My husband and I have been visiting downtown
The tab for our enlightened selves: We spent $209, excluding taxes, for a night at the Best Western and about $110 for meals.
Location, location, location: The Best Western Encinitas Inn & Suites at Moonlight Beach (85 Encinitas Blvd.;  942-7455) has a prime hilltop spot a couple of blocks from the ocean. The rooms are comfortable, a notch above standard motel fare; many have balconies with ocean or park views. The pool and spa were pleasant and relaxing; the complimentary breakfast is a nice touch. Bonus: If you don't want to drive, you can take the train from L.A.; the Amtrak station is a block away. You can easily walk to the attractions downtown.
We hit all the major food groups — fried chicken, tacos and pizza. Dinner was at the recently opened Crack Shack (407 Encinitas Blvd.;  230-2968) east of downtown. Top Chef Richard Blais' hip, fast-casual eatery is chicken-centric. We scarfed down fried chicken, biscuits with miso-maple butter, and schmaltz-fried fries at a communal table in the open and airy restaurant. Prepare to wait in line at the Taco Stand (642 S. Coast Highway 101;  230-2061), one of downtown's newer offerings. We sat on the sunny patio and munched on guacamole and chips while waiting for our tacos; the al pastor (marinated pork, cilantro, onions and pineapple) was the best of the bunch. Grab a square slice of pizza at the just opened Napizza (615 S. Coast Highway 101;  452-2340) and head to the beach. Napizza specializes in Roman-style pizza al taglio, which is cooked in rectangular pans; there are salads as well, if you must.
The morning scene is buzzing: New arrival Philz Coffee (1060 S. Coast Highway 101;  230-6880) is going up against local favorites Better Buzz (578 S. Coast Highway 101;  487-5562) and Lofty Coffee (90 N. Coast Highway 101;  230-6747). My favorite pick-me-up was the Best Drink Ever at Better Buzz, which was just that with the correct amount of sweet-to-coffee ratio. The evening bar scene is buzzing too, with plenty of spots to grab a drink.