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20 Best places to eat and drink in San Diego

Avocado toast at Cafe21, Gaslamp

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

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

Eggs and tomatoes, Cafe21, Gaslamp

Eggs and tomatoes, Cafe21, Gaslamp

Cafe21, Gaslamp, San Diego

Cafe21, Gaslamp, San Diego

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

Café Sevilla, Gaslamp

Café Sevilla, Gaslamp

Jamón appetizer, Café Sevilla, Gaslamp

Jamón appetizer, Café Sevilla, Gaslamp

Inside Café Sevilla, Gaslamp

Inside Café Sevilla, Gaslamp

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

Cucumber mint margarita, Barleymash, Gaslamp

Cucumber mint margarita, Barleymash, Gaslamp

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

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!

LA JOLLA

Oscar’s Mexican Seafood

Oscar's seafood, San Diego

Oscar’s seafood, San Diego

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

Food and views, George's at the Cove, La Jolla

Food and views, George’s at the Cove, La Jolla

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

Tacos at Puesta, La Jolla

Tacos at Puesta, La Jolla

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

Tacos at The Taco Stand, La Jolla

Tacos at The Taco Stand, La Jolla

The Taco Stand, La Jolla

The Taco Stand, La Jolla

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!

AT Coffee

If you are around La Jolla Cove, AT Coffee House is fun place to grab a hot or cold drink and walk around.

OLD TOWN

Casa Guadalajara

Tortilleria, Casa Guadalajara

Tortilleria, Casa Guadalajara

Casa Guadalajara, Old Town

Casa Guadalajara, Old Town

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)!

Café Coyote

Fresh tortillas outside Café Coyote

Fresh tortillas outside Café Coyote

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

Tacos el Gordo, Chula Vista

Tacos el Gordo, Chula Vista

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.

NORTH PARK

Breakfast Republic

If you would like to brunch like a king, try Breakfast Republic. The egg benedicts here are to die for and very filling.

Inside Communal Coffee, North Park, San Diego

Inside Communal Coffee, North Park, San Diego

Communal Coffee

A trendy café in North Park with charming decor and delicious coffee. Did I mention that they do coffee flights?!

BREWERIES

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 

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

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

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.

Lost Abbey 

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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Aswani-Kurra-A-Charming-Escape

Hi there!

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.

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11 Comments

  1. Chelsea on June 13, 2020 at 8:56 am

    OMG I am such a foodie and these spots look amazing! The taco stand is especially calling my name!! I love discovering places by accident that turn out to be super yum!! x

    • Aswani on June 13, 2020 at 11:08 am

      I love tacos too! You will love them! 🙂 Thanks for checking out and the comment!

  2. molly on June 13, 2020 at 8:56 am

    I had to read this because I love eating in San Diego! This is a great guide. Thanks!

    • Aswani on June 13, 2020 at 9:45 am

      OMG! Me too! Thank you so much for reading!

  3. Taylor on June 13, 2020 at 9:12 am

    Ah this is so amazing Aswani! I loved all of the places I ate at during the few times I’ve been to San Diego. I totally need to try these lovely places next time I’m there!

    I also love Rovino in Little Italy, Bistro d’Asia in Coronado, Catania and Brockton Villa in La Jolla and Hammonds Ice Cream 🙂

    • Aswani on June 13, 2020 at 9:46 am

      Thanks for reading Taylor! I love the food there! Will add your recommendations and try them next time! 🙂

  4. Bettina on June 13, 2020 at 5:52 pm

    Omg, this all looks so delicious! The Taco Stand is one of my favorite places to eat in San Diego. I stuff myself every time I’m there – it’s just so good!

    • Aswani on June 15, 2020 at 5:17 am

      Isn’t it?!! I loved it so much! 🙂

  5. World of Lina on June 14, 2020 at 3:15 am

    All these places look super fancy! I wish I had this post when I was in San Diego last year 🙂

  6. Sara on June 14, 2020 at 9:05 pm

    San Diego is so fun! Thanks for the tips on where to eat when we are there next! 🙂

    • Aswani on June 15, 2020 at 5:17 am

      Thank Sara! glad you got some ideas! 🙂

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