Solo Dining... staying in Gaslamp but have a car
Been in town for a few weeks on business and have had some really solid meals with colleagues - Sushi Ota (fantastic), Blue Water Seafood (long wait but very fresh), Prep Kitchen (call me crazy, but it was just "ok"), and a surprisingly good meal at Grant Grill. I'll be on my own for a few nights coming up and was wondering where my fellow Hounds thought I should dine solo (somewhere I can eat at the bar, maybe with some good bartenders and a not-too-stuffy atmosphere).
I'm staying at US Grant in the Gaslamp but have my rental car, so I'm pretty free to go places. I ate solo at the bar at George's in La Jolla and thought the experience was nice. Anywhere a bit closer I should definitely go? Maybe something walking distance from the hotel? Dobson's was on my short list... how's the atmosphere there? I've also been told to try Hodad's and Phil's BBQ.
I welcome any suggestions, and will of course report back with my thoughts!
Visited Cafe Chloe on my own the other night and I'm pleased to say I have a story of TOP-NOTCH service and food.
Very quiet and quaint... not the place to go if you're looking for bar action, but perfect if you just want to relax. I wanted to order the seared albacore dish on the menu, but I have an allergy to nuts and the bed of eggplants it was served on contained nuts. I am NEVER difficult about my allergy and, growing up when nut allergies were unheard of, I'm pretty used to working my dining experiences around it and not forcing restaurants to bend over backwards for me. But the bartender was SO kind and said since I wanted the seared tuna, she'd tell the chef to come up with an off-menu dish for me that incorporated it. Despite my protests, the chef came out with a DELICIOUS plate he had concocted in the back.
I was served seared albacore over a corn and squash puree, with peppers and cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, and a light tomato sauce. He finished off the dish with a few lightly fried calamari on top. It was great. I cleaned the plate and promptly told chef to add it to the menu tomorrow haha! It is so nice to see unpretentious and customer-first service like that. I'm grateful to Cafe Chloe for providing a nice dining experience that evening.
Last night my colleague was in town and we hit Searsucker for an early pre-ballgame dinner. While I didn't experience it during peak hours (when I imagine it can get pretty loud), I feel like I got the general idea. We ordered a bunch of small plates and 2 mains... shared everything. Shishito peppers were great to munch on but doused in soy sauce, bone marrow was ok, pork belly topped with a poached egg was mediocre (the egg and hollandaise sauce completely overpowered the pork), and the winner was the crabcake. Loved how it had no bread and was straight crab... very good. Main courses were hanger steak and tilapia, which were both fine.
I get how this can be a power dinner spot and a place to see-and-be-seen. The ambiance is very hip, and the food is good enough that it will please most diners. Like I said, I liked my food, but even being here for just a few weeks, I think there seem to be MUCH better options in town. Just my opinion, of course... it could have been too early or simply an off-night. Have you SD Hounds had similar experiences?
Thanks for the great report! I was really happy to hear about Cafe Chloe, you sound like a great guest to begin with, but it's always great to hear about a Chef being so service oriented when they could likely get away with not being so humble.
I think your last paragraph sums it up exactly, and it's what you'll find a lot of Chowhounders say. The majority of us have advised those looking for really great food to avoid Searsucker. I've never visited because myself because I don't have a lot of respect for Malarkey, and would rather support those better establishments that you speak of.
Promised I'd report back:
Went to Dobson's and sat at the bar last Wednesday night. While there's tons to explore here, I was just looking for an easy place I could walk to from the hotel.
Wasn't planning on having the bisque since I wasn't too hungry (sorry Beach Chick), BUT the terrific bartender Alex convinced me. They made me a small order and it was delicious. The sherry they pour in after breaking the puff pastry is like icing on the cake. Not exactly a summer dish, but it was well worth it. I had a nice salad to round things off.
I spent the rest of the night trading stories (and drinks) with Alex and learning more about the restaurant... you're truly lucky to have a cozy place with so much history like this right in town. As a former New Jerseyan and current Atlantan, I often miss the old-time family-owned Jersey Italian restaurants you can pop into at any time, where the bartenders and servers know you by name (and know your father and grandfather's names, too), with exquisite oak bars and fantastic homey food. While the dining scene in Atlanta is great right now, everything is so new and shiny that the welcoming feel is just not there yet in most places. I will most certainly visit Dobson's one last time before my project here is over.
If you like Ramen then Yakitori Yakyudori on Convoy would be a great choice, and their sister restaurant Hinotez on Balboa has an excellent Japanese breakfast.
A fun and delicious option would Alforon on El Cajon Boulevard (near College Avenue). They serve wonderful Mediterranean food and the owners will treat you like a long lost relative.
If you are craving French, Cafe Chloe has great food, but you should also check out Farmhouse on Adams Avenue, which is tiny, quaint, very friendly, and would be perfect for a single diner. Their food is right on par with CC.
For a healthy lunch or early dinner choice near the Gaslamp, try Salad Style. They have an excellent array of truly healthy fare, and the service is good.
Thanks everyone for all the rec's so far... Beach Chick: the mussel bisque at Dobson's was on my list of must-haves; glad to get affirmation on that.
Loghia: I find it VERY unlikely that anything could beat my omakase experience at Ota a few weeks ago, but as a sushi lover, I am up for trying that challenge.
My plan is to venture out over the next few weeks and I'll most definitely report back! Chloe sounds like a great option. Top of the Market also looks great. How does Point Loma compare to Blue Water, where I went last night? And, as a NJ transplant who loves my thin crust pizza, I gotta try Basic.
Go early to Point Loma Seafoods..no lines, eat outside with all the boats but be alert with those sky rat sea gulls..
Bay Park Fish Company is good too and have a happy hour.
Brigantine in Shelter Island for everyday happy hour fish tacos and margs.
Drive through Rancho Santa Fe and have drinks and apps at Delicias or the Inn at RSF.
If you thought Sushi Ota is good, you should go and have omakase at Kaito in Encinitas..
Bull Taco in Cardiff watching the sunset on the beach.
Love the US Grant and their bar is lovely..
Dobson's across the street is one of my faves...mussel bisque en croute is sublime..very SF vibe.
Fish Market Downtown next to the USS Midway at the Oyster Bar (steamers, chowder, Kumamota oysters, cheesy bread) or sushi bar is excellent call...do not go to the downstairs resto...very pedestrian...upstairs Top of the Market is pricey and excellent.
Bali Hai in Shelter Island...best mai tai and great views..get tixs across at Humphreys concert on the bay.
Point Loma Seafoods in Shelter Island/Point Loma..lunch for scallop or calamari sandwich
Tender Greens in Liberty Station behind the airport..awesome salads
Eddie V's in LJ
Marine Room LJ for drinks and apps in the bar
Cafe Chloe sit at the bar
Basic at the bar for great pizza
Kaito in Encinitas
Flavor Del Mar happy hour..drive up the coast from LJ
Top of the Hyatt in Gaslamp for after dinner drinks on the 40th floor
Water taxi over from Gaslamp to Candelas for happy hour..(Dobsons and water taxi)
Have fun and report back!
Hodad's and Phils are nothing special at all and you will get people on this board who will tell you they are actively bad. I would definitely avoid Phils due to the long lines.
Downtown/Gaslamp area I would suggest the usual recommended places all of which are a short/medium walk from the hotel- Cafe Chloe, Cowboy Star, Basic (more of a club/lounge atmosphere) or Neighborhood - great craft beer selection there. I also liked my meals at Quality Social but have heard that it can be quite loud and crowded at times.
If you go to Dobsons and don't get the mussel bisque then Beach Chick will die a little on the inside.
Just FYI, if you really want to try Phil's (just ok in my opinion) you can bypass the line and walk straight into the bar with a party of any size. I have gone during lunch after the swap meet with 6 people and we walked past probably 150 people in line to sit in the bar. Bonus, you have a server in the bar and they bring your food to you instead of the cafeteria pick-up system! Not having to wait in line makes it a lot better and actually worth trying.