As a local, I find it unnecessary to write about all of the places that are easily searchable by using sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, or Thrillist. Simply put, the San Diego Zoo is the top attraction in America’s Finest City. So yes, visit it. Yes, go to the beaches. Yes, go to Old Town for the history and Mexican sit-down restaurants. And yes, stroll around Sunset Cliffs in the evening. But what do you do in between all of those activities? That’s where I come in, giving you the best eats in San Diego. Here are some places to grab a margarita, taste some wine, or perhaps eat some tapas.
A note from the guest author-“ I’ve known Joanna since about 2005. My brother and her brother were on the same baseball team, which I was an assistant coach. I knew she was a blogger and I reached out to see if she was interested in me writing about some of the food, wine, and other adventures I have been fortunate enough to endeavor. I want to be able to share the things I’ve done so that others, too, may enjoy. I’ve been around the world, literally, and for my inaugural post, I must share about my home: San Diego, California. Disclaimer: I have not been to every restaurant, winery, or attraction in the city—my wallet and bank would disown me. However, these are the places that are mine and my wife’s ideal spots that we like to share amongst visiting friends and family. So if you’re in San Diego reading this thinking I’m crazy…well, I just haven’t tried your favorite spot yet! Cheers!”
Best Eats in San Diego
Mexican food is one of the most, if not the most common cuisines you will find in San Diego. You can ask 50 locals where their favorite Mexican restaurant or taco shop is, and you will likely get 50 different answers. It’s a simple question to ask, but a very difficult one to answer. I mean, I have my local spot within close proximity to my house and another within close proximity of my office. It’s really a “what am I in the mood for?”thing when it comes to eating San Diego Mexican food.
Answering that question, drives my decision on where I go! I have my local shop for tortillas and tamales, another for Tijuana style tacos, and another for burritos. This could get very extensive, very quickly, so to ease your eyes and to keep your attention span, I’ll give a very, very brief rundown of my favorite spots and you can use the Google machine (or simply email me) for more information.
- Tacos: Tacos El Gordo (National City / Chula Vista) – Here you will find Tijuana style street tacos. Carne asada and adobada tacos are the best, but they also offer pork, tongue (it’s popular!), and shredded beef shoulder. My family comes down and it’s always, “Nate, can we hit up Tacos El Gordo??”
- Tamales: Las Cuatro Milpas (Barrio Logan) –You can find this home style restaurant by the line it has out the door. Tamales are the best thing to get. This is also my tortilla site (corn and flour). Whenever I head back to the Pacific Northwest, I’m always packing a few dozens with me. They also make delicious rolled tacos and a chorizo-egg soup with beans and rice. It’s fantastic. Note: Cash only.
- Burritos: La Fuente (Serra Mesa) – Not only do they have a stellar Taco Tuesday special, but they have the best burrito I’ve had in town. You can get California burrito—a carne asada stuffed with French fries, or a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos burrito. Their beef is well seasoned, tender, and not overcooked. They also have chicken, surf and turf, pork, and other cuts of meat to put in a burrito. Their burrito and taco menu is very diverse making it a perfect place for whatever mood you are in.
- Margaritas: El Zarape (Normal Heights and University Heights)—What actually brought me into this restaurant for the first time was their Tres Leches Someone recommended I try El Zarape and their cake. So I did. While their food is nothing to really post about (or maybe I haven’t found the right item yet), their margaritas are (and the cake!) They have a vast selection of tequila, allowing for some high quality margaritas. Not a tequila fan? Try the Horchata Borracha. While it’s not tequila based, this horchata and rum beverage hits the spot. Believe me, you’ll order more than one. You don’t have to order any food to get food, because when you order drinks, you will get endless fresh tortilla chips and fresh made red and green salsa. Side note: The tres leches cake is only available at the Park Ave. location now. The baker moved to the sister property.
- Tapas and Sangria: Café 21 (Downtown / University Heights) – During the happiest hours of the day of 3-6PM, you can meander on over to Café 21. The $5 tapas and 50% off sangria is what usually pulls us in. This happy hour gives you delicious options for a low price. My wife and I have only ordered off their actual menu once in the 7 years we’ve been going. The apps are usually quite filling, healthy, and delicious. They usually have about 6 varieties of fruit and spice infused sangria made from both white and red wines. If you go on the 21stof the month, it’s all day happy hour and your first glass of sangria will run you $.21. Thursdays is all day happy hour as well. This is a favorite among my family who visits from out of town.
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Nathan Alexander is a Spokane, Washington native currently employed by the Department of Defense, working at sites across the globe. In 2006, he joined the US Navy to fulfill his desires for higher education and travel. Since that time, he has traveled to 48 countries across 4 continents as well as 31 US states. From 2012 to 2015, he was afforded the opportunity to live in Italy where his knowledge of food and wine began to flourish. In that timeframe, he was able to travel most of Europe, taking notes of different activities, food, and wine to share with others who also desire to travel. He currently resides in San Diego with his wife, Alisha. In his down time, he enjoys creative sous vide cooking, photography, and baseball.
What are your favorite/ the best eats in San Diego? Stay tuned for part 2 where we share Wine Finds from San Diego.