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Jan 8, 2014 09:58 PM

Old Timer Coming Back...

I lived in San Diego/Escondido/Oceanside for the first third of my life 25+ years ago. The second third was in Los Angeles and the last third has been in the Bay Area.

I'm coming back for four days at the end of the month with a new husband and need to find some worthy eats for us. I'll be researching a book I'm writing on Oysters so my first day will be hanging out with the folks in Carlsbad's aquafarm. But I need to find dinner for us for four nights.

Way back then, my favorites were Piret's (gads, I miss the days of the Mungers!), Ichiban on University, Ida Bailey's in the Gaslamp... There was also a cool bar near Spreckles, a Greek restaurant in Hillcrest (well, anywhere in Hillcrest was cool back then!), and the original Filippi's Pizza Grotto (one of which now exists in Napa and is not nearly what I remember it to be).

The caveat is that while I know Mexican food is plentiful and all the rage, I get enough of it in San Francisco. Okay, maybe ONE Mexican to placate my new brother-in-law who is flying in from Charlotte, North Carolina.

I'm looking forward to showing my husband Balboa Park and the Maritime Museum (we love visiting submarines!) But look for guidance on where to eat! We are staying at the Catamaran Resort and while I'm comfortable driving around, it is unlikely we'll be heading to La Jolla or anything. Just the city.


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  1. Right now, for anyone asking for a couple of places to hit while in SD that are among our best, I'm suggesting Cafe Chloe, Georges (alas, in LJ), and Cucina Urbana. When JSix re-opens, that'll be included, but they're closed until February (?) or something like that.

    Have a great time here, and I hope it brings back fond memories.

    Things have changed a lot, though...

    P.S. I also lived in NC for a number of years. Beautiful pines and great pork BBQ there!

    I think your brother-in-law would like Romescos in Bonita. I do. It's like a TJ restaurant. Not in the city, but worth the 20-30 min drive.

    1. Walk across Mission Blvd. and catch sunset from the patio at California Kebab.

      1. Welcome back!

        Piret's was my introduction to fine food. I miss it too!

        I think North Park is kind of the new Hillcrest. Lots of great restaurants with a focus on using local ingredients and places to sample our local craft beers. If you're interested in seeing the transformation of North Park, I'd suggest checking out Tiger Tiger, Smoking Goat and Urban Solace. On the fringes of North Park is Carnitas Snack Shack. It's a fine place to check off your Mexican dinner and close to Balboa Park.

        I second the recommendations for Café Chloe (near the new ball park), Cucina Urbana (with a stop at Mr. A's across the street for a Sunset cocktail), and Calfornia Kebab for pitchers of local craft beer (I think there's a microbrewery on site?) and tasty kebabs. The only other recommendation would be Starlite (just down the street from El Indio).

        Hope you enjoy your visit!

        1 Reply
        1. re: melee

          Just to add to your comment. Cali Kebab has many local microbrews, as well as non-locals and imports - one of the many reasons to like it.
          The onsite microbrewery is Amplified Aleworks ( They normally have 2 of their own brews in the rotation of the other beers on tap. Their own beers are pretty solid, too!

        2. That "cool bar" near Spreckles was likely Dobson's.

          4 Replies
          1. re: deckape

            Dobson's! That was it - thank you…

            I remember spending an evening there with two crazy French Horn players and getting absolutely blitzed on Martinis.

            I am so appreciating all this advice, everyone! I'll be running it by the husband in a week or so; he's best if I just lay out the suggestions at the last minute.

            1. re: CarrieWas218

              You'll be happy to know that Dobson's is still where it always was, although the bartender has moved on to Currant nearby.

              I don't remember when Dobson's first introduced their wonderful mussel bisque, but if you end up having martinis there again and haven't before had it, you might want to consider giving it a try.

              Great call, deckape.

              1. re: DoctorChow

                Paul's original chef, Jacques, introduced the mussel bisque when they opened in '83. Jacques was from Bordeaux with a massively thick accent and explosive temper. He was prone to screaming at the bar customers to "shut up" when the bar got too loud for his sensibilities - which was quite often in those days. Occasionally, he would accompany the demand by slamming a large metal serving tray onto the tile floor startling everyone but halting the cacophany for only moments. However, his food was brilliant and, in my opinion, Paul has yet to find his equal in talent.
                Also, Doc, there have been a number of superb bartenders at Dobson's over the years, it's only a matter of which one you're referring to.

                1. re: deckape

                  That's some interesting history. I've been a periodic patron at Dobson's since they opened, but I don't think I had the bisque until well after '83. I don't recall the antics you described -- wish I'd seen "Jacques" in action!

                  Yes, many changes in staff over the years, no surprise. Always happy with the bartenders there. I was referring to the most recent one, "Alex".

          2. The beer craze has hit San Diego ridiculously hard. Currently, there are close to 80 breweries in San Diego, and about the same number of breweries are in the planning stages. I'm not 100% sure why that is, but I'm not complaining. So, while you're here, check out 30th street ( I recommend the Ritual Tavern for good pub food with fantastic beer.

            If you want something closer than North Park, I'd say go to the Stone Brewing outpost in Liberty Station. I haven't been, but I hear good things about it. Another bet would be Fathom Bistro and Tackle Shop, which to me, is about as San Diego as you can get - it sits on a fishing pier (hence the tackle shop), serves great beer, and okay-ish food.

            4 Replies
            1. re: jmtreg

              Not sure why the discussion geared towards beer... I'm not that big of a fan (except if it is REALLY dark and thick), but my husband likes a decent Pilsner. I moved north to be part of the wine industry and my preferences still tend towards grape-based beverages.

              We leave tomorrow morning and I appreciate all the feedback! I'll definitely let you all know where we end up!

              1. re: CarrieWas218

                I suspect jmtreg brought the craft brewery scene up because that is something that has changed in San Diego since you were last here. Of course, it isn't like that hasn't been big in the Bay Area as well.

                Not too many craft Pilsners in San Diego, so that probably won't hit your husband's fancy. On the other hand, many San Diego entities do the "dark and thick" thing pretty well.

                1. re: RB Hound

                  Yes, that's exactly why I raised the point about craft beer. San Diego is the #1 beer city in the U.S. - we're well past Portland with close to 80 breweries, and another 70-80 in development. So, its a much bigger deal here than even in the Bay Area. I'd suggest your husband look for a kolsch style beer if he likes lagers.

                  From what I hear, a fair number of farmers in the county are switching to grapes and olives because of drought conditions. On one hand, drought is bad, on the other, better local wine.

                  1. re: jmtreg

                    Kölsch is actually an ale, but very much like a lager in flavor and appearance.