San Diego has a large variety of restaurants inspired by food from all over the world, making it a microcosm of international cuisine and the home of some legendary California eats. Known for its fresh seafood and picturesque waterfront views, the city has much to offer in terms of a comfortable and flavorful dining experience. We’re listing some of San Diego’s top restaurants from the classics like Hodad’s Burgers to healthy alternatives for your go-to comfort foods.
Salud’s Tacos Source: Yelp.com
We can’t list the best foods in San Diego without mentioning the iconic tacos. San Diego has some of the best tacos in California and Salud Tacos is a fan favorite, with one reviewer citing it as one of the best in the whole country! Located in the heart of San Diego’s lively and historic Barrio Logan neighborhood, a trip to Salud means experiencing a cultural adventure, where you’ll find larger than life murals depicting historical moments and figures. Salud Tacos opened doors in 2015 but despite being newer than other taco spots, they have gained a lot of traction for its authentic taste and diverse menu.
Must-try: The Barrio Taco is a hand pressed flour tortilla with flavorful stewed beef, black beans, cactus, and sour cream, which is “just like Abuelita made it.”
Honorable mention: For a taste of San Diego’s fresh seafood, try the Baja Shrimp Taco, a beer-battered shrimp with mixed cabbage, pico de gallo, and their special house sauce.
Source: Hodad’s Burgers Facebook
Hodad’s Burgers prides itself on being “the world’s best burger.” The “best” burger is subjective, but one thing is certain, they have to have one of the world’s biggest burgers! Hodad has been serving up its thick burgers in San Diego for over 50 years and continues to draw in people from all over the country. The interior of the restaurant is decorated with car plates, an eclectic mix of memorabilia, and a graffiti of stickers, creating a vibrant space for visitors to enjoy their burgers.
Must-try: For a twist for your tastebuds, try the Blue Jay Burger, a bacon cheeseburger with blue cheese sauce and grilled onions. Alternatively, a simple cheeseburger with a basket of onion rings is a classic and a must-try for your first Hodad’s visit!
The Broham BBQ Sandwich from Phil’s BBQ Source: TripAdvisor.com
Another classic spot in San Diego is Phil’s BBQ. They have several locations all throughout the city and have been serving up the juiciest ribs and the smokiest sauces since 1998. Whether you’re looking for a place to dine with family or have a night of drinks with friends, Phil’s delights visitors with friendly service that makes the dining experience casual and comfortable. Founder Phil Pace described a visit to his restaurant as a guarantee of the “Phil Experience,” which is defined by enjoying delicious food in a place of “organized chaos.”
Must-try: The Baby Back Ribs, which fall off the bone and have a perfect amount of smokiness that’ll show you just how well Phil’s cooks up ribs.
Honorable mention: The BBQ Broham Sandwich, char-grilled pulled pork, perfectly seasoned and topped with their famous BBQ sauce.
Fresh Seafood Display at Blue Water Seafood & Grill Source: TripAdvisor.com
Wild Local Halibut Salad and Fried Calamari Source: TripAdvisor.com
A San Diego food trip would be incomplete if you don’t experience the city’s seafood. Blue Water Seafood and Grill is the perfect place to try all of your favorite seafood dishes fresh from San Diego’s waters. When entering the restaurant, you’ll find an array of fishes and shellfish to choose from, after deciding what you’ll have, you’ll be asked how you want it to be prepared. In a sandwich? A salad? A plate? Or as a taco? Blue Water has a highly customizable menu style that is sure to offer an option to suit your cravings. You can also choose the marinade you want, from lemon butter to butter bourbon, they’ve got options.
Must-try: Grilled fish tacos, you choose the fish!
Honorable mention: The Clam Chowder, a basic way to start any seafood experience, but they give you a generous amount of thick and meaty clams.
Next on our list is an authentic and quaint Italian restaurant located in the South Park neighborhood, Buona Forchetta. The well-loved Buona Forchetta has continually been praised as a must-eat spot in San Diego. In fact, this year San Diego Reader awarded them the Best Italian food award. They have classic napoletane pizzas, pasta, while also offering more innovative concoctions like their Pizza in a Jar, which is a jar filled with fried dough, burrata cheese, basil, and San Marzano tomato. They give an option for pizza and pasta to be made gluten free, so everyone can enjoy their food! Another unique quirk to the restaurant is their pizza-making classes where you can enjoy an “informative happy hour cooking adventure and lots of cheese.”
Must try: The pizza. For a classic, order any classic napoletane. For something new try the Aldo, a no-sauce pizza made featuring provola cheese, pancetta, egg, and truffle oil.
Last on our list is for those looking to indulge in a healthier version of all our favorite comfort foods. Nectarine Grove, located in downtown Encinitas, is a lifestyle restaurant that aims to make healthy eating accessible and enjoyable. They have a “nothing to hide” commitment, promising to serve organic, 100% gluten-free, paleo meals that are made with locally sourced ingredients. Nectarine Grove offers salads, grain bowls, acai bowls, burgers, tacos, and an all-day breakfast. They have just about anything you can think of made with fresh and no-nonsense ingredients.
Must-try: The Eggs Benedict with Brown Butter Hollandaise is their weekend special and consists of two over-easy eggs, avocado, prosciutto, grass-fed butter hollandaise on a grain-free roll.
If you’re looking to make your tastebuds dance or for a treat after a grueling day, give one of these spots a shot. Who knows, you might even find your new favorite restaurant. Although restaurant dining experiences have been adjusted for the safety of visitors during this time, restaurants continue to operate and want to continue to share their food with the community. Whenever possible, support local restaurants and stores to help them stay afloat as they are part of what makes San Diego the wonderful city that it is.