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‘Travel Guides’ Category

  1. Dining Near Disneyland: The PCH Grill

    December 3, 2010 by ruetheday

    Eating inside the Disneyland Park is both expensive and largely unfulfilling. While there are a few great restaurants in the park, The Blue Bayou is exquisite, the price overall is astronomical for the quality of food you are getting. Instead, it’s generally better to eat outside of the park, although many of the nearby options are still pretty pricey.

    To that end, The PCH Grill inside The Paradise Pier Hotel is a great meal for the cost. The buffet restaurant allows you to eat everything you possibly can all while being fussed over by your favorite Disney characters.

    When you first enter, you are greeted by Mickey (unless he’s on a break, in which case you will meet another costumed character) where you can take a photo opportunity before you chow down.

    As your waiter brings your drink selections, you are invited to start grazing on the buffet and what a buffet it is. When we went for breakfast there were all the things you would expect -scrambled eggs, bagels, sausage and bacon, and many things you wouldn’t -smoked salmon and caviar with capers, chilaquiles, an omelet bar. Plus, there are your mandatory Disney themed treats, such as Mickey-shaped Belgium waffles.

    While many breakfast buffets tend to taste dried out, salty and bland, even the basics were moist and flavorful. In fact, I don’t hesitate to say that they had the lightest, fluffiest scrambled eggs I’ve ever had at a buffet.

    As if the delicious food weren’t enough to make this place worthwhile, the characters are constantly circling to ensure every table gets sufficient interaction. If you can go on a weekday morning a little later than the average breakfast time, there will be hardly anyone at the restaurant, which means more character attention to entertain you.

    While we got pictures with Goofy’s son Max, Daisy, Mickey and Minnie, my favorite character was Stitch. He sat down in my boyfriend’s seat while he was filling up his plate and flirted with me, then when he returned, he gestured for me to leave my love and date him instead. The character was perfect for Stitch’s bratty personality and that alone made the meal worthwhile.

    At $21.50 per person, the meal was hardly cheap, but the fact that there are no tips accepted and that the food and entertainment were both top notch made it completely worth the price.

  2. Dig In At Tyler’s Taste Of Texas

    December 1, 2010 by Jill

    Where do you go in San Diego when you want Texas-sized portions with a slice of Southern hospitality on the side? The aptly named Tyler’s Taste of Texas, of course.

    If you can’t stand kitsch decor or republican campaign posters, then this restaurant is not for you, but if you don’t mind a little bit of a theme adorning your meal, then you’ll be sure to enjoy the fried melange of comfort food streaming out of this kitchen. Everything from fried catfish to chicken fried steak to Texas barbecue are served up piping hot, in massive quantities and at all hours of the day.

    If you’ve ever complained about the overpriced tiny portions featured on Denny’s late night meal, then head over here for your 3 AM pancake fix and enjoy piles of food for dirt cheap prices.

    Tyler’s Taste of Texas is located at 576 N. 2nd Street in El Cajon.

  3. Dinner And Show: The Rainforest Cafe

    November 26, 2010 by Jill

    When visiting the Disneyland Park, many guests will find themselves facing the dilemma of whether to eat at the park or risk wandering out of the park to indulge in less expensive delights. As a compromise, a lot of people end up eating in Downtown Disney, which is still located within the official property, but not quite as overpriced as the parks themselves.

    A popular choice amongst these Downtown Disney options is the Rainforest Cafe. And it makes sense, the animatronic elephants, butterflies and gorillas are the closest thing to a Disney attraction offered outside the realm of Disney. If you do decide to eat here, call ahead on your cell phone to book a reservation because the wait can often be an hour or more if you don’t.

    The food here is still way more than it would be anywhere else. I’ve found the nachos appetizer to be one of the better deals. Even though it is around $15, the dish includes a lot of chips, hamburger meat, veggies, black beans, cheese, sour cream, and salsa -meaning it’s more than enough food for one person. Generally, my boyfriend and I have ordered this and and something on the lighter side and shared. When you do this, you can ensure your meal ends up being around $15 per person, which is actually pretty low for anything in and around the parks.

    The burgers are good, but they are about average for a restaurant of this type, nothing too special and for $12 with a bag of potato chips, they aren’t exactly cheap.

    Even so, the entertainment of the half hour rainforest shows makes up for the slight overpricing and it’s certainly going to be better food for a better price than anything you’ll get in the park. Overall, you’d probably be better off skipping the Rainforest Cafe in San Francisco and Las Vegas, but when visiting Disneyland, it’s a good call, especially for those who have children with them.

    Reservations can be made here: (714) 772-0413

  4. Another Local Icon Bites The Dust

    November 24, 2010 by Jill

    There was a time where anyone asking about bakeries in El Cajon would immediately get barraged with stories about Howard’s Bakery and their amazing cakes, cookies, donuts, etc. It seems this era has come to a close though.

    This little diamond in the rough is more like a cubic zirconium in a trailer park. It’s just nothing special. On a recent visit, my boyfriend and I indulged in a fruit tart (once my favorite thing they sold here), a small slice of cake and a bag of day old cookies. While nothing was outright bad, nothing was impressive either.

    The fruit tart was covered in that weird clear syrup you’ll find at grocery store bakeries. The custard was too thick and almost plasticy and the pie crust was chaulky. While the flavors were acceptable, the texture was rather gross.

    The cake slice was dried out and the frosting was uninspired, none of the heavenly buttercream I remembered Howard’s selling years ago. As for the cookies, one of the flavors was chocolate and one was just a sugar cookie. They both were good, but no better than some of the boxes of cookies I’ve bought at the 99 Cents Only stores. Certainly they were not the quality you would expect from a bakery that has been in business for decades.

    All in all, there are a lot better places in San Diego to get your sweet fix, even the grocery store.

    Image via Yelp user Aimee L.

  5. An Utterly Disappointing Meal At Stone Brewery

    November 17, 2010 by Jill

    Breaking from my general cheapskateness, I opted to let my mother take me out to Stone World Bistro in Escondido for my birthday dinner. It seemed like a good option as they have a reputation for fine food and the brewery tour would allow us some entertainment prior to dinner.

    We agreed to meet at the restaurant at five, but my mom ended up showing up almost an hour early, which is good because otherwise we would have missed the six o’clock tour because apparently you need to get there around two hours early to get your pass. After waiting for an eternity, we took the tour, which was somewhat interesting, but certainly not worth a half an hour wait, let alone two hours. Afterward, you get four free beer samples. Unfortunately, you don’t get to choose your samples, so if you aren’t big on the flavors offered…oh well. Even so, it was a nice, free experience.

    Moving on to dinner, things got progressively worse. The highlight of the entire meal was my Wandering Aengus hard apple cider, which was delightfully sweet and fruity, perhaps the best cider I’ve ever ordered. Even so, it’s pretty bad when the best part of your meal has nothing to do with the restaurant itself.

    The menu and the crowds should have been warnings in themselves, as there was no cohesiveness to anything. People with dredlocks and mohawks were sitting beside yuppies. Some people were dressed up, others were in jeans and tee shirts. The menu was equally chaotic. Kimchee, sausages, shepards pie, tofu stir-fry, paella, and duck tacos were amongst the many incohesive options available. It wasn’t as if this was world-fusion cuisine; there was no fusion about it, just a random selection of dishes from around the globe.

    We started out with the mac n’ beer cheese. I won’t lie, it was great. There were homemade sausage slices blended in with macaroni in a rich cheese and beer sauce. The problem, one bowl, as an appetizer, was around $15. Keep in mind, this is at a place that serves practically no side dishes with your entrees and doesn’t even give you free bread with your meal, so you pretty much need to order an appetizer to feel at all full by the end of your meal.

    My mother’s boyfriend and I both ordered the Australian wagyu top sirloin. While it tasted great and was quite tender, I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that the restaurant seems to pride itself on locally sourced ingredients, only to purchase beef from all the way across the globe. It seems a little hypocritical to me. For $30 a pop, I would at least hope for a good-sized stead or some good sides, but the cut was fairly small and all I got with it was a thin layer of diced potatoes under the steak, two carrot slices, two undercooked slices of gold potatoes and two thin broccoli florets. Of everyone at the table, the two of us with steak were the only two happy with our meals.

    My mom ordered the chicken schnitzel, which had so many herbs in it that you couldn’t taste the chicken at all. It was so overwhelming you had to wait a minute after each bite to even clear your palate enough to taste anything beside the herbal flavor.

    As for my boyfriend, he ordered the “artisinal sausage times 4,” which is an appetizer that is supposed to consist of four different sausages. He only got two sausages, both of which were mediocre at best. The sausages came with potatoes and cabbage, which would at least make the item somewhat filling, were it not for the fact that the cabbage was so terrible it wasn’t even edible. I have no idea what they did to strip the cabbage of any flavor and just make it purely nauseating, but they managed it. The potatoes weren’t as bad, but they were utterly bland. All in all, you’d damn well expect more from an appetizer that costs around $20.

    By the end of the night, a cider, a glass of wine, two iced teas, two appetizers and three entrees came out to be over $150. The worst part is that the mediocre meal left all of us hungry by the night’s end. If you’re going to shell out that kind of money, you’d better at least get some pretty good food and some leftovers.

  6. China Diamond: The Jewel of El Cajon

    October 7, 2010 by Jill

    With some of the most flavorful Chinese food in all of East County, China Diamond is an amazing value. While all of the dishes are cheap and delicious, the buffet is the best way to go, offering tons of choices for under $8 during lunch and under $10 for dinner.

    The orange chicken is rich. The egg drop soup is perfectly balanced. Don’t miss the shrimp dish, although it changes every time, it’s always heavenly. When it comes to sweets, the sesame buns and donuts are always crispy and replaced frequently, so they are always toasty.

    The servers are friendly and incredibly attentive, refilling your water and other drinks long before you even think to ask for them.

    All in all, it’s a great place for an unbeatable price. Try it out.

    1265 Avocado Ave # 108
    El Cajon, CA 92020-7783
    (619) 588-9898

    Image courtesy of Yelp user Mustafa J.

  7. Can Round Table Pizza Still Compete?

    September 11, 2010 by Jill

    Reviewed by Jill Harness on March 20, 2011.

    When Dominos redid their formula, I was extremely skeptical and hesitant to try the new recipe. But I did like what I had, and at $5.99 for a large two topping, their price simply can’t be beat. In fact, it seemed to spurn a race with most pizza chains trying to have the best value for the price. Both Papa Johns and Pizza Hut have turned to offering unlimited toppings for $10 (although Papa Johns has since canned this promotion). And Little Cesaers has continually been pumping out $5 cardboard circles for mass consumption.

    While there is still plenty of room for gourmet pizzerias and even neighborhood spots, can a massive chain that refuses to drop prices even hope to compete for value? Round  Table better hope so.

    To review the chain, the BF and I ordered two large pizzas from the Round Table in Santee last night, both of which were on special. Even though they were on sale, the total still came out to $30 without any tips. At more than twice the cost of two large Dominos pizzas, the chain seemed to be losing right away. But then we looked at the sizes. The Round Table pizzas were at least two inches larger in diameter and they were significantly thicker, so realistically, you are getting more pizza at least.

    But when it comes to toppings and flavor, Round Table blows the competition away. We ordered their Italiano pizza for $11, which has a slightly different crust than usual and comes in either cheese or peperoni. The crust was good, well seasoned and thick. Both my boyfriend and I probably could have ate no more than a third of the pizza each, which is a lot less than the full Domino’s pizza it takes to fill us each up.

    Then came the BBQ chicken pizza. This had their traditional cheese-laden crust and an array of toppings, including chicken, bacon, green onions, garlic sauce, BBQ sauce and red onions. It was just as filling as the other pizza and $5 more, but the flavor was incomparable. The combination of toppings blended together perfect, it was sweet, savory, tart and heavenly.

    After a full investigation, I think it’s safe to say that Round Table certainly holds its own against other chains, even if the price is significantly higher. So next time you’re ordering, consider more than price, consider the fillingness of the pizza and the flavor. Round Table just might be the best value for your dollar.

    I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5, because, hey, it could still be a little cheaper.

  8. Great California Getaways For Kids

    August 4, 2010 by Jill

    California offers an amazingly diverse array of activities for the young and old alike, which is why it is such a great place to travel with kids. No matter what your children are into, there’s sure to be some part of the Golden State that is certain to suit their interests.


    From the laid-back beaches of San Diego to the lively shores of Los Angeles’ Venice Beach, kids always find something fun to do along the coastline of California. Many of the beaches in major cities, including San Diego, Santa Cruz and Santa Monica, even offer boardwalk amusements so those who aren’t big on sunbathing and swimming can partake in rides and carnival games.

    Theme Parks

    For those thrill-seeking children out there, the state also has a wonderful array of theme parks. Rollercoaster lovers are happiest at Six Flags in Ventura County, while youngsters are better suited to Disneyland. For those enthralled with the magic of movie making, Universal Studios Hollywood is a great choice. Many families find that Orange County is a best bet for everyone as Disneyland and California Adventure offer a number of rides for those who like to keep things simple while Knott’s Berry Farm can satisfy the thrill-seekers in the group.

    Nature Parks

    California has some of the greatest biological diversity of any state in the nation. As a result, there are hundreds of state and federal parks protecting our most stunning natural resources. For those who really like to rough it, Death Valley is a rewarding challenge, but most adventurers prefer to visit more forested areas, such as Yosemite or the Red Woods National Park.

    Lively Cities

    When it comes to big city attractions, California offers two of the most culturally rich cities on the West Coast, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Between art venues, music halls and movie studios, there’s always something entertaining in these two massive metropolitans.

    Ghost Towns

    For those who find themselves fascinated with the history of the Old West, California is also home to hundreds of ghost towns that are scattered throughout the state’s perimeters. These windows into history can give kids a chance to actually visualize and touch a critical part of American history. In Southern California, the best locations are San Bernadino, Inyo and Mono counties, which are largely concentrated on the eastern side of the state. In Northern California, you may consider visiting Shasta or Humboldt counties, which are closest to the north of the state.

  9. Delicious Performances In The Golden Horseshoe

    June 29, 2010 by Jill

    Next time you visit Disneyland and want to take a break, why not stop by the Golden Horseshoe Cafe. Here you can enjoy massive desserts or whole meals while watching such great acts as Benny Hill and The Hillbillies. Be sure to arrive a little early to get through the line and get a table in time for the show.

    When we went, I stood in line for food while the BF saved us a great table seat on the balcony and by the time I got through the line the show started. As for the food, we opted on only desert and decided to share a slice of the chocolate cake and the fudge sundae. The price was about average for Disneyland, but the portions were out of control. Either dessert would have been more than enough for the two of us to share and together we gorged ourselves and still had to throw away a massive amount of melted ice cream and soggy cake.

    The flavors of the desserts were great. The cake was moist and the sundae was rich and chocolatey. I’d certainly recommend either –just not at the same time.

    Before you leave, be certain to check out the only hidden Mickey in the entire cafe, a small little one hidden in the vents under the stage. It’s so inconspicuous that it’s probably one of the coolest in the park.

  10. The California Adventure Disney Food & Wine Festival

    May 3, 2010 by ruetheday

    The Disney Food and Wine Festival that takes place in California Adventure every year is a marvelous experience, but to take part in most of the celebratory activities is actually rather cost prohibitive. Rather than spending $80 on wine tastings and $100 per plate on a few dinners, why not enjoy the festivities without shelling out the big bucks?

    Here are a few tips on entertainment during the festival that won’t cost too much.

    • Catch the shows. A lot of the displays and shows can still be watched for free. They may be educational or entertaining, but they still aren’t worth a bundle of cash just for the privilege of sitting during the presentation.
    • Enjoy the freebies. There aren’t many freebies at the park, even during the festival, but if you see some, take advantage. Over by the bread and tortilla factory there is a booth offering taste samples of exquisite olive oils and vinegars with bread chunks to try them. If you’re so inclined to buy a few bottles, remember that you can often use a high-quality olive oil to dilute your fancy one without losing much flavor.
    • Try the Festiv-Ale. Over at the Karl Strauss beer truck, there is a special blend just for this occasion. At $6.75 per glass, it’s hardly more expensive than buying a good beer at a bar. As for the Festiv-Ale, it’s a quite nice blend, rather dark with a bit of a bite and sweet, berry accents to round out the finish. Their other beers are also quite good even if they don’t quite fit in with the theme. The IPA has the highest alcohol concentration and it has all the complexity and depth that a fine IPA should have.

    Enjoying the Festiv-Ale

    • Try a few wine samples. While there are package wine samplings that are rather expensive, there are also wine stands throughout the park that allow you to try a few sips for not too much money.

    If you’ve been and have any more tips on enjoying the festival, please leave them in the comments!