Robert Arends

San Diego Restaurant Week: Fine Dines in Coronado and East County

Two of my favorite areas of San Diego are Coronado – our postcard-perfect slice of paradise just across the bridge from downtown – and East County which constantly surprises me with its cool backcountry finds.

Narrowing down my favorite restaurants in each region wasn’t easy, as there’s a plethora of mouth-watering options, from French, Italian and some of the finest Mexican food in the County to farm-to-fork and coastal cuisine.

Blessed with a spectacular bay and seaside setting and easygoing island vibe, Coronado is a diner’s delight! My top three choices in the “Crown City” for San Diego Restaurant Week are:

  1. Sheerwater at the Hotel del Coronado is a refined, yet casual oceanfront restaurant featuring a “Fish by the Sea” menu of classic bistro-style cuisine with a focus on fresh sustainable seafood. Just steps away, the beach beckons couples for romantic strolls.

    Mistral's panoramic views of San Diego Bay.

  2. With floor-to-ceiling panoramic views of San Diego Bay and the iconic San Diego-Coronado Bridge, Mistral at Loews Coronado Bay Resort offers an idyllic backdrop for modern French delicacies prepared by chefs Marc Erhler and Patrick Ponsaty.

    Coronado Boathouse 1887 on Glorietta Bay.

  3. Coronado Boathouse 1887, located on Glorietta Bay across the street from the Hotel del Coronado, serves gourmet steaks and seafood. This “diminutive Del” is celebrating 40 years in the restaurant business and is a favorite with locals and visitors alike!

My top three East County picks are:

  1. Terra American Bistro, located in the East College District, brings farm to table dining to East County. Chef Jeff Rossman’s New American cuisine focuses on the local bounty of sustainable, organic ingredients and preparation styles from North, South and Central America.  (Bring Terra home with the chef’s new cookbook, From Terra’s Table.)

    Enjoy farm to fork cuisine at Chef Rossman's Terra Restaurant.

  2. Every day is a fiesta at Casa de Pico in La Mesa, known for its award-winning “Best Mexican” cuisine, festive atmosphere and famous birdbath margaritas [just one, please 😉 ]. Enjoy dining on the patio with its colorful umbrellas, splashing fountain and strolling Mariachis – ole!

    Festive patio dining at Casa de Pico!

  3. A favorite with locals and critics alike, the Grove Steakhouse at Viejas Casino in Alpine serves a fabulous selection of steaks, seafood, chops and delectable desserts in a luxurious setting. Go a bit early to explore the casino and outlet shops. Viejas, by the way, is celebrating its 20th anniversary!

    The Grove Steakhouse at Viejas.


Restaurant Week Picks: Fabulous French Fare

Restaurant Week is great time to branch out and try something a little unexpected. San Diego may be best known for the fish taco, but why not explore the culinary landscape with a little taste of France? From downtown to North County, French delicacies aren’t hard to find in San Diego during this Restaurant Week:

Cafe Chloe charms diners in the East Village

Café Chloe

You may have a view of downtown’s East Village, but at this elegant yet casual bistro, you’ll swear you’re dining just off a Parisian sidewalk. Prepared to be perfectly authentic, their steak frites paired with herbes de provence butter, green beans, yellow wax beans and honey onions followed by their famous chocolate pot de crème is the ideal meal when you can’t decide between haute cuisine and comfort food.

Cavaillon's dining room, smoked salmon and warm chocolate moelleux


This warm and friendly French hideaway in the North County neighborhood of Santaluz recently welcomed new chef Michael von Euw. Sample von Euw’s fresh updates on classic dishes with Cavaillon’s Restaurant Week offerings, including a delicate smoked salmon appetizer, sumptuous beef tenderloin and sinfully decadent warm chocolate moelleux for dessert, and you’ll be delighted to have made his acquaintance.

Bleu Boheme in Kensington - try the escargots!

Bleu Boheme

I love this restaurant so much, I married it! Well, that’s not exactly true, but I did have my wedding there. The rustic French farmhouse setting is just as charming as the traditional peasant-style dishes. One bite of their melt-in-your-mouth coq au vin, and you’ll fall in love, too. Be brave and try the escargots – you’ll be glad you did.


5 to Try This Weekend

1. San Diego Bay Fair: This thrilling event from September 16-19 features thunderboat racing, tunnel hulls, drag boats, hydroplanes, fireworks and concerts, as well as specialty vendors and food, along and on the waters of Mission Bay.

2. San Diego Restaurant Week: Restaurant Week kicks off, Sunday, September 18 and runs through September 23rd. More than 180 of San Diego’s finest restaurants participate in a celebration of the local dining scene with prix fixed menus.

3. Coronado Art Walk: The city’s annual celebration of the arts from September 17-18 features exhibits of paintings, hand-crafted jewelry, photography, ceramics and other mediums, as well as entertainment at the Coronado Ferry Landing. Free shuttle service carries visitors the length of Orange Avenue, with a stop at Spreckels Park’s Art-in-the-Park.

4. Spirits of Mexico Festival: The 2011 Spirits of Mexico Festival showcases the top agave spirits brewed by hundreds of distillers, September 11-18, in the heart of Mexican culture and the historic landmark, Old Town San Diego. The week-long event is packed with seminars discussing the finest spirits, tequila tastings, cocktail challenges, authentic Mexican dishes and an award ceremony.

5. 40th Annual Bluegrass Festival: This two-day festival, September 17-18, features performances by blues, bluegrass, country, western and mountain bands plus lively banjo and fiddle playing contests, held at Frank Lane Park in Julian.


Restaurant Week Sneak Peak: Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar

Restaurant Week starts tomorrow, and I cannot wait! Earlier this week, I got a “sneak peak” of what one of my favorite restaurants, Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar will be serving. Croce’s, located in the Gaslamp Quarter, offers contemporary American cuisine as well as live music nightly in the adjoining bar. Not only can you order from their special three-course menu (for $40 per person) during Restaurant Week, but Croce’s is keeping their full menu available as well. The Restaurant Week menu features sumptuous choices such as Bordeaux Braised Short Rib Sliders, Charbroiled CAB Filet Mignon with Passion Fruit Demi and Pan-Seared Sea Bass.

For the first course, I chose the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake. Executive Chef, James Clark, prepares it with a sweet corn puree, baby corn, crispy shallots and sun-dried tomato oil. I don’t think I left anything on my plate.

For the second course, I chose the sea bass, although it was a tough choice between that and the Filet Mignon. They pan sear it with a turnip puree, sautéed baby root vegetables, forest mushrooms, oven-dried baby tomatoes and a red wine tarragon beurre blanc.

Fondant Au Chocolat...yumm

Dessert was an easy choice for me. I’m a big chocolate lover and went straight for the Fondant Au Chocolat. I had been looking forward to it throughout dinner and I was not disappointed.

It was truly a dinner to remember and that is what is so great about Restaurant Week; trying something new, even if it is at a restaurant you’ve been to before! If you haven’t been to Croce’s, you must put it on your to do list this week. Restaurant Week runs from January 16-22. Make your reservation at Croce’s today!


5 to Try This Weekend

Wow it’s going to be a great weekend in San Diego! With the weather forecasted to be in the 70’s, get outside and head to the beach, or do something a little different. From a multi-cultural festival to a Whale Watching Festival, San Diego has no shortage of fun things to do! Which one sounds fun to you?

Stephen Strasburg 5k Walk with Tony Gwynn: Come join Stephen Strasburg and Tony Gwynn in a 5k walk and fun run benefiting the Aztec Baseball program. This is a family-friendly event that will include games, live music and fun for everyone.

13th Annual San Diego Multi-Cultural Festival: Cultures come together in celebration at this free, family-friendly fun festival with cultural entertainers, food, vendors, global villages and an education fair. The fair will take place Saturday, January 15 from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. along Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade downtown.

24th Annual Whale Watch and Intertidal Life Festival: Cabrillo’s annual Whale Watch Weekend kicks off tomorrow and Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and features presentations, exhibits and films. Rangers will be on hand all weekend to help visitor’s spot whales in the ocean and explore the park’s magnificent tide pools.

San Diego Restaurant Week: Restaurant Week kicks off Sunday, January 16th! Diners can choose from over 160 of San Diego’s best restaurants and enjoy a fixed price, three-course dinner for $20, $30 or $40 per person. Whether you crave seafood, organic, American or ethnic, there is something for everyone during San Diego Restaurant Week! Be sure to check out our foodie blogger Kate as she highlights some great spots to check out during Restaurant Week.

Underwater Parks Day at SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium: On January 15th, young ocean enthusiasts at SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium will learn about Marine Protected Areas or “Underwater Parks” during the Aquarium’s 3rd Annual Underwater Parks Day. Underwater Parks Day is an effort by Southern California aquariums to explain the need for Marine Protected Areas that replenish fish populations and restore the health of coastal waters.


Countdown to Restaurant Week: Ring In the New

Explore Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant and More!

Who doesn’t want to try the hottest new restaurant in town?

There’s no better time to get out there and find your new favorites than during San Diego Restaurant Week.  Because with reduced prices for three-course menus you can afford to explore a little.

Here’s some new restaurants to worth checking out:

  • Barrio Star, Isabel Cruz’s newest spot in Banker’s Hill, serves up a fresh, creative take on traditional Mexican flavors.  You’ll love the festive atmosphere and Day of the Dead-influenced decor almost as much as you’ll love the Restaurant Week menu items like chicken tamales made fresh, in-house daily and served with black beans, rice, and corn salsa; local whitefish with cumin and cardamom rub paired with cilantro-lime sauce, coconut rice and roasted tomatoes; and spicy chile relleno with jumbo shrimp.   Priced at $20, this menu is a steal!
  • Banker’s HIll Bar & Restaurant, also located in Banker’s Hill (surprise, surprise!), is the newest venture from the team behind Del Mar’s much-lauded Market Restaurant and Bar.  Here, chef Carl Schroeder’s menu is still bursting with local flavors but focuses on hand-crafted comfort food and the vibe is neighborly but cool.  From the $30 Restaurant Week menu you can sample items like proscuitto deviled eggs with parmesan-white cheddar crisps, bacon and  arugula; coriander marinated rock fish ceviche with avocado, pico de gallo and BBQ spiced corn chips; or cast iron roasted King Salmon with artichokes, vegetable ragout, cauliflower gratin and lemon butter.
  • Brand new in Ocean Beach, Bo Beau Kitchen + Bar is the latest addition to the mighty Cohn Restaurant Group.  You’ll feel like you stepped right out of San Diego and into the South of France at this casual neighborhood bistro.  Savor the experience with a $30 Restaurant week menu featuring options like boeuf bourguignon with baby carrots, pancetta, mushrooms, pearl onions and fingerling potatoes; leek ‘fondue’ macaroni and cheese in a silky cheddar gratinee; and Atlantic salmon with arugula-pesto gremolata and seasonal vegetables.

What new restaurant are you excited to visit?

San Diego Restaurant Week starts in just two days…make your reservations today!


Countdown to Restaurant Week: Bring On the Beef

Indulge with San Diego Restaurant Week at the Steakhouse at Azul La Jolla.

Ahh, the steakhouse.  The perfectly aged and impeccably seared steak.  The generous sides.  The big, welcoming leather booths.  Usually these are reserved for special occasions or those with expense accounts but, during San Diego Restaurant Week you can dine out at some of San Diego’s best steakhouses – including the big national names like Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris and The Palm – for a fraction of the normal cost. But, let’s think independently.  Following are a few steakhouses you’ll find only in San Diego with deals available only during Restaurant Week:

  • Located in downtown’s East Village, Cowboy Star mixes a modern-industrial vibe with a nod to Old Hollywood Westerns for a steakhouse experience like no other.  The $40 Restaurant Week menu include choices like Snake River Farms Wagyu tartare with fresh horseradish, pumpernickel toast, arugula and créme fraîche or pan seared Wild Steelhead Salmon with black trumpet mushrooms, shaved Brussels sprouts, shallots and herb fondue. Plus exotic options like rabbit ravioli with sauteed wild mushrooms, Swiss chard, ver jus-rabbit emulsion and crispy pancetta.
  • Perched overlooking La Jolla Cove, The Steakhouse at Azul La Jolla features a view of the ocean that will almost distract you from the open-kitchen action on the opposite side of the cozy dining room.  But focus!  Because that’s where the chefs turn out a $40 Restaurant Week menu with tempting options like rock shrimp pot pie with saffron vegetables; Berkshire pork loin with maple bacon, roasted kabocha squash and blackberry reduction; and New York Strip USDA prime steak with fried sweet shallots and red wine demi glace.
  • Or, try your luck at The Grove Steakhouse at Viejas Casino.  You can’t lose with a Restaurant Week menu that includes options like Green Lip mussels tossed in hot olive oil, Garlic and Lemon with a basil pesto broth; deep fried jumbo shrimp wrapped in applewood smoked center-cut bacon with a Monterrey pepper jack fondue; and tender 3oz filet medallions topped with a three mushroom ragu.  Since it’s priced at only $30, you’ll even have money left over to hit the tables.

Feeling like stepping out for a steak?  What’s your favorite steakhouse? San Diego Restaurant Week is only 3 days away, make your reservations today!


Countdown to Restaurant Week: Farm to Table

Ocean views and farm fresh food at Georges California Modern.

With our reputation for bountiful beaches, it might surprise some to know that San Diego is an agricultural powerhouse that’s home to more than 6,000 farmers and #1 in the nation for small farms.

Thankfully though, San Diego’s chefs are well aware of the region’s agricultural bounty and make it their priority to source ingredients locally and bring that homegrown San Diego goodness to you.

Following are a few places where you can enjoy discounted farm to table dining during Restaurant Week:

  • Located in the heart of La Jolla, Whisknladle earned recognition from Conde Nast Traveler for their artisanal approach to farm to table cuisine.  They make everything in house and source locally.  Sample the results during Restaurant Week when you can order any three courses off their entire menu for the $40 Restaurant Week Menu price.  Local items to look for include Crows Pass’ apples and persimmons served in a salad with balsamic vinegar-roasted onions, frisee and pistachio and Carlsbad Aqua Farms’ mussels paired with fries, shallots, garlic and bay laurel.
  • With a killer location overlooking La Jolla Cove, George’s at the Cove could have just as easily been in my amazing views post.  But, chef Trey Foshee’s passion for locally-grown produce makes his cuisine really stand out in the farm to table category.  Downstairs in Georges California Modern he’s offering a $40 Restaurant Week Menu with options like local halibut with spicy pomegranate dressing, fennel and ginger gel or local yellowtail with a carrot-miso puree, bok choy and tangerine butter. Upstairs, on the open air Ocean Terrace, the $30 Restaurant Week Menu includes more casual options like butternut squash bruschetta with goat cheese and hazelnuts or penne with lamb, roasted tomatoes, black olives, artichokes and mint ricotta.
  • JSix is helmed by Christian Graves who gardens for the restaurant on the rooftop of the downtown restaurant and adheres strictly to a ‘boat to pan’ philosophy that ensures the seafood he serves is delicious and ecologically sustainable.  LIke Whisknladle, he’s celebrating Restaurant Week by making his full menu available for an incredible $30 Restaurant Week menu price.  Go ahead and indulge in line-caught ahi tuna tartare with olive tapande and orange essence or the petite filet of beef with balsamic marinated portobello mushroom and feel good about it!

What’s your favorite farm to table restaurant in San Diego?

Make your reservations today…San Diego Restaurant Week is only 4 days away!


Countdown to Restaurant Week: Ladies’ Night

Try the Cotton Candy Cuban at Avenue 5.

Heads up ladies.  San Diego Restaurant Week is a fantastic excuse to gather up your best girlfriends, get all dressed up and have a girls’ night out.  After all, when a little “me time” is on the agenda, nothing is more fun than dishing it up with your girls over an incredible meal and, more importantly, a rocking dessert.

But, with so many Restaurant Week options, are you at a loss as to where to go?

Here are a few picks that will impress even your frenemies:

  • Avenue 5 Restaurant & Bar in Banker’s Hill serves up the most amazing cocktails.  These aren’t any old Cosmos.  Instead they incorporate molecular gastronomy techniques to make out of this world drinks that are sure to make your friends say ‘wow.’  Plus, their Restaurant Week menu is priced at $30 and includes options like wild mushroom risotto, anise-braised boneless beef short ribs and, for dessert, champagne sorbet, jasmine pot de crème or chocolate decadence with orange and berry compote.
  • Feel like dancing?  Put on your sexiest shoes and head to Stingaree where, after dinner, you and your girls are set to hit the club because this is also one downtown’s hottest nightlife venues.  But before you kick up your heels, sit down to the $40 Restaurant Week menu featuring items like pink lady apple and arugula salad or jidori chicken breast with cous cous and dates.  Then dig into desserts like red velvet cake with red hot ice cream or white chocolate crème caramel.  Don’t worry, you’ll burn off all the calories on the dance floor!
  • Located at the Hotel del Coronado, 1500 Ocean offers you and your girls the opportunity to channel Marilyn Monroe for a moment (she starred in Some Like It Hot shot on location at the Del) with a $40 Restaurant Week Menu that includes peppercorn tagliatelle with duck and pecorino or spice-crusted albacore with fennel-blood orange salad. For dessert, sample airy Tuscan donuts, the mysterious ‘Chocolate Indulgence’ or a sophisticated cheese plate with Rogue Blue Cheese, roasted grapes and honeycomb.

Where will you be stepping out?  And, more importantly, what are you wearing?

There’s only 5 days left until San Diego Restaurant Week, make your reservations today!


Countdown to Restaurant Week: Eye Candy

It's okay, go ahead and stare. Island Prime won't mind.

No two ways about it, San Diego is gorgeous.  With coastline for miles and natural beauty that just doesn’t quit, this town is good looking.  So, when San Diego Restaurant Week rolls around, you might as well opt for a restaurant where you can enjoy the view.

Here are a few that are pretty as a picture and have top-notch cuisine, too:

  • Nestled on Harbor Island, Island Prime looks across San Diego Bay toward the downtown skyline with a view is pretty all day long and particularly spectacular at night.  Feast your eyes on the view but don’t let it distract you from chef Deborah Scott’s amazing Restaurant Week menu items like butternut squash soup with toasted pepitas, cedar plank roasted salmon and filet mignon with sea salt mashed potatoes.  The menu is priced at $40 and the million dollar views are free.
  • Ride the elevator up to the 12th floor to Bertrand’s at Mister A’s for panoramic views of San Diego Bay, the downtown skyline and the lush green expanse of Balboa Park.  This is where the city’s movers and shakers have gathered for decades and now , during restaurant week, you can enjoy the same upscale fare only at a fraction of the cost.  The $40 Restaurant Week menu includes decadent options like Samanco Bay sea scallops, roasted leg of lamb Provencal and pan seared white seabass.
  • Getting to Mistral at Loews Coronado Bay Resort takes just minutes but you’ll feel a million miles away when you look across San Diego Bay at the Coronado Bridge and the glittering downtown skyline.  With floor to ceiling windows as the backdrop, enjoy a $40 Restaurant Week menu with options like yellow frisee and duck prosciutto salad, organic salmon with French green lentils, or Brant beef with creamy potatoes and haricot vert.

What’s your favorite restaurant with a view?

Only 6 days until San Diego Restaurant Week, make your reservations today!