San Diego food bleg

by on December 30, 2012 at 11:22 am in Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink

Many economists will be converging on this city this coming week for the annual American Economics Association meetings.  Please tell us where to eat!

Alexei Sadeski December 30, 2012 at 11:41 am

Sichuan – Dede’s Tea Juice City (very very good)
Indian – Curry & More (quite a drive from downtown, but quite good)
Blue Ribbon Pizza – Best Italian style pizza outside of Italy that I’ve yet found

San Diego does fast food very well; Roberto’s (Mexican street food style burritos) chains are excellent, as are Rubio’s fish tacos.

I assume you already know which neighborhoods to avoid.

Alexei Sadeski December 30, 2012 at 11:48 am

Oh, and since you’ll likely be staying downtown:

Chloe Cafe – Expensive but good for a small meal (I recommend their breakfast)

The Neighborhood – Hyper trendy and popular but very good lunch burgers. Proprietor is interesting to talk to.

Thomas Sewell December 31, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I suspect he’s looking more for spots that fit his standard criteria. I just spent the last couple of weeks in San Diego and hunted up a few places using the standard Cowen methodology.

First recommendation: Go to African Spice in the Rolando neighborhood for Somali food: 4348 54th Street (between Trojan Ave & El Cajon Blvd), San Diego, CA 92115
It’s a little hard to find because it’s inside a Somali marketplace. When we went last week, it was Saturday night and the only customers were about 30 Somali elders having a meeting.
The woman at the counter didn’t speak much English and they don’t have an actual menu. The sombusa is really, really good, especially the seafood version. Make sure you ask for the green spice, but don’t use much of it, it has a lingering kick. It’s $1/per sombusa, get at least 4-5 per person, supposed to be an appetizer. Again, no menu for the best food, so no clear prices without asking, but it’s really inexpensive. You may have to clear your own table, or get it to go. If you’re more familiar with Somali food, you might ask for something else specific. Good luck.
There’s several other competing African restaurants in the same neighborhood, but I didn’t have the time to try more of them. Still, with that sort of concentrated competition, I’d expect them to be pretty good as well.

Second recommendation: Pho Cali in Mission Valley for the French bread: 1400 Camino De La Reina, Ste 105, (between Westfield Drwy & Park In The Valley Drwy), San Diego, CA 92108
Located almost out of sight in a thin strip mall with virtually no parking (just park on the side of the building and walk past the other stores), lots of folks from Vietnam eat here regularly. The Pho dishes were very good, but where they really excelled was with their French Bread. Perfect loaves, worth going just for that. Get something that includes French Bread (not a sandwich, the bare loaf). Inexpensively priced, good food.

Howl December 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm

I actually ate at Pho Cali last night. I am not experienced enough with pho to really give an expert comparison (I’ve only been to 4-5 places), but I was quite pleased. I noticed the broth was better than any other I’ve had… beefy and luxurious without feeling greasy.

Now I’m regretting not having gotten the bread. Darn you, Mr. Sewell, for not posting yesterday! :)

Thomas Sewell January 1, 2013 at 12:25 am

Darn you, Mr. Sewell, for not posting yesterday!

Yeah, well imagine my reaction when I saw an entire post full of where to eat in San Diego a couple of days after I got back from searching there…

Alexei Sadeski January 1, 2013 at 9:49 am

Oh I realize that Mssr Cowen isn’t looking for normal restaurants – see my post above. But he may want a couple of non tourist traps within walking distance of the Convention Center.

Matt December 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Check out SessionsPublic. It’s off the beaten path, but still less than 15 minutes from downtown. Great burgers, love the steak sandwich, and a healthy selection of mostly local brew.

For the best bar burger in San Diego, go to the Pacific Beach neighborhood and try Rocky’s Crown Pub. Always busy, and it’s well deserved.

Brian Malarkey has his latest restaurant in the Point Loma area, and it’s a great little spot. It’s called Gabardine and is a great seafood oriented neighborhood bistro.

Enjoy the town, it’s a great place to be.

Ian December 30, 2012 at 8:01 pm

My roommate is the chef at Red’s right next door to Gabardine, and his pork and pickled watermelon rind sandwich is pretty good.

Bill December 30, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I would recommend that all economists eat at a Homeless shelter.

Orange14 December 30, 2012 at 1:07 pm

+1, and the homeless population in San Diego is quite large unfortunately. Most of the restaurants in town are average and really don’t need to be much more than that given the large convention business that the town does. I’m a native and have been disappointed every time I return for a visit. Biggest disappointment is the disappearance of good seafood restaurants. All of the old line family run eateries are now history. Don’t know about Matt’s suggestion above, maybe that’s a good one (Point Loma is where I went through school).

Brendan December 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm

+1, especially the bunch that frequents this blog.

Claudia December 30, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Be nice. I doubt the homeless want a swarm of economist lunch buddies (or kitchen staff). Would be an interesting setting for the next (last?) installment in the Caplan-Dickens poverty debate… I am a bit sad I passed on the meetings this year as it’s in such a nice location, but even for me it’s a pretty economist intensive jumble.

Howl December 30, 2012 at 3:36 pm

You can always head down to Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD). Right across from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Pacific Highway. IIRC, $2.50 will get you breakfast, lunch, or supper at their cafeteria. The food’s okay for a cafeteria, and you can get a million interesting stories from the residents. Good folks doing God’s work running the place, too.

Nickolaus December 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm

burritos: Lucha Libre — pretty close to the airport… or even better if you can make it up to La Jolla you should try Don Carlos

Ben Hughes December 30, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Lucha Libre is my go-to spot right after I arrive back at the airport having been gone for a while. They’ve got some great seafood/fish tacos with a really cool “Luchador” theme! There are probably better tacos down south of San Diego, but isn’t *too* far from downtown.

Kit December 30, 2012 at 11:36 pm

I also agree with the Lucha Libre idea. It’s a wild theme, and the quality is pretty good.

I used to be a regular at Jimmy Carter’s in/near Hillcrest but it’s gone downhill lately.

Steve Portigal December 30, 2012 at 1:05 pm

When I visit San Diego I love to get to Blind Lady Ale House (great pizza, great beer selection) in Normal Heights, and also Craft and Commerce, if not in, then adjacent to Little Italy right by the airport. After that, Whisknladle in La Jolla; they have a sister restaurant Prep Kitchen that I did really enjoy once in La Jollla as well, also they have a newer location right near Craft and Commerce.

Adam December 30, 2012 at 10:04 pm

I second Whisknladle.

OJFL December 30, 2012 at 1:22 pm

If you are into Persian Food, I would recommend Alborz in Del Mar. A little far from downtown but really good. If you are into dim-sum I wold recommend Jasmine in Claremont.

Dave December 30, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I don’t know if it’s still there, but “Spread” had some really interesting stuff. It was started by two NYC lawyers who said fuck it, let’s start a restaurant. They had a dedicated edible flower garden and improvised based on what was available that day from the market (or so I recall). Have been meaning to get back but never seemed to manage. Enjoy your trip!
D

Tom Anichini December 30, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Disclaimer: This recommendation violates most “An Economist Gets Lunch” heuristics: Quasi-chain, tourist spot, appealing setting and attractive people.

The “Bare Lil Lamb” burger at Bare Back Grill in Pacific Beach.

I seldom eat red meat, let alone lamb, but a world renowned economist took me here (one of his favorite lunch spots) earlier this year and ordered it for himself. I ordered one as well and I continue to crave it.

Brett December 31, 2012 at 10:03 pm

I’ll second this recomendation, and add that there is a bareback downtown, probably closer.

Andrew December 30, 2012 at 1:34 pm

As a native San Diegan, I recommend at least one outing for real Baja Mexican food. I can wholeheartedly recommend the Cotija’s chain. And if you’ve never tried one, you really should put in for the California Burrito. Now that I live in the SF bay area, I really miss the San Diego Mexican food, and only recently realized the reason I don’t like the Mexican food around here as much is because it’s central Mexican, not Baja. Any restuarant whose name end in “berto” or some variation thereon is also probably a good choice, and shops with “#2″ or somesuch are also viable candidates.

MotorBoatingSOB December 30, 2012 at 3:32 pm

The California Burrito is a must. My go-to for this delicacy is Santana’s “Fresh MXN”, a hole in the wall that within the last 10 years or so has turned into a dozen-ish location chain around San Diego.

Kris December 30, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Couldn’t agree more with Cotija’s. Their bean tostada is simple perfection. Another good spot is Don Pancho’s in IB. And next to Don Pancho’s is Starlight Donuts. The Cinamon rolls are sublime.

JLonsdale December 30, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Coti’s is great, though I prefer their carne asada burrito. It’s nothing like the burritos I can get up here in the bay area.

Jennifer Imazeki December 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm

There are some good restaurants in the Gaslamp (where the conference will be) but most are over-priced for what you get. Little Italy is just north of the Gaslamp (i.e., walkable if you don’t mind walking several blocks) and other than the obvious Italian restaurants, the Princess Pub is a great pub with traditional British fare. You can hop on the trolley to get to Old Town for good Mexican food – I’d avoid the main drag and go into Bazaar Del Mundo in the historic park. El Agave is ‘upscale’ Mexican but a must if you like good tequila. The neighborhood of North Park is a short taxi ride from the conference (ask to go to 30th and University) and has a growing reputation for ‘locavore’ restaurants – Sea Rocket Bistro, The Linkery, Urban Solace and Ritual Tavern are all great, while Toronado and Ritual have lots of the local microbrews (and Heaven Sent is one of the best place for desserts in town). It’s also a great neighborhood for vegetarians – Veg-n-Out, Sipz and Ranchos all cater to vegetarians (and all of these places I’m mentioning are within a few blocks of each other).

George December 30, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Seconding Jennifer’s discussion of North Park… best dining options per block of any area in San Diego right now. No tourists, setting not visually appealing, but hipster vibe can be off-putting at times.

Smoking Goat is the best dinner in North Park… But, Linkery and Ritual Tavern give you better beer lists (and San Diego’s beer is the best thing it has going for it right now)

El Paisa on 32nd and National Avenue is my favorite Mexican… they have other locations, but this is the best.

Stay away from downtown or Pacific / Mission Beach neighborhoods (except for the burger at Rocky’s).

Adam December 30, 2012 at 10:05 pm

The Linkery is good.

Macky December 30, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Assuming you’re looking for Tyler Cowen-style places, here are the places that I think are musts:

– Spicy City (in the Convoy district). I lived in the Bay Area, New York, Vancouver, and Los Angeles, and in none of those cities did I ever find a Chinese restaurant quite like Spicy City. Try the “earthen pots,” which are not on the English menu. It’s a dish you rarely see elsewhere, and is one of the spiciest things you’ll ever experience. It meets the Tyler Cowen requisites of being kind of grungy (they’ll often seat you at the same table as other guests because it’s so cramped, and it’s two stores over from a Yakuza brothel), in a strip mall, affordable, etc. Dede’s is across the street, and is also excellent (Dede’s, Spicy City, Spicy House, and some other places form a San Diego style of Chinese food that I’ve never seen in other cities, though DeDe’s is perhaps a tad more welcoming to westerners), but I would put Spicy City as the best of the field.
– Trieu Chau on El Cajon Blvd. Trieu Chau is owned by Cambodians who survived the Khmer Rouge, and has barred windows in a strip mall on a kind of questionable part of El Cajon blvd. However, the food is spectacular, worth the drive, and it serves a Cambodian take on classic Chinese and Thai dishes. The service is slow, and you can stay for hours, but it has some of the best food I’ve ever had, and at 6-7 dollars per gigantic entree, you can try a bit of everything (you’ll want to). Also, how often do you have a waiter who has personal experiences with the greatest atrocity of the last 50 years?
– Punjabi Tandoori in Mira Mesa. This is a little storefront Indian restaurant in an industrial area in the middle of nowhere in Miramar, but people flock to it from miles around.
– As somebody mentioned, Robertos is worth exploring; specifically the Robertos that is misnamed “Rigobertos” in Miramar.
– Bonnie Jean’s Soul Food in Rolando, if you have a lot of free time. The upside is that it’s some of the best soul food you’ll ever had, in a neighborhood you didn’t know existed. You can hear them kill the chicken right before they serve it to you. The downside is that it takes forever; over thirty minutes to get our water (when we were the only customers) and an hour to get our food. During that time, one of the workers ran out of the store shouting “he’s beating her again!”
– Iraqi food in El Cajon. El Cajon is the second biggest Chaldean Iraqi community in the United States, after Detroit. I don’t have a specific recommendation of a restaurant or a dish, but it’s definitely an experience worth having.

Jacob Lyles December 30, 2012 at 9:50 pm

I can’t believe you would send non-drunk people to Rigoberto’s.

If you want a meal to tell war stories about to people back home, order the carne asada fries and eat the whole thing. Nobody will believe that such a meal actually exists.

Alexei Sadeski December 31, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Nice writeup Macky! Agree with everything – but I do prefer Dede’s to Spicy City :) Dede’s changed ownership in the last year or so – if you haven’t been there recently, I’d recommend another visit!

I’ll have to check out some fo your recommendations around town.

Mike December 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm

I’m echoing Andrew’s sentiment in you need to get yourself a proper San Diego-style burrito. Mexican food in San Diego is pretty different than anywhere else in the world.

The burritos come out of the tradition of Tijuana street tacos rather than the rice-and-beans filled San Francisco Mission-style burritos that you get anywhere else in America: if you order a carne asada burrito, you’ll get a tortilla with nothing in it but steak, guacamole, and maybe pico de gallo. A carnitas burrito usually means pork, a slathering of refried beans, cilantro, and onions.

It’s hard to recommend a single place without knowing where’ll you’ll be: you’re basically looking for a hole-in-the-wall fast-food dive, probably with a name ending in “berto’s” (Roberto’s, Rigoberto’s, Adalberto’s, etc).

Get a California, or Asada Fry, burrito. Comes with steak, french fries, and some combination of cheese, salsa, and sour cream. It’s the local surfer chow. Also get a horchata (a sweet rice and cinnamon agua fresca — it’s like dairy-free rice pudding that you drink). It’ll cost you less than ten bucks.

Mike December 30, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Also worth mentioning: your burrito won’t be spicy at all. There’ll be a bottle of hot sauce on the table (or a couple of containers in the bag if you order to-go). The local style is that if you want it spicy, you dribble hot sauce on before each bite.

Guyren Howe December 30, 2012 at 2:02 pm

1. Point Loma Seafood is justly famous.
2. Sab E Lee is a very good hole in the wall-type Thai restaurant.
3. San Diego has the most breweries of any US city (yes, quite a few more than Portland). The most successful is Stone Brewing, which has very good beer, a very, very good restaurant, and you can do a most interesting free tour of the brewery (with free tasters at the end).

Ben Hughes December 30, 2012 at 2:18 pm

If you’re looking for the Stone tasting experience but don’t want to drive out to Escondido, check out the Stone tasting room in South Park (not too far from downtown).

Scott December 30, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Find any Mexican place near in th South Park neighborhood (south east of balboa park).

Tip Top cafe in Carlsbad, they are a German deli/cafeteria. Great liver and onions and they also have spiced bacon slabs you can take home.

colin December 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I would guess you’ll find a lot of the smiley white people type places pretty underwhelming, but that North Park comes closest to doing them like a real big city would. The quality there gets capped because most restauranteurs see SF and LA as conferring more status and they move north given the opportunity. Or they just never come to SD in the first place. SD’s relative lack of sophistication in food and relative surplus of sophistication in craft beer makes the whole “alcohol subsidizes food” thing kinda wonky. There are a ton of places with mediocre food and great beer. I think Carnitas Snack Shack is probably the best of them from a food for for your dollar perspective. They make up for the lack of beer focus with efficient use of space/limiting rent.

I would guess Kearney Mesa and City Heights are more stereotypical Tyler Cowen “ethnic” fodder and I would guess that once you get there you won’t need my recommendations. Korean and Vietnamese predominate. The best local blogger is the folks who run http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/. Kirk:SD::Tyler:DC.

Here’s what he said about eating neighborhoods:

“We go just about anywhere for food, Chula Vista for birria and fish tacos, National City for Filipino food, Grant Hill for Colombian, so it’s hard to say. I will say, we do end up eating in the Kearny Mesa area the most often.”

My bleg: pleeeeeease do a lengthy follow up post.

Ben Hughes December 30, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Wow, famous economists are coming to my city! I may be partial since I live in this neighborhood, but North Park has some great food and is definitely a more “local” area than the touristy areas downtown:

* Sea Rocket Bistro – seafood in a nice setting
* The Linkery – with a great selection of beers, and usually one on cask
* URBN Pizza (also Bar Basic downtown, same owners) – great connecticut-style pizza with an industrial bar, and great beer
* The Smoking Goat – arguably the best restaurant in North Park, but fairly small and no reservations

If you’re into beer, 30th street in North Park was rated the best craft beer street in America by Men’s Journal not long ago. Some spots to check out:
* Tiger! Tiger! – a tavern in North Park with an awesome vibe inside and large tables (so, much better for large groups), also with some really great food. [http://tigertigertavern.blogspot.com/]
* Hamilton’s Tavern in South Park – a nice local place with amazing selection of awesome beers; inside they have the ceiling covered with taps of all beers they’ve ever served
* Stone Tasting Room in South Park – a satellite Stone store with growler fills and a good deal on tastings
* Toronado – the “main” craft beer bar in North Park. Light on food (and room), but great taps
* Blind Lady Ale House – a great bar with decent pizza in Normal Heights

For what it’s worth, a local group of computer programmers of which I am a part is having a drink-up at Tiger! Tiger! on the evening of January 3rd. Would be great to see some economists there!

Sean December 30, 2012 at 2:10 pm
Mitch Wagner December 30, 2012 at 2:46 pm

If you can get yourself about 14 miles inland, Swami’s in La Mesa has great surfer-California grub — vegetarian and healthy if that’s your pleasure, fried and salty if you want that, all good. I love the chorizo hash, which is like corned beef hash and eggs, but made with spicy chorizo sausages instead of corned beef. I went in yesterday and had the acai bowl, which is just a bowl of berries and bananas, but quite satisfying. So that’s both ends of the menu right there.

cthulhu December 30, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Drive up to coastal North County for some great San Diego-style Mexican food: Fidel’s in Solana Beach or Norte in Carlsbad, and El Callejon in Encinitas. Fidel’s and Norte used to be owned by the same family; they had a falling-out several years ago, and the Solana Beach location got to keep the Fidel’s name so the Carlsbad location had to change its name, but they both kept essentially the same menu and the same recipes. Be sure to order the guacamole dip appetizer – best guac you’ll ever have. Also strongly recommend the chicken taco and the carnitas (pork) burrito.

El Callejon has a good deal of Oaxaca-style food, but the mole chicken enchiladas are to die for; also, they have the best chips and salsa around.

Downtown, try the Fish Market and its nouvelle cuisine sibling, Top of the Market, for first-rate, high end seafood. And for the bestest, freshest seafood anywhere, Point Loma Seafood is your friend.

Larry Siegel December 30, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Many good suggestions have already been posted. I’d add Le Bambou in Del Mar (superb Vietnamese), Spices Thai Cafe in Carmel Valley (near Del Mar), any of the several Vigilucci’s (the one in downtown Encinitas is best), and I second the idea of any Roberto’s for a quick snack. Some of the great seafood restaurants are gone but Jake’s Del Mar is still there, with its cheesy 70′s fern-bar atmosphere and collection of beautiful people.

My suggestions are a little more upscale than some other people’s and are well to the north of the city, but North County is worth exploring – it’s the prettiest part of San Diego and has the best restaurants.

Willitts December 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Studio Diner, 4701 Ruffin Rd, San Diego, CA 92123

You will likely need a car to get there.

Otherwise, cruise the gaslamp district.

Go to Coronado Island. The Coronado Hotel area is fun. There is a shopping district on the other side of the island where there is some decent BBQ.

The Anonymouse December 30, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Another native here. Lots of folks will recommend one or the other of the bunches of hipster gastropubs San Diego has. They all tend toward good local beer (awesome), and so-so overplayed food (not so awesome).

When I’m away and come back, what I crave most is a carne asada burrito from any one of the number of dingy independent Mexican fast-foodish places you’ll see around. They tend big–generally a lunch+ in itself–and consist of nothing but marinated steak and pico de gallo. Make sure you get some little tubs of salsa with it.

It makes me so sad when I order a burrito in any other city and get rice and beans inside it. Not only do I feel slightly cheated, but the rightful place for refries and rice is on my plate, next to the burrito.

Stop in, order, and fill up your little tubs at the salsa bar and munch on hot carrots while you wait. (San Diegans tend to call them hot carrots. They’re actually pickled, but they make a good snack while you wait for your food.) Let me reiterate (tri-iterate?) the recommendation that you generally can’t go wrong at a place named “(something)berto’s.” My favorite is El Cotixan, on Johnson in El Cajon, but there are many places that do it well.

If you ever get tired of carne asada burritos (who could?), move on to the carna asada fries. Think nachos, with fries instead of chips, with lots and lots of steak on top.

Now that I think of it, if you can get away from downtown and Mission Valley, the places you want to be for good strip mall/storefront food are along El Cajon Boulevard (most of which is not actually in El Cajon), in El Cajon proper, or up in Clairemont Mesa. San Diego is quite the car-friendly city, and it would take but a few minutes to get to any of these less-hip areas.

Adam December 30, 2012 at 6:58 pm

San Diegan burritos are really amazing. They spoil you.

Also, is it just me, or are the machaca burritos in San Diego unique? I love ‘em, but they have to be done well.

Matthew December 30, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Texcoco in Chula Vista and La Perla in Pacific Beach. Both are Mexican.

JoeSchmo December 30, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Skip everything in North Park, Hillcrest, South Park, Little Italy, and Downtown. These are all overrated self indulgent highly trendy “restaurants” with below average faire.

elalemever December 30, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Could somebody suggest for poor students? We will be stuck in the convention area and nearby, and we will neither time or money to drive around. Where do I find cheap and great mexican food, which won’t be make me sick before the interviews?

Adam Calhoun December 30, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Sadly for students, downtown is just a touristy dead zone. Find someone with a car who can get you out of there.

If you want a good drinking spot, try Monkey Paw.

Maybe take the bus south to Barrio Logan? It used to be dangerous but isn’t, really, anymore, and still has good cheap mexican.

colin December 30, 2012 at 7:23 pm

I second both points. Most of the places in and around the CC are making all their money on drinks and they don’t have much leftover for food. Rent is exorbitant and happy hour is really your only move. The busses are actually pretty decent and BL is the rare neighborhood separated by ethnic history rather than a valley, mountain or freeway so the commute shouldn’t be too bad.

Neil Alice December 31, 2012 at 1:28 am

Las Cuatro Milpas, in Barrio Logan. Take the 11 Bus from downtown for lunch get off before Cesar Chavez (if you’re under the bridge, you went too far; look for the line outside). Get the chorizo con huevo or maybe a pork taco. Save room for an empanada for dessert at the bakery on the corner.

Lolita’s isn’t in the same league, but it’s just across (NW side) from the ballpark and will save the bus fare. Little Italy is marginally cheaper than the rest of downtown, but you’ll be lucky to find anything worthwhile on a budget. Consider trying the to-go counter at the Sushi Deli, on Broadway near 1st.

Claudia December 30, 2012 at 7:41 pm

elalemever, sorry to say this is not your meetings for good meals…it’s yours to get a job. It’s okay if the interviewers have burrito breath (well not really), but you don’t want to be in a food coma. my advice is splurge on breakfast at your hotel (convenient fuel for the day) and pack some high-energy snacks and water. I was surprised how much running around I did and how tiring it was. at least the weather should be nicer for you than many other job market cohorts. best of luck in meeting your new colleagues!

Bill December 30, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Dear ealemever,

Re: Suggestion for Poor Economics Graduate Student Stuck in the Convention Area

Son, this is an opportunity to demonstrate that as an economics graduate student you have what it takes to be an academic economist.

Specifically, you should open up a Lemonade Stand and institute variable, or dynamic pricing; you should survey your customers and plot their utility functions for lemonade, and you should hire some illegal aliens to do the work.

I predict you will be hired by the University of Chicago or GMU.

Howl December 31, 2012 at 12:24 am

I’m not sure I see the occasion to be a jerk. The guy/lady was asking for food recs on a thread about San Diego food.

Bill December 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm

How is this being a jerk?

Lighten up.

Bill December 31, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Howl,

By the way, I actually agree with Claudia’s statement: this is not the time to eat; it is time to find a job! If I were advising ealemever on doing both, I would suggest he/she contact all of his/her prior academic advisors and faculty (his/her network, so to speak) and have those persons find out who is attending the conference and who is looking for a faculty hire. Then, I would target those persons (those persons hiring and friends of your advisor) for a “free” lunch or breakfast or dinner of their choice to discuss the open position.

Then, if you get a job, you can go back later and survey the food scene.

Adam Calhoun December 30, 2012 at 6:50 pm

I’m not a native, but I’ve lived here quite a while. San Diego food is, as a whole, incredibly mediocre. North Park/South Park/other neighborhoods around Balboa Park try hard to do the whole locavore, quality ingredients kind of thing but I think they tend to fail, or at least not succeed. I’m originally from Portland and every time I go back I remember how much higher the quality is for all the ‘gourmet’ type food there than San Diego.

But San Diego does have good food! And the kind that Tyler Cowen should love.

For some reason, Japanese food here is great. I’m not sure why, because we don’t have a large Japanese population, but I’d recommend any of the following: Okan, Sushi Ota, Izakaya Masa, Santouka Ramen, or Izakaya Sakura (with emphasis on the first two.) Sushi Ota is pretty amazing sushi, but I recently went to Hane Sushi in Old Town and had a great, reasonably priced experience, but I would want to go a few more times before I really recommend it over Sushi Ota.

San Diego also has a large Vietnamese population. My favorite is Pho Van, but there are tons of great places if you are willing to drive down El Cajon Blvd into City Heights (note: NOT El Cajon, the city).

Sab-e-lee is an amazing hole in the wall Issan Thai place, the spicy level goes to 10 with 3 being American average and 5 being Thai average (it gets very hot very quick).

There are not really any good Chinese or Indian places, imho; Spicy City is good sometimes and bad sometimes, it’s inconsistent. Chin’s makes good Taiwanese breakfast on the weekend. Annapurna makes South Indian that can vary between great and okay and Surati Farsan market makes decent dosas. The Ethiopian here is good, but I actually haven’t had it elsewhere so I can’t compare and don’t want to recommend!

You really should get fish tacos while you’re here. The best are from German Mariscos, but go to the trucks and not the restaurant. The one in City Heights used to be the best but it moved recently, so go to the one in South Park. Make sure to ask for the free seafood soup/broth while you wait. The 99c fish tacos are a staple and you should at least try one, but try some of the other tacos too; the gobernador is good, and the swordfish somehow will convince you that you’re eating pork!

Obviously while here you need to get mexican. Las Cuatro Milpas is the canonical authentic mexican, and I would suggest that Super Cocina is great, too; they really just care about their food and are more than willing to give you samples. Neither are typical ‘mexican’ restaurants. For tacos, I always love La Fachada and Tacos El Gordo.

Finally, if you are willing to explore there are three areas you should know: Convoy Street, which is ‘little asia’ (except for Vietnamese), Chula Vista is on the border and has great Mexican in general, and El Cajon has a huge Iraqi population. I haven’t eaten there yet, sadly, but keep meaning to. It’s worth trying.

I think I wrote too much.

Jacob Lyles December 30, 2012 at 9:54 pm

I second the fish tacos recommendation. It’s a local specialty, and each restaurant has its own take. On Tuesdays, most every restaurant in the city has some sort of special for “taco tuesday”.

Jacob Grier December 30, 2012 at 6:52 pm

My limited exploration of SD was mostly drink driven, but I would return in a heartbeat to Lion’s Share, a fairly new spot driven by game meats. A friend and I enjoyed the sausage board, which was excellent. If we hadn’t already eaten elsewhere we’d have tried much more.
http://lionssharesd.com/menu.html

Any beer lovers in the group will want to visit Toronado. Craft and Commerce and Noble Experiment were both great for cocktails, and Bird Rock for coffee.

Adam Calhoun December 30, 2012 at 6:57 pm

For coffee I’d recommend a great place that only just opened up called Coffee & Tea Collective. It’s downright amazing. I second Craft & Commerce (they’re the ones with the yelp reviews in the bathroom, though I haven’t actually heard it yet.)

Sebastian H December 30, 2012 at 7:01 pm

For budget Mexican: Mama testa. It has excellent cuisine from southern Mexico. The ambiance is not amazing, so don’t go for that.

For everyone: Eclipse chocolat on el cajon blvd (for the next two week until they move to their expanded digs). It is a world class chocolate shop/ dessert place. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve taken picky Germans and Belgians there, and they requested we go back when I saw them again….

Jim Gerber December 30, 2012 at 7:31 pm

I am assuming that you can find these places on your smart phone.

The Gaslamp Quarter, near the convention hotels, has lots of good food. Like most tourist destinations, however, it is a bit expensive and there is some tendency to turn over tables as quick a possible. Just outside Gaslamp are Chloe Café (French/California, moderately priced) and the Gran Tapa.

For those on a modest budget, there are a series of Mexican take-outs: Robertos, Adibertos, Alibertos, Filibertos, etc. You’ll get more pounds of food per dollar than any other places. Beware the California Burrito which has carne asada, french fries, guacamole and comes without a cardiac arrest warning. Better Mexican food is available: one of my favorites is Cantina Mayahuel which has generous tacos, a nightly mole and 50-60 tequilas, sotols, mescals, jarochos, and bacanoras. Standard Mexican fare of a middle-class variety is available in Old Town. Old Town Café is overrated but revered by many, expecially for their carnitas, and is not expensive. Old Town has many others (eg El Agave) with more or less the standard enchiladas, tacos, burritos, etc. Many tend to be a bit high-priced for tortillas, beans, rice, and some chicken. One place that is not expensive and a bit different is Berta’s Latin American Café ($12-$15).

El Cajon Blvd has—or is seeking—a “Little Vietnam” designation for the area between Euclid and Highland Avenues. A very good, inexpensive Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant is Saigon. About a mile away, closer to town is Pho Hoa, my favorite pho restaurant. (Across the street is Pho King, run by an immigrant with little knowledge of how Americans pronounce Vietnamese or with a sense of humor.)

The other part of town with good ethnic food—Chinese, Korean, Japanese—is Convoy Avenue, south of Claremont Ave. Spicy City has excellent Szechwan, and the Dumpling Inn has Cantonese dumplings. Both are busy and often very crowded with Chinese speaking locals. Dumpling Inn is next to Jasmine, a large Chinese restaurant which is best for dim sum. There are dozens of other places nearby.

There are a couple of good Salvadorean restaurants, especially El Salvador Pupuseria y Restaurante and El Salvadoreño. Both very inexpensive.

For fish there is upscale and medium scale: Point Loma Seafoods is “a order at the counter, eat outside”; Sea Rocket Bistro is a nice little place with good fresh fish (about $18 for an entrée); the Fish Market is near Seaport Village on the water, kind of expensive but not bad if you avoid the upstairs; and Blue Point Coastal Cuisine is in the Gaslamp, expensive, and delicious.

San Diego has its share of upscale, expensive places with French or Italian cuisine, but one place definitely worth the price is the Wine Vault and Bistro. Thursday nights it is 3 courses for $20 and wine pairings for $15. Friday and Saturday it is $20 for five courses (portions are small). The chef is one of the best in San Diego. Also, a personal favorite is George’s at the Cove in La Jolla. The best deal is the outside terrace. Both places require reservations.

The intersection of University Ave and 5th is the heart of Hillcrest and has many good places nearby. Afgahnistani food at a moderate price is at the Khyber Pass; there are Indian and Thai and other cuisines nearby, mostly at moderate prices.

If you can go to Tijuana….well, that is a whole other story.

Bill December 30, 2012 at 7:43 pm

The question I have is why you do not use Yelp?

Is there no wisdom in crowds,

Or is the act of making the request just signalling?

Or, do you think economists are better at finding good places to eat?

Most of the economists I know eat sandwiches at their desk. Even well paid economic experts.

Ask an investment banker instead because their clients are paying the dinner tab.

Jonathan December 30, 2012 at 9:58 pm

First of all, you’re right. I do eat sandwiches at my desk. But I need to get out every evening.
Yelp is the wisdom of crowds about whom you know nothing. That’s great for finding an average, not so great for finding a reiable outlier. Tyler’s bleg subsets to a the set of people who read his blog (and probably his ethnic dining guide as well). This automatically improves on what Yelp can do, since in a typical Yeal search you have to divine acumen from syntax, which is quite a bit less trustworthy than depending on people who know something of what Tyler is saying.

There is actually an important point there as to the wisdom of crowds. It’s not that economists know more about food than, say, plumbers. But they know a lot more about the food economists (and Tyler) like than plumbers do.

Bill December 30, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Re: “Yelp is the wisdom of crowds about whom you know nothing. That’s great for finding an average, not so great for finding a reiable outlier.”

Is it just me, but I think Yelpers are concerned about their reputations for finding what “the average crowd” does not find, particularly outliers. I do have some rules in reading Yelp reviews, however. First, discount any negative comment from a person from NYC. They are just signalling with their negative comment that they know something in the Village that is so much better, etc. Second, ignore any review written by a person eating at the restaurant celebrating an occaision: happiness in one realm rubs off on the food. Third, ignore comments about service by persons who do not seem to be concerned about the food, unless EVERYONE comments on the service or the service affects the food quality. Fourth, avoid YELP postings where the main comments are about the wine and liquor because they are probably too drunk to taste the food. And, finally, look particularly closely at reviews by persons with foreign names reviewing restaurants associated with their ethnicity.

Bill December 30, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Instead of asking economists, what you should do is ask culinary arts students and young chefs where they recommend eating.

Specifically, egullett (a forum for chefs) has a discussion board where you can ask where the chefs and chef students recommend eating in a specific city. Here is an example for Barcelona: http://forums.egullet.org/topic/101095-barcelona-restaurant-recommendations/

Regarding asking economists for restaurant recommendations: Could you imagine asking Adam Smith where a good place would be to eat haggis? Or, Milton Friedman’s recommendations? Or Paul Krugman’s?

Ian December 30, 2012 at 8:11 pm

The two things San Diego does particularly well are burritos and beer. Get a California Burrito, it almost doesn’t matter where, try a few different places. In Point Loma I prefer Adelberto’s, Ortiz’s and Santana’s (now Fresh MXN). Hamilton’s tends to have the widest selection for beers on tap, but most places have a decent selection. Keep an eye out for local breweries: Stone, Alesmith, Green Flash, Ballast Point, Coronado, Karl Straus, Mission, Lost Abbey/Port Brewing.

Blake December 30, 2012 at 9:11 pm

El Cuervo tacqueria in Hillcrest. Go for lunch. No tourists, mostly just docs & nurses on lunch break.

Go with the ‘Carne Asada Mix’ burrito. I’ve traveled widely, and eaten a lot (way too many) burritos but haven’t run across their uniquely delicious take anywhere else. It includes, among other things, very small cuts of carrot. If your appetite is sufficient you’ll also be happy with a plate of their rolled tacos.

Will Baude December 30, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Oscar’s Mexican Seafood– Smoked fish tacos. This is a hole-in-the-wall where most of the seating is at a counter on the sidewalk, but it does a brisk business because the food is incredible. Not a traditional Baja-style fried fish taco, but delicious. The rotating agua frescas are usually good (I like banana), and the ceviche and fish stew are also outstanding.

Tacos El Gordo– The best place to get non-fish tacos. Usually packed, and a little chaotic, but the best place to get tacos al pastor / adobada north of Tijuana.

Tajima Noodle House– there are a ton of delicious Japanese and Korean places on Convoy street in Clairmont Mesa, but Tajima Noodle House is the best one I’ve been to.

David December 30, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Tilted Kilt. Sometimes it’s okay to accept spotty food in exchange for other amenities.

Mike December 31, 2012 at 2:12 am

… Gazing over a sea of silicone, the mind naturally goes to economics.

But seriously, the best breakfast in town is at Snooze.

Jacob Lyles December 30, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Spend time in the Hillcrest neighborhood. The Crest cafe is a lovely diner with eccentric specialty recipes. For breakfast, the Hash House and Bread & Cie cafe are worth your time.

San Diego also has a great beer scene. Check out the Blind Lady.

Brandon December 30, 2012 at 10:21 pm

I also second the recommendation for Las Cuatro Milpas near downtown for authentic Mexican, as well as El Cotixan in Clairemont Mesa.

I would also recommend a favorite of my wife’s and mine in La Jolla called The Cottage for a great breakfast or lunch.

Finally, I would recommend Extraordinary Desserts on Fifth Ave. west of Balboa Park for a fantastic nightcap.

Alex Kessinger December 30, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Taco Surf in PB offers the quintessential surfer mexican food. Been around forever. I personally recommend the Tortilla Soup, the best I have ever had.

Hassan December 30, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Spicy City
Hodad’s
Village Indian
Harare Ethiopian
Whisknadle
Alborz
Pho Ca Dao
Bandar

pollycharlie December 30, 2012 at 11:25 pm

People have covered pretty much everything. These are a couple good blogs about food in San Diego.
http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/
http://convoyconquest.blogspot.com/

Adam Calhoun December 31, 2012 at 12:03 am

Oh man, I meant to recommend mmm-yoso as well. Oh well, seconded.

And thanks for the convoy conquest link, I hadn’t seen that, it looks pretty interesting and exciting ;) I hope they extend that to stuff on mercury and kearny mesa and such too

James December 31, 2012 at 1:23 am

If you happen to be near Encinitas, a half hour north on the 5 from the convention center.
El Nopalito, Not a chain, my favorite. Great Carne Asada Tacos. The Steam table has pork slow cooked with nopalito(cactus) and chillies – the BEST.
La Especial Norte, more up scale, still good food.
Bety’s Tacos Restaurant, another place worth going to.
Angelo’s burgers- the best carne asada taco’s in a classic dump of a drive in. You got to go here just to see it. It is a cultural icon.

somaguy December 31, 2012 at 1:42 am

Surprised this hasn’t been mentioned – Wa Okan. Best non-sushi Japanese food I’ve had outside of Japan. Needs reservations up front (one day ahead will do) and not great for groups > 4 but very, very good and interesting selection.

Greg Brooks December 31, 2012 at 2:39 am

If you’re downtown, Mexico City Tacos — little hole-in-the-wall spot with GREAT street-style tacos on the cheap.

RPLong December 31, 2012 at 9:19 am

Tyler, I really hope you’re still reading these comments, because for once I think I have an answer to one of your blegs that is actually worth a damn.

The best burrito I have ever eaten in my entire life was made in a tiny little shack called “Ramiro’s,” near the beach. Do try to find it if you have time.

lgs December 31, 2012 at 9:25 am

If you’re willing to drive 20 mins to La Mesa, try Marieta’s, which is very good sit-down, family style Mexican. I grew up in El Cajon and have eaten there for 30+ years, going back every time I visit San Diego.

Roger December 31, 2012 at 10:17 am

The thing which makes San Diego special is to be found in the surf culture. You can get Mexican, seafood or local beer throughout the US. The key to REALLY experiencing San Diego is to visit this novel subculture. You can do so by getting a burger at Bare Backs Cafe in Pacific Beach, or better yet, virtually anywhere on highway 101 in Encinitas. D street Bar and grill is one example. Swamis cafe for breakfast is another.

Surf culture isn’t about expensive food. It is usually real cheap, frequently southwestern influenced (lots of fish tacos and burritos).

Chris December 31, 2012 at 10:25 am

I lived in San Diego for 7 years and think food was pretty well covered by previous commenters. One exception, that I would add to the list of far-afield is La Especial Norte in Encinitas.

Breweries, however, were not well covered. Here’s where to go. (N.B. None are directly downtown; you’ll need a car to get to them. All have tasting rooms, but check the hours.)

Societe — Simply outstanding
AleSmith Brewing Co. — Also outstanding, very hard to find outside of San Diego
White Labs — If you brew your own beer, chances are you’ve bought your yeast from them. Their beer isn’t quite as good as Societe, but the atmosphere is great.
Rough Draft — Pretty excellent, and typifies the San Diego small brewery experience
Stone Brewing Co. — The “classic” San Diego microbrew. Very, very hoppy.
Green Flash Brewing Co. — A better version of Stone, but without the hype or the lines
Ballast Point Co.
Coronado Brewing Co.

Michael Martin December 31, 2012 at 11:12 am

Garlic fish filet at the Dumpling Inn on Claremont Mesa

Karen Krasne (unique dessert experience) near Balboa Park

Bronx Pizza in Hillcrest

Pannikin and DG Wills

beau valtz December 31, 2012 at 12:15 pm

There are plenty of fine-enough restaurants in SD but if you like Mexican, go to Super Cocina at 3627 University. Read the yelp reviews: http://www.yelp.com/biz/super-cocina-san-diego . I don’t live in Sd but I visit three times a year and always go to this place. I spent a decade in the Bay area and love Mexican food. This is the most serious down-home such food I’ve seen since I left the Bay. It’s cheap and very, very good: the guy who does the cooking is quiet and sweet but proud into his food: he’ll offer you repeated little cups of the many, many sauces he makes as you move down the counter, deciding what to get. I would be very surprised if there were another Mexican restaurant as good in the central SD area.

CX Edwards December 31, 2012 at 1:36 pm

There are so many Mexican restaurants here that it is important to pick something on the right side of the bell curve. For normal Mexican food (like all the other taco shops) I would pick Benny’s in South Park. Maybe Colimas in North Park. For more interesting Mexican food, the absolute best food in town is Super Cocina on University. It meets all the Economist Gets Lunch requirements.
Also, if you want to spend more and you’re not into Mexican, I recommend the Khyber Pass in Hillcrest. It’s high end Afghan cuisine which is interesting and they’re definitely not paying the bills with alcohol which, as other commenters have suggested, is very common in San Diego.
San Diego is a tourist town, and I know you know to avoid any place tourists go (though Old Town can be fine).
Good luck and tell us where you did eat and how you liked it.
Enjoy.

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