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Southern California food in Chicago

Moving back to Chicago after six years in San Diego. I'm THRILLED to return to Chicago food-wise -- it's truly an alpha food city (I'd give San Diego a low-beta, bordering on gamma...). However there are several things that I've come to appreciate in SD, most reflecting its Pacific Rim setting, that I cannot recall finding in Chicago. Does anyone know if/where the following might be found...?

Fish Tacos -- a San Diego specialty, via Baja. Should be crispy, slathered in white sauce, plus cabbage and a lime.

Hawaiian plate lunches -- lots of spots here that serve cafeteria-style Hawaiian.

Yakitori/Izakaya -- Yakitori are casual Japanese kebab places, Izakaya serve sort of Japanese pub food.

Bahn mi -- Vietnamese sandwiches on french bread

Also, suprisingly, San Diego is one of the best microbrew towns in the world (Stone, Green Flash, etc). Has Chicago moved beyond the Goose Island monopoly?

Thanks in advance.

May 07, 2009
Dr. K in Chicago Area

There is good Thai food in San Diego

I had a sneaking feeling it was you, Kirk. I'm a fan of your blog as well. Sorry I didn't introduce myself. Next time...

Aug 25, 2008
Dr. K in San Diego

There is good Thai food in San Diego

Stopped by Sab e Lee today on the strength of suggestions from this board (I'm a prof at USD, so always interested in Linda Vista dining options). SEL did not disappoint. I was on my own for lunch, so I only was able to try one dish --- the Rhad Na with Shrimp (I was in a gravy mood, and always like to judge a place by its noodles). So much more complex than the Rhad Na I've had elsewhere in town. Let's get some people into this place and make sure they stick around.

PS - I'm pretty sure there was another Chowhound in the house -- table of three, two ladies and a guy who was lovingly describing other Asian spots around SD...

Aug 22, 2008
Dr. K in San Diego

Roseville -- New in SD -- Anyone been?

I live in Point Loma and just discovered a new spot on Rosecrans near Canon (across from Con Pane) -- Roseville. Haven't tried it yet, but a bit of research led to this: "...Roseville brings to the area French-Mediterranean brasserie food and an eclectic wine list. The transformed space features booths, banquettes, a beer and wine bar and open kitchen–a lively room with a comfortable decibel level...."

Has anyone been?

Jul 25, 2008
Dr. K in California

Good Eats in Little Italy

This is a great overall discussion on Little Italy. I lived in LI my first year in SD (5 years ago). I think it's a great neighborhood. Walkable, filled with characters, lots of dining options (although it could use a full-service market). It feels much more urban and neigborhoody than the East Village and other condo-heavy parts of downtown. I really enjoyed weekend nights seeing crowds stroll up and down India, seeing the Waterfront and the Princess Pub over-flowing, etc. I'm not sure why people complain about tourists -- or even what they mean by tourists. Are tourists out-of-towners, people coming from other neighborhoods, or just people who don't seem as hip and sophisticated as oneself? My family in Chicago owns a couple of restaurants in Greektown, which has a similar vibe to LI (although it is larger and more established). I always enjoyed seeing loads of people come from all around to have a good time. I see something similar in Little Italy, which is just as authentic as anything I've yet found in San Diego (again, I know that people will debate the notion of authentic...but whatever it is, SD certainly does not have it in abundance and we should treasure any area that is not filled with strip-malls and fast-food chains).

I agree with the posts in general about the highlights of LI -- Buon Appetito, Mona Lisa, Pete's Meats, Zucherro. I would add that new gelato shop one block east of India on Cedar (the name is escaping me).

May 19, 2008
Dr. K in San Diego

Tender Greens San Diego

The restaurant-opening madness continues at Liberty Station. I just noticed a sign for Tender Greens, an organic-themed place, and checked out there website ( It looks great. Apparently the orginal is in Culver City -- has anyone been?

Apr 11, 2008
Dr. K in San Diego

Need good whole Lamb. Where to go in SD?

Yassou! If you have a difficult time getting a whole lamb, St Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church has its Easter picnic on Easter Sunday in Admiral Baker Park this year with lamb cooked on site. There are usually 300-400 people and Greek dancing. Contact for info and tickets.

Apr 11, 2008
Dr. K in San Diego

Old Spaghetti Factory--Liberty Station, Open?

Don't know about the Spaghetti Factory -- but Solare Italian has opened in Liberty Station. Haven't tried it yet, but the place looks beautiful in passing.

Mar 28, 2008
Dr. K in California

Drinking and Eating in Downtown Dallas

So the annual Shakespeare Association of America conference is being held this weekend at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas.... As much as I enjoy attending, these people make me want to drink (and I suppose I need a bit of food to settle the stomach). Are there any interesting bars, either upscale or hole-in-the-wall, within walking distance of the Fairmont (which is, from what I gather, in the Dallas Arts District)? And what about restaurants? I've looked at Abacus and Stephen Pyle from the boards, but it is difficult for me to get a sense of where things are in Dallas. Local also seems appealing, if it is not too far. Walking distance (or a short cab ride) is essential.

Mar 12, 2008
Dr. K in Texas

Tesco coming to SD

Tesco has just announced that they will be opening seven stores in SD county (including one in Point Loma). I've been to the UK many times, and have always hoped that something like Tesco would open here. It's a sort of small-format grocery, with lots of fresh food and nice prepared meals. I think it will fill a niche here. I've always wanted to like Trader Joe's, but I've found the quality of their stuff consistently abysmal (there is a reason it is so cheap...). I've always enjoyed Whole Foods, but find it pricey (duh!) and lacking a lot of the imported goods that I use in cooking (excepting, of course, their cheese selection, which is phenomenal). From my experience of Tesco in the UK, I think it will fall somewhere in the middle (perhaps like Andronico's in the Bay Area or Treasure Island in Chicago).

Has anyone been to a Tesco recently? Does anyone have more info on their plans here in California? I am trying to guage how excited I should be.... (I let myself get worked up for Bristol Farms and have been massively disappointed with everything there but there but their cabbage soup).

Jun 20, 2007
Dr. K in California

El Zarape: Going Downhill?

I'm glad to see this thread. Reading the praises for El Zarape's fish and scallop burritos on these boards for so many years, I have always been mystified. I've tried EZ 4-5 times and have always been disappointed. The last time, the scallops in my burrito were so rubbery that I just gave up and went down El Cajon to Mama's for a falafel. I thought for the longest time that I was just simply not seeing what other people were seeing in this place....

Jun 07, 2007
Dr. K in California

Where can i find a decent meatball sub in SD?

Try Pete's Meats in Little Italy. The Meatball is good, the rolled veal sandwich even better.

May 04, 2007
Dr. K in San Diego

Pizza in SD

I hate to be the Bronx nay-sayer here, but... Yes, Bronx pizza is fine and generally tasty. But I think it gets way more attention than it deserves because San Diegans feel like the guys behind the counter, gruff and laconic, are authentic New Yorkers. They may or may not be, but mostly it's a show put on for their customers. Because everyone here is so laid back and non-confrontational, San Diegans get a kick out of being treated rudely, so long as they get their pizza quickly and can be on their way... I'm a Chicagoan, so I like a different style pie (Lefty's deep dish is a scam, but their thin crust is good, and much closer to neighborhood Chicago pizza than the rest of the country realizes), but my New York buddies don't seem that impressed by Bronx.

May 04, 2007
Dr. K in San Diego

The Guild in SD (urban SD options)

I just had a quick lunch at The Guild, a new place in Barrio Logan. It's on the corner of Newton and Beardsley, not far from Petco and nearly underneath the Coronado bridge, in an area of warehouses and autoshops that looks like it has begun gentrifying (not far from El Porvenir).

I ordered the mahi mahi tacos. They were small (Tijuana style), but tasty. Steep at $9. The place is rather funky in that industrial-hip sort of way.

I think I would go back for a few items on the menu (they had the soon-to-be ubiquitous Kobe sliders), but more so for the atmosphere and to support a spot that is moving downtown in an interesting direction. Like Cafe Chloe and the Mission, it's nice to see urban restaurants staking claim to territory outside the Gaslamp orbit.

Has anyone else been? Does anyone else know of other restaurants in this area?

Mar 02, 2007
Dr. K in California

What's your favorite vegetarian restaurant in San Diego?

Kung Food is awful, awful, awful!

Try Spread in North Park on University Ave. Very fresh, inventive and funky.

Jan 25, 2007
Dr. K in San Diego

Cavaillon in Santa Luz

My wife and I tried Cavaillon on the night we find out she was pregnant (8 months ago). The owner clearly could tell that we were excited about something, and was so wonderful and gracious when we told him the news. That sense of personal touch and personality is what I associate with my favorite restaurants in Europe, and along with the knockout food, makes me feel that Cavaillon is a place well worth the excursion (we live in Point Loma).

Jan 18, 2007
Dr. K in San Diego

What's On Your Rotation? (San Diego)

I'm going to add a new favorite here (although I'm happy having the place to myself for awhile) -- Jayne's Gastropub, on 30th, just south of Adams.

Jayne's is a gem. Casual/elegant, inventive food. It feels a bit like Cafe Chloe, without the French accent, steep prices and tiny portions. I've eaten there three times this past week. This is what I've had: pulled roast chicken sandwich, orrechiette with sausage and broccoli rabe, and a totally sublime blackened salmon sandwich. Everything has been delicious and under $10.

Right now, Jayne's is only open for lunch, Tuesday-Saturday. They are apparently waiting for their liquor license to start serving dinner (sometime in February). So many places open too early, and stumble along trying to figure out what they are doing, I'm glad to see this place easing into its rhythm.

By the way, there is a new Phils BBQ opening in Point Loma. Does anyone have the scoop on when?

Jan 15, 2007
Dr. K in California

Chicago hounds staying on Coronado Island

I'm a fellow Chicagoan who's been in SD four years. From the restaurants you've listed, you are clearly looking for something upscale. If you're looking for the best dining experiences in SD, head to AR Valentein at the Torrey Pines Lodge, Georges at the Cove (but arrive early enough to see the sunset), and I would second 1500 Ocean. I would also recommend second-hand (haven't yet been, but trust friends who have) the new Addison at the Grand Del Mar resort. Cavaillon is fantastic rustic French.

For Mexican, Chilango's is fine, but there is nowhere in SD like Frontera. If you want to try something on the divy, but delicious side, go to Super Cocina. The neigborhood's a bit sketchy and out of the way, but the food rocks. The best Mexican here are the mom-and-pop places like Cuatro Milpas or Porkyland. They're scattered around, though.

If you're near Balboa Park (zoo, etc.), I would recommend Laurel. Some people on the boards are down on this place, but I find it elegant and inventive. And my opinion counts more than most others ;)

Sushi. Well, you have to go to Sushi Ota. It's in a strip mall near a freeway, and probably the plainest little sushi place you'll ever see, but the fish is divine. If you want something unusual and Japanese, try one of the yakitori places in town. Just in terms of being central, I recommend Yakitori Yakudori (also near Balboa Park). Once again, a bit on the plain side, but delicious.

Let us know if you need more suggestions.

Go Bears!

Dec 22, 2006
Dr. K in California

Shakespearean in Toronto seeks food help!

Thanks so much! All the recommendations thus far are right on target. I'm starting to think that the four days I'll be in Toronto won't be nearly enough...

Nov 08, 2006
Dr. K in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Shakespearean in Toronto seeks food help!

Hello, Torontonians! I am coming this week to Toronto for an academic conference and am looking forward to visiting your gorgeous city. It has been ten years since I was last in Toronto, so I'm sure the city's foodscape has changed signficantly. A few questions:

I love street-food, take-away, etc. --are there any items that Toronto serves/features that are difficult/impossible to get elsewhere?

How about bistros and trattorias?

Also, I am going to be with a crew that likes to knock back a (quite) a few pints -- pub/bar suggestions would be welcomed.

Oh yes, not that this is board-appropriate--but if anyone wanted to sneak in recommendations for good bookstores, please go right ahead...

We are staying near the University of Toronto, but I'm willing to travel far and wide for food (and drink (and books)).

I live in San Diego (home of the fish taco and insanely fresh fish and produce year-round) and will gladly return the favor suggestion-wise for any of you coming this way.

Dr. K

Nov 07, 2006
Dr. K in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

A few of my favorite things... (San Diego)

When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feeeel sooo baaad...

Roast Pork Loin sandwich -- The Cheese Shop (La Jolla)
Octopus Fritters -- Yakitori Yakudori (Hillcrest)
Scallop sandwich -- Point Loma Seafooods (Point Loma)
Falafel plate -- Mama's Lebanese (University Heights)
Onion Rings -- Hodad's (Ocean Beach)
Corn Breakfast Tamales -- The Coffee Cup (La Jolla)
Anything grilled -- El Pescador (La Jolla)
Garlic Chicken -- Dao Son (El Cajon Blvd.)
Grilled Pork Ban Mhi -- K Sandwiches (Linda Vista)
Every sort of dumpling -- Dumpling Inn (Convoy St.)
Roast Leg of Lamb -- St Spyridon Greek festival (Hillcrest)
Coq au vin -- Cavaillon (Santaluz)
Italian Sausage -- Pete's Meats (Little Italy)
Lamby Joes -- Laurel (Banker's Hill)
Chocolate Creme Brulee -- Il Fornaio (Coronado)
Burrata -- Buon Appetito (Little Italy)
Wandering the wine vaults -- The Wine Bank (Gaslamp)
Neal's Yard Stilton with a dab of honey -- from Whole Foods
Roasted root veggies -- Chino Farms ( @ my house)

I could go on...

What are some of your favorite foodie things in San Diego???

Aug 31, 2006
Dr. K in San Diego

Slow Food Discussion Continued [Split from California board]

Josh, are you really sure you know what Slow Food is about? Having started in Italy over a decade ago, it's a movement that attempts to preserve cuilinary and agricultural heritage, while supporting local products, small-producers, and individually-owned restaurants. So much of what we see today--the rise of local farmer's markets, the awareness of quality ingredients in restaurants--is tied to this movement, directly or indirectly. In fact Chowhound itself is a step-child of Slow Food. Perhaps some people/places use the "slow food" label in an opportunistic way, but I assure you, it is neither an organization nor a concept cobbled together for cynical purposes of marketing and promotion. Any group whose mission statement (and name) is intended to stand up against mass-produced, mass-marketed "food" and to raise awareness of alternatives is alright by me.

Aug 28, 2006
Dr. K in Not About Food

Lot 81 San Diego?

Sorry to be the nay-sayer here, but we had one of the worst dining experiences in recent memory at Lot81. I had been for lunch and enjoyed the seared tuna sandwich, so I decided to take a group of six for dinner. We were the only people inside(I think there were two or three tables outside) even though it was prime-time Friday night. Our service was atrocious. The young woman serving us was the hostess, I assume, and had no experience waiting tables. She couldn't answer the simplest of questions without running to the kitchen (such as the soup of the day and what how the side dishes were prepared). When we ordered a botttle of the Laetitia Pinot Noir, she asked if we wanted the white or red. None of our orders came out right. What did come out was under-seasoned, bland and uninspiring (tuna, steak, halibut), and it was all accompanied by cafetria-style veggies and rice. They played the same 80's greatest hits soundtrack over and over until it started skipping (we all cracked up on hearing Hotel California for the third time in two hours). Every aspect of our experience was unappealing.

This makes me sad. I had high hopes for Lot81. I teach at USD and was thrilled to have what looked to be a chic and inventive restaurant nearby. It seems to me, however, that they are just running on auto-pilot, and that they've already conceded that they are not going to make it. I can't imagine another reason why they would neglect the costumers who do appear, especially when we were so clearly and intently interested in dining there.

I've had a run of good dining luck lately at Modus, Laurel (the 7 before 7 happy hour rocks), and Hawthorn. I guess all good things must come to an end....

Looking at the comments above my verdict would be yes for lunch at Lot81, when casual food and service are in store, but absolutely no for dinner when there are so many other restaurants in SD that do dinner so well.

Aug 28, 2006
Dr. K in California

Yakitori K-1 San Diego

Tried Yakitori Yakyudori last night after reading this thread. It was awesome. Had the octopus fritters (sort of like Spanish croquetas with pieces of octopus in the middle), the chiken thighs, and the pork cutlet. Each was artfully done. The flavors were phenomenal. I'll be back.

Thanks for the recommendation!

Aug 19, 2006
Dr. K in California

best restaurant in san diego

You are clearly looking for the best fine dining experience, given the restaurants you mention. You're right to suspect El Bizocho--not bad, but not tops. Sadly, San Diego does not excel at French.

I have found the best all-around restaurant in SD to be AR Valentien (in the Lodge at Torrey Pines). Elegant and complex, excellent service, beautiful setting.

Tapenade is in the next rank of restaurants.

Below that--excellent food, atmosphere, but not haute--are Cafe Cerise, Laurel, Cavaillon.

Cafe Chloe get lots of attention, and is just fine, but is really a very casual bistro. Great for lunch or a glass of wine and cheese.

Avoid Pamplemousse, Mister A's, the Winesellar. These are not terrible places, but each is off is some way or other (location, ambiance, etc.)

Aug 02, 2006
Dr. K in San Diego