Foodie’s Guide to the NIC Conference: Where to Dine in San Diego

Traveling to San Diego next week to attend NIC’s 2015 Capital and Business Strategies Forum March 31 – April 2?

Senior Housing News has you covered on where to dine while you’re in town.

While San Diego is known for its fish tacos and plethora of Mexican-inspired cuisine (it is, after all, just a few miles north of the Mexican border), a host of new restaurants have emerged in and around the city’s waterfront and downtown that appeal both to visitors and locals alike.


Within a short cab ride or walk from the Waterfront Hilton where NIC’s meeting is taking place, here’s where SHN recommends you make your reservations while you’re in San Diego.

1. Juniper & Ivy. This “Left Coast Cookery” destination graced San Diego with its presence less than two years ago and hasn’t looked back. At its helm is Chef Richard Blais, of TV foodie fame for his role in Top Chef’s seasons 4, 8 and most recently as a judge in Boston-based Season 12. A departure from his burger inspired Atlanta restaurant, Juniper & Ivy (named for its location between cross streets Juniper and Ivy in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood) is fine dining, but it’s not stuffy. (Also Blais makes regular appearances in the open kitchen and dining room.)

The menu changes regularly, though staples such as the buttermilk biscuit (you’re better off ordering more than one) and carne crude asada toast (an uncooked take on carne asada) continue to frequent its offerings. Your palette will certainly be entertained, though it’s admittedly more fun for those who like to share. Dinner only. 


2. The Cowboy Star. Another relative San Diego newbie, The Cowboy Star is SD’s take on steak. Here, you will find 10 different cuts, along with options for the non-meat eating folk. All ingredients are sourced locally for this one-of-a-kind steakhouse-meets-southern California. Lunch Tue-Fri, Dinner Daily. 

3. Bottega Americano. Located in San Diego’s up-and-coming East Village neighborhood, Bottega Americano is a bustling and well-decorated version of modern Italian cuisine. From pasta to house made pizza selections, Bottega Americano is fine Italian food in a relaxed and energetic setting. Lunch, dinner.

4. Searsucker. A trip to San Diego may not be complete without a meal at Searsucker—the original outpost of celebrity chef Brian Malarky’s growing empire of American Classic restaurants. Searsucker now calls Del Mar, Austin and Las Vegas “home,” but San Diego’s Gaslamp area lays claim to its first. It’s not a white tablecloths kind of place—nor should it be; the food here is comfortable with something for everyone from small plates (think spicy shrimp and bacon grits or “farm bird lollipops”) to main courses from ocean and “ranch.” Lunch, dinner.

5. Old Town. Old Town isn’t actually one restaurant—it’s a dozen (or more) that are located a short cab ride from downtown. A historic part of San Diego, Old Town is now a neighborhood that attracts tourists by day and night to sample its many offerings of Mexican food. None are fancy and the menus don’t vary much, but here you’ll find a selection of fun casual Mexican restaurants with plenty of hot sauce and margaritas. Don’t miss the fresh rolled tortillas made to order at Cafe Coyote, or served from the sidewalk stand out front.

6. Puesto. This casual taco-centric eatery has opened a second location in “The Headquarters” downtown—a former police barracks near San Diego’s Seaport Village. Puesto’s take on Mexican is creative, with three different guacamoles and a dozen taco offerings from filet mignon to lamb barbacoa and tuna asada. It’s a casual eatery with table service and an excellent variety of micheladas during cocktail hour. Lunch, dinner. 

7. Ironside Fish & Oyster. Another relative San Diego newcomer, Ironside is located in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood, adjacent to downtown. Go for the cocktails and oysters, or stay for dinner at Ironside—the layout features a vibrant bar scene as well as a bustling sit-down dining room. Seafood dominates the menu here, from shellfish to whole fish, grilled seafood, and other preparations. Ironside has a vast cocktail menu to match. Lunch, dinner.

Senior Housing News will be dining at (and attending!) the NIC conference. Be sure to say hello. 

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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