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New Yorker needs advice for the BEST food experience of SD

We'll be in San Diego - first time - and would like a great dining experience. I do not necessarily mean top of the line fine dining but places where the chefs use fresh local ingredients creatively. We'd like to get a bit of local flavor, something we can't get in NY- so Mexican, Californian, American seafood, etc. French or Italian elements are OK but don't want a formal French restaurant.

Thanks for whatever help you can give me!

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    1. re: honkman

      Is this a worthy splurge? We were considering Addison for our 5 year anniversary, but this sounds excellent. We have dined at Addison, and would love to go back, but we also love trying new restaurants.

      1. re: Dagney

        TBL3 evokes San Diego terroir at its best. Addison takes you on a fairytale journey to a faraway land. It depends on which you prefer.

        1. re: shouzen

          hmmmmm....Husband is worried that George's will be like a souped up Anthony's, though I have assured him it is an established solid choice in San Diego.

          The great thing about Addision, (and this is for the NY guy) is that you know you will be taken care of by people who give a damn and know their craft, from the back of the house to the front.

          1. re: Dagney

            I've only eaten at Addison once. I felt like I was in Miami Beach or Vegas. One of the least memorable of my SD-- or life-- dining experiences. Not to mention it's owned by Doug Manchester. Just typing his name sends shivers up my spine.

            George's is as local and as fine a place as SD has ever produced. Trey is revered among city chefs young and seasoned. The service is good and the view incomparable. It's a perfect example of a place that locals still patronize even though tourists besiege it during summer months. I'm not even a fan of SD, and I'm a fan of George's.

            1. re: pickypicky

              Dearest pickypicky,
              What do you mean by "I'm not even a fan of SD?" I was going to launch into a fierce defense of my beloved hometown, but thought I'd give you a chance to put your comments into context first.

              1. re: melee

                Sorry, melee. I've lived here 12 years and must stay because of my husband's job. I've tried to love southern CA. I surf, I have lots of friends who grew up here, I garden year round, my son graduated from La Jolla High, I'm a good neighbor -- but San Diego is not in my top 3 of places I've lived. I do count my blessings regularly, and George's is one of them. As I grow older "home" is more important and more specific to me than beach and weather. I made the comment above to try and sound impartial about a good restaurant. I didn't mean to offend anyone.

                1. re: pickypicky

                  Fair enough. You're certainly enttitled to your opinion and i always welcome hearing someone else's point of view. Here's the reason I wanted you to provide more background on your blanket comment about not liking San Diego: this is the OP's first visit to our beautiful city and they are looking for an authentic San Diego dining experience. They live in New York and have already stated that they're not necessarily looking for fine dining. So, let's focus on the unique dining experiences we offer - great sushi from Kaito or Ota, fish tacos from Mariscos German or The Brig, fresh produce from Chino Farms that you can gobble up in the car while taking a drive through Rancho Santa Fe, grabbing cafes con leche and gauva pastries from Azucar before walking along Sunset Cliffs, grazing on a Saturday at the Little Italy Mercato with a view to the SanDiego Bay, cocktails and appetizers at George's with a view to the Pacific, grabbing a growler of great beer from Pizza Port/Ballast Point/Karl Strauss or any of our other great local breweries, and finishing the night with a carne asada burrito from any of our amazing little Mexican taco shops that I missed so dearly during the periods of time I lived away from home. Let's get them excited about their trip.

                  1. re: melee

                    Or Mama Testa's! Holy Mother of Jehovah! We just ate there today for the first time. I had the house-made chorizo tacos and my husband had the pastor tacos. Both were excellent and left us debating ordering a second round (which we resisted). The service was efficient and very friendly and decor was beautiful and authentic.

                    1. re: Dagney

                      I love Mama Testa's. I'm partial to the mashed potato tacos and my girls love their beans. In fact, last time we went they insisted on getting seconds - and they usually eat like birds.If you're visiting the zoo it's a great place to stop for some tacos and a cold beer.

                      1. re: melee

                        Yes! We visited the Japanese Gardens today after lunch.

                        1. re: Dagney

                          Melee, As I've posted many times here before, my NYC, Chicago, and UK friends LOVE San Diego visits. I always entertain them well and ALWAYS introduce them to most unique dining experiences SD has to offer, from Barrio Logan to La Jolla. Even on this thread I write winningly of the city. Being honest about a place-- its pros and cons-- is not giving someone the wrong impression.

                          1. re: pickypicky

                            My point was simply that these are first time visitors looking for the best San Diego dining experience. We should certainly be candid and specific as possible about where our dining scene falls short, but a comment like ":I don't even like San Diego" is not particularly helpful. They're looking for advice on where to eat; not to discuss the merits of living in San Diego. I read your posts regularly - you are clearly very interested in the local dining scene and you're a fair critic. I'm sure you are a lovely host andyour visting friends are lucky to have a knowledgable person show them the varied and unique dining experiences here. I guess as a native I'm looking to act as a host in a way to visitors of this board and focus on the good of our city. Does that make sense? Truce?

                            1. re: melee

                              Absolute truce. What I value here is the willingness of commenters to go beyond likes and dislikes, to larger questions and values. And. . .I envy anyone who's found the city of their dreams!

                  2. re: pickypicky

                    Picky- your response made me chuckle because it made me think about how home is so specific for all of us. I'm currently in Philadelphia because of work but I would really love to get back to San Diego, where I grew up. The beach and the weather is actually what signifies home to me. I just never feel at home with the "seasons".
                    Actually, my favorite place I ever lived was Santa Barbara. But San Diego would be a close second.

      2. Starlite Lounge.

        There's others. But every time I go, they deliver on all counts.

        Cheers!

        1. TBL3 and which is your top end dining experience as well, but it fits the bill and you may want to try and schedule now. 170 or 250 w/pairings pre tax and tip.

          The skyroom at la valencia just reopened and it looks promising for another top dollar tasting.

          Flavor Del mar is another option for a beautiful view, largely seafood focused with a Japanese and even sort of Italian influence.

          Do you like sushi? I know you can get very good quality sushi in NY, but SD has very, very quality stuff as well - and our own local sea urchin and our proximity to Japan :) Kaito is a gem, Ota is very popular as well. I had some of the best San Diego urchin I've tasted at Akinori in Hillcrest the other night.

          Mexican - Super Cocina is likely going to get the nod

          Fish Tacos - I say Oscars in Northern Pacific Beach/Bird Rock or one of the Mariscos Trucks.

          You can get new american type stuff most anywhere these days, but San Diego does do it exceptionally well and these two were doing farm to table/local ingredients before it was so en vogue - Urban Solace, Linkery.

          Don't go to any Malarkey places if you want a celebrity chef that's actually still a chef, and good food - RGang Eatery.

          1. TBL3 at George's and have drinks before or after at the Marine Room in LJ
            Eddie V's in LJ
            Addison at the Grand Del Mar
            Kitchen 1540 at L'Auberge Del Mar
            Flavor Del Mar
            The Lodge at Torrey Pines

            1. I'd add The Linkery it's a great fun place.