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What Are the Best Places to Eat in San Diego?

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I've been to San Diego at least a few times in the past year, and Im looking to expand my horizon a bit more in San Diego. I've tried Lucha Libre and I've tried Phil's BBQ, but now im getting a little tired and want to try something new when my girlfriend and I head down there for our usual day trips. Im craving sushi or korean bbq and to top it off dessert other than Extraordinary Desserts. So please San Diego, what are some good, reasonable priced, and not too far from the downtown area?

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Extraordinary Desserts
2929 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103

Phil's BBQ
3750 Sports Arena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110

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  1. Pretty simple, but my recs are not in the downtown area...

    Sushi - Kaito Sushi - Omakase with Morita-san
    Dessert - Elizabethan Desserts - Cherry mini-lattice pie (though it's not a sit-down restaurant - take out only)

    ...and they're both within a couple of miles of each other in Encintias, though Elizabethan's is only open during the day time hours.

    If you need a closer Sushi rec. I really can't recommend any other shop except for Sushi Dokoro Shirahama in Kearny Mesa, though I'd highly recommend driving the extra mile to eat at Kaito. They really are the best in the county, and by a longshot. (If you do go to Shirahama, unless you are Japanese-speaking make sure you go on a day when Kotani-san's son is there, who speaks English. Some have reported an indifferent attitude towards non-Japanese-speaking guests.)

    BTW Korean BBQ doesn't get mentioned much on these boards, but when it does Buga seems to be the consensus opinion.

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    Kaito Sushi
    130-A N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024

    Elizabethan Desserts
    155 Quail Gardens Dr, Encinitas, CA

    3 Replies
    1. re: cgfan

      Cool thank you so much. Im coming from the OC area, so both those places are along the area.

      1. re: 123kid

        If you are coming from OC I wouldn't bother with Korean BBQ, OC has better places and Los Angeles even better.

        As to sushi, a lot of people like Kaito because they are head over heals about the chef, but if you don't get the omakase and it isn't with Morita then I am not sure it is the same experience. Sushi Ota in Pacific Beach is a great place, so is Kazumi in Hillcrest, but again, if I lived in OC and was craving sushi, I'd head north into LA for great sushi.

        If I was coming down from OC to San Diego on a day trip looking for different dining, I'd probably head to the North Park area and look at great places like The Linkery, Jayne's Gastropub, Alchemy, The Smoking Goat, Alexander's, Urban Solace, Toronado, Ritual Tavern and Sea Rocket Bistro to name a few. Several of these are "taverns" that have great beers with interesting food choices.

        Do research on those and see what you think. They are certainly more interesting than Luche Libre and Phil's.

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        Linkery
        3794 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

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

        Sushi Ota
        4529 Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109

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

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

        1. re: scottca075

          Kazumi is closed.

    2. San Diego is great for Thai food.

      My absolute favorite is Amarin Thai in Hillcrest.

      Also very good are Taste of Thai also in Hillcrest and Bangkok Spices Thai in North Park. That last one is more casual and affordable, but also more homely. It depends on if you want some fine dining or just some good food.

      If I want something really spicy, i head for Bangkok. They know spicy.

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      Taste of Thai
      527 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103

      Amarin Thai Restaurant
      6755 Mira Mesa Blvd Ste 109, San Diego, CA 92121

      Bangkok Spices Thai Restaurant
      2832 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104

      3 Replies
      1. re: diyeiogt

        really? didn't know SD has great Thai food. Taste of Thai was Americanized, the last time I was there. Amarin was ok, at best. I'm only aware of one really great Thai, which is Sab E Lee.

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        Taste of Thai
        15770 San Andres Dr, Del Mar, CA 92014

        1. re: diyeiogt

          Most Thai food in SD is very one dimensional, either being sweet or spicy. Good Thai food has a great complexity and balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy. After eating many times at Lotus of Siam everything in SD tastes flat and boring.

          1. re: honkman

            Once you go LOS, nothing comes close..

        2. Trouble is, all the best Korean BBQ and Sushi are 20-40 minutes drive from downtown. I agree with cgfan on Buga, but as scott pointed out you might be better off with OC. We also have Japanese-style Korean BBQ like Tsuruhashi (about 20 mins), but ironically the main branch is in..OC.

          What about yakitori at Yakyudori? It's Japanese style skewers, not something a lot of places serve in OC. It's about 20 mins from downtown, but would fit your criteria of expanding your horizons As everyone says, try Kaito if you love sushi (about 40 mins).

          Closer to downtown, you won't find a lot of choices for good Asian food IMO.

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          Tsuruhashi
          San Diego, CA, San Diego, CA

          8 Replies
          1. re: royaljester

            Yakitori Yakyudori in hillcrest closed right?

            Did another Yakitori spot replace it?

            1. re: stevewag23

              Well Yakyudori Ramen & Yakitori has been open on Convoy for quite a while now, and has no shortage of customers during a time when the Hillcrest location was ramping down. Great for Shio Ramen and, of course, Yakitori.

              1. re: cgfan

                Did another Yakatori place replace the Yakitori Yakyudori in hillcrest?

                1. re: stevewag23

                  I forget the name, but a new operation took it's place. The food was, also, pretty forgettable.

                  They bill themselves as a Robata-ya, which is so off the mark, with cooking that caters towards Americanized tastes.

                  1. re: cgfan

                    That's too bad.

                    Was the food bad?

                    Or just not as good as Yakitori Yakyudori?

                    1. re: stevewag23

                      I'm sure it'll appeal to some, OMMV, but for me it was pretty forgettable. Perhaps most of it was expecting to finally have a Robata-ya in SD, and seeing nothing but. The separate "Robata" menu seemed to be merely an afterthought, and the few items that sounded "plausible" turned out to be little culinary abominations upon further inquiry.

                      Surprisingly they were still offering Yakyudori's menu; they haven't even gotten to changing the branding! The Yakitori items were a clear let-down, particularly given their awkward and unintentional homage to Yakyudori.

                      In the end the waitstaff apologized for their offerings, (I must've not kept my poker face on), and explained it by saying that they were trying to appeal to an American audience. (It's always a disappointment when an ethnic eatery feels they need to patronize to their local customers. They should know that slowly the San Diego market is increasingly hungry for, oh there's that word again, more "authentic" offerings.)

                      I apologize for not remembering more of the specifics; rarely do I forget a meal, good, bad, or indifferent. It must've been that forgettable...

            2. re: royaljester

              Closer to downtown than Encinitas doesn't have good Asian food? Have you ever been to Convoy St? Sure, it's not fine dinning, it's a working class Asian immigrant area, but it's also the single best area for most Asian cuisines in the city so I'm shocked at your claim.

              1. re: oerdin

                I'm sure that's not what rj meant. I suspect that he meant closer to downtown than Yakyudori...

            3. well i mean im not too stuck on just the downtown area. My girlfriend enjoys shopping and site seeing, so i mean I guess anywhere near downtown area, carlsbad, ucsd area, sunset cliffs, and i guess anything around those areas. And since I havent heard too much good on korean bbq, im happy with anything as of this point. whether its japanese, seafood, or mexican food, I just wanna eat something that SD is sort of known of. Just decent pricing and good quality.

              2 Replies
              1. re: 123kid

                you are coming from oc, so don't bother with asian food down here unless you want good sushi. what type of sushi do you prefer? Traditional nigiri or do you enjoy rolls and stuff like that more? Based on your likes mentioned in the first post, I'd go with fish tacos, blue water grill or brigantine in del mar are not a bad choices.

                1. re: 123kid

                  What San Diego has done pretty well recently is the farm-to-table gastropub concept, which makes sense, given the bounty of produce and exceptional beers that are produced here. In addition to hitting the 30th corridor (the Linkery, The Ritual, Alchemy, Jayne's Gastropub, El Take It Easy, Toronado, the Smoking Goat, Urban Solace, and TIger Tiger), I would also suggest Avenue 5 - the chef and I went to elementary school together (hooray St. Columba!), and Colin regularly serves up incredible food. The Starlite falls within a similar vein, as does Bankers Hill Bar and Grill.

                  All of these places are fairly close to downtown - probably a 15 minute drive tops, with Starlite, Avenue 5, and Bankers Hill Bar and Grill being about a 5-10 minute drive from Downtown.

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                  Linkery
                  3794 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

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

                  Starlite
                  3175 India Street, San Diego, CA 92103

                  Avenue 5
                  2760 5th Ave Ste 100, San Diego, CA 92103

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