San Diego is about to host the 2008 Winter Fancy Food Show  this January 13 to 15 at the Convention Center.  This worldwide show features everything from beverages and baked goods to soups and salad dressings along with candy, cheese and coffee–nearly 100,000 specialty food items.  Attendees from specialty food, wine, gift and department stores, supermarkets, restaurants, mail-order and other related businesses, walk the three day show to sample and buy products. 

Buzz wonders where these 20,000 to 30,000 vendors and attendees will spend their restaurant dollars as the show usually occurs in San Francisco or New York City–places known for great eating.  Let’s be clear:  right now, San Diego does not have great eating.  Sure, there are lots of restaurants with fair to good food and service but for the most part, not near the caliber of the other show cities. 

If attendees pull out their Zagat for 2007  they’ll find a handful of places rated no higher than 27 out of 30–far fewer than other cities.  They’ll spend nearly $50 per person (or more) , they will need a taxi or car to get to, among others,  WineSellar & BrasseriePamplemousse Grille, Arterra and El Bizcocho  and will they know the chefs are gone from the latter two? They may find a way to La Jolla for the Marine RoomTapenade or George’s at the Cove.  Close to the Convention Center, they’ll find Ruth Chris Steak House and Rama . Or they’ve heard about others such as Parallel 33,  Modus Supper Club (no working link), but do they know the chef/partners of both have moved on or that  Laurel Restaurant & Bar got a new owner, chef and decor a few years back?  What is clear from reading comments on Zagat, and from the Zagat’s themselves–service is subpar across the country–and San Diego is no exception. 

The recent months have seen chefs who garnered good or great local and national raves–Gavin Kaysen of El Bizcocho (one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in 2007),  Riko Bartelomo of Asia-Vous, Jason Shaeffer of 1500 Ocean, and the most recent, Brian Pekarcik of Arterra– ditching San Diego for New York, Hawaii, Colorado and Pennsylvania, respectively.  They move on for various reasons, but underlying anything personal is the lack of support from the local press who, for the most part, don’t really educate the readers to what makes a great restaurant–be it the hole in the wall or the jazzy newcomer.  Nor does the local chapter of the California Restaurant Association further an atmosphere of greatness either as Buzz noted in July.  Of course, cities like New York and San Francisco have public transportation and are not spread out in the manner of southern California and that does make a bit of a difference.  How far and long are you willing to drive for a meal–at any price– especially if you want to have a drink or two?

So, where in San Diego would you send these food savvy souls to eat?  Besides the usual collection of downtown hotel and convention eateries (and themed Cohn restaurants on nearly every corner)  tell Buzz where you think the show goers ought to spend their restaurant dollars–be it upscale or down–do you have a favorite you think should get some notice? 

4 thoughts on “Fancy Food Here?

  1. Hi Marcie – I have actually been asked by the NASFT to put together some tours for the show’s attendees of the best of San Diego’s food scene – it won’t include four star restaurants, but I think we’ll be able to fool them into thinking San Diego has at least something good to eat (and I don’t plan to serve them any fish tacos!)

    There will be three tours, one focusing on local and sustainable businesses and restaurants, one focusing on specialty retailers, and one that will be more or less a progressive tasting through some of the urban bistros in town. It’s not all lined up yet, but I think it will be fun!

    Since you asked – some of the fancier places I’d recommend to the out of towners include Addison, A.R. Valentien, Bite, Blanca, Cafe Chloe, California Cuisine, Cavaillon, Chive, JRDN, The Linkery, Market, Red Pearl Kitchen, Tapenade and 910.

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  2. I don’t agree that the service in San Diego is ‘sub-par”! They have obviously missed Avenue 5 in the Bankers Hill area. Service as well as cuisine is “above-par”. Zagat should be aware of all the new restaurants that are popping up all over San Diego.

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  3. A message to Patricia–one restaurant does not make a Zagat-respecable city. Service in San Diego is sub-par. If you want Zagat to be aware–tell them–but then be prepared to be rated along side the big boys.

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  4. avenue 5 above-par service? huh . . . like the room, like the food, like the addition to the neighborhood but don’t go there for the service (or expect to get a cocktail within a reasonable amount of time when sitting at the bar–bartender is unfocused and tends to skitter around).

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