Saturday, September 24, 2011

7 Days of restaurant options for your San Diego Visitors

I had 4 visitors this summer.I have lived in San Diego for 5 years, and I have entertained a lot of visitors. When you live in what many people call the best city in the country, this tends to happen. Entertaining guests can be exhausting but it can also give you the opportunity to do and see all of the great things about San Diego that so often get lost in the shuffle of the daily grind.
The most important part for most guests is finding the best places to eat. You have to consider the type of food and atmosphere they want, the area of town you want to go to, and how much money your guests want to spend. My parents were my first guests. I knew they would be happy with 1-2 pricier places and then the others could be middle range as long as they were quiet and they had options for booths.
This is my parents 3rd trip here, so since we did most of the touristy things in the past, we were more focused on the food this time. Highlights of the trips that were more "touristy" include: the Wild Animal Park, Balboa Park, Ocean Beach Farmer's Market and La Jolla Farmer's Market, Extraordinary Desserts, and Temecula for wine tasting.

My parents weren't interested in doing anything but relaxing and eating, so relax and ate we did! I will give you the highlights
Day1 (Saturday): Dinner at JFAT (Jimmy's Famous American Tavern) in Point Loma. This place is about $12-15.00 a plate and has a vibe similar to Yard House. It also overlooks the marina and has a beautiful view of the boats which guests always appreciate. The food is considered  upscale American comfort food. Try the appetizers--sliders and turkey chilli fries. The salads are huge and taste great and the mac n' cheese with artichokes is amazing. If you want comfort food, but aren't willing to trade it in for the typical dumpy diner, come to JFAT.

After dinner, we went to San Diego's Repretory Theater to see My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish, and I'm in Therapy! which I had to review for It was an amusing play especially if you are a bunch of whops like us.

After the play, we stopped at Chocolat in Hillcrest so we could get dessert. We all shared a mascarpone and nutella crepe. It was delicious. If you want to go to Chocolat, I think the one in Hillcrest is better and more fun atmosphere than the one downtown.

Day 2 (Sunday):
Breakfast: We went to a buffet brunch at Bali Hai with free flowing champagne and tons of great food for only $28.00. It was totally worth it and my dad kept asking to go back, but they only do their brunch on Sundays. We got there by 11 and only had to wait about 5 minutes for a premiere seat on the deck overlooking the harbor. There was a breakfast table with the typical fixings—pancakes, French toast, frittata, sausage, fruit and then more lunch menu items including crab legs. The best part was the dessert table which included an amazing bread pudding. And, they just kept filling up our glasses with champagne, so if you’re worried about a long breakfast with your parents, don’t be—there is always tons of champagne on hand.
Dinner: We felt like a pizza, so I took them to one of my favorite places for a deep dish cheese pizza at Lefty’s. I still love Bronx pizza for a NYC style pie, but I have been on a deep dish kick and Lefty’s does it right. I always go to the Mission Hills locations over the North Park one because it’s bigger, newer, and cleaner, and if you want to sit in and eat, this is the better option. You really don’t need to get anything on this pie. Just eat it as is—the sauce is so good, you don’t need anything else soaking up the flavor.

Day 3 (Monday):
It was my parent's 3rd day in town and we were under the perpetual cloud that sits over La Jolla sometimes, so I took them out to find the sun. I drove to Rancho Bernardo with the intention of taking them to Thyme, a cafe that I have heard many good things about, but it was still cloudy there too, so I kept driving and somehow ended up at the Brigantine in Poway. Brigantine is part of a family of restaurants that are well known in San Diego. It had a nice outdoor patio that was covered and a wall fountain, so the atmosphere was peaceful and relaxing, and it was sunny, of course. My mom and I both got the seafood salad which was delicious and huge. My dad got the crab cakes which he liked a lot--and he can be hard to please sometimes. By the time we finished, happy hour had just started at 3:00. It looked like there were some good 50% off deals on food and drinks.

Dinner: We ate all the leftovers we had accumulated in the past few days. We had some wine and some good reality t.v. and it was a great low key evening. This was a good part of the week to do this. My parents were still getting used to the time change, so they were happy to stay in.

Day 4 (Tuesday): Breakfast at Solano Beach Coffee Company for coffee and acai parfaits. This is the best place I have found so far in San Diego for acai bowls. If you don't know want they are, check them out here: Basically, it is like eating a smoothy made with a purple berry that originates in the rain forest. Then you add granola, honey, and strawberries and bananas. Sometimes the fruit is different depending on where you go. They are delicious and healthy.

Dinner at Alexander's in North Park. The best part about this place is the decor. It is all white, very romantic but yet comfortable. You can dress up or not and either works. I loved the atmosphere more than I loved the food, but the food was good too. My mom especially liked this place because it was quiet, semi-private in the booth we sat in, and everyone was really nice. I heard that the pizzas are fantastic here, but we were all in a pasta mood, so that's what we got. This a great date place and I think my visitors enjoyed it as well.

Day 5 (Wednesday): 
Breakfast at Brockton Villa in La Jolla. This is a great place to go with visitors because it overlooks the ocean and is also near all of the boutiques and shops in the Village, which is the ritzy shopping area in La Jolla. You could easily spend the whole day with your guests right here walking around La Jolla shopping, eating, or walking around the cove. Brockton Villa sits in a little white cottage that has been around since the late 1800's. It still contains the original fire place with abalone shells embedded in it. Try the dish Brockton Villa is famous for--the Coast Toast.
Quick dinner at Smashburger. This place has gotten a lot of hype and there are  Smashburgers popping up all over San Diego. Their burgers are definitely good, largely because they are greasy and probably incredibly high in calories. If you want a really good, cheap burger and beer though, skip this chain and go straight to Rocky's in PB.

 Then we went to the 48 Hour Film Festival to see my friend, Kacie Flowers, who was featured in one of the films. She won Best Actress is last year's film festival and her movie won second place this year. My parents loved it.

Day 6 (Thursday)
Breakfast at Tartine in Coronado. It is a European Cafe and is knows for it's delicious pastries. The dishes are small and there are only a few options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but they are all good. Options include quiche, paninis, and salads. I like the atmosphere and it is right across from a bunch of touristy shops and the Coronado ferry, so it's a good place for visitors to walk around, buy souvenirs, and take beautiful pictures.
The sun finally came out, so we stayed in Coronado to spend the day on the beach. Coronado is a great beach spot. Make sure to sit near Hotel Del so you can walk around the grounds and also use the hotel bathrooms.

Day 7 (Friday) 
Breakfast at Claire's on Cedros.  Claire's was busy, so try to get there before 11 which seemed to be the start of the lunch rush hour. We got the award winning cinnamon pancakes (they did actually win an award) and they were delicious. The Lemon Ricotta pancakes were very good as well. Claire's is a perfect place for visitors because it is down the street from the strip of shops that make up the Cedros Design District. These shops are all dedicated to both old and new furniture, art, and tons of other unique decorative finds for your home. We spent 2-3 hours walking around here and it we had a lot of fun. Definitely check out the store called the Leaping Lotus.

Dinner at Oesteria Romantica in La Jolla Shores. It is a quaint place on the corner, one block from the beach. It has indoor and outdoor seating and the food and atmosphere is authentic and reminiscent of a restaurant in Italy. Everyone speaks Italian, and the food is fantastic. I usually get the tortellini bolognese because their meat sauce is so good, but this time I got spaghetti carbonara and I couldn't make myself stop eating it even though my pants were about to bust open. It was SO good and a perfect dinner place for my parents' last night. I would recommend making a reservation if you are going on a Friday or Saturday night.

All in all it was a fantastic week. I hope some of these suggestions help for your San Diego visitors! Please feel free to e-mail if you have any questions on other good hotspots for food, drinks, or visitor activities.

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