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May 28, 2012 08:35 AM

Requesting feedback for cheap eats list for San Diego visit

Hello SD hounds,

My wife and I are eager eaters of cheap, unpretentious, and often 'ethnic' food. We're in San Diego for two weeks from New York, with a car, staying central but driving all around. Following is a list of restaurants that sound up our alley cobbled together from from the last month or so of posts. Can locals suggest edits or additions to this list? I've included a few brewpubs and local foods places at the end because we like beer and it sounds like there is a strong local foods tradition.

Please advise, and thanks in advance. We are going for cheap, delicious, and utterly lacking in fancy ambience.

Also, is a visit to TJ worth it, food-wise?



Super Concina
Las Brasas
Super Sergio's
Tacos el Gordo
El Paisa
Aqui es Texcoco
Rudy's Taco Shop
Cantina Mayahuel
La Fachada

Pho Cow Cali
Mien Trung
Luong Hai Ky (VN-style Chinese)
Minh Ky (VN-style Chinese)


Tender Greens
The Linkery

Karl Strauss
Blind Lady Alehouse

Sab e Lee
Dae Jang Keum
Surati Farsan Mart
Northgate Gonzalez (Mexican supermarket w/ hot food)

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  1. May want to add a Marisco's Truck for baja fish tacos, a good truck is 2 blocks up from Super Cocina. Might want to search for Happy Hours, mostly a good value, lots of places with half price apps. There are good brew some houses in North County:

    Churchill's Pub in San Marcos
    Lost Abbey Brewery in San Marcos
    Iron Fist Brewery in Vista

    2 Replies
    1. re: cstr

      Include in your notes- Sab-E-Lee is closed on Mondays.

      Darband Fifth Avenue Grill. Good persian food, central location (near downtown and balboa park). Priced between cheap and expensive (their website lists prices).

      1. re: cstr

        The Mariscos truck on University next to Super Cocina has moved to 4357 El Cajon Blvd. Do not know if this is temp or permanent move.

      2. Glad cstr mentioned Lost Abbey. They're a stones throw away from Stone (in fact, they are in Stone's old location) and I like them better. It's a good contrast between a local craft brewer that has scored BIG time (Stone) and a very successful local craft brewer (Lost Abbey) that has chosen a somewhat different path.

        Yes, yes, yes...go to Tijuana. If you want a little preview tune into No Reservations tonight on the Travel Channel as Tony Bourdain does Baja. Unless you are a fearless driver and experienced driver in a foreign country it's probably easier to park in one of the lots on the US side of the border and walk across. There is a lot of construction going on at the border crossing and the approach to the border changes, plus it can take up to 3 hours by car to cross back. Pedistrian crossing is usually shorter (especially during the week) and taxis are plentiful and reasonable. You will need your passport to get back into the US.

        If you aren't familiar with where to eat in TJ you can use these links as a reference

        The Mercado Hidalgo is close to the border and an easy way to spend an hour or so. The south side of the market has a lot of candy vendors, there is a terrific cheese shop in the northeast corner of the market and the north side has a large Oaxacan selection, good chiles, mole pastes and medicinal herbs and spices. You can bring dried chiles, beans, dried spices, up to 5# of sealed cheese, candies, jamacia flowers back across the border.

        When you exit the market on the corner to your left is a Taco's El Gordo, you can grab a taco there and then a cab, or walk up to CECUT the cultural center and take in the exhibit there.

        Take a cab up to Avenida Revolucion. Visit the tequila store (Leyva's Liquors) at about 3rd and Ave. Revo, more brands of tequila, sotol, mezcal than you can shake a stick at, plus there are always a few open bottle to sample. The owner speaks excellent English and if you tell him what you want, he'll do his best to match you up with it. You and your wife can each bring a bottle back. Walk down the street to the Hotel Cesar and have a margarita on the patio.

        Don't miss Taco's Kokopelli at Agua Caliente & Ocamp. Delicious, inventive tacos.
        Tacos MazateƱo for super good shrimp tacos and other marisocos
        Cebecheria Erizo on Sonora a couple blocks south of Agua Caliente for wonderful fresh fish and seafood creations. Moderately priced, but other than the tacos, almost everything I've had there is sized to share.

        Most taxis are in the $5-8 range depending on how far you're going. A few taxistas speak English, most don't so just write the addresses down for where you want to go and show it to the taxista and they'll get you there in one piece. To come back, just ask the driver to take you to "la linea" and they'll take you to the line for the pedistrian crossing back into the US.

        Pretty much every place in Tijuana accepts either pesos or dollars. English is understood, if not spoken, in a lot of places, especially those frequented by tourists.

        Just go and have a grand time. The eating's good, the people friendly and you'll be safe.

        3 Replies
        1. re: DiningDiva

          Lost Abbey has a Belgium theme in all their beers, but they do carry a lot of Port on tap in their tasting room so there is balance. In Vista you also have Iron Fist and Mother Earth, so there are a lot of good choices available, and it seems a lot have visiting food trucks.

            1. re: DiningDiva

              Given that Tony Bourdain referred to TJ and Northern Baja as being as good as Napa Valley, I'd have to second that opinion. Damn, I gotta get my passport renewed.

            2. A Chau for Vietnamese sandwiches, corner of Menlo and El Cajon Bl

              Pho Hoa for Pho, Euclid and El Cajon Bl

              Cafe Istanbul for Moroccan/Med, 6th and E in downtown

              Red Sea for Ethiopian (I have not been there, but I know people who have and rave about it), not sure about the address, maybe 4600 University Ave

              I just found a new place for Japanese breakfast, called Hinotez, and located on Balboa across the street from the Chevy dealership. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but their breakfast is delish.

              I definitely give second votes for Sab E Lee for Thai and Alforon for Med. You might also like Haritna.

              1. I would add Sakura, Oton and Okan for japanese to your list

                1. +1 on Okan, Oton, Sakura
                  +1 on Yakyudori. note that yakitori is only after 5:30 pm. ramen is all day/night
                  +1 on Tender Greens
                  +1 on Surati Farsan Mart
                  +1 on Pho Cow Cali
                  +1 on Sab E Lee
                  Dae Jang Keum is good, but I prefer Buga better. Their marinade is not as sweet and the kalbi is better.