30 Dishes & Drinks That Define San Diego Summer

By Darlene Horn | May 19, 2014 By Darlene Horn  |  May 19, 2014

Taco runs, trips to the theme park and, of course, a visit to your favorite beach - these are the bare essentials for any summer in San Diego. To make this season even more memorable, we’ve compiled a list of the essential bites and sips that define the season. Keep it handy, and we're pretty sure you'll have the Best Summer Ever. Don't forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for pretty pictures of all of the must-try summer dishes and drinks.  

1. Dirt Cup at Mr. Frostie 16. California Sausage at Salt & Cleaver
2. Berry Bread Pudding at Café 21 17. Crave-Worthy Bacon Burger at Hodad’s
3. Edamame Dumpling at True Food Kitchen 18. Maple-Faux Bacon Donut at Donut Panic
4. Refreshing Watermelon Salad at Union Kitchen & Tap 19. Slice of Meatda at Sicilian Thing
5. Lobster Roll at Ironside Fish & Oyster 20. Mexican-Style Popsicles at Oasis Ice Cream Parlor
6. Entreme Surtido Appetizer Selection at El Agave 21. Fish Taco at Oscar’s Mexican Seafood
7. Memphis Nachos at Lil' Piggy's Bar-B-Que 22. Jimaca Shrimp Tacos at Blind Burro
8. Beef Carpaccio at Davanti Enoteca 23. Beavers Milk Stout at Belching Beaver
9. Carne Crudo Asada at Juniper & Ivy 24. Frozen Horchata at Puesto
10. Horchata Sundae at Hello Betty Fish House 25. Undressed Greens Juice at VitalityTap
11. Oyster Shooter with Beer Chaser at Pacific Beach Fish Shop 26. Chicken Chicharrons at Alchemy
12. Tropical Dole Whip at Lappert’s Ice Cream 27. Filipino Sisig at Sublime Tavern & Alehouse
13. Eskimo Pie at Betty’s Pie Whole Saloon 28. Authentic Lobster Rolls at Lobster West
14. Cinna-Mostra Roll Cold Brew at Mostra Coffee 29. Scallop Lollipop at Poppa’s Fresh Fish Company
15. Roast Chicken Picnic Basket at Saffron 30.Passion Fruit-Filled Divina at Azucar
  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Summer isn’t complete without a dirt cup from Mr. Frostie, a Pacific Beach institution since 1949. This guilty pleasure piles chocolate soft serve with crushed Oreos, gummy bears and whipped cream.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Revel in the summer’s freshest berries, folded into Café 21's warm, luscious bread pudding. It's served with housemade vanilla ice cream.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Mission Valley’s True Food Kitchen serves up edamame-filled dumplings, so delicious that your taste buds won’t know they're also healthy for you.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Watermelon, avocado, arugula and cheese meet in this refreshingly light salad served in the Gaslamp and Encinitas at Union Kitchen & Tap.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Oysters steal the spotlight at Little Italy’s Ironside Fish & Oyster, but the lobster roll on housemade bread is what keeps diners coming back for more. 

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    El Agave offers a little taste of everything in this appetizer selection packed with bite-sized quesadillas, empanadas, taquitos and sopecitos.

  • Southern-style BBQ collides with crunchy tortilla chips loaded with cheesy sauce, tomatoes, jalapeños, green onions, sour cream, BBQ sauce and pork, chicken or brisket chili at Lil' Piggy's Bar-B-Que in Coronado.  

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    When the weather starts heating up you'll appreciate Davanti Enoteca’s refreshing carpaccio with thinly sliced beef topped with arugula, capers, tomatoes and mushrooms.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    If your thoughts turn to carne asada tacos or burritos, try Juniper & Ivy's riff served on toast for a memorable upscale contender.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    You'll agree it's worth the trip to Oceanside’s Hello Betty Fish House for their decadent housemade horchata ice cream served with crunchy cinnamon-coated bunuelos.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Whether you decide on spicy or nonspicy, Pacific Beach Fish Shop’s oyster shooter served with a beer chaser and poached shrimp is a delicious way to down a briny bite.

  • Photo by: Flickr/RachelReyes

    Lappert’s in Poway may be far from the Hawaiian Islands, but one taste of pineapple-flavored soft serve and you’ll be immediately transported to the tropics.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    If you’re looking for a cool, sweet treat, indulge in housemade ice cream piled into a cookie crust at Betty’s Pie Whole Saloon in Encinitas. Flavors may rotate. 

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Caffeine fiends will enjoy the nose-hit of cinnamon followed by a smooth coffee taste from Mostra’s cold-brewed Cinna-Mostra Roll coffee.

  • Photo by: Saffron

    For the best in alfresco dining hit up Saffron for a roast chicken picnic basket, complete with sauces, salad rolls, egg rolls, cucumber salad, Cambodian salad and rice. All you need to add is the beach. 

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Find the flavors of a California burrito - complete with a mound of French fries on top - tucked into a bun at Hillcrest’s Salt & Cleaver after 10 PM.

  • Photo by: Flickr/Ephemeron

    Very few can resist the thick blanket of bacon on top of an all-beef patty at Hodad's Downtown or Ocean Beach locations.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Vegans and carnivores will be fooled by the soy sauce-marinated, liquid-smoked coconut chips on top of Donut Panic’s delicious maple-faux bacon donut.

  • Stop in at North Park’s Sicilian Thing and be prepared to swoon over a slice of Meatda Pie topped with pepperoni, meatball and Italian sausage on a tall golden crust.

  • Pack a cooler and make a trip to the South Bay to stock up on Oasis' housemade paletas, available in fruit or cream varieties.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Hungry crowds always pack Oscar’s Mexican Seafood for their delicious beer-battered fish tacos.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Found at Blind Burro is this refreshing, gluten-free taco with a sliced jicama "tortilla" filled with cold cooked shrimp, mango salsa, lemon-serrano crema and avocado.

  • Photo by: Flickr/SallyCrossthwaite

    Everybody loves Beaver Milk’s robust, sweet milky stout at the Belching Beaver.

  • Photo by: Leanne Abe of Three Dog Kitchen

    Beware of brain-freeze when you slurp up Puesto's answer to the Icee: a slushy frozen horchata made with sweet rice milk and cinnamon.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Drink up your vegetables and vitamins with Vitality Tap’s “undressed greens,” a blend of kale, romaine, celery, green apple, cucumber, lemon and ginger.

  • One taste of Alchemy's crispy fried chicken skin and it will be on your mind all summer long. 

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Don't miss Sublime’s new take on classic Filipino sisig. This dish of tangy, marinated meat is cooked until crisp and served with sweet rolls.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    The next best thing to a trip to Maine: head to Encinitas' Lobster West for a traditional lobster roll stuffed with sweet lobster meat.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    You'll be pleasantly surprised by the locally sourced scallop "lollipop" drenched in buttery, rich caramel at Poppa's Fresh Fish Company.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Indulge in white chocolate cake with sweet-tart passion fruit purée and raspberries hidden under a mound of lightly torched meringue at Azucar in Ocean Beach.

Places Mentioned


CalifornianGaslamp Quarter
Food25 Decor21 Service23 Cost$28


Fish And ChipsLittle Italy
Food21 Decor26 Service22 Cost$43

El Agave Tequileria

MexicanOld Town
Food25 Decor23 Service23 Cost$36

Davanti Enoteca

ItalianCarmel Valley
Food25 Decor25 Service24 Cost$33

Davanti Enoteca

ItalianLittle Italy
Food25 Decor25 Service24 Cost$33

Pacific Beach Fish Shop

SeafoodPacific Beach
Food24 Decor18 Service19 Cost$20

Betty's Pie Whole Saloon

Food- Decor- Service- CostI


ThaiMission Hills
Food25 Decor14 Service21 Cost$17


BurgerOcean Beach
Food25 Decor20 Service21 Cost$14


Food25 Decor20 Service21 Cost$14

Oscar's Mexican Seafood

SeafoodPacific Beach
Food24 Decor13 Service18 Cost$10

Puesto at The Headquarters

MexicanMarina District
Food24 Decor24 Service21 Cost$26

Puesto Mexican Street Food

MexicanLa Jolla
Food24 Decor24 Service21 Cost$26

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