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9 San Diego Chains We Love

By Darlene Horn
January 20, 2014
Photo by: Darlene Horn

If you believe the hype about San Diego, you'd think the only thing we eat or care about are fish tacos. But this city of 1.3 million is home to several multi-outpost restaurants devoted to burgers, sushi and BBQ - just to name a few. Here's a roundup of our favorite chains. All of these brands have at least three locations. And not a single one of them specializes in fish tacos. 

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    The Kebab Shop
    The Formula: Mediterranean kebab shop serving fresh salads, sandwiches and shish kebab plates
    Number of Locations: 6
    Meal for One: $6.99 for your choice of döner or shawarma sandwich
    Menu Highlights: Want all the fillings without flatbread? Check out the döner box filled with fresh veggies, lamb, chicken or falafel and garlic yogurt sauce. No extra charge for fries or rice.
    Notes: A healthy, fresh alternative to the ubiquitous burrito

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Burger Lounge
    The Formula: Grass-fed beef, free-range turkey and veggie burgers
    Number of Locations: 8 in San Diego, 4 in Los Angeles
    Meal for One: Any regular sized burger $7.95 + $2.99 with fries
    Menu Highlights: Be on the lookout for their seasonal specials like grass-fed lamb burger topped with Asadero cheese, jalapeño relish and green chili mayo.
    Notes: An almost-guilt free option for when the burger craving hits

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Luna Grill
    The Formula: Fresh and healthy Mediterranean cuisine, including wraps, kabobs, salads and even burgers
    Number of Locations: 8 in San Diego, 4 in Orange County
    Meal for One: Meals start at $8.50 for a wrap or $10 for a plate
    Menu Highlights: The apple walnut or Mediterranean chicken salads are surprisingly filling.
    Notes: A great alternative for the calorie-conscious without skimping on portion size

  • Panchita’s Bakery
    The Formula: Authentic Mexican pastries made fresh daily on the premises
    Number of Locations: 3
    Meal for One: Most pastries are under $1
    Menu Highlights: It’s a carbaholics dream: pan dulce, cream-stuffed donuts and tres leches cake are a few standouts.
    Notes: The price point allows you to try a variety of pastries

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Phil’s BBQ
    The Formula: A quick-service restaurant serving a mix of Louisiana and Southern BBQ. Finger-licking sauce makes it a standout
    Number of Locations: 4, including Lindbergh Field’s Terminal 2
    Meal for One: “Phil Ticklers” with ribs or chicken, fries, onion rings and coleslaw starts at $6.95.
    Menu Highlights: Taste a little bit of everything on the menu with a baby back ribs and chicken dinner.
    Notes: Expect long lines at all locations; call ahead for a pickup if you’re in a rush.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Lolita’s Mexican Food
    The Formula: Southern California Mexican food.
    Number of Locations: 5
    Meal for One: Daily lunch specials (burritos, tacos and tostadas) served with rice, beans and drink start at $6.75.
    Menu Highlights: You can't go wrong with the California burrito (carne asada, fries, cheese and sour cream). 
    Notes: Fill up on a variety of salsas and spicy carrots at the self-serve condiment island.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Broken Yolk
    The Formula: Home-style breakfast with more than 20 different omelets on the menu
    Number of Locations: 9 in San Diego, 1 in Temecula and two opening soon in La Quinta and El Centro
    Meal for One: French toast with bacon and strawberry sauce is $9.79.
    Menu Highlights: Hashbrowns and homefries are made in-store daily.
    Notes: Made famous when Adam Richman (Man vs. Food) conquered all 6 pounds of The Broken Yolk Special

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Venissimo Cheese
    The Formula: Fine cheeses from around the world.
    Number of Locations: 3
    Meal for One: $6.50-$7.50 for sandwich plus fruit (add meat $0.50)
    Menu Highlights: Menu changes regularly. Inquire about unique cheese.
    Tasting Notes: Don’t be shy about asking for samples.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Sushi Deli
    The Formula: Inauthentic, inventive Japanese food at bargain basement prices
    Number of Locations: 3
    Meal for One: Bento box with teriyaki chicken, mixed tempura, gyoza, egg roll, edamame, rice, salad and miso soup starts at $9.99.
    Menu Highlights: Vampire Killer roll with baked garlic, gobo carrot, avocado, sesame chicken, nacho cheese and jalapeños was created for iron-clad stomachs.
    Notes: No reservations accepted, so get in line early to beat the crowds.

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