Sometimes, the chorus of public opinion isn’t a good thing when it comes to a dish at a restaurant. Many a food item's popularity is based on convenience or longevity and not necessarily on taste. Factor in long lines and long waits, and sometimes it doesn't add up to the hype. It can be a touchy subject, of course, and while these eight places and dishes are popular, we can't help but wonder if there are superior alternatives to some of San Diego's more overhyped tacos, pizzas and more.
50/50 Burger at Slaters 50/50
Why it's overhyped: Bacon on a burger is a surefire crowd-pleaser, and this burger chain combines people's love of beef and pork by serving a patty that's half ground beef mixed with half ground bacon. It's a winning concept if you judge by the folks that crowd the locations at Liberty Station and San Marcos, but is it worth the long wait? We think this burger falls into the "too much of a good thing" argument, especially when slabs of crisp bacon atop a beef patty do just fine.
Try instead: Can't possibly imagine a burger without bacon? Go with San Diego's homegrown Hodad's, where crispy bacon sits atop a hand-formed beef patty, adding a nice texture contrast. True, you might find lines at the Downtown and Ocean Beach locations, but in this case we think the Hodad's burger is worth the wait.
Ramen at Underbelly
Why it's overhyped: Not long ago, there weren't many ramen options in this city, so a lot of people relied on this restaurant in Little Italy (that later expanded to a second location in North Park) for their ramen fix. Ramen choices include bowls filled with charsu belly, bacon, truffle oil and more. Unfortunately, when combined with the soup, the meats fall flat. Add in the restaurant's refusal to include spoons with the ramen (instead, you must slurp directly from the bowl), and you have a not-so-satisfying experience.
Try instead: Treat your taste buds to ramen at Nishiki Ramen in Kearny Mesa, a popular chain from Japan testing its overseas appeal here in the U.S. The spot offers a choice of several rotating seasonal ramen dishes like BBQ cheese ramen plus ever-present favorites such as Nishiki Black with housemade black garlic and another with charsu.
Tacos at Luche Libre
Why it's overhyped: Back when this luchadore-themed restaurant broke into the local scene in 2008, it brought an intriguing new vibe to the culinary landscape. With tacos like "Tap Me Out" and "Undefeated Taco Trio," it quickly became one of the most popular places for a fun meal in Mission Hills. Several media mentions soon followed, bringing the restaurant international notoriety with queues of people looking to gobble a bit of that fame. The food has remained the same as well as the ever-present lines (there is now a second location in North Park), but it's devolved into a place to take out-of-towners looking for a bit of kitschy atmosphere with their meal.
Try instead: Where should we even start? City Tacos consistently tops our list with inventive fillings like roasted chicken, arugula and golden raisins, or Salud! in the heart of Barrio Logan for al pastor, birra and more. How about checking our list of 15 super red hot tacos in San Diego?
Sushi burritos at Sushi Freak
Why it's overhyped: We get it. Sushi burritos are a big thing and Sushi Freak – one of the first places serving them in San Diego – gets big props for its unwieldy handhelds created before your eyes. It's all made to order and stuffed with your choice of protein, veggies, sauce and toppings. The fillings are often overshadowed by too much of the starchy carb, making it more of a rice roll with a few ingredients inside.
Try instead: The folks at Pokkirito on Convoy have perfected the science of creating sushi burritos. While prohibiting ingredient substitutions may seem draconian (they let you remove ingredients but not add), all sushi burrito creations like the Pokirrito classic (tuna, crab, tamago, broccoli slaw, butter lettuce, lotus chips, masago, cilantro, shiso tempura flakes, golden ratio Pokirrito sauce) work together creating consistent, harmonious bites.
Seafood at Anthony’s Fish Grotto
Why it’s overhyped: The seafood tends to fall somewhere between bland and unremarkable, although the bayside local itself is stunning and almost makes you forget about the food. Still, while the menu items may pass muster in other cities, here in San Diego, it’s simply overpriced for what you get.
Try instead: Doubling as a market and restaurant, Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill serves fresh seafood cooked with your choice of seasoning in a salad, sandwich or entree.
Pizza at Filippi’s Pizza Grotto
Why it’s overhyped: As far as San Diego institutions go, this is one of the oldest with the deli dating back to 1950. The deli segment still exists, but it's the attached restaurant serving everything from pizzas and sandwiches to salads and pastas that attracts the long lines come dinnertime. While the pizza is passable with toppings like sausage, pepperoni and a mix of veggies, the city is home to far more extraordinary pies that take 'za making to the next level – and without the wait.
Try instead: Depending on pizza preference, go Roman-style with Napizza, NY-style with Bronx Pizza or get something fancy from Isola Pizza Bar.
Pancakes at Hash House A Go Go
Why it’s overhyped: Sometimes we equate bigger with better, and the size of the pancakes at this Hillcrest location certainly impresses. They're often described as being as big as a manhole cover, but it's that very size that works against it – diners often experience flavor fatigue, and if they make it further into the pancake, they might find soggy and undercooked batter in the center.
Try instead: Opt for a flight of regular-sized pancakes instead of settling on one gigantic one at Breakfast Republic. Choose from three flavors like churro, cinnamon roll and mint chocolate pancakes.
BBQ at Kansas City Barbeque
Why it’s overhyped: Blame Tom Cruise for putting this joint on the map. With one memorable scene from Top Gun, this restaurant – located a stone's throw away from the convention center – became a must-visit destination for tourists looking for a bit of Hollywood. Unfortunately, the one-note food and lackluster service do not add up to the hype.
Try instead: Iron Pig Alehouse for modern Texas-style BBQ with lots of local craft beers on tap.