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Good Eats somewhat near the University of San Diego

Hi Fellow Foodies,

My kid and I are heading to San Diego next week so that he can take a look at USD. Will be in the area for 2 lunches and 1 dinner. Would love to take him out to something in the area that has really good food. We will eat any type of food, but can't spend a ton of money (saving it all for tuition). Are there any good taquerias in the area? Any good food truck gatherings? Don't care much about ambiance, but love good food! Thanks so much in advance!

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  1. Sab e lee is right up Linda Vista from USD if you want Thai. Closed on Mondays, iirc.

    1. The "food scene" around the immediate USD area is pretty much non-existent. There are plenty of middling places of the sort common to any campus, but nothing I would call "really good food".

      I would suggest trying some things further afield from campus if your goal is to get some local San Diego flavor. Numerous threads on this board can help with that.

      I'm guessing from your other posts that you're from the Bay Area? Food here is not on that level. Let's be honest. And the food trucks in North county hardly even existed a year ago.

      For my money the mom & pop taco shops highlight what we do best, but I may be a minority in that opinion.
      Without going too far south -
      Rudy's taco shop in Solona Beach.
      Tacos El Paisa on National.
      Mariscos German on University.

      Mariscos German
      3515 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104

      5 Replies
      1. re: y6y6y6

        Why would you call USD "North County"? Sure, it is north of I-8, but by less than a mile. Maybe you thought the OP said "UCSD"? (which isn't North County either, but I digress)

        USD is not too far of a drive from JV's Mexican food on Morena Blvd - a pretty solid taco/burrito place, in my opinion. But please, under no circumstances, drive down the hill and cross Friars Road, to eat at the places at Fashion Valley Mall. :)

        Note: many San Franciscans seem to get put off by the burritos in San Diego not being of the "Mission" variety they know and love.

        JV's Mexican Food
        1112 Morena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110

        1. re: RB Hound

          Anything North of the 8 is North County. Anything South of the 94 is South County. That's my rule, and I'm sticking to it.

          Also, pretty please with sugar on top, do not judge San Diego Mexican food by JV's. Eaten there a few times, am glad I did, but it's only Mexican in the most generic and gringo sense, and is rather different than most SD taco shops. They have their own thing going on.

          You will hear much talk about fish tacos in San Diego, as we seem to think we started the whole craze. Maybe we did, but really good fish tacos in SD are few and far between. Done right they are fantastic, but in most cases they are the worst thing on the menu.

          1. re: y6y6y6

            Wow I have lived in several parts of North County for 15 years and didn't even know it... even while I was in the City of San Diego limits. The things you learn on Chowhound...

            1. re: y6y6y6

              JV's 'only Mexican in the most generic and gringo sense'. Um, everyone who works there has roots in Mexico. Don't they get points for that? No huitlacoche. Shame on them. Their salsa bar is awfully good. Their burritos are the size of those in the Mission. Parking is the only problem there for me.

              Try Super Bronco Taco Shop at 6725 Linda Vista rd., maybe the closest restaurant of all to USD. (Up the hill on the right) It's pretty divey and very good. Their birria was very good. They sell it - and chile verde - by the pound with all the fixings. Again, only five or six parking spots.

        2. Forgot Maria's Taco Shop down at Belmont Park, which is a fun place to visit in it's own right. Get the al pastor mini tacos. Nice place to walk on the beach and catch some sun.

          Maria's Taco Shop
          756 Ventura Pl, San Diego, CA 92109

          1. Head into Linda Vista/Clairmont Mesa area for

            Sab e lee (mentioned above) best Thai in the city. Hole in the wall.

            K's - Vietnamese Banh mi (and a place every kid on a student budget should know about). More of a grab-n-go kind of place but there are seats.

            Izakaya Sakura - Japanese

            Sushi Dokoro Shirahama - traditional Japanese sushi. Not the best we have in San Diego but a cut above everything else in the area that we've found.

            Balboa International Market - Persian supermarket with nice deli counter and hot foods. Another good place on a student budget.

            1. Near USD- it delivers to the USD students- Ryans Cafe 5201 Linda Vista Road. Unusually good always fresh food.

              Get the Greek Items and smoothies and breakfasts...the burgers are really good, too. No ambiance.

              1. Depends on what you want to eat. If you're set on Mexican food, I'd second the JV's recommendation. It's very close to USD, and they have good taco shop food, which is kind of its own subset of Mexican food really.

                If you want something a little nicer, there's a spot in Old Town called Berta's Latin American, which has dishes from all over South America.

                If you're up for Japanese food, Okan is up the hill from there. Keep in mind they are cash only at lunch time.

                If you're willing to drive a bit, take the 8 East and go to Super Cocina. That's excellent Mexican food, at a low price, and is much better than anything like that immediately around the school. It's probably a 15-20 minute drive from USD.

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

                Berta's Latin American Restaurant
                3928 Twiggs St, San Diego, CA 92110

                1. I live about a mile away from USD. A lot of Chowers will have you driving all over the city for our best Good Eats, but that doesn't seem to be what you want so I will try to give you your best bets for the whole stay...

                  For tacos hit up JVs as has been mentioned. It is on Morena in the corner of a very small strip mall with a Subway, a donut shop, and some other stores. The cross street is Buenos Ave. just past the Valero gas station as you head to the I-5/Sea World Dr exit. Nico's right next to the Valero has excellent Carne Asada if you need a secondary taco shop.

                  Near JVs there is a Cuban restaurant called Andre's that is short on presentation and decor but the food is solid, consistent, and a good value. They also are running some weekly deals for dinner time during the week (free dessert, free appetizer, etc) Be sure to get some yucca!

                  Sab E Lee is only a couple of miles up the hill past USD, very tasty Thai food. It is really small and only has a couple of tables. The reason it is mentioned in this thread several times is because it is regarded as one of the best in San Diego and is a Chow Darling of the SD board.

                  There are several Vietnamese places right across from Sab-e-Lee for cheap Pho, although I can't recall which one is better.

                  That is pretty much it for the immediate area. There are several other small places (BBQ, pizza, more tacos, Italian, etc) but they are mediocre at best and definitely not Chow-worthy.

                  Fair warning (and it doesn't sound like you mind) that the general theme among most places in the Morena/USD area is zero decor and no ambience whatsoever. Andre's might be your best bet for dinner, grab tacos at JVs one day and lunch at Sab-e-Lee the other and you should be good.

                  JV's Mexican Food
                  1112 Morena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110

                  2405 Ulric Street, San Diego, CA 92111

                  Andres' Cuban & Puerto Rican Restaurant
                  1235 Morena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110

                  1. Thanks for the input! To answer questions - yes we are from the Bay Area we all are spoiled by the good food here. What we don't have, is enough good "dives", where a college student can find a good meal for not a lot of cash. By the way - if you are in our city on a Friday night, go to Fort Mason - beautiful views of the bay and Off the Grid food trucks are there from 5 until 10. Nothing but fabulous food and there are typically around 15 - 20 trucks! Is there anything similar in San Diego?

                    We aren't specifically looking for a taqueria, but love that kind of food. We also don't mind zero ambiance as long as the food is good. Sab e lee sounds great, but you mentioned it's closed on Monday, which is our night for dinner. You've given us quite a number of places to check out - thank you!

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: deniseredeker

                      "Is there anything similar in San Diego?"

                      Not really. The trucks didn't start showing up here until very recently, and in my opinion have nothing that touches the LA or SF trucks. If you are willing to head down closer to the Mexican border, which is fine btw, there are some truly great mariscos tucks. I'm thinking of El Pescador and El Prieto.

                      1. re: deniseredeker

                        "What we don't have, is enough good "dives", where a college student can find a good meal for not a lot of cash."

                        We have that.

                        One thing that is ubiquitous in San Diego is the CAB, or carne asada burrito. I do not go near these things, as they are a shameful abomination of real Mexican food. However..... they are super big and super cheap. Five dollars usually gets you one the size of your forearm. Aforementioned JV's is a good place to try one. San Diego also sells a sadly large amount of carne asada fries. Same deal - a huge pile of food for cheap.

                        I'm thinking JV's or Nico's is what you're looking for here.

                        1. re: y6y6y6

                          Yes, Nico's on Morena Place makes a damn fine Carne Asada Burrito. It bothers me not in the least that it's not Mexican food. It has a Spanish name, and that's good enough for me.

                          But even better is their [hear the angels?] Carnitas Burrito. Still not Mexican Food, but a bastard child of border cuisine.

                          And a damn fine bastard it is!

                          1. re: Fake Name

                            I think taco shops are perfectly valid, even if I do eat bean and cheese burritos from them. It's its own thing, not meant to be authentic.

                            1. re: Josh

                              Agreed, it's authentically it's own thing.

                              Unless they put lettuce and rice on the burritos, then they're NOT AUTHENTIC to their own thing.

                              I tell you, it's damn hard to be a Chowhound these days- what ever happened to standards?

                              1. re: Fake Name

                                love when they put lettuce..rice in my burrito..

                                1. re: Beach Chick

                                  I will not dignify your obvious and pathetic attempts to bait me.

                                  1. re: Fake Name

                                    Lettuce replace everything good in the guts of a burrito.

                        2. re: deniseredeker

                          The MIHO Gastrotruck occasionally does events or stops at Ballast Point Brewery which is right by USD. It's not one of their regular stops though so it will probably random times that you or your student will be able to check it out.

                        3. What about Waters on Morena? That's the first thing I thought when OP mentioned USD area. Great for lunch :)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: SunandTea

                            Good point. I always forget that's there.

                          2. Love JV's for Mex..lunch
                            Bay Park Fish Company is a great place and has a good happy hour.
                            Sab E Lee for Thai
                            Water's Fine Foods for lunch
                            All within 5ish minutes from USD.


                            1. Wow! You guys are awesome! Thanks so much! Just ask if you need a wine country recommendation!

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: deniseredeker

                                Glad we could help!

                                Wine country- which one?


                                1. re: Fake Name

                                  and here you had a perfectly good chance to tell us there is a fine wine region in Berlin....

                                  1. re: Fake Name

                                    So funny! :)
                                    Only the best wine country - Sonoma County, of course! With apologies to all who think their wine country is the best!

                                    Thanks everyone! We ended up having 3 pretty good meals while in SD and liked the campus too, so all went well! Ate at Andre's Cuban and Berta's Latin American - by chance ended up right near there at meal time! Both quite good and wouldn't have found them without your help! Thanks so much!

                                    Berta's Latin American Restaurant
                                    3928 Twiggs St, San Diego, CA 92110

                                2. Waters Catering on Morena has a great take-away selection.
                                  USD had recently opened a finer dining location on campus.