This week of travel and sight seeing has been all about finding the local food deals for us, and picking up tips to pass along to you for your future travel adventures.
After my presentation on Tuesday, I came back to the room to change into walking shoes and jeans. We met Linda, my colleague, in the lobby and walked to Little Italy and part of the Gaslamp District here in San Diego. Linda had picked up a tip from the concierge about Two Dollar Taco Tuesdays here in the city (every Tuesday, there are two dollar tacos--yummm!), so we found one of the places that came highly recommended. In addition to the two dollar tacos, they also had two dollar margaritas and Mexican beer, so we each ordered two tacos (you could choose from fish, chicken, or carne asada--steak) and water. Benny ordered a margarita, just to try it out, and later we ordered a fried ice cream for dessert. (Which was huge! Definitely worthy of splitting.) Sorry there aren't pictures of the tacos, we were hungry and I forgot to snag a pic before we all dug into our fantastic grub. Sitting on the street-side patio gave us priority seating and an excellent place for people watching. After our four miles of walking, we opted to take a cab back (which we split) to the hotel, since we hadn't quite figured out the public transit yet.
For breakfasts, we've been doing a protein-packed, high-carb (whole grain variety) meal from room service, which has been exceptionally good and FREE with our AAA $50/day room credit. This has allowed us to cut our eating budget tremendously, and gives us enough energy to get through the day and hit happy hour times after the normal workday for folks, giving us great prices on food and drinks. (I'm not much of one for the bar atmosphere, but I love bar food (fries, potato skins, tacos, etc.), and it's kind of in keeping with the spirit of the city here, so it allows us the chance to see more of the local atmosphere. So, we've been finding some awesome deals on local foods, with a little research.
On Wednesday, after the zoo, we hit up Basic Pizza, which offered an awesome, urban loft dining experience. We started with an organic greens salad, which came highly recommended by the bar tender. Topped with candied walnuts and slices of pear, it was fantastic and plenty for the two of us to share. Since it was happy hour at 4:30 when we stopped by, we had the luxury of discounted wine and beer (Benny enjoyed some of the local brews, while I had a wonderful prosecco), as well as samples of their wood fired pizza (AMAZING!). The wait staff was very well trained and attentive, without hovering.
Yesterday, we took the city bus ($5 for a day pass, vs. bookoos of bucks for cabs) out to the Midway Aircraft Carrier (we took advantage of the student/educator discount, which was better than the AAA discount) for some sight seeing. After touring the carrier and seeing awesome views of the bay, we took the bus out to Ocean Beach, where we had some awesome views of the Pacific, as well as seeing some of the residential areas we might not have otherwise seen if we'd stuck closer to the hotel and conference center. While in Ocean Beach, we ate at the South Beach Bar and Grill, which Benny researched (so we knew to have our IDs out and ready, since they card everyone; a great practice OMHO). They had awesome local takes on bar food, such as mini seafood tacos and carne asada fries. Since it was happy hour (yep, we timed that on purpose), we were able to get these for half price, since they were appetizers, and drinks were reduced. I had an awesome raspberry iced tea, while Benny enjoyed a favorite beer. (Pics of this food to come on Benny's guest post.) When we left the restaurant, we found a strip of antique stores, which we enjoyed puttering around in for a while. (As an aside, we found some super cool abacus lamps, but I couldn't figure out how to get them in our carry-on luggage to get them home--or where I would put them at home.)
Each day, we've found that we had enough left over from our $50/day tab at the hotel to allow for a dessert in the evenings, which has been a nice treat. (I feel like we can do the extra calories, since we're walking an average of 4-5 miles each day.) The creme bruele has been wonderful, especially with the fresh raspberries. So, if you're at the Sheraton Bay and Marina location in San Diego, check it out.
All in all, we've been able to keep our food budget to about $20/day (not including our AAA deal at the hotel for breakfast). Not too shabby for two people who love to experience travel through food!
So, a few tips for traveling on the cheap, but still getting the taste of local cuisine:
1. Do your research, and don't be afraid to ask. (If we hadn't, we wouldn't have known about the two dollar tacos on Tuesdays.)
2. Take advantage of happy hour deals, even if you don't drink. Bartenders are happy to serve you something nonalcoholic, and they will often do "virgin" versions of popular drinks, if you ask. Since they stock a wide variety of juices and sodas, there's no reason not to ask. The food at these places can be amazing, if you do your research.
3. Use public transit to beef up your food budget. The public transit is cheaper and gives you more of a feel for how the local folks live, which is nice (I think).
4. Check our newspapers and brochures for coupons or advertised deals. Often, if you mention an ad, you'll get some sort of discount or free appetizer.
5. Ask about membership or student discounts. If you're in a college town, they will likely have student discounts, even if they're only 10%. (This allows you enough to offer a nice tip.)
6. Pack snacks or find a grocery store to purchase some at a reasonable cost. We keep these in our book bag so that we don't have to pay tourist prices for so-so food at sight seeing destinations and the airport. We also take a stainless steel canteen to fill with water before we leave the hotel; this way, we always stay hydrated and don't pay $3 for a drink somewhere.
What about you? How do you save money on food when you travel? Any tips for others traveling to San Diego?