HOME > Chowhound > San Diego >


Hole in the wall Joints- San Diego

  • c

I've lived in SD a number of years and have my favorite hole in the wall places, but am always interested in hearing about others. I like a wide variety, but I am looking for anything outside the norm (not your standard chain) and preferably cheap (i'd like to walk out with a great meal for less than $20 a person, but not 100% necessary). Any idea's?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Great topic.

    They don't qualify as Hole in the walls but Point Loma seafoods and Con Pane Rustic Breads & Cafe you can eat great food for 2 for $20.

    Anyone know how La Scala Italian Restaurant in Point Loma is?


    13 Replies
    1. re: stevewag23

      Hate to say it, but I had the worst pasta dish at La Scala. Server told us that owner is from Italy and makes all her own pasta. Unfortunately found it very thick, gummy and inedible.

      1. re: foodiechick

        It seemed like a place that would either be really good, or really bad.

        Since I have never heard of anyone going I was betting on the latter.

        How about for a drink?

      2. re: stevewag23

        It's been quite awhile since I have eaten at La Scala..when I lived in La Playa, we would always hang there and Old Venice and the food was pretty good..
        I'm usually at the Brig in Shelter Island for the happy hour..
        Dumpling Inn is one of my fav's and considered a hole in the wall..
        I'm more a hole in the wall dive bar kind of chicka.. ; )
        Agree with the other posters on their excellent choices!!

        1. re: Beach Chick

          "we would always hang there and Old Venice and the food was pretty good.."

          Not comparable to old venice though right?

          1. re: stevewag23

            I really dislike Old Venice. The atmosphere is nice, but I found the food to be really sub-par. I'd rather eat at La Scala.

            1. re: Josh


              I always her good things about Old Venice.

              What was wrong with the food?

              1. re: stevewag23

                It was a long time ago now, but I just remember thinking it was really bad. I was completely stunned by the hype I'd heard over the years.

                1. re: stevewag23

                  Haven't been there in a couple years, stopped going as the food was adequate at best...except it was the only place I could get a sundried tomato and walnut pizza.

                  1. re: rotie77

                    The bolognese at Old Venice is superb. Same goes at Alexanders (if not slightly better). Add chicken to the dish and it takes it over the top. Start it off with that roasted head of garlic with brie and a decent bottle of wine and you're in a nice state of mind very quickly.

                    1. re: cookieshoes

                      Adding chicken to ragu bolognese ? That's sounds like a really bad combination. Or are we talking about ragu bolognese with Italian sausage as the only meat part like too many "Italian" restaurants here in SD use for the "ragu bolognese" which makes it already horrible by itself.

                      1. re: honkman

                        2nd that honkman, just came back from the east coast, went to a place for home made bolognese, the chef would go into shock at the thought of chicken and probably ask for forgiveness to St. A for even having thoughts of sausage.

                        1. re: honkman

                          This misapprehension of the ragu bolognese is certainly not a SD thing- it's a national tragedy. Somewhere along the line bolognese became confused with meat marinara. There is only one tbsp of concentrato in my recipe...the rest is the flavor of meat- veal, pork and pancetta all ground together as one...

                          1. re: SaltyRaisins

                            That's a tragedy, bolognese is not cheap to make but, it's all about the flavor. Meat with marinara, probably hamburg, would have my grandparents turning in the graves. I think the exceptions are cities with large Italian 'hoods and locally family owned restaurants, like NYC, BOS, CHIC and SFO to name a few.

          2. JV Tacos on Moreno in Mission Valley area (near University of San Diego) . Excellent and cheap!

            1. Super Cocina
              Tacos El Paisa
              Aqui Es Texcoco
              El Borrego
              Tofu House
              Sab E Lee
              Ba Ren
              Mien Trung
              Mama's Bakery and Deli
              Pizzeria Luigi
              Mariscos German

              12 Replies
              1. re: Josh

                Thanks Josh. I've been to Tajima, Saigon and Luigi's (if it's the spot in Mission Beach). Any specifics about the other places (what's good, or what their specialty is etc?)

                1. re: Josh

                  What he said. Add Surati Farsan Mart, Punjabi Tandoor, and Cafe Dore to the list too.

                  Pizzeria Luigi is in South Park actually.

                  1. re: DougOLis

                    Man, how'd I forget Surati Farsan and Punjabi Tandoor?

                    1. re: Josh

                      Is Surati Farsan really a hole in the wall? I thought it looked a little spiffy in there.

                        1. re: Josh

                          To me a hole in the wall place is something you would not know about unless someone who's been there and loved it tells you about it. A place that does not have the marketing budget to do anything but survive on good food and word of mouth. More often than not this is a place with minimal decor, however that to me would not be a deciding factor.

                          For example, I've lived in SD for nearly 11 years. Have driven by Blue Water Sea Food probably 1000 time, Frequented the bar a block south and the bar a block north maybe 50 times each...and yet had not really noticed or thought to try it....Until my Dad (who does not live in San Diego) suggested it for dinner one visit, because he heard from a friend who raves about it....Now I tell all my friends and anyone who'll listen. Possibly my Fave place in SD.

                          1. re: csils

                            By that definition, Surati Fursan definitely fits in the "hole in the wall" category.

                            Punjabi Tanjor really is a hole in the wall, IMO. :)

                        2. re: RB Hound

                          It's clean and kind of modernish I guess, but other than that it fits csils' definition to a 't.'

                          1. re: DougOLis

                            I was going to add Surati Farsan Mart to my list but didn't b/c it wasn't enough of a dive! Quite the clean establishment!

                      1. re: DougOLis

                        FYI - Luigi's also has a new location on El Cajon Blvd/Alabama (next to Eclipse)

                        1. re: rotie77

                          I was there today- they're still figuring it out. I'm sure they'll be up to speed soon.

                      2. Bonnie Jeans certainly qualifies as a hole-in-the-wall.

                        Bonnie Jean's Soul Food Cafe
                        1964 54th St, San Diego, CA 92105

                        1. In no particular order...

                          Sab E Lee
                          El Cuervo
                          Tofu House
                          Chopstix (a step up from a hole in the wall)
                          Kaito (minimal decor in strip mall but not run down hole in the wall-type)
                          Ba Ren
                          Mariscos German
                          Punjabi Tandoor
                          Latin Chef

                          1. One place I've rarely (never?) seen mentioned is Caribbean Flavor in the Sabre Springs area. The best I can describe it as is homestyle food from the Caribbean and Central America. Lots of different meat stews with rice dishes. I've eaten there a few times and always leave comfortably stuffed and satisfied.

                            It's off I-15 on Poway Road, maybe a mile or so East of the freeway. Typical strip mall. Used to be a taco shop, but I was happy to see something unique pop up in the area.


                            3 Replies
                            1. re: camilles

                              Camilles is correct! This restaurant is new--just 7 months old--and the food is excellent. You can easily get a full tasty meal very inexpensively. The arepas are phenomenal, and the cilantro sauce and hot pepper sauce knock your socks off with their tastiness!! I highly recommend this place. A big plus are the people that own/work there. They are genuinely friendly, very happy to share their cuisine.

                              1. re: camilles

                                Wait. A taco shop in a strip mall in san diego isn't unique?

                                1. re: camilles

                                  I just tried Caribbean Flavor. I ordered the Paella Especial, and to be honest I wasn't that impressed. The rice was way undercooked (and no I don't mean "al dente") and it was way too salty. I ate about half and I busted through a bottle of 7-up and I normally don't even drink soda!

                                  I ordered some arepas for my coworker that looks delicious, so I'll give them another shot. But I think I won't try the paella again.

                                2. canada steakburger on 37th and university is awesome - gyros, kebobs, lemon chicken, greek salads, grilled porterhouse steak, and the original 1/2 pound ground chuck burger with sliced gyro meat on top. straight up yum and cheap too.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: tastycakes

                                    I always want to stop in, but I only pass it on my way to Super Cocina so I never go! I'm going to have to bite the bullet.

                                    Speaking of places I never try in the Super Cocina area, has anyone gone to the restaurant that shares the Super Cocina parking lot on the east side? I can't think of the exact name, but I've always intended on going in, but end up going to Super.

                                    Super Cocina
                                    3627 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92104

                                    1. re: daimyo

                                      Would that be the carnitas place next door to Super Cocina or Fruitilandia, which is on the next corner east from Super Cocina. I've been to Fruitilandia and like it. I've not tried the carnitas place (Carnitas Moreliana, I think?).

                                      Super Cocina
                                      3627 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92104

                                      1. re: daimyo

                                        It's a carnitas place. I only ate there once, and had a pork tongue carnitas taco. It was very rich, but the onion/habanero salsa cut through the richness very nicely. They have all parts of the pig available.

                                    2. A girlfriend and I went to an Afghan restaurant at the very East end of Mira Mesa called Ariana Kabob House. If you blink, you'll miss it.

                                      I had the Mantu, which were steamed dumplings filled with ground beef, green onions and a myriad of wonderful spices...lightly covered in a tomato-based sauce and yogurt and sprinkled with chickpeas...I thought it was sublime. It came with a slice of crispy bread and a green salad. My friend ordered very tender chicken on top of seasoned rice and raisins and she finished it all! We both ordered the fried potato appetitizer, which may seem lik a small portion, was just enough for us. Our side dish of steamed pumpkin drizzled with yogurt, was gone in seconds. It wasn't busy but I'm thinking the location really isn't the greatest. You have to make a u-turn at the end of Mira Mesa Blvd. and that entire area seems to always be under construction. Very affordable.

                                      Ariana Kabob House
                                      9910 Mira Mesa Blvd
                                      (858) 578-1468

                                      1. A good restaurant on Poway Rd (along with Caribbean Flavors noted below) is Luc's Bistro. It's a very casual, friendly restaurant. The food is comfort food but in sort of an upscale way. I've been there 3 times now and have not been at all disappointed. One of the owners is the owner of Cavaillon (sp?) in Santa Luz.

                                        1. Bull Taco in the San Elijo camground in Cardiff. Probably the greatest find for me in all of SD.


                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: SDGourmand

                                            Duck confit tacos and torta's, for me that's worth a drive.

                                            1. re: cstr

                                              They also have much more off menu stuff you just have to ask. Foie gras, frog legs, abalone, bulls testicles. I've been hooked since my first time.

                                            2. re: SDGourmand

                                              How do you actually get to this place? My parents own that 7-Eleven right up the way on Chesterfield and San Elijo (literally walking distance). Ive been in that area for almost 15 years and never heard of the place!

                                              1. re: deeznuts

                                                It's actually in the camp ground. You can't park in there unless you have a camp site. But there is street parking and a lot right before. It's only been open for about a year. It's connected to the convient store in there.

                                                1. re: SDGourmand

                                                  Interesting, i can park there or walk from my parent's store. I have to give this place a try. I live in Solana Beach so I pound that stretch of 101 often, usually headed to pipes :)

                                              2. Ranas Mexico City Cuisine in Spring Valley. Family-run, in the same strip mall as the Fresh & Easy. Excellent moles, cochinita pibil and their Dulce Tacos (rolled) are my favorite. They even have huitlacoche.

                                                It's out of the way, but well worth the drive. I think they've been around 5 years and they've finally hired some employees! It makes me very happy to see them succeeding.

                                                They have a new website! http://www.ranasrestaurant.com/

                                                1. Pho Hoa would have to be my favorite hole in the wall place. Every time I eat there I ask for the recipe for their broth, and they always say no. One of these days I will bring the force with me, and give the recipe they will.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Dagney

                                                    Which one? There is one in East Side (with a Cow mascot), and one in Linda Vista I believe. My buddy bought the one in LV, he also opened one in Pacific Beach as well. The one in Linda Vista was good before it was bought, I haven't formed an opinion of it after they exchanged owners.

                                                    The one in East side is really good too.

                                                    1. re: deeznuts

                                                      City Heights, at the southwest corner of El Cajon Boulevard and Euclid Avenue.

                                                      1. re: Dagney

                                                        Yup, that one is a favorite amongst the Vietnamese, even ones who don't live near there.

                                                  2. like to update my list..
                                                    Bahia's in Bird Rock for the lobster burrito with a cold Pacifico
                                                    Longhorn for the patty melt
                                                    El Pescador in LJ for the grouper sandwich
                                                    Mariscos German Taco Truck in the parking lot of the liquor store..marlyn tacos..ceviche tostado
                                                    Las Cuatro Milpas in the Barrio
                                                    Antonelli's in El Cajon for one of the best deli sandwiches..turkey/cheese on rye
                                                    Jalisco Cafe in IB...damn good Mex.
                                                    Sullivan's Pub in Escondido for some of the best fish n'chips
                                                    Cheer's in Ramona..great burger..props to eatemup!

                                                    Can't wait to try Bull Taco...Thank you SDGourmand!!!

                                                    1. My hole-in-the-wall vote goes for Ume-no-Ya, a tiny Mom & Pop Japanese restaurant on Miramar Rd. The storefront nor location can't be more humble, sharing an easy-to-miss below-grade plaza with a strip club, a small used car dealer, and a bar and stool store. The interior reminds me of many of the early Japanese-run businesses of L.A.'s Little Tokyo, sentimentally decorated with whatever Japanese knick-knacks that could be found regardless of theme. In the case of Ume-no-Ya the walls are covered with a jumble of Japanese beer posters and Sumo memorabilia, with an even wider assortment of Japanese kitch at the restaurant entrance.

                                                      The wife takes care of the front of the house, while the husband does the cooking. Though the restaurant has quite a few tables, they really cannot handle serving any more than 4 small parties at a time. I once saw them turn away a customer as they were overwhelmed handling a group reservation for 10. But no matter, as most of the time the place is nearly empty. I usually expect to see anywhere from 1-3 tables occupied at lunchtime.

                                                      But what keeps me coming here as well as all of the Japanese nationals that I know in San Diego is their food - humble and honest home-style cooking done with care. Ignore the English menu which features "often-stereotyped" or "idiomatic" items such as Yakisoba or Teriyaki chicken, and go with the Japanese menu featuring smartly chosen set meals. Besides the Japanese menu make sure you also check out their specials board.

                                                      It is likely that much of what is on this menu would not be recognized by most Westerners, but you can be certain that these are the bread and butter dishes served day in day out in the typical Japanese household when they are not entertaining guests. Kaiseki-ryori this is not, nor even "dining out" food, but ather Japanese soul food.

                                                      Note that the service here is "extremely patient". In other words, slow. No, even slower. So instead just relax and forget that you're here during your lunch break. Browse through their extensive library of "Gurume" (gourmet) Manga, especially of "Oishimbo", one of the longest running Manga series of any category in Japan. Just about the time when you're convinced that your order was forgotten, the sole waitress will quietly emerge from the back carrying your meal.

                                                      Quietly say "Itadakimasu" to the others at your table, pick up your Ohashi (chopsticks), and enjoy!

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: cgfan

                                                        cgfan, how does this compare to Okan? Or a better question is, "what is Japanese soul food?"

                                                        1. re: daantaat

                                                          As an example a typical set meal at Ume-no-Ya would be (I'm just making this up but trying to pick up the gestalt of a typical meal there):

                                                          * Sanma shio-yaki (salt grilled Pacific Saury)
                                                          * Otsukemono (pickles)
                                                          * Unohana (seasoned Okara [soy bean curds])
                                                          * Gohan (white rice)
                                                          * Natto (fermented soy beans)
                                                          * Osuimono (Japanese clear soup)

                                                          All of these are very humble dishes simply prepared, but nevertheless are staples in the Japanese home. Whereas when one is entertaining guests more elaborate items are usually served, the combination of a simple soup (Miso or clear), white rice with or without a choice of toppings (Tsukudani or Natto), pickles, and a different grilled oily fish can be eaten everyday without fear of monotony.

                                                          Perhaps I'm running a bit of a risk of recommending something that in the end may not thrill non-native diners. I think a meal at Okan can thrill any open-minded palate regardless of background, but a part of me wonders how approachable the Japanese menu items are at Ume-no-Ya to the uninitiated. (For instance with the Sanma Shio-Yaki it is always served ungutted - you're supposed to eat it all just the way it is...) But then again I've seen many a non-Japanese enjoy the supposedly challenging items of Natto, Shiokara, Hoya, and Kazunoko.

                                                          1. re: cgfan

                                                            I think we'll have to check it out sometime!

                                                      2. Pete's Sausage in Little Italy

                                                        Not your typically "restaurant" more of a lunch counter. They have a small menu and do it well. Yummm, homemade sausage (you can see the grinder from the counter) with peppers and onions on fresh baked bread. They also have a meatball sandwich which was pretty good.

                                                        1. I just mentioned Bull Taco to my husband as a place we need to investigate, what with the foie gras tacos and all. He said "Foie gras tacos?" I replied, "Yes, we must try them." Husband said, "Oh is that some place you read about on Chow?" I said, "Yes." Husband then accused the chowhounders of making up fantasy stories about dream food is gorgeous beachfront places. He went on to explain this place could not possibly exist.... He does not believe....

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: Dagney

                                                            Gotta bring the 'force' with you when you are talking about Chowhound topics to the honeybun!
                                                            If we weren't going out of town this weekend, I would so be there..chowing on scallop tacos and cheese quesadillas with fresh guac..sneak me in a sixer from deeznuts family 7/11 across the street of some cold Pacifico's..
                                                            You've got a lot on your plate this weekend missy...Antonelli's Deli and Bull Taco..
                                                            Report back Dags!

                                                            1. re: Beach Chick

                                                              Dear God ladies, it's 12am quit torturing me! I'm about 8 minutes away from this place, I just have to go, by myself if I have to (girlfriend is in LA for a few months). Sorry Beach Chick, the 7-11 doesn't have any alcohol. City won't give us a license even though my dad has tried to for years (something about zoning, the park right next to it). My mom is happy though because there are weekly beer runs when we had the store on Birmingham a couple blocks away. Head to Mar Vista near Pipes and you're good to go!

                                                              Scallop tacos are you serious? I'm so going

                                                          2. On the current rotation:

                                                            Vo's Cafe
                                                            Minh Ky
                                                            K's Sandwiches (we keep trying to go to Saigon Sandwiches & Deli, but they're never open when we go)
                                                            Mariscos German
                                                            Dumpling Inn
                                                            Perry's Cafe (c'mon... this totally counts)
                                                            Punjabi Tandoor
                                                            Tea Garden (pork stew rice and a pudding milk tea... YES)