Kirbie's Cravings

Food Guide during Comic Con

Every year hundreds of thousands of people descend upon San Diego to attend Comic Con. The San Diego Comic Con is the largest comic convention in the US. While it was originally created to showcase comic arts, the areas of interests have expanded greatly and so has the popularity.  Tickets for this year’s four day CC passes were actually sold out before the 2010 convention ended.

Future Husband (“FH”) and I attend Comic Con each year. Our reasons for attending our vastly different. He goes to talk to his favorite artists, get critique for his work, purchase art books. I like to run around and spot celebrities, sit in movie panels, and buy more cute-food related shirts than I have time to wear.

Last year, FH urged me to write a blog post about food spots near CC since a lot of people attending are from out of town and want food recommendations.

I agreed to do so, but ended up dragging my feet, and never got around to it. This year I finally got my act together.

This post is on the lengthy side.  I tried to include as many options as possible. If people have other additional suggestions, please share.

I’m often asked where is best to go for lunch. My first piece of advice would be not to go out for lunch. With the crazy crowds at Comic Con, you have to wait for almost every panel and there is limited time to see and do everything you want to do. Lunch takes time away from attending panels, visiting booths, buying things, etc. Also while something may just be “across the street” and take about 5-10 minutes on a normal day, with the crazy throes of people to get through, walking across the street can take close to 30 minutes. Not to mention the crowds of people in line once you do reach that destination.

Last year, a lot of trucks were giving out free ice cream, tacos, etc. We didn’t try to get any of them though because it was just too hard to get across the street.

FH and I always pack our own lunch. If you are staying downtown, there is a Ralph’s grocery store nearby (101 G Street, San Diego, CA 92101)

You can buy premade lunch food items, or buy things to make yourself a sandwich. Many people will bring a cooler and leave it in their car and keep the food there. Others roll around a small cooler with them. Or you can bring a lunch that won’t spoil in a few hours time and just keep it in your bag.

If you have a car, and are feeling a bit more adventurous, you can venture further for your lunch needs. FH and I like to visit Nijiya market, Mitsuwa, or Zion near Convoy street the night before each convention day. Each of these spots offer different sorts of bento-type meals, ranging from chicken teriyaki, to beef bowls, to meatloaf. They taste fine at room temperature, and are more appealing than the offerings at the Convention cafeteria. Last year, people kept coming up to me asking me where I’d gotten my stuff. I also like to pick up a couple of premade rice balls because they are small, filling, easy to carry and eat. I’ll eat them while waiting in line.

The Convention also offers a cafeteria in the main exhibit hall and vendor stands scattered throughout the convention center, but with horribly overpriced and not very good tasting food. It is convenient though.

If you really really want to take the time to venture out for lunch, here are some nearby options that may satisfy your needs:

The Cheese Shop
(627 4th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101)- This places makes some delicious grilled cheese sandwiches. I’ve only been here once, but I enjoyed my sandwich.

(801 Market St, San Diego, CA 92101 )- It’s a little bit of a walk, depending on what part of the convention center you are at. Smashburger serves restaurant style fast food burgers. They also offer a variety of sides like chili, smash fries (tossed in olive oil and herbs), onion rings, fried veggies, etc. Best of all, they offer Haagen Dazs milkshakes which will taste like heaven after the scorching heat. You can check out menu and prices on my post of a media event of the grand opening here.

Kebab Shop
(630 9th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101)- They specialize in doner kebabs, which are like burritos filled with meat. The doner kebabs are quite large here and filling.

La Puerta
(560 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101)- I’ve never actually dined at this Mexican restaurants, but my coworkers seem to enjoy it. I did sample some rolled tacos during a Gaslamp tasting tour and enjoyed the samples I ate.  There are actually quite a few good fast food mexican taco shops downtown, but most of them are not near the gaslamp area.

Royal India
(329 Market St, San Diego, CA 92101)- offers a lunch buffet for $12.99. This is my favorite spot for Indian buffet food. It’s not as watered down as some other options in SD.

(314 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101)- another Indian lunch buffet, priced at $9.99 last time I went.  The food isn’t as great, but there are a lot of options, and a yummy mango mousse.

Rei do Gado
(939 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101)- a Brazilian steakhouse. Lunch is around $20, which is a steal considering dinner is around $45-50. If you’ve never been to a Brazilian steakhouse, it’s pretty cool. While you sit at your table, slabs of different cooked meat are brought over and you can choose ones you want to try until you are too full to eat anymore. There is also a large salad bar with a lot of quality salads and tropical fruits.

Horton plaza
(324 Horton Plz, San Diego, CA 92101)- The mall offers the usual food court options as well as several restaurants like the Nordstrom cafe, Panda Inn, etc.

Dinner is where I recommend you make reservations and indulge on a nice meal with your friends. I’m going to concentrate on the options nearby because it is too hard to cover restaurants all over San Diego. If you want to explore other parts of San Diego, you can refer to my San Diego recipe index, or visit the blogs of my fellow SD bloggers.

Old Spaghetti Factory
(275 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101)- This is a fun and affordable place. The food isn’t great, but it’s decent and dirt cheap. It’s very family friendly. It has a great environment for large groups, but unfortunately, they do not take reservations, which can be a major pain.

Sushi Deli 2
(135 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101)- If you don’t really like raw fish but you love sushi rolls, the selection of rolls here is huge. It’s a small spot, with very cheap prices, so as you can imagine, the wait can be quite lengthy. No reservations and everyone in your party must be present when they call your name. If you plan on going, I’d recommend going right when it opens (or lining up a little before it opens.)

(207 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101)- Made famous by its Hollywood stars clientele, the sushi here is really fresh, but in my opinion, really overpriced. That being said, it is tasty, so if you don’t mind emptying your wallet, and you want to visit the place where the stars dine, you might want to check it out.

Royal India– I mentioned this place for lunch. They serve a regular dinner menu. It’s a little on the pricey side and the menu is too limited in my opinion. But I like the food here.

Yard House
(1023 4th Ave, San Diego,California, 92101 )- It’s a big restaurant with a large menu. It is good for big groups. The food is just okay, but the prices are reasonable.

The Melting Pot
(901 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101)- If you like fondue, this is my favorite restaurant chain for fondue. They have a ton of different chocolate dessert options. A full meal can be pretty time consuming, but if you have nothing else going on that night, why not?

Buca di beppo
(705 6th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101)- a chain of restaurants that serve family style servings of Italian food. The food is very mediocre in my opinion, but it’s fun for large groups and not too expensive.

(380 K St, San Diego, CA 92101)- A nice steakhouse. The steaks are well prepared. The starter bread with infused whipped butters is always delicious. It can get pricey, with most steak entrees being priced around $45-50.  You can read my review of Fleming’s here. If you can get there early, they do happy hour seven days a week, from 5-7, and they offer appetizers and drinks for $6. The appetizers are full size portions. You can read my review of the happy hour here. If you are still in town Sunday night, Fleming’s offers a 3 course prime rib dinner for $29.95.

(570 K Street, San Diego, CA 92101)- Another popular steakhouse in San Diego that prepares some delicious steaks.  They also offer a prix fixe menu for $45 a person. You can check out my review here.

(615 J Street, San Diego, CA 92101)- I’ve never eaten here other than a quick sample during a gaslamp tasting tour. I heard the food is just so-so. I include it on my list though because of the decor. The walls are of sketches of comics done by the artists themselves. It’s pretty cool to look at. You can see some pics I took in this post.

(333 West Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101)- Roy’s is a chain of restaurants that serve Hawaiian style foods. I’ve never been that impressed with it, but a lot of people seem to like it, so I’ll include it. If you do go, the chocolate souffle is the best souffle I’ve ever had.

(285 J Street, San Diego, CA 92101)- Yet another steakhouse, but another good one. I think Fleming’s, Morton’s and Donovan’s serve the best steak in San Diego. They are all about the same price wise. The presentation here is pretty fun.

(327 4th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101)- It’s a very popular Thai place and people always rave about it. I don’t go for personal reasons, but since it is so popular, I’ll add it to the list.

(400 J Street, San Diego, CA 92101)- One of my personal favorite restaurants in San Diego. If you like crab cakes, the crab cakes here are the best I’ve ever had and a definite must order appetizer. If you like fish, the fish here is very fresh and prepared in many different styles. Because it is so fresh, they can serve it a medium to medium rare cooked temperature, so that the fish is very moist and tender. I’ve been to Oceanaire quite a few times. You can read my posts here here, here, and here.

Island Prime
(880 Harbor Island Dr, San Diego, CA)- Another fancier restaurant with a beautiful view of the San Diego harbor as it literally sits on the harbor. I haven’t done a full review, but here is a media comped review I did.

Rei do Gado– I mentioned this under the lunch category, but if you can’t make it for lunch and want to indulge on some serious servings of meat, this is a fun spot. Dinner can be a bit pricey, I believe it is around $45 per person on weekdays and even more on weekends. It’s a fun experience to see the servers bring out large slabs of meat though and it’s all you can eat. You’ll most likely leave with meat coming out of your pores.

If you are like me, dessert is the best part of a meal. Or perhaps you are really hot and want a cold ice cream during the day. There are some options close to the convention center during the day, and some farther away for a nighttime excursion.

(209 5th Ave, San Diego, CA)- The chain that made frozen yogurt such a popular trend. Pinkberry is located just a few blocks from the convention center, making it a convenient stop in the afternoon. It’s usually swarming with CC people, but service is pretty fast. There are only a few flavors to choose from, and a limited amount of topping. They make the yogurt for you instead of the do-it-yourself variety. Here’s a post I wrote during a stop I made during CC one year.

Ghiradelli Ice Cream Shop
(643 5th Ave, San Diego, CA)- Set to look like an old school ice cream and soda shop, this can be a fun spot to visit.

(509 5th Ave, San Diego, CA)- This place serves some delicious gelato along with some other desserts. I haven’t tried the other desserts but I like the gelato.

(1602 State St, San Diego, CA)- Located in Little Italy, this is my favorite place for gelato.

Cafe Zucherro
(1731 India St, San Diego, CA 92101)- While this is a restaurant, it is also open to customers who just want gelato or dessert. The Italian dessert offerings are pretty big, with tiramisu, tarts, donuts, etc. I love bringing guests here.

Extraordinary Desserts
(1430 Union Street, San Diego, CA 92101)- If you really love desserts, this place is a must try.  This is where you take tourists visiting from out of town. The desserts are absolutely exquisite and made with high quality ingredients. They are a little pricey, but they taste wonderful. A table can sometimes be hard to get, but you can always get your dessert to go also. Here’s one of my posts.

Okay, so that is it. This is the end of my recommendations. Obviously there are many more restaurants in San Diego and near the convention center. I didn’t mention ones that I knew nothing about and ones that I don’t recommend at all. If you have a question about a restaurant not on the list, feel free to email me or leave a comment and I’ll let you know what I know about it.

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14 comments on “Food Guide during Comic Con”

  1. This is so funny, because I was actually just thinking today that I should contact you and tell you to write this very post! I’m so glad you did 🙂 I love the bento idea and Extraordinary Desserts is fabulous. I even like it for the regular food! Hope you enjoy Comic-Con – I’ll have to look out for the food related shirts.

    • Oh that is funny! I like the shirts by Spicy Brown and also Tokidoki. There are also some smaller artists that sell shirts as well if you are wandering around.

  2. Three restaurants you didn’t mention (and at least for us by far the best dining options downtown/Gaslamp) are Cafe Chloe, Cowboy Star and JSix

    • Ah, Cowboy Star. I forgot to add that one. I haven’t yet tried Cafe Chloe or JSix. Good to know you like them.

  3. What? No Dick’s Last Resort? just kidding! Great post

    In the past, we usually brought our lunches for the Con because the food in the Convention Center is awful and the wait is way too long at the nearby Gaslamp places. But we have gone to Masala and their sister restaurant Monsoon. I believe their lunch buffet went up in price to about $12.99. 🙁

    I love Spicy Brown shirts! I didn’t know they made food-related shirts. I have one with a Japanese kokeshi doll on it. Have you seen the shirts (and bags and wallets) by Gama Go? Super Cute!

    Have fun at the Con! I’m kinda over it now, having gone there almost every year since 1990. It’s grown exponentially (good and bad) over the years.

    • I have one of the Japanese kokeshi doll shirts too! They have a few sushi ones and a whole line of miso ones where they play on the miso word like “Miso happy” and the tofu in the soup are arranged to look like a smiley face, or “Miso hot” and you see the steam coming out. I found it hilarious. Yes, gama go is one of my favs too! This one year they had the cutest shirt with one of their characters peaking out of a ramen bowl, but they didn’t have my size and then they stopped making it. I was so sad.
      I’m really hoping to get a signing with Simone Legno. Last year I found out about the signings and we were lucky enough to get wristbands to get a signing with him, but I was still pretty new to the tokidoki stuff and didn’t have anything for him to sign. I ended up buying some things for him to sign, but they didn’t have a great stock of purses or anything available at the Con. This year I’m prepared! I have collected so many bags. I’d love for him to sign my L’amore print bag.

  4. ooh, hopefully you will get to meet simone and he can sign one of your bags!

    by the way, i saw some cute (cheap) earrings at claire’s (i was with my daughter)…tiny little sushi pieces, plus hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, as well as diff’t kinds of cupcakes, ice cream cones, and yes, donuts!!!! they have packs of them as well as individual packages. they’re marketed for little kids but hell, i’m an adult and i would totally wear them!

    • Oh those sound so cute. I wouldn’t care if they are for kids, I’d wear them too! Except I don’t have pierced ears. Sigh. Or else I’d definitely go out and buy some.

  5. they do have some “magnetic” earrings.


  6. As someone who has been/worked Comic-con for the past I can’t remember how many years, I highly highly recommend the following:
    1) Go somewhere outside the Con for lunch or bringing a packed lunch that can fit in a backpack. The “cafeteria” food is icky and overpriced. Rolling luggage type stuff isn’t allowed on the Exhibitor Hall floor so I recommend leaving anything like that at home.
    2) Try planning your lunch hour early or later than the usual lunch hour else you’ll find yourself waiting waiting waiting for a table.
    3) I don’t really recommend driving somewhere for lunch (unless you have hotel valet/in-out parking privileges) since getting back in to Downtown and finding parking will be a hassle. Plus, you’ll have to repay for parking in a garage. Pricey!
    4) Make reservations days ahead for dinner if you plan on going to any sit down place. Even places like Sammy’s Pizza Kitchen by Horton will fill up quickly.

  7. This is just what I was looking for! Thanks for writing this up 😛

    I’m lucky enough to be going to SDCC this year and was wondering what I was going to do, having never been to San Diego. I’ve been warned about the panel lines so I’m thinking a packed lunch might be the best way to go.

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