San Diego

San Diego – warm days, cool nights in spring time plus fantastic views of San Diego Bay. The downtown Gas Lamp district offers hundreds of things to do and eat that one week is not enough to experience it all. Especially when having to spend most of my time on business. During my stay in January I was able to experience several places and all were excellent.
• Just next to the Hard Rock Hotel, Mary Jane’s Coffee Shop was a blast from the past with funky 60s style décor including paintings of Mick Jagger a la Warhol. Booths featured modern flat screens while showing 60s programs and commercials. Offering scrumptious comfort style food and drink options from the bar at a moderate price. My lunch of Los Wingos with no bonos (boneless chicken wings) and iced tea hit the spot. Next time I’ll try The Hot Elvis . This place is great for a quick breakfast or lunch.
• A few streets down, The Red Pearl offered the best Chinese food I’d had in a while. We ordered the pan-fried pot stickers, spiced minced chicken lettuce wraps, Pho of Kobe Beef and vermicelli noodles and vanilla cinnamon gelato to finish the meal. Everywhere you go there people with bicycle “rickshaws” that will take you to your nearby destination instead of a taxi or walking. On this particular night as we made our way back to the hotel one of them was offering to pose (shirtless and with a spiked collar no less) with a couple of tourists for a buck. I guess they didn’t want to ride his rickshaw so he thought of another service he could offer. Should make for an interesting souvenir photo.
Sammy’s Wood Fired Pizza offered more than just pizza. An enjoyable walk from the Omni hotel, on this night we saw a balloon man (making balloon animals of course), various entertainers playing the guitar and singing their versions of some favorite song for a buck and across the restaurant for perhaps later entertainment was the f stop adult store. Dinner this night included of course pizza (which is almost always good anywhere – I loved the Margherita pizza) with thin crust and simple, traditional ingredients and insanely large salads – our choice was the Grilled Balsamic Chicken Salad all around. Appetizers were a mix of the routine and out of ordinary. Most of us enjoyed these more than the pizza – mini duck tacos (oh so cute and did not taste like duck – divine!), garlic cheese bread, mac n cheese, pan-fried pork dumplings (yum!).
Filippis in Little Italy was what I imagined an Italian grocery store back in the day (or maybe still) would look like in Little Italy in New York. With all the fixings available to make fresh, original, true Italian dishes, this little grocery store also features a moderate restaurant in the back of the store. Offering basic Italian dishes – pizza, salad, and the most popular pasta dishes – you’ll want to come with a very large appetite or order extra plates to share family style as portions are extremely generous. Evenings there is always a wait with a line out the door and reservations are only accepted for groups of 10 or more – well worth it. Get the lasagna and house salad – BEST! You’ll probably need a taxi to get to this one.
• If you are in the mood for Spanish food, Café Sevilla is your best bet. All the tapas are excellent and the beef medallions will hit the spot for your entrée with a satisfying glass of Sangria. To finish off the meal the dessert sampler will satisfy all.
Don’t forget to talk a walk on the boardwalk for some great souvenirs and a stop at Chocolot cremerie on 5th Avenue is also a must (the crepe with honey and a scoop of Amaretto gelato is heaven!).

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