Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Diego >
Jun 30, 2012 08:30 AM

San Diego on a Budget

Hi All,

My girlfriend and I are going to be out in San Diego for a few nights (July 6 - 11), staying in the gaslamp area most likely with a car, and would love to get some good food, but at a good value (I'm about to start business school and looking at my student loan applications has definitely tempered my usual spending habits).

That said, in addition to recommendations for some good values/ cheap eats, it would be great to have maybe one splurge meal ($50 - 75/ person).

We are pretty amenable to different types of foods. I'm more of an adventurous eater than my girlfriend, but we can do many types of cuisines.

So, what do SD hounds do to save a few bucks on good eats? Where could we treat ourselves?

Also, we're visiting another couple who is acting as our semi-hosts, so where would be a good place for two couples to go with a moderate price tag? Maybe something that there's a lot of small plates/ sharing?

Looking forward to your recommendations! (Feel free to include any other budget-friendly tips as well - e.g., save on parking, inexpensive activities, etc.).


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't mean to be stand-offish in the least, but if you search you will come up with a ton of recommendations

    So if I were coming to SD I would want a whole in the wall Mexican place, a fish taco place, a nice place that's SD-esq cuisine, and a few mid-upper level popular places that are well known around town (for your hosts


    Whole in the wall Mexican best Mexican. Most will be very cheap. Super Cocina, Bahia don Bravo

    Cheap - find a few yakitori and/or soba places. Hinotez, Gajin Sake and Noodle downtown is kind of glammed up version - still reasonable

    Get a real fish taco - search best fish tacos for recs - cheap as well.

    a mid level place with Semi-Hosts, my vote goes to Urban Solace - somewhat of an SD institution, casual enough, new-american esq or Whisknladle in La Jolla - there's also prep Kitchen in Little Italy (closer to Gaslamp) but it's loud and busy - and you should really make it into La Jolla

    Splurge - Flavor Del Mar ((drive up the 101) or Georges Modern for the food and views. Kitchen 1540 (make sure to get dessert) or Delicias - drive up the 101 for both of these as well.

    Sushi Fans - omakase at kaito in Encinitas - set the price at $50-75pp and you will leave very happy. Only worth it if you're going to sit at the bar - girlfriend will not have to worry about being less adventurous..and if she does let herself try a few new items here she will likely end up loving them. You will have the time of your life.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Rodzilla

      Thank you for the recs! I'll definitely look through the search results as well!

      1. re: tjbern

        no prob, if you have some more specific questions after that I'll be happy to help you narrow it down.

    2. Just returned from there! Had a beautiful meal at "Flavor Del Mar" in nearby Del Mar. The chef trained at Le Bernardin in NYC. You can get dinner items from $ 10 & the venue is chic & hip & looks out over the ocean. Also has outside dining:
      Bondi is a fun Australian cuisine restaurant & club--very modern interior, hanging basket/chairs & light & airy. The Australian owner is behind the bar a lot & very funny...
      Barbarella's has great Italian. The owner is a kinda kookie lady who is a local institution. Very good food in an informal atmosphere & reasonably priced. Also in the Gaslamp is Anthology, a jazz & other music too club that serves nice food & we just sat at the bar part & had great appetizers & the music also stellar. Lastly, in La Jolla is Hotel La Valencia (locals call it "La Vee" which has half price tapas & drinks at Happy Hour & a classical Spanish guitar combo that also ays contemporary & jazz. The room is vintage 1920's Mediterranean & beautiful, with a picture window overlooking palm trees and the ocean. Sink into a sofa and watch the sun set while you're serenaded. Tell any women in the group that they MUST not miss the ladies' room, the far end of which opens out to a spectacular view of the cove! Also, in Gaslight, Little Italy area has many great cheap Mexican or other breakfast places. There's a really interesting hotel, The Keaton, in the Gaslamp--owned by the same company who owns Ferrari Motors, so everything is super-modern and res & black. Even if you don't stay there, they have a cool club in the lower level.

      2 Replies
      1. re: tretower

        'Just returned from there!'

        Bondi closed years ago..

        1. re: Beach Chick

          Sorry to hear that...Last time I was there was probably 2-3 years ago, come to think of it, on a recommendation from Sunset Magazine (California's Riviera) & we took the Surfliner from San Diego up the coast to SJ (I live in the Bay Area) hitting San Clemente & Santa Barbara & all the places suggested were good.

      2. Check out Neighborhood for cheap/moderate and Searsucker for pricey.

        1. I Forgot: There's a great breakfast at "The Cottage" in La Jolla. They have inside or outside dining, really nice food, all the locals go there, get there by 9:30 to avoid the line. And the Colonial Hotel has 1/2 price food at Happy Hour. We went in and had great burgers, short rib sandwiches and smoked salmon salad & they do their own house made potato chips that come with the drinks. Good luck in B school!

          1. Go to Tacos El Paisa. Four people can share a dozen street tacos and drink some draft beers for super cheap. If you're not full head a few block west and have some seafood tacos at Mariscos German. If all you do is eat at those two places, you'll have done just fine.