Instagram Lately + SoCal Food Guide (tacos, mochi, poke, hot pot)

anthropologie floral dress wedding guest outfit

Anthropologie petites dress (old), Steve Madden sandals (runs narrow), Chanel bag

Whenever we travel, scouting out and trying the best local eats is one of my top priorities. I’m constantly bookmarking / screenshotting yummy-looking places and badgering Nick to go a little out of our way sometimes for a bite. I wanted to share some of our favorite spots along the route of San Diego to Los Angeles from our trip last month, for anyone planning a visit. I would also LOVE some recommendations around those areas for our future visits!
san diego hammonds mini ice cream cones flight

Guess boy-fit shorts (on sale), Ann Taylor top

Starting in San Deigo, we landed and made our way to Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream. Move over, beer flights…this place has the cutest mini ice cream flights with your choice of sugar or house-made waffle cones. You can get singles or flights of 3, 4, 5…up to 32 for enthusiasts who want to try every flavor! I called up a local hungry friend who eagerly ditched work to help us polish this off. If you’re having trouble narrowing down options, the Banana brownie storm, POG (pineapple orange guava) sorbet and thai iced tea were a few of our favorites.
TJ oyster bar san diego
One thing Nick always misses from home are the tacos, so we make sure to get our fix whenever there. TJ Oyster Bar is a small chain outside of San Diego with delish seafood tacos and ceviche. I’m not even a big taco person but I loove the tasty octopus and garlic shrimp tacos (so many shrimp for the price!) here, and the fish or shrimp cevice – be sure to ask for extra tostadas for scooping it up.
Kawamata seafood poke bowl
Kawamata Seafood – in Dana Point, CA right off the 5 freeway. I can’t believe this was our first time trying poke bowls, a Hawaiian specialty. As an avid sushi and chirashi lover who usually spends a good 5 minutes at dinner cutting everything into bite-sized pieces, I felt like this dish was made for me. You get to choose from ahi tuna, salmon, octopus (or a mix) with a variety of sauces and add-on toppings, and white or brown rice. Soo good and felt light but filling.
boiling point hot pot irvine
Boiling Point – Irvine, CA (also right off the 5 freeway) and multiple other locations around the US. We read there’s usually long wait times but we went during a non-peak time and were seated right away. I’m the biggest hot pot enthusiast but this was the first time we tried it Taiwanese-style! I’ve never ordered hot pot with all of the ingredients coming out already stewing in the pot. For adventurous eaters, there are interesting, authentic items to choose from like stinky tofu (very palatable name, I know). I can’t wait to try to Seattle location when visiting my brother.
brodard vietnamese spring rolls
Brodard – almost 4,000 reviews on yelp say it all for their famed pork & shrimp spring rolls or nem nuong cuon. My friend Wendy first took me here for these (I had never seen her so enthusiastic about food!), which are apparently high in the ranks of Vietnamese comfort food. I can see a platter of these being the perfect late-night drinking food.
Cafe maji green tea cappuccino
Cafe Maji – Within a few moments of posting this on FB and IG several of you guys asked if this was a pregnancy announcement…rest assured no baby bear on the way, it was just the barista’s choice that day : ) Everything looked amazing but the green tea latte and green tea/strawberry/red bean waffle were a little too sweet for us. We did however love the regular cappuccino and the tasty little cream puff it comes with. Looking forward to trying their other drinks and quesadillas next time.
Mikawaya mochi ice cream
Mikawaya mochi – in Little Tokyo, LA. Home of the boxes of mochi sold at Trader Joe’s. My mind was blown to see “mochilatos” on the menu…little glutinous rice balls stuffed with creamy gelato instead of regular ice cream. At $1 to $1.50 a pop, these are perfect for satisfying a sweet tooth after a ramen meal in the area.

Photos are all from my Instagram. As mentioned above, we visit every so often so I’d absolutely love more recommendations in the SD to LA areas!

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  1. Lien Duong wrote:

    Hi Jean — it's been a while 🙂

    If you're an avid mochi fan, there's a place down in Chula Vista called Hogetsu Bakery you should check out next time. It's a bit of a hole-in-the-wall, but the mochi is excellent and absolutely beautiful. And since you'll already be in the general area, Tacos El Gordo, as many have previously mentioned, is a necessary stop. Hope to catch you sometime in SD~

    Posted 10.25.15 Reply
  2. Kate wrote:

    Ellie's Table in San Clemente and soon San Juan is a cute little bakery!

    Posted 10.24.15 Reply
  3. Andrea wrote:

    I second Old Pasadena. Great place to just wander from store to store. And yes, in San Diego, Lolita's! Love Hammonds too! For breakfast in SD, I love to head to Mission Hills – The Patio on Goldfinch. Delicious food in a great neighborhood.

    Posted 10.21.15 Reply
  4. Oh man, this all looks so good! That ice cream flight looks so fun!

    I'm a fan of your food posts–would love to see more of them!

    Lifestyle by Joules

    Posted 10.21.15 Reply
  5. Paola wrote:

    Beautiful photos!

    Posted 10.21.15 Reply
  6. JasmineC wrote:

    All of those are great places! Oscar's Mexican Seafood in SD is amazing. You also have to try out Extraordinary Desserts and Phil's BBQ in San Diego. OC/LA places. Gen Korean BBQ, Tender Greens (best tuna nicoise salad), Daikokuya (best ramen), Bottega Louie (desserts too). Boba places- Almond Haus, 7 leaves, Half and Half, Class 302. Coffee- Portola Coffee Lab, Philz coffee (mint mojito or ginger), Verve Coffee Roasters. Dessert- After's ice cream, Mochilato (walking distance from Boiling Point), 85 degrees bakery. BCD is always open 24/7 if you're out late!

    Posted 10.21.15 Reply
  7. Poke Bowl places are popping up everywhere in OC, I grew up eating poke so this is so cool for me. I will have to try Boiling Point, it's down the street from my house and I've never heard of it


    Hope to see your Thursday for TBT Fashion link up.

    Posted 10.21.15 Reply
  8. Bela Anzu wrote:

    Thanks for sharing all these mouth-watering desserts and dishes!

    In San Diego, Harney Sushi has beautifully plated and tasty sushi. I remember having the Rollz Royce which was quite spicy and delicious. From what I recall, all their rolls are consistently good. We had to wait a while before we were seated, so it might be a good idea to make a reservation.

    Another great restaurant is "Truluck's". If you go during cocktail hour, they have half priced cocktails and maybe some appetizers. I remember having fish tacos, but maybe check before going if it's something you guys have your hearts set on. There is also live entertainment in the lounge.

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  9. Unknown wrote:

    I know this is not the point of this post, but any chance of having a guest do a petite maternity post? I am newly preggo (again) and 5 ft tall, so once again finding affordable and good options is hard with the limited maternity selections out there. And the seasons don't match up with my first preg, so will def have to buy some new stuff (not like i really need an excuse to shop) 😉

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  10. Julia wrote:

    Not sure if you've been or if you like all you can eat korean food, but Road to Seoul in Koreatown!

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  11. Winnie wrote:

    Robertos in SD is my favorite place for the CA burrito! I love potatoes in my burrito– it's genious!

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  12. Debbie wrote:

    Carmela's is the best ice cream. Make sure to get the waffle cone.

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  13. Anonymous wrote:

    Ok those mochi look too good!! I want some now!!

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  14. Mei Liang wrote:

    I always make a stop at Brodard's everytime I go to L.A. I have yet to find Vietnamese spring rolls in San Francisco comparable to Brodard's!

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  15. Valeri wrote:

    Ok, crazy question, but you might be able to help me. My boyfriend and I love road trips and are planning to drive down south from San Jose to San Diego in a couple of months and we would love to try all these places you outlined in this post. I was wondering how I can 'save' or 'favorite' this post, so that I can look up the review later. I've already copied names and websites of the places, but the review and pictures will entice him more to go. See where I'm going with this? hahaha

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  16. Julie wrote:

    You gotta try Philz Coffee for the iced mint mojito (several locations in L.A. and Bay Area), Bestia for Italian, Carmela's Ice Cream in Pasadena, Golden Deli for Vietnamese in San Gabriel, Raffi's Place for kabobs in Glendale and the original Ding Tai Fung for dumplings in Arcadia!

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  17. The ice cream looks so cute!! I have to give that a try next time I'm in San Diego. Btw I love your Anthropologie dress <3

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  18. Joyce Pak wrote:

    I love that you make eating your priority and that you share all your finds with us! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Characters & Carry-ons

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  19. Oh my gosh, everything looks so delicious and mouth-watering! Thanks for sharing!


    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  20. It's only 10am and you're making me hungry! Those look delish.

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  21. Anonymous wrote:

    You might like Au Lac in Fountain Valley. Www,

    Another favorite is Olive Tree in Anaheim and the baklava bakery two storefronts away called Forn Al Hara.

    You didn't ask about spas, but you might like the Korean spa called Irvine Spa in Irvine.

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  22. Susan wrote:

    If you love poke, please try Cherrystone's Restaurant in Gardena, CA. It is a Hawaiian restaurant owned by my stepdad's best friend. I am biased, but I absolutely love the food there. I live in Toronto and I am constantly craving their gumbo, poke, garlic noodles, and everything he feels like making me.

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  23. Mmm yum! You've made me crave mochi now!

    Vanessa /

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  24. Love your pics! I want the rolls now!!!!
    xoxo Lynda

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  25. Emily wrote:

    – Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego has an amazing assortment of desserts.
    – 101 Noodle Express in Arcadia has some of the best dumplings and handmade noodles (chicken noodle soup is my personal fave).
    – Porto's is known for their potato balls, guava pastries, and yummy sandwiches. There's a few of them scattered throughout LA.
    – Korean BBQ in LA's KTown! I think they're all delicious but some of my favorites are Soowon Galbi (a la carte) and Oo-kook (all you can eat!).

    Happy eating!

    Jemily Life

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  26. Carla Krae wrote:

    You can find a lot of wonderful SoCal eateries by searching for locations featured on "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives".

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  27. PX wrote:

    So glad you tried Taiwanese stinky pot. I'm from Taiwan and I absolutely live stinky tofu hotpot!!

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  28. Meagan C. wrote:

    If you're in LA area again (near Arcadia), go to Pasadena! I absolutely adore Old Town Pasadena. Really great shops and coffee shops. One of my favorite coffee places in Pasadena is called Honey and Lavender! Check it out! And when you're back in San Diego, go to Oscar's Mexican Seafood (for shrimp tacos), Lolita's (for carne asada fries), and Tacos El Gordo (for the BEST authentic tacos). If you love brunch like me, I would suggest Cody's La Jolla! Then venture to Herringbone (also in La Jolla) for a good happy hour!

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  29. Nina wrote:

    If you're in the Seattle area, make sure to try Dough Zone on the east side (Bellevue area) – cheaper than Din Tai Fung for xiaolongbao and oh so very delicious. Pretty authentic for a Northern Chinese restaurant in a mostly Southern Chinese city. While you're at it, the Jian Bao there are pretty good, if a little less crispy and slightly more doughy than I remember in China. …And it's just a few miles down the road from the Bellevue Boiling Point (just as busy as the one in downtown Seattle, though)!

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  30. Anonymous wrote:

    If your in San Diego again, Bankers Hill is a must, we loved it so much we ate there three times. Also Cucine Urbana is great!

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  31. Sasa Zoe wrote:

    haha cute instagram photos! These mochi look so delicious<3

    Shall We Sasa

    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  32. Hammond's and Kawamata Seafood are now on my list of must-try foods in So-Cal! Thanks for sharing!


    Posted 10.20.15 Reply
  33. All these food photos are making me hungry. They all look so delicious. I'm a big food lover so scouting for good places to eat is also my main priority when I'm traveling. I'm in Seattle so hope you can do a meet up next time you visit your brother. Love your blog and been follow you for years.

    Posted 10.19.15 Reply
  34. Anonymous wrote:

    I love the Steve Madden heels but that style of heel tends to be extremely narrow. Do you have any suggestions/resources for that style in wider sizes?

    Posted 10.19.15 Reply
  35. Love your food photos! They are making me so hungry though!


    Posted 10.19.15 Reply
  36. Anonymous wrote:

    Galbi at Soowon Galbi in Koreatown LA, chubby pork bowl or the fries at Chego Chinatown LA, purple rice sushi at crazy brother's sushi in Norco, CA, Ube Leche flan cupcakes or ube truffles at cafe 86 Chino or Pasadena, CA, mango snow at class 302 Cerritos, CA, and taiwanese hotpot at boiling point various locations but there's one in Arcadia, CA. -Penny (Instagram penincolor)

    Posted 10.19.15 Reply
  37. Paige Ma wrote:

    These pictures are making me so hungry. 😉 I wish I had seen this before our last trip to San Diego in February! Our favorite place was a breakfast place called Richard Walker's Pancake House (in the Gaslamp District)……the best German pancakes and coffee I've ever had.

    Posted 10.19.15 Reply
  38. The spring rolls from Brodards are the BEST!

    Liz @

    Posted 10.19.15 Reply
  39. Janet wrote:

    You gotta try juniper and ivy in SD (top chef winner Richard blais' restaurant) and get a California burrito at Chile peppers! Sugar fish in Santa Monica, father's office, and Mendocino farms in la… I'm surprised you didn't eat at din Tai fung in arcardia.
    Haha, I moved to Boston last year and am moving out in December and returning back to CA. Food here is nowhere near as good as CA. Same goes for the weather. Haha!

    Posted 10.19.15 Reply

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