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Boston Restaurant Blog >> 2006 archives >> June, 2006 >> blog entry

Boston Restaurant Blog -- June, 2006

Monday, June 12, 2006

Eating My Way Through San Diego

I'm heading home right now, flying back from San Diego (with a full stomach of course!). I spent the last several days out in Southern California, mostly in La Costa, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Encinitas, and San Diego itself. After having to deal with the horrific weather in the Boston area over the past month or so, it sure was nice having day after day of sunny skies, little wind, and temperatures in the low 70s. It was perfect weather for walks along the ocean, lazy drives through the canyon areas, and, yes, outdoor dining.

photo of Las Olas Mexican Restaurant, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California I got in to San Diego Friday afternoon, and headed straight up to Cardiff-by-the-Sea (probably my favorite town in Southern California). We enjoyed some surprisingly good Mexican food at a surfer's hangout called Las Olas. I say surprisingly because the place seemed like it might double as a wild beach bar at night. But Las Olas was very good--definitely not as good as the excellent Fidel's in nearby Solana Beach, but good enough for what it is, and the seaside location of Las Olas is pretty tough to beat.

After lunch, I spent some time trying to get over the mild jet lag, then I got together with a group of six people to head to an outstanding restaurant in Encinitas called Borrelli's Pizza and Italian Food. Located away from the coast in an attractive, upscale shopping center, Borrelli's is a longtime favorite of people who know their restaurants, and was it ever good. The red sauce in particular at Borrelli's was incredible, and the pasta was fresh. I ordered the mostaccioli with cheese and red sauce and it was both delicious and ridiculously priced at about $6.95.

Saturday was a day of rest, both food-wise and, well, rest-wise. I took an early-morning walk through the beautiful seaside town of Carlsbad, stopping at a donut place (which I think was actually called "Donuts"), then bringing my breakfast to a spot high above Carlsbad Beach. The rest of the day was quiet, with a quick stop for lunch at Panera Bread (which seems much more in its element in Southern California than it does in Boston), and a drive back to Cardiff to VG Donuts and Bakery, a wonderful little place where we bought a cake for a party as well as some donuts for myself.

Saturday evening, a large group of us (eleven, I think) headed east to a Thai place in San Marcos called Nattiya's Thai Restaurant. Tucked away in a shopping center in a nondescript area with a view of the mountains in the distance, it seemed like an odd place for a Thai restaurant, but Nattiya's was another highly-recommended place, and I have to say, it rivaled any Thai restaurant I've been to in Boston. From the steamed spring rolls to the tofu vegetable soup to the chicken dish with basil and sauteed rice, everything was of the best quality at Nattiya's. Satisfied, we all headed back to the cars and went to a party in La Costa where we somehow downed the cake we bought at VG Donuts and Bakery earlier in the day.

photo of Pipes Cafe, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California Sunday came along, and with it, an early-morning solo trip to perhaps my second favorite restaurant in Southern California (after Hodad's in Ocean Beach) called Pipes Cafe. This breakfast place, located in the heart of Cardiff, is a classic California dining spot. Everyone from surfers to retirees to even San Diego Padres players flock to Pipes for their huge, insanely cheap meals. I ate my $5.00 breakfast burrito (eggs, cilantro, pica sauce, cheese, peppers, and onions) while sitting out on their deck, watching the marine layer slowly burn away.

It took a lot to pull myself away from Pipes, but several of us wanted to get to the Japanese Friendship Garden at Balboa Park near downtown San Diego. It was a quiet, peaceful spot with all kinds of rare trees and plants, as well as a nice tea house, which we went to for lunch. They had traditional Japanese soups and noodle bowls, which we dined on as we sat on their outdoor deck overlooking a canyon. The rest of the afternoon was spent on board the fascinating Midway, an aircraft carrier that is docked along the San Diego waterfront. We were running a bit short on time, so we made a quick trip to Old Town afterward, to a touristy, but fun Mexican restaurant called Casa de Reyes, which was probably the least impressive dining spot of the trip. But it was very entertaining, with a Mariachi band going from table to table as we ate. In retrospect, though, I suppose Fidel's in Solana Beach or the fantastic hidden gem, La Especial Norte, in Leucadia may have been a better option. After dinner, I stopped in Encinitas to pick up one of those famous Julian pies to bring back home with me (so much to take back on the plane!).

Monday (today) is a travel day, but three of us found time to go back to Pipes Cafe in Cardiff for an absolutely gluttonous breakfast. I ate so much at Pipes that I have no need to eat for the three thousand mile trip that awaits me. It was a perfect way to end a perfect trip. I just hope the weather in Boston is half-decent when I get back. If not, you may find me at Pipes Cafe sooner rather than later!


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