer a very diverse lineup, and since it's not a concert hall, the yammering doesn't bother me all that much. For a second I thought you wrote "a shiny shit over it." If that were the case, I'd be glad we have a venue in town that offers such impressive day-after dividends. What I enjoy about the SD food scene is that it does offer diversity. After a lot of travel this summer, I realized that even wonderful food cultures have blinders on when it comes to "foreign" foods. I know it sounds trite, but I appreciate the multiculturalism and the proximity of SuperSergio's to Cali Baguette or whatever.

                      *If you don't get the chance to make it to the SD Symphony (one of three full-time orchestras in CA- certainly a case for some level of sophistication), you can see some interesting classical stuff at Anthology this Sunday, the 30th. DDiva: your drink is on me.

                      1. re: SaltyRaisins

                        If you are interested in cooking SD is a good place to live, if you are interested in good restaurants (beside a few exceptions) not so much.

                        1. re: SaltyRaisins

                          Somehow I just don't feel happy about saying, "well at least I don't live in Waco".

                          It seems to me there is a burgeoning audience in San Diego that wants something other than mediocrity, provided it's at the right price point. Hopefully that trend will continue, though I'm not holding my breath.

                          I've actually met a surprisingly large number of foodies who haven't been to Super Cocina, or plunged into a visit to Convoy St.

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

                          1. re: Josh

                            Totally cuts it for me. Sometimes work takes me to places like Waco.

                            Yes, sometimes the threads about our local places don't always ring true- meaning people seem to not actually go to Super Cocina, for example. That doesn't really matter much to me. As the rock man sings in Nilsson's The Point!, "you see what you wanna see, you hear what you wanna hear."

                            If you get a chance, try Liang Mama in the same plaza as Tajima for a bowl of niu ron mien, or beef noodle soup. I recommend with extra commodity tendon. Not Taiwan, but a pretty good bowl. They're also selling Taiwan beer now.


                            1. re: SaltyRaisins

                              SaltyRaisins: You win the award for best musical reference in a food post, ever.

                              The phrase, ". . .with extra commodity tendon" is a bit frightening to me, though!

                  3. re: El Chevere

                    The hard truth is San Diego doesn't have the high end dinning found in other cities because San Diego doesn't have many of the high paying jobs which come from having corporate HQs located in the city. San Diego does do medium level and inexpensive dinning very well though you often have to hunt for the great little holes in the wall. Part of that is because the city is so spread out and part of that is because we have so many chain restaurants here which people seem to support mainly because individual income is lower in San Diego than in other cities.

                    1. re: oerdin

                      I don't think that the average income in SD is so low. The median income in SD is high than in LA for example.

                      1. re: honkman

                        I think oerdin's point is pretty valid, but for the wrong reason, no San Diego doesn't have a low median income, it is in fact higher than LA's, but the sheer number of wealthy individuals in LA County & the area surrounding SF will support a lot more high end restaurants and because of their importance as business areas they also get a substansial number of business travelers with healthy expense accounts.

                        The same is true for Manhattan and even more so.

                        I don't think it is a coincidence thata lot of San Diego's best high end restaurants are in north county. It is where the money is.

                        The list below is fascinating.


                        1. re: scottca075

                          Not certain money or wealth, though contributing, is the defining factor in making or breaking a city as far as a 'foodie town' goes.. If that were the case, Greenwich CT, Palm Beach FL, Tiburon, CA, Newport Beach CA, Chevy Chase MD etc etc would have the best restaurants. For that matter, Portland OR is a smaller city and has less wealth than San Diego yet it has a far more vibrant and significantly better food scene. Heck, Tijuana--with considerably less wealth than San Diego, has many restaurants that I prefer over those in our city. In addition, good or great restaurants should not be confined to high end. I have had many excellent meals, with wine, in cities for $50 or less which does not constitute my definition of high end. If anything, San Diego--based on its size and eclectic, international community--should have more and better options, not less.

                          1. re: scottca075

                            I think LA has more people that stray from the average income and the deviation is greater. While SD's median income might be higher and mean income as well, there are more very wealthy as well as very poor people. That along with the film and music industry, I can easily see why LA has a more vibrant food scene, To say nothing of the extremely ethnically diverse population in LA, really much more so than in SD

                            1. re: scottca075

                              Exactly. Restaurants couldn't care less how rich the average person is. They care about how many rich people there are. SF and LA has a ton more than SD in a denser populated area. They're also much older cities as far as established wealth goes.

                        2. re: El Chevere

                          SF is better food, better to visit. But SD is better to live. ;-) The price of housing in SF certainly doesn't help.

                        3. "watch food costs"

                          In other words, use worse ingredients and charge the same if not more for that junk. I can't take a guy who serves food on par with the olive garden very seriously. Business wise he knows what he's talking about, but that's about it.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: chezwhitey

                            Not necessarily, it could be as simple as changing vendors

                          2. I usually despise the poo pooing of anythything San Diego. But this interview certainly gives grounds to those who hold that belief.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: 4wino

                              When people say bad things about san diego, just tell them they should leave if they don't like it.