Can’t Miss Cuisines in San Diego

San Diego offers so many things. Beautiful beaches, a world-class zoo, countless outdoor activities, amusement parks and more. As much as I enjoy these, for me the best thing in San Diego is the food. From spicy Mexican to creative gastropubs, it is hard to go wrong as you explore the city. Take the time to get to know San Diego from a different perspective, whether your visit is a couple hours or a couple days by trying are a few types of cuisine you must fit into your itinerary.

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Grab Something From South of The BorDer

If you only get one meal in San Diego make it Mexican food. The only place you will find better Mexican food is in Mexico. San Diego brings a variety of takes on the cuisine with families running restaurants that have been cooking it for generations, a great influence of the local sea and new chefs taking on new twists.

Get to know San Diego through it's food. From Mexican, pub food and delicious steakhouses with a view, find some of the best restaurants in the city.South Beach Bar & Grill

Make sure you track down some fish tacos. Try some fresh one and some deep fried they are all delicious. In Ocean Beach just off the shore, you will find a dive bar with delicious fish tacos. Make sure to order a Wahoo Taco, a deep fried version. Other than that give them a try, I enjoyed the Mahi Mahi one as well, a fresh grilled taco.

Rockin Baja

Get to know San Diego through it's food. From Mexican, pub food and delicious steakhouses with a view, find some of the best restaurants in the city.Everyone in San Diego will fight over which spot in Old Town has the best Mexican food, but I thoroughly enjoyed Rockin Baja. Their fish tacos take it a notch up including Lobster and ceviche. Their margaritas were also a treat. If you’re staying downtown hop on the trolley, it is only a couple blocks from the Old Town stop.

Going a little more classic you can find good spots all around but there are two in particular I enjoyed in the downtown area close to where most of us visiting for conventions stay. One was your classic burrito spot and the other was a little more upscale. Both brought delicious flavors.

Get to know San Diego through it's food. From Mexican, pub food and delicious steakhouses with a view, find some of the best restaurants in the city.Lolitas

While they have spots around San Diego, the one right across from Petco Park is a convenient spot for those visiting downtown. If you are in need of a casual and quick spot with delicious food, this is it. Grab a burrito or tacos during the day, or stop by in the morning and have a perfect breakfast burrito. They also have great service for a very casual spot.

Get to know San Diego through it's food. From Mexican, pub food and delicious steakhouses with a view, find some of the best restaurants in the city.La Puerta

Right in the heart of the Gaslamp District you will find an upscale Mexican restaurant. Their delicious chips and guacamole and fresh squeezed margaritas is the perfect way to get your evening going. Stop by during happy hour where drinks and appetizers are half off, this can have a huge impact on your bill. Their burritos were perfect, including the many versions of the California burrito. Which if you haven’t tried before is a San Diego staple with french fries in the burrito as well. It might sound crazy, but it is delicious.

GastroPub

The downtown San Diego region has brought a new meaning to pub food. From lobster macaroni and cheese to roasted duck topped pizza, you can find this elevated food in casual bar settings throughout the area.

Stone Brewing Company 

Get to know San Diego through it's food. From Mexican, pub food and delicious steakhouses with a view, find some of the best restaurants in the city.One San Diego staple is the Stone Brewing Company, if you’re a beer fan, especially of the hoppy variety, you cannot miss it. And if you’re like me and don’t like the bitter styled beers they still have some great options, just ask the bartenders.

What these locations also have is delicious food. They have really raised the bar on the selections you can find at a brewery. The liberty station spot by the airport has a large varied menu, but the tap room by the ballpark is pretty great with enough beer for me and their flatbreads are to die for. Their roasted duck and BBQ pizza melted in your mouth.

Get to know San Diego through it's food. From Mexican, pub food and delicious steakhouses with a view, find some of the best restaurants in the city.Barleymash

In the middle of the Gaslamp District is a bar filled with TVs, a chatty crowd and flavor-packed menu. The worst thing about their menu is trying to make up your mind. They offer creative twists on chili fries, mac & cheese and burgers. We had the lobster mac & cheese and a black and blue burger. Both were delicious.

Prep Kitchen

Another creative twist on your standard pub food I enjoyed was this spot over in Little Italy where I met a friend for appetizers. They have an impressive list of small plates that were perfect to share and turn into a meal. We loved the chicken wings, which our waiter demonstrated for us how to get the most meat off the bones. They also have a great wine list and cocktails.

With A View

Now this might be a little less about the food, but one thing you can’t beat from San Diego is the view. There are a variety of restaurants that have breathtaking views of the bay and ocean.  These spots have some great food as well as a view worth waiting for.

C Level & Island Prime

Get to know San Diego through it's food. From Mexican, pub food and delicious steakhouses with a view, find some of the best restaurants in the city.This spot on the small Harbor Island right across from the airport houses two restaurants. First you have Island Prime, a delicious Seafood & Steakhouse. If you are looking to splurge this is a great spot to do it. From the steaks to the fish, all of the entrees were flavor packed. The sides are delicious, including their gigantic twice-baked potato. C-Level is on the more casual side of the restaurant but has just as delicious food. The whole place has an 180-degree view of the bay, the best one I’ve found yet.

Jake’s Del Mar

A little further up the coast you will find one of my favorite spots from years back. Jake’s is a delicious steak house right on the water. With lights out onto the sand, you can watch the waves crashing all night long. Take a walk along the beach if you have a wait for the table or afterward to work off your dessert. A bit on the splurge side but they host a bar menu with a variety of appetizers and smaller plates.

Get to know San Diego through it's food. From Mexican, pub food and delicious steakhouses with a view, find some of the best restaurants in the city.Peohe’s

Take a drive across the bridge onto Coronado Island. The drive itself has a gorgeous view over the City of San Diego, the island and far out into the ocean. Head over to Peohe’s where you can sit inside or out with a great view looking back over to San Diego. From here on a weekend summer night you can see multiple firework shows, from Seaport Village to Sea World. While I’ve only had dessert here their Hot Chocolate Lava Cake was more than amazing so I’d expect the rest of the menu to be pretty good too.

Getting to Know San Diego

For me, one of the best ways to get to know an area is working your way through their restaurants. San Diego shows off its diverse influences, its high expectations for quality in the basic and complex, it’s ownership for its local presence and a low for showing off its scenery.

While I hope you try and fit at least a few of these into your next trip to San Diego if you can only do one I would have to go for the fish tacos. I haven’t found any nearly as good anywhere else I’ve explored. There is something about their proximity to the sea and Mexico that has San Diego getting them right.

Find more of my favorite things to do in San Diego here.

For more information about San Diego check out these great books on Amazon including Fodor’s San DiegoTop 10 San Diego, and San Diego Brewery Guide.


Traveling to San Diego Soon?

Above are a few of my favorite places to stay in the San Diego area.
Learn more about and book more fantastic hotels in San Diego on Priceline and TripAdvisor.


Did I miss one of your favorites from San Diego? If so let me know so I can add it to my list for my next visit. Leave a comment below!

About Megan

Megan MacNee is the founder of Traveling Nine to Fiver. From nine to five she works in the non-profit world in California. She focuses on exploring the world from her own backyard to across the globe. You'll find her sharing about explorations through food, books, travel, and more.