HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >


Hidden gem spots on the way to San Diego from LA?

Hey all! I'm finally venturing out of my Los Angeles bubble and making the short trek to San Diego next weekend for my birthday.

Any breakfast or dinner spots along the way that you recommend? I'm open to any price point and cuisine! A unique and memorable menu, atmosphere and experience is what I'm after :)

Thanks in advance xoxo

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. re: Servorg

      Has anyone ever actually eaten there?

    2. I really enjoy Red Tracton's, an old-time steakhouse that specializes in prime rib located just off the 5 in Del Mar, across from the racetrack. (Exit Via de la Valle right (west) towards the ocean, it will be just a few blocks on the right (north) side, with valet parking that was free last time I was there.) Horse-racing theme, very comfortable, servers and bartenders who have been there forever. Not at all inexpensive, but everything done with quality. And some of the sides are laughable -- they used to serve the french fries in a basket made for baguettes -- narrow but well over a foot long. The fried onion strings served at happy hour are crisp and addictive and can easily feed four or more. Very detailed website gives info including prices.

      3 Replies
        1. re: jessejames

          It's a pretty cool old school joint.

        2. re: nosh

          We used to drive to Red's from OC when it was located in the Valley just for the prime rib.

          1. re: kevin

            Break of Dawn has been closed temporarily since early March. They are working on getting another location (I believe in the same shopping center) ready to go. I don't know when they will reopen.

            Edit: Just saw others have already noted this.

          2. Hodad's Burgers in Mission Beach.
            Point Loma Seafood in Point Loma.

            4 Replies
            1. re: wienermobile

              +1 +1 +1 for Hodad's

              a real do-not-miss

              1. re: laliz

                There will be a line. It is worth the wait and it moves fast.

                1. re: laliz

                  The DTSD one is the same Hodad's? Doing some kind of Hawkin's thing, but with a beach bum vibe?

                  Gross. I tossed out half the burger into the hotel lobby.

                2. It really depends on *where* in LA you are leaving from.

                  LA, bubble or not, is sort of a sprawling area.

                  Let me know, as I do the drive regularly. From various points in Los Angeles.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Ipsedixit -

                    Jumping in, we do that drive to visit friends at least once a year. Ww bring them Brooklyn Bagels (from Beverly Blvd.), honey smoked salmon from costco and, homemade jams.

                    Once we get there, they have fab fun restaurants right by their house.

                    But I'd love to know of good places along the way, or the way back! We leave from Glassell Park, right by Glendale/Eagle Rock.

                    1. re: happybaker

                      Take some sandwiches from Big Tummy Sndwiches.

                      1. re: happybaker

                        We leave from Glassell Park, right by Glendale/Eagle Rock.

                        Baked goods from Proof
                        Baked goods from Portos
                        Seasonings, salts, jams, etc. from Nicole's (Pasadena)
                        Mochi from Fugetsu-do
                        The Big Chicken Plate at Omar's (Monterey Park)

                      2. re: ipsedixit

                        Departing from Koreatown, heading to SD Gaslamp. :) LOVE everyone's input! Greatly appreciated!

                      3. I take Amtrak and bring food with me. I have a great view, once we get to Capistrano Beach and good food, which I normally purchase from The Larder or Farmshop. Love that train ride from Union Station. $30.00 pp gets you access to their Union Station Business Class lounge. Very nice pastries, coffee, tea, soft drinks and a gentleman who drives you on electric cart to the train. Biz class service on train is nice. Amenities include snacks and complimentary wine.Lots of power ports and great wifi + leg room. No longer drive that route. Take Uber to Union Station.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: maudies5

                          I love trains, will def give that way a go :)

                          1. El Campeon in San Juan Capistrano - a Mexican 'deli' (no frills!) with really good tacos and agua frescas.

                            And for brunch:

                            Ramos House in San Juan Capistrano http://www.ramoshouse.com/

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: JackonCrack

                              El Campeon is pretty good and one of the oldest places in town! used to live there.

                              1. The Hat in Lake Forest. Guilty pleasure.

                                1. I think BofD might still be closed for relocation. On the dinner end, Brodard Chateau in Garden Grove and the tasting menu at Taco Maria in Costa Mesa come to mind as "unique and memorable."

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: New Trial

                                    According to their website http://breakofdawnrestaurant.com/ Break of Dawn is still closed while they relocate to a different space within the same mall where they have always been located.

                                  2. And report back.

                                    That's an order.

                                    1. First, Happy Birthday Deidre7.

                                      Our first go to breakfast spot is Sidecar Donuts in Costa Mesa when we're heading to SD. Love that Green Eggs and Ham which is a raised donut with an organic poached egg, bernaise, and ham inside. Probably the best (and most expensive) cup of joe in OC.

                                      For dinner, the OCMartMix is a unique spot and dinner on the patio at Taco Maria (not tacos, but haute Chicano tasting menu cuisine) is very special and there's great shopping to boot before 6pm or so.

                                      In Rancho Santa Fe, the Pony Bar at Rancho Valencia is upscale and fun. Can't vouch for the food right now as there's been a chef shuffle.

                                      Probably, not for this board, but because you're staying in the Gaslamp, give Juniper & Ivy, David Blais' new restie a try for both chow and drinks. Really fantastic!

                                      All unique and only Sidecar doesn't have eat-in atmosphere.

                                      Again, Happy Happy.

                                      1. Tip Top Meats in Carlsbad, on the east side of the 5--a combination German market, produce market and German restaurant. I like to stop on the way back to L.A. to eat there and bring back food as well. Reasonable prices, huge quantities, order at the counter, food is brought to your table.

                                        1. i know you didn't ask for lunch, but Fish 101, in Encinitas, is really an off-the-beaten-path gem:

                                          great local beer list, run by a surfer and an ocean lover, seafood at really reasonable "local" prices, with a pastry chef wife. it's just lovely for a quick lunch stop. i wouldn't celebrate a bday dinner there, but i wish there'd be something even remotely comparable (please don't mention L&E) to Fish 101 in East side of LA.

                                            1. Yu Me Ya (aka Sake House) in Encinitas is run by a family from Osaka (who inexplicably don't make okinomiyaki) and it's a cozy little surprise in the middle of white-on-white-on-oh-so-white North County.

                                              None of the food is going to hold up to Gardena standards, and there will probably be a wait of several parties of surfer dudes in front of you, but it's affordable and homey and often just the right place at the right time when you're driving home from a day in SD. Now I want yellowfin collar and takoyaki.

                                              Mr Taster

                                              1. When I lived in San Clemente, I used to walk to Surfin Donuts at least once a weak. I never ate the donuts for which they seem to be renowned, but they have these really crunchy fried smashed potatoes and a great, huge, breakfast burrito - it's a gutbuster so whoever's driving should avoid it, lol. It's one of those spots that everyone in town goes to and pretty freeway convenient.

                                                Also in San Juan Capistrano, a little further from the freeway, is El Adobe De Capistrano, which is this really old historical restaurant where Ronald Reagan used to eat all the time. It's Mexican food, a pretty standard make-the-guacamole-at-the-table in a nice atmosphere type place.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: wurstbear

                                                  Wrong republican. It was Nixon but, I do like El Adobe for their seafood. Especially, their lobster fajitas.

                                                  1. re: JAB

                                                    Haha, you're right about that. oops

                                                    1. re: JAB

                                                      That makes sense since Nixon spent his post-presidential years in San Clemente.

                                                      Reagan had a standing table at Chasen's.

                                                      1. re: kevin

                                                        You would think that after all that time Chasen's would have offered him a chair.

                                                  2. We usually stop at El Pescador in La Jolla. It's a little fish market on Pearl St. I get fish tacos or some fresh char-grilled fish. Sometimes I get one on the way down and the other on the way back up.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: khh1138

                                                      It's touristy but Bluewater fish market too.

                                                    2. I had a great meal and a helluva good time at Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub in Oceanside last week (yeah, you gotta get over the name). Not an authentic sushi restaurant by any means, but very fresh seafood--lots of it local--and a fun, chill vibe. I asked chef Davin to put together an "omakase"-style dinner for me of local seafood, and he treated me like royalty. Local yellowtail and sustainably-farmed (so it was claimed) Baja bluefin toro sushi; half the collar of the bluefin, deep-fried (omg); a huge spot prawn amaebi; live uni; aji sashimi; a couple of interesting clams from Mexico; plus a few other bits and pieces he wanted me to try. Very reasonably priced. It's tucked away inside Bull Taco; I'd say it qualifies as both hidden and a gem!


                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: happycat

                                                        this place really does sound kind of interesting.

                                                        how much is the omakase ????

                                                        thanks man.

                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                          It's not a planned kind of thing--not on the menu--but a lot of people just tell the chef, "feed me." Don't know about other peoples' experience; I had my fill of seafood (not easy to accomplish!) and a vegetable dish (an off-the-cuff medley) plus 3 draft beers; after tax and tip, my bill was $90.