San Diego's food scene is growing faster than ever, with a slew of exciting new restaurants hitting the city. From an East Village gem to a garden paradise in Mission Hills, here's an update on the 10 hottest restaurants lighting up the local landscape right now.
Vietnamese classics such as pho, banh mi and spring rolls come to the Gaslamp courtesy of this cozy canteen, the grab-and-go counterpart of chef Michael "Bao" Huynh’s adjacent sit-down locale, Sovereign Kitchen. It’s built for takeout, but the low-key surrounds with exposed brick and a black-and-white mural also offer a handful of tables for diners.
Must-order: Coconut waffles
Insider tip: Service is quick, but you can phone in your order to avoid the packed lines at lunch.
Situated atop the La Plaza Center, this authentic coastal Italian serves up a menu inspired by a 1,600-mile road trip through Italy (think wood-fired pizzas topped with clams, spicy lamb sausage, sunchoke agnolotti and whole roasted branzino) amid views of La Jolla and the Pacific.
Must-order: Halibut crudo
Insider tip: Housemade sodas can be spiked with a spirit of your choice for an additional cost.
"This isn't your ordinary taco shop" proclaim fans of this tiny, inexpensive North Park taqueria that takes "street food to a whole new level" with inventive spins on classic Mexican staples like pulled lamb tacos with wild mushrooms; a “friendly” staff, comfortable semi-industrial setting and top-notch salsa bar add to the appeal.
Must-order: It's really hard to choose just one, but we think their chile relleno will make a fan out of anyone.
Insider tip: All tacos are just $3.50 each.
This quaint pastry shop features Hawaiian masadalas, savory fritters and other fried pastries from across the globe, including donuts, of course. The space is comfortable and vintage with old-school maps on the wall and an antique desk for coffee condiments.
- Donut Shop
The nigiri and maki literally roll to your seat at this Convoy sushi destination, a spin-off of an LA-area chain with 300+ locations in Japan offering a modestly priced selection of fresh fish and cooked Japanese specialties covered in plastic domes and served via conveyor belt. The lofty, modern surrounds feature large booths, plus touch-screen ordering for dishes that don’t pass by in time.
Must-order: Uni sushi, only available in select markets including San Diego.
Insider tip: The entire party must be present in order to be seated.
“Wonderful” Isaan-style Thai dishes with "intense", “complex flavors” emerge from the kitchen at this “warm, friendly” cash-only trio in Linda Vista, Rancho Penasquitos and Santee with "bare-bones" decor and modest tabs; just “order wisely" since the spice levels are "plenty hot."
Must-order: Go beyond the drunken noodles and try salted fish rice and pork larb.
Insider tip: Bring cash; they still don’t accept credit cards.
"A pork-lover's dream come true", this "trendy" twosome trades in "amazing", "original" porcine eats from "delish" carnitas and tacos to a "life-changing BLT" all made with "quality", "local" ingredients and backed by a "good selection of craft beers"; though lines can get “crazy”, the "fun, outdoor" settings (with some indoor tables at the Del Mar locale) compensate and "you can't beat the value."
- Fast Food
Must-order: You can’t go wrong with three succulent types of pork — pork loin schnitzel, pulled pork, bacon — piled high in their Triple Threat Pork sandwich.
Insider tip: Get in line early on the weekend for the North Park location before the window starts taking orders.
“Inventive” seasonal Californian cuisine, "lots of small plates" and "great craft cocktails" await at these "super-cute", partially "open-air" spots in Mission Hills and Pacific Beach; “accommodating” staffers and moderate bills earn kudos at both locations, but "gorgeous plant-covered topiary walls” and a glass-enclosed cheese cave give the Mission Hills outpost an edge when it comes to design.
Must-order: No visit is complete without one of their carefully curated cheese plates.
Insider tip: It’s always hopping, so reservations are highly recommended.
Housemade pastas, Neapolitan-inspired pizzas and shareable small plates such as bruschetta topped with prosciutto, fig and ricotta reign at this modern Italian trattoria; the ambiance is laid-back and airy, with funky mismatched furniture and roll-up glass doors that put the heart of the East Village on display.
Must-order: Toast topped with foraged mushrooms and crème fraîche.
Insider tip: Glance into the yellow-framed mirror to decipher some of the chalkboard art by the restrooms.
This full-service restaurant with roots in San Antonio shares a roof with sister restaurant and coffee bar Halcyon but maintains an entirely separate focus: farm-to-table pizza. The modern space also serves as a taproom with 20 craft beers in stock, plus a cocktail list that uses beer, as well.
- New American
Must-order: Wild mushroom mac 'n' cheese
Insider tip: Open only for dinner. During the day, its sister restaurant and coffee shop Halcyon is open and shares a few of the menu items.