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Really Good Budget Eats in San Diego? (downtown and the Beaches)

Hope above is fairly self-explanatory. Have not been to SD in a few years. Taking a short holiday on a very tight budget, no car. Fairly well-travelled, adventurous palette, shun Fast Food/corporate chains

I seek recommendations in: Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, Coronado, Downtown, Gaslight Quarter, Old Town.

Seafood, (oysters, fish tacos esp.) "ethnic" (whatever that may mean to you), local specialties, food trucks(only if they're exceptional). Give me something I might not find at home, which is Vancouver, BC.

Preferably you &/or a trusted source have dined there in last 3 months. Been stung too many times by the well-meaning "nice little place I found years ago" rec's.

Before you jump on me for 'not searching first' - I did! But was frustrated by somewhat clunky site, shortage of time, relevance, etc. Mostly the time thing.

Many thanks in advance!

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  1. I enjoy the pho at Pho Point Loma- fits your description.

    1. Go to Azucar at Newport and Sunset Cliffs in OB. Inexpensive but wonderful pastries, sandwiches and desserts

      5 Replies
      1. re: nessy

        Darband 5th Avenue. Persian food in the downtown area.

        I'm curious how you will get to some of those places (Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach) without a car.

        1. re: SteveRB

          I'm pretty good at working my way around public transit scheds, supplanted with cabs. Thx for the suggestions!

        2. re: nessy

          Love Azucar.... their Cuban pressed sandwiches are very tastey.

          Besides World Famous, JRDN Restaurant at Tower 23 has a very good happy hour.

          Downtown does not have many values, though the happy hour at Grant Grill inside the US Grant is very good....for something unique you may or may not find in Vancouver, Sadaf is excellent Persian food.

          1. re: El Chevere

            Another vote for Azucar. I'm there almost daily so I can vouch that it's still good :-)

            Other great places on the other side of the hill/Point Loma are Tender Greens & Con Pane.

            A little farther afield is another vote for Pho Point Loma.

            Happy hour at the Brig for fish tacos in Shelter Island or Coronado is another good rec.

            You didn't mention if you're here over a weekend but I also love the Little Italy Farmer's Market on Saturdays as a nice place to sample our local produce, fresh uni, etc. with a beautiful view to the bay.

            Enjoy your visit and please report back!

            1. re: El Chevere

              Oooo! Good call on Sadaf. Excellent food and friendly service.

              There is an Afghan place on 6th just south of F Street called Chopahn. I know this violates the OP's request, but I have not eaten there. However, I can tell you the menu looks delicious, and it appears to be run by a family.

              On the more casual end is Cafe Istanbul on 6th Avenue, just north of F Street. They serve Moroccan food. Their rice pudding is to die.

          2. OB - No great cheap ethnic food here. Actually I'm not even sure I've ever eaten a meal there......

            PB - Papa Luna's Empanadas on Garnet.

            Coronado - Maybe Delux Dogs? Not a lot of cheap and ethnic over there.

            Downtown - Kabab Shop, JWok, not sure you want cheap seafood.

            Old Town - This is a tourist area. Good and cheap aren't really on the itinerary. I would go to El Patio if I had to eat there. But no should have to eat there.

            There are tons of great budget ethnic spots in SD. Just not so much in the places you mention. In my humble opinion.

            2 Replies
            1. re: y6y6y6

              Good call on "cheap seafood". I would of course be willing to bump up to "moderate" if the quality merits. Thx for suggestions!

              1. re: vcinbc

                Oscar's Mexican Seafood in PB has good seafood tacos. Not as good as the stuff in South county, but you'd have trouble getting there without a car. It's over hyped, but good.

                Mariscos German Beyer truck on Imperial is likely the closest honest seafood taco place to the locations you mention.

                Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill is close to downtown and has great seafood sandwiches. You'll stand in line there most likely.

                The Fishery in PB is a bit more upscale, but has reasonable prices for what you get.

                Just as an FYI - If was was taking out of town friends for exactly what you're asking for I'd go to the Mariscos Issac truck in Imperial Beach. But that's way south.

            2. Go to Barrio Logan, sort of SW of downtown San Diego.

              Places to try there include:

              Filipino Food & Bakery (just opened) http://filfood.com/
              Las Cuatro Milpas
              La Fachada (technically in Logan Heights, but who's counting)

              1 Reply
              1. Las Cuatro Milpas

                A must go to! Get the rice and beans with chorizo and eggs.

                1. Chula Vista.
                  Aqui es Texcoco is fantastic
                  Mariscos trucks in the Toys R Us parking lot.
                  (Mariscos El Pescador and El Gallito Tortas Ahogada)

                  Bahia Don Bravos..great .99 cent fish tacos and lobster burritos with cold Pacifico's
                  Kona's for breakfast at the pier
                  World Famous for happy hour lobster tacos oceanfront
                  Alfonso's for Nachos, Margs and people watching

                  Water taxi over from Gaslamp..Danny Palms Burger and beer.. www.sdhe.com
                  Brigantine everyday happy hour for fish tacos

                  Happy hours

                  San Diego
                  Las Cuatro Milpas
                  Mariscos German seafood Mex truck..sublime
                  Bay Park Fish Co..great happy hour

                  Love BC..
                  From the other BC

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    Good list BC, I'd also add Bareback Grill in PB, 1/2 price apps and drink specials from 3-6pm.

                    Here's a couple of good links:



                  2. In Pacific Beach:
                    Leilani's Cafe on Cass Street

                    In Downtown:
                    The Calbi Taco Truck, (check their website for schedule)
                    Salad Style, 6th and F Street

                    Do yourself a favor and go to Logan Heights to the El Salvadoreno, located at 2800 Imperial Avenue, for El Salvadoran food. It's only five minutes east of downtown and the busses run Imperial Avenue pretty frequently.

                    You did not mention City Heights, which encompasses the area roughly between the 805 freeway on the west side, 54th Street on the east side, with University Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard being the main drags. This area houses more ethnicities and cultures than anywhere else in San Diego County. There area several bus lines there and tons of inexpensive wonderful food.

                    So, for City Heights: (this is just a few)
                    Pho Hoa, Euclid Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard
                    Tacos El Panson, 44th Street and El Cajon Boulevard
                    A Chau, 46th Street and El Cajon Boulevard
                    Red Sea, 45th Street and University Avenue

                    And, I'll throw in a mention for Convoy Street, which has a cacophony of Asian fare. There are plenty of bus lines in this area too. Check out the blog "Convoy Conquest."

                    Enjoy your trip!


                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Dagney

                      I would not recommend anything that Convoy, or Kearny Mesa in general, has to offer in terms of Chinese, Japanese or even Korean fare to a visitor from Vancouver.

                      It would be like recommending a San Diegan visiting Vancouver to get some CAB.

                      1. re: ipsedixit


                        Do you have a contribution to this thread for the OP?

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Why would Convoy Street be so offensive to a visitor from Vancouver? I have not visited Vancouver.

                            1. re: Dagney

                              Because Vancouver has the best Chinese food in the Western Hemisphere. And the Japanese cuisine is arguably some of the best you'll find in North America outside of maybe places like NYC. Korean is still taking root but even in its relative infancy still outpaces the legions of AYCE BBQ joints in Kearny Mesa.

                              1. re: Dagney

                                Ipsy is right on Vancouver...beyond sublime on Chinese/Japanese.
                                Great city too.

                                1. re: Beach Chick

                                  I bet the Filet-o-Fish is better in Vancouver as well.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    Quivering just thinking about the beloved FoF..
                                    It would bring Vancouver to a whole new level.

                      2. Try to hit up one of the Mariscos trucks when you are here - there's one in South Park, which isn't too far from Downtown. There are others that you'll be able to find on this site. Really fantastic seafood tacos, ceviche tostadas, and other Mexican seafood goodness.

                        In Downtown (closer to Little Italy), there's Mexican Fiesta, a concrete shack of a taco shop that makes excellent adobada tacos. If you order anything else, make sure to specify you want "Mexican guacamole," or else you'll get green sour cream.

                        Also Downtown, this time on 2nd and C, there's Lucy's Taco Shop, which is a good to very good taco shop. Taco shops are sort of a San Diego institution, and you can't go wrong at Lucy's.

                        In Old Town. . .I'm drawing a blank. Old Town is a tourist trap (a nice tourist trap, and a pleasant park, but a tourist trap), that seems to specialize in serving tourists taco shop fare at ridiculous prices. El Fandango is okay, I guess. El Agave can be good, but its inconsistent and expensive.

                        Between Old Town and Downtown is my old neighborhood of Mission Hills. Dos Brasas Taco Shop on San Diego Ave. is also a good taco shop in the same vein as Lucy's. I'd also recommend Blue Water which serves really fresh fish. Shakespeare's Pub is a few doors down and is a reasonably decent English pub. Better yet, go to the Regal Beagle (note: NOT FOR THE FOOD), and enjoy some of San Diego's finest oat sodas.

                        In OB, hit up Pizza Port (note: NOT FOR THE FOOD) over on Newport and Bacon, and enjoy more of San Diego's finest oat sodas. Then try the food, which will be immeasurably better.

                        As far as PB or Coronado go. . .sorry, haven't been there in the past 3 months.