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

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.


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

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

    16 Replies
    1. re: DiningDiva

      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
      Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill/Carrboro
      Athens, GA

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

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

      ...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:
      New Orleans
      Santa Fe
      Vermont (various cities)

      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

        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

          * Significantly more compelling than San Diego:

          Los Angeles
          New York and surroundings
          San Francisco Bay Area
          Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill/Carrboro
          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

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

            1. re: ipsedixit

              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

            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

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

              1. re: Idyllwild

                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

                  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

                    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

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

                      1. re: DoctorChow

                        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.


                    2. re: Idyllwild

                      San Diego County has more small farms (under 10 acres) than any other county in the country.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        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

                    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

                      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.

                    2. 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
                      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

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

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          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

                            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

                              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

                              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.


                            3. re: mcgrath

                              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

                                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

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

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

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

                                    1. re: DoctorChow

                                      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

                                        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

                                          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

                                            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

                                              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

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

                              2. re: mcgrath

                                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

                                  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. 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:

                                New Orleans
                                Las Vegas
                                Atlanta (includes Savannah--though not close to ATL)
                                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

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

                                  1. re: El Chevere

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

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      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

                                        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

                                        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

                                          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

                                            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

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

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

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

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

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

                                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                                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:

                                                Santa Ana:

                                                Orange County:

                                                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

                                                  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

                                                    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

                                                      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

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

                                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                                  apparently trip advisor agrees with you in regard to the pizza:

                                              3. re: ipsedixit

                                                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

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

                                                1. re: El Chevere

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

                                                  1. re: El Chevere

                                                    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. 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

                                                      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

                                                        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

                                                          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

                                                            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

                                                              Where did I say that?

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

                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                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

                                                                  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

                                                                    Gary Danko...the ultimate tourist trap!

                                                                    1. re: 4wino

                                                                      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

                                                                        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. 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

                                                          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

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

                                                            There was an earlier thread on the T&L ratings

                                                            1. re: DiningDiva

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

                                                        2. 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. 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

                                                              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

                                                                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

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

                                                                  1. re: DougOLis

                                                                    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

                                                                    >>>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??

                                                                2. 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. 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

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

                                                                      1. re: DougOLis

                                                                        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

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

                                                                          Like Berlin?

                                                                          1. re: Tripeler

                                                                            The culinary center of the world

                                                                            1. re: honkman

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

                                                                      2. You have go to be kidding. I love many things about San Diego but I would not put it in the top 10 for food cities (or maybe not even top 20). It probably has the best cheap Mexican food in the US, but it is not a serious food city. And I am not only speaking of high end restaurants (of which there are very few worth mentioning), but the city has a shockingly limited variety of food.

                                                                        Of course Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York are better food cities, but so are Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, Austin, Dallas, New Orleans, Boston, Savannah, Aspen, Santa Fe, Atlanta, Washington DC, Charleston, Carmel. And I would say Phoenix and Houston best SD in terms of high end restaurants, although maybe not overall. I don't know why such a wonderful city lacks good restaurants. Maybe the citizens are just too happy hanging out to care.

                                                                        16 Replies
                                                                        1. re: MarcoCA

                                                                          Respectfully disagree that DC, Carmel, and Phx are better than SD.

                                                                          1. re: globocity

                                                                            I love it when 1 year old threads get revived as if they were posted last week.

                                                                            1. re: RB Hound

                                                                              And it's the posters first, and only, post on CH

                                                                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                Sorry DD - confused.

                                                                                Not that this particular issue ever goes away.

                                                                                1. re: RB Hound

                                                                                  It is tiresome isn't.

                                                                                  Personally, who really cares where we rate, or how we rate ourselves as a food city. Food is a pretty subjective topic, trying to quantify that through a rating system is not :-)

                                                                                  1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                    The entire CH concept is obviously subjective. Nevertheless, most of us find it fun to read the opinions of other CH's. Taste and personal preferences are not subject to objective quantification.

                                                                                    IMHO San Diego is not a great food city...Portland, OR is!

                                                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                                                      Hmmm...I don't think anyone is arguing that SD *is* a great food city. Most of us who post on CH clearly recognize that it isn't. But it also isn't as awful as some would like to paint it.

                                                                                      1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                        Ya know...

                                                                                        We all know my tastes (in food) are fairly low-brow and adolescent.

                                                                                        But I really don't have a hard time getting a decent meal in San Diego. Obviously, there are compromises with every city, and each has its strengths.

                                                                                        But I like it here, and I like the food.

                                                                                        1. re: Fake Name

                                                                                          Yes, and I've been known to eat at a Cohn Group Restaurant and (GASP) enjoy it ;-)

                                                                                        2. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                          I find I like to complain most about the SD food scene mid-January when I am riding my beach cruiser to lunch, wearing shorts and flip flops.

                                                                                            1. re: Stiflers_Mom

                                                                                              I just post weather reports in January (and February) on Facebook...

                                                                                2. re: globocity

                                                                                  Certainly SD has a much wider selection of good restaurants than does Carmel or Phoenix. Would easily pick DC over SD for both the variety and quality of restaurants.

                                                                                  1. re: josephnl

                                                                                    Variety and quality in DC. Really. Our experiences differ.

                                                                                    1. re: globocity

                                                                                      Globocity, DC is one place where I've spent a LOT of time -- way, way too much, really -- on business. But nevertheless.

                                                                                      Please don't ask me to name names of restaurants (there's a really large number of them that I've been to over the years, from Georgetown to downtown to Alexandria and all points in between and west). But I always felt that the DC area in general had more interesting places than we do here at home. Sigh. Well, that was my impression.

                                                                                      Now, reflecting on it, that was maybe just because the cache of restaurants there was different. If I came here on business all the time from DC, I might have had the same impression! I think it's psychological in part: You're in a different place. Out of town. Therefore the restaurants, often being new and different, seem more interesting and somehow "better" because of that. Maybe.

                                                                                      I really love what FN said on this thread: "But I like it here, and I like the food." That's a great quote. And for me, that's the bottom line.

                                                                              2. As a native SD, I don't want a lot of high end resto's.
                                                                                I go to NYC, SF, Paris et al.

                                                                                I like that we are a casual bunch..
                                                                                Anymore, I have no desire to get all that gussied up..
                                                                                It's all about the food baby.

                                                                                Guess I just don't give a sh!t anymore..ha ha ha

                                                                                15 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                                  As a non native SD resident all I mainly want are many more medium to high end restaurants and more restaurant customers dress up better. I am really tired of the beach wear (shorts and flip flops) in restaurants (and there are more than enough acceptable dress codes between beach shorts and suit and tie - it's not only about the food)

                                                                                  1. re: honkman

                                                                                    I agree with you completely, but we are very much in the minority. Of course there should be restaurants in southern CA where very casual attire is perfectly acceptable. But when I go out for a special dinner, I like to dress a bit and enjoy a quieter ambiance where people are nicely attired. I am not talking coat and tie here (although there are times when this is nice), nice slacks and a sport shirt are very appropriate. But when folks wear a turned around baseball cap, tee shirt and shorts and plastic flip-flops to a nice restaurant IMHO it's very inappropriate!

                                                                                    1. re: honkman


                                                                                      I enjoy taco shops, but when it's fine dining, out comes my Ed Hardy ensemble.

                                                                                      1. re: Fake Name

                                                                                        Sorry but the Ed Hardy example is anachronistic.

                                                                                      2. re: honkman

                                                                                        I'm also a non-native but very long-term resident San Diegan. For me, dressing up for a restaurant is Dockers and a nice shirt, what we used to call "business casual". And I'm happy to do that when I think it's appropriate.

                                                                                        I can't remember the last time I wore a tie to a restaurant, though, other than while on business travel, which is a whole 'nuther story.

                                                                                        1. re: honkman

                                                                                          A huge request, I only wear shoes to weddings and funerals.

                                                                                          1. re: honkman

                                                                                            Honkzilla. .
                                                                                            When dining in medium to high end in SD, of course, I dress smart casual and don't break out the clear candies pumps, daisy duke cut offs, with my Sebastian Bach tube top..
                                                                                            I save that for special occasions.

                                                                                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                                Strictly a term of endearment to Herr Honk..

                                                                                            1. re: honkman

                                                                                              Yeah, I really don't like when babies cry on planes, but until I charter my own plane I am SOL.

                                                                                              I think the only way to resolve the dress code issue is to make peace with it and move on. Or buy out the restaurant for the night.

                                                                                              1. re: honkman

                                                                                                not going to happen unless a tidal wave ushers in a new crop of residents or San Diego goes through a transformation that Miami is going through right now....I pointed this out re: Juniper & Ivy when commenting on the red baseball cap, matching red sneakers, wallet chain, and Ed Hardy t-shirt crowd that was popping up after only 2 weeks...SD is what it is--a string of sleepy beach communities that calls itself a city, not to be confused for a sophisticated mecca such as NYC, SF, CHI, etc. etc....that's not going to change anytime soon.

                                                                                                1. re: El Chevere

                                                                                                  So...I guess what you're saying is that if one desires a fine dining experience which includes not only great food, service and ambiance, but a nicely attired clientele and a noise level conducive to easy conversation, one should look elsewhere than San Diego. I'm not sure that's completely true, but the choices are very few...and I guess some of us wish there were more.

                                                                                                  1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                    " but a nicely attired clientele and a noise level conducive to easy conversation, one should look elsewhere than San Diego. "

                                                                                                    Yes, look to Coronado and 1500 Ocean.

                                                                                                    (Sorry, a small thread detour)

                                                                                                  2. re: El Chevere

                                                                                                    I agree, this is just not in our DNA.

                                                                                              2. Here's another interesting list. Where will it end, will SD ever achieve such culinary greatness.


                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: cstr

                                                                                                  Ridiculous list! OK, I realize they're trying to give the nod to smaller cities, but to include Boston and DC, and exclude NYC and Portland, OR?

                                                                                                2. As a native, honestly, I'd put San Diego in the top 20. For our pluses, we have fantastic beer, an improving cocktail scene, a unique taco shop/burrito culture, and amazing produce year round. For our minuses, we are lacking formal dining, and compared to our neighbors to the south, the scene is not nearly as innovative as in other cities. But, I imagine that will improve with time.

                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: jmtreg

                                                                                                    I think it is telling that of the four positives you mention about SD only one is about (a very small subset) of food/restaurants. And I don't think SD is only lacking in formal dining but has surprisingly few decent medium-range/bistro-type/neighborhood places

                                                                                                    1. re: honkman

                                                                                                      Actually, I think it depends on the neighborhood. In neighborhoods along the I-8 corridor (Mission Hills, Hillcrest, North Park, University Heights, Normal Heights, etc.), there are a number of good mid-range bistros.

                                                                                                      Does Serra Mesa, Linda Vista, or Mira Mesa have good mid-range bistros? Maybe not. A big problem is that the neighborhoods built later aren't as walkable, and the strip-mall concept favors restaurant chains. So, that's depressed the evolution of restaurants in the neighborhoods outside of the urban core.

                                                                                                      That said, there is a San Diego identity as far as the restaurant scene goes, and we're not merely an extension of the LA/OC food scene. So, right now the food scene in San Diego is okay, but there is real potential for growth.

                                                                                                      1. re: jmtreg

                                                                                                        I think only North Park has a number of good bistro-style/medium priced places in the other areas I am not so sure especially for the size of these areas