If you’re craving more than a massive Popcorn Chicken, here’s everything you need to know about eating in San Diego. I stayed in the Gaslamp District which is fairly touristy and thus harder to find great restaurants. So I did some serious research before heading down (or as I like to call it, pre-production) to find the best places to eat. Thankfully we ended up with several memorable meals, including sushi, Mexican and a good dinner. I already reported on the obscenely massive brunch at local favourite Hash House a Go Go, so here I round up the rest of the best, on a modest budget.
Valentine’s Mexican Food
842 Market Street at 9th Ave. / 619 234 8256
Valentine’s was the only place we visited more than once on our five-day trip. It was recommended by the valet guy at our hotel when we pressed him for a cheap place to eat that’s frequented by locals. True to his word, it was around the corner from Hotel Indigo, the place was void of tourists and the food was inexpensive and terrific. We ate a Fish Taco ($2.45), Beef Burrito ($3.50, shown below right), but the best was the Tortilla Soup (shown left) featuring beans, a hearty tomato broth, celery, peppers, cheese and pieces of avocado.
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Bread on Market
730 Market Street at 8th Ave. / 619 795 2730
When I’m travelling and not staying at a B&B, I like breakfast to be a fast and substantial affair. I don’t want to waste my time with a sit-down meal because I like to get started on the day’s itinerary as soon as possible. Bread on Market fit the bill perfectly with their Breakfast Burrito. The wrap is filled with egg, bacon and smashed potato, served with a side of pico de gallo. It’s great as take-out, allowing me to consume one on the way to the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Oh, this lovely place also makes great sandwiches (which we took into the zoo and ate instead of paying big bucks for subpar grub).
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555 5th Avenue at Market St. / 619 338 0555
One of our splurge meals was at Taka Sushi, where we were treated to some of the freshest sushi around. We sat at the bar, advised by a personal sushi chef on the best bets of the day. After salmon and fatty tuna nigiri, I knew I had to get the aptly named house specialty: Special Battera ($17 for 6 pieces). This classic Kansai-style sushi can be best described as rectangular maki. I watched as raw tuna, shrimp, crab, seaweed, rice and orange caviar is pressed into a long box then topped with black caviar and green onion. It’s so visually enticing and unique, this alone makes a trip to Taka worthwhile.
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616 J Street at 6th Ave. / 619 531 8744
Hotel restaurants aren’t usually on my must-eat list when traveling but Jsix became the exception because it was a consistently recommend on Chowhound. It’s located on the main floor of Hotel Solamar in the Gaslamp District. Chef Christian Graves truly embraces local ingredients and believes in making everything from scratch. I was blown away by my Pork Belly appetizer and had to fight the urge not to lick my plate clean when I ordered the Homemade Ravioli. Prices were very reasonable considering the quality and while I’m sure it’s against the rules, consider bringing tupperware to take home the complimentary olive tapenade and bread. It’s really that good.
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