this is for you, e.d.!
had an incredible vacation in san diego. My buddy lives out there and showed me around. My buddy is NOT into food and cooking like iam--- he's a meat and taters kinda guy, but humored me and took me to some of the places you all recommended.
The original Pancake house DOES have incredible stuff. My buddy and i split an apple pancake. we were obviously uninitiated, because we both ordered eggs to go with it. big mistake. basdically, the pancake is just eggs, sugar and apples--- perhaps with a little flour somewhere. eggs were a moot point. The souffle-like pancake was quite good, tho Shane thought it was weird.
we went to this complex of touristy mexican restaurants (near the museums, i think), where it's all outdoor seating, crushed ice cocktails, expensive and generic mex food. can't remember the name of the place we finally managed to get a seat at. it was lame.
had some good mexican at a funky healthy place (near ocean beach) that had 20 tables and one waiter. Took awhile to get seat and service, but the food was good lots of veggie/vegan stuff. was surprised to only find beef and chicken tamales, out on the east coast they're all pork. great mole sauce, verde enchiladas, etc
We had breakfast at Margarita's on OB one morn, decent shrimp omelettes, and the omnipresent tamale on the side (i had tamales everywhere). good service. food just okay.
enjoyed carne asada tacos at Rodea mex food on OB.
Had an excellent and cheap dinner at Phuong Trang on Convoy. it took some arm-twisting to get shane to come out there, but we weren't sorry. the shrimp and sugar cane was a disappointment--- i was expecting ground shrimp grilled on a length of cane. instead, we got a pressed, together mixture of soft stuff that tasted very vaguely of shrimp. The fresh rolls were very good (i ordered a bunch extra for my long flight back to fla.), but the bbq pork rolls were a bit strange. The bbq pork was just slices of kielbasa or some kind of hot dog. but the rest of the food, the pho, and so on was great. and it only cost a little over $20 with beers.
the finest moments, without a doubt, were in mexico itself. skipped TJ and went straight for Rosarito. but first, we hit Puerto Nuevo, a coastal fishing village/tourist trap with about 20 restaurants on about 2 city blocks. can't remember the name, but had a truly incredibly seafood feast at an informal little place. ordered a 6 pack of tecatew, and it was promptly brought out in an iced bucket. The margarita was small and strong--- the way cocktails SHOULD be. Huge lobsters and shrimp, grilled to perfection, with all u can eat hand made tortillas, rice and refried beans. No bean paste here--- just beans in a great dark sauce. mex rice was mild and not salty. in fact, nothing was salty. ahhh.
had acrnitas for breakfast at a hole in the wall restaurant. chewy, dry pork, but with great flavor. our mex friends had huge goblets of a clamato/beer mixture--- the mex hangover cure.
ate lots of mex food in SD, but didn't take notivce of the names. screw tex mex, i like the carne asada (no ground mystery meat) with the fresh and simple salsa (tomato, onion, cilantro) and guacamole.
wish i could be more specific, but i was having sooo much fun i didn't have much time to think. Thanks, everyone, for the advice. I hope to make my vacations out there an annual thing, so hopefully i can try all the places i missed.