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Nov 13, 2012 01:09 PM

Needs Recommendations/ Advise - San Diego

Hello to all,

I going for 4 nights in San Diego during Thanksgiving break with my 8 year old son. Typical activities during the day: Zoo, Sea World, La Jolla, Coronado, etc. We will be staying at the Hilton in the Gaslamo District. Started doing some research of the area and it smells like a giant tourist trap. All we are looking are good places to enjoy dinner (myself a drink) after a hectic day. Looking for Italian and Mexican. For steak the usual suspects will work. I do want to stay away from the typical tourist trap kind of places and do not want to limit myself to the Gaslamp area. I'm renting a car but do not want to drive too far; willing to take a taxi for the convenience.

Looking forward for the reco's.


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  1. There's an excellent place for BBQ right in Sea World, for Italian Baci or Godfather are OK. For tacos, the infamous Fake Name recommends Mexican Fiesta as seen on another thread.

    4 Replies
      1. re: cstr

        Well, now- hold ON....

        The other poster was staying at the W, and thus my suggestion for Mexican Fiesta.

        While I like MF, it's not worth a significant detour. El Cuervo on Washington is probably better.

        1. re: cstr

          Mr. Fake Name is NOT infamous. He is an interesting and welcome participant on this board.

          1. re: Tripeler

            What are your favorite places and what would you recommend to domenexx.

        2. SD Zoo...Prado for lunch/apps drinks..Mama Testa, Super Cocina or Cucina Urbana
          Sea World...Luce, JV Taco Shop, Bay Park Fish Company
          La Jolla..George's Ocean Terrace, Piatti's, Alfonso's for nachos/margs
          Coronado..Hotel Del, Brigantine happy hour for the fish tacos, kid friendly...Candelas HH

          Water Taxi from Gaslamp over to Coronado is a fun way to motor over..especially for an 8 year old.

          Starlite, Cowboy Star for steak, Tender Greens, Bali Hai, Bencotta, Jsix and Dobson's (mussel bisque is sublime)
          Fish Market Downtown next to the USS Midway for sushi bar or Oyster Bar..bay front patio great for drinks and shrimp cocktails..

          Have fun and report back!

          1. Over by the Zoo is Urban Solace - I consider it an SD institution, it's reasonably priced contemporary comfort food. I can see menu items that even the pickiest of 8 year olds would be drawn too - only classed up.

            La Jolla - if you're hanging around the cove, drive back through Birdrock and stop in Northern Pacific Beach at Oscars (across the street from Albertsons) - it's the best Mexican Seafood you'll find in San Diego. Perfect post-beach meal.

            Gaslamp - Cowboy star for your steak.

            Italian - Pass

            44 Replies
            1. re: Rodzilla

              Beach Chick and Rodzilla: THANKS FOR THE RECOMMENDATIONS. Very useful; my 8 year old is not picky at all so they all will work. How about Alfonso's or Rimel's in La Jolla. Now i'm looking for a place to eat SD sea urchins but not necessarily a sushi bar (even though that will work also).


              1. re: domenexx

                Unless you 8yo likes cheap margaritas in large quantities, I'd skip Alphonsos. If you're looking for sit-down "Mexican" food in the LJ area, I'd go (and did go recently) to Su Casa.

                I believe Sea Rocket Bistro serves urchin.

                1. re: Fake Name

                  Good Fake Name !!

                  Keep the good work !


                  1. re: Fake Name

                    I assume that Oscar's is not really sit down, mostly to go, correct?


                    1. re: Fake Name

                      Gee FN, I wonder who likes those cheap Margs???? Sheeeeee's Baaaack!!! Hey BC!

                      OK, back to a serious response, in La Jolla, El Pescador for a great grilled fish sandwich. Also, Burger Lounge for yes, a burger. I thought about recommernding Super Cocina one of my favs but, was concerned that it may not be a hit your the 8yr old.

                      1. re: cstr

                        What's up sledge?
                        I like my cadillac marg' stinkin' cheap margs unless I'm buying.. ; )
                        Back after a week at the cabin with tons of snow, food, drink and riding atv's all day..

                        El Pescador is a good call..Rimel's or Zenbu..they do the sea urchin and they have their own boat..Alfonso's as noted for nachos, which are some of the best in town and I like that they have Dos XX on tap too..
                        Bahia's in Bird Rock rocks it too.
                        AR Valentien at the Lodge is wonderful and you can hike the Torrey Pines State Reserve.

                        1. re: Beach Chick

                          Gonna go out on a limb here...

                          El Pescador- a good call if you like:

                          restaurants that outsource their seating accommodations/policy to an expert squadron of consulting Siamangs

                          surly staff who reject any words in the form of a question

                          the staff's surfing buddies who don't wait in line and have direct service from their comrades working the grill

                          quite possibly THE WORST FISH TACOS in the county. Wahoo's on the corner does a much better job, and they're a chain

                          bizarre "ceviche" with lots of raw carrot chunks that seems to be the final resting place for their unsold fish

                          Byzantine pricing matrix wherein they offer you "avocado on that?" and then charge you $1.50 extra for a few pieces without warning

                          If you hadn't noticed, this SaltyRaisin has joined the "damning with faint praise" school of criticism in the last few years. I try to focus on the good, but I just couldn't help it this time. Tasting menus are an exception. I've just kinda had it with "seafood places with dub mixes on the stereo serving up SoCalMexSammies with strong local/tourist hierarchical service divides and overburdened staff." I just don't know why table service, even simple table service a la Saffron, is beyond the dignity of this type of food. For the prices they charge, they should make an attempt, even with the high cost of their ingredients. Blue Water and Pt. Loma seafood fall into this categorical Oort Cloud, too. Table service is feasible elsewhere for seafood...ever eaten at a plastic table on the beach near Ensenada? Table service. Fresher seafood. Great preparations. El Pescador has me totally stumped.

                          Now tell me why I am wrong.

                          All the other recs on this thread are great.


                          1. re: SaltyRaisins

                            Bingo nailed El Pesky down to the brethren of surf bro's who get carte blanche walk up service.
                            They smell non-locals just like surfing at Windansea..

                            I only get the sea bass sandwich and since they think I'm all that and a bag of chips, they style me, who doesn't like hot surf guys?

                            Nailed it bro..
                            ; )

                            1. re: Beach Chick

                              Non-locals? More like "people they don't know personally." I am local, and am confident that I could hold my own surfing with these guys. I'm just pickier about my tasty waves than they are, and therefore most've of them haven't seen me before. Why should that matter when I just want a fish sandwich?

                              Thanks, BC.

                              1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                There is local and then there is LJ local..
                                If they knew what a rock star you really are, they would of given you the surfer override to the front of the line..
                                It will be interesting to see when it moves over to Marrakesh..that small ball mentality won't work.

                              2. re: Beach Chick

                                Reminds me of an experience I had this past spring. I was at a local bar in Mission Valley, that I have been frequenting for years, having a burger and a beer. The regular bartender was there and there were also two lovely flight attendants sitting at the bar. The bartender was talking them up for a while and offered them each a free drink. After they left I said to the bartender, 'you never offered me a free drink in all these years'. He was a bit silent and realized his slip up. Anywho, so much for looks but, remember I'm a local and you need my business and my tips. Guess I'm an empty bag of chips.

                              3. re: SaltyRaisins

                                Thanks Salty, I enjoy your 'damning with faint praise' post and hope you continue with your honest and realistic assessement of other 'protected establishments' on this board. It's long over due.

                                1. re: cstr

                                  "protected establishments"

                                  Name them.

                                2. re: SaltyRaisins

                                  Interesting to see if the pending move across the street to the old Marrakesh restaurant space solves the seating dilemna and/or encourages them to hire actual servers and offer real table service.

                                  Not sure the 'tude will ever change.

                                  1. re: foodiechick

                                    I smell some steep price increases in the wind...

                                  2. re: SaltyRaisins

                                    Salty or any other people of discerning taste:

                                    Assuming one is simply picking up fresh fish to cook at home, are there better options than El Pescador or Blue Water on this side of the border? Catalina's walk-in hours takes it out of play for me, for the most part.

                                    1. re: RB Hound

                                      Buying their fish for home cooking isn't a problem- good stuff. How they do the 'all fish can be prepared equally' thing is. I feel that different fish species and even cuts from the same fish require different preps. Steamed rockfish? Forget about it. Good broth? Mariscos El Pescador. The only "Pescador" for this curmudgeon.

                                      Whole Foods has an excellent and more diverse selection than the local shops. That is, you can have just the squid tentacles if you'd like etcetera. Can't be done at the locals.

                                      1. re: RB Hound

                                        Just last night I found "Salmon Slinger" at the PB farmers market, they bring a selection that was caught that day, and some of it from Catalina. I picked up a piece of white Sea-Bass around 5 oclock, it was amazing - and their prices are great.

                                      2. re: SaltyRaisins

                                        Sorry, Salty. The guys are cute, the tip jar has funny signs, and the sandwiches are sublime (and unlike any others I've had in SD.) Glad you wrote this. Keep the tourists out. I'll keep El P to myself.

                                        Funny story about the place. My son worked there in high school. Every time I went in, the owner wouldn't let me pay and said "Our moms eat here free." So I did. Later my son begged me to stop coming in. "Mom," he said, "every time you eat here 'free' it comes out of my pay check. Stop coming!"

                                        1. re: pickypicky

                                          I see the humor, but if that was actually the case it makes me want to side with Salty even more. Feigned generosity when really they were making a profit off of your son...his paycheck was not theirs to spend, and certainly not take credit for.

                                      1. re: Fake Name

                                        You didn't invite me to Su Casa..hee hee
                                        Did you use the 2 for 1 coupon...did you get the table side guac.
                                        Craving the Kung Pao chicken with extra brown sauce at Mandarin House.

                                        1. re: Fake Name

                                          You woke up and didn't recommend the water taxi.

                                            1. re: Fake Name

                                              Listen is difficult at times to 'trifecta' the mother lode all in one..

                                              Let's review..
                                              Mussel Bisque en croute at Dobson's.. check
                                              Water Taxi from Gaslamp to Coronado...check

                                              Catalina Offshore would be a good stop for Uni.

                                              1. re: Beach Chick

                                                Clowns ??? I resemble that remark!

                                          1. re: Fake Name

                                            I think you yucked on BC's Alfonsos yum. ;D

                                            1. re: foodiechick

                                              Fakey, Yucked on the Alfonso's Yum...don't mess with my nachos and cadillac margie's while watching the tourists go by..

                                              1. re: Beach Chick

                                                I did no such thing.

                                                I enjoyed many a cheap margarita and nachos there back in the late 80s.

                                                As recently as three weeks ago I suggest to Mrs Name that we drive through the village and if we can get a parking place, we'll go to Alphonsos.

                                                We went to Su Casa.

                                        2. re: Fake Name

                                          Oh my goodness - Alfonso's and Su Casa are still getting name-checked after all these years?

                                          The mentions are evocative and take me back to my college days.

                                          I am impressed and wonder if both or either made it to the thread about old school restaurants.

                                        3. re: domenexx

                                          Definite NO on Alfonso's and a YES on Rimel's. The guy that owns Rimel's also owns a sushi bar a couple blocks over called Zenbu that usually has fresh-caught, live sea urchin available to order. They crack it open for you right there.

                                          1. re: bizzwriter

                                            Thanks bizzwriter !! Finally a message that was not written in codes.


                                            1. re: domenexx

                                              I know what you are saying. I feel I am reading personal email rather than answers to your question.

                                              Gaslamp isn't as much of a tourist trap as it is a place for young singles to meet other young singles, especially on Friday or Saturday nights. More or less local hangouts there include the Cheese Shop Deli(breakfast and lunch only), Kebob Shop and Cafe Chloe as well as fast food-ish options (in addition to the Nordstrom Cafe) on the top floor of Horton Plaza. Venturing into Old Town (much more of a tourist trap) there is 25Forty Bistro where you could get a nice dinner and adult beverage in a casual atmosphere. There are several (ten) Mexican restaurants within the Old Town area and I really don't think any are bad, but prefer smaller Taco Shops in general. Along India Street (between your hotel and Old Town) is the "Little Italy" part of town. Some people have definite preferences in that part of town and menus are available outside almost each restaurant.

                                              1. re: Cathy

                                                Thanks Cathy !! One more like myself !


                                                1. re: Cathy

                                                  I like Pete's Quality Meats for Italian hot sandwiches (meatball, sausage, veal) in Little Italy. Mostly counter seating for lunch.

                                                  1. re: JRSD

                                                    Yes. Probably my favorite place in Little Italy. Not fancy, just good.

                                                    Closed Sunday and around 4 pm daily.

                                              2. re: bizzwriter

                                                I'm in a similar situation - will be visiting SD in early January. We'll be staying downtown but plan to spend a day in La Jolla. My husband lived there for a semester, and we loved Rimel's. Wanted to see if the consensus is that it is still very good. Will they seat 5? I remember it being fairly small.

                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                  Rimmels is still small and it's still pretty good.

                                                  1. re: DiningDiva

                                                    Is there someplace you think would be better? We want great food and comfortable atmosphere, not stuffy at all.

                                                  2. re: LulusMom


                                                    Please see my trip report coming next

                                            2. The original comment has been removed
                                              1. For Italian in the Gaslamp, Bice is good or you can ride the trolley two stops to Little Italy and hit up Bencotto, Napizza, La Villa and one or two others. Mexican is a bit trickier from the Gaslamp. I like Candelas, it is upscale Mexican, but I like their Coronado location better. The good news is that it is at the ferry landing in Coronado so it is easier to get to.

                                                You might drive up to Hillcrest for Mexican and try Ortega's, they have Puerto Nuevo style Mexican food or over to North Park for El Comal.