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Visiting for conference - please review my list (which needs to be veggie-friendly)

Hello! A friend and I are visiting San Diego for a conference in a couple weeks. I've been going through the board recommendations. Sounds like there are a wealth of places for things I would love: fresh seafood, farm-to-table, craft brews, etc.

The stumbling block is that my friend is vegetarian (no seafood, but dairy and eggs ok) and not many of the menus I've looked at seem to have a lot of veggie options.

We are from Vancouver, so am looking forward to some cuisines that are harder to get (like Mexican) or whatever is fresh and local (like spiny lobster - can I make lobster count as a "vegetable"?). I hear the Japanese here is great and would love to do an Omakase to compare with the Vancouver scene, but am not sure where we could go where my vegetarian companion would still be able to have some good options.

We are staying in Gaslamp and the conference is at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. We will be without a car, so nearby would be easiest, but we might venture out for a meal or two. Also am tempted to visit Coronado Island on the Sunday we are there.

Here are some places I am considering. Please let me know if you think that a vegetarian would be miserable there, or if there is something glaringly missing:

Searsucker - I see there are mixed reviews but the Sunday brunch menu looks so tempting
Lucha Libre - might be good for lunch prior to our flight out
Cafe Chloe
Marisco German taco truck - if I can figure out where it will be and if it is nearby
Monkey Paw
Leroy's Kitchen & Lounge

Also going to see if she's up for a blowout meal - in which case it looks like I might need to look into George, according to other posts.

Thanks for your help!

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  1. Add Salad Style (800 F Street) to your list. They have an excellent selection of hearty vegetarian salads.

    For the "blowout," I would suggest Addison, at the Grand Del Mar Hotel, though TBL3 at George's, will probably get some love here.

    1. I'd scratch Lucha Libre (not at all worth wiating in line) and, sadly, Mariscos German (it's not an easy cab/trolley ride from your hotel

      If you're here on a Saturday the Little Italy Farmers Market is a great way to nibble on our region's fresh produce and there should be plenty of vegetarian-friendly options for your friend.

      Tender Greens is pretty close to the airport and would be an ideal place to grab lunch/food to go before you hop on a plane.


      1 Reply
      1. re: melee

        I know Lucha Libre doesn't get a lot of Chowhounds love when compared to other taco shops around town. I've heard many say that it's Mexican food run by a bunch of Pochos who don't know authentic. So they're Pochos, so what? Okay, that may be somewhat valid, but I don't think they are going for true authentic Mexican, but rather a fusion of TJ food and San Diego Mexican. I absolutely crave their Holey Mole chicken burrito. It's that sweet, spicey, rich mole together with tender white chicken and rice plus thick pieces of that wonderful Queso Panela. Love it! They also do the best TJ dog this side of TJ. Besides that they have great vegetarian options and my wife loves their DDT loaded baked potato. The decoration and atmosphere is also a lot of fun. Bottom line is that this is a fun place with good food for a good price. Don't miss the Holey Mole Burrito!

      2. Thanks melee & Dagney for the suggestions. I'll check those places out. Salad Style looks like it might be an easy mid-conference lunch.

        I thought I saw a thread where someone said a Mariscos German truck is stationed at 22nd St & Imperial Ave. That seemed near enough by public transit or walking.

        The Farmers' Market sounds great! Unfortunately our conference on Saturday goes until 5pm. Are there any evening markets or markets on Sunday?

        1. I would consider Currant.

          1. I would replace Lucha Libre with Mama Testa's. Adds about 15 mins (max) total to your travel time to airport, far more vegetarian options and a solid, local-flavored choice for casual Mexican.
            The North Park neighborhood is a reasonable cab ride away, and has a bunch of places that do farm-to-table and craft brew with a bunch of veggie choices. The Linkery is my favorite.

            4 Replies
            1. re: ipsit

              Second Mama Testa's and Linkery.

              1. re: Dagney

                I'd reccomend Mama Testa & Linkery too, though I'm not sure if your veg friend would have many choices or much love - for that matter - at a place that so lovingly promotes "righteous meat!" If she's ok with a place like Meat & Bread in Vancouver then I'm sure she'd be fine here since there are some veg options :-)

                In response to your earlier question re: Farmers Markets there is a good one on Sundays in Hillcrest, though the setting isn't as scenic as the Little Italy Mercato. Unfortunately, it's in a DMV parking lot. If you have a limited amount of time in our fair city I'd suggest trying one of the other restaurants suggested on this thread.

                1. re: melee

                  As a card-carrying vegetarian, I can vouch for the veggie-friendliness of the Linkery. They treat their veggies (and vegetarians) with the same love as they treat their more meaty offerings. Theres always about 7-8 solid choices which are on the menu and created for vegetarians (none of the perfunctory 'vegetable plate' stuff).

                  I would not argue that meat is a larger share of the menu, but in the end, 2 veggie options are really all you need per meal!

                  1. re: ipsit

                    That's good to know ipsit. Thanks!

            2. I would add Gaijin Noodle and Sake House to your list. Recently had the pleasure of trying chef Antonio Friscia's food and thought it was fantastic. Lots and lots of locally sourced vegetarian options here for your friend as well. I thought their pickled vegetables and kim-chi were delish. It's right in the heart of the Gaslamp, but prices are extremely reasonable. And if you're lucky enough to hit sake hour and hear the gong . . . free shots!!!

              1. Will add Mama Testa & LInkery to the list. Glad you let me know you're a vegetarian, ipsit... it'll help me sell Linkery to my friend because the menu does read very meat-forward (which, I guess, I would expect from a place making their own sausage!).

                Currant's menu looks tasty, but aside from risotto, some sides and salads, I didn't see a lot of veggie options. However, their menu reminds me that I love chilaquiles.

                Any recommendations for a good place for chilaquiles? Is this a brunch-only item, or would it be possible to find at lunch or dinner?

                Love the look of Gaijin's menu - am sold on the green tea uni soba noodles. Yum...

                Sunday is basically our only day free from the conference (except for maybe lunch on Monday) so I guess we should skip the farmers' market. Not sure if we're going to go super touristy and go to SeaWorld, or maybe check out Coronado Island... or maybe just stay in town and check out some of the neighborhoods. Any recommendations? (I realize this may be considered off-topic for Chowhound... so maybe good neighborhoods for sights and grazing/nibbles?)

                1 Reply
                1. re: twinkienic

                  Been a pescatarian for almost 35+ years and almost any restaurant in SD will cater to your friends veggie needs...this is California, the land of fruits and nuts!
                  Head out to La Jolla...George's at the Cove on the ocean terrace..great for lunch..hike Torrey Pines State Park, drive up to Del Mar/Rancho Santa Fe..stunning coastline.

                2. So far so good! Lunch has been provided, so mostly exploring eats for dinner. Tomorrow have brunch at Searsucker and was thinking of Mama Testa for dinner. However, was recommended Sea Rocket by the gentleman who sold me live uni at the Mercato today so might consider that option.

                  Some notes so far:

                  Gaijin Noodle & Sake House
                  Ordered skewers of pork toro (delish!) and beef tongue (not tender enough). Wish there was more selection for yakitori, though. The green tea uni soba was tasty, with (too) subtle uni flavour. The soft egg was perfect. Veggie friend had the veg ramen noodles which were fresh, but I thought a bit bland. Interesting shaved ice based drink offerings and I was lucky enough to witness the gong being rung for a round of sake shots.

                  Went on a Friday night and the wait for 2 was reasonable. Had the 777 burger which was flavourful and moist, and was happy to be able to order it medium-rare (not easy to find in Vancouver). Veggie friend ordered the black bean burger which was a bit dry and might have been improved with a sauce. Onion rings tasty but a tad greasy. Great beer selection.

                  Little Italy Farmers' Market
                  Managed to visit during a lunch break at the conference. What a great market with a nice neighborhood feel! Produce looked great too, even late in the season. The highlight was definitely the booth serving live uni (which I of course couldn't pass up)!

                  El Camino
                  Came for happy hour and brief snack. Loved the vibrant, fun, in-your-face decor. Guacamole was fresh and sweet potato flautas were nicely balanced with the sour cream and cotija topping. Didn't try more as we had planned to line up for Craft + Commerce (which we gave up on after being told there would be a 2 hour wait!)

                  Extraordinary Desserts
                  This place was packed and a bit chaotic on a Saturday night. Desserts are definitely visually impressive, though not really my style. Got the pineapple cheesecake (a bit gelatinous) and the ricotta lemon cake (nice and moist, with a light lemon flavour) to go.

                  Wandered by but didn't stay for a drink as my friend can't imbibe currently. Nice space with a great beer selection. Loved the concept of being able to stay to enjoy the drink right away or get flights. Wish we had a similar place back home. Grabbed a couple bottles and a "Hoppy Beer, Hoppy Life" t-shirt. ;)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: twinkienic

                    Thanks for the report so far. I would say skip Searsucker and try Cafe Chloe or The Mission for a much better experience.