Montrealers in SD - the best of what we don't have
Hello SD CHers!
I'm about to visit SD for the third time in 7 years or so, and this time I hope to hit some CH-favourite restaurants while in town. On my last trip in 2010 I recall some great fish tacos in Pacific Beach, good brunch at Cafe Chloe, ridiculous sushi QPR, and ready availability of the ultimate hangover antidote (8am burritos). Other than that I'm pretty foggy; all I remember is that I didn't do a great job of researching food in advance. So this time I'd like is to eat a lot of what's missing in my beloved home, as recommended by you generous folk.
Some things that Montreal is lacking:
- Basically every "ethnic" cuisine: we have plenty of asian/indian/mexican/central american restaurants but few are good (and those that are usually have prices to match). What are some favourites here? I'll eat anything you guys think I absolutely can't miss. Bonus points for the best dirt-cheap mexican.
- Californian wines: these are sparse up here and costs are high, so much better value can be found in Old World imports that are purchased in huge volumes by our liquor board. Any good SD wine bars that are centrally located would be amazing!
- Fresh fish, namely sushi: Montreal now has some good seafood available from the east coast but sushi tends to be terrible, with a few expensive exceptions. I'll be eating a lot of it in SD so which places offer truly great value?
- I won't have a car and will rarely be with people who do. Easy accessibility is a plus, either by public transport or brief taxi from gaslamp-downtown. My walking commute in Montreal is about 1.5h round-trip so I'm also happy to wander on foot while in SD.
- I blew my eating budget on a few Michelin stars this year so wont be splurging in SD. I'll happily spend about $100 or so per person with some decent wine and tip, but can't stomach uber fine-dining.
- Unless it's exceptional, no French food or wine. These are very well represented in Montreal and I'd rather eat/drink something else for a change.
Thanks in advance!
Thanks for the reply. As I mentioned above I should be coming from the core: gaslamp/marina/area. However I'll be at a number of different hotels during my stay. The last times in SD I definitely wandered a lot.. Several times walked up to Hillcrest, North Park, Normal Heights, South Park, Old Town, etc. We might be willing to take public transport to travel up into mission valley, la Jolia, and surroundings but based on my work schedule probably only one or twice.
Sushi- Kaito in Encinitas (you will need a car) or Tadokoro in Old Town (you can take the trolley and walk from either the Old Town Transfer station or the Washington Street stop.
Cheap Mexican- one of the many mariscos trucks. They're all pretty good, but El Pescador has stolen my heart. You'll need a car for that one, or a long trolley ride down to Chula Vista. Search the other threads for item/truck recommendations.
California wines- Starlite Lounge, Cucina Urbana, many places in Gaslamp. You already know of it, and it is French, but Cafe Chloe has not lost any quality since your last visit. I'd say exceptional for SD.
Italian? Buona Forchetta in South Park. A neighborhood you've probably not visited yet. Also mariscos trucks in that area.
Love the Portuguese chicken and fries in Montreal. Wish we had it here.
First off, Lallouz Cafe & Kebaberie in Montreal (couple of locations) is quite good--have you not been there??
As for immediate access where you are staying, most on this Board will tell you the Gaslamp area is a vast wasteland of overpriced mediocre restaurants. That being said, I happen to like Sadaf for good Persian cuisine. Athens Market is pretty good and reliable for Greek cuisine.
A short 5 minute cab ride on a Wednesday or Thursday to Barrio Logan for lunch will take you to Supernatural Sandwiches--quite tasty seafood sandwiches and reasonable as well--do a Google for the exact street address.....I don't eat cheap Mexican (often catered to the American palate with lots of lard), but we have some great Baja Mexican restaurants in San Diego--with the best one being Romesco's Baja Med Bistro. Unfortunately, you won't have a car so that would probably be a problem as Romesco's is located 20 minutes southeast from downtown and not close to public transportation. Ditto for Los Arcos.....you could try Blind Burro which is in between the Gaslamp and the baseball stadium--OK, but I prefer the other two. Also, not sure if Blind Burro sells wines that come from Guadalupe Valley--excellent and quite inexpensive and very good wines coming from this region in Mexico. Santo Tomas is one brand that stands out in my mind but there are even better ones.....I suppose if you wanted a uber-fine dining experience BUT at 30% less than what it would cost you in the States, you could always take the trolley down to the Tijuana border and then taxi it to highly acclaimed Mision 19--would be a top 5/10 restaurant in San Diego--depends how adventurous you are and I would only go during the week when border crossing times are noticeably shorter than during the weekend.
Other than that and in rather close proximity to the Gaslamp by foot or trolley, I would recommend Prep Kitchen over in the Little Italy section--whatever you do, you must get their caesar salad.....for a great coffee--also in Little Italy, I highly recommend Papalecco (as close to Cafe Olympico in Mile End that you will find in San Diego)...besides California wines, you might enjoy our local craft beer culture, with great beer available from such brewers as Stone Brewing, Manzanitas, Mission, Coronado Brewing, Alesmith, Ballast Point, Societe, and more.
Chopahn, for Afghan food, located on 6th Avenue immediately south of F Street. Chopahn is ever so slightly a "nicer" room, but not a budget hog.
Cafe Istanbul, also on 6th Avenue and down the street from Chopahn has excellent Mediterranean food, and it is a small, inexpensive place.
For Mexican, I would suggest hopping on the bus to City Heights for Tacos el Panson, Super Cocina, and El Borrego. Tacos el Panson has good Carne Asada burritos, Super Cocina is more like home-cooked Mexican food, and El Borrego has good barbacoa.
Almost forgot, Alforan for amazing Lebanese food. Located slightly east of City Heights but still on an accessible bus line.
Pho Hoa, in City Heights has some of the best Pho EVER.
A couple of thoughts -
1) From what I recall, Montreal has some pretty restrictive importation rules when it comes to beer to protect local breweries (I recall seeing this in a blog post a year or so ago, where the writer had some beers smuggled in for him). So, try the offerings from as many local breweries as possible.
2) For dirt cheap Mexican, you want a taco shop. The best taco shops in the Downtown area are (IMHO) the following:
Lucy's Taco Shop on C Street, between 1st and 2nd Ave (closer to 2nd). Good, classic taco shop.
Rolando's Taco Shop, also on C, between 8th and 9th. Again, a solid taco shop, though maybe not as good as Lucy's.
Mexican Fiesta, corner of India and Beech, is also good if you order correctly. The al pastor (really an adobada, since the pork is cooked on a grill, not on a trompo) is probably as good as any you can find in the City.
Keep in mind that there are better, more authentic places in the South Bay, but these are pretty easy to get to.
3) Since you said you can go into the urban core, I'd try Wine Steals (either the Hillcrest or Point Loma locations) for a good wine bar.