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Mar 19, 2012 06:47 AM

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'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.