20 Best places to eat and drink in San Diego
It took me some time to complete this but as promised in my 3 day itinerary to San Diego post, I finally have a list of 20 best places to eat and drink in San Diego! Better late than never, right! 😉
You may have already noticed my love for food! I love trying different cuisines and always game to try out new places and dishes. And when I had visited San Diego, I was lucky enough to try several restaurants and breweries. San Diego is food lover’s paradise. The city’s food scene is diverse and incredible! You will find fine dining, trendy cafés and juice bars, some of the best breweries, authentic Mexican restaurants and many more in San Diego.
I’ve had the pleasure to visit San Diego many times and this gave me opportunity to try several new restaurants and go back to trusted old ones. So my list kept growing and I’ve listed all my favorites here! This is an extensive list of 20 best places to eat and drink in San Diego including restaurants with amazing views, some of the best breweries, hole-in-the-wall taco stands and all my favorite dishes to try!!
20 BEST PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK – SAN DIEGO
Gaslamp is the foodie hub and THE place to be in San Diego if you are into nightlife, fine dining, fun bars and restaurants. Most restaurants turn into nightclub at nights and are super fun. In case you decide to book a hotel in the area, be aware that Gaslamp can get loud and noisy at night.
Cafe21 is an incredible farm to table restaurant in Gaslamp quarter with great breakfast and lunch options. The menu is your standard cappuccinos, avocado toasts and eggs but with a twist. That makes this café’s dishes super interesting and delicious! I loved this place so much that I had visited it twice during my 3 day visit. You have to try this Cafe!
Sevilla is a fine Spanish restaurant in the heart of Gaslamp. The standard Spanish fare of jamon serrano, patatas bravas, grilled octopus, Spanish tortilla are all delicious and reminded me of Barcelona. They play live music and have flamenco performances on most nights.
Barleymash is a sports bar with standard American cuisine with amazing drinks. I loved the flatbreads and burgers as well. They have a great beer selection but the cucumber mint margarita is what you should be drinking here – absolutely delicious!!
Watergrill serves some of the finest and fresh seafood in San Diego. It is not to be missed. Try any seafood item!
Vin de Syrah
Vin de Syrah is a unique wine bar tucked amongst the many restaurants in Gaslamp. The wine selection here is pretty good and unique ambience makes it a great place to hangout!
Oscar’s Mexican Seafood
I first found this local hole-in-the-wall place 10 years ago. Since then, they have expanded and added 3 other locations and that speaks volumes about their food. While the tacos are delicious, order the shrimp and fish ceviche and their grilled fish – to die for!! As an added bonus, they offer online ordering and take out.
George’s at the cove
Years ago, I had interviewed for a company based in San Diego. The interviewer took me to George’s for lunch and I had been going there ever since! This restaurant is one of the best places to eat in La Jolla with amazing views and fresh food! And the dishes aren’t crazy expensive either! I have had several standard and seasonal dishes here and all of them were delicious! I recommend anything with seafood.
Puesto is a fun place to eat in La Jolla. They make mean Mezcal based cocktails and the tacos are incredible! Puesto offers taco variations like low carb and low calorie. You will not regret going here!
The Taco Stand
I discovered The Taco Stand by accident while driving in La Jolla. I saw long lines outside the door and immediately searched for it on yelp. To my surprise, I found out that it is a really popular place with best tacos. I regret taking so long to find this little gem! The tacos really live up to the expectations. I had al pastor (rotisserie pork), nopal (cactus) and pescado (grilled fish) and they were all really good. Their habanero salsa is also the bomb (if you like it spicy)! This one’s a MUST visit if you love tacos but get there early!
If you are around La Jolla Cove, AT Coffee House is fun place to grab a hot or cold drink and walk around.
Casa Guadalajara is a fun place to grab lunch or dinner in Old Town. A live Mariachi band plays music everyday and the courtyard with colorful decor transports you to Mexico. I love that they have a Tortilleria where tortillas are made to order. The food is not exceptional but go there for the ambience and the camarones al a diablo (Fiery hot shrimp entrée)!
I admit that most of the restaurants in Old Town are touristy. Coyote Café also falls into that category. The food is just ok but they sell freshly made tortilla stuffed with salsa or chocolate outside. They are pretty tasty and they are just a dollar each!
SAN DIEGO AIRPORT/HARBOR
C-level Lounge San Diego
It beats me how I did not know that this restaurant existed until my last visit! It is minutes away from the airport and honestly, hard to miss every time you drive to/from the airport. The seafood here is scrumptious and this restaurant has THE best views of San Diego. I wish I had taken some photos!! Their lobster dishes are the best and I loved the crab appetizer and salmon entrée. Try the Bloody Mary too!
SAN DIEGO SOUTH
Tacos el Gordo
Tijuana’s (Mexican city across the US border) famous taco place opened in Chula Vista and many consider their tacos as the best in San Diego. It is a bit of a drive (15min south of airport) but so worth it! My last visit was my first time to Tacos el Gordo and I enjoyed it so much!! I highly recommend the al pastor tacos. Note that they mostly (or exclusively) offer beef and pork tacos. I have seen some nopal (cactus) tacos but check the menu before you go.
If you would like to brunch like a king, try Breakfast Republic. The egg benedicts here are to die for and very filling.
A trendy café in North Park with charming decor and delicious coffee. Did I mention that they do coffee flights?!
Did you know that San Diego is considered the craft brew capital of America? San Diego hosts many events centered around beer like San Diego Beer Week and San Diego International Beer Competition. I am a wine person but I wouldn’t miss the beers of San Diego. Note that the brews here are not your typical pale ales. Most of them are hoppy IPA style with high alcohol percentage (8 – 10%). If you get a chance, I highly recommend visiting one of the breweries listed here!
Karl Strauss is one of the earliest breweries in San Diego. Their red trolley ale is my favorite and a great pick for first time visitors. Many convenient locations across San Diego (even inside airport terminal!) makes it a great option to try.
Ballast point is another familiar name in San Diego. Their beers can be found in most stores like BevMo across the US. The brewery is huge, can accommodate many people and is a blast to visit! My favorite is the grapefruit Sculpin’.
Stone brewery is a bit of a drive from San Diego but makes for a great half day trip. Stone is known for IPAs and the restaurant on the premises is pretty good as well.
I love Lost Abbey’s theme and their motto “For sinners and saints alike” stuck with me. 😀 The beers are very interesting but intense, highly alcoholic and not for the faint of heart. My favorite and widely available beer from Lost Abbey is Lost and Found.
There you have it – 20 of my favorite and THE best restaurants and breweries in San Diego! I had already sent my friends to some of these places and they all loved it! Hope you get to enjoy the delicious dishes and drinks that San Diego has to offer!
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I am Aswani Kurra. I am an engineer, dreamer and part-time wanderlust, writer and wine lover. I always had an urge to write, create and travel. So I created this space to satisfy my creative itch and combine all my skills to help you plan your Charming Escape.