About Time: You Discovered San Diego’s Best Food SpotsBy Angelica Malin
Planning a trip with bite this summer? You need to make San Diego top of your list; this buzzy, sunshine-soaked Californian city is a food lover’s dream. The city boasts an incredible, vibrant food scene – from Baja-inspired eats, such as shrimp tacos, made-to-order guacamole and zingy margaritas, to Southern-comfort feasts and farm-to-fork brunches. The ethos of produce-focused cuisine and supporting local producers runs through the heart of the food scene in San Diego, and you can taste the quality, passion and respect for the seasons in so many amazing finds in the city.
We recently took a trip out to San Diego – eating our way through brunch after brunch in the name of research – to discover the city’s best food. From apple caramel ice cream to cactus tacos, here’s our favourite edible delights you can’t miss in San Diego:
San Diego: Foodie Hotspots
We loved the spirit and energy of San Diego’s food scene. Not only is the city brimming with amazing restaurants and coffee shops, there’s lots of local foodie hotspots you need to discover, which offer up a taste of local producers, bakers and makers. Here’s our favourites:
Liberty Public Market is located in the historic Liberty Public Station. This old Navy base has been transformed into a local favourite hub of art galleries, pop-up artisan food markets and breweries – it’s truly beautiful today, the perfect mix of old and new. Today, the market is home to a collection of San Diego food producers, each with a unique offering. You can sample everything at Liberty Market, from locally-caught lobster in brioche rolls from Wicked Maine Lobster to freshly-made tacos, filled with pulled pork, to Japanese-inspired poke bowls at Fish Bone Kitchen and delicate French patisserie at La Parfait Paris, washed down with a lavender latte at West Bean Coffee Producers.
It’s a great place to come for a taste of San Diego’s producers under one roof – there’s a cheese stall, cured meats, doughnuts, a wine shop and more – and a great place to buy foodie gifts to take home. Don’t miss the cookie shots from Craft Baked Goods on weekends, they are a local favourite. What’s more, on Thursdays from 2pm, the market plays home to a Farmer’s Market with local fruit and vegetable farmers, artisan jam makers, vegan food stands and much more. Get involved.
If you like farmers markets (I presume you do, because you have a soul), then you simply cannot miss the weekly Little Italy Mercato which happens on Saturdays in San Diego. The market is simply incredible – a massive, street-long bustling market of San Diego’s foodies, start-ups, street food trucks and organic, artisan producers.
Whether you’re looking to buy punnet of local cherries, an organic almond butter, Jackie’s Jams homemade peach cobbler jam or Baby Clydesdale vegan kale pesto, there’s something for you at the Little Italy Famers Market.
While you’re there, stock up on some of my San Diego favourites: Pudwill Berry Farms’ beautiful fresh berries, Mokoko vegan coconut milk and Hopkins AG Mexican chocolate almond butter. Fresh flowers are always nice, too – buy bunch for yourself, because life is too short to wait for a man to buy you flowers. Don’t miss The Cravory Nutella and caramel cookies, mind.
Fancy a cocktail in the city? You need to check out You and Yours Distilling Co., which has literally just opened. The distillery is the first urban destination distillery in the city, founded in San Diego by resident Laura Johnson. You can taste Laura’s passion for distilling and mixology in every drink at this beautiful, stylish bar, with a quirky and playful cocktail menu which highlights the real depth of flavour and quality of the distillery’s own-brand gin and vodka.
Their Sunday Gin and Y&Y Vodka are two of the finest spirits you’ll find in San Diego – try the gin in their Sunday Rose cocktail with Sunday Gin, fresh lemon and homemade rose petal syrup, and the Border Coffee cocktail with Y&Y Vodka, cold brew, vanilla black tea cordial, egg white, cinnamon and chilli. The bright, airy look of the bar will draw you in, but the cocktails will make you want to stay all night.
San Diego: Best Places for Cali-Baja Cuisine
Order: Cactus Tacos with melted cheese
The Lowdown: There’s something very special at Puesto. Handmade stone-ground tortillas, sustainable meats and seafood, slow-cooked guisados, and scratch salsas: Puesto is a celebration of fundamental Mexican flavours and an homage to the cosmopolitan palate of Mexico City. A Cali-Baja restaurant which offers up Mexican-inspired cuisine with a modern touch, it’s one restaurant you don’t want to miss.
We loved all the food at Puesto – the charred corn with chilli salt, fresh lime and cheese is worth a visit alone. For fish, you need to try the Ceviche de Camarón with lime-marinated shrimp, cucumber, avocado, red onion, serrano. The award-winning tacos are a must at Puesto – the Zucchini & Cactus taco with crispy melted cheese, calabasitas of zucchini, corn and tomato, cactus, avocado and cilantro-tomatillo is a local favourite and the Puesto Perfect Guacamole with chunks of parmesan is a naughty delight.
Where: 789 W Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101, USA
Order: Tuna Crudo, local cheese with pecans, marmalade and honey, fresh oysters and chocolate clams.
The Lowdown: This is one restaurant in Mexico you cannot miss. Expect the finest Baja cuisine at Malva – made with ingredients from the local land, by the hand of Chef Roberto Alcocer and his team. The food at Malva is truly a work of art.
You’ve never seen more picture-perfect dishes in your life, just crying out for an Instagram. Luckily, they taste as good as they look, and if you’re looking for a day trip from San Diego, you must try Malva in Mexico.
The menu changes weekly, and the small, sharing plates are simply divine. From the tuna crudo with soya sauce and chilli, to the local oysters and plates of homemade cheese – you’ll be spoilt for choice here. The setting amongst the vines couldn’t be more perfect. A must-visit.
Where: México 3, Baja California, Mexico
Order: Group tasting menu, featuring local oysters, hamachi ceviche, cucumber gazpacho, striped seabass and chocolate dessert.
The Lowdown: This is not like any restaurant you could imagine. Deckman’s, an award-winning restaurant in Mexico, is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Chef Drew Deckman is a big name in California; after growing up in Peachtree City, GA and completing a degree in Philosophy from Rhodes College, the world-know chef embarked on a culinary journey that has brought him to Guadalupe Valley in what is now Deckman’s.
The restaurant, and Drew himself, is dedicated to local, sustainable ingredients -bringing farm-to-table in the most beautiful setting imaginable. Everything you taste on the menu at Deckman’s is the highest quality possible, served to absolute perfection – their fish ceviche with sweet butternut squash and beetroot is worth the journey aline. The restaurant’s location overlooking a stunning vineyard, with outdoor tables under the trees, is pure perfection. Such romance couldn’t be invented – take my word for it, just go.
Where: Carretera Ensenada-Tecate Km. 85.5, San Antonio de Las Minas, 22766 Valle de Guadalupe, B.C., Mexico
Order: Baja Shrimp Tacos, made-to-order guacamole, avocado tacos and fresh clams.
The Lowdown: Galaxy Taco is Chef Trey Foshee’s passion project – creating truly epic Mexican food using the freshest ingredients, boldly delicious flavours and the craft of Mexican cuisine. I loved everything about Galaxy Taco. The low-key, fun nature of the restaurant suits Baja-inspired cuisine perfectly – with wall arts, colourful lights and graffiti, you’ll be seduced by the atmosphere here. Their food is also sublime; you must try the tacos.
Highlights include the Grilled Fish taco in al pastor spice with a pineapple-jalapeno salsa, lime marinated California avocado, cilantro and onion and the Baja Fried Fish taco with lime chile crema, cabbage, pico de gallo and cilantro. So, so good.
You need to try their made-to-order guacamole – it’s one of the finest in the city – and the Grilled Octopus Tostada with bean puree, tomato, burnt orange-habanero salsa and, you guessed it, more avocado. There’s no such thing as too much avocado, right?
Where: 2259 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA