San Diego is known for its sun, surf, and sandy beaches, but the coastal city is beginning to cultivate its own unique California flavour, as well. The city’s culinary scene has long been in the shadow of big sister Los Angeles, relegated to only being known for its abundance of authentic Mexican restaurants; and while there are indeed plenty of life-changing tacos, San Diego is in the midst of a culinary renaissance, full of innovative eateries with perfectly designed interiors. From a morning java to happy hour and dinner, here’s how to eat your way through the day.
Coffee: Communal Coffee
San Diego’s North Park neighbourhood is a short drive outside of the downtown core, nestled near Balboa Park and home to an abundance of craft beer and coffee. Communal Coffee is one of the new shops on the block, partnering with Native Poppy to create a “coffee and flowers” destination where you can order a honey lavender latte and make your own bouquet while you wait. Be sure to enjoy your morning jolt in the sun against the popular and photogenic mural on the patio.
San Diego is a very vegan-friendly city, and Kindred’s plant-based menu is set to please everyone in your party—even the carnivores. Located in residential South Park, Kindred is a bright and pink open-air restaurant that is contrasted by its death metal soundtrack and abundance of skull decor. In short, it’s amazing. Stop by for breakfast on the weekends, when you’ll find delicious comfort food such as vegan banana bread pudding and gluten-free banana bourbon pancakes. If you can’t make it for weekend brunch, be sure to try this hot spot for a craft cocktail in the evening.
Lunch: The Crack Shack or Soda & Swine
If you’re looking to indulge in some classic American burgers and sandwiches with a gourmet twist, get ready for lunch in San Diego. The Crack Shack is home to the best fried chicken sandwiches in the city (if not the state). Located in the trendy neighborhood of Little Italy, this spot is a casual outdoor restaurant serving organic eggs and gourmet, free-range local fried chicken all day long. Grab a home-grown craft beer and a bucket of fried chicken to share, or taste test the array of sandwiches. The Firebird is a classic chicken thigh sandwich cooked to perfection, but if you want to get real adventurous, order the California Dip: a creative spin on the California burrito with pollo asado, schmaltz fries, pickled jalapeno, and avocado with a posole broth.
If you prefer pork or beef in between your bun, head on over to Soda & Swine at Liberty Station. Each dish is available as a slider, meatball, or sub sandwich, which is perfect for ordering multiple items and sharing. Try the Vietnamese-inspired banh mi slider or stick with The Bovine for a classic beef, marinara, and mozzarella combo. Be careful, though: you could spend the entire day sampling tasty dishes at the new Liberty Public Market, which is teeming with bars, restaurants, and vendors.
Happy hour: Fairweather
When you need a break from all that eating, escape to a secret rooftop bar overlooking San Diego’s baseball stadium for happy hour. If you get lost trying to find it, you’re not alone: just look for Rare Form, head to the back, and go up the stairs until you enter the tropical oasis that is Fairweather. It’s the perfect place to unwind with happy hour specials on mai tais and piña coladas in the middle of downtown San Diego. If there’s a Padres game happening, you will definitely want to be in this fun and funky atmosphere—just make sure to get there early.
Dinner: Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar
If you have to visit one restaurant in San Diego, it must be Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar in Little Italy. One of the most gorgeous, light-filled restaurants in the city, Ironside offers a menu that is centered around its raw bar and quality, fresh seafood. So fresh, in fact, that the menu is printed about five times per day as the fishermen bring in their catch. If you’re in a group, you won’t want to miss the seafood platters piled high with oysters, shrimp, mussels, and lobster, or indulge in a brown-buttered lobster roll for yourself.
The one thing left to consider is: do you have room for dessert?
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