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"You've gotta eat this..." in San Diego?

Most large cities have certain foods/restaurants, etc. that are "famous". Examples in LA are: Tommy's Hamburgers, Phillipe"s french dip sandwiches, Pink's hotdogs, Hollenbeck burritos at El Tepeyac....... etc. Are there any such places in San Diego where folks say, " You've gotta have one of (?) if you're in the San Diego area. Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!

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  1. The food that everyone I know who visits from out of town asks about is the fish taco. The most famous (as opposed to best) place would probably be South Beach Bar and Grill. I enjoy going there for 1/2 price apps at happy hour which includes a dozen oysters for $12.95 and a fish taco sampler plate. I like asking to hold the white sauce and with cabbage/salsa on the side.

    1. Carne Asada Burrito
      Possibly Chuao Chocolates, especially the spicy hot chocolate

      1. Fish Taco!
        Best from Brigantine happy hour or Mariscos German Taco Truck..but Rubio's will do in a pinch.
        Fish sandwich from El Pescador or Calamari/Scallop sandwich from Point Loma Seafoods.
        Visit some of our great taco shops that are throughout the County of SD.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Beach Chick

          Yeah, i would say a sandwich at Point Loma Seafoods.

          As San Diego as it gets, especially considering the location, the bay, the boats...

          1. re: stevewag23

            I second both Mariscos German Taco truck for fish tacos and a sandwich at Point Loma Seafoods. Point Loma Seafoods is right next to a working commercial fishing harbor and they buy most of their fish fresh and local (everything is labeled by origin) plus they have a great little shop selling sandwiches and what not. I remember my parents taking me here as a kid so it is something of a San Diego tradition.

            The other stand out regional dish is the carne asada burrito. Now, everyone has their own opinion of which place makes the best burrito but the fact is the burritos here are different (and better) then in other places. I especially like how the burritos around here normally don't have lots of junk filler; if you order a carne asada burrito then it will be 90% carne asada with the other stuff added on to compliment the carne asada. Compare that to most other places (basically anything north of LA) where easily 75% of the burrito is made up of junk filler like rice and beans. "I ordered a carne asada burrito not a rice and bean burrito with a smidgen of carne on it" is something I've often thought when I order a burrito in Northern California. Those people just don't get as good a burrito as we get around here (at least not on average) plus they steam the tortilla instead of toasting them which is a disgusting sacrilege.

            1. re: oerdin

              "Compare that to most other places (basically anything north of LA) where easily 75% of the burrito is made up of junk filler like rice and beans."

              You really might as well say anything north of san diego.

              Orange Curtain has the heavy rice filled burritos.

              1. re: oerdin

                Sho you right. I went to law school with a guy from SF, we went to lunch (nothing special I think it was El Cotixan at the bottom of the hill by USD). He complained that his carne asada did't come with beans, and rice, and chips on the side like they do in San Francisco (I assume thats the mission burrito or something). I said why the hell would you want all of that in your burrito. Enough carbs with the tortilla already.

                By the end of the year he preferred the San Diego burrito. The truth always wins out in the end.

                stevewag23, there are a couple places in Orange that'll do the San Diego style carne. I lived there for 6 years so of course I had to seek them out. And when I say couple I mean two. One was tied to the SD chain albertos I believe. This was on Brookhurst in Westminster. Then they changed their name to Alertos. They made it just like you can get down here.

                    1. re: stevewag23

                      yeah, get in a fight with the franchise, remove the B, and you're done. Funny thing is that B is so important in the name of Taco shops. 20 years ago it was Albertos, Filibertos, Rambertos, Robertos, etc,

                      http://www.yelp.com/biz/alertos-mexic... Looks like it is still there, funny enough a bunch of the comments discuss San Diego. It wasn't great, but it had to do

            2. yep I second both fish tacos and carne asada burritos, from a variety of places. Heck, at least get to Rubio's to try a fish taco.

              Oh yeah, and a craft beer from Pizza Port, Alesmith, or Ballast Point!

              4 Replies
              1. re: MrKrispy

                "Oh yeah, and a craft beer from Pizza Port, Alesmith, or Ballast Point!"

                As long as we're noting craft breweries I'd include Lost Abbey and Lightening to the list. Lost Abbey is a really daring young brewery which has made a national name for itself making Belgian style ales but I was also very impressed with their special "wild yeast" ales where they try to use wild yeasts to ferment the beer wort just like they do at traditional breweries in Belgium. The results are interesting but still very good. Lightening is one of our newish smaller breweries but it stands out from the others in the crowded local brewery scene (and we do have a world class local brewery scene) because they make only German style lagers while most of the places specialize in ales. Even though it is small and newish I've made Lightening my go to place lately mainly because it is really close to where I live (it's in Poway and I'm in Mira Mesa) and because I want to support diversity in the local brewing scene and this is the only all lager brewery in town.

                1. re: oerdin

                  Lightning makes a lot of ales,: Black Lightning Porter, Old Tempest Ale, etc.:


                  They may have started out all lager, but they quickly expanded from that.

                  1. re: RB Hound

                    Good to know. Thanks for the correction.

                    1. re: oerdin

                      The bomber of Black Lightning Porter that got polished off this evening thanks you. :)

                      I think the spirit of your post still holds, though. Lightning is doing more of an old-style European beer, and not the big/wild ales that usually are identified with San Diego beers.

              2. I'd nominate the following for singular, standout dishes:

                * crab cake @ Oceanaire (Gaslamp Quarter)

                * carne asada torta or plate @ Rudy's (Eden Gardens [Solana Beach], also La Costa)

                * carnitas or menudo @ Las Brisas Tacqueria (Fallbrook)

                * carnitas burrito @ El Porvenir (Barrio Logan)

                * anago sushi (saltwater eel) @ Kaito Sushi (Encinitas) (only one in town that has it fresh and fillets it in-house during prep)

                * mini cherry lattice pie @ Elizabethan Desserts (Encinitas)

                * tonkotsu shio (pork marrow salt) ramen @ Santouka (Kearny Mesa)

                * teba (chicken wing) yakitori @ Yakitori Yakyudori (Hillcrest)

                * pho @ Pho San Marcos (really!) (San Marcos)

                * French Press of Idido Misty Valley dry-processed Ethiopian Yrgacheffe @ Bird Rock Coffee Roasters (Bird Rock [La Jolla])

                * cafe cortado [aka Gibraltar] (like a very small, rich, coffee-forward latte in a 4 oz. cup) @ Zumbar Coffee (Sorrento Valley)

                * marlin taco @ Mariscos German (City Heights [San Diego])

                * fish taco @ Brigatine (Del Mar) (a non-traditional take on the fish taco, but a local's favorite)

                * teuchi (handmade) udon @ Yumeya (Encinitas)

                * "Supreme Lamb" shoulder cut Mongolian hot pot @ Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot (Clairemont [San Diego])

                * matcha cream anpan (Japanese dessert bread filled w/a matcha green tea-infused custard and azuki bean paste) or Yuzu twist (Japanese dessert bread filled w/yuzu preserves) @ SunFlour Bagels (Carlsbad) - Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday @ 11am only

                * Guanni Peruvian Chocalates' 81% Bittersweet w/Coacoa Nibs - various farmer's markets in San Diego

                * sourdough baugette @ Belen Artisan Bakers (Escondido + various farmer's markets in San Diego)

                * panang curry @ Sab-e-Lee (Linda Vista [San Diego])

                * passion fruit cake @ Big Joy Family Cafe (Kearny Mesa)

                5 Replies
                1. re: cgfan

                  Great list.

                  I wouldn't call "* crab cake @ Oceanaire (Gaslamp Quarter)" very "San Diego" though.

                  1. re: stevewag23

                    I knew I was stretching the OP's intent, but I just couldn't resist stretching the list to "best dishes of SD establishments"...

                    Guilty as charged! (Though you were being generous charging me on only one count!)

                    1. re: cgfan

                      I wanted to keep things positive, plus it was a great list.

                  2. re: cgfan

                    Wow! Wonderful to see Las Brisas on the list, cgfan. Its my favorite. Have you been back? try the barbacoa sope or chorizo con huevo!

                    1. re: kare_raisu

                      I don't think I'll ever be able to go as often as I'd like! If only they were closer.

                      It sounds like the entire menu is worth a trek out to the nether regions of our county, and so far all my evidence is pointing that way!

                      No doubt a great contribution to the S.D. Foodie scene!

                  3. I would suggest fish tacos from the any of the places mentioned above, preferably Mariscos German, a California burrito from Valentino's taco shop on 9th and Market (or really anywhere taco shop), preferably after midnight, goat something or other from the Linkery.

                    5 Replies
                            1. re: Josh

                              Right, sorry. Still good though.

                        1. Alice started putting together a post on her blog a couple of months ago about the best things to eat in San Diego. Really good list, check it out: http://aliceqfoodie.blogspot.com/2009...

                          1. Platano Tamales at El Chiapaneco on Market St.

                            Tacos from the La Fachada taco truck on Imperial.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: deckape

                              You know what is awesome is the bacon/brie/honey/walnut panini at Bread and Cie. I dream about that sandwich.
                              Also, at Krakatoa coffee house south of the Park they have bacon and avocado on a toasted torta bun. To die for. And speaking of bacon, Twiggs biscuit and bacon first thing in the morning is warm and yummy too!!!

                            2. You've gotta have a burger at O'Brothers. Probably the best tasting and all organic too boot. They're located at Horton Plaza (downtown) right above the Levi's store

                              188 Horton Plaza, San Diego, CA

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: dcowling

                                O'Brothers was passing out samples last week and I tried. Very unimpressed. Very greasy and no flavor. And I was very hungry, which usually makes things taste better. In n Out has WAAY better burgers.

                              2. Apparently she's too humble to plug it (I don't know her so I'm guessing here) but you need to have a look at Alice Q Foodie's blog ... I've been eating my way through this entry and have encountered several moments of bliss, so far my number 1 "Thank You Alice" moment was the mole at Cantina Mayahuel.


                                1. while it's not very "San Diego" per se, I can't miss a Godfather sandwich at Alex's Brown Bag on 5th (in the Mr A's building lobby) whenever I'm down there during the week.

                                  1. Anybody mention the sausage at Pete's Meats in Little Italy?

                                    4 Replies
                                      1. re: deckape

                                        oohh.. that stuffed veal roll thing he grills w/ raisins! "spitini" i think it's called. delicious.

                                        1. re: jdwdeville

                                          Do they still have the spitini?

                                          I thought they might have discontinued it.

                                          1. re: stevewag23

                                            actually, i don't know. i moved to LA a few years ago. still crave those sandwiches, though.

                                      2. A couple seafood dishes come to mind - grilled fresh sardines and live sea urchin in its own shell. Not exactly unique to SD, but not too common in other US cities, as far as I know. Both are usually available at Sea Rocket in North Park, I've heard Jack's La Jolla and My Place, also La Jolla, also have sardines but never tried them there.
                                        I would highly recommend attending a beer dinner in SD. Although beer dinners are becoming more common, SD has some of the world's best breweries and several restaurants that really excel at pairing beer with fresh, local foods. Check ratebeer.com or beeradvocate.com for scheduled events, few cities offer such quality dinners based around craft beers.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: juantanamera

                                          Can't believe i forgot my beloved Sea Rocket!!! I miss those sardine happy hours after work so much! mmm.... live urchin...
                                          Sea Rocket is an absolute treasure for that neighborhood.

                                          1. re: juantanamera

                                            Jack's La Jolla died a spectacular death. Rip.

                                          2. what about the california burrito? seems to be a regional specialty though i've not had a phenomenal one yet (filiberto's in encinitas is pretty good though).

                                            other san diego 'secret dishes' that i can think of would be
                                            - puerco enchilado at super cocina
                                            - hodad's cheeseburgers

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: stangoldsmith

                                              Rocky's, (PB): cheeseburgers, all they have is beer, burger's, and fries, the burger is so good you try to figure out the secret,(I don't think there is one, just good meat?)

                                              And Ichibahn, (also PB) real low key sushi, not Nobu or anything but really great food, super low prices. The albacore sumpreme roll. The hot philly roll (not a lightweight)

                                              1. re: jtothemfnk

                                                Meat is ordinary commodity beef, so no, I don't think that's the secret. I think the secret is probably something to do with cognitive bias.

                                                1. re: Josh

                                                  hey beach chick! we are coming back to SD in the fall. Tried alot of chowhound rec's on our last trip but the German Marisco's truck #5 i believe it was we missed. WE stayed at liberty station and it was a drive to many places ie brigantine, mama testa's, Casa Guadaljara in old Towne. Would there be a better place to stay to get to alot of these places with short cab ride or walking??