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Dec 17, 2013 07:02 AM

Greetings San Diego chowhound!

I apologize for any questions that may be duplicates from previous threads, but this is literally my first time on your board. I am a long time poster on the New Orleans board & a current Kansas City resident so if you have any questions, I am happy to return the favor.

Ok - as the resident "food expert" at my place of employment, I've been charged with the task of coming up with a restaurant list for the boss. A little about her - she is in her 40s, and will be travelling to your city with her SO. She will be there from the morning of December 26th-the afternoon of December 30th. They will be staying at the Grand Del Mar hotel/resort. They will have a car.

So, here's what she says she wants:

1. Good Mexican food (her idea of good Mexican, and my good idea of Mexican are clearly different things i.e. I sent her to Topolobampo in Chicago and she hated it). I don't think she's looking for anything regionalized necessarily, or too "authentic". I think she's looking for a place with a good margarita, chips/salsa/guac, enchiladas/tacos/etc. This doesn't need to be tex-mex, but I'm not sure a place like Super Cocina is what she's looking for either. If there's anything unclear about this request, let me know.

2. She's asked for a couple of good spots for breakfast - I'd imagine she'd like these places to be relatively close, but something being 15-20 miles away wouldn't be a deal breaker, as I understand her hotel is kind of off by itself. She also wants a place with a good cup of coffee and pastries in addition. For her ordinary breakfast preferences, she prefers savory over sweet - would prefer a Mexican breakfast to pancakes or a hash to French toast.

3. She wants me to give her some lunch/dinner options that have nice outdoor seating - preferably with a view. She lives in the Midwest, and has glamourized the idea of being able to see the ocean while she eats. In my experience, many of these places with the high priced rent don't deliver on the food, so if its a nice patio instead, so be it.

4. She wants to eat seafood once or twice.

5. I don't want to send her to places that are TOO formal or TOO expensive. She and her SO have plenty of money - so, that's not a concern - 1 or 2 places with a higher price point are fine, but for the most part, if I can keep her in the low to medium price range, that would be preferable. A side note, I created her New Orleans itinerary for her for 4 days, and she and her SO blew through 2,000 on food - and while delicious, I think the SO is harboring a grudge.

6. Lastly, the food needs to be great - these boards are fantastic, and I'm sure you wont steer me wrong.

Thank you and let me know if you have any questions for me!

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  1. Also - one other thing - I'd be a rockstar if I could point out a place to eat in an area of San Diego that has graffiti. My boss photographs graffiti in every city she visits. Thanks again!

    14 Replies
    1. re: GDPhalp

      It's not exactly graffiti, but the murals at Chicano Park in Barrio Logan might be a worthy stand-in. They are located on the freeway support pillars for the I-5 where the Coronado Bridge transitions off. They are iconic, outdoor ethnic art and some could be considered graffiti-esque.

      If she's in that area, she can check out the Gonzales Northgate market that just opened in a new barrio development. It should have a small food court in it and their food court food is usually good to very good...and it's cheap. Also close-by is Los Cuatro Milpas that BC mentioned. I, personally, think it's awful Mexican food, but lots of people like it, and it's almost dirt cheap. Your boss may enjoy it since it sounds like her criteria aren't for upscale Mex.

      Just down the block from LCM is a panaderia called Panchita's. It would be an excellent panaderia even if it were located in Mexico. Luckily, it's not and we've got it in San Diego. I like the branch at 28th & C better than the one in the barrio, but both are quite good and very inexpensive. You can walk out of either shop with a big old bag of Mexican pastries for about $7.But be forewarned, Mexican baked goods have the shelf life of about half a nano-second before they start to turn on you.

      1. re: GDPhalp

        Also - one other thing - I'd be a rockstar if I could point out a place to eat in an area of San Diego that has graffiti. My boss photographs graffiti in every city she visits.

        Well, how about restaurants with graffiti?

        Carnitas Snack Shack (University Heights) has an adjacent wall dedicated to graffiti, and Basic (East Village) has graffiti night if I recall correctly. And Pokez has some graffiti on its outside walls.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Thank you DiningDiva & ipsedxit - this is fantastic!

        2. re: GDPhalp

          Graffiti is part of the decor at NY Pizza on 4th. But the food there is just barely above OK. For breakfast, you almost have to take her to Hash House a Go Go. Picture plates the size of garbage can lids and instead of a sprig of parsley for garnish, picture a rosemary tree. And verrrrrrrry yummy food. But you'll wait. So if she's impatient, consider other options. Richard Walker is also great for breakfast. The line looks menacing but it goes fast.

          1. re: Kitty71SD

            I think you mentioned two of the places with the worst breakfast in SD

            1. re: honkman

              Oh yeah? Please enlighten us, oh wise one. Or do you prefer to simply criticize and retreat back into your almighty cyber hole?

              1. re: Kitty71SD

                While Honkster is not known for his elegant and subtle ways, I agree with his facts.

                May I encourage you to consider Snooz for breakfast and brunch at Urban Solace? Their brunch is a WINNER.

                Great Maple has some interesting options as well.

                1. re: Kitty71SD

                  Miz haven't provided any more reasons to go to Hash House or Richard Walker's than Honkman has provided reasons not to go.

                  Just because Hash House serves portions the size of a small island and has clearly cornered the market on rosemary doesn't make it a "must visit" destination.

                  I can honestly say that one of the worst restaurant breakfasts I've ever eaten in San Diego was at Richard Walker's. Their "famous" pecan waffle was dreadful and it's been at least 5 years since I tried it and I *still* remember how bad it was :-(. The fact that I waited in line for 45 minutes for poor quality food and rude service didn't help.

                  What is it that you do like about these places? What dishes did you eat that you thought were good and why did you like them?

                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    I'm sorry... It appeared to me that GDPhalp was seeking recommendations, not a dossier on why I personally like these places. But since you asked, I have eaten at both places recently. HHAGG has a chipotle cream sauce on a breakfast entrée that I felt was very good. I like their biscuits. In general, their breakfasts are well seasoned and arrive with a smile. RW has pancakes that resonate with my personal palate. I also like most of their omelets.

                    On another note, Honkster lacks elegance indeed. I don't post on here to get mocked, nor is this the type of negative environment I seek to be a part of. Excellent news, though - Honkster is as entitled to his opinions as I am to mine.

                    So, GDPhalp.... I hope your boss is having a GREAT time and despite the negative chatter on this board, I wish you the best!

                    1. re: Kitty71SD


                      Don't let the lemmings get to you.

                      I, for one, would prefer Hash House over Urban Solace for brunch any day of the week, especially on Sundays.

                      The only problem with your recommendation of Richard Walker is that OP specifically said her boss does not really prefer pancakes, so that might be a bit of an issue as I wouldn't really go to RW to get, say, an omelet.

                      1. re: ipsedixit


                        You are really taking the time to be kind to CH posters lately.

                        Have you made some sort of a New Year's Resolution?

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          You are about to lose major street cred.

                        2. re: Kitty71SD

                          This is a discussion board so don't expect everybody to agree on your recommendations/favorites.
                          To answer your question why I don't like both places - the few times I have tried them simply the quality wasn't there. Hash House reminded me very much on Cheesecake Factory where lemmings are attracted by the size of the dishes but rarely you get remarks about the quality of the food. RW was simply unremarkable food which you can get anywhere.

                2. Well she's staying in one of the best 5* resorts in the US.

                  For Mex breakfast, there are a ton of places..we have fantastic taco shops...some better than others.

                  Roberto's taco shop at Carmel Valley rd in Del Mar is classic across from the lagoon/beach and views of Torrey Pines..can get breakfast burritos, carne asada, chic tacos with guac, of my fave's.

                  Rudy's in Del Mar/Solana Beach/ Fidel's/Tony Jacal's are great for casual Mex.
                  Claire's on Cedros in Solana Beach
                  Las Olas in Cardiff..across the street from the beach.
                  Fish tacos at the Brigantine in Del Mar for everyday happy to the Del Mar Racetrack.

                  A must is going to Rancho Valencia Resort to Pony Room for lunch or Veladora for dinner in the tony Rancho Santa Fe area..minutes from the resort

                  George's at the Cove in La Jolla for casual dining at the ocean terrace for lunch.
                  Eddie V's in La Jolla for dinner
                  Marine Room in LJ for drinks and apps..waves hit the floor to ceiling glass..might be doing high tide breakfast.

                  Grafitti..its not like Europe but maybe head on down central SD..hit up the Mariscos Seafood food truck or Las Cuatro Milpas for their famed carnitas, home made flour tortillas and hot salsa..under the Coronado bridge.

                  Hacienda de Vega in Escondido has a lovely large patio with a huge waterfall..great food and marg's.
                  Close to the Safari Park.

                  She is going to love our beautiful city..
                  Report back!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    thanks Beach Chick - really appreciate the response & will report back for sure!

                  2. For a "niiice" mexican place, maybe Casa Sol y Mar in Del Mar Highlands shopping center, which is very close to the Grand. For breakfast, Snooze or French Champagne Bakery in the same shopping center. It's hard to recommend someone staying at the Grand Del Mar to go to a shopping plaza for a meal but it's close by and for what you say she's looking for, it would work.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: jbol

                      thank you for the suggestions - tell me a little more about Snooze and French Champagne - what are some of their best breakfast options?

                      1. re: GDPhalp

                        Snooze is a small restaurant chain out of Denver, CO. Here's the link to their Del Mar location -

                        I've eaten at the Hillcrest location several times and have enjoyed it each time. It gets busy and the wait can be long, especially on weekends.

                        Can't help you on French Champagne, but you can probably Google it and come up with at least the menu.

                        La Jolla has several breakfast places. One of the most frequently recommended is The Cottage, which has been around a very long time -

                        Even tho' it's more frequently recommended for lunch or dinner, I've had very good luck with Nine-Ten in the Grand Colonial Hotel in La Jolla.

                        Further south, but not much, in Pacific Beach is one of my favorite breakfast spots, Isabel's Cantina -

                        The Marine Room has been around since dirt in La Jolla. It is literally right on the sand and the west facing windows are floor to ceiling and steps from the beach. They don't do breakfast/brunch except during the highest tides of the year. If high tide day coincides with a storm or wintery weather it's not unusual for the water and waves to come right up and crash on the windows. The force of the waves has, on several occasions, tho' not recently, broken through the windows. I like the Marine Room, not so much for the view or the food, but for the ambiance. It's old, relaxed La Jolla money and not stuffy. It can be elegant without being overbearing, caters to a somewhat older crowd with the $$$ but they also make those of us with smaller bank accounts feel welcome and comfortable. The chef is French and a local character. Here's the link - - click on the Events link and all their special meals and events will come up. Happy Hour might really fit your bosses need for water views. The dinner menu is pricey and while the food is good, it doesn't transcend enough to match the prices. For a truly upscale meal she'd be better off at her own hotel.

                        If she really and truly wants an ocean view then she should check out Shades in Ocean Beach, it is steps from the Pacific ocean and OB pier. The food is beachy and decent, get there early to get your name on the list for breakfast or lunch. . Don't try the place upstairs above Shades it's marginal at best. There is a tiny restaurant out on the OB pier that does respectable food. Their claim to fame is mango pancakes, but I think they tend to be a little too heavy. The breakfast burrito, fish & chips or burger are actually pretty good. Ocean Beach was/is an old hippie/surfer enclave. Most of the old hippies stayed and became entrepenuers. It's still got some of that old 70s counter culture vibe. Lots of surfers, hipsters, bums and 60+ year olds with grey ponytails ;-)

                        1. re: GDPhalp

                          Champagne is a chain bakery cafe in a huge strip mall shopping center next to a grocery store. They do cafe style food and lots of pastries and desserts - tarts, cakes, eclairs, etc. There is another location in inland Encinitas/RSF that might be a slightly nicer setting.


                          1. re: aliceqfoodie

                            The one in Encinitas does have a nice patio. Yeah it is a strip mall as well but a very nice one.

                      2. She should be glad to hear that the restaurants at the hotel where she is staying are supposed to be some of the best around - I say supposed because I haven't made it out there yet, but it's the only 5 star 5 diamond resort in San Diego.

                        For Mexican, Tony's Jacal is a short hop west on Via de la Valle - opened in the 40s, old school family restaurant. Lots of people like Fidel's too, which is right next door.

                        For view seating send her to George's in La Jolla - there are 3 levels - fine dining, a bar and an upstairs open terrace. The bar serves the same food as the terrace and has a few view tables. Eddie V's in LJ is kind of fun too - a steak house with spectacular views from their bar terrace. It's pretty expensive though.

                        Plaza del Mar - over in Del Mar proper - has a great view from their terrace and there are 3 restaurants there. I haven't been to any of them in forever so can't say how the food would be. One is an IlFornaio which is an upscale-ish Italian chain. They do have an outdoor wine bar on the top terrace that would be nice. She might also enjoy lunch at A.R. Valentien at Torrey Pines - they have fantastic food and the atmosphere is lovely overlooking the golf course on a nice day.

                        The Chicano park murals are interesting - she could combine a trip to see those with a trip over to Coronado as well as Cuatros Milpas (there is always a huge line there). Someone from the Midwest would probably enjoy sitting on the Hotel Del's huge boardwalk terrace overlooking the beach with a (fantastic) bloody mary and a burger. (But make sure you tell her to avoid the other restaurants!)

                        Piatti at La Jolla Shores also has a lovely outdoor patio with a huge tree with lots of twinkle lights and pretty good Italian food (surprisingly affordable - and they serve good brunch.) Caroline's on the Beach at the Shores is also good for breakfast - spectacular view overlooking the beach. Food is good, not great - but the view really makes up for it. She should also check out Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach - def send her to Cafe Zinc there for the breakfast/coffee/pastry. They use Intelligentsia from LA. Great pastries, sandwiches, soups, etc.

                        If she wants to eat good seafood - I can't think of much in N. County, but Blue Water Grill and Point Loma Seafoods are good and pretty affordable - both have lines at lunchtime. Blue Water is open for dinner, but Pt Loma closes at 7. Not much atmosphere at either. There is a Fish Market on Via de la Valle, but it's pretty average.

                        Hope you score lots of points! (P.S. - just got back from NOLA and had a blast! So many places, so little time, but we love it!)

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: aliceqfoodie

                          aliceq - thanks for the thoughtful response!

                          1. re: aliceqfoodie

                            "(But make sure you tell her to avoid the other restaurants!)"

                            Has 1500 Ocean gone downhill?

                            1. re: DougOLis

                              I haven't been to 1500 Ocean in a while but I haven't heard anything good about it in years. Sheerwaters is horrible. We had lunch there a few months ago and could hardly finish the meal. I tried to talk everyone into a burger on the deck, but they wouldn't listen and said they were sorry afterwards. ;)

                          2. Here's a reply for your request for Mexican food. I just can't leave you with Las Cuatro as the only recco....

                            If you do a board search you'll find that this is a frequently discussed topic here. Most people think SD has great Mexican doesn't. What it does have, though, is a relatively decent taqueria culture for something that is half-way between Mexican and Mexican American. We're strictly Cal-Mex in San Diego, you won't find too much in the way of Tex-Mex.

                            San Diego is known for 3 things...Fish Tacos, Carne Asada Burritos and the California Burrito. A California Burrito is a Carne Asada Burrito with french fries in it. Most of them will not be over $5, if that.

                            If they drive around long enough they will start to see Mexican fast food places that all end in "berto". Some of them are related to each other, others are merely coasting on the name. Roberto's is the big name in this genre and they're a safe bet for a CAB or CA Burrito. MXN would also be a reasonable choice. They're easy to find.

                            Many places serve a fish taco whether traditional or not. BC has already mentioned the Brigantine and their Happy Hour and fish tacos. I can think of a lot worse things than kicking back at the DM Brig sipping a maggie and munching a fish taco. There are mariscos trucks in various locations in SD. Depending upon how far they want to drive 2 of the more frequent recommendations are the mariscos truck at 30th & Grape in the South Park area or El Pescador, which is in the Toy's R Us parking lot in Chula Vistas. Both are worth the trek. The fish taco of smoked marlin (marlyn on the menu) or the tostada mixto are delicious. Also in the Toy's R Us parking lot is the torta ahogada truck. These are luscious sandwiches (pork) that have been drenched in a chile sauce. Have a fish taco for an appetizer and then the sandwich for lunch. This would be unadorned, parking lot eating.

                            If they want to branch out a bit, check out the 10 choices in the embedded link in this old discussion thread - - they are solid recommendations all.

                            In addition, there is Karina's Taco Shop in Encinitas - ,

                            This is an off the wall suggestion. There are a number of people that do food tours in Tijuana. As long as they bring their passports and a sense of adventure they can eat the really good stuff. Check out Turista Libre - or Club Tengo Hambre - . I've done day trips with both of them and they're an easy, fun and safe way to see Tijuana and eat some tasty chow. Not sure that either will be doing anything during the time frame your boss will be here, but it never hurts to ask.

                            If your boss and her SO like lamb then they need to head to Aqui es Texcoco. It is in a strip mall in Chula Vista and totally worth the drive from Del Mar if for no other reason than their salsa negro. The only thing AeT does is lamb barbacoa and it is divine. It comes with consume, tortillas, salsa and you can add other things to the order if you want. ALL parts of the animal are available. If you don't know what you want, they'll help you figure it out. Paco, the owner, really wants his customers to feel welcome and to enjoy their meal.

                            In the more mainstream, combo plate genre, there are any number of reasonable options.

                            El Callejon in Encinitas -

                            La Especial Norte is a legend -

                            Casa Sol y Mar is in Del Mar and is probably every tourists idealic vision of Mexico and Mexican food -

                            Also owned by the same person are the Casa de Bandini and Casa Guadalajara - and They've both been around for a long, long time (probably close to 30 years) and while the food is not anywhere close to authentic, it also isn't horrible and the ambiance at all of Diane Powers restos is really quite nice. They serve the type of Mexican food most tourists thing of as being "Mexican" whether it is or not.

                            If she can't find something she likes in these suggestions, then she'll have to ferret it out herself ;-)

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: DiningDiva

                              love the detail - you're making it tough - so many great choices!

                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                Hard to follow that post, but I would also recommend Bety's in Encinitas.

                                It is very casual and has a range of items so that someone not too familiar with Mexican food would feel comfortable but could also branch out for some new items. Very nice folks there as well.

                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                  Great post!

                                  "Casa Sol y Mar is in Del Mar and is probably every tourists idealic vision of Mexico and Mexican food"

                                  That's why I suggested it to someone who hated Topolobampo! Not my cup of tea but others love it.

                                  1. re: DiningDiva

                                    Gotta get that dig in of LCM..ha ha ha