San Diego certainly doesn't lack confidence. Anywhere that calls itself America's Finest City had better be able to back it up. Luckily, San Diego can. With great California weather, the dazzling beaches of San Diego Bay, a fun outdoor lifestyle, and the incredible San Diego food scene, it's not difficult to argue that this is one of the top cities in the US to have fun.
Drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in San Diego, and you'll soon agree. Combining influences from around the world to make something truly Californian, San Diego dining has something for just about everyone, whether you want to try the best vegetarian restaurants in the city or enjoy some truly phenomenal Mexican food. Plus, local restaurants run the gamut from fine dining to the best street food in San Diego, so you'll be taken care of whether you want a place with an extensive wine list or the trendiest food truck in the city.
Here are some of the things you can't miss when you visit San Diego. Try these legendary dishes, and learn what the San Diego culinary scene is all about.
San Diego Food: Fish Tacos
Given San Diego's coastal location, it probably won't come as a surprise that San Diegans love seafood. And given that California was once under Spanish rule and that the state has seen generations of immigration from Mexico, it probably won't come as that big a surprise that someone thought to combine the bounty of the sea with classic Mexican food. The result is the fish taco, a San Diego staple that you'll find on just about every menu in town.
There are many different takes on the fish taco in San Diego, but they all have one thing in common: fresh, delicious seafood. The fish is usually battered and fried, then topped with cabbage, salsa, and cream sauce. You can find fish tacos all over the city, but some of the best can be found at Rubio's, Tacos Baja Ensenada, and Oscar's Mexican Seafood.
San Diego Food: Carne Asada Fries
If you're looking for something a little heartier than a taco, try carne asada fries. This dish combines two of America's favorite things: French fries and steak. Carne asada fries are usually made with thin slices of marinated flank steak that is grilled and then placed on top of a heaping pile of french fries. They're then covered with cheese, guacamole, and salsa.
You can find carne asada fries all over San Diego, but some of the best can be found at Hodad's, Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop, and Mr. Fries Man.
San Diego Food: Poke Bowl
Although it originates from Hawaii, the poke bowl is currently having something of a moment around the world, and you'll find them popping up on the menus of all kinds of San Diego restaurants. Poke (pronounced POH-kay) bowls are typically made with raw fish, rice, and a variety of vegetables and toppings. The fish is usually marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil, giving it a delicious umami flavor.
Some of the best poke bowls in San Diego can be found at Poki Poki, Hanaichi Japanese Restaurant, and PokéOne. The trendy neighborhood of Pacific Beach is a great place to look for this popular food item, as it's home to some of the more adventurous restaurants in San Diego.
San Diego Food: Date Shake
The date shake is a classic Southern California treat that you'll find on the menu of almost every restaurant in Palm Springs. It's made with dates, milk, and ice cream, and is the perfect way to cool down on a hot day. The shake originated at Shields Date Garden, which has been serving them since 1924. If you're in Palm Springs, make sure to stop by and try one (or two).
You can also find date shakes all over San Diego, but some of the best can be found at The Date Shack and Ernie's Date Shakes.
San Diego Food: California Burrito
The California burrito is a massive beast of a burrito that is packed with everything you could possibly want in a meal. It's typically made with carne asada, french fries, cheese, guacamole, and sour cream, all wrapped up in a giant flour tortilla. It's the perfect food to share with friends (or not), and you can find them all over San Diego.
This is a food you're definitely going to want to bring your appetite to. In normally healthy California, this monstrous burrito is a bit of an anomaly, but it is as classically Californian a dish as any you'll find, so it's definitely one you should try and find space for when visiting San Diego.
San Diego Food: Pulled Pork
Carnitas Snack Shack flies the flag for all things pork-related in San Diego. With several locations in the city, this is more than just another San Diego taco shop. Carnitas are a Mexican take on pulled pork, and this is San Diego's premier place to try this delectable dish. You'll also find a pork belly appetizer, chicken oysters, and a fried pork schnitzel sandwich topped with pulled pork and bacon if you really want to test yourself and see just how much meat you can consume in a single sitting.
The North Park location is now closed, but you can still find Carnitas Snack Shack at the Embarcadero near Little Italy and at Petco Park. As one of San Diego's most popular restaurants, this is definitely a great place to visit in the city — provided you're not vegetarian.
San Diego Food: Rustic Apple Pie
If you're looking for a taste of home while you're in San Diego, look no further than The Cravory. This gourmet cookie company specializes in all things sweet and delicious, and their rustic apple pie is the perfect example. Made with Granny Smith apples, this pie is packed with flavor and has a flaky, buttery crust that will have you coming back for more.
The Cravory has several locations around San Diego, but the downtown location is the original store.
San Diego Food: Ahi Tuna Tacos
Ahi tuna tacos are one of the most popular dishes in San Diego, and it's not hard to see why. These tacos are made with fresh ahi tuna that is seared to perfection and served on a bed of cabbage with a wasabi-ginger sauce. They're light, refreshing, and perfect for a summer day. You can find them all over San Diego, but some of the best can be found at The Fish Market, Rubio's Coastal Grill, and Pacific Beach Fish Shop.
San Diego Food: Omakase Sushi
If you're a fan of Japanese food or Asian food in general, you won't go hungry in San Diego. But if you want to eat like the locals do, try omakase sushi for an adventure through both local and exotic flavors. Omakase is a style of sushi eating that means you get what you're given by the chef, according to what seems fresh and good that day.
San Diego is home to several sushi restaurants that serve omakase, but some of the best include Sushi Ota, Nobu San Diego, and Izaka-ya by Katsuya. If you're feeling adventurous, go for it and try something new — you might be surprised at what you end up liking.
San Diego Food: Al Pastor Tacos
Al pastor tacos are a Mexican dish made with spit-roasted pork that is marinated in a chili pepper adobo sauce. The result is a flavorful, slightly spicy taco that is perfect for any time of day. Besides, you can always find room for a taco, right?
You can find al pastor tacos all over San Diego, but some of the tastiest are at Lucha Libre Taco Shop, Oscar's Mexican Seafood, and Puerto La Boca.
San Diego Food: Seafood
Given the sheer amount of oceanfront the city commands, it would be weird if San Diego didn't have good seafood. Luckily, it does. You can't throw a stone without hitting some incredible seafood restaurants in San Diego, especially in Pacific Beach.
Some of the best seafood in San Diego can be found at The Fish Market, Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill, and Pacific Beach Fish Shop. If you're looking for something a little more upscale, check out Ironside Fish & Oyster or George's by the Cove. No matter what your budget is, you'll be able to find some great seafood in San Diego.
San Diego Food: Korean Fried Chicken
Immigration has left an indelible mark on San Diego, especially on the city's culinary scene. Korean immigrants, like so many others, brought their traditional foods to San Diego with them, so you'll find plenty of Korean bbq restaurants wherever you go in the city.
One dish you should absolutely try if you can find it is Korean fried chicken. This dish is made with chicken that has been double-fried for extra crispiness and then coated in a sweet, spicy, or savory sauce. If this sounds good to you, head to Bonchon Chicken, Kogiya Korean BBQ, or Soom Soom Fresh Mediterranean to give this decadent food a try.
San Diego Food: Brunch
Brunch is big business in San Diego. A leisurely weekend brunch is the perfect way to kick off a fun weekend exploring the city or recover from a late night.
No matter what your budget is, you'll be able to find a great brunch spot in San Diego. For something casual and affordable, try Snooze an A.M. Eatery or Hash House a Go Go. If you're looking for something a little more upscale, check out The Crack Shack or Farmhouse Kitchen and Tap. And, if you want even more guidance on where to get a good midday meal, check out our guide on the best brunch in San Diego.
San Diego Food: Craft beer
San Diego is one of the best cities in America for craft beer lovers. The city has more than 100 breweries, which means there's a good chance you'll be able to find a style of beer that you like. And with so many breweries to choose from, you can easily spend a day (or two) visiting them all.
Some of the best breweries in San Diego include Stone Brewing, Ballast Point Brewing Company, and Green Flash Brewing Co. If you're looking for something a little different, check out Modern Times Beer or The Lost Abbey. No matter what your taste is, you'll be able to find a great craft beer in San Diego.
San Diego Food: Flat Top Burgers
Flat top burgers are a San Diego institution. These burgers are made with beef that is ground fresh and then cooked on a flattop grill, which gives them a unique flavor and texture.
There are burger joints all over San Diego, but for the true flattop experience, keep it simple. A basic burger with grilled onions and maybe cheese is all you need to get the best out of this classic snack.
With so many great San Diego restaurants and a food scene that is ever-evolving, San Diego is one of the best foodie destinations in the entire United States. Try some of these delicious dishes, and you'll quickly see why.
And if you're wondering how the locals stay so fit and healthy, a look at this guide to the best hiking trails in San Diego will show you. Burn off the calories of some of this delicious food on some of the best hikes around the city, and you'll be getting the most out of your San Diego trip.