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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

San Diego Eats

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Ryan and I love to travel, and we've made it a goal to do so as much as possible before we add any little ones to our family. Last March we went on a fabulous trip to Arizona with some of our best friends and in September we're headed to Boston and Kennebunkport, Maine. We decided not to take any trips this summer because it was already so busy with other activities and several mini-trips to Illinois for graduations, parties, and races. But then Ryan discovered he needed to take a week-long trip to San Diego for work. What started out as a "what if" conversation turned into a flurry of planning, cashing in frequent flyer miles (thanks Lynn!), and before we knew it, we had a mini-getaway before us.

I love the networks created through Twitter & blogging, especially for things like traveling. Beth, while now in Nashville, used to live in San Diego and was able to offer us some great recommendations. Between her help and my love for google research, Ryan and I have a fabulous weekend in San Diego and managed to fit a LOT into our few days there. While I don't want to bore you with a play-by-play of our trip, I do want to highlight a few of the places we ate. I love reading reviews and other blogger accounts of restaurants before trying a place, so hopefully this post will help somebody planning a trip to San Diego sometime! Bear with me...it's a long one...

Ryan and I were staying at the Embassy Suites at the edge of the Gaslamp District. We had no choice over our hotel, as it was covered by the company, but it was awesome. They had both a daily free happy hour (2 hours long, with snacks) and a daily free breakfast (including a made to order omelet station). We obviously took advantage of both!

Our good meals included sushi at Taka, in the Gaslamp District and Greek food at Cafe Athena. Taka was a random stop in; we just needed a quick bite to eat before the Padres game and I had a      craving for sushi. However, we both thought the sushi was good and the service was fast. We had a seat by the window and enjoyed watching the crowds in the Gaslamp District. Cafe Athena came about because Ryan is on a major lamb kick these days. Readers of San Diego Magazine listed Cafe Athena as their favorite so we decided to check it out. The location and restaurant themselves weren't anything special, but the menu was huge and we all (Ryan's co-workers joined us this night) loved our meals. We ordered a large sampler platter of appetizers and got to try a variety of interesting things. My gyro sandwich was gigantic and perfectly seasoned. The gyro meat wasn't the least bit greasy either! I don't have any pictures of our meal that night, but I definitely recommend this spot if you're in the area and want some good Greek food.

Our great meal was George's on the Cove , a three-level restaurant on the water in La Jolla. We ate at the top level, Ocean Terrace, and had a very informative, very attentive server. The drinks were great, our watermelon and tomato salad was to die for, and we both had excellent meals. Ryan had the potato gnocchi (with lamb, surprise surprise) and I got the grilled vegetable skewer with tabbouleh. Check out the awesome presentation below! This is a highly acclaimed restaurant in the San Diego area and I can definitely see why!

Our best meal in San Diego was at a little hole in the wall place known as Zia's Gourmet Pizza. I discovered this place after reading the glowing reviews on Yelp. The menu was intriguing and Ryan was game for a random adventure so we wrote down directions and were on our way. What this place lacked in style and decor, it made up for in taste! I cannot say enough good things about Zia's. For starters, the employees were incredibly helpful and genuinely nice. We had the privilege to chat with the owner, who graciously answered my (probably excessive) questions about the history of the restaurant (okay, okay and I wanted him to give me his crust recipe..). We loved the seemingly odd combinations they piled on their pizzas and their dedication to creating healthy, but tasty dinners.  I love pizza, and I'm not terribly picky when it comes to pizza, but this truly was some of the best pizza I've ever had. We started out with a cucumber salad, also excellent (and I'll be attempting to recreate soon!) and tried two types of pizza: the Sweet Southern French (chicken marinated in lemon-garlic sauce with feta, caramelized pears, walnuts, and mozzarella) and the Eggplant (oven-roasted eggplant with scallions, tomatoes, a variety of herbs, dried cranberries, fresh garlic, mozzarella, and a savory yogurt sauce). Sounds pretty crazy right? I'm telling you, they were magical! I tried to convince the owner to set up a Zia's in St. Louis, but he told me I'd just have to try and recreate at home :) And try I will! Stay tuned for that sometime! Check out the rest of their menu and if you're ever in San Diego, don't miss pizza at Zia's!

Our favorite meal was at Marisco's German Taco Truck. Another Yelp find, we were on the hunt for the best fish tacos in all of San Diego. Marisco's did not disappoint. This was as authentic as you can get: a small truck, menu written in Spanish on the side of the truck, and parked in a dusty lot. It was full of local customers who were impressed that us obvious tourists had discovered it. For $12 we got a ton of food: two fish tacos (which are only 99 cents each!), a shrimp tostada, and two mariscos (ie. enormous amounts of seafood) tacos...plus two cups of free "soup" (seafood broth with shrimp & potatoes) that they give all of their customers. All I can say is WOW. This food was fresh and packed with flavor. I was full for a good eight hours after we devoured this meal!

Finally, our obsession whilst in San Diego was Pinkberry. Frozen yogurt is no stranger to us, but we have never had frozen yogurt like this. I managed to visit 3 times in the 4 days I was there. Ryan additionally went twice without me. I'm not afraid to admit there were several days we contemplated two trips in one day and we once went for lunch. The froyo flavors were much more basic than what is typically offered (only four: original, chocolate, mango, and watermelon), but all were excellent and the fresh fruit & other inventive toppings were so much better than what we're used to. Maybe it was our vacation mindset, maybe it was the San Diego air, but we could not get enough Pinkberry! We may or may not have discussed planning future vacations around Pinkberry locations...

So there you have it, lots of wonderful San Diego eats! Congrats if you made it all the way through this! In addition to eating, we went to a Padres game, visited the zoo, hiked Cowles Mountain, toured the USS Midway museum, and did a wine tasting/tour at  Orfila Vineyards. Please email me (natalie.mclaury@gmail.com) if you have any questions about anything; I'm so grateful when others help us in our vacation planning and I'd be happy to share our experiences!

Zia Gourmet Pizza on Urbanspoon
George's California Modern on Urbanspoon
Cafe Athena on Urbanspoon
Taka on Urbanspoon