Every city has its places only locals know about. They often do the best food and are great value too. San Diego, California is no different. Here are 7 secret eats of San Diego we’re letting you in on. You’re welcome!
With so many places in San Diego to find great food, it’s always fun returning to this cool city. You’re always guaranteed a good feed and you’ll always eat somewhere new and interesting.
Our best advice is to ask your airport Uber or taxi driver where their favourite place is to eat. We love mining our drivers for good info when we first arrive somewhere. And San Diego locals always love to share their knowledge.
In the meantime, check out 7 of our favourite local places to eat in SD – our secret eats of San Diego:
7 secret eats of San Diego, California
1. Tacos El Gordo de Tijuana B.C Inc – Chula Vista
Our Uber driver from the airport told us about Tacos El Gordo, and it’s quite something. This place has been lifted straight from the streets of Tijuana and dropped into this southern suburb of SD.
The system to get your food here is a little confusing at first. The kitchen runs almost the full length of the building. You order different types of tacos, sides, extras and fries at specific sections of the kitchen.
Then you take your dishes to the counter to pay.
But it’s not just the ordering system that’s different to most tacorias. These are authentic Tijuana tacos. And they’re bloody delicious!
Our recommendations for El Gordo
Above all, make sure you go to the adobada taco section. These spiced pork tacos with El Gordo’s special dressings and toppings are incredible.
And if you’re feeling daring, there are some… interesting options in the menu: you can have tripe, tongue, ‘beef head’, pork stomach and donkey on a taco if you wish!
2. Oceanaire Seafood Room‘s Admiral’s Hour – Downtown SD
Ordinarily, dinner at an Oceanaire Seafood Room means a special occasion, silver service and a pretty big bill at the end.
However, Oceanaire’s bar area also does a little-known special in the evenings. This happy hour – referred to as ‘Admiral’s Hour – goes 5pm-6pm Mon-Fri and again from 9pm-close Mon-Thurs, and from 8pm to close on Sundays.
Our recommendations for Oceanaire Seafood Room’s Admiral’s Hour
You can enjoy $1 oysters by the dozen and other small bites under $10. Bigger dishes are under $20 and there are plenty of specials on drinks too.
The oysters are superb, as is the blackened fish tacos, the octopus and the parmesan truffle fries.
You have to be sat in the bar area as opposed to the restaurant proper, but there’s plenty of space, much less formal and very comfortable.
3. La Posta De Acapulco – Hillcrest
For a late-night burrito, you can’t go wrong with La Posta. This taco shack does the best California Burrito (that’s a burrito with fries inside) in town and is open till 1am most nights.
We were there one night and a lady parked up nearby. She told us she drives all the way from La Jolla to come here for their carnitas burrito.
Our recommendations for La Posta
Our recommendation is to go get a six-pack from the nearby CVS, sit at the tables there and watch the world go by from behind your burrito – make sure you order the California one though. It’s the best!
4. Caroline’s Seaside Café – La Jolla/Scripps Beach
A bit further north from La Jolla proper is Scripps Beach, which gets its name from the nearby Scripps Institute of Oceanography. By the way, the aquarium there is a must-visit.
Overlooking this beach is Caroline’s Seaside Café, which not only does really good coffee, but also excellent food.
Our recommendations for Caroline’s Seafood Café
Pancake stacks, quesadillas, huge bowls of porridge, eggs how you like… there are so many options here. They do breakfast from 8am, lunch from 11.30am-3pm and weekend brunch which uses both menus 8am-3pm.
It’s interesting that the food and service is so good here. There are so many examples of venues with views like this relying on the vista rather than the menu.
5. Bronx Pizza – Hillcrest
Boasting a New York style thin crust to their pizzas and a fascinating array of toppings, Bronx Pizza has been going since 1997. This is a local pizza joint so the guys in there treat you like a local too.
Our recommendations for Bronx Pizza
Their pizzas are big (18-inches) and thin, and you can also buy pizza by the slice too. Their Bronx Deluxe is magnificent, but the Pesto (with mozzarella and parmesan) and the Whitestone (with mozzarella, fresh ricotta and parmesan) are absolutely spectacular.
Bronx Pizza is cash-only (no cards) and they don’t do ham, pineapple, chicken, jalapeños or bacon as toppings. So don’t ask!
6. Crack Shack – Little Italy
Little Italy has some of the most interesting dining options in the whole of San Diego. From breweries to seafood restaurants – but Crack Shack is beyond unique. Everything on the menu is chicken based, and everything is delicious.
Diners certainly vote with their feet here – and the queue to order winds out the door into the street. Good job San Diego has such warm weather!
The layout of the restaurant is semi al fresco, with lots of seating in the open-sided dining area or you can sit up at the long bar.
Our recommendations for Crack Shack
We tried the chicken oysters – delicious southern fried chicken nuggets – and the Mexican poutine, which is a platter of fries and sauce and cheese with polo asado mixed in. Delicious!
A pro tip for ordering food is to skip the long queue and just order at the bar.
7. Tiki Port Ocean Beach – Ocean Beach
This funky Hawaiian style shack on the corner of the street could be selling anything – from coconuts to surfboards. But they’ve actually harnessed the power of the superfood acai to create delicious, healthy food bowls.
The rich purple yoghurty acai mix, which is said to be high in antioxidants and anthocyanins, holds up a range of different delicious toppings.
Our recommendations for Tiki Port
We loved the fresh organic hemp granola, banana, and a drizzle of honey and coconut flakes that you get with the Rio Bowl.
They also do a huge range of healthy smoothies and artisanal coffee styles.
If you’re after something a bit stronger though, why not take your acai bowl across the road to the Mike Hess Brewing Co’s OB Tasting Room for some of the best beers in SD.
Ocean Beach is the perfect spot for Tiki Port – this suburb has a thriving alternative community with a fascinating farmers’ market that takes up two blocks of Newport Avenue every Wednesday.
We’ve been lucky enough to visit SD quite a few times now and we’ve got to know some of the best local spots. It’s also thanks to our lovely friends Mona and Brendan, who live in SD, that we’ve accumulated this knowledge. They always take us to awesome spots around town.
For more stories of our time in San Diego (and our tips on visiting this awesome city) check out our library of articles here.
Do you have any local secret eating spots in San Diego? Where do you love to eat in your hometown that visitors probably don’t know about? Tell us in the comments!