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SAN DIEGO RESTAURANT WEEK: $30 and $20 Best Bets

AVE 5 San Diego
The fare at AVE 5.
Courtesy Photo

Last time around, we examined the best of eateries offering San Diego Restaurant Week menus for $40 per person. This time around, let’s focus on the stand-outs offering lower-cost options.

$30 Options: While still not what I’d describe as a mere pittance, this is a good price level to shoot for, especially when you see certain high-end operations fixing themselves in this mid-level tier. That’s a true bargain and, in the most ideal of senses, what San Diego Restaurant Week is all about.

Downtown’s Jsix is one our finest farm-to-table restaurants, and executive chef Christian Graves has hovered in the top tier of San Diego chefs since arriving from the bay area several years ago. Adding to his appeal is the fact that he’s offering any three courses from his entire menu—from truffled chicken and dumplings to seared local albacore—for just $30.

San Diego foodies have been dying to know how popular chef Carl Schroeder’s second, more comfort food-driven venue, Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant, is holding up a half-year after opening. This is a cost-conscious way to find out for yourself by trying out their deviled eggs and braised chicken pappardelle at a reduced rate.

Whether you go for some of their flavorful sushi or warm dishes like spicy shrimp dumplings with coriander-mint pesto and BBQ short ribs with sweet pea and lemon purée, you’re sure to enjoy the high quality seafood and vibrant Asian flavors that are the name of the game at Café Japengo in the UTC area.

Chef Colin MacLaggan redid AVE 5, going from modern gourmet to straightforward everyday fare done right, without losing his sense of self and technique in the process. Expect an exceptional wild mushroom risotto and a deftly grilled Samoan tombo with “overnight” tomatoes and a ginger butter sauce.

Kensington Grill is the type of neighborhood restaurant every foodie wishes they had waiting for them on a Sunday night or after a trying weekday commute; one that takes simple dishes and subtly yet effectively elevates them. An example of this from their Restaurant Week menu is a grilled Duroc pork chop with butternut squash farro, bacon and an apple bourbon gastrique.

Typically, the only thing threatening to mar the relaxed mood at the East Village’s Café Chloe is its prices, but during Restaurant Week, guests can enjoy delicacies like rabbit rillet, steak frites with port-shallot butter and bittersweet chocolate pot de crème with brandied cherries without breaking from their Parisian-style respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

There are few restaurants north of the 8 and east of the 15 that are finer than Scripps Ranch’s La Bastide, a bistro specializing in classic French fare like salmon en papillote, cassoulet and Beef Bourguignon. Spelunking a hideaway like this is a huge part of what Restaurant Week is all about.

La Jolla’s Marine Room has no shortage of fans and Bernard Guillas, the master chef behind that venue’s bill of fare, is also the creative mind behind The Shores Restaurant, where guests can expect similarly exotic fare like Cajun prawn beignets with sage tomato confit and cabot butter lobster tail with kabocha squash risotto, all with a view of the sun setting over the Pacific.

Located inside downtown’s Se San Diego Hotel, the once ultra-expensive Suite and Tender has lowered its prices while holding over favorite dishes like maple glazed bacon with frisee salad and a grilled filet mignon and crab cake surf ‘n’ turf duo. Enjoy some tasty food that would have totaled over $50 per person only a year ago.

$20 Options: Restaurant Week is generally regarded as a time to splurge (in a most reasonable manner). Because of that, this pricing category has yet to really take off, but there are a few spots where you can get a little more good food than usual for an Andrew Jackson.

The brainchild of caterer extraordinaire Scotty Wagner, Eden is one of Hillcrest’s newest and most exciting new eateries. Don’t miss the chance to net yourself three courses of fare ranging from whimsical to downright witty.

Whether you go with chef Isabel Cruz’ everyman urban outpost Barrio Star in Hillcrest or her flagship Isabel’s Cantina in Pacific Beach, you can’t go wrong with her soulful Latin cuisine … especially at this price point.

I can’t remember the last time I went out for sushi and came away with a per person price of $20. While it’s true that only a portion of the Restaurant Week menu at Banbu Sushi is made up of sushi, great value can be had at this La Mesa spot.

Special menus are what Wine Vault and Bistro is all about. They regularly roll out special tasting menus featuring lofty ingredients and techniques. Rarely, however, do they do it for $20. Use money saved to indulge on some vino while you’re there.