Ahh, the food in San Diego; what a feast for the senses. As San Diego started out as a Mexican Pueblo, and is a hop and skip from the border, the Mexican influence is more akin to a lifestyle than an influence. Tortillas and tamales on every street corner make this a fiesta for your stomach to enjoy! Now with the ocean at the doorstep seafood plays heavily into local dishes. San Diego also boasts a large Italian community and that is definitely visible in the restaurants around town and finally the hippy surfer crowd has also put its stamp on the raw, organic and vegetarian food movements and it is easy to eat healthy in Southern California. With all this food, I really wish, that like my bovine friends I had 4 stomachs; one of which I would dedicate to margaritas- but that’s another post!
So I will admit that we did eat a lot of Mexican food, since we simply can’t get decent Mexican in Calgary, we ate it morning, noon and night. Now before I go any further I have to tell you that hands down my favourite restaurant was The Prado and had we found it earlier in our vacation I would not have eaten anywhere else! Grilled fish tacos, amazing drinks and Darek swooned over his steak! With that in mind, while we had some great food, it all paled in comparison to The Prado in Balboa Park. http://www.cohnrestaurants.com/restaurants/theprado/
So let’s begin in the Old Town, this is where San Diego began and it really was a Mexican town so the restaurants here are all Mexican. One of my favourites was Cafe Coyote. Great service (as always in America) and good hearty Mexican flavours. I had black bean tamales. This is great for vegetarians and leave out the cheese and vegans will be fine. As it is made with corn I can get away unscathed and thoroughly enjoyed my meal. Now let me just say if you have never been to America I need to put in a food warning. The portion size in America for one person, would feed a family of four anywhere else in the world. Do not attempt to eat the whole portion unless you have multiple stomachs or have had stomach enlargement surgery. Oh yah- appetizers in America- an appetizer is as big as the whole meal-so not attempt to eat an entree and appetizer- you simply won’t make it unless you have had a good deal of training beforehand! Also we need to talk about cheese, when Americans put cheese on food they seem to think that a whole block is necessary- family size block that is. So if cheese is sketchy for your belly ask them to go easy on it. Cafe Coyote boasts fresh handmade tortillas and Mexican women are making them exhibition style right before your very eyes! I decided to try a bit of one- it was amazing and I paid the price, incidentally if you have flour/gluten issues you will need to steer away from the flour tortillas, however I had no problem with the corn ones- yum! Darek had the steak enchiladas and an appetizer, then he passed out- he did have a smile on his face though! http://www.cafecoyoteoldtown.com/
My next fave place was Casa des Reyes in Fiesta des Reyes Old Town- wow what a fun place! Live music on Thurs, Fri and Sat night with the best drinks and chips in Old Town! Also housed in the midst of shops the place is always bustling and fun, it has such a hip and cool atmosphere, we spent a whole afternoon drinking and eating away the day there! http://fiestadereyes.com/
We also ate at Old Town Mexican Cafe. They roast chickens on a spit everyday and have a gaggle of Mexican women cranking out fresh tortillas by the bucketful and you can see it all in the front window which is pretty cool. This is a very raw and rough tasting kitchen. I had the chicken in mole sauce and sadly was very violently ill. So if you decide to eat there, I would say do so with caution. Even my iron gut husband complained of an icky stomach after that meal. http://www.oldtownmexcafe.com/
We spent an evening at Miguel’s which has just opened in Old Town, where the atmosphere is amazing but the food fell a little short for me. We had nachos and calamari and neither were spectacular, but, the patio is so amazing that it was worth it. http://www.brigantine.com/locations_migOT.html
So that is the run down on Old Town and Balboa Park as we experienced it. Barra Barra Salon in Old Town has the cheapest drinks in the village, Living Room is a great place in Old Town for a late night coffee and if you need to get a chocolate rush check out Gourmet Cafe for some amazing sipping chocolate!
Ahhh to be a cow!!