29 Essential San Diego Foods to Try in 2023
Which San Diego foods best capture the spirit of this oceanside city? The answer is: too many to count! With influences from an array of global culinary cultures, San Diego foods are a celebration of diversity. This blend creates a unique character for San Diego foods that is part domestic, part international and all delicious.
If you’re digging into the San Diego food scene, where do you start? We’ve rounded up our top picks for the best food in San Diego to get you headed in the right direction. From tempting desserts to fantastic fast bites to seaside selections, there’s something to satisfy every taste.
Jump to Section
Get a Taste of Iconic San Diego Foods
There’s no need to wander the city hoping to find places to eat in San Diego when food tours in San Diego can guide you right to them! Expert guides can show you around one of the best foodie cities to make the most of your dining time. There's no shortage of things to do, see and taste on these incredible California food tours, so be sure to bring your appetite.
Once you’ve discovered your new favorites at the best restaurants in San Diego, you can learn to recreate them in your home kitchen by taking cooking classes in San Diego. It’s the ultimate souvenir of your culinary adventures, and one you’re not likely to forget!
29 Essential San Diego Foods
1. Baked Apple Pancakes at Richard Walker’s Pancake House
When it comes to breakfast-style San Diego foods, these fabulous treats at Richard Walker's Pancake House look and taste more like dessert. They’re baked to order, well worth the wait and are bound to be a memorable moment from your San Diego dining adventures.
Richard Walker’s Pancake House | Multiple Locations | $$
2. Filet Mignon Burrito at Puesto
The filet mignon burrito at Puesto, an airy first-generation Mexican American eatery, is a must-try among the best San Diego food offerings. This elegant wrap combines marinated filet and crunchy cheese crisps with creamy avocado and fiery pistachio-serrano salsa. Expect to be satisfied!
Puesto | Multiple Locations | $$$
3. Vegan Fare at Kindred
These cruelty-free dishes are more than the usual black bean burgers and salads. The menu is thoughtful and creative, perfect for the discerning plant-eater. At Kindred, gourmet selections like jackfruit BBQ and maitake mushroom steaks make vegan San Diego food the wave of the future…and oh, how delicious the future is.
Kindred | 1503 30th St. San Diego, CA 92102 | $$
4. French Toast Donuts at Donut Bar
Donut Bar's French toast donuts, a mind-blowing donut invention, are battered, fried and drenched in maple syrup, redefining the idea of what a donut can be. While some sweets don’t always live up to their potential, these indulgent beauties prove even humble donuts can be some of the best foods in San Diego.
Donut Bar | 631 B St., San Diego, CA 92101 | $$
5. Surfin’ California Burritos at Lucha Libre
For the best Mexican food in San Diego, you can’t do better than Lucha Libre. Their Surfin’ California burrito wraps steak, shrimp, fries, pico de gallo, cheese and more in a flour tortilla bursting with fresh flavor.
Lucha Libre | 1810 W Washington St., San Diego, CA 92103 | $$
6. Sweets at Extraordinary Desserts
The decadent treats at this gourmet bake shop are more like works of art among the best of San Diego foods. Gleaming selections of tarts, pies, cakes and pastries shine in elegant displays like edible sculptures. There are even signature chocolate bars inspired by the shop’s beloved cake flavors. Extraordinary Desserts, indeed!
Extraordinary Desserts | Multiple Locations | $$$
7. Centennial Burger at Balboa Bar & Grill
Balboa's skyscraper of a burger piles on some serious flavor. A double dose of fresh, 1/3-lb. all-beef patties cooked to your liking and topped with American cheese and bacon is everything you love in a good old-fashioned cheeseburger, times two.
Balboa Bar & Grill | 1863 5th Ave. San Diego, CA 92101 | $$
8. Woodfired Pizza at Sammy’s
If pizza is among the San Diego foods on your wishlist, Sammy’s is the place to go. Choose Sicilian-style or Margherita, or try a gourmet pie like organic arugula and pear — or try the Thai chicken, all on handmade crust. There are gluten-free and vegan options available as well.
Sammy’s | Multiple Locations | $$$
9. Carne Asada Nachos at Lolita’s
The carne asada nachos at this family-run eatery are the superstars on a menu filled with some of the best Mexican food in San Diego. Available as either fries or chips, these nachos feature Angus beef and cotija cheese for a special blend that’s sure to please at Lolita's.
Lolita’s | Multiple Locations | $
10. Surf and Turf Tacos at Tacos El Cabrón
Can the best food San Diego provides get more sumptuously laid back than surf n' turf in taco form? Picture it: spicy shrimp and steak nestled in freshly made taco shells. Now picture yourself enjoying them on the patio at El Cabrón for an al fresco San Diego food experience you’ll never forget.
Tacos El Cabrón | 532 4th Ave. San Diego, CA 92101 | $
11. Brunch at Herb & Wood
Mediterranean dishes done San Diego food-style is the order of the day at this upscale hotspot. Sunday brunch at Herb & Wood will get you a tasteful spread of thoughtful rustic dishes such as eggs Benedict and mushroom polenta, each prepared with an eye on gourmet quality and comforts of home.
Herb & Wood | 2210 Kettner Blvd. San Diego, CA 92101 | $$$
12. Gelato at An’s Dry Cleaning
Sometimes Italian food San Diego-style is served in a vintage dry-cleaning storefront! This shop honors the previous business by keeping the An's Dry Cleaning sign and the layout. The gelato flavors are some of the most indulgent San Diego foods you can find, with recipes given names like Batik and Spandex to continue the clever dry-cleaning theme.
An’s Dry Cleaning | 017 Adams Ave., San Diego, CA 92116 | $$
13. Ceviche at Karina’s Ceviches and More
Nine variations of this Peruvian favorite await you at Karina’s, a favorite among the expansive range of San Diego foods. Choose from simple shrimp, cucumber and avocado or more complex combinations featuring ahi tuna, pickled onions and aromatics.
Karina’s Ceviches and More | Multiple Locations | $
14. Lobster Rolls at Cody’s La Jolla
Sometimes the best restaurants in San Diego borrow ideas from other regions. Cody’s offers brioche rolls stuffed with Maine lobster that should be at the top of your Must Eat list. They’re served with fries and coleslaw for an authentic seaside meal filled with flavor.
Cody’s La Jolla | 1025 Prospect St. Suite 210 La Jolla, CA 92037 | $$
15. Poke Bowls at It’s Raw
When the possibilities for San Diego foods turn to poke, this Hawaiian eatery has you covered. With a selection of ahi, salmon, shrimp and crab to choose from at It's Raw, these no-nonsense bowls cover your poke needs without fuss for direct deliciousness in every bite.
It’s Raw | 4991 Newport Ave. A, San Diego, CA 92107| $$
16. Noodles at Shan Xi Magic Kitchen
With a full menu of dishes featuring hand-made noodles, Shan Xi lets you sample some of the best Chinese food San Diego presents. Familiar favorites like stewed pork noodles mingle with novel options like noodles topped with tomato and egg sauce for a savory blend you’ll be happy to explore.
Shan Xi Magic Kitchen | 4344 Convoy St., San Diego, CA 92111 | $
17. Anything at Figaro Dessert Café
A restaurant that only serves dessert is San Diego food done right! Precious jewel-sized delights and a devilish collection of cakes await you at Figaro Dessert Café. No matter what you choose, you’re in for an indulgent treat.
Figaro Dessert Café | 3011 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92104 | $$$
18. Chicken Tikka Poutine at Curryosity
The pun-worthy name alone makes this a must-visit for seekers of delicious San Diego foods! But the Indian-Canadian fusion spirit of the chicken tikka poutine at Curryosity is the real draw. Cheesy curry waffle fries make a bed for a traditional tandoori chicken topping in this dinner that merges two unique culinary cultures in an unexpected way. This is one of the most fun restaurants in San Diego for fans of fusion cuisine.
Curryosity | 1774 Sunset Cliffs Blvd., San Diego, CA 92107 | $$
19. Pot Pie Dinner at San Diego Chicken Pie Shop
When San Diego foods aim for homestyle comfort, they don’t mess around. The San Diego Chicken Pie Shop is an old-fashioned diner that serves up a world-famous chicken pot pie dinner with all the fixings that everyone should try at least once in their lives. And yes, dessert is included!
San Diego Chicken Pie Shop | 2633 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego, CA 92104 | $
20. California Doggo at Doggos Gus
Sometimes a hot dog is the perfect choice among all San Diego foods; for instance, when it’s a California Doggo from Doggos Gus. This bacon-wrapped twist on a classic ‘dog includes cheese, bell peppers and fries in the mix, topped with avocado crema for an extra Cali kick. Best when eaten on the beach!
Doggos Gus | 805 Seacoast Dr., Imperial Beach, CA 91932 | $
21. Pasta From Catania
Handmade pasta from this coastal-style bistro is some of the Italian food in San Diego. With options like tagliatelle alla Portofino and artichoke agnolotti, you’ll be well beyond the realm of familiar spaghetti and sauce at Catania.
Catania | 7863 Girard Ave., #301 F3, La Jolla, CA 92037 | $
22. Fish Dinner at Pacific Coast Grill
A 30-minute drive up the coast brings you to this oceanside eatery with stunning shoreline views. At Pacific Coast Grill, choose from a menu that celebrates fish and seafood in all their fabulous forms. And because San Diego foods embrace inclusiveness, there are also gluten-free and vegetarian options.
Pacific Coast Grill | 2526 S. Coast Hwy. 101, Cardiff, CA | $
23. Guido Burger at Hodad’s
Hodad’s is a surf town institution, and their Guido is a culinary invention that gives other San Diego foods a run for their money. This Guy Fieri-inspired burger includes pastrami, grilled onions, Swiss cheese and one of our favorite types of mustard: brown mustard. Burger plus deli sandwich equals San Diego delicious!
Hodad’s | Multiple Locations | $$
24. Cocktails at The Lion’s Share
A list of fantastic San Diego foods would be incomplete without the inventive craft cocktails at The Lion’s Share. The whimsical civilized beast theme of the space carries into their bar menu, with wild, witty boozy creations like the Hunter Thompson and St. Elizabeth’s Sexy Party. Try a happy hour spread to add stylish bar bites to the blend.
Lion’s Share | 629 Kettner Blvd., San Diego, CA 92101 | $$$$
25. Sushi at Lumi
This energetic rooftop bar provides upscale casual atmosphere along with some of the most innovative sushi in the world of gourmet San Diego foods. Helmed by celebrity chef Akira Back, Lumi provides brunch or dinner with an extensive menu of artful rolls and bowls, as well as nigiri and sashimi that are as thrilling as the open-sky ambiance.
Lumi | 366 Fifth Ave., San Diego, CA 92101 | $$
26. Pork Belly BBQ Nachos at Werewolf
If you’re in the mood for American pub fare with a kick, these meat-lover nachos at one of the hippest kitchens serving mouthwatering San Diego foods are a sure thing. The nachos at Werewolf are a mash-up of BBQ-glazed pork belly, authentic queso and traditional nacho toppings. It’s an appetizer, a snack and a meal all on one plate.
Werewolf | 627 Fourth Ave., San Diego, CA 92101 | $$
27. Crab Claws at Truluck’s
If you’re hooked on finding crab in your exploration of San Diego foods, then an order of claws at this elegant bistro is your catch of the day. At Truluck's, they’re always fresh and come chilled and pre-cracked, served with house-made mustard sauce for a spot of heat to warm them up.
Truluck’s | 8990 University Center Lane, San Diego, CA 92122 | $$$$
28. Cheesecake at The Incredible Cheesecake Company
Treat yourself to the creamy cheesecake creations that help make San Diego foods a decadent experience. The menu at The Incredible Cheesecake Company includes 29 variations, with bestsellers White Chocolate Raspberry and Reese’s Peanut Butter topping the list for obvious reasons. Talk about sweet indulgences!
The Incredible Cheesecake Company | 3161 Adams Ave., San Diego, CA 92116 | $$
29. Craft Brews at Kairoa Brewing Co.
Make sure to put the artisan beer at this New Zealand-inspired brew pub on your list of San Diego foods to enjoy. From fruit-infused and dessert-themed drafts to hoppy traditional ales and whimsical breakfast cereal-flavored stouts, there are 18 intriguing brews on tap at Kairoa Brewing Co. for you to try.
Kairoa Brewing Co. | 4601 Park Blvd., San Diego, CA 92116| $
Whether you’re looking for an all-American seaside meal or the most authentic Chinese food San Diego can provide, there is no shortage of incredible places to eat in San Diego. With a dining scene as diverse and tempting as this, you’ll find so many enticing San Diego foods to be sampled, it may be more than you can handle in one visit!
If you don’t get your share of the best food San Diego has to offer on your first attempt, not to worry. You can always plan a return trip to finish your foodie adventure!
For even more fun ways to explore food, check out other experiences happening on Cozymeal.