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Where do San Diegans rank San Diego as a food city?

ipsedixit Jun 16, 2013 06:53 PM

Within the U.S., where do people think San Diego* ranks as a dining destination?

No bashing, no angst, no self-pity. Just an honest assessment.

Top 5? Top 10? Top 20?

I think it's solidly somewhere in the 6-8 range.

You?

(*San Diego, for purposes of this thread, should probably be San Diego County and not just the city itself.)

  1. d
    DougOLis Aug 2, 2013 12:38 AM

    Do other city boards obsess about where they stand in the Nation/World and the food culture (or lack there of) as much as San Diego?

    5 Replies
    1. re: DougOLis
      c
      cstr Aug 2, 2013 05:09 AM

      Great question, probably not. Maybe we're just self conscience.

      1. re: DougOLis
        Fake Name Aug 2, 2013 06:34 AM

        Certainly hope not. I don't understand the constant whinging and complaining on this.

        Yes, there are other cities in the world who's grass is hugely, shockingly, amazingly greener.

        But I still enjoy many meals here. Plenty to like.

        1. re: Fake Name
          Tripeler Aug 4, 2013 12:00 AM

          "...other cities in the world..."

          Like Berlin?

          1. re: Tripeler
            honkman Aug 4, 2013 10:23 AM

            The culinary center of the world

            1. re: honkman
              Tripeler Aug 4, 2013 05:01 PM

              Oh, yeah? Then I'm a jelly doughnut.

      2. a
        acalhoun Aug 1, 2013 01:28 PM

        I'm an ex-Portlander who has moved around a lot but has resided in SD for the past 7 years. Things have really improved in the short time I've been here but...

        Really, there is no question that San Diego is outside the top 10 as a 'food city', and probably outside the top 20. It really punches below its weight. There are certainly great restaurants here! In fact there are some that I'd pit against anywhere nationally. But as a food scene? It's just not the same.

        Let me give you an example. When I go visit my parents in Portland, in our little out of the way neighborhood alone there are probably three or four restaurants that I would rank in the 'top' if they were in San Diego, and it's not a particularly food-heavy area. Conversely, places like Banker's Hill Restaurant (which I love very much!) would be just one of a hundred in Portland whereas in San Diego it's special. And because of that, the 'fine dining' food in Portland is much cheaper.

        Again, that's not to say that San Diego isn't better at some things. The Mexican, Japanese, Iraqi, etc food dominates anything you'd find in Portland, it's not even remotely a fair comparison. If you asked me how good the ethnic food is here I'd say it does pretty well nationally. Obviously the beer scene is one of the top few in the nation. But there isn't really a 'food scene' built around it - that takes a population that wants to make the effort.

        1. g
          globalevent Jul 28, 2013 03:19 PM

          I am a self-described foodie. I used to cook professionally, ran a wholesale gourmet food business, lived in a major east coast city for years before moving to SD in 2011 and I have traveled through the country for work and fun. During my travels I enjoy finding great restaurants in the places I visit and along the way learn how much of a foodie destination each city is.

          In my opinion SD is outside Top 10 and possibly outside Top 20. While there is a burgeoning foodie scene, it hasn't gained much traction. This is largely due to the lack of interest (see DiningDiva's comment) on the part of our residents.

          When I moved here I thought SD would be like LA, Santa Barbara or the Bay area in terms of the interest in food and wine, but I was very wrong. Considering how close we are to Mexico you'd think this city would be overflowing with great places for Mexican food. But no, you have to look hard to find a Mexican restaurant that doesn't serve the same old tired versions of Tex-Mex. And with the huge Asian communities one would think there would be dozens of high qualify Chinese restaurants. But again no. Don't get me started on pizza or BBQ, I'll rant for days.

          Sure, there are occasional bright spots, but they are far and few between. Fortunately, one can comb through the posts here or on Yelp to find them, but it's not like San Fran, LA, Seattle, Portland, Austin, New Orleans, Atlanta, New York, DC, Boston and Chicago where you can't help but fall into a great spot on almost every block.

          6 Replies
          1. re: globalevent
            d
            DoctorChow Jul 29, 2013 12:40 AM

            One of the problems in San Diego is that we don't have any kind of truly unique culinary identity. Even our "famous" fish tacos didn't originate here. SF has sourdough, Seattle & Portland have coffee, New Orleans has jambalaya, NYC has everything (and the Soup Nazi), etc., etc. Another is that we don't have a walkable culinary epicenter. A third is that we don't have a general public that assumes highly accessible, high value fine food like people in the cities you listed expect to find on every corner. The people in SD who think that we have America's Finest Food tend to be "San Diego Natives!" who haven't strayed very far from home, or at least not very often. I don't mean people who post on this blog (who clearly do care), but rather the general population here. Thirty years ago, I thought we were starting to see a culinary metamorposis, a revolution at ground zero downtown that would eventually convert that sidewalk urinal into something resembling the vibrant culinary scene of Seattle or Vancover. Or more. And things did seem to start to go in that direction -- until the Petco comet hit. And so here we are, still scattered, stuck, and struggling, foodwise, in the suspended animation of 1980.

            Sigh. I'm going to go off and find a great sausage plate and localbrau, chill out, and stop thinking about this...

            1. re: DoctorChow
              d
              DougOLis Jul 29, 2013 02:53 AM

              Aha, but we are developing a culinary identity, the problem is that it's with a drink (craft beer) and not a food item. And unlike Napa's identity with a drink (wine) our drink is more closely tied to burgers, sausages and pizza rather than more refined cuisine (though somewhat erroneously and perceptions are starting to change).

              1. re: DougOLis
                c
                cstr Jul 29, 2013 04:58 AM

                Great point DD, it's the beer mentality, though you did mention sausages!

                1. re: DougOLis
                  d
                  DoctorChow Jul 29, 2013 10:25 AM

                  Absolutely agree, DougOLis, but it's still a developing identity, as you said, not a long-standing one. Perhaps some day San Diego will be well-known nationally for it's great beer (and maybe sausage), but I doubt that the average Joe/Joan in Kansas or New York thinks of us that way just yet. Even if it's beer that we become truly famous for, though, it would boost the broader public perception of SD's overall local cuisine, I think, so I'm happy to see that reputation developing.

                2. re: DoctorChow
                  scottca075 Aug 2, 2013 12:31 PM

                  >>>Sigh. I'm going to go off and find a great sausage plate and localbrau, chill out, and stop thinking about this...<<<

                  Have you been to Salt & Cleaver in Hillcrest yet??

                  1. re: scottca075
                    d
                    DoctorChow Aug 2, 2013 12:36 PM

                    It's on my list for this month.

              2. Gypsy Jan Jun 18, 2013 11:27 AM

                I think that I agree with you, ipse.

                Not Michelin-starred, not great culture, i.e. French or high-concept California cuisine (which I actually find boring).
                or a culture of well-trained servers,

                But I think there is a wealth of very good small-sized restaurants serving food from various ethnic backgrounds, served from the heart. Taco stands, middle eastern, asian, Iraqi, eclectic and food trucks with an individual take on things, etc.

                But, then again, for perspective, I remembr when downtown San Diego was a drunken sailors' paradise - bars and whorehouses and urine-soaked streets. (My uncle was an admiral and when he moored here, my mother took me to visit him in the harbor.)

                1. d
                  DoctorChow Jun 17, 2013 06:11 PM

                  Actually, ipse, the way the question was worded and the way the word “people” was used led me to three interpretations of your original question: 1) Where do SD residents place SD as a food city relative to others; (2) where do people elsewhere in the US rank SD as a dining destination; and (3) where do CHs place SD as a dining destination, relative to other cities they’ve been to. On first read, I thought you meant the first of these. On second read I thought you meant the second. And finally it's become clear that by "people", you meant "CH people". I'm going to respond to all three. DD is probably right about the majority of SD residents not really thinking or caring much about our ranking. So the resident ranking is a shrug of the shoulders. Looking in from the outside, I don’t think many tourists come here specifically for our dining, but they do think that while they’re here they’ll find good seafood (we're on the coast, aren't we?) and also "authentic" Mexican food. So they go to the Fish Market and they go to Old Town and leave fat and happy, and from their perspective, we might be in the top 10 (since that’s how many cities they’ve been to other than their own). From the CH perspective, well, I think others have addressed that. Like others on this thread, I think it clearly depends on how extensively a person has perused the restaurant scenes around the country, as well as their biases as to what constitutes a vibrant “food city”. I’ve traveled to a great many cities in the US and abroad, but I can only say I’ve been to enough restaurants in one of them, Washington, D.C., to make a comparison. So, based on the two cities I can legitimately compare, I'd say we're number 2. I don't think I'm qualified to come up with a ranking number relative to all of the cities in the US. I think we have to defer to professionals in the food and travel businesses, like it or not, for that.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: DoctorChow
                    d
                    DoctorChow Jun 19, 2013 06:05 PM

                    I'm replying to my own post because it didn't show up on the feeds for some mysterious reason. Or else I'm being ignored (sob, sob). I looked at last year's Travel & Leisure ratings of the food scene in various cities, and here's what they had for SD: We came in fourth for hamburgers, fifth for ice cream, seventh for microbrew beers, ninth for both cafes and for ethnic food, and tenth for street food/food trucks. Interesting!

                    1. re: DoctorChow
                      DiningDiva Jun 19, 2013 07:40 PM

                      Yeah, interesting that they had us 7th for beer.

                      There was an earlier thread on the T&L ratings

                      1. re: DiningDiva
                        d
                        DoctorChow Jun 19, 2013 08:12 PM

                        Are you talking about the thread that was about pizza? If there was a thread about general rankings, I missed it completely.

                  2. globocity Jun 17, 2013 02:48 PM

                    I guess it depends on how much one has traveled (the States), no?

                    I wonder about the food scenes in Lexington, Minneapolis, Honolulu, and Chicago; cities I have yet to travel.

                    Although I hold SD very close to my heart and consider myself fortunate to live here....compared to the places I have frequented, SD would rank around 15 out of 20. And yes Phx would be above that.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: globocity
                      ipsedixit Jun 17, 2013 03:27 PM

                      It absolutely depends on how and where you've been.

                      Having been to alot of cities across the U.S., and having lived (either extensively or for short terms) in quite a few of them I can say that SD is not as bad, or desolate, as many people here make it out to be. In fact, I think it is a bit underrated.

                      Let me give you another angle. Just the weather here in SD gives it 1 or 2 notches above most cities. Ever try eating out in -10F windchill (e.g. Chicago in January)? Or when it's 115F at 7 pm. (e.g. Phoenix in August)?

                      1. re: ipsedixit
                        honkman Jun 17, 2013 03:44 PM

                        Weather shouldn't play any role in the rating of a food city. I would be happy to have sometimes horrible weather but much better food options. Overall I agree with Jay that SD might rank around 30th in the US. We haven't travel as extensively as others so far but just some recent places we visited are at least as good and often much better than SD - LA, SF, Sonoma/Napa/Healdsburg, OC, Portland(Maine), Las Vegas, Boston. There many more based on discussions with other we would like to visit and have most likely better food scene - Seattle, Portland, Chicago, NYC, Austin, Phoenix, New Orleans, Houston, Philadelphia etc

                        1. re: honkman
                          ipsedixit Jun 17, 2013 04:40 PM

                          I think weather is a factor in a city's dining desirability.

                          Also, it's hard to judge a city as a visitor, esp. an infrequent one. There's something about newness, or the novelty of a new restaurant, that makes us think we are having better than we actually are.

                          It's why a mistress is always more seductive than the wife at home, even if the wife is stunningly beautiful and perfect in all other respects.

                          I say this because I've had the opportunity to entertain visitors to SD on a somewhat frequent basis recently and to a person they've noted what a vibrant food scene SD has. At first I thought they were just punch-drunk, but then I realized that sometimes a change of scenery can do that to people's perception of quality.

                          1. re: ipsedixit
                            El Chevere Jun 17, 2013 04:52 PM

                            NYC weather can be crappy a good portion of the year....you mean to tell me SD is a better dining destination tban NYC?....please.

                            1. re: El Chevere
                              ipsedixit Jun 17, 2013 04:54 PM

                              Where did I say that?

                              All I said was that weather has to be taken into consideration.

                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                honkman Jun 17, 2013 05:14 PM

                                Weather should be taken into consideration if the question is if SD is a good city to live in but if we talk about food it shouldn't play any role especially with very few restaurants having places to sit outside. I also don't see the novelty factor of a restaurant in SD or anywhere else, either a restaurant delivers good food and service in SD or somewhere else or it doesn't, independently if it is visited the first or tenth time. There are well known restaurants in "food cities" like SF which we really felt were way overrated even after one visit (and no novelty factor helped) because food and/or service was disappointing. I think it is often the other way round - if I live in a city and the restaurant has a bad day I can easily come back soon but if I just visit a city (even frequently like LA) I am much more annoyed if food or service are bad as I don't have the chance to come back soon

                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                  El Chevere Jun 17, 2013 06:23 PM

                                  Desirability of weather has absolutely no impact on the quality of my dining experience. None, nada, zip....a picture perfect 75 degree day in San Diego does not enhance the flavor at a crappy, tourist trap such as Greystone or Panevino nor does 12 inches of snow detract from my dining experience at Eleven Madison Park or Peter Luger in NY, nor does fog impact my meal at Gary Danko or Delfina in SF, etc. etc. Many other factors--not weather--determine whether I like a particular restaurant and/or city when it comes to dining; weather is not even on the list.

                                  1. re: El Chevere
                                    4
                                    4wino Jun 17, 2013 09:55 PM

                                    Gary Danko...the ultimate tourist trap!

                                    1. re: 4wino
                                      honkman Jun 17, 2013 10:24 PM

                                      Not sure if I would call it tourist trap but it is very "old fashioned" french inspired food (with some asian influences) which was more cutting edge 15 years ago but is still very well executed. It reminds me a bit of Tapenade in La Jolla - not something I crave everyday but when I am in the mood for this style of food it is a very good option. Another great option for this style of food in SF is La Folie

                                      1. re: honkman
                                        4
                                        4wino Jun 17, 2013 10:47 PM

                                        The only thing I liked about Danko, was the numerous choices of their prix fixe menu and all the permutations. Otherwise, good and uninspired food.

                                        Last weekend we ate at Sons and Daughters, and that was a huge dissapointment. The one that I enjoyed was Gitane.

                                        Anyway, I think we should talk more about which city is more authentic!!!:-)

                      2. El Chevere Jun 17, 2013 11:00 AM

                        I would say San Diego ranks within the top 5 within California, after SF, LA, and OC (in particular, Laguna Beach)...of course, under SF I am also including Napa/Sonoma/Marin/East Bay/& South Bay and under LA I am including Long Beach.

                        San Diego probably ranks within the top 15- 20 of the US, but it cannot hold a candle to the top 5 on my list:

                        NYC
                        SF
                        Chicago
                        New Orleans
                        LA
                        Las Vegas
                        Portland,OR
                        Seattle
                        Atlanta (includes Savannah--though not close to ATL)
                        Boston
                        Kansas City

                        Uncertain, at this point, as to whether I would include Dallas or Houston on above list.

                        Not sure where (or where you have not) dined in Portland, but it is a considerably better foodie town than SD. Off the top of my head, Paley's Place, Caffe Mingo, Genoa, Pok Pok, Wildwood, Andina, Le Pigeon, Castagna, Higgins and Beast are all consistently very good (and better than most/all places in SD on any given night) and Ken's Artisan Bakery and Grand Central Bakery put out bread that blows away Con Pane and Bread & Cie....and I'll take a good Oregon Pinot over a Temecula wine any day of the week.

                        21 Replies
                        1. re: El Chevere
                          globocity Jun 17, 2013 02:44 PM

                          A huge AGREED re PDX being more desirable in terms of the food scene.

                          1. re: El Chevere
                            ipsedixit Jun 17, 2013 03:20 PM

                            There's no way OC is better than SD as a dining destination.

                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              honkman Jun 17, 2013 03:41 PM

                              It's always hard to rate a whole food scene - based on what kind of restaurants, etc.. But recently we picked randomly two Italian restaurants in Newport Beach for a dinner with our daughter and both had better food than an Italian we had in 12 years in SD. OC is at least on many levels we have experienced over the years similar to SD if not even better

                              1. re: honkman
                                El Chevere Jun 17, 2013 03:55 PM

                                I lived in OC for 17 years and complained about the food there early on, but noticed it had improved by the late 90's. Laguna Beach has always had great restaurants and there were a couple of groups that started putting out multiple good restaurants (David Wilhem and the Goodell's) that are superior to the Cohn and Scott ventures here in SD.....glad to see you had good Italian in NB--a cuisine that flops far many more times than it pleases here in SD. Seems to me that OC played catch up with LA and now SD is playing catch up with OC.

                              2. re: ipsedixit
                                Porthos Jun 18, 2013 11:44 AM

                                I don't know ipse, when was the last time you dined in OC?

                                OC Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese food probably best SD comfortably. Mexican is probably SD's strength but does it destroy the Mexican food in Santa Ana? Doubt it.

                                As for high end, Italian, or French, which ones in SD do you think destroys OC?

                                OC has Shuck oyster bar doing 15 types of osyters including belon, Pizzeria Ortica for Neapolitan pizza and fresh pasta, Pizzeria Mozza, Playground which is doing good gastro pub/cal cuisine stuff along with $180-$250 Chef's tastings at IO, Marche Moderne for classic French, excellent Cuban in Bella Cuba (way better than what Versailles is offering LA), excellent Peruvian food in Cass Inka...the list goes on and on.

                                Sorry to offer a multi city perspective again, but I wouldn't write off OC in OC vs SD so readily. Looks like SDians don't even think SD beats OC.

                                1. re: Porthos
                                  ipsedixit Jun 18, 2013 12:11 PM

                                  I think the pizzas in SD are very underrated, and better than those in OC (as an aside Ortica is not VPN, the one in OC that is I believe is Fuoco, which is very good.

                                  There are quite a few places doing fresh, hand-made pastas in SD (e.g. Bencotto and Cucina Urbana).

                                  I believe the depth and breadth of SD Mexican (while limited) is better than what's found in Santa Ana; in fact, I think just Barrio Logan by itself would be on par with Santa Ana's offerings.

                                  There's no doubt Asian and SE Asian cuisines are better in OC, but I think the Filipino food in SD is far superior to anything you'll find up north.

                                  TBL3 / George's, Carnitas Snack Shack, Pomegranate Russian-Georgian Restaurant, etc. are some of the gems that SD has, which isn't to say that OC doesn't have its own share like you pointed out -- just that it's not one-sided.

                                  And, while I think OC is far superior in terms of Japanese (Sushi and Kaiseki), SD does have it's fair share of gems in terms of sushi (e.g. Ota, Shino, Hane).

                                  And I never said "destroy" ... just that I think SD is better than OC.

                                  And no need apologize. I *want* a multi-city perspective. As I mentioned in *that* other thread, sometimes tenure leads to fossilized and myopic viewpoints.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                    honkman Jun 18, 2013 02:58 PM

                                    Agree with the pizza in SD to be underrated and at least as good as Pizzeria Ortica. What's better at Ortica is the house-made pasta which really lacks in SD, e.g. the pasta at Cucina Urbana is not house-made but purchased.
                                    (And I am always surprised by your love of Pomegranate which serves mediocre renditions of Russian food with some Georgian influences)

                                    1. re: honkman
                                      ipsedixit Jun 18, 2013 04:06 PM

                                      Do you have a recommendation for a better Russian restaurant in/around SD?

                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                        honkman Jun 18, 2013 04:39 PM

                                        No, but just because there are no better options a mediocre place should be considered good

                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                          a
                                          acalhoun Aug 1, 2013 01:33 PM

                                          I haven't been there yet but a Russian friend just recommended Village House Kalina?

                                          1. re: acalhoun
                                            ipsedixit Aug 1, 2013 01:47 PM

                                            Interesting, thanks.

                                      2. re: ipsedixit
                                        Porthos Jun 18, 2013 03:18 PM

                                        I know Ortica isn't VPN. For VPN, you can add Pizza e Vino to Fuoco. I picked Ortica as an example because they do excellent food all around: appetizers, pizza, pasta, decent wine list. To echo honkman, the house made pastas with bolognese and lamb ragu are excellent at Ortica.

                                        Regarding Mexican food, I think you are severely underestimating Santa Ana. Looking at census numbers, San Diego County is 32.5% for hispanic or latino origin (2011) and Santa Ana is 78.2% (2010). With that concentration, there are bound to be many gems off the CH radar. Orange County itself is 34.1% in case you were wondering.

                                        San Diego:
                                        http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/06073.html

                                        Santa Ana:
                                        http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/0669000.html

                                        Orange County:
                                        http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/stat...

                                        I agree it's not one sided and probably very close. Your "no way OC is better" lead me to believe you thought SD was an easy winner in that hypothetical culinary throwdown.

                                        1. re: Porthos
                                          ipsedixit Jun 18, 2013 04:08 PM

                                          I've spent many a weekday lunches several years ago in/around the Santa Ana courthouse and downtown area, so I did get to sample the Mexican fare down there. The food was (and probably still is) fine but I'm not sure it's all that much better than what you can find in the greater Phoenix metro area, and I don't think population size is necessarily always an accurate barometer.

                                          1. re: ipsedixit
                                            Porthos Jun 18, 2013 04:42 PM

                                            Not just population size but density.

                                            To put things in perspective, Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, and Rowland Heights don't boast that density or number of Asians. And this is just the city of Santa Ana alone. One wouldn't dare say population size or density doesn't mean much to the food scene in the above named SGV cities.

                                            But, I understand the caveat is *in your experience* so we agree to disagree. :-)

                                            1. re: Porthos
                                              El Chevere Jun 19, 2013 09:45 AM

                                              I wish OC's Taco Mesa would open a location down here and I like the food at Javier's....also, OC has more Tex-Mex options than SD wheras SD--given its proximity to Mexico--has more Baja Mex options.

                                              1. re: El Chevere
                                                m
                                                macaronmama Aug 9, 2013 06:16 PM

                                                Second on Taco Mesa! Used to eat often at the original CM location when I worked in the area. Sigh...

                                        2. re: ipsedixit
                                          g
                                          globalevent Aug 7, 2013 12:21 PM

                                          apparently trip advisor agrees with you in regard to the pizza:
                                          http://goo.gl/UVo9Qj

                                      3. re: ipsedixit
                                        scottca075 Aug 2, 2013 12:29 PM

                                        Actually Orange County is significantly better than San Diego County in many food types including Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, Middle Eastern and a few others. It is certainly equal in Mexican and maybe a bit ahead in new American and also ahead in fine dining.

                                        I can't see San Diego being top ten and I've spent too much time in Omaha to place them in the top 50 unless I am really missing something.

                                        Pound for pound, the two best cities in CA for food are Yountville and Santa Barbara, with an honorable mention to Laguna Beach.

                                      4. re: El Chevere
                                        e
                                        escondido123 Jun 17, 2013 10:07 PM

                                        You left out Providence, one of the great US food cities.

                                        1. re: El Chevere
                                          c
                                          cstr Jun 18, 2013 04:16 AM

                                          I would agree within CA with the exception of OC where it may be a close tie.

                                          1. re: El Chevere
                                            j
                                            josephnl Aug 10, 2013 09:48 PM

                                            Couldn't agree more. PDX absolutely rocks for a city of it's size...and a short drive takes you to the Willamette Valley with world class pinots, and some additional terrific restaurants.

                                          2. m
                                            mcgrath Jun 17, 2013 07:26 AM

                                            Anyone who responds can only truly compare S.D. cuisine to that which they've personally tried, and tried fairly recently. With that in mind, I would list the following as dining destinations with more to offer than our sweet city:

                                            New York City
                                            S.F. (including East bay)
                                            Las Vegas
                                            Chicago
                                            New Orleans

                                            I've recently been to Portland, Seattle, Orange County and L.A. and don't feel any are significantly more desirable a destination than San Diego.

                                            I've been to Boston recently and would put it on equal footing with us.

                                            I haven't dined recently in any of the other cities already listed in this thread, so can't intelligently comment on them.

                                            17 Replies
                                            1. re: mcgrath
                                              ipsedixit Jun 17, 2013 03:21 PM

                                              Having been to Portland and Seattle, I think both are quite overrated as food cities. Same with Austin.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                                c
                                                calumin Jun 18, 2013 03:18 PM

                                                Interesting... I've been to San Diego, Portland and Seattle in the past two months. Of these, I'd rate Portland first, San Diego second, then Seattle third. I was surprised how much of a foodie culture exists in Portland.

                                                I agree about Austin though.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                                  EWSflash Jun 19, 2013 08:20 PM

                                                  I wish I had better dining experiences in SD, its' been pretty dismal, no, really dismal, but then I don't know anybody there, so when it comes time to eat there we really have no idea where the heck to go. I'd like to hear about some good places, from $ to $$$$, ethnic a plus, as is seafood that isn't breaded and fried. See why I have an attitude? I know there's more out there but damned if I can ever find it.

                                                  1. re: EWSflash
                                                    beantowntitletown Jun 19, 2013 09:48 PM

                                                    Don’t know if you’ve already tried it, but next time you’re in town give George’s CA Modern a try. Based on our dinner on Monday night, the kitchen treats all ingredients with great TLC. The campechana (spot prawn, razor clam, uni, fluke) was one of top things I’ve ever eaten in SD (I should post on that thread) and DW’s corn pudding was absolutely out of this world. Actually, our entire 4 course sampling (including smoked Maine lobster) was beyond reproach. Now, this was just from the a la carte menu. Should you choose to try the six course chef’s tasting or TBL3, you could be in for a real treat. TBL3 is probably at the high end of the $$$$ level.

                                                  2. re: ipsedixit
                                                    b
                                                    BuildingMyBento Jun 21, 2013 11:40 PM

                                                    I was recently in Seattle c/o an emergency landing, and was most intrigued by the 'hood near the Othello T Link station. Ethiopian near Vietnamese, with some southern Chinese and Mexican strewn about for kicks.

                                                    Jonathan
                                                    http://buildingmybento.com
                                                    http://collaterallettuce.com

                                                  3. re: mcgrath
                                                    s
                                                    sdaints Jun 21, 2013 04:53 PM

                                                    I agree that it is hard to compare to cities that you have not been to recently. I agree with your top 5 list although I have not been to Chicago recently.

                                                    I disagree with the assessment of Portland, Seattle, Austin and LA not being more desirable than SD. I have been to all of these cities this year and was impressed with the restaurants and wide range of offerings. I am planning a trip now to Portland and am having the problem of too many places to try and not enough time. I have lived in SD for almost 7 years and have had a few memorable meals (wine vault, better half, blanca, market) but most of the time when I eat out here I am not impressed. It is not that the meals are bad...just nothing special. San Diego has plenty of good ethnic options but there are not many places that I enjoy enough to consistently return.

                                                    I am from New Orleans which I think is a top 3 in the country. That is a place that has plenty of great options at different price points and there are places that I love going back to again and again.

                                                    Don't get me wrong...I think the food scene in SD is improving but I still think it is behind all of the place that you listed above (with the exception of OC, where I have not gone out much so can't comment on).

                                                    1. re: sdaints
                                                      d
                                                      DoctorChow Jun 21, 2013 05:16 PM

                                                      I agree with your evaluation of New Orleans. I've been there a number of times, for three days to a week at a time, and it's one of the few cities in the country that I'd go to just for the food. If I were making rankings of US food cities, which I don't feel competely comfortable doing, I'd put NYC first, New Orleans second, and San Francisco third. Washington, DC has a surprisingly vibrant food scene, and it's the one city I've been to enough times to rate it relative to SD, in which case, as I said earlier, SD would come in second. But WDC has nothing on the three I'd consider IMHO tops.

                                                      1. re: DoctorChow
                                                        ipsedixit Jun 21, 2013 06:47 PM

                                                        I actually find DC to be one of the more boring food cities.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                                          d
                                                          DoctorChow Jun 21, 2013 06:57 PM

                                                          How much time have you spent there, if I may ask?

                                                          1. re: DoctorChow
                                                            ipsedixit Jun 21, 2013 07:02 PM

                                                            Spent a 6 month stint there a while back, and now I visit pretty regularly (about once a month or so).

                                                            There are some gems in DC (Rogue, Komi, Little Serow and Volt if that counts as DC), and a vibrant Ethiopian dining scene, but beyond that the entire area feels like one big clusterfuck of K-Street expense account restaurants.

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                                              d
                                                              DoctorChow Jun 21, 2013 07:22 PM

                                                              Well, that's pretty harsh talk, ipse. Keep in mind that I was only comparing WDC to SD, and I'd place WDC solidly first in that two-city pairing. Can you honestly say you've explored all of King St, all of Georgetown, all of Dupont Circle, and the Capitol area?

                                                              1. re: DoctorChow
                                                                ipsedixit Jun 21, 2013 07:30 PM

                                                                No, I can't.

                                                                But then I can't say that about any city.

                                                                And that can't be the criteria to judge a city's dining worthiness.

                                                                Have you "explored all of" ___ and ___ and ___ in [insert city]?

                                                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                  d
                                                                  DoctorChow Jun 21, 2013 07:45 PM

                                                                  WDC and SD. I've said that I've only spent enough time in one city, WDC, to be in a position to rate it relative to SD three times now. That's not to say that I've eaten at every restaurant in either city, because I haven't, obviously. But I've explored, which is something I love to do, and eaten at places that appeal to me. Lots of places. I've crawled all over WDC and SD over the last 35 years or so doing that. I've been in many many other cities here and abroad but not enough to say the same. Things keep changing in both WDC and SD. Neither city is what it used to be. Both are better now, IMO. SD is much better than it once was, but it still isn't what WDC now is.

                                                                  1. re: DoctorChow
                                                                    ipsedixit Jun 21, 2013 07:49 PM

                                                                    Opinions differ, and there's nothing wrong with that.

                                                                    I've dined extensively in DC, and explored as much as I want to, or need to, to get an overall impression of the place. And to me it's boring. For me, it's a totally overrated city for food.

                                                                    On the flip side, a great food city and one that's severely underappreciated in my opinion is Nashville.

                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                      d
                                                                      DoctorChow Jun 21, 2013 07:54 PM

                                                                      Fair enough. Now I want to visit Nashville! That's one of the cities I've never been to.

                                                    2. re: mcgrath
                                                      g
                                                      globalevent Jul 28, 2013 03:28 PM

                                                      I have to take exception to some of your comments. I have a lot of personal experience with LA (OC, Seattle, Portand not so much) and Boston, and both cities blow SD away with the range and quality of restaurant experiences. Whether you take inexpensive ethnic to BBQ to high-end dining those two cities are light years ahead of SD. I lived in Boston from '83-'11 and watched that city grow in culinary terms from a backwater provincial regional hub to a world-class dining destination and SD reminds me a lot of Boston in the '70s and '80s. San Diegans are more interested in a well-crafted beer than they are in food. They eat to live and in cities like Boston, LA, NY, Chicago, New Orleans it's the other way around.

                                                      1. re: globalevent
                                                        ipsedixit Jul 28, 2013 06:44 PM

                                                        Ranking cities like we're doing here will depend, in no small part, on the preferences of the person ranking them.

                                                        If a person cares little for locally grown, organic foods and really loves sushi, then SF will not rank very high on that person's list. Similarly, if a person really loves Mexican and Thai, NYC wouldn't rank very high.

                                                        So, of course, you can disagree, but it doesn't make you more (or less) right.

                                                    3. DiningDiva Jun 16, 2013 07:13 PM

                                                      Seriously? I don't think the vast majority of residents don't even consider the question

                                                      16 Replies
                                                      1. re: DiningDiva
                                                        j
                                                        jayporter Jun 16, 2013 09:13 PM

                                                        I find this an interesting subject, I think about it a lot. In the last few years, based on personal experiences which may or may not be reflective of the full offering of each city, here are the US cities/DMAs that I find the dining is/was:

                                                        * Significantly more compelling than San Diego:

                                                        Los Angeles
                                                        New York and surroundings
                                                        San Francisco Bay Area
                                                        Portland
                                                        Seattle
                                                        Omaha
                                                        Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill/Carrboro
                                                        Atlanta
                                                        Athens, GA

                                                        * Significantly less compelling than San Diego
                                                        Las Vegas
                                                        Des Moines
                                                        Columbus
                                                        Tampa area
                                                        Santa Barbara
                                                        Knoxville
                                                        Kansas City
                                                        Phoenix
                                                        Park City
                                                        Fresno

                                                        * Enjoyable and more or less equally compelling as San Diego
                                                        San Luis Obispo
                                                        Milwaukee
                                                        Orange County CA
                                                        Big Sur
                                                        Denver
                                                        Boulder
                                                        Cleveland

                                                        ...Also, places I want to more fully check out, where I suspect the dining is more compelling than San Diego's but I don't feel I've tasted enough to know either way:
                                                        Chicago
                                                        New Orleans
                                                        Philadelphia
                                                        Boston
                                                        Virginia
                                                        Baltimore
                                                        Austin
                                                        Houston
                                                        Dallas
                                                        Louisville
                                                        Detroit
                                                        Lafayette
                                                        Santa Fe
                                                        Vermont (various cities)
                                                        Charleston

                                                        So, my guess is that, if I had experience with more US cities, I'd have San Diego somewhere in the high 20s or low 30s.

                                                        (FWIW, I'd also say that, in my experience, which may not be reflective of the totality of each city, that the Bay Area, Atlanta, and the Research Triangle are pretty far out in front of everywhere else I've been in the US. They'd all make great role models for San Diego, but particularly the Research Triangle which has a lot in common in terms of economic base and suburban sprawl. Unfortunately we lack the tradition of widespread small scale agriculture that the RT was able to build on.)

                                                        1. re: jayporter
                                                          j
                                                          jayporter Jun 16, 2013 09:45 PM

                                                          I'd also add that if you include TJ and Ensenada in the equation of "San Diego" (which in terms of practical living I do), I think that it would put it cleanly in the US top 10 for me, maybe even top 5.

                                                          1. re: jayporter
                                                            ipsedixit Jun 17, 2013 03:57 AM

                                                            * Significantly more compelling than San Diego:

                                                            Los Angeles
                                                            New York and surroundings
                                                            San Francisco Bay Area
                                                            Portland
                                                            Seattle
                                                            Omaha
                                                            Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill/Carrboro
                                                            Atlanta
                                                            Athens, GA
                                                            _____________________

                                                            I've been to Portland, Seattle, the Golden Triangle (NC), and Atlanta -- each several times and some of them more than that -- and I do not find any of them significantly more compelling than SD.

                                                            Portland and Seattle maybe more compelling on certain levels -- but certainly not significantly so.

                                                            Never really been to Athens. What, in your opinion, makes it significantly more compelling than SD?

                                                            And depending on how on defines "compelling" I would say that Las Vegas -- on certain levels - is significantly more compelling than SD as a dining destination.

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                                              c
                                                              cstr Jun 17, 2013 04:13 AM

                                                              I'd also put Portland Maine in the significantly more compelling than SD.

                                                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                j
                                                                jayporter Jun 18, 2013 11:21 AM

                                                                Re: Athens -- my short explanation is that if equivalents of Farm 255, Five & Ten, and The National were in San Diego, they would IMO all be among the top 5 of the SD dining scene.

                                                                YMMV as the things that make restaurants compelling to me might not to you.

                                                            2. re: jayporter
                                                              i
                                                              Idyllwild Jun 21, 2013 07:19 PM

                                                              It's interesting that you cite SD's lack of small scale agriculture as a factor. I always found the produce from SD's farms to be the most compelling thing about the food scene there. What types of agricultural products does the Research Triangle grow that are more appealing to you?

                                                              1. re: Idyllwild
                                                                d
                                                                DoctorChow Jun 21, 2013 07:28 PM

                                                                Suzie's Farm is a terrific example of a small-scale producer in the SD area.

                                                                1. re: Idyllwild
                                                                  j
                                                                  jayporter Jun 21, 2013 08:47 PM

                                                                  I love San Diego's small-farmed produce. There are some gaps (stone fruit, apples, asparagus -- they're available locally but sparsely) that I hope get filled over time, but generally I think it's really good.

                                                                  From what I know about the Research Triangle (and I'm not an expert) the historical patterns of tobacco farming left it particularly well-suited to the growth of a lot of independent farms, not just produce but meat and dairy (specifically cheese) as well. The farmers markets in the area, when I was there, were notably more full of stuff I loved than SD markets (which I think are great).

                                                                  Most notably - in San Diego, our small-scale meat farming is very limited due to the unavailability of USDA-inspected processors. We just can't compete with the kind of meat that's available in the Research Triangle area. Similarly, I've really enjoyed the cheeses I've had there. And there's grits and other heritage grains being cultivated by Anson Mills, and the shrimp from the nearby lowcountry, and etc etc.

                                                                  Some of this kind of stuff (meat & cheese) is available locally in SD, but most of it can't be legally served in SD restaurants because it's not processed in the right kind of facilities, which aren't available here.

                                                                  1. re: jayporter
                                                                    d
                                                                    DoctorChow Jun 21, 2013 08:56 PM

                                                                    Last I heard, there wasn't a single slaughterhouse in San Diego county. The closest is in OC or LA. So we have no truly locally grown/processed meat, like you said. Very sad. Cowboy Star doesn't get its meat from SD County ranches, in other words. Nothing local, meatwise, in SD, in other words.

                                                                    1. re: DoctorChow
                                                                      foodiechick Jul 29, 2013 01:09 AM

                                                                      We DO have locally grown meat - Home grown meats in La Jolla - which also is sold at local Whole Foods Market. Beef is raised on Mount Palomar. But you are right, the meat must be shipped, under federal guidelines, to slaughterhouse in LA.

                                                                      1. re: DoctorChow
                                                                        foodiechick Jul 29, 2013 01:12 AM

                                                                        Bravo. Well said. I agree, part of the reason this town frustrates me so much. But what can you do?

                                                                        1. re: DoctorChow
                                                                          foodiechick Jul 29, 2013 01:22 AM

                                                                          Great reply. We are headed to the small burg of Walla Walla, Washington (W3) for a wedding this weekend. It is a well heralded wine country and although the population is only about 30,000, the restaurant offerings seem to far exceed (percentage wise) what we have here at home.

                                                                          I'm looking forward to comparing a very small wine country town's offering to our meandering county's confusing food indentity.

                                                                          Oh, and thankfully, the craft brew push is in its infancy in W3.

                                                                          ;D

                                                                      2. re: Idyllwild
                                                                        Melanie Wong Jun 22, 2013 01:24 AM

                                                                        San Diego County has more small farms (under 10 acres) than any other county in the country.
                                                                        http://sdfarmbureau.org/SD-Ag/Ag-Fact...

                                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                          j
                                                                          jayporter Jun 22, 2013 06:57 AM

                                                                          A lot of these farms (almost all?) are farms for 1) flowers, and 2) avocados which are sold into the commodity market. While we do have some great farms growing specialty produce for the local market, in terms of day to day life it's not the case that there are a particularly large number of them.

                                                                    2. re: DiningDiva
                                                                      ipsedixit Jun 17, 2013 03:59 AM

                                                                      Well, I'm not asking the "vast majority of residents" -- I am asking the well-endowed denizens of San Diego's Chowhound board.

                                                                      1. re: DiningDiva
                                                                        c
                                                                        cstr Jun 17, 2013 04:09 AM

                                                                        I agree, when I think SD, the first thoughts that enter my mind is casual, laid back and great weather. Food does not even enter the equation. Now I do think SD has great local goodies, fruits, veggies found in our vast farmers markets. As for being a culinary destination, IMO, it's still in the early prototype stage.

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