San Diego Survival Guide Pt. 3: Food Glorious Food.
Dining on the cheap:
Between the hotel room, your flight and things you’ll want to buy at the con, you’ll want to watch your cash. But just because you’ll be watching the cash, it doesn’t mean you have to starve. Check out these budget friendly options…
*Ralph’s Supermarket- Downtown of G Street. A favorite of Con goers, the deli at Ralph’s is a godsend for your budget. A full service deli offers sandwiches (grilled if you like), salads, rotisserie chicken along with the usual cold cuts. Ralph’s is also owned by Kroger, so if you have a savings card from a local Kroger store, you can use it here and save on your chips, bottled waters, sodas and beer.
*Dick’s Last Resort- Gaslamp. It’s loud. The servers are rude. It’s chain prices in a touristy area. But the food’s hot, the beer’s cold and it’s one of the most enjoyable spots to have a group dinner. To be honest, the menu prices aren’t that bad. (Bucket O’Wings are 9.99 on the late night menu.)
*Buca Di Beppo- Gaslamp. With the closing of the Spaghetti Factory last year, Buca became one of the better places to take a group for an (essentially) inexpensive Italian dinner. The meal is served “family style” and decor is a little on the funky side. (The name means “Joe’s Basement.”) As chain restaurants go, you could do worse…and how can you pass up eating at a place with the same name as Superman’s monkey during Comic-Con. Average price for a 3 course dinner is $21 to $30.
*Filippi's Pizza Grotto - Little Italy. An ideal spot if you’re staying in the outlying hotels like the Radisson. Fantastic Pizza, Fresh homemade pasta dishes and sandwiches you’ll be able to make two meals out of…plus “local” prices as opposed to the “tourist” bill you’ll likely get eating in the Gaslamp or at your hotel. Even if you’re staying close to the convention Center, it’s worth the walk. You might want to call ahead as it’s a very popular spot in Little Italy. If you have a suite with a Fridge, you might want to get some stuff from the market in the front of the Little Italy location.
*Bud's Louisiana Food Shoppe - Keeping it in Little Italy, Bud’s got a nod in AOL’s “Cheap Eats” Top 10 for the city and might be just the thing for you or your group’s seafood craving if it’s for more than Fish Tacos or Sushi. Shrimp, Oyster or Catfish Po Boys with red beans and rice for an average price under $12. Cups of Gumbo for under $5. The most expensive thing on the menu is the “Taste of New Orleans” combo platter with Crawfish Etouffee and cornmeal battered fried catfish with a ribbon of jalapeno tartar sauce for $16. And if traveling makes you “irregular”, Bud’s may be the only place in SD to get “Dixie Beer,” one of nature’s most consistent “Digestive lubricants.” If there’s a member of your party who isn’t into seafood, there’s the roast beef and Cajun sausage available.
*PANDA INN - Horton Plaza. A California based chain from the folks who gave us the “Panda Express” chain you find in malls nationwide. Similar to PF Chaing in menu and (I assume) in pricing. Depending on your budget, this could be a good choice for your “big meal” if you’re going to do Wendy’s and Subway for the bulk of the trip as it’ll be cheaper than some sit down places. Only real drawback is the location. Horton Plaza is a massive mall in the heart of the Gaslamp and is popular with Shoppers, theatre goers and is easy walking from 95% of the con hotels. There WILL be a wait.
*Kansas City Barbecue- Across from the Hyatt Bar. You might remember it from TOP GUN, it’s a military bar first and foremost, but SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE named it “Best BBQ” over 10 years. The sandwich plate is a little steep compared to what I’m used to locally and I’m not personally a big fan of thicker BBQ sauces, but it’s a good smoked flavor to the meat and for being so close to the convention center you’re not going to find as filling a meal at these prices nearby.
*Greek Islands Cafe - Seaport Village (Next to the Hyatt.) A one-step-above fast food cafe serves gyros, salads and other Greek favorites like moussaka and falafel. Takeout service is also available making it ideal if you want to get out of the Convention Center for a bit but don’t want to walk too far. Great views of the Harbor. One of the perfect “Cheap Lunch” spots during the con. If you look around the web, you might find a “2 for 1” or “20% off” coupon. The first link is for the general Seaport Village site. If you look around, you’ll see a number of inexpensive spots to grab a meal.
*Hennessey’s Pub- Gaslamp. Irish Pub serving Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner 7 days a week and the kitchen stays open until 1am. Great Burgers. Specials every night and $2 Bloody Mary’s from 7a to 1p on Saturday and Sunday.
*Horton Plaza Food Court- It’s pretty much a mall food court, but when you’ve decided you can’t live without the Alex Ross designed life-sized Hulk bust but didn’t know the next booth over had it for half of what you paid…the food court is your friend. The FC at Horton actually is pretty diverse for what it is. Sure you have your Panda Express, McDonald’s and Hot Dog on a Stick, but there’s also Wonder Sushi, Great Kahn’s Mongolian Festival and Steak Escape.
“That’s food…where are we drinking?”:
Ah! You’re going to try and “Par-TAAAH” while at the con? Not a bad idea. Just remember…moderation. Comics creation tends to be a pretty solitary thing. Plus, depending on the day job for some of us, it’s been some time since we last did the “social” thing amongst fellow adults. Barcon is fun, but there’s always one or two guys (and gals) who are like the high school junior staying at a frat house during his college visit. (“DUDE! This Everclear stuff fucking RULES!!!”) Please…don’t be that guy.
And with that out of the way, we present Suggested DW approved watering holes.
*The Epic Proportions booth- (we’ll explain later)
*Hennessey’s Pub- Gaslamp. Yes it was in the dining part of the guide, but it deserves a spot here as well. (Plus, you shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach.) Decent selection of beers and mixed drink specials to be found and usually pretty good live Irish music. Not a bad place to start your evening of carousing.
*The Star Bar- Downtown/Gaslamp area. You like dive bars? You want cheap drinks? Head down to the end of E Street to the Star Bar. All prices are labeled on the bottles. If you have any cost questions, we're not responsible for "can't you read?" looks from the bartenders.
*Moose’s Gaslamp- Part of the Moose McGillycuddy chain. Home of the 2005 unofficial DW dinner. Happy Hour from 4p to 8p. One Dollar domestic Drafts and Well drinks all night Wednesday night. ($2 domestic bottles) http://www.mooserestaurantgroup.com/moose_mc/branch1/club/
*The Cherry Bomb- Downtown/Gaslamp. Like the Dive bar but want something a little more Indy/alternative/punk? Staying more towards Balboa Park than the Convention Center? Find this bar between Ivy and Juniper on First Ave. You’ll have found a pool table that costs only a quarter to play. The jukebox playing a good mix of old and new rock, punk and indie staples as well as local acts at a high volume. Mixed drinks run $3.50-$4. The only beer on tap is Budweiser, but for just $3 you can enjoy it in a very tall, 23-ounce glass. If Bud's not for you, choose from a wide range of bottled beers, both domestic and import. You can even get a Shirley Temple, served in a frosty beer mug topped with cherries.
Kansas City Barbecue- Another from the dining list but the cheapest bar close to you if you’re staying at the Hyatt.
*Your hotel or the beach. Face it, the cheapest beer you’ll drink this weekend will be the ones you bought at Ralph’s. Get some friends together…or just buy a case and friends will follow.
*Redfield’s Lounge and Bistro- “The Hyatt Bar”. Actually this is one of three Hyatt bars that will be going during the con. I mention Redfield’s (or as we call it during the con, “Renfield’s”) because it’s my personal preference of the three. Better lit than the “Top of the Hyatt” on the 40th floor of the original tower and more comfortable than the area at the base of the escalators across the lobby. Of course it’s a Hyatt, so you’ll be paying out the ass at all three. I want to say Budweiser bottles were $5 or $6. you’ll find house wines by the glass for $5 from 7 to 9 p.m., and $9 specialty martinis, including a Chocolate Cake Martini if you’re brave enough to go the foo-foo route. Best if you are there on an expense account because you can easily drink away your budget.
“Escape from the Convention Center” or “Saturday’s a frickin’ madhouse.”:
The second title pretty much sums it up. Saturday is when the locals come out to see what the big deal is. It’s also the day of the major spotlight panels. In light of this, a lot of con veterans have chosen to either just do a half day or skip Saturday altogether. If you’re not working a booth, you might want to think about this. Early predictions are calling for between 110,000 and 125,000 people attending this year. With most turning out on Saturday it might be your ideal time to check out the city. And there’s a lot to see.
*Balboa Park/san Diego Zoo- http://www.signonsandiego.com/citysearch/feature/48/maps.html Most of San Diego’s Museums are located in the park, as is the famous zoo. The link can give you details on what all is there as well as scheduled exhibits and (if required) ticket info.
*Sea World- Stretching across 189 acres along Mission Bay, SeaWorld is one of San Diego's most popular attractions. It's famous for its spectacular stadium shows, namely Dolphin Discovery and Shamu the killer whale. The owners of the parks have been adding thrill rides here and at Orlando as well. The drawback is the $53 Adult ticket but you might get lucky with one of the discount coupon offers. http://www.seaworld.com/seaworld/ca/default.aspx
*Padres- While the team will be in San Francisco for the weekend of the con, those who arrive on Tuesday will be able to catch a ballgame or two as the post-All Star homestand will finish up Wednesday with an afternoon game against the Phillies that will let out in time for Preview Night. If you prefer a night game, Tuesdays’ first pitch is at 7:05pm.
*Star Of India/Maritime museum- one of the finest collections of historic ships in the world, including; the world’s oldest active ship Star of India; the 1898 steam ferry Berkeley; the 1904 steam yacht Medea; the 1914 harbor Pilot boat; the HMS Surprise a magnificent replica of an 18th century Royal Navy frigate and Californian a replica of a mid 19th century revenue cutter. http://www.sdmaritime.com/
*USS Midway- the legendary WWII Aircraft carrier that served from WWII through Desert Storm is now a floating museum located up the street from the convention center at Navy Pier. Open from 10a to 5p with Adult tickets for $15. www.midway.org
*US Open Sandcastle building championships- Saturday will be the second day of the competition at Imperial Beach. A number of other activities will be going on, but the works of art in the sand will be the main attraction.