10 San Diego Restaurants That Should Be Getting More Love

By Darlene Horn  |  March 21, 2016
Credit: Darlene Horn

Ask any local what the hottest new San Diego restaurants are and you’ll get a bevy of answers that might include The Crack Shack and Bracero Cocina. But what about the lesser-known restaurants that have opened up within the year and also deserve some love? We’ve picked out 10 spots that aren't on any hit list but deserve attention, as well as repeat visits.

  • Credit: Spitz

    Spitz Hillcrest

    The invasion of LA restaurants continues, and one of the lesser-known newcomers is this 10-year-old chain that specializes in Mediterranean street food. Opened in early 2016, the Hillcrest restaurant specializes in kebabs tucked into sandwiches or wraps or featured on a plate. Wash them down with one of the restaurant’s signature cocktails or craft beers on tap.

    Must order: Street-cart doner ($8.50 for vegetarian or $9 beef and lamb, chicken or falafel).

    3515 Fifth Ave.; 619-326-8556

  • Credit: Darlene Horn

    Encontro North Park

    The North Park dining scene is crazy with hot and happening places. Encontro doesn’t have a big name attached nor is it part of an existing chain of restaurants. What it does have is delicious unfussy seasonal craft food like Scottish salmon and kale Caesar salad in an airy spot smack on the corner of 30th and University Avenue.

    Must order: Thai Sausage ($9; pictured) topped with banana peppers, pickles and kimchi.

    3001 University Ave.; 619-291-1220

  • Credit: Darlene Horn

    The Garlic Shack

    Golden Hill is far from being a culinary hot spot in San Diego, but this small eatery makes a strong argument for the neighborhood with its selection of sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers and fries. You’ll especially enjoy the menu if you’re a fan of garlic — the restaurant offers a bit of garlic in every dish, right down to the bread baked in-house that's used as the base of all its creations.

    Must order: Korean beefholic ($8; pictured) featuring smoked Korean BBQ beef, lettuce, green peppers, Serrano peppers, provolone, sweet onions and pickles.

    549 25th St.; 619-551-4398

  • Credit: Darlene Horn

    Pan Bon

    Little Italy boasts some of the city’s hottest dining destinations, so it’s a bit of a head-scratcher as to why this Italian bakery and cafe doesn’t draw a bigger crowd. Maybe it’s the location under a high-rise apartment building or its close proximity to the popular Javier Plascencia’s Bracero Cocina down the block? Whatever the reason, its fresh-made pastries, along with Italian lunch and dinner staples churned out from its open kitchen, are not to be missed when you’re looking for a quick food fix.

    Must order: A selection of mignons (pictured), mini Italian pastries starting at $2 for one to $39 for three dozen.

    1450 Kettner Blvd.; 619-928-6157

  • Credit: Darlene Horn


    We listed this up-and-coming restaurant as one reason why Barrio Logan is San Diego's next hot food neighborhood, and we’re just waiting for the rest of the city to take notice of chef Doug Cook’s cooking talents. Diners will find comfort in the restaurant’s tacos, burgers and sandwiches, but of real interest is Cook’s tinkering with molecular gastronomy in the dessert realm.

    Must order: Pollo la plancha ($10, pictured), grilled chicken marinated with harissa, garlic and lemon.

    1985 National Ave. Ste 1133; 619-955-8544

  • Credit: Darlene Horn

    Tabletop Commons

    Diners looking for games with a bit of food won’t be disappointed at this Hillcrest restaurant on University Avenue that's been open since June 2015. The selection of board games hovers around 150, and the portable food options let you keep one hand free to eat, leaving the other to roll dice.

    Must order: Chicken and waffles ($11; pictured)

    1263 University Ave.; 619-487-1382

  • Credit: Darlene Horn


    In a town where Tijuana-style street food rules, cuisine from Guadalajara is still a bit of a mystery. Perhaps that's why this place hasn’t had more buzz since opening earlier in 2016. Diners won’t find the familiar tacos or burritos, but the restaurant's grilled meats, beans and tortillas will convert newbies after the first bite.

    Must order: Delgado, ($2.20 each; pictured) a corn tortilla topped with melted cheese, thinly sliced beef, beans, onions and chopped cilantro.

    531 Broadway; 619-795-6960

  • Credit: Burnside


    This Normal Heights eatery has been open since 2015, and its selection of sandwiches like the popular Cubano and pulled pork are a major draws for those who have discovered the joint. The recently revamped space includes a customer-friendly counter and a seating capacity that has this restaurant set to handle more guests when the sandwich craving hits.

    Must order: Cubano sandwich ($10).

    3375 Adams Ave.; 619-501-7715

  • Credit: Darlene Horn

    Crazy Goose Bar & Lounge

    This Gaslamp restaurant — borrowing the nickname of owner Wally Mona’s daughter — serves approachable comfort food. On the surface, it appears to be a typical restaurant-bar combo with several TVs tuned in to that day’s biggest games, but chef Jacob Green offers some satisfying grub like an Angus beef burger stuffed with Velveeta cheese (pictured) that harken to his Midwestern roots.

    Must order: Captain’s French toast ($10).

    789 Sixth Ave.; 619-255-6703

  • Credit: Darlene Horn

    Poké Go

    Poke, a Hawaiian mainstay involving raw fish, is gonna be hot this year. And this Hillcrest restaurant was one of the first to jump onto the bandwagon. Aside from the traditional takes using ahi tuna, salmon, shrimp or octopus, diners can also order Asian favorites like Korean bibimbop or saimin, a Hawaiian noodle soup. Get in on the trend before everyone else does.

    Must order: Poke platter (starts at $9.45).

    3614 Fifth Ave.; 619-230-5549