San Diego Restaurant Week is a perfect example of a local initiative that became a city’s tradition. Supporting the local economy, it brings together 180 restaurants ready to serve lunch and dinner to each and everyone. The price range of SDRW meals is also wide enough to give even students some options. While the majority of one-price menus are beyond the college understanding of “affordable”, one can definitely find some solid lunch options under $20. So why pay more to participate in this San Diego ritual? For the poor and the posh we looked at one of the cheapest options of San Diego Restaurant Week worthy of attention, lunch at Caffe Primo — and one of the priciest offerings — dinner at Searsucker.
Location: 1330 Market Street
Located in a rapidly developing district of San Diego, Caffe Primo is not, in fact, San Diego’s very own — inspired by European simple style and ambience, it first came to Los Angeles and only later extended its a la Italiana business operations in the San Diego area. The cafe does not pretend to be something it is not — its interior is just as straightforward as its food. Metal chairs, wooden tables and an outdoors seating area: Is there anything else you need to serve food to the people? Salads, lasagna, pasta and pizza: Are there any other dishes you have to serve at an Italian eatery? Caffe Primo’s affirmative answer to these rhetorical questions is no, and that is what allows this restaurant to bring familiar, good-quality Italian cuisine for a truly democratic price. Caffe Primo’s San Diego Restaurant Week prix-fixe menu lunch costs as much as you would like to pay for it — nothing more and nothing less, leaving you with a feeling of overall satisfaction. Giving this modest place a try over SDRW may be turn out to be a brilliant idea, as Caffe Primo successfully proves that sometimes no surprises is a good surprise.
Location: 611 5th Avenue
On the other hand, for a pretty penny, wine (if you’re of age) and dine your way into a gilded meal fit for Queen Elizabeth herself. Nestled in the crux of Gaslamp, Searsucker is every college student’s nightmare dressed like a daydream. With lofty ceilings, Anthropologie-esque wooden fixtures, perfectly mismatched furnishings and plush seating all illuminated in the glow of strategically placed rustic chandeliers, Searsucker draws you in for the ‘gram alone. But this picture perfect eatery comes at a hefty cost, even during SDRW. Ranging from forty to fifty dollars, the prix-fixe dining experience boasts a two or three course menu crafted with artisanal and often unpronounceable ingredients. While you may begin internally hyperventilating and looking for the nearest Chipotle, the gastronomical fare at Searsucker appears to be well worth taking out a federal loan to pay off dinner. With items like seared halibut paired with fennel reduced in a beurre blanc, beef tartare crowned with a raw egg or farrotto dusted with pecorino and baby kale, Searsucker doesn’t just skirt around Americana classics, but reinvents them with a European flair. Retrospectively, where it lacks in fiscal consciousness and student accessibility, it makes up for in sensory triumph and palatal pleasure.