When traveling, visitors often love to "go native" -- they want to go to the places that are frequented by the locals. Savvy visitors try to shun "tourist locations" that may be overpriced and under-satisfying. One of the most frequent questions to concierge in hotels is, "Where do you like to eat?"
On my recent trip to Vancouver, I had the opportunity to "go native." I always encourage people to visit Vancouver because it is such a fulfilling destination. There is so much to do and to see, so many good places to dine. When making your plans for the summer, consider Vancouver and keep these "native" restaurants in mind.
Breakfasts are always fun. After all, it is the most important meal of the day. Vancouver has a chain of restaurants, The White Spot, where breakfast is almost a tradition. Founded by Nat Bailey, a local entrepreneur, the chain was originally a drive-in, serving diners who ate while sitting in their cars. Now the chain has morphed into comfortable interiors with excellent and inexpensive food. White Spots are located in many areas of the city.
Elegant breakfasts are available at O'doul's, a jazz restaurant located in the Listel Hotel, where spacious rooms and suites are decorated with original art and sculpture created by local artists. The dining room at O'doul's has a high vaulted ceiling on which is reproduced a map of the world originally created in the 1600s. The name is Irish, the look is renaissance, the food is great. Come for breakfast and stay for dinner and the music.
One of the finest "view" lunches is at Salmon House On The Hill. Located in West Vancouver, across the scenic Lions Gate Bridge, the interior of the restaurant looks like an Inuit lodge house. Woodcarvings, totems and other symbolic relics decorate the walls. Canoes hang from the ceiling. The view of the Vancouver skyline, across the calm waters of Burrard Inlet, is stunning. The fish and meats (salmon is the signature item) is smoked or grilled over an open flame of alderwood, to give the dishes a very distinctive and excellent flavor.
Joe Forte's, located on Robson Street, one of Vancouver's most interesting shopping areas, is a terrific restaurant named after a local hero. Forte was a seaman from Barbados who moved to Vancouver in 1885 and lived at English Bay, a romantic spot for lovers to visit. He was a lifeguard and made it his job to police the area and protect people who came there. He was even given an honorary constable's title by the city.
Forte's is a fun seafood and chophouse modeled on a San Francisco brasserie. It's full of the noise of people having a good time, eating and drinking. Two stories high, with high ceilings and a rooftop garden, it has a clubby dark wood ambiance. Forte's has one of the best oyster bars on the West Coast and offers the "Lifeguard Tower on Ice," a three-tier sampling of seafood and oysters that has to be experienced to be believed.
San Diego, of course, has lots of places where the tables are filled by people who have the good fortune to live in this wonderful city. Here are some suggestions for "going native" right in our own back yard.
Broken Yolk on Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach (858-270-9655), serves a magnificent breakfast, tons of tasty omelets and pancakes at good prices. Don't let the crowds at the front door discourage you. Service is fast and there is lots of room.
Dramatic Italian "view" lunches are served at Il Fornaio, located in Coronado (619-437-4911) and Del Mar (858-755-8876). The Del Mar location has magnificent ocean vistas. The Coronado location looks out on the bay and on the downtown skyline. It shares the view with Peohe's, (619-437-4474) located next door, which serves outstanding seafood.
Award-winning cuisine in a casual setting, together with an ocean view, are offered at World Famous (858-272-3100) in Pacific Beach. Dinner while watching the sunset is a memorable experience. The Shores area of La Jolla is home to two romantic Italian restaurants with excellent food at wonderful prices -- Piatti (858-454-1589) and Osteria Romantica (858-551-1221).
Whether dining out here in San Diego or visiting other cities like Vancouver, it always pays to "go native." Find where the locals dine and, inevitably, you'll have a memorable meal at often less cost.
Rottenberg is editor of Dining San Diego Magazine and member of the California Restaurant Writers Association.