Restaurant Guide–San Diego

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  • Date indicates the most recent update of the restaurants listed
  • Bold indicates my recommendations; others come from what I consider to be good sources


Donny’s Cafe–3901 Bonita Rd. (Cafe) Breakfast & lunch only (closed Sun & Mon).  When looking at why people like it, they say the service, the sandwiches, and the coffee (all of these are equally good for breakfast and lunch). There is not a consensus favorite item here–it depends on what you like. Map (Dining room is open 8-13-22)

TJ Oyster Bar–4246 Bonita Rd. (Mexican) Open Daily. Baja style seafood, specializing in raw and marinated dishes. Has a large variety (much of it cooked), and all of it seems to be like you would get across the border. Map (Dining room is open 8-13-22)


Bluewater Grill–417 Carlsbad Village Dr. (Seafood) Closed Mon.  Highly rated place with a “today’s fish” menu. (Also in Newport Beach). Map (Dining room is open 8-13-22)

Miguel’s Cocina–5980 Avenida Encinas (Mexican) Open Daily.  Fish tacos.  Rec. by Scott P. (from Yelp). Map (Dining room is open 8-13-22)

Chula Vista

El Patio–410 Broadway (Mexican) Closed Mon.  May be Cal. style Mex. food (but I’m not sure). Has been in business since 1954. Many especially like the breakfast. Some say skip the tacos and enchiladas and get the slow cooked meats (such as costillas de res). Map (Dining room is open 8-13-22)

Tacos El Gordo–556 Broadway (Mexican) Open 10 am to 2 am–4 am Fri & Sat (closed Tue).  Tijuana style street tacos that seem to be regarded as the best in San Diego. (Also at 689 H St.). Map (Dining room is open 11-20-21)

Talavera Azul–365 3rd Ave. (Mexican) Open 8 am to 2 pm (open daily).  Owner moved from Tijuana, and serves authentic Baja style food. Best known for its breakfast (huevos rancheros, chorizo, chilaquiles, etc.). They have omelettes because it is “popular everywhere” but this is about the extent of their food that is not Baja style. Map (Dining room is open 4-7-24)

El Cajon

Crafted Greens–745 Jamacha Rd. (American) Open daily except Sun evening.  Healthy and fresh cuisine–known for things like free range chicken and fresh vegetables. Map (Dining room is open 10-5-21)

Sahara Taste of the Middle East–2990 Jamacha Rd. (Middle Eastern) Open daily 10 am to 10 pm.  Reviewers say it is good quality Middle Eastern food. The big bonus here, though, is the Indian style food and chai they have (the cuisine here must be Pakistani and food from neighboring countries). Map (Dining room is open 11-18-22)


A Delight of France–126 W. Grand Ave. (French) Open daily 8 am to 2 pm.  I really think just about all French restaurants are good but it is a matter of finding ones that are not too expensive or upscale if you just want a normal breakfast or lunch (although one that is better tasting than most). I think this restaurant hits the mark (there may be others in the SD area but I happened to find this one). They are also taking extra steps to take Covid precautions (although the dining room is open). Map (Dining room is open 11-20-21)

Tamales Jovita–158 W. Grand Ave. (Mexican) Open 11 am to 6 pm (closed Sun).  Tamales are not only very good according to reviews, but there is a large variety of special types: rajas, mole, chocolate ice cream, etc. Map (Outdoor patio is open 4-7-24)

TJ Tacos–802 E. Valley Pkwy. (Mexican) Open daily until late night (midnight on Fri & Sat).  Has Tijuana style street tacos and other items, including quesadillas, fries and meat (a main dish), and aguas frescas. Does not serve fish tacos but has carne asada, beef tongue, etc. Map (Dining room is open 11-18-22)

Flinn Springs

Grand Ole BBQ–15505 Olde Hwy. 80 (BBQ) Closed Mon.  Texas Style BBQ (brisket is said to be very good). Said to be very good for San Diego. Some say compared to Texas it is average (but it sounds as if this is still pretty good). Map (Dining room is open 8-22-21)


Julian Cider Mill–2103 Main St. (Cider) Open daily 9:30 am to 5 pm (5:30 on weekends).  Fresh cider, apple butter, nuts, trail mix. I especially want to try this since Stout’s Cider Mill in Arizona closed (and I think this will be just as good). Located in NE San Diego County. Recommended by Scott P. (from Yelp). There are several other businesses in the same block such as Julian Pie Co, Mom’s Pie House, Julian Cafe, Apple Alley Bakery, and Julian Tea. Map (Takeout only 8-13-22)

National City

Angkorian Pikestaff–41 E. 8th St. (Cambodian) Open Mon & Tue only (11:30 am to 8 pm).  Small restaurant serving Cambodian food that has specials from other countries. Menu seems much more innovative and interesting than at most Cambodian restaurants. One example is the Cajun crab boil with tempura and cilantro. I think the rest of the week (other than Mon & Tue) it is a pop-up restaurant. All food is served in to-go containers so I’m not sure of their seating arrangement, but Google Maps says they have dine-in. Map (Dining room is open 11-18-22)

Cafe Indonesia–41 E.8th St. (Indonesian) Open daily (closed from 2 to 5 pm).  Located inside the market on the 8th floor of the National City Food Hall. Reviewers say it is Philippinized but very good. There are a total of 14 restaurants in the food hall. Map (Dining room is open 11-20-21)

Las Islas Filipinas–933 S. Harbison Ave. (Filipino) Dinner only (closed Mon).  Reviewers say you get a Filipino experience with the food, the decor, and karaoke music (but the food seems to be good enough that it is worth seeking out). Map (Dining room is open 4-1-23)


Blade 1936–401 Seagaze Dr. (Pizza) Dinner only (closed Mon).  Serves authentic Neapolitan style wood fired pizza certified by Verace Pizza Napoletana Americas. Map (Dining room is open 4-1-23)

Sabai Sabai–1906 Oceanside Blvd. (Thai) Open Daily.  In an area full of Thai restaurants, many reviewers say this is the best they have tried. Recently changed owners, and comments say the food is at least as good as before and possibly even better (and they like the facelift that has been made to the restaurant). Map (Dining room is open 11-20-21)

San Diego

Antojitos Colombianos–2040 Imperial Ave. (Colombian) Open daily 11 am to 7 pm.  Said to be home style Colombian food. Specialties are arepas, empanadas, and rice dishes with meat & fish. Map (Dining room is open 11-20-21)

Bane Phonkeo’s–110 47th St. (Lao) Open 9 am to 7 pm (closed Tue).  Located in a cluster of Lao food (this is the upscale restaurant). Next door is Muang Lao Market (which I think is takeout). In 2019 I found a Lao Community Market listed at the same address which was recommended (but it is not currently on Google Maps). Map (Dining room is open 11-20-21)

Ban Lao–4134 University Ave. (Lao) Open daily 10 am to 8 pm.  Good reviews, and looks like it has a more upscale dining room than some other Lao restaurants (but apparently is just as authentic). Map (Dining room is open 10-5-21)

Blue Water–3667 India St. (Seafood) Open Daily. Casual, cheap, many times has line going out the door. Has an outdoor patio. Clam chowder, oysters, fish & chips. Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Map (Dining room is open 8-13-22)

Chaba Thai–8010 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. (Thai) Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.  Has an impressive menu, and many reviewers say this is the best Thai in San Diego. Khao soi is recommended (but it looks like everything is good). Map (Dining room is open 10-5-21)

Devine Pastabilities–3545 Midway Dr. (Italian) Dinner only (closed Sun & Mon).  This seems to be simple and flavorful Italian food (the way they do it in Italy). They have their own take on many dishes, though, with one being salad stuffed in a toasted garlic roll (called a torpasta). Map (Dining room is open 11-20-21)

Din Tai Fung–4301 La Jolla Village Dr. (Taiwanese) Open Daily.  Specializes in soup dumpling (xiao long bao). Has a large selection of soups, dumplings, and noodles. This is part of a chain with locations in LA, San Francisco, Seattle, etc. Map (Dining room is open 8-13-22)

El Agave–2304 San Diego Ave. (Mexican) Open Daily. Authentic Mexican–specializes in pre-Spanish food. 10 kinds of mole. Rec. by Gil (Gil’s Thrilling Blog). Map (Dining room is open 11-20-21)

El Zarape–4642 Park Blvd. (Mexican) Open Daily (open to 11 pm on weekends).  Said to have very good fish tacos, but I am not sure if they are the traditional Baja style. Map (Dining room is open 8-13-22)

George’s at the Cove–1250 Prospect St. (Seafood) Open Daily.  Seems to have a good balance between upscale seafood and affordable prices, along with an ocean view. It also actively promotes sustainable fishing. Map (Dining room is open 11-18-22)

Grill House Cafe–9494 Black Mountain Rd. (Persian) Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.  Good reviews, and has a good menu (such as ghormeh sabzi). Map (Dining room is open 11-20-21)

Hob Nob Hill–2271 1st Ave. (Diner) Open daily 7 am to 10 pm.  Open since 1944, this is comfort food recommended by Jane and Michael Stern in their book Roadfood. They recommend pecan waffles and blueberry pancakes among other things for breakfast. For dinner chicken and dumplings or turkey and giblets are said to be good. Map (Dining room is open 11-18-22)

Hodad’s–5010 Newport Ave. (Hamburgers) Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.  The Sterns rated this as the number one hamburger restaurant in America. Note: the Sterns had separate lists for regional burgers such as the onion burgers in Oklahoma, so Hodad’s is the best of the “regular” burgers (but one topped by so many condiments that it needs a sheet of paper underneath to catch what spills including mayo, mustard, ketchup, pickles, and more ketchup). Map (Dining room is open 4-1-23)

Homestyle Hawaiian–7524 Mesa College Dr. (Hawaiian) Open Daily.  Serves Hawaiian style plate lunches. Reviewers say this may be the best of this type of restaurant you can find on the mainland, although they sometimes have off days (food dry, overcooked, etc.). Map (Dining room is open 11-20-21)

King’s Bistro–4957 Diane Ave. (Chinese) Dinner only (closed Tue).  Authentic Sichuan style restaurant known for its hot pot, but has a large menu of dinner items. Chowhound diners particularly liked the braised fish-flavored eggplant casserole, ma po tofu, and twice cooked fish (but the latter was only on the Chinese menu at the time the review was written). Map (Dining room is open 11-18-22)

Los Cuatro Milpas–1875 Logan Ave. (Mexican) Breakfast & lunch only (closed Sun). Cheap and “very good authentic Mexican food.” Seems to be south of the border style. Rolled tacos and chicken tacos are popular. Map (Dining room is open 10-5-21)

Mien Trung–7530 Mesa College Dr. (Vietnamese) Closed Sun evening & Mon.  The most distinguishing feature of this restaurant is that it serves Hue style Vietnamese food (something hard to find anywhere in the US). Bun bo Hue is a good bet here, with a more seasoned and well flavored broth than people find at other restaurants. Apparently it is a take-out place with a few tables inside. Serves the traditional style of bun bo Hue (with blood balls, etc.), so check the ingredients if you are only used to the more traditional Vietnamese restaurants in the US. Cash only. Map (Dining room is open 8-13-22)

Mitsuwa Marketplace–4240 Kearney Mesa Rd. (Japanese) Open daily (closes at 8:00 pm).  Grocery store and market that has stalls for small restaurants. Reviewers say the food at these restaurants is authentic and “just like home.” It seems to be rather inexpensive also. Reviewers say the best item is ramen. The store is similar to Uwajimaya in Seattle which is great for picking up tea and other treats. Map (Santouka Ramen is open for takeout 11 am to 6:30 pm 10-5-21)

Nine-Ten–910 Prospect St. (New American) Closed Mon & Tue (and closed from 2 to 5 pm).  Recommended on Gil’s Thrilling Blog as having outstanding flavor and quality. Is pricey, but Gil likes the soups, salads, cheese plates, and desserts so much that it would be possible to skip the steaks and expensive entrees, get some of these other items, and enjoy some very well prepared food without spending a lot of money. Map (Dining room is open 6-29-22)

Oscar’s Mexican Seafood–746 Emerald St. (Mexican) Open Daily.  Some consider it to be the best place for Ensenada style tacos (fried fish with cabbage). There is another location nearby at 703 Turquoise St. Map (Dining room is open 8-13-22)

Pad Thai Stand–3520 Ashford St. (Thai) Open daily (closed from 2 to 4 pm).  Located in the farmer’s market. Only item is pad thai, many say this is the best pad thai in town, and there are several versions of it (from the north, south, and central regions of Thailand). I’m not sure about the seating–I think they have a central dining area for the various food stalls. Also at La Mesa Farmer’s Market. Map (Dining room is open 6-29-22)

Point Loma Seafoods–2805 Emerson St. (Seafood) Open daily to 7 pm.  Reviewers say the seafood is truly fresh, prices are high, and you get what you pay for (it does not serve expensive fish, just the normal San Diego fish that supposedly is better than in other restaurants). Some say do not get the chowder or fish sandwiches, though (their flavor does not justify the high prices). Map (Dining room is open 8-13-22)

Shank & Bone–2930 University Ave. (Vietnamese) Open Daily.  Known for having possibly the best pho in San Diego, but has a good menu of other items as well (all with good reviews). The name comes from the fact that some types of pho include a whole beef bone. Map (Dining room is open 11-20-21)

Super Cocina–3627 University Ave. (Mexican) Open Daily. Serves authentic home style meals. Mole, pozole, red and green enchiladas are popular. Menu changes daily and they have food from Michoacan, Oaxaca, and Veracruz. I don’t think they have Oaxacan mole on the menu but it may be one of their daily specials. Map (Dining room is open 6-29-22)

The Cottage–7702 Fay Ave. (American) Open daily 7:30 am to 3 pm (4 pm Fri & Sat).  Known for its very good breakfasts (innovate dishes), cost was about $12 to $15 in 2021 ($15 to $20 in 2022).  Featured in magazines as one of the top breakfast places in the U.S. Also has dinner menu which includes fish & chips and other seafood dishes such as mahi and salmon. The Sterns also named it as their favorite place in California for fish tacos. Map (Dining room is open 4-1-23)

The Taco Stand–645 B St. (Mexican) Closed Sun.  This is a “taco bar” type of restaurant where they have a help yourself salsa bar, but it is a regular restaurant and definitely not a “stand.” One good point of it is that there is such a large variety of tacos, but the other important point is that they are so good (according to reviewers). Several locations throughout San Diego. Map (Dining room is open 11-20-21)

Trieu Chau–4653 University Ave. (Cambodian) Open daily 8 am to 8 pm.  Chinese (Cantonese) restaurant that also serves Cambodian food (reviewers say it is authentic). Map (Dining room is open 11-18-22)

San Marcos

Muay Thai–740 Nordahl Rd.(Thai) Closed Mon.  What convinces me most about this place is not necessarily because most reviewers really like the food, but the complex ingredients used in the curry and the fact that the Thai tea is not too sweet (meaning that this is likely more authentic than most restaurants). Map (Dining room is open 11-18-22)

San Ysidro

Tuetano Taqueria–143 W. San Ysidro Blvd. (Mexican) Lunch only (closed Tue).  Owner is from Tijuana, and the mission of the restaurant is to bring Tijuana flavors to this side of the border. Map (Dining room is open 11-20-21)


Pho Truc Xanh–770 Sycamore Ave. (Vietnamese) Closed Tue. Scott P.’s favorite. Not just pho (has a good Vietnamese menu). Map (Dining room is open 11-18-22)

Shaks Mediterranean Bistro–406 Main St. (Middle Eastern) Dinner Wed-Sun; lunch Sat & Sun (closed Mon & Tue).  This is the former Armenian Cafe which moved from Carlsbad and changed names (but the owner is the same). Food is standard Middle Eastern (I do not see any Armenian specialties on the menu but perhaps there is a special way of cooking that gives the restaurant its high ratings). Map (Dining room is open 11-20-21)

  • For additional explanation of this list see Index
  • Please feel free to leave your own comments or suggestions.

Jane & Michael Stern, “500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late”

This work by the Sterns, published in 2009, focuses on individual dishes and “the Very Best Places to Eat Them.” Although the list is dated by more than a decade, it is worth taking a look at the choices which include the following in San Diego (partial list and edited for places that have closed–Bold for No. 1 recommendation in the U.S.)::

  • Fish Tacos (California)The Cottage San Diego (La Jolla) (No. 1 in CA), George’s at the Cove San Diego (La Jolla) (No. 2 in CA), Juanita’s Taco Shop Encinitas (No. 3 in CA), South Beach Bar and Grill San Diego (Ocean Beach) (No. 4 in CA), Fidel’s Little Mexico Solana Beach (No. 5 in CA), Rubio’s Coastal Grill San Diego (No. 6 in CA)
  • GranolaThe Cottage San Diego (La Jolla) (The one and only recommendation)
  • HamburgersHodad’s San Diego (Ocean Beach) (No. 1 in the US)
  • Pie Crust CookieJulian Pie Co Julian (The one and only recommendation)
  • Stamina NoodlesIchiban PB San Diego (The one and only recommendation)

Note About “50 States, 50 Dishes” (Condé Nast)

Condé Nast published an article on Jul. 3, 2018 using various sources to compile a “list of the dishes that capture the hearts, souls, and (oh, yes) stomachs of these 50 states (plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico), and where you should order them.” For California it was Baja fish tacos, with San Diego being the hot spot for them. Oscar’s Mexican Seafood is recommended, and they say there is often a line out the door. Oscar’s sources the freshest seafood, and offers either California style (grilled) or Mexican style (fried)–the editors say the Mexican style battered-and-fried version is best. There are several locations in San Diego.

Closed (Formerly on the Restaurant Guide)

  • Chef Chin–4433 Convoy St., San Diego (closed 2022) Shanghai style restaurant with soup dumplings
  • Erlinda’s Filipino Cuisine–3400 E. 8th, National City (closed 2023) Specialized in halo halo


Chowhound (former web site)

Condé Nast Traveler, “50 States, 50 Dishes: America’s Favorite Foods and Where to Get Them”

City-Data (Best Mexican Food in San Diego)

Eater (The San Diego Restaurants Bringing Tijuana Flavors Across the Border)

Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog

Google Maps

San Diego Reader

Jane & Michael Stern, “500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late,” 2009, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcort.

Jane & Michael Stern, “Roadfood,” New York: HarperPerennial, 1992.

Thrillist (Best Mexican Restaurants in San Diego)

Trip Advisor (Eating in San Diego) (former web site which I used for preliminary research)

Verace Pizza Napoletana Americas

Yelp (San Diego)

Yelp (Scott P.)

Zomato (San Diego)

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