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Apr 1, 2003 04:53 PM

San Diego Must-Eats

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I'll be visiting SD for three days next week and would appreciate a list of must-eat spots. These should be critical SD chowing experiences that locals make sure their out-of-town loved ones go to. I'm most interested in regional specialities -- seafood, "california cuisine," Mexican/Latin Am, and Asian. I will have a car so location doesn't matter much, but let's keep it to SD. Be it a swanky hotel resto or a street vendor, if it is not-to-be-missed, I would love to know about it. Bonus points for anyone who can put together a 3-day B/L/D eating itinerary.

Many thanks...

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  1. Try "Fresh" in La Jolla, pricey but very good. "Tapanade" in La Jolla, very pricey, but very,very good. Dumpling Inn on Convoy, cheap but very, very, v ery good.

    1. Must "eats" in San Diego?!?!? Surely you jest ;-). But if you're serious, here's a list of 30 places you might want to try. They are in no particular order and do not necessarily reflect my tastes or opinions.....

      1. Chilango's - Hillcrest
      2. El Por Venir - Barrio Logan
      3. Los Cuatro Milpas - Barrio Logan
      4. La Posta #8 - Hillcrest
      5. La Playita - Kearney Mesa (ceviche)
      6. El Zarape - University Heights
      7. Aquarella - La Jolla
      8. New Shanghai - Kearney Mesa
      9. Sushi Ota - Pacific Beach
      10. Original Pancake House - Kearny Mesa
      11. Saigon Noodle House - El Cajon Blvd.
      12. Chicken Pie Shop - El Cajon Blvd.
      13. Nicolosi's - Allied Gardens
      14. Bully's Mission Valley - Happy Hour (bartenders pour heavy and they serve their prime rib bits as a free happy hour treat on Fridays)
      15. Indigo Grill - Little Italy
      16. Qwiggs - Ocean Beach (for the view and the clam chowder, not much else. Bartenders just let the drinks sniff at the liquor bottle)
      17. Adams Ave. Cafe - University Heights
      18. Parkhouse Cafe - University Heights
      19. Hash House a Go-Go - Hillcrest
      20. Crest Cafe - Hillcrest
      21. Terra - Hillcrest
      22. The Mission - North Park
      23. MooTime Creamery - various throught the city (great ice cream)
      24. El Agave - Old Town
      25. Marine Room - La Jolla (been around in SD since dirt)
      26. Cuvee - La Jolla
      27. Point Loma Seafood - Point Loma
      28. Anthony's - various (been around 50+ years). Just brought back the Zabbione cake from their original dessert menu
      29. DeMille's - Kensington
      30. Parallel 33 - Mission Hills

      You really might have better luck just doing a search (Ctrl-F) on this page. The above list just scratches the surface of the possibilities and doesn't even take into account anything in the Gaslamp district or other tourist destinations.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Gayla

        A nice list, Gayla. I would have to add Seoul Barbecue (best Korean I've ever had), Balboa Tofu House (wonderful Korean specialty house for soft tofu soups), Phoung Trang (sp?) (the best Vietnamese in town (imho)), all of which are on Convoy. While I haven't eaten there often enough to be sure, Celadon Thai in Hillcrest seems excellent also.

        1. re: e.d.

          I know. You do Asian, I do Mexican :-))

          After some thought, to my list I'd also add

          1) Laurel
          2) Thee Bungalow
          3) Chive
          4) Peoes (in know I spelled that wrong, the place in Coronado)

          1. re: Gayla

            Actually, Gayla, I generally do Asian in SD. Out here in Yuma, I get tons of pretty good, working class, border Mexican. Yesterday for lunch, for example, I had a mixed seafood cocktail (oysters, shrimp, krab, and tender octopus) and empenadas (deep-fried half moons of orangish dough surrounding ground shrimp filling) served with the hottest fresh green salsa at Mariscos Nayarit, a taco wagon parked at the edge of fields a few miles west of downtown. You know, if you ever want to eat some varied and interesting Mexican over here, just let me know when you're coming. Even if I'm too busy to be much of a host, I would be delighted to point you in the right directions.

            1. re: Gayla

              peohe's =) They have the most amazing onion rings (i know odd to get onion rings there) but the slowest service. I've waited over 45 minutes for my main dish every single time i've gone there =(

            2. re: e.d.

              e.d. and Gayla, you certainly put together a wonderful list. so wonderful, I'm keeping it as a file here at work. one more place I would add, simply because I love it and there were no "traditional" barbeque places on your lists: Phil's BBQ in Mission Hills.

              1. re: e.d.

                Nice list, Gayla. I would like to add a very good, casual, Korean place on Clairemont Mesa Blvd called Do Re Mi as well as another vote for Phuong Trang on Convoy. What a street...Golden City is quite good for dim sum without being as nutsy busy as Jasmine and Thai House shows off with wonderful, subtle curries.
                While in this area, make a visit to Zion Market at Mercury and Engineer. HUGE asian market leaning heavily on Korean. I could go on forever, I think.

                1. re: e.d.

                  E.D.--how does Seoul BBQ compare to Buga?

                  1. re: daantaat

                    Buga is a different style. You wrap the meat around the lettuce and rice paper. But i think Buga's quality of meat is significantly better. (sorry i'm not e.d.)

                    1. re: daantaat

                      Wow, some of the stuff that comes up on these searches. When I lived in SD, before Buga, before Boo-Cho, I at a lot at Seoul BBQ. It was far better than Korea House, Arirang, and the place that used to be on Adams Ave. I especially enjoyed the wide range of lunch specials. It was the first place I ever had cold noodle soup, black cod and daikon in spicy sauce, Hwoe dup bop, etc. But the meat is not as good as Buga, and I haven't been there in a couple years - though I still have a fondness for hwoe dup bop which may eventually require a return.


                2. Andrew, what did you end up eating? I'll be in San Diego for 2 days, 3 nights (one night of which I'll be eating at a wedding), and I'd love to know which places you thought were best for regional specialties. Thanks!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ksabbeth

                    Have any of you eaten at Friends House? It's in the shopping center just south of Tajima. It's on the corner. I'm not real familiar yet with Korean food, but it sure tasted good to me! Add the sides were great. The daikon was fabulous, the fish ball was very good. I had the spicy beef with onions over rice. I will go back and try more. What are the classic Korean dishes to try? I asked the waitress and she said "everything"

                  2. I have to disagree with the suggestion of New Shanghai on Convoy. While the food I had there was decent it was nothing exceptional. Might depend on what you order though.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: mliew

                      New Shanghai has been gone for over a year.

                      I used to go there a lot, and I thought they had some great stuff. They had a spicy Szechuan chicken that was face-meltingly hot. The braised oil-less pork shoulder was pretty amazing too.

                      1. re: Josh

                        Oh whoops, now that you mention it I was thinking about Shanghai City. Although I once had Hot Pot at New Shanghai which was decent but not extraordinary. Does anyone have any opinions on Jamillah Garden (which took over the space where New Shanghai was)? I ate there about 6 months ago and it was nothing special.

                        1. re: mliew

                          I enjoyed my couple of Jamillah experiences. If you didn't get the bread then you really missed out.

                    2. I enjoyed the Lamb warm pot.