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Please comment on my dining list for my 5-day trip to SD

Never been to SD. From reviewing different sources I came up with the following list of places to try. The ones with the dash marks seemed like the "best" places, places I probably shouldn't miss but in truth I have no idea. I'll be staying near the Marina/Gaslamp area but I will likely have a car. I'd appreciate your comments.

-Market Restaurant Del Mar
-Sushi Ota
-Cucina Urbana
Kaito Sushi
Phil’s BBQ
Solace and the Moonlight Lounge
Yu Me Ya
Banker’s Hill Bar and Restaurant
George’s California Modern
The Oceanaire Seafood Room

The Cottage
Mission Coffee Cup
Urban Solace
Café 21

Thanks again.

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  1. First off, kudos for doing your research before posting for feedback.

    You'll get as many opinions as there are posters, but I see no weaknesses in your first six with the dashes.

    If you wanted to walk from your hotel some day or night rather than drive, there are 3 chow worthy places to consider: Cafe Chloe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner; Cowboy Star serves among the best steaks in the region and has a comfortable and camp ambiance. And a brand new restaurant called Red Light District at 4th and F serves upscale and creative cuisine in a lounge-like setting.

    1. I'd ax Phil's BBQ, which would be a waste of a meal. Also ax Cocina Urbana, which seems generically no-place to me, unless you want a "scene" (ie noisy) meal where the food is secondary to what women wear to be seen there. And in the breakfast category, definitely substitute any of Chef Isabel's restaurants for breakfast: Coffee Cup, Barrio Star, or Cantina FOR Mission Coffee Cup, which she created and sold. MCC is mediocre at best and long lines of spring-break wahoos.

      966 Felspar St, San Diego, CA 92109

      Coffee Cup
      1109 Wall St, La Jolla, CA 92037

      15 Replies
      1. re: pickypicky

        I agree with pickypicky.

        Also nix Yu Me Ya- there's way better Japanese in town. Yakitori Yakyudori, or even Tajima.

        The Cottage is overrated.

        If you're going to Market, don't go to Bankers Hill restaurant, too (same owners).

        If you want good BBQ, go to Coop's West Texas BBQ in Lemon Grove (pork spare ribs are divine).

        Instead of Sushi Ota, go to Hane on 5th Ave (Ota co-owns), but call first and ask for omakase with Roger (also owner). It's a good mix of traditional and inventive sushi.

        1. re: Granite

          I disagree with you about The Cottage, the chow is very good, they use fresh ingredients, it has a nice patio and the prices are good. Why do think it's overrated? Have you eaten there?

          1. re: cstr

            I did not think it was bad... just not sure what all the fuss is about. Fresh ingredients/good service, yes. As for the prices, 9.95 for steel-cut oatmeal is a rip off. $9.95 for a breakfast burrito? This is San Diego, eat Mexican food at an authentic place for half the price. $12.95 for a tuna melt is high in my book, too. Breakfast/brunch at those prices and I expect to be pleased enough to return. Different strokes! I'd suggest finding an authentic Mexican restaurant for breakfast. Super Cocina comes to mind. Visitors coming to San Diego should explore our regional offerings. It's my opinion that a place like the Cottage could be found anywhere in the US. I think there's more unique offerings to try at other places, is all.

            1. re: Granite

              The price on the menu covers more than just the cost of the food. It also has to cover rent, utilities, insurance, linens, cleaning products, probably some labor, advertising, printing. La Jolla isn't exactly the cheap rent district...

              1. re: Granite

                Fuss??, it's a very good consistant place, compared to Brockton Villa, which I would not recommend, The Cottage is a good value.

                1. re: cstr

                  I was not a fan of Brockton, we agree there. But really-- you can honestly say that $9.95 is a value for friggin' oatmeal? I didn't say it wasn't consistent. I just think there's better breakfast values, thinking that perhaps this visitor would want to spend their money on nice dinners instead, and less expensive breakfast places sans the wait (i.e. "fuss") in La Jolla, where, dining diva pointed out, you aren't just paying for the food.

                  1. re: Granite

                    I agree with Granite. Only ate at The Cottage once, and our breakfast was lackluster. Gummy pancakes, wilted fruit. The outdoor patio is nice, and that's what tourists pay for. Location, outdoor dining, being in La Jolla. (I would pay 9.95 for a bowl of oatmeal, but it would have to be pretty damn special.)

                    1. re: pickypicky

                      I'm with granite and picky -- the Cottage is overrated. I'd take Coffee Cup any day over the Cottage.

            2. re: Granite

              I'd agree with your point about Yumeya, but wouldn't recommend Tajima.

              Yakyudori's a great choice, as is Okan. I think if I were to suggest one over the other, it'd be Okan, though they are both very good at what they do and in really very different cuisines.

              I'd also readily replace Sushi Ota (or Hane for that matter) with Kaito Sushi - no comparison. Many others on these boards can chime in on that one as well. (Though I must ask about your Sushi tastes - if it's authentic and traditional style Sushi you're after, then it's a no-brainer for Kaito. They'll also make rolls for you too, but the real treat, and excitement, is for the traditional diner.)

              1. re: cgfan

                Word. I meant that *even* Tajima is a better choice.

                Hinotez is another, and supposedly their traditional Japanese breakfast is good. (Have not tried, but friends said it was and pics look good).

                1. re: Granite

                  Hinotez's bento breakfast is nice, but not worth a special trip IMO.

                  1. re: Granite

                    Hinotez' breakfast is nothing special. I think they really missed a great opportunity to serve a classic (and luxurious) Japanese breakfast, rather than going the timid, albeit more recession-minded, approach of offering something at low cost.

                    However one thing that might be a good business for them, that is if they can get the word out in to the community, is their recent availability of to go Bento boxes. Didn't look at them closely, but they look like a really good deal. San Diego's gone so long without ever (as far as I know) having a to go Bento box concession that I wonder if they'll be able to build the market. Kind of an out of sight, out of mind kind of thing...

                  2. re: cgfan

                    Kaito Sushi is good but be prepared for a long wait to get your food.

              2. From where are you visiting? Are you looking to do all high end meals? Can you tell us more about you?

                1. Thanks for the replies so far. I'm from NYC (though I've been living in Michigan for the past 9 months.) I'd like to get in 1 or 2 meals of high end fine dining, and the rest being more comfortable and casual places though with the flavor balance and execution to satisfy a discerning palate.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: prcentauri

                    Are you interested in some excellent casual Mex fare?

                    1. re: prcentauri

                      Coming from Michigan, I'd recommend ethnic food first, Mexican (super cocina) and asian, japanese (Okan, Oton, Ota) Vietnamese(Hoa Hue). Ota is perfectly good for your sushi choice, Ichiro dines there every time he is in san diego and I'm not one to tell him he is dining on "inferior" sushi. I'd recommend the new american restaurants also like market, whisk n ladle, and george's modern since there are very few places in Michigan that are doing really creative things (save zingermann's, and a handful of places in metro detroit), last time I was there 3 years ago. On the other hand, you can get some amazing food in NYC and Chicago for that matter that blows whatever SD has to offer in terms of fine dining and "high end" casual. So I guess I would go for whatever you miss the most living in Michigan.

                      As far as phil's go, I'd only go there if I just wanted to say I went to a place that was featured on the food network.

                    2. Great list. Just remember that some of your choices in North County are a good 30-40 minutes from downtown with traffic.

                      If you enjoy BBQ, Phil's is good and worthy of a lunch. Just my two cents.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: wanker

                        You'll get tasty food at Phil's, but it isn't BBQ. Unless my sources are wrong, Phil's doesn't smoke their meat; they boil it first, use liquid smoke for effect and grill it over flames. Coop's is incredible. For anyone here that hasn't tried it, it changed my perception of BBQ as a SD native not having access to the "real deal." Coop is from Texas and his father taught him the tricks of the trade. Once you've had smoked brisket, ribs, and the jerk-spiced chicken (smoked, too), you'll see the light and might never go back to the fake stuff!

                        1. re: Granite

                          I completely agree with Granite about Phils. Not a bad lunch, but not BBQ.

                          Coop's the real deal, and well worth the drive. No crazy line, either.

                          1. re: Granite

                            Phil's does not "boil" their meat. He cooks it in a combi oven and then finishes it in on a grill. But, I agree...it's not the real deal BBQ

                            Phil's is high, high volume. While the food is pretty good, there's way better stuff available

                            1. re: DiningDiva

                              Good lord people, who cares if it's "authentic" southern bbq? Like it or not Phil's is one of the best rated and most succesful restaurants in all of San Diego County... because it's food tastes good.

                                1. re: wanker

                                  I care.

                                  Here's why- the OP is coming in to town for and is asking about BBQ. As others have posted, I have no objection to the food they serve at Phils- it tastes ok, and one can have a pleasant lunch.

                                  But it's called Phils BBQ, and if I came into town with BBQ on my mind, I'd be disappointed.

                                  I'm glad it's successful- I think that's great.

                                  1. re: wanker

                                    Who cares?

                                    Probably anyone who's eaten real BBQ, that's who. I just got back from Austin, where I ate a fair amount of high-quality, authentic BBQ and to compare Phil's to that is just silly. And before you say "don't compare it", I'm not the one making the comparison - PHIL is. Phil chooses to label his product BBQ, and to people who really know what BBQ is that's pretty weak.

                                    It's the same deal as places claiming to offer Philly cheesesteaks, Chicago-style hot dogs, etc. If you're going to offer a regional speciality, either do it justice or call it something else.

                                    I don't begrudge Phil his success - obviously a lot of people like what he does. I've eaten there many times, and before I had traveled to TX and eaten the real deal I was a fan. Once I had the real thing, though, Phil's was dead to me.

                                    If a real pit BBQ place opened with the same ease of access as Phil's, it'd be crystal clear in a hurry to San Diegans what the difference is and why it rankles people so much how he positions his product.

                                    1. re: wanker

                                      Why care?

                                      1) There is much better BBQ in town than Phil's
                                      2) There are better restaurants in town than Phil's
                                      3) I'd rather visitors to our fair city experience the best we can do rather than the middlin' that we can do
                                      4) The OP asked for a critique of his choices and we've given it to him

                                      I don't think anyone is begrudging Phil his success, I just think we're saying "you can do better". Phil found an underserved niche, filled it and has been wildly successfully financially. The question to ask is not who cares, but why is the OP asking for BBQ in a city not known for it?

                                      1. re: DiningDiva

                                        Yeah we r gonna skip Phil's. We were recently in Texas and Georgia as well and we enjoyed some very good BBQ already. Thanks for your input.

                              1. If you want to do some higher end dining I would focus on Georges and Kitchen1540 but avoid Market and 9-10. SAn Diego's strength is ( beside some ethnic highlights) mid priced "bistro"- style restaurants - Cucina Urbana is pretty good but I would add Urban Solace and Cafe Chloe (both for dinner not breakfast), Linkery, Smoking Goat, Farmhouse Cafe, Avenue 5 or Alchemy (all of them are quite different in their cuisines) and avoid Banker's Hill restaurant if you are interested in interestung, good food.

                                1. Good list IMO. I agree that maybe you should check closer alternatives to some on your list like hitting Hane over Ota, Prepkitchen Little Italy over Wisknladel or Urban Solace over Moonlight lounge to save yourself some driving time but get the same standards. I'd move George's up the list over Cucina Urbana. Good luck.

                                  1. For Breakfast/Brunch if you are willing to drive North, I would recommend Claire's on Cedros as well.

                                    For your 1-2 "high end" (in terms of price) I'd go with Addison and one of the sushi places (Kaito).

                                    I think you can visit George's Terrace to "cheat" to get another nice experience at a lower price. Cafe Chloe and Cowboy Star are also good places, but Cowboy Star may run more into the higher range on price. PrepKitchen in Little Italy isn't as good as whisknladle, but the food is similar and at the cheaper price point, which may allow you to experience more as well. If you can pay more, Whisknladle is much better though.

                                    I agree with some of the other posters in that you should try some Mexican places for the lunch timeframe. Namely, I think Super Cocina and a Mariscos Taco truck are worth the visit as they are indicative of Mexican cuisine.

                                    Another thing to consider if you enjoy beer is to do a craft brewery tour. You'll probably need a DD, but you can visit some of the local craft breweries and sample the craft beer, which is very distinctive of San Diego.

                                    As for places to remove from you list: Phil's BBQ, Banker's Hill Bar and Restaurant, Oceanaire (this is actually a chain restaurant)

                                    1. I realize I'll be repeating some people, but here goes:

                                      I think you can safely skip Phil's, Whisknladle, Yu Me Ya, Banker's Hill, JRDN, Cottage, Snooze, and Cucina Urbana.

                                      The good ones in that list are merely OK, and nothing particularly of note. There is food that San Diego does very well, but those aren't the places I'd send you to eat it.

                                      Phil's, as I mentioned above, is not good BBQ. Whisknladle is OK, but I thought it was overpriced. Yu Me Ya's location in Hillcrest is dreadful, not sure about the other one. Banker's Hill is boring. JRDN is good for San Diego, but nothing special compared to NYC, and I was largely underwhelmed by my meal there. Cottage is definitely not worth making a drive for - if you're downtown, go to Cafe Chloe for breakfast. Snooze has some tasty breakfast, but the line is stupid and not worth waiting in (same applies for Hash House a Go Go). Cucina Urbana I thought was OK, but again, nothing special.

                                      You should definitely not miss either Super Cocina or Aqui Es Texcoco. Those are two Mexican spots doing food you simply will not find easily anywhere else. Whatever your opinion of Andrew Zimmern, assuming you have one, he was raving about Aqui Es Texcoco during his visit here, justifiably. They specialize in lamb, and it is fantastic.

                                      Both Super Cocina and Aqui Es Texcoco are perfect lunch destinations.

                                      Another spot I'd recommend trying is Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park. You might also want to check out The Linkery, also in North Park. They both make some very good food, highlighting locally sourced ingredients.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Josh

                                        Thank you for your very detailed reply. We do want to try whatever SD does best and we figured we should hit up some Mexican places. Unfortunately we will not be having lunch out as we will be busy on conferences. I figured those kinds of meals are best for lunch. Is there a great regional place we shouldn't miss that we could try for dinner?

                                        1. re: prcentauri

                                          Good to know. Aqui Es Texcoco is open for dinner (they're open until 9pm), so I'd strongly suggest checking them out. It's worth the drive.

                                          Another good option for Mexican that I'd forgotten about is El Comal in North Park. That's not far from downtown, and they have some really great dinner options. If they have any special goat preparations, don't pass them up, they are fantastic.

                                          Linkery and Sea Rocket both fit the bill for regional cooking. They have similar philosophies, with the latter focusing on seafood. I'd suggest making it to both, but if you can't do both either are good choices.

                                          I'll also add to the list Alchemy, in South Park, and Starlite in Mission Hills. Alchemy also specializes in locally-sourced ingredients, and they're next to a great beer bar in the mold of Blind Tiger in NYC, Hamilton's Tavern. That's a good evening out, right there.

                                          Starlite also has excellent food, with a focus on local sourcing, creative cocktails, and an extremely cool ambience.

                                          All of these places are mid-priced, bistro-style dining, vs. high-end gourmet, but I think that's our city's strongest suit culinarily.

                                          1. re: Josh

                                            El Vitral and Candalas are both downtown within easy reach. El Vitral has a great selection of tequilas. Both are more than a taco shop and suitable for dinner.

                                            1. re: Josh

                                              I would also recommend El Take it Easy - same owner as Linkery and same focus on locally sourced ingredients but with a more Mexican take on them.

                                        2. The bluegrass brunch at Urban Solace is good. Fun environment and tasty breakfast choices.

                                          1. Oh! If you'd like to see what our region offers for beer, try Neighborhood Ale House (downtown, good burgers, too). If you want to drive, Blind Lady Ale House in Normal Heights is a nationally recognized brewpub with stellar pizzas made with local produce. They also have excellent charcuterie, including some delicious house-made terrines.

                                            1. Thanks everyone for the feedback. I've shuffled the list quite a bit. It's looking more like this:

                                              -Kaito Sushi
                                              Sushi Ota
                                              Hane Sushi
                                              George’s California Modern
                                              Kitchen 1540
                                              Café Chloe
                                              Cowboy Star
                                              Super Cocina
                                              Market Restaurant Del Mar
                                              Solace and the Moonlight Lounge
                                              Cucina Urbana

                                              Coffee Cup
                                              Urban Solace
                                              Café 21

                                              I think what I'm going to do is Addison, Kaito Sushi, Cafe Chloe, Cowboy Star and Super Cocina. It seems like its a decent mix of high end dining, casual comfortable, and a local favorite. And some of the places are close by while some others will require a drive.

                                              9 Replies
                                              1. re: prcentauri

                                                I might have missed this, but where are you coming from?

                                                1. re: prcentauri

                                                  As much as I love Super Cocina, I wouldn't endorse them as a dinner destination. For one thing, they close early (8pm), for another, their food is held in steam tables and by the end of the day everything's not at its best. (Though you can ask them to make things like enchiladas to order, which they will do.)

                                                  What I would suggest is going there for breakfast. Their breakfast dishes are unique and delicious. Great chilaquiles, and huevos oaxaquenos. They do breakfast very well, and it'll be much fresher (and more interesting than Snooze). After breakfast, you can cruise down University St. to 30th, and grab a good coffee from Caffe Calabria.

                                                  1. re: prcentauri

                                                    There is nothing on your list that's not solid for San Diego.

                                                    Unless it's a special occasion, and as much as I LOVE the place, I might drop Addison. NYC has such great fine dining options that I'd save the loot and eat more Mexican food, including my favorite (all together now) Super Sergios.

                                                    I'm not kidding.

                                                    You cannot get a good Carne Asada Burrito in NYC (yes, Amy, I drove by) (OK, I've spent some time there) and I feel the drive-thru burrito is a specific cuisine in and of itself.

                                                    So go- get thyself a drive-thru Carne Asada Burrito.

                                                    I'm serious, I promise.

                                                    1. re: Fake Name

                                                      I agree with Fake Name on Addison (and no I still haven't been), if you have the loot - it's said to be amazing, but there are also many amazing places in NYC.

                                                      Georges Modern really is a beautiful spot, depending on when you're coming maybe you could set something up through chowhound to do TBL3 - might as well consider it if you're thinking about Addison
                                                      Kaito - it probably goes without saying that you'll want to do the omakase

                                                      Prep Kitchen Little Italy is also owned by the Whisknladle group and will be closer to your hotel - you could add them to your brunch list.

                                                      Urban Solace will be closer than Solace and the Moonlight Lounge - Also another spot you could hit for brunch/lunch.

                                                      I'm surprised no one mentioned Mariscos German taco truck

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

                                                      Mariscos German
                                                      2802 Ocean View Blvd, San Diego, CA

                                                      Mariscos German
                                                      3515 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104

                                                      1044 Wall Street, La Jolla, CA 92037

                                                      1. re: Rodzilla

                                                        Not to make it too difficult, but I'd advise to optimize your visit to Kaito based on what days you have available. Their biggest market days are on Fridays (w/follow-up on Saturdays) and Tuesdays (w/follow-up on Wednesdays).

                                                        Also in particular monitor their Twitter stream (@kaito_sushi) where they'll occasionally announce their deliveries for the day - the last time I went in based on one of their Tweets 17 items came in that day!

                                                        ...and yes, as Rodzilla says, do the Omakase, and with Morita-san - he's the chef facing the window.

                                                        ...and as far as I know, Ichiro does not go to Kaito. (So what?)

                                                      2. re: Fake Name

                                                        I have to agree - there are no good burritos in NYC. Also, the San Diego taco shop is somewhat unique, similar to a New York pizzeria (with the same variety in quality).

                                                      3. re: prcentauri

                                                        If you go to Alforon, be sure to get at least one order of the chicken tawook and the aysh (sp?) for dessert. I haven't had anyting bad there, but those two dishes are standouts. Nice people, too.

                                                        Our family's three top-visited restaurants in the general vicinity are (in no particular order) Alforon, the Linkery and El Take it Easy.

                                                        There's a place called Lion's Share, downtown, that I've been meaning to try. No idea if it's good, but it's got potential, though not cheap. http://lionssharesd.com/menu.html Open late, too.

                                                      4. Wait- I've looked again.

                                                        I like Cafe Chloe. It's terrific. But if I were coming from NYC, I wouldn't waste my time there. Same as Banker's Hill, Market, Oceanaire and JRDN. These are fine places, I've been to each, and have enjoyed the meals there- so I'm not dissing them at all.

                                                        But I think the others (except Phils) represent a San Diego experience and something you can't get in NYC.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Fake Name

                                                          Fakey is righty. Go the regional food route! On Super Cocina: best chile rellenos ever. I never go without getting one. Contrary to what Josh said, I have gone for dinner many a time and never had food that didn't seem fresh.

                                                            1. re: Granite

                                                              Good to know about dinner. Thanks for the update.

                                                          1. I would add Shirahama for sushi, which is located on Convoy. This is a tiny, quiet, extremely Japanese restaurant, and the food is excellent. I am so happy to see you are going to visit Alforon. This place is way underrated. Samira, one of the owners, is a gracious and welcoming host.

                                                            Have you considered Kitchen 1540 in Del Mar? I have not been there, but it's very popular.

                                                            I have been to Market once, and it was very middling. For the price and location I expected a fairly high level of professional service, but instead it was a bit on the juvenile "how you guys doing" end and there was A TON of very annoying and obvious up-selling.

                                                            The Gaslamp Quarter is largely forgettable for decent food, with the exception of Cafe Chloe, a quaint French cafe.

                                                            Oh! Definitely consider Manna BBQ and Mongolian Hot Pot in Kearney Mesa, if you venture to the Convoy area. They are "cook your own" and offer a tasty, unique dining experience. At Mongolian Hot Pot, you boil your food, and Manna has a small BBQ on the table for cooking.