San Diego Restaurant Week is right around the corner. This year, 172 restaurants are participating, offering 2-course lunch menus and 3-course dinner menus, ranging from $10-$20 for lunch, and $20-$40 for dinner.
There’s a preview night at Broadway Pier, where you can get a taste of what’s to come, but tickets are pretty pricey at $75 each. My suggestion is to stick with booking reservations at a few different places, and experience the food in a more relaxed, comfortable setting… but where? Well, I’m glad you asked. After combing through the menus on the official SDRW page, I came up with my top 7 picks. If you read through to the end, there’s also a giveaway.
On to the TOP SEVEN!
Del Mar Rendezvous has lunch for $20 and dinner for $30. At lunchtime, you can choose any entree, noodle, or rice dish and either an appetizer or dessert, which essentially opens up the entire menu. I tried several dishes during a special preview dinner, including the honey-glazed spare ribs (pictured above) and the steamed dumpling sampler, both of which are great options for apps. For mains, some of the best bets include gluten free konnyaku noodles topped with shrimp, walnut shrimp (a house speciality), and Mongolian rack of lamb, which is an additional $12, or $6 if you dine before 6 p.m. and mention the special offer. Asian places aren’t typically known for their desserts, but Del Mar Rendezvous’ are tasty, especially the xiangjiao, creamy banana cheesecake stuffed into an eggroll, deep-fried, and dusted with cinnamon and sugar.
1500 Ocean is exactly the type of place you should check out during Restaurant Week. I had my first RW experience here in the fall of 2010 and I still remember every detail about the meal. Some of this dishes for this year’s event are similar, including the burrata appetizer and the skirt steak entree. I’d go with those, and the ricotta fritters for dessert. Dinner is $40 per person.
Bali Hai has a solid $15 lunch menu. Essentially, you’re getting a free appetizer, since most of the mains are regularly around $15. There are four options for apps and eight for mains, including salads, sandwiches, and specialities. Too bad the burger isn’t an option, because it’s excellent. I’m eyeing the crispy vegetable rolls and the ribeye steak sandwich. If you don’t have to be anywhere for two hours after lunch, try the Mai Tai, too. There’s also a $30 dinner menu.
100 Wines is upping the ante by offering an amuse-bouche to start their 3-course dinner ($30). You can choose between two different garbanzo bean preparations (hummus or crispy chick peas), then move on to dishes like lamb meatballs, pork osso bucco, and meyer lemon cream cake. If you love cheese, you can eat it in all three courses. Go with the whipped goat cheese to start, then the oven roasted pizza or freeform ravioli, and tiramisu in a jar for dessert. This menu looks solid from start to finish, with lots of tasty options.
Kitchen 1540 has lunch for $20 and dinner for $40, with entree options like cornish game hen and beef tenderloin, as well as two desserts created by pastry chef Jeff Bonilla. Usually RW desserts are pretty lame, but both the “chocolate milk” and “fruit” options sound so good that I’d make a reservation here specifically for the sweets. The lunch menu is a great option if you want to experience something new and something comforting at the same time. Start with the cool roasted beets, follow it with a burger, and end with dessert.
Vintana‘s lunch ($20) and dinner ($30) menus look tempting, and both include plenty of options for mains. At lunchtime, there are eight options, but the grilled cheese sandwich with apples, smoked gouda, bacon, and fig jam jumps out at me the most. Appetizers are less exciting, and there’s no dessert, but I doubt you’ll have room for one, anyway. The dinner menu looks tasty too, with dishes like Mexican prawns with sweet corn fritters, bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin, and blueberry and peach crisp for dessert.
Another solid option for a solid meal is The Wellington, where $40 gets you an old school steak dinner. The menu is a bit limited (and doesn’t feature the restaurant’s signature dish), but it does have the classics, like crab cakes, filet, and crème brûlée. Ordering a filet seems a bit ho-hum for Restaurant Week, but there’s nothing wrong with a steak dinner if it’s really, really good.
I have one Restaurant Week Gift Card for you and a guest to enjoy the restaurant week menu at Del Mar Rendezvous, including upgrades. The card is valid September 8th to 30th. For your chance to win, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post with what you’d order as your entree at Del Mar Rendezvous (menu here). The winner will be announced on September 6th.
UPDATE! And we have a winner! The winning comment is #2, proving that sometimes the early bird gets the worm, and other times he’s even luckier and nabs a Monogolian Rack of Lamb. Congrats, Scott!