Tommie and I are planning our first trip back to San Diego since we left 18 months ago. To give you a sense of our travel priorities, we haven't booked our flights yet and we haven't made our hotel reservations, but we have compiled a list of must-hit restaurants.
Here's a short list of local eateries we intend to visit and which we would highly recommend to anyone living in San Diego or vacationing there. There are a lot of good restaurants in San Diego, and it should be noted that our personal criteria for these must-hit restaurants is based on two things: well-made, unique food for a very good price.
Sushi Deli: Located in Hillcrest, Downtown, and Clairemont, the secret about this place has been out for a while....it's always busy. That's because they offer good sushi for extremely good prices. We used to wait in line before they even opened and get whole platters of sashimi and nigiri for about $.99 - $1.50 a piece.
El Indio: Located at the bottom of Mission Hills (close to Old Town), this place was featured on The Food Network's "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" and we know why. They have a way of packing the most deliciously seasoned pulled chicken into a tortilla shell and frying it just right so that it's not too hard or too soft. And it's not San Diego without good Mexican.
Vagabond: This eclectic little place is in our old neighborhood of South Park and offers a kind of world-food fusion menu. The best time to go is during lunch when you can get a reasonably priced panini with their most delicious pom frites and bread with garlic aoli butter...I don't know what's in this stuff is, but it's amazing.
Crest Cafe: A funky place in Hillcrest that offers a unique twist on home style recipes. This place convinced me to like mangos and brie cheese in a quesidilla (it's one of their appetizers). Tommie's family loves their "East Texas Fried Chicken" (a buttermilk, garlic, jalapeno and tobasco batter). Crest Cafe has inspired us all to recreate these recipes at home but there's still nothing quite like the real thing.
BJ's: This restaurant and brewhouse was a favorite when we lived in UTC. The most impressive item here is on the desert menu. My sister and I first went here with our neighbor who told us we had to get a pizookie. "What's a pizookie?" we asked. We were sold on the words "giant cookie pie" and "ice cream on top." The pizookie arrived in a deep dish pizza pan, warm, gooey and delicious (their deep dish pizza is also good, if you don't skip right to desert). Our friend turned for a few seconds and when he looked back down he yelled, "That thing is almost GONE!" My sister and I agree it has to be eaten in rapid speed before the ice cream melts.
Gelateria Frizzante: We've tried a lot of gelato since falling in love with this gelateria in La Jolla and Downtown, but still nothing compares. Tommie was clinically addicted to their mango sorbeto and I never tried a gelato flavor there that I didn't like (mint chocolate chip was my favorite). The nice thing is that they switch up flavors every so often so you have new ones to try. As an added bonus it's healthier than ice cream and a small cup with its dense consistency will fill you up surprisingly fast.
There are a few more places on our list, but I have to stop before I start drooling.