3 JULY 2014
Whether you're broke or flush, or have a king-sized appetite or Spartan eating habits, you should think about your Comic-Con meal plan in advance.
One, you'll need your energy. You'll be dealing with the stresses and demands of waiting in line for hours, walking long distances and odd sleep disturbances. Two, eating well doesn't always come naturally at SDCC. If you don't know where to go, you can wind up relying on the Exhibit Hall fare and Starbucks and end up spending way too much money on horrible junk food that doesn't provide real sustenance. There is a better way.
If you're staying at a hotel, consider buying groceries to keep in your room. If you're driving in, you can bring your own; if not, you can go to Ralph's at 101 G Street to buy basics that should eliminate quite a few restaurant meals. This isn't just about saving money but saving time too; if you're barely making it from one panel to another, you won't have time to leave the convention center, walk into the Gaslamp and sit down for lunch. It's faster and easier to bring your lunch with you - and much faster to wake up, eat a granola bar or fruit and go get in line for the day's panels.
Eating close to the convention center
For some reason, everyone heads like lemmings into the Gaslamp as soon as they feel a hunger pang. This means crossing the street (an adventure in and of itself) and usually waiting around a hot crowded street for the 27 people before you to be seated. Again, unless you have time to burn, stay by the convention center. You have a lot of options here.
The Hilton Bayfront has the Fox Sports Grill, which is usually the quickest option for a fast lunch. But the hotel also has a Starbucks, a frozen yogurt place and its signature restaurant Vela.
The Marriott Marquis has a Roy's, which is rarely crowded, a Starbucks and some faster restaurants which are decent - the Tequila (Mexican) and the Marina Kitchen.
The Manchester Hyatt, on the other side of the Marriott, has a lot of restaurants to choose from - a sports bar, a tapas lounge, a seafood restaurant, coffee shop, fine dining, casual dining. It's pretty easy to find something you'll like.
On the other side of the Hyatt we have the Headquarters which has a Cheesecake Factory, a Seasons 52, a Starbucks, Eddie V's Prime Seafood, a cheese shop, a gelato shop, a chocolate shop, a Mexican restaurant called Puesto and Pizzeria Mozza. Also a farmer's market which could be great for grabbing fresh fruit.
All of these are within a quick walk of the convention center on the same side of the street. Another option: food trucks, though these tend to be sprinkled throughout the area.
If you're on a budget, you can eat for fairly cheap. The food court at Horton Plaza is always packed and the Gaslamp is full of places like Chipotle at 101 Broadway, Gaslamp Pizza and the 24-hour Subway on K Street. Groupon and Restaurant.com can drastically cut down the price of meals at better Gaslamp restaurants. If you feel like going down to the beach, there are a lot of places where you can get a burrito or taquitos for $5.
Other places hold Comic-Con specials; McCormick and Schmick in the Omni usually has a special Con menu with items priced around $10 and Hilton Bayfront had Grab & Go meals for Con attendees last year.
McFadden's is offering an exclusive SDCC menu highlighting "Irish fare" for $6 or less. That's hard to beat.
Generally speaking, if you want to avoid a wait, steer clear of popular Con spots like Dick's Last Resort and head into a better restaurant. You'll be seated faster, enjoy a better meal, and the price difference will sometimes be quite minimal. (But not always.) Blue Coastal Point, De'Medici, Royal India and Nobu can usually seat you right away. Searsucker and Morton's and Gaslamp Strip Club can get a little crowded but the wait isn't usually awful. Making reservations in advance is a smart idea at some places.
If you can wrench yourself away from the Con hive of activity, go into Little Italy or take the ferry to Coronado Island and eat at Hotel del Coronado. It's worth it.
Late night eating
Sometimes you take an evening disco nap and wake up starving at midnight - or you just get spit out of a long all-day/all-night stretch of panels. Luckily a few places are open late. La Puerta serves until 1 a.m. and the SyFy Cafe (Hard Rock Hotel) is usually open until 3 a.m. Dublin Square Irish Pub, Hennessey's and Gaslamp Tavern serve decent late night bar food. The Subway on K Street is open 24 hours and so is Broadway Pizza; some Marriott restaurants serve till 1 a.m. during the Con.
I am a huge believer in eating well and at Comic-Con, it really does make a difference. If you've never been before, put some thought into how much you want to splash out on restaurants and how much time you want to allocate to eating out. It's great to sit down and relax for an hour, but sometimes a certain panel is calling your name and restaurants just aren't an option. As with everything SDCC, it's good to be prepared.