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Feb 10, 2012 12:00 PM

First time in San Diego end of March for wife's bday

Hi guys,
My wife and I will be visiting San Diego for the first time March 23-26 for her birthday weekend. We are staying at Tower 23 hotel in Pacific Beach. We will also have our 8 month old daughter with us.
I would like to get some recommendations for restaurants with unique local cuisine. I only eat halal meat and my wife usually sticks to fish and chicken. I can have seafood but no chicken or beef unless it is halal. We are huge fish taco fans and can't wait to try some in SD.
Traveling with the baby we prefer casual places. I would like to have one nice dinner at a place not too stuffy so we don't feel uncomfortable with the baby. We would also like to try some great local dessert places. We will have a rental car.
Thanks in advance.

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  1. Regarding Halal Restaurants, most are located in or near El Cajon in East County (approximately 2000 refugees per month arrive at the Refugee Center in El Cajon and those who have stayed have started restaurants in that general area).

    Closest to where you are staying, in La Mesa, just north of the I-8, is Vine Ripe Market which sells only Halal meats and there is a restaurant attached to the market (it just changed names, I can't recall) and they get the meats served from that Market butcher shop.

    In El Cajon on Main Street, Ali Baba is definitely Halal. The food is great.

    Nahrain, just East of Ali Baba (at 1183 Main Street) sells Masgoof style chicken and fish-fresh/live and from the seafood case. On the wall is a sign that they only serve Halal meats. You can call ahead or expect to wait about 45 minutes for the Masgoof to be prepared (619)334-3222. It isn't a fancy place, but the food is excellent.

    There are other Markets which sell halal meats and all of them have small restaurants inside/attached to the market. I'm not sure if that is what you may be looking for while on vacation here...although you would not feel much in California is too fancy.

    Others will chime in about fish tacos...and desserts. (Although, right next to Nahrain is Shakira, which has one of the largest varieties of baklava-like desserts I've ever seen.)

    1. If you go with the pure seafood route (and why not? San Diego has pretty good seafood), JRDN, Tower 23's restaurant is pretty good (its not a favorite here, but it is a huge step up from the other places on the beach in PB). For Mexican cuisine, I'd hit up the Mariscos trucks (Maricos German, etc.), which specialize in seafood. For a more neighborhood feel, you might want to consider going to the SeaRocket Bistro, or go to Bluewater (for some of the freshest fish ever).

      1. Bay Park Seafood is close to the hotel and is a good, casual seafood restaurant/market. The Fishery in PB is a more upscale seafood restaurant/market but still casual enough to take your 8 month old.

        I have only had breakfast/brunch at JRDN in your hotel and thought the food was very good. Considering they have a lot of outdoor seating and it is in your hotel, I would definitely recommend it. Not sure that it would be OK to bring the baby there for dinner, though.

        1. For a casual fish lunch you could even walk to the fishery or pacific beach fish shop, the latter is about a 2mile walk but if you can walk along Garnet ave and check out shops the entire way. El Pescador would only be a short drive into La Jolla.

          For a nice dinner where you can bring the kid, you might try Georges Ocean Terrace, a popular spot with a great view and more casual than Georges Modern.

          extrordinary desserts is wildly popular. Right near your hotel is Gelato Bus Stop, and Sugar + Scribe bakery.

          1. Since lots of posters will direct you out of PB, I'll try to keep my suggestions within walking distance.

            Seconding The Fishery. PB Fish Shop gets a lot of love from friends and co-workers, but I have yet to go.

            Love La Playa mexican (Mission, just south of PB Drive), especially their breakfast burritos and shrimp tacos.
            Not always consistent, but the fish tacos at Taco Motion (Garnet and Fanuel in the 7-11 strip mall) were among my first in SD and I go back at least once a month for a fix.
            I just went to the Tap Room for the first time on a Taco Tuesday and was pleasantly surprised. There was little to no "PB-DB" overload that you find further down Garnet and the beer selection is awesome for PB.

            Breakfast at Isabel's Cantina is a must for any out-of-towner's that visit me (Cass at Feldspar). With an 8mo old, you should be able to readily beat the crowds. On a nice morning, they open the floor to ceiling windows and the crisp, cool ocean breeze coupled with a deep latte can't be beat. Note that Seaside Cafe (Oceanfront Boardwalk and Reed?) and The Mission (Mission and Redondo?) are sister restaurants. Though the view is incredible at Seaside (one of the only real beachside eating experiences) I find the food inconsistent, but coffee is good. The Mission is a real locals favorite, but not so much on this board (I find it fine, but prefer Cantina).

            I love Thai Village, which is right outside your hotel on Mission. They have an avocado curry which is anything but "authentic", but everything delicious and very SoCal. Also a big fan of the finger shrimp - shrimp, lemon grass and galangal twisted into a spring roll wrapper and fried.

            One last thing - stay away from Sushi in PB, other than Sushi Ota. Though, I don't really recommend Ota on a weekend, it's too much of a hassle to get in and a madhouse of people. If you're sushi fans, just trust the many, many, many posts glorifying Kaito and bite the bullet to drive to Encinitas .

            3 Replies
            1. re: CampySD

              Does the Tap Room allow people under 21?

                1. re: cstr

                  That would have been my assumption, but either by mistake or design, they allowed 2 members of our party to stay without ID (they are foreigners who have yet to get their driver's licenses and always forget their passports...) so long as they didn't order alcohol.
                  Judging that the OP is traveling with a baby and they'll likely be eating during the day, it may be easier to swing.