A Local’s Picks: 15 Places To Eat in San Diego

Happy friends having fun drinking and eating vegan food at patio restaurant - Focus on hand holding artichoke

A key component of a great trip is the experience of eating while exploring a new destination. San Diego, known as America's Finest City, has no shortage of well-known eateries across its famous areas–The Gaslamp, Old Town, and La Jolla. Of course, you will find great eats in these areas, but as a local of over 20 years, here is my guide on where to venture out, satisfy those taste buds, and eat like a local would. Enjoy this list of 15 places to eat in San Diego – local approved. 

1. Liberty Station/Liberty Public Market

Liberty Square Market in San Diego.
Image Credit: The Image Company / Shutterstock.

If there is any place to go here, it's Liberty Public Market. Housed inside the former Naval Mess Hall, it features every kind of food you can imagine. Dining with a group would make it easy for everyone to eat their cuisine from the vast array of vendors. There are several other options on the former naval base Liberty Station

2. Taco Tour

tacos Adobe Stock 1
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock.

One of my favorite ways to eat around San Diego is to take a taco tour. Either focus on one walkable area (Old Town, Gaslamp, Barrio Logan) or move around town. 

Check out Taco Tour San Diego. My local favorites include Salud (Barrio Logan), City Tacos (several locations), and Puesto (multiple locations). Make sure to order an aqua fresca to wash them down with. 

3. Mitch's and Point Loma Seafoods

Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

Freshly caught seafood is a must when you visit San Diego, and both Point Loma eateries will satisfy this need. Mitch's is somewhat hidden, so you might just miss it. They have mouth-watering fish tacos with a water view. Point Loma Seafoods is just a stone's throw away, and the smell of fresh fish will lure you in. 

4. Anywhere in Little Italy

Three cheerful multiracial women eating pizza in the street - Happy millennial friends enjoying the weekend together while sightseeing an italian city - Young people lifestyle concept
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Hands down, this might be the best food neighborhood in San Diego. It's not just Italian food; their Little Italy Food Hall is a great spot to check out for multiple palates. Head north on Kettner Blvd to Crack Shack (look for the big chicken). Pappalecco and Extraordinary Desserts–among many others–are ready for a post-meal treat. 

5. Farmers Markets

Farmer's market vegetables stand.
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With year-round mild weather, San Diego is fortunate also to feature year-round outdoor Farmers Markets. Most are not just fruits and vegetables anymore and feature a variety of food vendors–and it is another great place to take multiple types of eateries. My favorites are the Little Italy and Hillcrest markets. 

6. Hodad's

A store front sign for the burger restaurant known as Hodad's
Image Credit: Image Party / Shutterstock.com.

A San Diego staple for decades, no visit is complete without imbibing a burger from either their original Ocean Beach or downtown location. They have a great vegan burger and fries as well. You often find a line outside the door, but rest assured, it's worth it and typically moves quickly. 

7. Good Eats in South Park

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The sleepy, mostly residential community just outside downtown features two of my favorite eateries–The Station Tavern for a burger and tots and Kindred, an all-vegan/vegetarian open-air eatery. 

8. Coronado

Mexican Food
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Just across San Diego Bay is Coronado. The Ferry Landing area has many tourist spots, so I like to head further up Orange Ave. You can find Boney's Bayside Market for prepared foods or Clayton's Mexican Take Away hereMiguel's Cocina is tucked away in a lovely courtyard and must-try. 

9. Carnitas Snack Shack

Carnita's Snack Shack in southern California.
Image Credit: 4kclips / Shutterstock.

Walking along the Embarcadero, this fully outdoor eatery adjacent to Broadway Pier is one of my favorites. While known for their carnitas, vegetarians, and vegans can enjoy the menu as well-check out the tater tots!

10. Pizza

Mac and Cheese Pizza
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San Diego might not seem like a pizza town, but there are styles and varieties for all pizza lovers around town. You can find styles from New York and Chicago, but my favorites lie at Landini's in Little Italy and Pizzeria Luigi (Golden Hill and North Park), where you can get a whole pie or pieces by the slice. 

11. Tacos Out of Town

Street tacos displayed on a plate.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

When I am road-tripping in and out of town from the North, stopping at Pedro's Tacos in either San Clemente or Oceanside is a must for me. In addition to common taco styles and fillings, they also feature a Fried Chicken Taco and a Potato taco. They even have drive-throughs at these unassuming taco stands. 

12. Brunch at Swami's Cafe

Brunch at an outdoor restaurant.
Image Credit: Idealphotographer / Shutterstock.

San Diego is known for brunching with various options, but Swami's Cafe reigns supreme. The original location is on Swami's Beach in Encinitas, but luckily now it can be found all around town. Their extensive menu will delight anyone looking for great fuel to start their day. 

13. Old Town

Old Town San Diego
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Old Town is a great historic place to show to a visitor in town. When it comes time to eat, skip the heavy tourist-laden places and visit Casa Guadalajara. On the main street, I prefer Old Town Tequila Factory inside the Best Western hotel to the long waits of others. Harney Sushi is also popular with locals. 

14. Vegan/Vegetarian

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Image Credit: Shutterstock.

The great thing about San Diego is that most restaurants have enough vegan/vegetarian options. There are lots of vegan-specific spots. Favorites include The Loving HutPlumeriaEvolution Fast Food, and Cafe Gratitude. As a beginner plant-based connoisseur, there's no shortage to enjoy. 

15. Asian Eateries in Kearny Mesa Area

Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa
Image Credit: By Jamie Lantzy – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wiki Commons.

If you're looking for Asian food, the Kearny Mesa community (about seven miles north of downtown) will be one of your best bets. The Asian market is also a popular place to pick up tasty food. City Heights also features a large number of Vietnamese restaurants.

As America's seventh largest city and the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet headquarters, diverse food options are necessary. You will undoubtedly find what you want in tourist strongholds, but consider venturing out to eat like a local does. 

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Kelley Dukat is a freelance writer, event planner, and photographer based in the United States. She’s been traveling the United States as a nomad house and pet sitter for the last two years. For Wealth of Geeks, she writes about travel, news, and side hustles. She has extensively traveled the United States, aiming for visits to all 50 states within the next three years. Her nomadic life and event planning work aid in making her travel possible, and she finds travel stories wherever she goes. Her first foray into financial topics came from her experience as an Editor for Mortgage Originator magazine. She also previously wrote about dog-friendly travel for Evaminer.com after years of traveling with her dog. As an over 20-year resident of San Diego, she happily writes about America's Finest City and where to explore and eat within the city.

She has a Journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She’s also working on a memoir and a series of personal essays.