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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)....cheap 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 Gaslamp....one 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 NYC..rent 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.

                                1. In addition to everything else mentioned (all good recs), you have to fit in either a taco truck (I'll get to in a sec), or a taco shop. The taco shop, in particular, is somewhat unique to San Diego. I'm sorry to say that the worst burrito I ever had was in New York City. Granted, it was a sketchy looking joint, but that's what all taco shops are supposed to be a little bit sketchy. Think of a taco shop like a pizzeria or bagel shop.

                                  Now, each neighborhood of San Diego has a few favorites to try. If you're staying in the Gaslamp, either Valentines (Market and 9th), or Lucy's (2nd and C), are pretty good. Mexican Fiesta on India Street (and Cedar?) serves fantastic adobada tacos. Lucha Libre, which was on Man v. Food, is an okay-to-good taco shop, and not necessarily worth the lines.

                                  The thing to eat at these taco shops is not fish tacos (that's for the taco trucks, I'll get to shortly). All taco shops serve fish tacos, but must do it poorly. Instead, go for burritos or tacos containing carne asada (grilled steak), carnitas (pork!), adobada (marinated pork!), and pollo asado (grilled chicken). Rolled tacos, or tacquitos, are also a good thing to order.

                                  As far as taco trucks go, the Mariscos trucks serve great fish tacos. As you make your way down 30th Street (and I hope you do, and the bus goes down 30th), there is a good Mariscos truck in the South Park neighborhood called Mariscos 9 Seas (or 7 Seas).

                                  Lastly, try as much beer as you can, particularly if you like IPAs.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: jmtreg

                                    +1 to the beer, I forgot to mention that as we have some of the best craft beer in the country.

                                    1. re: polldeldiablo

                                      Speaking of which, why not consider Stone Brewing Gardens in Escondido?.... Great beer, beer garden, ambiance and decent food.

                                      1. re: El Chevere

                                        Stone might be too hoppy for someone who doesn't drink similarly hoppy ipa's. Also I thought they moved to downtown San Diego at the old wonder bread building or something. Maybe that was another brewery or something.

                                          1. re: polldeldiablo

                                            You have them mistaken for Mission Brewing Company, downtown.

                                            Stone is supposedly opening another gardens and bistro location in Liberty Station--not sure when it is scheduled to open.

                                      2. re: jmtreg

                                        ahh extremely useful info regarding tacos. thanks jmtreg!

                                      3. I think others have given you lots of good spots to hit up. I'd like to weigh in on the transportation issue. I think it's pretty easy to navigate around downtown, Hillcrest, and North Park via public transport, with major bus lines running along Broadway, University, and 30th St. and reasonably plentiful cabs. There are quite a few worthy restaurants and bars in these areas. Getting to the beach areas and La Jolla is another story. You might want to look into Car2Go, which is a car-sharing program. I think its home area does not extend very far north (perhaps not even to La Jolla), but I find it handy for getting around central San Diego, and it does include Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, and Point Loma. My fiance and I will often use it to get to places where we know we'll be having a few drinks - then we can just ditch the car there and take a cab home. It costs $35 to join and then 38 cents a minute while you're using it, so you'd have to do the math to see if it's worthwhile vs. getting a rental car or just using all cabs and public transport. Have a great trip!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Katherine H

                                          Def will look into car2go..if that doesn't work, we'll just rent a car thanks!

                                        2. You could also catch the Coaster up the coast. $11 dollars round trip from right down town San Diego. Come up to North County Carlsbad or Oceanside. Carlsbad station has lots of great places and Oceanside does too. Carlsbad Yoshino and Paon, Oceanside TBG BBQ and Petite Madeline.

                                          1. I agree with one of the recommendations for Romesco's Baja Med Bistro in the Chula Vista suburb of Bonita for truly unique Baja Mexican seafood (high quality) and not the gringo (of which I am) cuisine of refried beans and lard. This would be IF you have a car...well worth a visit. Great wine coming from the Baja region as well--give Santo Tomas Merlot a shot.

                                            I might add The 3rd Corner in Ocean Beach as well--very nice wine bar bistro with delicious food and very reasonably priced.

                                            Agree with the comment on what to avoid (Cohn Group, Malarky, etc.)

                                            1. also in Bonita, I would highly recommend Los Arcos or TJ Oyster House for lunch--great, restaurant quality fish tacos. These would be lunch alternatives to Romesco's which would be your dinner alternative.

                                              1. Ok we are going to rent a car! thanks for all the recommendations and tips so far. VERY HELPFUL!

                                                1. Definitely on our to-eat list:
                                                  - brunch/breakfast
                                                  Urban Solace weekend Brunch
                                                  - fine dining
                                                  Georges Modern TBL3
                                                  - something local and unique to SD
                                                  Oscars Mexican Seafood Tacos
                                                  - Mexican restaurant
                                                  Super Cocina
                                                  - one or two places in La Jolla
                                                  Georges, Nine-Ten for Lunch, Mediterranean Room at La Valencia

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Rodzilla

                                                    thank you for these simple, straight-forward suggestions :D

                                                  2. tbl3 seems to be mentioned a lot for fine dining in SD. VERY interested but could I get a few more suggestions?


                                                    29 Replies
                                                    1. re: ashleylau

                                                      Are you looking for more fine dining suggestions strictly...or suggestions in general?

                                                      I have a few suggestions, but what is your price point?

                                                      1. re: yanks26dmb

                                                        fine dining suggestions. any price is fine. Just looking for a few more suggestions even though tbl3 looks like a place I would enjoy.

                                                        1. re: ashleylau

                                                          Truthfully, there are no fine dining options in San Diego that couldnt be replicated (and exceeded) in NYC. That said..

                                                          Mille Fleur in Rancho Santa Fe
                                                          Pamplemousse in Solana Beach
                                                          Addison in Del Mar

                                                          Addison is probably the best of the bunch (and most expensive). But again, I don't think you'll find anything that leaves you utterly blown away...It's all very medicore when compared to New York high-end dining options.

                                                          1. re: yanks26dmb

                                                            hrmm ok. would you suggest I just stick to tbl3 then?

                                                          2. re: ashleylau


                                                            How adventurous are you and how far are you willing to travel...for a truly good dining experience that will be unique and knock your socks off, there is a great, critically acclaimed restaurant in Tijuana called Mision 19. Excellent food, great cocktails, great wine coming from the Guadalupe Valley outside Ensenada, awesome ambiance.


                                                            Question is--do you feel like driving to a parking lot on the US side of the border (20-25 minutes from downtown SD), walking 12-15 minutes (to get through the border and then getting in a cab that will await you a few minutes afer you have crossed), and then a 10 minute drive to the restaurant...so, 50 minutes (maybe 60, tops) to get to the restaurant and add another 20-30 minutes for border crossing upon return (yes, only 20-30 minutes IF you go during a weeknight and come back after 7:30).

                                                            Might be worth a visit....food is quite good and unique.....BTW, same family owns this restaurant as the Romesco's restaurant in the Bonita section of Chula Vista (US) that was mentioned previously.

                                                            1. re: El Chevere

                                                              Here is a review last month for Mision 19 by a london food blogger. Personally, I give it a 10/10.


                                                              1. re: El Chevere

                                                                Why drive and park, it's getting harder and harder to do that now. Take the blue line trolley to the border, hop off and walk across. Then cab it to the resto.

                                                                I've eaten numerous times at Mision 19 and love it, but like almost any restaurant with a celebrity chef it can be inconsistent. I've had meals there that were absolutely phenomenal and I've had meals there that were merely good :-).

                                                                I actually now prefer Erizo to Mision 19. I know it's not like comparing apples to apples, but it's the same chef, and same (Baja Med) approach, just to impeccably fresh seafood done very creatively. The octopus carpaccio is amazing and the scallop ceviche with mango is positively addictive. There are hard core fans fo the chicharron de atun as well as the ceviche de tres almejas (3 clams), and the best classic fish taco I've eaten in a long time was at Erizo. Easy, breezy, relaxed with just about perfect seafood.

                                                                With a list of addresses and some pocket change for cabs it's possible to go all over TJ and eat great food. Just remember to bring your passport to get back into the U.S.

                                                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                  Let me just add this.

                                                                  DO NOT and I mean DO NOT drive across the border. It will literally take you hours and hours to get back across.

                                                                  Walking is definitely the way to do it.

                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                    All 10 thumbs up on this one. Border waits in a vehicle are insane unless one has a SENTRI pass.

                                                                    The pedestrian lines are usually shorter from the late afternoon on and the cross can be anywhere from no wait at all to about 2 hours.

                                                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                      The "Ready" lanes at Otay have often been "only" 30-60 minutes the last few months. Except on Sundays when they've been 30-120 minutes.

                                                                      1. re: jayporter

                                                                        I still think SENTRI is better than Ready. I've never had good luck at Otay :-( even got shuttled into secondary there.

                                                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                      +1 on this. Actually, +1 million times.

                                                                      1. re: Dagney

                                                                        I would love to go to TJ (been once before, years ago) but unfortunately I don't think I can make time for it. I'll keep it in mind for another time. thanks everyone!

                                                            2. re: ashleylau

                                                              Fine dining is a little tricky in San Diego. Our strength lies in the small scale, neighborhood house. Excellent fine dining, featuring wonderful food, ambiance, AND service, is a bit of a unicorn in our fair city.

                                                              Two "well known" fine dining rooms that come to mind are Bertrand's at Mr A's, and The Marine Room, but both of those places have lackluster food...:(

                                                              Addison at the The Grand Del Mar would be an excellent choice. It is a very choreographed, intense, long dinner, but well worth the splurge.

                                                              We have aggressively warned you against the Gaslamp, but there is a place called Bice, located at 425 Island Avenue. I have not personally dined at Bice, but it does receive good reviews on the SD Chow board. Also, there is a place called JRDN, located inside the Tower 23 Hotel, in Pacific Beach.

                                                              I know there are some decent places in La Jolla and environs more north. Beach Chick? You are pretty well-versed in North County.

                                                              1. re: Dagney

                                                                hmm thanks for the info. good to know!

                                                                1. re: ashleylau

                                                                  Just to follow up - I've been to JRDN numerous times. I don't think I'd call this fine dining, but it is a decent, albeit over-priced place, directly on the beach. Great ambiance and a decent crowd. Cocktails are pretty so-so. Food is hit or miss. For a vibe and setting you could never get in NYC, I'd recommend JRDN....but the food, again, is nothing to write home about.

                                                                  I too have heard decent things about BICE, but have never been. That said, for someone coming from NYC, I'd be hesitant to recommend Italian...it simply won't compare to what they can find back home.

                                                                  Posideon is another place that comes to mind, located in Del Mar. Food is overpriced and a hair better than average, but the ambiance, location, and vibe are second to none. I would definitely recommend a happy hour or weekend daytime visit (assuming the weather is nice). This is a quintessential San Diego experience...

                                                                  1. re: yanks26dmb

                                                                    Lol, like I said, fine dining in SD=unicorn...:(

                                                                    1. re: Dagney

                                                                      I don't mean this in a derogatory way, but in many respects SD county (not just the city) is like a large suburb in terms of culinary development.

                                                                      Lots of really good quality local flavors and interesting nooks and crannies to find inventive and sometimes very unique foods, but nothing in terms of really high-end dining that one might find in a major metro area (despite our little city being the 8th largest in the U.S.)

                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                        Gotcha. I'm fine with that. Just didn't know fine dining in sd = unicorn in dagneys words. :)

                                                                        1. re: ashleylau

                                                                          In SD, I think your time, money and efforts are best spent on more "hole-in-the-wall" and mid-ranged restaurants than seeking high-end dining, with the possible exception of TBL3 and perhaps omakase at either Hane Sushi or Sushi Ota (both are high-end in terms of food/sushi bar experience, but not necessarily price).

                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                            I know I'm super late to this post but the OP mentioned going in a few months and I was poking around this thread because I wanted to see if anything new and interesting popped up recently since I haven't been in SD for 5 months and I'm due to go back this weekend.

                                                                            ipsedixit hit the nail on the head about spending your money in SD on more "hole-in-the-wall" establishments. I've never been to TBL3 but my friends went last year. From what they told me, it is the most equivalent to NYC fine dining experience in SD but for $170 a head with an additional $90 for beverage pairing, I'd rather spend a few bucks more and get the tasting at EMP in your hometown.

                                                                            Many of the places mentioned on this thread are decent to good but will not blow your mind or even be memorable. For instance:
                                                                            - Addison had impeccable service but average (heavy at times) food. I actually preferred Amaya's brunch over Addison's tasting.
                                                                            - Kitchen 1540 was decent but this was when Chef McCabe ran it. I'm not sure how well the new chef is doing but I'm not sure if it's even remotely comparable.
                                                                            - Cafe Chloe and Farm House Cafe are decent and cozy but nothing spectacular.
                                                                            - Urban Solace is okay for drinks but the food is average at best.
                                                                            - Starlite has even worse food than Urban Solace and they are known more for their Moscow Mule-esque drinks.
                                                                            - Sushi Ota and Kaito are the best sushi joints in SD so if you're a resident and you're craving sushi, this is where I would go but for your trip, I don't think it's worth it, especially if you're accustomed to good sushi/sashimi.
                                                                            -Extraordinary Desserts has decent desserts but the food is extremely underwhelming.

                                                                            So when I visit, I always try new place but I tend to prefer the less exciting but consistently above average places that are pretty affordable like Market in Del Mar, Cowboy Star for steak (they serve bison as well), Carnitas Snack shack for a snack, and a few ethnic eateries that happen to be in whatever area I'm visiting.

                                                                            In summary, stick with the more hole in the wall places.
                                                                            - Try fried fish tacos (TJ Oyster) or El Pescador but be ready to drive as both are in Southern SD (Chula Vista).
                                                                            - Try some al pastor (most people get carne asada) fries with pico de gallo, sour cream, and guac as a snack.
                                                                            - If you really want a good quality meal but don't want to feel ripped off since you have so many better options for your cash in NY, maybe try something like Cellar Door if you're ok with communal seating and can secure a spot in time. I haven't been yet but I've been wanting to go and have heard great things. I hope Cellar Door is similar to El Ideas in Chicago because I was blown away by that dining experience.

                                                                            Hope this helps.

                                                                    2. re: yanks26dmb

                                                                      Bice is a chain restaurant with locations in 20+ cities. Asking a NY'er to eat there or any other chain is like asking them to choose Morton's (now owned by Landry's--an even bigger chain) over Peter Luger....fuhgettaboutit.

                                                                      1. re: El Chevere

                                                                        good to know...prob will pass on bice then!

                                                                        1. re: ashleylau

                                                                          Save your Italian fix for SF... Delfina in The Mission very good (stop by Tartine Bakery next door as well) and I still to this day love Caffe Sport in North Beach... Slanted Door for Vietnamese very good.

                                                                          1. re: El Chevere

                                                                            Oh my. . .Caffe Sport, I haven't thought about that place in years. I had a good friend (2nd gen. Italian) who adored Caffe Sport

                                                                            1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                              I could bathe in their pesto sauce, it's that good..

                                                                            2. re: El Chevere

                                                                              OP should be weary going to tartine bakery, shortest line I've been on in last 3 visits was 45 mins waiting out the door to order. Getting a seat is entirely different LOL.

                                                                    3. re: Dagney

                                                                      Been to Bice, don't really consider it fine dining.

                                                                      It's good, but not fine dining.

                                                                    4. re: ashleylau

                                                                      TBL3 is probably the only thing a New Yorker would like.

                                                                      If that doesn't work, I think you could also consider Addison and AR Valentien.

                                                                      While we had a few other options that were noteworthy, they have closed over the last 2 years, so those are really the only noteworthy ones.

                                                                    5. Late to the mix, and no longer a resident. We moved to San Francisco several months back but periodically visit SD still. My wife and I love eating in NYC, and my advice to you is to temper your expectations. As others have already pointed out SD's strong suit is more mid-priced and lower than high end.

                                                                      This are the places on our "must eat" list when we go back to visit:

                                                                      Aqui Es Texcoco - This is a hole-in-the-wall Mexican spot down in Chula Vista (about 15 minutes south of downtown) specializing in lamb barbacoa. You order by weight, which allows you to pick the parts you want. I always go for a combo of rib and cabeza. They make a fantastic onion/habanero topping which cuts the richness of the lamb perfectly. They also have grilled quail which is excellent.

                                                                      Super Cocina - Another hole-in-the-wall, serving home-style Mexican cooking. I suggest lunch vs. dinner for this one. Try samples of the day's dishes and use that as your guide. Their goat is delicious, so make sure to ask for a sample of that. It's very hard to go wrong here.

                                                                      Alchemy - Creative farm-to-table food, interesting wine list, and good specialty cocktails. They have a menu of street food-influenced starters which I suggest checking out. The lengua tacos are great. They are next-door to one of SD's best beer bars, Hamiltons Tavern.

                                                                      14 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Josh

                                                                        thanks. def. going to super cocina! will see if i can fit the other suggestions as well.

                                                                        i'm visiting SF right after SD too :D

                                                                        1. re: ashleylau

                                                                          Heads up on Super Cocina...food is served in steam tables..if your not a steam table chica, this is not the place for you..plus, it is meat centric.

                                                                          Mariscos German Seafood Mex truck is fab.
                                                                          Some of my faves.
                                                                          Las Cuatro Milpas
                                                                          Aqui es Texcoco
                                                                          Bull Taco..more for the oceanfront eating

                                                                          Have fun Ashley!

                                                                          1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                            dont mind steam tables!

                                                                            i also will prob check out mariscos german seafood mex. truck


                                                                            1. re: ashleylau

                                                                              Breakfast/Brunch at Rancho Valencia Resort would be a lovely way to start the day..
                                                                              Drive up the coast from La Jolla on the coast highway up through Del Mar and go east, to Rancho Santa Fe.
                                                                              Have a drinks on the way back at the Lodge at Torrey Pines or drinks at George's in La Jolla..3 levels and you can do more casual at sunset.


                                                                              1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                Though it probably is obvious from context, "german" does not mean "German". :)

                                                                                1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                  no no no.....don't "prob" check out mariscos german seafood truck.....

                                                                                  CHECK IT OUT! :)

                                                                                  1. re: yanks26dmb

                                                                                    Eh, it's OK. Mariscos El Pescador crushes it.

                                                                                      1. re: Josh

                                                                                        9Seas in the Gala Foods parking lot.

                                                                                        Get the Tostada Mixto.

                                                                                        Balance your plate on a trash can or a barstool.

                                                                                        1. re: Fake Name

                                                                                          I just read that Mariscos german seafood truck is not 9seas truck? Also read that it's not as good? is that true?

                                                                                          1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                            I lose track of the trucks and the names, and I see little difference in the food anyway.

                                                                                            I believe the 9seas used to be Mariscos German, but I dunno.

                                                                                            But I like the 9 Seas Tostada Mixto.

                                                                                  2. re: Beach Chick

                                                                                    Let's be careful here BC, Super Cocina's main entree's and soups are 'braised' meaning meats that have a loooong cooking process in liquid, i.e. stew like. So they are kept warm in steam tables but, are homemade, very flavorful and very reasonable. You can try several items for short money.

                                                                                    1. re: cstr

                                                                                      Food/sauces rocks but for me, not eating meat and steam tables was not a good combo for me.
                                                                                      Just wanted A to have a heads up.

                                                                                      She is going to love Mariscos..gobenator tacos and ceviche tostada..

                                                                              2. Uh, just tried que huong for the first time and while there is vietnamese food in nyc, I don't recall any really authentic vietnamese especially since the good ones I remembered in ny chinatown by colombus park are gone. I'm not sure it's worth going to that neighborhood though as there's literally nothing there for a tourist. Maybe someone else who's had que huong can determine if it's good enough for her to try.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                  You're absolutely right that NYC is really really weak in terms of Vietnamese.

                                                                                  I've never been to Que Huong, but if the OP wants a decent bowl of pho, I would recommend Pho Hoa (also in the City Heights are).

                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                    I should of specified since there are so many pho places in san diego. I meant non-pho dishes. I can't elaborate as the dish I had was technically vietnamese but not as much as a regular dish would have been. I had a goat hot pot(it was unusually cold for san diego so a hot pot was in order).

                                                                                    1. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                      Non pho place I would hit up is K Sandwiches.

                                                                                2. As long as we are talking Vietnamese, Pho Hoa at Euclid Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard has arguably the best Pho in Southern California.

                                                                                  A Chau at Menlo and El Cajon Boulevard makes an excellent Vietnamese Iced Coffee and sandwiches.

                                                                                  1. Also just realized I won't be in SD during the wknd so brunch isn't really an option. Any good breakfast places that are open during the weekdays?

                                                                                    16 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                      I like Snooz- if you get there early.

                                                                                      Otherwise, nothing is worth that wait.

                                                                                      1. re: Fake Name

                                                                                        I like Snooze too. They do a nice job and the coffee is good

                                                                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                          Just looked at Snooze's menu. Looks pretty good. It'll be a wait even on a regular weekday (I assume most ppl would be working?)

                                                                                          1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                            People don't really "work" in San Diego.

                                                                                            They just eat, surf, and post on Chowhound. Rinse. Repeat.

                                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                              haha...so by getting there early...what time does that mean? i want to go there early enough where i don't wait long but hopefully not early as in when they open at 630 am

                                                                                              1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                                I think if you get there by 8 a.m, esp. on a weekday, you'll be fine. Might have to wait 10 minutes or so, but otherwise you should be good to go with a table with no probs.

                                                                                      2. re: ashleylau

                                                                                        Parkhouse in University Heights.

                                                                                        Who doesn't like mashed potatoes for breakfast?!

                                                                                          1. re: honkman

                                                                                            Yes...topped with an egg (runny yolk) they are surprisingly good

                                                                                            1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                              For lunch or dinner - yes, but for breakfast I prefer something light

                                                                                              1. re: honkman

                                                                                                That was my thought too honkman, but give it a whirl.

                                                                                                It's not spa food, nor is it a continental breakfast, but then it's also not corned beef hash with pancakes and a side of ham.

                                                                                                1. re: honkman

                                                                                                  Surprisingly, they are lighter than you think when reheated.

                                                                                              2. re: ashleylau

                                                                                                Claire's on Cedros is a "brunch place" that is open on weekdays so you have all the bases covered there :)

                                                                                              3. Okay I've narrowed down places and picked the following:

                                                                                                // food //
                                                                                                - Super Cocina
                                                                                                - Extraordinary Desserts
                                                                                                - Mariscos German taco truck
                                                                                                - Snooze
                                                                                                - George's (La Jolla)
                                                                                                - In-n-Out Burger (personally don't love or hate it but the bf hasn't had and we need to get this in)

                                                                                                // drinks //
                                                                                                - Blind Lady Ale House
                                                                                                - Craft & Commerce
                                                                                                - Noble Experiment (I'll make reservations 1 wk in adv.)

                                                                                                Looking for 1-2 more things I MUST/SHOULD eat. It's very hard to pick since I'm in SD for such a short period of time :(

                                                                                                33 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                                  If you are not going to eat and only going for beer selection I would recommend Toronado over Blind Lady. They have more taps and tend to have more local IPAs on tap. Their bottle list is also quite extensive.

                                                                                                  The food at Toronado is not bad but I like Blind Lady's better.

                                                                                                  1. re: JRSD

                                                                                                    Yeah I'm probably going just for the beer selection. I'll look into Toronado! thanks!

                                                                                                    1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                                      any opinion about The Reagl Beagle?

                                                                                                        1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                                          I've been to the beagle, and encourage you not to miss the Tostada Mixto at the 9Seas truck.

                                                                                                            1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                                              Re: Regal Beagle - Decent beer list, okay food, great area (my old neighborhood. . .*sniff*), but not really a destination. Go with Toronado or BLAH. Though with Toronado, you can walk up 30th to Tiger!Tiger! (BLAH's sister restaurant), and enjoy more beer.

                                                                                                              1. re: jmtreg

                                                                                                                Ok thanks everyone... i'll skip the beagle

                                                                                                          1. re: JRSD

                                                                                                            There is very little overlap between what Toronado will have on tap and what Blind Lady will have on tap, and the vibe is entirely different. Worth doing both. :)

                                                                                                          2. re: ashleylau

                                                                                                            I would still say you should get sushi from one of the "top" places here. This would be Kaito, Shirahama, or Ota (price arranged low to high and quality/taste arranged high to low).

                                                                                                            This will probably not be too much different from what you can get in NYC, but the price should be much less compared to what you normally expect. With that said, I suspect the local San Diego uni is something you cannot get in NYC and is usually exceptional.

                                                                                                            Another food place to consider is Whisknladle...

                                                                                                            For the place you listed for drinks, try to leave some room for dessert as well.

                                                                                                            1. re: karaethon

                                                                                                              I put Ota on my list as well, thanks!!

                                                                                                            2. re: ashleylau

                                                                                                              I'd swap out Snooze for Cafe Chloe.

                                                                                                              1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                                                San Diego strength is the bounty of great local produce (some of the best in the US) and some fo the best restaurants in SD for the use of the produce are "bistro-style" (mid price) ones like El Take It Easy, Linkery, Alchemy, Starlite. I would add 1-2 of these restaurants to your list to cover some San Diego specific restaurants in your list.

                                                                                                                1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                                                  Take out Extraordinary Desserts. If you have to go there, just "window eat" but don't actually buy anything.

                                                                                                                  I still think you should do Carnitas Snack Shack.

                                                                                                                  1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                                                    I'd cut out Extraordinary Desserts. They look amazing but I find the desserts aren't that tasty. Save the calories and have another local beer or a fish taco. Heck, it's vacation. Have both.

                                                                                                                    1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                                                      If it were me I'd skip Snooze and In-n-Out. Burger Lounge is a small chain that started in San Diego and is far superior to In-n-Out while offering a similar product. The classic style cheeseburger at Burger Lounge is really good (and not listed on their menu).

                                                                                                                      1. re: Josh

                                                                                                                        For a lot of travellers, In-n-Out is a cult type destination, a novelity and must try and IMO, fast burger food. Burger Lounge is good but, just another burger joint, certainly no following like I-n-O.

                                                                                                                        1. re: cstr

                                                                                                                          I get that, but on the other hand I can tell you that many out-of-state people I've met who've tried In-n-Out don't get what all the fuss is about. It's a slightly better fast food burger.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Josh

                                                                                                                            Same could be said for Burger Lounge.

                                                                                                                            Or Shake Shack in NYC.

                                                                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                              Yeah, I wouldn't call Burger Lounge a destination. I guess my feeling is if you feel like having a burger it's a good spot, and a better choice than In-n-Out (and certainly better than Hodad's or Rocky's).

                                                                                                                              1. re: Josh

                                                                                                                                I'll take Anny's over Burger Lounge or In-N-Out any day.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Dagney

                                                                                                                                  Looks good. Pity about the grain-fed beef.

                                                                                                                          2. re: cstr

                                                                                                                            In n out also has 1 huge advantage especially in san diego, how many other moderate burger places are open after midnight in S.D. if the OP does decide to go to in n out, I would go when every other better option is closed

                                                                                                                        2. re: ashleylau

                                                                                                                          Keep the In N Out,

                                                                                                                          if you're a sushi fan make a reservation to sit at the bar at Kaito or Ota, but I would opt for the former (you'll save a lot of money, and can take a beautiful drive up the 101) there's also Hane if you're staying downtown.

                                                                                                                          Craft & Commerce and Noble Experiment are from the same group, so don't fret if you only make one.

                                                                                                                          Weekend Brunch at Urban Solace is worth checking out, make absolutely sure to get cheddar biscuits.

                                                                                                                          Carnitas Snack Shack

                                                                                                                          Eclipse Chocolate rather than Extraordinary Desserts

                                                                                                                          Oscars Mexican Seafood if you don;t feel like traveling to find Mariscos

                                                                                                                          check out one of the farmers markets

                                                                                                                            1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                                                              Agreed with Rodzilla on everything except In-n-Out. :-)

                                                                                                                              1. re: Josh

                                                                                                                                haha unfortunately i'm keeping in-n-out....only for the bf. If i had a choice, I wouldn't go back. It's just ok. I don't think it's better or worse than shake shack in nyc either.

                                                                                                                                1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                                                                  To follow up on the above..

                                                                                                                                  If you are planning on Noble Experiment..you need to text exactly at MIDNIGHT, one week prior. I've been trying to make reservations here for a long time, and finally asked them why they're always booked. They told me people scramble to text right at midnight, one week out..

                                                                                                                                  Also..I've been to both sushi Ota and Kaito, numerous times. There is no price difference as far as I can tell. Both are expensive, but much less expensive than what you'd pay in NYC for that quality sushi.

                                                                                                                                  On a whole, Ota is definitely my personal favorite and the best sushi I've ever had..although, I've had individual dishes at Kaito that would classify as "best ever". Granted, I've never been to a place like Urasawa....but I don't have 8 bills to drop on dinner for one anyways, so it's moot.

                                                                                                                                  One more tip on craft and commerce and Noble experiment...both are very popular and good. If you're looking for something (still downtown) but under the radar, and imo better than craft and commerce (never been to noble experiment), I would suggest Lion's Share. The food is actually really good too - I had the antelope sliders just last weekend.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: yanks26dmb

                                                                                                                                    thanks yanks. I already have an reminder set on my phone to text Noble experiment :) (yelp was helpful hah)

                                                                                                                                    I think i'm going to Ota and Lions's share was on my maybe-list. So hard...so many choices, so little time :(

                                                                                                                                    1. re: ashleylau

                                                                                                                                      Ha, honestly, don't get too overwhelmed with the San Diego food scene....save that for SF.

                                                                                                                                      I'm in SF a LOT so if you've got any specific questions about places up there, I'd be happy to answer. Just a quick bit of advice, save your fine dining for SF, but be sure to make reservations well in advance...

                                                                                                                                      PS - if you go to Ota or Kaito for that matter, be sure to get the Uni sashimi. Willing to bet you won't find Uni in NY as fresh and tasty as what we get locally here in San Diego. That, and the salmon belly at Ota is divine...

                                                                                                                                      1. re: yanks26dmb

                                                                                                                                        thanks, i am saving my fine dining for SF. i'm overwhelmed by SF's food....so many places look amazing haha.

                                                                                                                                        thanks again for your help

                                                                                                                                2. re: Rodzilla

                                                                                                                                  While I like Urban Solace, I think their cheddar biscuits are severely overrated, if not downright just not very good.

                                                                                                                              2. Not much help on the breakfast front but here's a sample itinerary of meals you could do. Obviously you can move the days around but I did bundle the Lunch/Dinner locations at least somewhat geographically. I think Noble Experiment is only open Wed-Sat so that would have to be one of those nights.

                                                                                                                                Lunch #1
                                                                                                                                Super Cocina

                                                                                                                                Dinner #1
                                                                                                                                The Linkery or El Take It Easy or Alchemy

                                                                                                                                Drinks #1
                                                                                                                                Toronado (if The Linkery) or Hamilton's (if Alchemy). Polite Provisions and Seven Grand are near Toronado (kind of) if you want cocktails too

                                                                                                                                Lunch #2
                                                                                                                                Aqui Es Texcoco & Mariscos El Pescador

                                                                                                                                Dinner #2
                                                                                                                                Cafe Chloe

                                                                                                                                Drinks #2
                                                                                                                                Noble Experiment

                                                                                                                                Lunch #3
                                                                                                                                Pho Cow Cali

                                                                                                                                Dinner #3
                                                                                                                                George's TBL3

                                                                                                                                Drinks #3
                                                                                                                                Drink closer to where you stay so you don't have to drive

                                                                                                                                Lunch #4
                                                                                                                                Stone Brewing (visit Lost Abbey/Port, Rip Current and Pizza Port while you're up North too)

                                                                                                                                Dinner #4

                                                                                                                                Drinks #4
                                                                                                                                Drink closer to where you stay so you don't have to drive. O'Brien's Pub will probably be on the way back if you want a beer though.

                                                                                                                                Drunk food:
                                                                                                                                Carne Asada or California burrito from any taco shop (Saguaro's in North Park was my local choice when I lived there).
                                                                                                                                In 'n Out

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: DougOLis


                                                                                                                                  Nice sample itinerary taking locations and times into account.

                                                                                                                                2. Make sure you bring your passport with you and take a day trip down to Tijuana because believe it or not that Mexican border city has a very happening and surprisingly sophisticated food scene. It's well worth your time to read some blogs, check out some newspaper reviews, or even watch some shows from the Food Network about TJ.

                                                                                                                                  1. Oh, and you like Craft & Commerce try Polite Provisions in North Park as it is owned by the same people but has a distinctly different flair to it. You can even get several different types of Vodka (including the locally made one by Ballast Point's distillery) which is something which is deliberately not sold at C&C.