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Cheap eats in San Diego area for two broke traveling students

annie86x Dec 2, 2011 09:52 AM

My boyfriend and I are going to be visiting San Diego (also hitting La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside-- little biking trip up the coast) and are looking for some good places to eat for relatively cheap - about $10 a person and under, the kind of stuff you see on Diners, Drive ins, and Dives. (We already have Blue Water Seafood, El Indio, and Hodad's on our list from that show!) I'd really appreciate your suggestions!

Also, any good bars in those areas that you could recommend? Thanks!

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  1. c
    cstr RE: annie86x Dec 2, 2011 10:15 AM

    I wouldn't put too much emphasis on DD&D. I'd skip El Indio and Hodad's. Maybe Kono's in PB for a large filling cheap breakfast, Bare Back Grill, also in PB, for a good burger and reasonable happy hour. In LJ, El Pescador for a great grilled fish sammie. Super Cocina, in NH on Univ & 36th, for excellent Mex slow cooked food, Marisco's German truck, on Univ & 35th, for one dollar fish tacos.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cstr
      hye RE: cstr Dec 2, 2011 05:17 PM

      I like Mariscos El Pescador (Chula Vista Toys'R'Us parking lot) better than Mariscos German. Depending on where you are biking, it might be easier to get to (closer to the coast) than University & 35th.

    2. Beach Chick RE: annie86x Dec 2, 2011 10:19 AM

      Taco Shops in SD are your best bet for super cheap and super good food..
      Happy hours too.
      Don't listen to DD&D's...imho, he's a taco short of a combo platter..
      Have fun!

      1. Fake Name RE: annie86x Dec 2, 2011 10:32 AM

        I like Blue Water a lot- but that's not in your budget. It might seem like it from the program, but I find it as expensive as a good fish restaurant.

        Up San Diego Avenue from El Indio is a small typical taco shop called "Dos Brazos". I live very close to both of these places- closer to El Indio, and have not been to El Indio in over 12 years. I go to Dos Brazos, and if I'm feeling sad, lonely, depressed, anxious, happy, elated, energetic, tired, or otherwise emotional, I get their carnitas burrito. You see, just as art has a pedigree, Dos Brasos used to be Nico's, and I suspect they, like the baker of a fine sourdough bread uses a starter, are using grease similar to Nicos. Perhaps they reverse-engineered the Nico's burrito in their lab to duplicate that dining experience.

        This burrito is a work of art. That's right, it's art you can eat. It has that crispy-soft griddled tortilla, the spicy deliciousness of the fatty pork with the little fried bits.

        I'd eat 20 of their carnitas burritos before I'd go to El Indio.

        In fact, I have. And now, dammit, I might need to today.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Fake Name
          Josh RE: Fake Name Dec 2, 2011 11:14 AM

          Agreed 100%. Dos Brasas kills El Indio many times over.

          1. re: Fake Name
            DiningDiva RE: Fake Name Dec 2, 2011 11:45 AM

            And here I thought your allegiance was to Super Sergios...

            1. re: DiningDiva
              Fake Name RE: DiningDiva Dec 2, 2011 12:22 PM

              As it's north of 8, I can only visit Super Sergio's while traveling.

              It's in that part of California known as the Orange County/Los Angeles Metroplex, or OCLAM.

            2. re: Fake Name
              Beach Chick RE: Fake Name Dec 2, 2011 02:55 PM

              'if I'm feeling sad, lonely, depressed, anxious, happy, elated, energetic, tired, or otherwise emotional, I get their carnitas burrito.'
              Boy, I'm screwed if I took to your neuropsychoanalysis..
              ; )

              1. re: Fake Name
                jmtreg RE: Fake Name Dec 2, 2011 06:51 PM

                Absolutely right. And their breakfast burritos were personally responsible for my friend Eric gaining 30 lbs (he worked right across the street and ate one of said "Special Breakfast" burritos everyday). He was soo pissed when I moved just up the hill from Dos Brasos. Damn. . .I love my new place, but I miss that taco shop.

              2. Josh RE: annie86x Dec 2, 2011 11:22 AM

                As others have said, skip El Indio and Hodad's. Undoubtedly someone will come on and defend Hodad's, but Hodad's is a big waste of time. When Hodad's was not a TV star, it was worthwhile, if you were in the area. I lived in that 'hood for 8 years, and ate at Hodad's many times. After moving out of the area, I did not. It's just an OK burger.

                Guy Fieri is a knucklehead, IMO. The places in SD he recommends are all exceedingly average at best (Blue Water a notable exception).

                If you're looking for cheap eats, Blue Water's a bad spot. Their good fish is expensive.

                Here are some better suggestions, which are bikeable from the coast:

                Marsicos Beyer Truck, on Imperial and 22nd - much better fish tacos than Blue Water. A relatively easy ride up from downtown.

                Tacos El Paisa - Forget the cross street, but it's also on Imperial. Great street tacos, makes El Indio look even more pathetic than Dos Brasas. Could hit this on the same ride as the mariscos truck.

                For burgers, try Burger Lounge in Little Italy. Some people don't like the place, but they're wrong.

                Mona Lisa Deli, also in Little Italy, makes very tasty Italian subs.

                Pete's Meats, also in Little Italy, makes very tasty subs with stuff like meatball, grilled veal, and eggplant. Very good and affordable.

                For bars:

                Monkey Paw Pub and Brewery, on 16th and G St. Great beer selection.
                Downtown Johnny Brown's. Ditto.

                Solana Beach
                Pizza Port

                Ocean Beach
                Pizza Port
                Newport Pizza and Ale House
                OB Noodle House - all three of these have great beer selections

                4 Replies
                1. re: Josh
                  The Office Goat RE: Josh Dec 2, 2011 11:32 AM

                  You forgot:

                  Pizza Port

                  Also, when riding by San Elijo Lagoon, just before Solana Beach (if heading south) Bull Taco is hiding in the beach campground and makes for an easy visit by bike. Not the cheapest of taco shop eats, but pretty good.

                  1. re: The Office Goat
                    Josh RE: The Office Goat Dec 2, 2011 11:41 AM

                    Yeah, whoops. That one makes great beer.

                  2. re: Josh
                    Norm Man RE: Josh Dec 2, 2011 06:55 PM

                    Regarding Josh's rec for Burger Lounge in Little Italy, Burger Lounge also has a location in La Jolla (one of the cities annie86x said she and her BF would be visiting).


                    Burger Lounge
                    1101 Wall Street
                    La Jolla
                    858 456-0196

                    1. re: Josh
                      melee RE: Josh Dec 5, 2011 08:59 PM

                      +1 on skipping Hodad's. I'd much rather have pizza & good beer at Pizza Port a few blocks away.
                      I also like happy hour at The Brigantine for fish tacos and Brig Brew.

                    2. e
                      Encinitan RE: annie86x Dec 2, 2011 11:43 AM

                      I don't know if Hodad's is worth a visit, but you might enjoy walking down funky Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach (especially in the evening), where Hodad's is located. At the end of the Ocean Beach pier is a diveish cafe (Ocean Beach Pier Cafe) to warm up, get some fries, and enjoy the view.

                      1. g
                        gator28 RE: annie86x Dec 2, 2011 12:15 PM

                        In Solana Beach, check out Rudy's for burritos and other taco shop treats. I also like Claire's for breakfast/brunch...you can find items that are around $10. Mozy's Cafe in Leucadia has some interesting items as well and is very good. East Coast Pizza in Cardiff is not bad and cheap.

                        As far as bars go, Encinitas Ale House has a nice selection of beers.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: gator28
                          karaethon RE: gator28 Dec 2, 2011 02:25 PM

                          +1 on both Claire's and East Coast Pizza. I actually think East Coast Pizza is way ahead of Pizza Port...

                          On the north side of Encinitas (is it technically Leucadia?), down highway 101 is Fish 101. It is very similar to Blue Water, but you should be able to get the fish sandwiches for right around $10.

                        2. Gypsy Jan RE: annie86x Dec 2, 2011 04:13 PM

                          Hi Travelers,

                          cgfan, a great CH poster, likes Rudy's in Solana Beach for for very good, cheap Mexican carne asada tacos and burritos:


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Gypsy Jan
                            Norm Man RE: Gypsy Jan Dec 2, 2011 06:42 PM

                            I third the rec for Rudy's Taco Shop. FYI, Rudy's has another location in the La Costa area of Carlsbad.


                            Rudy's Taco Shop
                            7662 N. El Camino Real
                            760 944-8226

                            Rudy's Taco Shop
                            524 Stevens Ave
                            Solana Beach
                            858 755-0788

                          2. n
                            Norm Man RE: annie86x Dec 2, 2011 07:05 PM

                            In the Oceanside area,

                            Beach Break Cafe


                            Don's Country Kitchen (Locations in Carlsbad and Oceanside).


                            Ty's Burger House


                            Breakfast Club Diner


                            1. d
                              daantaat RE: annie86x Dec 2, 2011 08:04 PM

                              in La Jolla--Coffee Cup Cafe
                              in Solana Beach--Naked Cafe. Ironically, they have a similar menu to Coffee Cup Cafe.
                              Del Mar--Pacifica Breeze Cafe. Slightly above $10/pp but if you're in the area, a good bet.

                              1. m
                                MacTAC RE: annie86x Dec 2, 2011 08:23 PM

                                No love for Big Kitchen? When I visited a few years ago it was cheap and excellent...

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: MacTAC
                                  Fake Name RE: MacTAC Dec 2, 2011 08:33 PM

                                  You must have caught it on a rare "on" day. I've not been for many years- it is more of a community that serves food rather than a place that serves food for the community.

                                  Nice folks but I'm neither hip nor liberal enough to patronize it.

                                  1. re: Fake Name
                                    MacTAC RE: Fake Name Dec 2, 2011 08:36 PM

                                    The OP may be...

                                    1. re: MacTAC
                                      Fake Name RE: MacTAC Dec 2, 2011 08:45 PM

                                      Of course, that's why I include such great depth and specific, painstaking details in my review. The reader is free to make their own decision on the facts presented.

                                      But that still won't make the food (IMHO) good.

                                    2. re: Fake Name
                                      Josh RE: Fake Name Dec 2, 2011 09:39 PM

                                      Not only is it bad, but it's way too expensive. Another place with inexplicable crowds in front.

                                    3. re: MacTAC
                                      Josh RE: MacTAC Dec 2, 2011 09:38 PM

                                      That place sucks.


                                      1. re: MacTAC
                                        cstr RE: MacTAC Dec 3, 2011 08:24 AM

                                        I've been a few times, can't understand how anyone likes that place and it's ridiculously pricey for the stuff they serve. Oh, the coffee is the worst I've ever had.

                                        1. re: cstr
                                          Cathy RE: cstr Dec 3, 2011 08:28 AM


                                          Whoopie Goldberg worked there is the only thing my friends told me about the place. I am glad they paid.

                                          1. re: cstr
                                            Josh RE: cstr Dec 3, 2011 10:48 AM

                                            Yes, the coffee is singularly bad. I used to live a block away from the place, and after two astoundingly bad meals there gave up on it.

                                            1. re: Josh
                                              cstr RE: Josh Dec 3, 2011 11:26 AM

                                              As the OP has titled this thread 'Cheap Eats' is doesn't mean 'Bad Eats' and the BK is just plain bad eats.

                                              1. re: cstr
                                                Josh RE: cstr Dec 3, 2011 01:29 PM

                                                It's a marvel to me that the place has managed to stay open so long, but then that's also how I feel about Hob Nob Hill and El Indio.

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