Weekend in SD

Hey all,

Heading down to SD for the weekend and wanted to know if there were any must hit spots, it’s been a while since I’ve visited and really sank my teeth into anything. Browsing the different threads, but wanted to get some concise opinions on some must eats.


Where are you traveling from? Where will you be staying?

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Lived for many years in SD, moved away 3.5 years ago but visited end of December and some (still) great places worth a visit - Juniper & Ivy (New American) Trust (New American), Cucina Basilico (Italian), Jayne’s Gastropub (quite elevated british pub food), Bencotto (Italian), Caffe Calabria (Coffeeshop), Bird Rock (Coffeeshop), Wayfarer (Bakery, Sandwiches), Ans Dry Cleaning (gelato), Salt & Straw (ice cream)

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A couple of things. First, I agree with RD that knowing where you plan to stay (and how far you’re willing to drive) would help to narrow the list. A lot has been happening in North County, North Park, the Convoy District, and Little Italy.

I agree with Honkman about Juniper & Ivy, although Herb & Wood is almost next door and also very good. I’d say one or the other would make a worthy entry on your “must eats” places list.

Then, I’ll also second Trust, except that if you’re seated indoors it’s very, very noisy. There’s an outdoor patio that’s much quieter, but we’ve been having very chilly weather and it might not let up by this weekend for outdoor dining.

I’ll also second Café Calabria, which IMO is the best coffee shop in town. And they don’t just have great coffee, they also offer very good pizzas. And the place itself is intriguing. What you see when you walk in, a small seating area to the left, is just a small part of the overall space. Walk towards the rear and you’ll see two other seating areas. Go upstairs and there’s a comfy meeting/eating space, another interesting area further back, and a balcony. And the coffee? This is the one to beat, coffee-shop-wise. Not to be missed.

If you’re into Thai, the original Sab-E-Lee in Linda Vista is still serving up some of the best in town. They also have a little known offshoot called Thai Papaya, almost diagonally across the street, that serves more adventurous Thai cuisine – a unique, tiny spot in SD.

And finally, if you like Vietnamese food and want a very casual environment with the best pho tai in town, head over to Pho Hoa, also in Linda Vista.

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Thank you, this is a great list to get me going!

I’m only coming down from LA, but it’s been some time since I’ve been to SD and all my previous visits have been very brief and jammed pack, with not a lot of time to explore.

Staying with a friend who just moved there, not exactly sure of the area as I’m taking the train, but I believe they live within a 10 min drive from the downtown station. Distance is not really an issue if there’s something good to be had!

This is great, will definitely check out Juniper & Ivy or Herb & Wood, and will certainly swing by Cafe Calabria.

Very interested in Thai Papaya if it indeed has less dishes catered to a western palate. Can’t so no to a good pho tai either

When it first opened, Thai Papaya called itself Thai Papaya Pok Pok, and served only unique, hard to find (or impossible to find in SD) Thai dishes. After a year or so, they added some common, regular items in the menu. But happily, the additions weren’t done at the expense of the “unique” offerings.

P.S. This is a genuinely tiny place. I’ve never had trouble getting seating, although if possible I try to go at off hours.

If you are coming from LA you might not want to spend a meal on Thai food. LA does that very well. Maybe try a Mexican restaurant. I don’t know how to explain it but the Mexican food scene in SD is just different than LA.

Good point. Any recc’s on Mexican? Last time I was there I ate at the downtown location of Puesto. It was fine, but it didn’t blow me away as the hype suggested

Frankly, we don’t have any Nuevo Mexican cuisine standouts in SD, ever since Bracero peaked out, crashed, and burned. I like El Agave, just south of Old Town.

We have no shortage of Mexican food trucks serving tacos, etc.

Well, I like SD a lot but we don’t do much that you can’t find better in LA. Keeping that in mind, here are some low end recommendations.

Tita’s kitchenette (National City)
Grand Ole BBQ (Spring valley)
Mariscos el pescador (Chula Vista)
Mariscos Nine Seas (South Park)
Super Cocina (Normal Heights)
TJ Oyster Bar (Chula Vista)
664 TJ Birrieria (National City)
Tuetano Taqueria (San Ysidro)
Birrieria y Menuderia Guadalajara (Chula Vista)

I recently went to Herb and Wood and the drinks and atmosphere were very nice but the food was just okay, just FYI.

Hope you have a nice trip


Thanks for the Herb & Wood update, RD.

Of the trucks, I’d say Marisos El Pescador is the one to go to first.

Aqui es Texcoco is a place that should also be considered, I think.

I believe Aqui es Texcoco opened a location in LA but don’t know how it compares to the original location.

Thank you! I’m not necessarily too concerned on finding things that are “done better” per say, but rather places or experiences unique to San Diego, a small neighborhood dive with a warm staff/owner, a quintessential food truck as you mentioned above, just good food done right with heart.

Quintessential SD with varying food quality: Hodads, Las Cuatro Milpas, The taco stand, Rubios, Georges at the cove, The marine room.

Others that I like but not quintessentially SD: Addison, Ironside Fish and Oyster, Campfire.

I’ve spent FAR too much time in Mexico (mainland mostly) so for me, the Mexican food in San Diego isn’t particularly good, or particularly satisfying. However, I do like Super Cocina and Tuetano.

Super Cocina is in City Heights (University and 37th) and does very good comida casera, or homestyle cooking. The owner(s) hire only home cooks and they only cook their specialty. Each cook has to audition for the owner by cooking his/her specialty dishes. If they pass muster, the cook is hired to come in and do their specialty, or specialties as the case may be. The food is served from a steam table. Don’t let that put you off. Many of the dishes on offer are guisados, or dishes that can survive in steam heat for a long time. If you see something interesting, or new to you, they’ll give you a little taste, all you’ve got to do is ask. The most popular menu items are the 2 or 3 combo plates. You get your choice of 2 or 3 items from the steam table, rice and beans, or veg. It also comes with tortillas. Super Cocina is best for breakfast (nice chilaquiles) or lunch. Late afternoon or dinner are not ideal as when something runs out, it’s out. And, let’s face it, even if something is steam heat friendly, the last few servings in the pan aren’t going to be the best servings.

Tuetano is located in San Ysidro, a few blocks from the border. It is easily accessible via the 805 South. Take the San Ysidro Blvd exit and go West. Tuetano is a couple blocks down the street. It’s a small, semi hole-in-the-wall. They do birria, cochinita pibil and carne asada in taco, torta or quesadilla form. Order it dirty and you’ll get a split marrow bone on the side. Tuetano means marrow in Spanish The birria is very good, as is the carne asada. They may be the only place in San Diego doing Cochinita Pibil, which I have not yet tried so I can’t comment on whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. Tuetano is best for lunch as traffic southbound on the 805 is pretty awful after about 2:30 pm.

I don’t share Doc’s rec for El Agave. Their tequila selection is excellent, but the food is pretty inconsistent. If you’re after tequila, the Tequila Super Store underneath El Agave is exceptional. They have one of the widest selections of tequila in the United States including many brands not found outside of Mexico.

If mezcal is your thing, try Mayahuel at 30th & University. They have an excellent selection of both mezcal and tequila. Food options are a little limited, tacos and such, but it’s a friendly bar. Across the street is Polite Provisions, one of SDs best cocktail bars. They don’t serve food, but you can go next door to Swine & Soda, place an order and they’ll bring it to you in Polite Provisions.

Trust is wonderful, Fort Oak is better. I like Juniper & Ivy as well, but I’d choose Fort Oak over it.

If you are a carnivore, Cowboy Star, Rare Society or Born & Raised would be good, albeit pricey, choices.

Morning Glory in Little Italy is an over the top breakfast place. Expect long waits on the weekend. It’s easier to get in during the week I think. Little Lion in Ocean Beach at the end of Sunset Cliffs Blvd is also a great breakfast spot. The operative work here is “little” because it is a small restaurant. Blue Water Grill in Ocean Beach serves up some pristine seafood. There is indoor or outdoor seating and a good sound track. They do their fish as tacos, sandwiches, salads or plates. All the options are good, altho’ I do think the fish to bread ratio on the sandwich is off a little. Still tastes good tho’.


All great stuff! Super Cocina is what I’m talking about, that sounds like a really interesting spot. Lot of options here, will report back with my findings from this quest

In the truly hole-in-the-wall category, I’ll add Mien Trung. The owners of this tiny, unassuming Vietnamese restaurant are from Hue, and their Bun Bo Hue is (by association) perhaps the most “authentic” to be had in SD. There are also a number of other “done right” Vietnamese items on the menu, as well. I don’t think there’s another place in SD quite like it.

P.S. to OP: If you do go here could you please compare it to a similar place you’ve been to in LA?

Darn. Just when I thought we had something special; local-only.