May 19 2015 08:18 PM

Restaurants with big portions, unpretentious golf courses and the cowboy way suits these characters

Illustration by Carolyn Ramos

It's like having Lucy and Ricky Ricardo and Ethel Mertz (sans high-waisted Fred) over for an extended stay. My parents from back East regularly travel around the country with my mom's childhood friend. They don't dance and sing like the I Love Lucy stars of yore. But when they make the annual trek to San Diego, somebody always has some 'splainin' to do. Usually, me.

Ethel (I'll use everybody's sitcom name) belongs to a timeshare club that has two properties in Del Mar. Wave Crest (1400 Ocean Ave.) is right on the water; Winner's Circle (550 Via De La Valle) is near the racetrack. Usually I pick up the gang at the airport and drive them to one or the other. But first we make a stop at Ralphs grocery store to fill up their rental's fridge.

Lucy is big on making her own meals while on vacation. But they have a couple restaurants they like going to, especially for the big portions. The downtown Broken Yolk (355 Sixth Ave.) is a breakfast fave. Lucy, Ricky and Ethel have a system where they order different menu items and split everything. Another place where this works well is The Old Spaghetti Factory (275 Fifth Avenue). For dinner, one will order a big salad, one will order a pasta dish and the other will go wildcard. When the waiter brings them the main courses, and three extra plates, the go to work immediately, knifing things into thirds and passing them around.

To introduce the not-too-intrepid trio to some other dining options, I'm planning to take them on a food tour run by So Diego. Full disclosure: I moonlight as a guide on the company's downtown Brothels, Bites & Booze tour. This'll be my chance to show them Meze, JSix, The Field, Ciro's Pizzeria and Heavenly Cupcakes, and, to talk history about San Diego's most famous prostitutes, Ida Bailey and Madame Cora, with Lucy. ¡Ay-ay-ay!

So, when Ricky retired, he took up golf. I believe in the old adage: Golf is a good walk, spoiled. But once a year, we hit the links. A few summers ago, a connection got us on the course at The Grand Del Mar (5300 Grand Del Mar Ct.). We arrived underdressed. Ricky is just as happy to play at the Coronado Municipal Golf Course (2000 Visalia Row). Since Iím so bad at the game, I sometimes take the olí bandleader to the Del Mar Golf Center (15555 Jimmy Durante Blvd.) to whack a bucket of balls on the driving range.

If Ricky and I go off to inflict pain on golf balls, Lucy and Ethel will ask to be dropped off at the historic Hotel del Coronado (1500 Orange Ave.) They like to window shop at the Hotel Del. The gals usually hide their credit cards, but enjoy poking around in the Babcock & Story Emporium while snacking on a cup of something sweet from MooTime Creamery (1025 Orange Avenue).

Lucy used to be an art teacher, and she still raves about the time we visited Spanish Village Art Center (1770 Village Pl.) at Balboa Park. It's a colorful, sort-of-secret spot for art lovers, with more than 200 artisans showing their work in and around nearly 40 working studios and galleries.

Old Spaghetti Factory

If timing permits, we may check out the bayside Summer Pops concerts (Embarcadero Marina Park South). The San Diego Symphony plays outdoors on the park behind the downtown Convention Center. I know the Ricardos would enjoy "Broadway: A Rodgers & Hammerstein Celebration." Ben Folds, not so much. But I'd go sit on plastic lawn furniture and sip champagne out of a plastic flute and listen to "Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II."

This summer, the big advance excitement is that Ethel discovered that she's eligible to stay at a timeshare in Ramona. There was confusion at first, since Lucy kept sending me emails asking me what it was like in Pomona. Horrible, I replied. Don't go to Los Angeles. We finally realized Ethel's hotel was in San Diegoís East County. It's a quaint, rural, cowboy town nicknamed "Valley of the Sun." It's got an antique-lined Main Street, and there are plenty of homemade apple pies nearby. Sounds peachy.

Those guys can check out Western art galleries or see what's shaping up at the yarn store. I'm pretty sure I'll be busy when they plan that leg of the trip. Somebody has to stay behind and make a reservation for brunch at Hash House A Go Go (3628 Fifth Avenue). This Hillcrest eatery serves portions so big that one entrée can feed a family of four. Spread that three ways, and with the help of doggie bags, that's several more meals that can be stored in the fridge back at the timeshare.



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