A cozy Asian eatery, Teriyaki Grill serves up all-natural cuisine without unexpected extras such as MSG and unappetizing additives. Step up to the counter to order spicy teriyaki chicken nestled in a boxed bento ($7.50) or bowl ($5.99), or put hand shovels to work by digging into a juicy teriyaki burger and fries ($5.99). The seared tuna salad keeps meals just shy of raw ($9), and a classic barbecue-pork banh mi sandwich swaddles barbecue pork, jalapeño, sour carrots, and white radish in a crispy baguette for stomach snuggling ($3.50, $6 for a foot long). Sip on potables such as sweet Vietnamese iced coffee ($1.99) and Japanese soda ($1.99) to prep mouths for a main sweet-tooth event of mochi ice cream ($2.99 for three).
Though at least 130 miles and 80 years of history separate golden-age Hollywood from modern-day National City, Cafe La Maze bridges the gap. During the 1940s, this steakhouse served as a playground for movie stars headed to Tijuana, Mexico. Here, they could tuck in to prime rib and lobster on the lower level, or gamble the night away with card sharks such as the Marx Brothers and eponymous restaurateur Marcel Lamaze in a hidden room upstairs.
Today, diners soak up auras of these legends in the same tufted booths where Bing Crosby and Clark Gable most likely lingered at the eatery's grand opening. Candles, chandeliers, and a golden ceiling cast a warm glow across tables as groups savor shrimp cocktails and slice into juicy cuts of top sirloin, new york strip, and filet mignon. Some evenings live music scores meals, and on karaoke nights guests can harmonize with friends as the portraits that line the damask-print walls try to remember the words. Those seeking a more low-key gathering can book the banquet room, which teems with enough red-vinyl seats for up to 70 close friends or cardboard cutouts of their likenesses.
It's hard to imagine a seaside dining experience more complete than the one at Dolphins Restaurant, Bar & Banquet. Sailboat masts bob in the harbor just beyond floor-to-ceiling windows, a red canoe hangs from the ceiling to complement nautical flags on the walls, and at the entrance visitors are greeted by a bronze sculpture depicting a human pyramid of dolphins. And that's before you get a look at the menu. Classic seafood dishes such as lobster tails and grilled teriyaki mahi mahi fill plates during dinner service but also during weddings, when tables are draped in white cloth, decorated with floral arrangements, and cleared of all single people. The restaurant also offers a weekly Sunday brunch, with more than 50 items to choose from.
At the sushi bar, chefs wrap colorful seafood and vegetable combinations into 25 largely simple rolls, including the Chef's Marina, which contains tempura rock shrimp and avocado, and the Tijuana, which pairs spicy tuna with roasted jalapenos. In the evening, a tree-studded patio glows with light from several fire-pits, and occasionally the whole restaurant fills with music from live bands, mariachi bands, and DJs.