In December of 2014, we got tired of the blizzards and the cold of the New York winters. We drove across the country thinking we’d spend three months in sunny San Diego avoiding the wind, ice and snow of the northeast. Twenty six months later, and we’ve yet to move back to New York.
We knew we’d exchange the Atlantic for the Pacific, EST for PST, and triple-layered everything for a lightweight sweater once and awhile, but what we didn’t realize were the differences in food. Sure, we knew that there would always be a struggle between east and west coast bagels, that fish tacos were real, and that access to Mexican food was a trolley ride away instead of a flight – but I’m not sure we realized the magnitude of the dietary changes that would ensue.
Each of the individual neighborhoods in San Diego has a personality all its own. Avocados can be purchased practically everywhere and we have even learned how to make our own black beans since we now go through them faster than I ever imagined. And no matter what time of day, what neighborhood, or what price range – there are always tacos to be found.
In the short time we’ve been here, we’ve learned a few things:
- Ask three people for their favorite fish taco shop and you’ll get at least five different answers
- Wander each neighborhood and you’ll find a special treat in each five-block radius
- Food trucks are everywhere
- Hit the coast and you’ll find a combination of five-star everything from a deli shack to a waterfront tablecloth setting
Amidst sandy feet and a craft beer explosion, San Diego has its fair share of all things delicious running the gamut of price range.
Fans of Mexican cuisine, healthy and organic anything, avocado fanatics, fresh fish fiends and those who like the options for diverse eats from around the globe find a home in San Diego. There’s a place to go for awesome northern and sub-continental Asian food. An insane number of options for tacos of all kinds exist all around you. All sorts of Mediterranean, British and South African options abound, there are empanadas aplenty, and even a few New Zealand foodie establishments to add a bit of South Pacific flair.
There’s more to San Diego than meets the eye. You may come for the sun, sea and surf, but you’ll stay for the food. Read on for some recommendations:
Early Morning Fix
San Diego does brunch like nobody’s business. Often open from 6am till 2pm, countless restaurants make their money with early morning yumminess oozing from eggs benedict, pancakes, and waffles galore. Find your favorite morning treat.
- Snooze AM (Hillcrest/Del Mar)
- The Mission (East Village/Mission Beach/North Park)
- Beach Grass Cafe (Solana Beach)
- Fig Tree Café (Liberty Station/Hillcrest/Pacific Beach)
- The Cottage (La Jolla)
- Claire’s on Cedros (Solana Beach)
- Craft and Commerce (Little Italy)
- Great Maple (Hillcrest)
- StreetCar Merchants (North Park/La Jolla)
Fish Tacos… They’re a So Cal Thing
Every visitor we’ve had has heard our southern California fish taco tales. Although not something we found regularly in any other part of the US they are common here. Whether you get them fried or grilled, on flour or corn tortillas, with a traditional white sauce or tartar on the side – no matter how they arrive, fish tacos provide for a very satisfied tummy and a wide smile.
These are our favorite places:
- Puesto (Downtown/La Jolla)
- Lucha Libre (Mission Hills/North Park)
- Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill (India Street)
- Oscars Mexican Seafood (East Village/Hillcrest/Pacific Beach/Encinitas)
- Mitch’s Seafood (Point Loma)
- El Indio (India Street)
My husband and I met in New Zealand. He lived in London; we both lived in Australia and traveled, as part of our honeymoon, to southern Africa. We always look for ways to bring that travel experience back to daily life. Whether you’re looking for a trip down memory lane, a shop to find some travel treats, or a way to watch Manchester United® at 4:30am on a big screen – these spots have it all and will remind you of the Commonwealth countries.
- Shakespeare’s Pub and Grill – Best fish and chips (Old Town)
- Capetown Pub – South African food (Mira Mesa)
- Queenstown Public House – New Zealand eats (Little Italy)
- Royal India – Best Indian restaurant (Gaslamp District)
No matter the culture, noodle soup is designed to fix everything. In Vietnam you find pho; Japan has ramen, and Jewish tradition considers matzoh ball soup to be the penicillin of the food world. Whether your noodles come in a broth or on a plate, your taste buds and immune systems will thank you.
- Tajima (Hillcrest/East Village/North Park/Convoy Street)
- Elijah’s Delicatessen (Clairemont Mesa –sandwiches & latkes are also amazing)
- Saigon on 5th (Hillcrest)
- Ikiru Sushi (Liberty Station –sushi is also fantastic)
- BeShock (Downtown)
- OB Noodle House and Sake Bar (Ocean Beach)
Craving Something Sweet?
Those sweet treat cravings can hit you at any time during the day. Knowing where you can head to quell them helps to keep those sugar attacks to a minimum. Fancy cupcakes, delicately designed pavlovas, frozen yoghurt, or waffles straight from Belgium are ready and waiting for your arrival.
- Babycakes (Hillcrest)
- Extraordinary Desserts (Little Italy/Bankers Hill)
- Wow Wow Waffles (North Park)
- Nothing Bundt Cakes (Mission Valley/Carlsbad/Chula Vista/Del Mar/Carmel Valley/Santee)
- Sweet Things Frozen Yogurt (Downtown Waterfront)
- Donut Bar (Downtown)
BBQ & Burgers
Carnivores unite! From Diners, Drive-ins and Drive® favorites to a place to channel Top Gun’s Goose and Maverick, San Diego has the meat haven for you. Here you’ll find places where burgers reign supreme, beer arrives faster than you can blink an eye, and every fry tastes like it’s your first.
- Hodads (Ocean Beach/Downtown/Petco Park)
- Carnitas Snack Shack (North Park/Embarcadero)
- The Crack Shack (Little Italy/Encinitas)
- Phil’s Barbecue (Point Loma/San Marcos/Santee/Rancho Bernardo/Petco Park)
- Kansas City BBQ (Downtown)
- The Neighborhood (Downtown)
- Slater’s 50/50 (Liberty Station)
Food Trucks & Markets Galore
In the land where avocado is its own food group, fresh is a given, and organic anything is readily available – San Diego food trucks and farmer’s markets excite the senses and offer an incredible array of awesome. Each day there’s a different farmer’s market as well as standing markets carrying international goodies and food trucks providing delicious goodness for every taste. Don’t miss these:
- Little Italy Farmer’s Market
- Liberty Station Public Market
- Balboa International Market
- Hillcrest Farmer’s Market
- December Nights/International Houses Balboa Park
- The Quartyard/Food Truck Fridays Balboa Park
San Diego is full of interesting cuisine, pulsing markets, and engaging new hot spots. Whether you’re looking to grab your own eats and take a picnic to Balboa Park, grab your favorite green juice smoothie and head to the beach, or spend your evenings chowing down on burgers and beer – So Cal’s finest city’s got you covered.
- San Diego has fresh, organic food readily available and at your fingertips
- Whatever you’re looking for: Tacos, noodles, food trucks, or brunch, it’s here
- Bring your walking shoes and trusty tote bags to hit the farmer’s markets of your choice
- Spend your days by the sea and your nights full of delicious eats
Image Credit: Foodshot