Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tirade about restaurants

Last week my husband and I had a very disappointing food week. First of all, I've stopped baking (at least during the week) in an attempt to lose weight, have been living off whatever is in the freezer, and had a horrible restaurant week.

When my mother-in-law was in town we decided to take her to Balboa Park on the free museum day (Tuesday). Whenever we visit that area of San Diego we like to hit up either the Garden Grill or Extraordinary Desserts. Since we're on a tight budget we thought the Garden Grill would be ideal. When we pulled up our favorite meditteranean place was replaced by a NY Giant Pizza place (that looked like a chain) that was under construction. The husband and I were truly heartbroken. There aren't any reliable and super affordable Lebanese-type restaurants up in our neck of the woods (or beach?).

So we hung our heads low and retreated home for whatever I could scrounge up. Then this past Saturday we were tired after running errands all day and decided to go to Big Jim's Barbeque. I never posted about my first trip there but I loved their sides, sweet tea, and spicy shrimp. I could take or leave the barbeque but the sides were true quality comfort food for Southerners. Even though the atmosphere was like eating on picnic tables in a run-down building, I didn't mind. My husband was thrilled to finally find some good sweet tea. We were excited to see if our first impression would hold true for the second visit.

Since we were craving some down-home food at a great price, we drove down the PCH towards Big Jim's. When we got to Encinitas we looked at each other and wondered how we missed the restaurant. On the drive back we realized that Big Jim's has been replaced with another restaurant.

We ended up going to Leucadia Pizza since we were starved but it wasn't very good that night (a lot of restaurants have an off night every now and then). Actually, it was pretty bad. So we're truly considering staying in for a long time just in case we're cursed.

Does anyone know of any good and authentic Lebanese/Meditteranean restaurants in San Diego?

We're actually looking into moving to Silicon Valley/the bay area this fall and I'm starting to get excited because we've just had a hard time finding restaurants here (with the exception of our favorite..Ba Ren) that taste great and are priced well. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are lots of great restaurants in San Deigo but up in Oceanside there aren't as many options as I would like. We mostly choose between pizza, Thai, pizza, sushi, pizza.

If anyone's reading this from North County (or should I say North Northwest County) and has some good restaurant options, please let me know.


jef said...

If you're down in San Diego again, try this place:

I wouldn't call it a restaurant, but the food is good (can you say homemade flat bread?) and quite cheap.

Joseph Eisenberg said...

We go to Mama's Bakery for Lebanese wraps. They have a real saj (an oven with a domed metal roof for cooking flatbreads) and good sauces and moist falafel. My wife always gets the chicken wrap, but the lamb is good too.

Kirk has recommended a couple of other places on his blog.

Erin said...

Mama's Lebanese Bakery in North Park (4237 Alabama St, on Alabama at El Cajon Blvd.) is awesome. It's not a sit-down place--they have a semi-outdoor patio. I recommend the chicken and beef shwarma. Everything is very fresh and excellent.

Gourmetish said...

Thanks for the tips, everyone! North Park is really far away from us (usually takes an hour without heavy traffic) but the next time we're in the area it sounds like a great place to try out! I really wish we lived down in San Diego. Our restaurant options would be soooo much better and diverse!

Maia Averett said...

I wrote this yesterday but somehow it doesn't look like it actually posted. I was worried about that, so I saved it in a text file and I'm trying again! Here goes..

Aww, sad! I wrote back to your comment at my blog about Lebanese places. The best place I know of is called Mama's Bakery & Lebanese Deli, and it's down in University Heights at El Cajon Blvd and Alabama (on Alabama). Go check my comment for a longer description.

Too bad that you ended up at Leucadia pizza. There are lots of great places to eat on the 101 in Encinitas!

There are three good Mexican places: Juanitas, Las Olas, and El Callejon. Juanitas is a super cheap taco shop, at the stop sign just north of 101 & Encintias Blvd. Go for the carnitas. Las Olas and El Callejon are sit-down places with extensive menus, both on the 101 (El Callejon is in the plaza with Leucadia pizza and Las Olas is down at the other end just before the San Elijo lagoon).

The Thai restaurant on the 101 at E St (I think?) street is also good. Of my favorite restaurants is over in that area too: El Q'uero, though it's spendy and you wouldn't want to just stop by without a reservation.

If its daytime, you can stop by Pannikin for a great curried chicken salad sandwich and some awesome baked goodies. Further down near the temple is Swami's, a vegetarian place that serves up some mean pancakes. Speaking of pancakes, the 101 Diner does a great baked apple pancake and bacon waffle and plenty of other great diner food. Down in Cardiff, Pipes servs up huge breakfast burritos and some of the best burgers around, though they're only open til 3pm.

If you drive over east of the 5 on Encinitas Blvd then north on El Camino Real, you'll end up at Savory, a medium-priced California-French style place, kind of like Region was before it closed.

Wow, I guess I had a lot to say about eating in Encinitas!!

Gourmetish said...

Maia, Thanks so much for the reviews! The next time we're in the mood for Mexican (the other night we weren't which is why we ended up at the pizza place..out of hunger) it sounds like we have lots of choices. Thank you! Since so many people have mentioned Mama's I think we'll have to try and get down there sometime.

So Juanitas is good? There are always a lot of people there but it looks kind of sketchy so I wasn't sure.

I've been to the 101 diner but wasn't all that impressed. Pannikin sounds right up my alley. I don't remember ever seeing it so I'll have to look up the address.

Thanks again! I'm glad I posted about my frustration!

jef said...

I really can't say enough good things about Mama's. I used to live right down the street and would stop by weekly. I know many people suggested some meaty dishes, but I really think their best food is the vegetarian fare. Their bread is REALLY good, too :)

Maia Averett said...

Yeah, you have to try Mama's. It's great.

Juanitas is good if you want cheap taco stand mexican. All I've ever eaten there is the carnitas plate, which I liked a lot. It's also been about 2 years since I've been there, but I'm guessing it hasn't changed.

Pannikin is on the West side of the 101, just North from where Big Jim's is. It's in a big yellow old building that I think used to be a train station. It's got great atmosphere and is a great place for a weekend lunch. They close at 5, though, so keep that in mind.

You're right that the 101 diner isn't anything to drive all the way down for; it's just plain ol' diner food. It is fun to walk there with my family on weekends though, though usually we hit Pipes or Swami's instead.

Doug Gates said...

Kady, Let me add my voice to the chorus recommending Mama's. You can read Maia's rec for this place here.

Shameless plug: is the new local dining guide we just launched. I'm trying to get San Diego's food bloggers to collaborate on a comprehensive site about our favorite places to eat in this city.

Anonymous said...

The 101 Diner absolutely rocks. Carne Asada Eggs Benedict, Chicken Machaca Omelette, Fresh Fruit Crepes, etc.