Wednesday, May 2, 2012

San Diego

Real life has really gotten in the way of my blogging... nothing really in the way of cooking for the past couple weeks, as we've really eaten out quite a bit. Obviously being at a conference doesn't give one much choice, but it's still not ideal... and since I've gotten back I've been much more inclined to order a pizza than make dinner. Anyway, I'm going to give a brief overview where we ate (Anna came with me for this trip)... with the caveat that I'm not a restaurant reviewer, and one good/bad experience doesn't make or break a restaurant. However I know lots of people go to conferences in San Diego and tend to spend all their time in the Gaslamp district... and I already did the legwork by making lists from Chowhound threads so I thought I'd share it. We were basically looking for entrees in the $20-30 range (or less) with decent looking vegetarian option. Not being total idiots we did tend to prioritize Mexican food.

The Hopping Pig
Not actually on my list to visit... we were just wandering around a little dazed after our West Coast flight and picked it out.. I think because it said "beer" and "gastropub" on the menu which maybe isn't the best criteria. It was crowded on a Saturday night, but eventually we did get a table and just did tacos, sweet potato fries, and beer. Everything was great. Was pretty loud, so not the best choice if you want a quiet chat.

Cafe 21
After saying all that about doing my research, this was another spur of the moment choice... dictated by only having a bit of time after watching talks and needing to stand in front of my poster to meet up with Anna for brunch. She had a great meal, but mine was pretty disappointing. The omelet had pieces of shell in it, and I'm just... very particular about my omelets I guess. They prepared it in this little cast iron pan which was cute and all, but more like a frittata than an omelet. Despite this I would probably go back since they seemed to have lots of options... I just would stick with crepes.

My favorite dinner of the entire trip. I assembled a meal solely from small plates that included chicharrones, ceviche tacos, and beef cheek tacos. Believe it or not I'd never had pork rinds... so the chicharrones were pretty interesting, but it was definitely the tacos that were eyeopening. I especially liked the ceviche ones because the acid made them much lighter than your typical taco. Totally recommend that place.

Rockin' Baja Coastal Cantina
This is not a great restaurant. Once again this was a lunch where I was limited time wise, and on this occasion I went into the first vaguely Mexican place I saw. Got a seafood enchilada and it was a'ight. Probably better than I had any right to expect from a place that appears to specialize in "Baja Buckets"... whatever they are... and more evidence that the worst tacos in San Diego may in fact be better than the best in Boston.

La Puerta
We went there more for "all night happy hour" (always a little strange being that Boston allows no such things) than food, but it was still a good choice. The guacamole and flautitas were great while the street tacos were merely "very good"... got cochinita, pastor, and ranchero shrimp and they were all delicious.

An onsite dinning option at the convention center that was dictated, once again, by lack of time. Never eat here. Though being that I had probably the worst burrito I've ever had (yes, worse than a microwave bean burrito) it did prove that there is no mystical force causing all Mexican food served in San Diego to be delicious.

This was not a bad meal by any means, but based on the entree price I think we were expecting a little more... also because it's apparently a sister restaurant to Saltbox which we obviously enjoyed (but we did not know this at the time of making our reservation). In addition, the server was a little pushy with the option of adding lobster tails to dishes(is this a thing?) when she learned I was going to be reimburssed. I will say the seared butterfish (a fish I had never tried) was excellent however.

A little out of the way relative to the Gaslamp, but since it had such a wide variety of vegetarian Mexican options we felt like it was worth a trip on the way to the zoo. Definitely the cheapest place we ate, with very large portions... I ordered a torta and a fish taco and felt like I was going to explode afterward. An interesting vibe to the place since it's kind of punk rock/Mexican/vegetarian... presumably popular with the kids after the bars close, but the service is on the slow side. I wouldn't say the food was spectacular, but it was solid... mainly worth a trip for a vegetarian.

Las Hadas
A quick dinner before catching our red eye back to the East Coast... it's right next to La Puerta and didn't seem to be quite as good. In fact I don't even really remember what I ordered, but it was probably fish tacos. Might have been a little burned out from the zoo I guess... but what was memorable was a flyer announcing doors at 5 and drinks starting at 6 AM for their upcoming Cinco de Mayo festivities... and I thought Bostonians on St. Patty's Day were a disaster.

So that's that. I'll finish off here is a slideshow from our visit to said San Diego zoo:

Notice the bonobos, which are of particular interest to us here at Chimpanzee Tea Party, where this visit was the first time I'd ever seen them in person.

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