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Mar 6, 2013 08:51 AM

NYC coming to SD

Hi all,

I'm planning on visiting SD in a few months with the beau (I like to plan far ahead...hah). I tried looking at other must-eat SD Chowhound discussions but couldn't find everything I was looking for.

We truly enjoy all types of food and drink and are looking for must-eats/must-drinks in the SD area. Coming from NYC and having great food and drink, I know a few days in SD can't cover everything...but we plan to be there for about 4 days days and want to get a general feel for the food and drink culture here as much as possible.

Our budget is fairly open—looking for hole-in-the-walls as well as fine dining in all cuisines. Also looking for great cocktails bars and popular night time venues/areas.

Definitely on our to-eat list:
- brunch/breakfast
- fine dining
- something local and unique to SD
- Mexican restaurant
- one or two places in La Jolla
(these can overlap)

We are going to try to get around SD using public transportation even though a few friends have told me it'll be easier with a car...

Thanks in advance!

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  1. If you use public transportation, your options will probably be severely limited. With that said, if you are relying on public transportation, where are you staying?

    As far as what is unique and local to SD, there are probably two things - mexican seafood tacos and craft beer

    Here's a list of places you can probably check out in general

    - Cafe Chloe
    - Claire's on Cedros

    fine dining:
    - TBL3 @ George's California Modern (also La Jolla with a great view)
    - Addison
    - Kaito Sushi (not fine dining persay, but the best sushi experience you'll find)

    Nice "Bistro-style" places to eat
    - Cafe Chloe
    - Starlite
    - Alchemy

    Nice Hangout/bars/cocktails
    - Craft and Commerce
    - Knotty Barrel
    - Noble Experiment (needs reservation)

    More "unique" to SD places
    - Blind Lady Ale House (craft beer)
    - Mariscos German Taco Trucks
    - Oscar's Mexican Seafood

    Here's also a list of places to avoid
    - Cohn group restaurants
    - Malarkey "fabric empire" restaurants
    - Places in Old Town

    31 Replies
    1. re: karaethon

      Thanks what are some places that are only accessible by car? We might consider it if it is severely limiting without one. thanks for the recommendations so far!

      1. re: ashleylau

        Generally, it will be very difficult to get to La Jolla unless you have a car or call a cab. Most of the public transportation is centered around downtown and Mission Valley.

        San Diego is really unlike New York in 2 respects:
        a) the public transportation is severely lacking
        b) everything is really spread out

        I think of the places I listed, the only places you can get to easily (assuming you're staying downtown) with public transportation are Cafe Chloe, Starlite, Craft and Commerce, Knotty Barrel, Noble Experiment

        Someone else can correct me if I'm wrong.

        1. re: karaethon

          Even if you *can* get to a place via public transit, it often is a needlessly long trip. If you know that places A and B are near trolley stops or are a relatively short bus ride between each other (meaning no transfers, and probably meaning an express line), you could spend over an hour going 10 miles. It is just not worth it for the number of things in your want list.

          1. re: RB Hound

            mm thanks for the tip. we will rent a car!

      2. re: karaethon

        +1 on the above, and I would add Farmhouse Cafe for brunch, Tacos El Panson, Mama Testa's, and Super Cocina for Mexican food.

        1. re: karaethon

          As far as places what to avoid, the above are spot on, but I'd like to add anything on 5th avenue...or almost anywhere in the gaslamp for that matter.

          1. re: yanks26dmb

            Sadly, this is all too true. The Gaslamp should be avoided. Especially at night, unless you have an affinity for hundreds of hysterical drunk people.

              1. re: yanks26dmb


                so what are some nightlife spots that we should hit up? I def. want to check out Blind Lady Ale House.

                does SD have any good cocktail bars? NYC has a lot and I really enjoy them despite the prices

                1. re: ashleylau

                  Actually, yes. The Starlite is a very good cocktail bar, and there a couple Downtown (Craft & Commerce, maybe), that I've heard good things about.

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      I heard that original El Vitral by Petco closed. What does the Diva know?

                      1. re: foodiechick

                        They claim to be remodeling, though I suspect it has closed with the more affordable (per the 20/30 somethings that live in the immediate area) Blind Burro having opened up.

                      2. re: ashleylau

                        Absolutely. Lion's Share makes the best old fashioned I've had in San Diego - the other cocktails are very solid as well. Craft and commerce is one of my favorite places in town - they make a great Pisco sour..something I haven't been able to find a decent version of since I got back from Peru. Good food for the most part, and a good crowd. Very busy on weekends, go early and get your name down on the list.

                        I'm actually not so big on Starlite, for drinks or food. A good 75% of their cocktails have ginger beer in them. I don't know about you, but for me, it makes the drink way too sweet. Food is only so-so.

                        Prohibition is downtown, in the gaslamp. It's supposed to be like a secret speakeasy, so you need a password to get in, which is simple to get - you just text them. Long, narrow, cocktail lounge. Very dark inside, they'll sometimes have a live jazz band playing. Solid to very solid cocktail fruits.

                      3. re: yanks26dmb

                        Lol.... The girls in the Gaslamp don't wear dresses, they wear very tight t-shirts that are stretched out long enough to resemble a dress-like garment.

                      4. re: Dagney

                        Gaslamp is perfect if you are in your 20's....agewise, IQ, and/or income.

                        1. re: El Chevere

                          The derogatory statement about IQ is unnecessary.

                          1. re: globocity

                            but accurate...I did leave out the part about having King Stahlman on speed dial, and the requisite wardrobe consisting of Ed Hardy t-shirts and wallet chains.

                            1. re: El Chevere

                              The Gaslamp is a great place to reaffirm all of one's negative views about the species.

                              1. re: Josh

                                I work in the Gaslamp every weekend from the dinner hour through bar break. The level of over the top drunkenness and COMPLETE lack of social decorum is pretty astounding.

                                1. re: Dagney

                                  and how many other cities (Tijuana, perhaps) do you see restaurants hire 19 year old girls whose job is to stand in front of the restaurant and explain to passerbys what's on the menu that is displayed at the entrance....either these potential customers are naturally dumb and have never seen a menu before in their lives and/or cannot read or they are completely naive to the fact the only thing these 19 year old girls do is add even more cost to the final bill of an already overpriced and non-memorable meal.

                                  1. re: El Chevere

                                    Well those restaurants you speak of specifically on fifth avenue do that specifically to pull in a tourist before someone else grabs them similar to a touristy spot in paris where someone throws plates on the ground just to attract attention. Unfortunately most tourists walk the beaten path.

                                    1. re: polldeldiablo

                                      can you name me any other city where this is done...I travel a lot and cannot think of any other place (outside of Amsterdam for non-food related matters) gimmick that only adds to the cost of an already overpriced, mediocre meal.

                                      1. re: El Chevere

                                        While we're speaking of the Gaslamp (and I apologize if this hijacks the thread)...does anyone know what the average square foot lease goes for in the Gaslamp?....reason I ask is tonight I am dinining in Palo Alto. I am not a realtor, but there is far more wealth in that specific area (University Avenue by the Stanford campus) and one would think a restaurant lease would be more expensive there than the Gaslamp, yet they have much better restaurants that are serve food for considerably less money that similar restaurants in the of two scenarios--the population there is far less transient and they could not get away with serving mediocre food at high prices OR do the landlords in the Gaslamp charge excessive rents and are able to get away with it, forcing restaurant owners to put our mediocre product at higher prices....would love to know the answer...I'll see if I can find out the cost per sq. foot when I have dinner tonight in PA

                                        1. re: El Chevere

                                          Gaslamp is surprisingly overpriced as far as leasing spaces goes. About 5 years ago I saw a spot for lease that I was considering for retail purposes at fifth between j and island. When I called them up they said it would be $5 per sq/ft so one would think it's over $5 sq/ft by now. As a comparison my friend in nyc leased a spot on 36th street between 5th and 6th avenue(2 blocks from empire state building) with ground floor exposure/basement for $2.50 sq/ft. Tell me if you don't see something wrong with that. This is obviously detrimental for the san diego food scene as most tourists just go to the gaslamp restaurants which mostly survive the first year only if they have a name attached to them.

                                          1. re: polldeldiablo

                                            Thanks...then that would explain why the food is better and cheaper in Palo Alto which--along with NYC--is a far more higher disposable income/exclusive area. I'll see if I can nose around and find out the cost per sq. footage tonight but itdefinitely would appear the Gaslamp landlords are greedy and why I do not support the businesses in the area even though I live minutes away.

                                        2. re: El Chevere


                                          Last summer in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue was a nearly identical experience with concentrated shoopping/dining district and plenty of carny-types outside by the posted menu.

                                      2. re: El Chevere

                                        But if I eat there then she will sleep with me.

                                    2. re: Josh

                                      As if you would know, Josh. It could be really cool now for all that you know. You left here, traitor.


                        2. Your friends are right :-). Depending upon where you home base yourselves, getting around San Diego is much easier with a car than our rapid transit system. If you are planning to stay in the downtown/Mission Valley area, accessing and using public transit will be easier than if you plan to stay up in La Jolla. San Diego is a very large metropolitan area spread out over a pretty good chunk of real estate. Fastest way to get between to points is usually by car.

                          The 30th St. corridor from Adams Ave. down to South Park probably has the greatest variety of places in San Diego and will give you a fairly representative cross section of the city. Starting with Mayahuel on Adams and 30th (acutally a block West of 30th) and ending with Alchemy in South Park you will find almost everything you're interested in including a number of places featuring local craft beers (Blind Lady Ale House, Ritual Tavern, Tornado among them), El Take it EZ for locally sourced Baja influenced food and drinks, pizza at Basic or Caffe Calabria, farm-to-table at the Linkery, great bistro-style at Urban Solace, the interesting and sometimes unusual at the Smoking Goat, local and sustainable seafood at Sea Rocket, and great street food bites at Alchemy...and that really only scratches the surface.

                          For fine dining try TBL3 at Georges Modern in La Jolla

                          1. Public transportation is nothing like a car, its about $15-$20 a day...

                            Everyone has given you great places to dine..
                            My fave's:

                            Rancho Valencia Resort
                            Eddie V's in La Jolla
                            AR Valentien at the Lodge at Torrey Pines
                            Marine Room...drinks and apps only!
                            Tower 23 JRDN for drinks and apps
                            Grant Grill at the US Grant Hotel
                            Jsix at Hotel Solamar
                            Las Cuatro Milpas
                            Crown Room at Hotel Del for brunch
                            Tender Greens
                            Starlite for drinks

                            1. Drive, definitely. Being from manhattan originally, my suggestion would be to stick to what san diego is known for and avoid what you can get better in nyc such as chinese, korean, indian, brazilian, russian and jewish deli. I'll only mention 2 places that are centrally located and viable by public transit in case you don't want to drive.

                              Sab E Lee (thai) in linda vista which is near fashion valley.

                              Super Cocina(Regional mexican) near north park.

                              Both especially the latter have no ambiance so it's strictly for just the food.

                              Any other places would be best suggested by others who have had more experience than I have.

                              Watch out for our potholes :p

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: polldeldiablo

                                Nice to know what I should avoid too! thanks a bunchh

                                1. re: ashleylau

                                  Coming from NYC, and as someone who used to live in Jersey many years ago and knows NYC well, you should absolutely make Super Cocina and German's Taco Truck can't miss places. Just nothing like it back east...

                                  1. re: yanks26dmb

                                    def. going to super cocina since it's been mentioned more than once!

                              2. I'm not going to repeat what alot of other folks have already said cuz you've gotten some great recs already, but let me add a few that have not been mentioned.

                                - brunch/breakfast
                                Prado (at Balboa Park)
                                Grant Hill (waffle bar on Sundays)

                                - something local and unique to SD
                                Carnitas Snack Shack
                                Pomegranate Russian-Georgian Restaurant
                                Muzita Abyssinian

                                - Mexican restaurant

                                Oh, and just a get a car. It'll make your trip *that* much more enjoyable.