Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Foodie in San Diego? Don't Despair!

2008-05-25
When you talk to people about food in San Diego, all you ever seem to hear about is how bad it is. I protest, but I have to admit - while there are good things to eat here - San Diego seems to be caught in a cycle of mediocrity. It takes a special kind of high-wire act to make a quality restaurant thrive here, for reasons I've never quite understood.

One theory is that most people come here from somewhere else - and they don't come to San Diego for the culture, they come for the weather. Many of them are students, military or elderly - populations that traditionally (or let's just say it - stereotypically) have conservative tastes, and not a lot of money to spend. Regardless, it makes for a tough crowd, and the economy hasn't done anything to help matters. A couple of months ago, I posted this list of 100 Good Things to Eat in San Diego - but not all of those items are on the menu of the restaurants mentioned at any given time and some of them are already a little outdated. For a while now, I've been wanting to do a list of recommended places for foodies.

This is somewhat similar to a list I used to have on the sidebar of my blog. I've updated it here - and from now on, I'll have a permanent link to this post on the sidebar instead of the entire list. These are the places I like to eat, and recommend to friends who love food. A few (Mien Trung, Addison and Surati Farsan Mart) are places that I want to go, and recommend here based on trusted sources. If a restaurant is missing, it could well be that I haven't been. I can't claim to have eaten everywhere in San Diego, despite my best efforts. :-)

I'll also be tweaking and updating constantly, so be sure and check back periodically. Happy Eating!

  • Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill

  • Bread & Cie

  • The Cheese Shop

  • El Pescador

  • Hodads

  • Girard Gourmet

  • K Sandwiches

  • The Kebab Shop

  • Mama's Lebanese - try the falafel

  • Saladstyle

  • Surati Farsan

  • Tender Greens

  • Mary's Donuts

  • Zinc Cafe



  • Bread & Cie

  • Con Pane Rustic Breads

  • Girard Gourmet

  • The Cheese Shop

  • Mona Lisa Market and Deli

  • Opera Patisserie



  • Brockton Villa

  • Cafe on Park

  • Crest Cafe

  • Farmhouse Cafe

  • Honey's Bistro & Bakery

  • Urban Solace



  • Cafe Chloe

  • Farmhouse Cafe

  • Jayne's Gastropub

  • The Linkery

  • The Riviera Supper Club

  • Starlite

  • Urban Solace

  • El Take it Easy

  • Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant

  • Cucina Urbana  



  • Cafe de l'Opera

  • Influx

  • Zinc Cafe & Market

  • Pannikin Del Mar

  • Rebecca's Coffeehouse

  • Twiggs



  • Extraordinary Desserts

  • Eclipse Chocolat

  • Gelato Vero

  • Pappalecco Gelato

  • Cafe de l'Opera

  • Michele Coulon Dessertier

  • Opera Patisserie

  • Sage French Cake

  • Viva Pops 



  • Buga Korean BBQ

  • Dao Son - now called Tao, moved to Adams Ave. next to Viva Pops

  • Hane Sushi

  • Izakaya Sakura

  • K Sandwiches - Bahn Mi

  • Kaito - Traditional Sushi

  • Mien Trung Vietnamese

  • Ono Sushi

  • Sab E Lee Thai

  • Saffron Thai Chicken



  • Antica Trattoria

  • Arrivederci Ristorante

  • Buon Appetito

  • Cucina Urbana

  • Mona Lisa Market and Deli

  • Sapori



  • A Brooklyn Pizzeria

  • Lefty's Chicago Style Pizza

  • Blind Lady Ale House
  • Blue Ribbon Pizzeria



  • Aqui es Texcoco

  • Don Chuy's

  • Las Cuatro Milpas

  • Mama Testa Taqueria

  • Northgate Gonzalez Market

  • Super Cocina

  • Lucha Libre

  • Mariscos German

  • Sarita's

  • Tacos el Paisa

  • Imperial Ave. Farmers' Market

  • Tony's Jacal



  • 1500 Ocean

  • Addison

  • A.R. Valentien

  • Blanca

  • Dobson's

  • JRDN

  • Market Restaurant + Bar

  • The Winesellar Brasserie

  • Kitchen 1540

  • George's California Modern

  • Top of the Market



  • Catalina Offshore Products Seafood

  • Chuao Chocolatier

  • Eclipse Chocolat

  • Great News Cookware and Cooking School

  • Guanni Chocolates

  • Mona Lisa Market and Deli

  • Homegrown Meats/LJ Butcher Shop

  • Nijiya Japanese Market

  • Northgate Gonzalez Market

  • People's Organic Foods

  • Taste Artisan Cheese

  • Opera Patisserie

  • Specialty Produce

  • Venissimo Cheese

  • Waters Catering and To Go



  • Starlite

  • The Whistle Stop

  • Wine Steals

  • O' Brien's Pub

  • El Take it Easy



  • Urban Kitchen Catering

  • Waters Catering and To Go

  • Campine



  • Tender Greens (cafeteria style service, but still sit-down)

  • Antica Trattoria

  • Arrivederci Ristorante

  • Urban Solace

  • Tony's Jacal

  • Blind Lady Ale House (bit of a bar scene after happy hour time)

  • Saffron Thai Chicken

  • Sammy's Woodfired Pizza (local chain)

  • George's Ocean Terrace 

  • The Prado in Balboa Park

  • Cucina Urbana (fine for older kids - esp. if you go early.)

  • Corvette Diner 


  • 22 comments:

    1. Great post Alice! No love for Specialty Produce on the retailer list though?

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    2. Good catch Doug - corrected!

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    3. That is a huge list! A lot of those restaurants I've been to but you've given me a full list of other places I need to try out. Thanks!

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    4. Yay! I absolutely love your lists ;) Always a great reference!

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    5. Wonderful- love the new look, and promptly saved to 'favorites' folder!

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    6. Amazing! Makes me want to come for a visit even more. Love the new design by the way.

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    7. I will definitely have to remember this list when I finally get back to SD.

      Regardless of the state of your fair city, you are still so lucky to have great farmer's markets and farms nearby.

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    8. Please check out Elizabethan Desserts, tucked away inside a gardening nursery near Quail Botanical Gardens. It confounds me how still "under the radar" this dessert place is. http://elizabethandesserts.com/
      This blogger's entry details what I love about the desserts. Try the Monkey Business cupcake, dear heavens!
      http://www.cupcakeactivist.com/2008/07/return-to-elizabethan-desserts.html

      Also, Caffe Calabria in North Park is now selling their delicious beans at Whole Foods! It makes *such* a difference buying locally roasted (my favorite has always been Illy).

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    9. As a former San Franciscan, all I can say is *amen*. It's tough being a foodie in this town, but your list will help. Also, I've become quite a fan of Cantina Mayahuel on 30th & Adams, wonderful, flavorful food and hundreds of Tequila varieties to sample.

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    10. Thanks for the list, I'm squirreling it away for my next visit. I grew up in SD (La Mesa, actually... and you're right, Antica Trattoria is good), but now have no idea where to eat when I visit! Nowhere overly interesting, at least.

      I think your theory about the reasons for the tough restaurant climate in SD may be right on. Growing up, my parents owned restaurants in PB and I waited tables during college summers. Even in the more upscale, beach-front one, you got the feeling that the clientele were not the most sophisticated, let's say. Mostly out of state holidaymakers -- a group that, for better or for worse, determines the survival or demise of many SD restaurants.

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    11. hi aliceq, where would you recommend for a special occasion anniversary celebration? we live in la and recently tried the gamut (29 courses) at michael mina's xiv and loved the experience. anything like that in san diego? thanks!

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    12. for a special anniversary celebration? Well, no 29 courses or Michael Mina in San Diego, needless to say - but Addison and Kitchen 1540 are said to be doing great things (both in Del Mar) and George's California Modern (downstairs) is a favorite spot with a view. AR Valentien and the Marine Room would also be on my short list for fine dining on the coast.

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    13. Hi Alice!

      You're spot on when it comes to the SD Food scene. There are some good places but nothing worthy of a Michelin star. The closest could have been El Bizcocho when Steven Rojas was there but it didn't quite work out.

      One of these days I may have to try Addison or El Bizcocho. Other than that, I'll continue to take trips to LA, Vegas and Napa Valley to get my gastronomy fix. Thx for sharing your list.

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    14. Ever try regent's pizzeria? Interested in your opinion since 1) you don't like pizza that much
      2) liked your NY pizza article.

      they also have some weird hamburger tuesday with fresh ground beef- haven't been, but it crazy crowded.

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    15. such a great list... i'm new in town and this list comes in handy!
      thanks for posting!

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    16. Such a great list - gives me a lot of new places to try! Another great, unique restaurant is Cafe 21 in University Heights. They serve wonderful meals all day, with Azerbaiijan roots. Fresh ingredients, prepared in a thoughtful manner. www.cafe-21.com

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    17. Thanks for the list! I'm glad to know that there are still many places for me to give them a try.

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    18. Thanks for the list. We just moved here a few months ago and I was amazed at how horrible some of the restaurants were --considering they came voted as San Diego's Best. A joke.

      We've hit a few now and still exploring but we'll give this a try. We did recently go to Ortega's in Hillcrest. I only had soup but it was really very good!

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    19. So glad to see Cucina Urbana and Surati Farsan on there. My favs that I didn't see listed are Pizza Port and Tratorria i Trulli in North County. Both amazing!

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    20. Liz the Chef3/15/11, 2:37 PM

      So happy to find you, prompted by lunch with Susan Russo! Love your SD "lists" and hope you'll visit my SD bog too..Thanks!

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    21. If you haven't tried it yet, go to Chopahn on 6th Avenue in the Gaslamp. It's Afghan food and so delicious! The quabli pullau is to die for - seriously, I have dreams about it!

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