Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Diego >
Jun 27, 2007 06:55 AM

San Diego for the first time!

My boyfriend and I are going to San Diego in December. I have been searching the posts and would just like to know what kinds of foods San Diego is known for. I like to try to get foods that I cannot get anywhere else when I travel. We normally get water when dine, so under $30 dollars/person/meal. I am really looking forward to this trip! I know that Mexican is supposed to be a must while visiting. What else should I search around for?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. If I may ask, where will you be staying and are you driving while in town?

    1 Reply
    1. re: trentyzan

      We don't know where we are staying yet, but we are going to try to rent a car while out there.

    2. Unique San Diego is Chuao chocolate (several locations), great Mexican in many, many locations.

      1. Try these similar topics for a start:
        Generally, for interesting SD food in your price range and presumed area - I would suggest exploring Convoy St. & it's environs in Kearny Mesa for Korean, Japanese (Tsuruhashi, Izakaya Sakura, Tajima), & Dim Sum (Emerald, China Max, Jasmine), Persian (Parsian Market) along with El Cajon Blvd. area to the East or around Linda Vista for Mexican (Super Cocina), Vietnamese/SE Asian (Saigon, etc.), more Middle Eastern, Ethiopian, and Greek.
        There are some good concentrations of very affordable "non-road food" places in these less touristy areas, but many gems in Hillcrest, Little Italy and the Gaslamp if travel is a problem. For affordable and interesting food that is off the beaten path, look for good fish tacos, caldos, carnitas, homestyle Mexican, early weekend Dim Sum, Vietnamese and Korean hot pot/table-top grilling, omakase sushi and Izakaya-style lunch items, Banh Mi and Pho.

        6 Replies
          1. re: trentyzan

            Hello!! Thank you for the suggestions. My friend from NJ and I (AZ) will be in DT San Diego in August for a few days and would like to know which dining spots not to miss out on! I don't know yet of her preferences, but I'm into almost anything: Japanese, Mediterranean/Middle Eastern, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Korean, Persian, Italian... like I said, almost anything! Since I am in land-locked AZ, fresh seafood is a must! Love crabcakes, everything but shrimp (love 'em but allergic).

            I'd like input on the following suggestions given to me by a coworker who used to live there. Are there better options than the ones I have listed below?

            Bandar (Persian)
            Cafe on Park (Breakfast)
            George's on the Cove (but this isn't downtown)
            Hash House (Breakfast)
            Sushi Deli (bad reviews on!)
            Taste of Thai

            Would like great seafood places, both inexpensive and moderate. Also, where may we squeeze in some yoga?

            1. re: starlightjulian

              Downtown is pretty lame in terms of anything exotic. It's mostly overpriced places meant for tourists. If you like ethnic food, you'll mostly need to travel elsewhere for a good experience. There is no Korean, no Vietnamese, no Japanese, Ethiopian in the downtown area. A couple of decent ethnic places, besides Bandar, are Marketplace Grille on 5th (middle-eastern) and Chopahn on 6th and F (Afghan cuisine). Those two places and Bandar are about it for downtown ethnic eats. Another good spot downtown is Cafe Chloe. They have very nice French food. Their weekend brunch is great, recommend that highly.

              Of the list you gave, I've had good meals at Bandar and George's. Sushi Deli is nothing worth discussing (it's ok for a cheap lunch), Hash House is hugely overrated. Heard good things about Cafe on Park but haven't been.

              Kearny Mesa is the place to go for Asian food. Lots of good stuff along Convoy St.

              1. re: Josh

                Thank you, Josh, for your quick reply. I will keep checking this blog for more input. If you come up with anything interesting, please let me know!! I will add the four eateries you've mentioned to my list :)

              2. re: starlightjulian

                For seafood I would not miss Oceanaire. The crab cake appetizer was hands down the best crab cake I have ever eaten. Great crab with very little binder. It is a bit more expensive then moderate but if you and your friend share as the portions are HUGE you could get away with a moderately priced dinner.
                For cheaper/moderate seafood I love Bay Park Fish Co and the Blue Water Grill. Both are great lunches and Blue Water Grill is right near Shakespeare's Pub which has a great outdoor deck to enjoy a pint on.

                I don't like Hash House at all but a lot of people do as evidenced by their lines. If I go out to breakfast it is either to Parkhouse Eatery or Adams Avenue Grill.
                And for other activities there are 2 excellent places downtown and one in Little Italy.

                1. re: jturtle

                  Oceanaire had a great happy hour including $1 oysters. They have a bar area with plenty of seating if you get there for the beginning of happy hour.

            2. Other things that you may not find elsewhere include Japanese, Indian and Persian hand-made sweets and snacks at 1)Hogetsu (S. in Chula Vista for fresh & direct, but you can find their stuff at Mitsuwa or Nijiya), 2)the Little India area on Black Mtn. Road (esp. Surati Farsan Mart - try the masala dhosas) and 3)Parsian/Balboa International Market, (more in El Cajon, to the East).
              Sashimi grade seafood, kobe and wagyu beef are usually available at Tsuruhashi for Japanese-style tabletop grilling. If you're looking for quality meat and fresh seafood that you can taste, I can't recommend them and the very nearby Izakaya Sakura (evenings for sushi) enough.

              1 Reply
              1. re: trentyzan

                Just to add, Izakaya Sakura also has great cooked dishes and serves lunch as well. It's only disadvantage is that it is hard to find as it has no signs. See



              2. Where are you from?
                San Diego has better Vietnamese restaurants than many cities, and they serve a large immigrant population. Some of the best are in City Heights along El Cajon Blvd, or up along Linda Vista and Convoy in Linda Vista and Kearny Mesa. I recommend you eat Vietnamese for lunch or dinner at least once, or twice if you are here more than a couple of days. The prices will be quite reasonable, well under your price.
                If you are interested in drinks as well as food, San Diego is well-known for good beer. A couple of restaurants and bars have very good selections of local and imported stuff.
                As others have mentioned, you can find a few good options for Japanese (Sushi, grilled meats, Izakaya), Korean and Chinese (well, Sichuan at Ba Ren). There are some good, cheap Filipino and Lebanese places, and some worthwhile Indian - though I would avoid the fancy, touristy options.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Joseph

                  South Carolina- By the way, thank you all for the great suggestions. I see that there is quite an Asian influence on the West coast! We are definitely looking for something different from what we can get at home, so we appreciate all of the awesome suggestions.

                  1. re: jmckeev

                    if you're coming from SC, definitely load up on good Asian. Having lived in the South, what was considered good Asian was really gross. I had to wait to come back to CA or Vegas to feed my Asian food fix. SD has good Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese and decent Chinese. Definitely don't miss out on the sushi (Izakaya Sakura, Sushi Ota).

                    Also, food out here tends to be lighter in preparation than the South. Less heavy, fried foods in general and lighter "mouth-feel." That took me a while to get used to when I lived there, although I miss good grits, fried green tomatoes, okra and the best peaches and strawberries I've ever had!

                    Cheap, good Mexican of the tacos/enchiladas/burritos variety can be found at El Cuervo in Hillcrest. Good for a very casual, cheap lunch. Best tacos and salsa bar are at Mama Testa's in Hillcrest. Their entire menu is made up of tacos from around Mexico. Definitely not stuff that you can get done well in SC. Both places will run you under $10/person.

                  2. re: Joseph

                    What are the good beer places? My boyfriend is a huge fan of imports, especially porters and stouts- His favorite so far is some sort of Russian imperial stout that we had in D.C.

                      1. re: jmckeev

                        You could combine destinations and hit Convoy St. for Asian food and O'Brien's Pub for beer. I believe they have the largest selection of imports in SD, with 20 Taps and god knows how many bottled beers. I get their newsletter b/c they have a lot of special events. Every Thursday they tap a different cask-conditioned ale. Tonight for example, it's AleSmith Summer YuleSmith. I've gotten bottled Belgians cheaper elsewhere, but they're a great place to try a lot of rare stuff in one place.
                        I'd suggest parking at your restaurant destination, though, and walking over to O'Brien's early to avoid the nuttiness. Then, you can get appetizers there and eventually stumble over to your restaurant choice and try to establish some baseline sobriety after a long dinner.

                        4646 Convoy Street

                        1. re: jmckeev

                          The Linkery is one of the only places where you can drink cask-conditioned real ale while eating good food. Some nights it might be the only place in the city to get a pint from a cask. The food isn't always perfect, but some dishes are great.

                          3794 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104