A Day in San Diego: Where to Eat and Drink
San Diego’s easily the best-kept secret for West Coast eats and libations. Enough about the Zoo and Sea World. With more small farms than any other U.S. county, close to 60 farmers markets, tight-knit collaboration with our Baja neighbors, a reputation as “the Craft Beer Capital of America,” and a thriving wine-making industry, San Diego is a full-fledged food destination. Your day here begins at the beach, takes you into some bustling urban neighborhoods, and ends with the perfect cocktail just minutes from the airport. You’ll leave sated and happy.
Edible Feast has teamed up with Expedia to offer a West Coast food and drink tour with stops in Seattle, Portland, Marin & Wine Country, San Francisco, Monterey Bay, Santa Barbara, San Diego and Reno Tahoe. Here are a few of Edible San Diego's must-visit spots if you have a day to spend.
Start your day at Brockton Villa (1235 Coronado Blvd) in La Jolla. Gaze across the street at the Pacific’s breaking waves. That’s La Jolla Cove. We adore Brockton Villa’s citrus-flavored French toast soufflé made with bread from one of San Diego’s favorite bakeries, Bread & Cie. Walk it off at the Cove. Perhaps indulge in a free yoga class at La Jolla Shores Park. Or take the kids to the tide pools. Get ready for the sea lions. They’ve made their home at the Children’s Pool.
If the beach scene isn’t for you, head over to North Park, San Diego’s hipster neighborhood, and start your day with a ginormous croissant at Cardamom Café & Bakery (2977 Upas St.). Pair your croissant with the True Blue Omelet, stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, tomato, and blue cheese. Then it’s time for Balboa Park (1549 El Prado), where you can museum hop—from the Natural History and Museum of Art to the Mingei, Museum of Photographic Arts, and the Hall of Champions. Or be zen in the Japanese Friendship Garden. Little ones will love the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater, the carousel, and miniature railroad. Okay, and, yes, there’s the San Diego Zoo.
Carnitas Snack Shack
Ready for lunch? Get piggy at Carnitas Snack Shack (2632 University Ave) back in North Park. Named for the owners’ pet pig, the original Shack (there’s also one in Del Mar), is all pork all the time, and they source ingredients as locally as possible. The Carnitas Tacos are rich, dripping with savory carnitas and guacamole. But if your hunger is really big, what you want is the Triple Threat Pork Sandwich—a trifecta of chicken-fried pork cutlet, slow-roasted pulled pork, and slices of applewood-smoked bacon accented by homemade pepperoncini and pickle relish.
Perhaps you’re craving a burger. Well, a must is San Diego’s favorite local grass-fed burger chain, Burger Lounge. With eight locations, it’s easy to find one in the region. Order The Lounge Burger, loaded up with organic cheese, fresh or grilled onion, lettuce, tomato, and house-made 1,000 Island Dressing. Be sure to get the ½ and ½ side of onion rings and fries. And The Big Lounge Shake. Vegetarian? No problem. You’ll love the Organic Quinoa Veggie Burger.
Let’s say instead of Burger Lounging in Hillcrest near Balboa Park, you did it in Little Italy. Welcome to San Diego’s most happening food mecca. Focus on India Street and Kettner Blvd. for great people watching, shops, and galleries—and eatery after eatery. On Saturdays, get truly local at the Little Italy Mercato on Cedar St. Then rest your feet and get a brew at Ballast Point, Bottlecraft Beer Shop (2252 India St.) or 98 Bottles (2400 Kettner Blvd #110). Or go wine tasting at San Diego Cellars.
Dinner at The Red Door
As if you hadn’t eaten enough, it’s time for dinner. If you want to stay in central San Diego, you must dine at The Red Door (741 West Washington St.) in Mission Hills. There’s probably no place more local since owner Trish Watlington grows much of the restaurant’s produce at her home. The restaurant thrives on supporting local growers and is the recipient of San Diego Magazine’s 2015 Best Farm-to-Table Restaurant award. Start with Vegan Nachos (even if you’re not vegan); you’ll love the vegan cashew nacho cheese topping the cacao sea salt chili tortilla chips. Love seafood? Order whatever Chef Karrie is making from the local catch of the day. Or try the cider-brined Cook’s Ranch Pork Tomahawk or the Free Form Garden Squash Lasagna.
Cocktails at Starlight
Almost time to depart? Not so fast. There’s always time for one last drink before catching your plane. Starlite (3175 India St.) is one of San Diego’s first locally focused eateries but what sets it apart are its craft cocktails. Tucked away on India St. close to downtown, Little Italy, and the airport, Starlite’s mid-century modern design creates the perfect vibe for a stylish cocktail. You’ll want to indulge in the Starlite mule—with Rain Organic vodka, ginger beer, lime, and Angostura bitters glistening in a copper mug (please don’t walk off with the mugs). Or try the Kentucky Colonel with Buffalo Trace bourbon, ginger beer, lemon juice and house-made cherry vanilla bitters.