We LOVED San Diego and had so much fun we know already we must return one day. We ate at the following restaurants:
Casa de Pico, which I just had to try after having read so many comments both positive and negative about it. We loved it! We were told the wait would be 30 minutes for patio seating and we decided to try it. We got tortillas from the tortilla maker who works for tips there in the line. I make all my own bread, so I enjoyed watching her. They were delicious, too. The wait only ended up being 15 minutes. I got the carne asada de juan which was wonderful. I also ordered a birdbath margarita and could only drink a 1/4 of it. It was quite good, but it was potent and I knew my vacation would be spent face down if I finished it! My kids were happy with their burritos. We adored Old Town, I only wish we had more time to spend there. We never did get to the Mission Presidio as jet lag was setting in by then. We did stop by the little bakery and split a churro three ways after lunch. We also got some croissants that help up fairly well considering we kept them in our hotel room for two days before we ate them.
Armando's the Green Flash in Pacific Beach- the wait was lengthy, in fact, ironically much longer than for Casa de Pico. However; we were able to wait out on the seawall taking in a nice sunset. We also met a 23 yr old parrot and his owner and well, that was enough entertainment not to care how long we were actually waiting. Two of us ordered king crab, one ordered shrimp and we shared. Dungeness was not offered at any restaurant we ate at so we didn't get to try that. The king crab at this restaurant were pretty standard and about what we can get here near Washington, DC. The veggies were fresh and when we didn't want their vegetable medley, they were happy to cook us up some broccoli instead. It was steamed exactly as I would have done it at home- just til it turns deep green and off goes the heat. We liked the big outdoor heaters that they have, we didn't like the size of the table or the x shaped big legs underneath. We also didn't like the Walmart-style plastic chairs on the patio. All in all, we were uncomfortable in our seats. The chairs were just icky and I could not find a place for my feet to rest under the table with those big legs in the way. Otherwise, we like the atmosphere, the view, the wait staff and even the other diners who all looked like they were having fun. I would eat here again, but it is not a gourmet hotspot by any stretch of the imagination.
World Famous- we walked over there, were told there was an hour wait. The restaurant was dark and didn't look very clean. I didn't like the look of the menu and was concerned that it was connected to a Best Western Hotel which doesn't always make me think of clean either. The place gave me the willies! We called a taxi from their front porch and went to;
The Fishery on Cass St- Their Alaskan King Crab legs were sold to us right out of their seafood counter and cooked up specially for us. They hadn't appeared on the menu. When we asked, they delivered. They were so big in size compared to the ones we'd gotten at Armando's that I questioned whether they were dungeonesss. The crab was fresh, sweet and just perfect. We were in heaven! We got the best sourdough bread there! Just the right tang and a nice chewy, hard crust with a good crumb. We ate two basketsful and just didn't order a starchy side. For sides instead we got freshly sauteed baby spinich and steamed broccoli. Both were perfect. If I am a food snob about anything, it is for three things, fish, veggies and bread. I was most impressed with all three.
Wild Animal Park- we just got burgers and fries, but they were not as I had dreaded they might be. We were satisfied. Incidentally, the Wild Animal Park's photo safari was the highlight of our trip. We took a big truck right down into the compound and were able to feed and touch a mama rhino and her baby. They ate apple slices. They just came right up to us with BIG wide open mouths and we dropped the slices in. Also, we got to feed the giraffes, including a young 'un. They ate red "dog biscuits" with their big slurpy tongues. We were told not to pet them, but they were nuzzling us! It was the experience of a lifetime!
SeaWorld- Breakfast with Shamu- There were extensive choices and most of the seating was right next to the whale tank. It was an all you can eat affair and was not as bad as I had envisioned. I would skip the following were I to return: the eggs and the pork and egg mexican dish (that was the worst!), also the muffins were lousy. However; the french toast was edible, bacon and sausages ok, the fruit was quite fresh and very good and the coffee was worth a second cup. My kids liked the mini croissants. I didn't try them. Got good pics of all the shamu doing their thing. It was a nice morning.
Gringo's-(in Pacific Beach) I adored this place! I understand that it used to be an Irish restaurant and it is located next to Dairy Queen in the 4400 block of Mission Blvd. Clearly, they completely gutted the old restaurant for this one. The decor features modern wooden tables and chairs, big cozy round tables with ample spacing between the seat and the table. There is sort of an exhibition style kitchen with the tortilla maker front and center in the window. They had a great choice of specialty margaritas. I got the oceana and my 12 year old got a virgin classic margarita enjoying the fancy glass. They both ordered carne asada burritos which they happily enjoyed. They looked quite good. I had the worst time trying to decide what to get because there was so much that looked interesting. I ended up ordering chicken tamales, because I just had a feeling they might be the best I had ever had and they were. They were beautifully plated, too. The sauce was brick red with ancho chiles and was also delicious. Our waiter and the hostess were terrific. I only wish I could bring this entire restaurant home with me to place on a nearby street corner!!
George's at the Cove-La Jolla- the upstairs terrace. I think this place is over-rated based on the reviews I read. I ended up envious of the plates I saw at Alphonso's when we were leaving. A lot is made about the view from George's. We got a seat right at the edge of the terrace next to the glass. Yes, La Jolla Cove is very pretty, but to one side the view was obstructed by a building, and straight out in front whereas we saw a pretty cove, we also had to look at at least three ugly rooftops of other buildings. This to me does not spell best view in town. The tacos were ok, but they were overpriced and there was probably a 1/8 lb of mahi mahi between the two tacos. If we hadn't had dessert, I would have left hungry. They also served this dish with mango chunks and cabbage in the taco ( a good thing) and chips colored with bright red and bright green food coloring ( a bad thing). My kids are burger buffs and it was the only thing on the menu they would eat. I warned the waiter in advance they are not into charred burgers. Well, they came quite charred. Another server brought them out to us and was visibly miffed when I politely pointed that out to him. Our waiter was a good fellow though and he set that guy straight. I still thought for such a place of that sort of reputation that his open display was unprofessional. They did finally get acceptable burgers, but of course that meant we ate dinner in "shifts" which is on my list of unfavorite things to do in any restaurant. My daughter who is allergic to dairy and eggs was allergic to every last thing on the dessert menu. I had the snickers pie which was good and the other daughter had a brownie a la mode with sliced bananas that were supposedly caramelized (they didn't look it). There was chocolate and caramel sauce on it. The brownie was dry. I personally, would not eat here again. My bill was $57 not including our 15-20% tip. I can eat far better elsewhere for that sort of money. I think I spent less for that wonderful dinner at Alphonso's in fact.
Atoll Restaurant at the Catamaran Resort Hotel-We ordered room service on our first night there because we were too tired to go out. Our waiter arrived smiling and singing! He was such a sweetheart! We just got burgers, fruit and salads. Everything was fresh, salad greens were tender and young. As tired as we were, this meal was welcome- after all we'd only been up for 19 hours by the time we ate! We also had breakfast here on the last day. We had wanted to go to the Mission, but we had a 9:30 am pickup and just could not make that work out. This time we ate in the dining room. My kids got croissants and fruit and had fun running around bayside taking pics and collecting shells beforehand. The wait staff was very friendly and because they were not very busy entertained me with conversation since I was sitting alone waiting for the food to arrive. I got an omelet with my own choice of filling: chorizo, onions, cheddar and mushrooms. There were potatoes on the side and sourdough toast. It was pretty good, but a bit overpriced for what it was. I didn't expect differently though and given our time constraints this was all fine. On the subject of the catamaran itself, the room was clean and spacious, staff was very nice. grounds were lovely, lush and tropical. They advertised that they had parrots and macaws. We only saw ducks. For 4 days we looked for the birds and were told they were sleeping. I suspect they are dead! The biggest disappointment with this place though was the fact that the water in the show was not regulated properly. I complained after the second day, and for 3 days in a row. On the last day instead of being suddenly scalded to death we were iced! For this reason alone, I would think twice about staying there again. The neighborhood really WAS a bit seedy, too though I was not afraid of it either. All in all, we loved San Diego. I also regret not having gotten the time to go to Balboa Park and Coronado. We drove past the flower fields in Carlsbad on a tour bus and I would have given my right arm to stop there a while!