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A Couple Days in San Diego — Report

A Couple Days in San Diego — Report
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  • A Couple Days in San Diego — Report

    Post #1 - March 17th, 2008, 2:28 am
    Post #1 - March 17th, 2008, 2:28 am Post #1 - March 17th, 2008, 2:28 am
    At the end of January, Pigmon and I spent two days in San Diego followed by a few in Los Angeles. I continued north and stayed a couple more days in San Francisco. Naturally we found some things to eat. Here's the first installment, dealing with San Diego. Other posts should follow, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and a couple special topics.

    We played the Priceline hotel lottery and lucked out with Humphey's Half Moon Inn on Shelter Island. It seems that Shelter Island was the epicenter of the tiki craze of the 1950s but only a few structures remain, with Half Moon Inn being one of the best preserved. The hotel office, a classic tiki structure, is illuminated at night by giant flaming tiki torches.

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    Bali Hai Restaurant, just up the street, is another remaining tiki temple. I regret that we didn't have a chance to stop in for a cocktail.

    San Diego Chicken Pie Shop, one of the city's oldest eateries, was our first stop. I'll have a separate post on the region's chicken pie shops—an archaic restaurant genre that many are unaware of—but here's a brief preview.

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    San Diego Chicken Pie Shop has been around since the late 1930s but only about 20 years in its current North Park location.

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    This is the classic meal available with a few variations at any of Southern California's chicken pie shops. The pies, filled with shredded chicken without vegetables or much gravy, resemble round empanadas more than standard pot pies. San Diego Chicken Pie Shop serves a very fine version.

    Hodad's, a block off one of San Diego's surfing beaches, is often credited with serving the city's best burger. I would tend to believe those claims as it was among the best burgers I've eaten recently.

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    The double cheeseburger, here with grilled onion and pickle, is immense and a challenge to maneuver. The standard double burger, served with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, is even more unwieldy though not as tasty. Onion rings with a crusty cornmeal coating are excellent, much better than the thick-cut but limp fries.

    The next day was mostly devoted to Mexican. El Zarape often comes up in discussions of fish tacos. It's a pleasant place, neither overly slick nor a complete dive, friendly and bustling.

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    We ordered an assortment of tacos. Clockwise from upper right: carne asada, 2 fish, lobster, scallop, shrimp. All were fresh and generous but the common feature was blandness, all needed salt and something more.

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    The fish tacos were a remarkable deal at $0.99 but they made me appreciate Tacos del Pacifico all that much more.

    Acting on a hot tip from Juan at Currency Exchange HQ, we visited El Comal.

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    Unfortunately there were no fish tacos available but we were able to try a taco de cochinita pibil (so so), a huarache with some sort of goat under all that lettuce (good masa shell) and pozole (underseasoned but the hominy and plate of accompaniments were nice).

    We hadn't planned a special trip to Rubio's but decided if we passed one we would stop. As fate would have it we saw one while driving up Highway 101.

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    This was stunningly bad food, with both the fish and shrimp taco bordering on inedible. Nearly all the salsas from the attractive salsa bar were equally foul, with off flavors or severely oversweetened. This was the worst food of the trip by a wide margin but at least the aquarium was nice.

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    The Linkery sounds interesting, with much locally sourced food, a nice assortment of local beers and meads, and sausages made in house. Overall I enjoyed the place (in good part because of the beers) but I think it works better in theory than in practice. The menu, which changes daily, can best be described as scattershot, with no obvious attempt to allow an integrated meal to be assembled. Our sausage plate is a good example of this.

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    The sausages of the day, made with local Duroc pork, included loukanika, Polish and chaurice. Following our bartender's recommendation we ordered them as part of the choucroute plate. No matter that the sauerkraut (under a blanket of Gouda!) clashed mightily with two of our choices, the mismatch compounded by what we were drinking at the time. I think it would be possible to have a very nice meal at The Linkery but you'd either have to know the menu well or have assistance that wasn't available to us.

    Our best bite of Mexican food came almost by accident. Pigmon stopped at a little panaderia in a nondescript mall in Oceanside for a bottle of water and ended up buying a couple tamales.

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    The tamal was stellar, with intensely corny masa surrounding huge chunks of perfectly spiced pork.

    On to Los Angeles!

    Humphrey's Half Moon Inn
    2303 Shelter Island Dr
    San Diego CA
    619-224-3411
    http://www.halfmooninn.com/

    San Diego Chicken Pie Shop
    2633 El Cajon Blvd
    San Diego CA
    619-295-0156

    Hodad's
    5010 Newport Av
    San Diego CA
    619-224-4623

    El Zarape
    4642 Park Blvd
    San Diego CA
    619-692-1652

    El Comal
    3946 Illinois St
    San Diego CA
    619-239-7101
    http://www.elcomalsd.com/

    Rubio's Mexican Grill #117
    437 S Highway 101
    Solana Beach CA
    http://www.rubios.com/

    The Linkery
    3382 30th St
    San Diego CA
    619-255-8778
    http://thelinkery.com/
  • Post #2 - March 17th, 2008, 9:39 am
    Post #2 - March 17th, 2008, 9:39 am Post #2 - March 17th, 2008, 9:39 am
    Looks like you verified about San Diego what I already told you.

    The weather's nice, LA and Tijuana are close, and the portions are huge.
  • Post #3 - March 17th, 2008, 10:16 am
    Post #3 - March 17th, 2008, 10:16 am Post #3 - March 17th, 2008, 10:16 am
    JeffB wrote:Looks like you verified about San Diego what I already told you.

    The weather's nice, LA and Tijuana are close, and the portions are huge.


    :lol: I couldn't have said it better.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #4 - March 24th, 2008, 4:39 pm
    Post #4 - March 24th, 2008, 4:39 pm Post #4 - March 24th, 2008, 4:39 pm
    I'm sort of with you in spirit - except you missed some of the very best San Diego has to offer. To start, examples include Super Cocina, a basic yet not-to-be-missed spot on University Ave for outstanding Mexican guisados (stews) and other dishes; Ba Ren off Clairemont Mesa for authentic, delicious Szechuan dishes; Tsuruhashi on Convoy for Japanese barbecue; Cafe Chloe, a casual spot on the E. edge of downtown for excellent, French bistro style items...
  • Post #5 - May 17th, 2018, 11:49 pm
    Post #5 - May 17th, 2018, 11:49 pm Post #5 - May 17th, 2018, 11:49 pm
    Does anyone have more recent recommendations for dinner spots in San Diego? I'm heading there next month. I'm staying north of the city so would be interested in places in La Jolla, Del Mar, Encinitas, etc. as well, but will have a car so getting downtown or to one of the other city neighborhoods is not a problem.

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