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This is a small guide to some of San Diego's best restaurants, diners,
and coffeehouses. It's roughly organized by geography, starting with the
places on, or close to, campus, and then progressing to some of the places
a bit farther away. Not too surprisingly, we think you'll find the dining
options to be much more interesting and varied (and expensive) the farther
you stray from campus.
Nota Bene: Despite our efforts to keep this document up-to-date, it's
possible that some of the restaurants mentioned here no longer exist. Be
sure to check the phone book or http://www.signonsandiego.com before
you head out. You'll also want to refer to the restaurant listings in the
San Diego Reader for more complete reviews.
Like most large cities, San Diego serves up a pretty eclectic palate:
you'll find a lot of excellent Thai, Indian, Japanese, Italian, and
traditional American restaurants. To a lesser extent, you might also
find some decent German, Korean, and Greek cuisine.
One surprise worth mentioning is that San Diego doesn't have too many
places to grab a late-night meal. This is especially true if you're
on-campus, but even if you're not, you'll be hard-pressed to find something
to eat after 10:00.
Several places on campus will keep you fed during the day. None are
very exciting, unfortunately.
If you can make it to AP&M without a cup, we suggest heading out
to Camille's coffee cart near the Sun God and the Faculty Club.
Camille has developed a friendly relationship with many of us over the
years. It's a great place to read a technical paper (maybe for OS?).
You can also head over to the Grove Cafe (in the Old Student Center) for
more variety in food and more seating. They're also a popular place on
stormy days when Camille packs it in.
There's another coffee cart located on the west side of Mandeville
Auditorium. Sam and Patty serve coffee with a smile. They also have
excellent sandwiches from Zanzibar.
There is an enclosed food court at the Price Center. They have
several fast-food options, including chinese, mexican, Subway sandwiches,
juice smoothies, cafe (Cafe Roma), burgers (Wendy's)
(they've got the cheapest and best pre-made salads on campus),
wraps (at the mexican place), and a Round Table pizzeria.
The Chinese place in the Price Center is okay. Try some
of the items on the ``specials'' menu when you get bored of
Kung Pao chicken and Mala green beans. You might enjoy
the special soups, especially the roast pork noodles and mustard
green noodles. The steamed dumplings are pretty good, but be
careful if you order potstickers (that is, steamed dumplings
that are fried on the bottom.) Every other time I order them,
the cooks deep fry them.
The Mexican place is hardly edible. A cheaper and tastier
place is any of the Roberto's located near campus. Subways
is the huge worldwide chain. No surprises there. Cafe Roma's
cappuccinos and lattes vary
in quality depending on the espresso jerk that day. Roma also
makes good pastries, and gives various faculty a place to sit
They're also late some evenings, but the schedule changes.
Round Table and Wendy's taste just as any other
store in the chain would. Round Table also has beer and wine.
The Price Center's Student Bookstore also has its own convenience
store, the Sunshine Store.
They sell prewrapped sandwiches, frozen
burritos, some TV dinners, and junk food. They tend to be open later
than anything else and so may be an option when you're absolutely
Every undergraduate college at UCSD features its own food outlet with
a small convenience food store. Muir has the newly remodelled
Sierra Summit modeled after a ski lodge - sort of. It's
probably your fastest bet for lunch and has a big selection
including personal pizzas, make your own stir-fry, a grill, soups,
you-name-it. The Ratskellar is located below Sierra Summit.
It was closed all last year, but we assume is re-opening this year.
It has your typical grill stuff and is open later than Sierra Summit.
Also close by are Revelle's Deli
(South) and La Casa (North). Oceanview Terrace (North
West) is a little newer. Oceanview's outside seating has the
best view when you need to impress a visitor, and they have a pretty
good salad bar.
If you prefer the granola scene, the Food-Coop in the old
Student Center sells organic and non-preserved sandwiches,
salads, bulk nuts and fruit. They also sell a lot of vegetarian
products in general. Next door to the Food-Coop is the
General Store, another student-managed cooperative which
stocks a limited variety of competitively-priced junk food.
The Grove Caffe, also carries lunch type items -
soups (one vegetarian and one non a day) and salads, as well
as some really tasty sandwichs. Coffee and espresso seems to be done well,
though again, like Roma, their quality varies
with the staff. This is a good place to sit and watch the world
go by, especially on warm afternoons when the trees give just the right
amount of shade. The Grove also intermittently
has afternoon and evening concerts and
Now also carrying sandwiches and other lunch things, although
more expensive is Porter's Pub. Porter's is a pub, so they do
have alcohol. Its is open 11:30am to Midnight during the
school year, and it can be extremely crowded, especially
Che Cafe is a student-run vegetarian restaurant in the woods
past Revelle Plaza. As Fran Berman puts it, it's a touch of the 60's
at UCSD. It has an interesting atmosphere. They have slowed down
recently in terms of business hours and currently only seem
to be open on Wednesday nights for their potluck dinner event.
You get a discount if you bring your own plate/utensils.
Watch for posters on campus (and email) describing their
hours, and the menus for the Wednesday evening meals.
Graduate students can also join the faculty club for a $200 membership
fee and some unknown monthly fee. The faculty club is great if you
like having drinks with vice-chancellors and the academic computing
staff. If you want to go, try to get someone (with more money than you)
to spring for your bill.
There are a few places to check for restaurants when you get hungry.
The Guardian (campus newspaper) occasionally has food
reviews, and often has coupons for things like pizza.
The San Diego Reader (city paper printed weekly on Thursday) always
has reviews, and some pretty good two-for-one coupons which make a lot
of the restaurants affordable on a grad student's salary.
For quick off campus food, you can go to La Jolla Village Square which
Has recently been remodeled. They now have a California
Pizza Kitchen which serves gourmet pizza (thai chicken, goat
cheese with pancetta, pesto) and salads, and
Island's which has really good burgers served to you by
people in Hawaiian shirts. Across the street in the Ralph's
mall is a
T.G.I. Friday's, which is open pretty late, and
B.J.'s Pizza, which is good Chicago-style pizza, and
they're the official pizza for the AI group meetings.
and the Elephant Bar, and the Rock Bottom Brewery
are down the street, and like T.G.I. Friday's, are yuppie-mating-bars.
Food, quality, and prices match any other franchise in the chains.
There is a Pick Up Sticks, fast food Chinese, with a relatively
nutritious menu. Excellent food.
UTC is the closest real mall, they have a couple real
restaurants and a food court.
Carlos Murphy's is is Irish Mexican food, and pretty
UTC also has a Chinese
(not bad; try the Chinese long beans/green beans) and Japanese
restaurant, Shogun which isn't great
and a brew pub named Hops which some students like a
lot - try the beer sampler or the wheat
The Food Court at UTC can
supply decent food in a pinch; try the
Greek place for cheap, but good, gyros.
This is the mall across the street from UTC where Albertson's is
now. It has one of the better bookstores near campus (Bookstar),
as well as a relatively-expensive-yet-very-good mexican fast
food restaurant (La Salsa). Aesop's Tables, has
reasonably priced Greek food.
This is a smaller mall, located east of UTC,
which seems to be ignored by a lot of
grad students, but is actually pretty ok.
There is a VERY good market, especially for meat (they're the
only full service butcher I've found in SD),
called Harvest Ranch Market. The have a health food
fast food place which is not very tasty, and a bit pricey (for fast
Daily's, as well as Rubio's, known for their fish tacos.
Another Rubio's is located in Pacific Beach. There is also a good Thai
place that takes phone orders for take-out Sawaddy's and a
breakfast and lunch place called LePeep that has coupons in the
There are also four Roberto's Taco Shops near campus.
Roberto's is cheap, close, and often open late. They also
supposedly use canned beef from Price Club, but it's tender
enough so you don't care. Two are on Miramar Road in various
strip malls (various people prefer one or the other, but their
opinions never seem to correlate). Both are open 24 hours. One
in Sorrento Valley just under the freeway. Take I-5 North and
take the Sorrento Valley exit. Turn left at the end of the
offramp, go straight under the freeway, and it'll be on your
left. The best Roberto's near campus is on Carmel Valley Road
between I-5 and Torrey Pines. It's got a view of the lagoon and
beach, and supposedly tastes the best of any of the nearby
If it's late, and you're hungry, you can check the Reader for
its list of Late Night Eats. The closest thing to campus is
T.G.I. Friday's in the Ralph's shopping plaza, and they
serve food until 1am. A little further away is
Miramar Road, or on Torrey Pines at La Jolla Shores, and a
third near the entrance to the Del Mar Racetrack, open 24
hours.. Some people
actually go to study there late at night. Keith's Family
Miramar Road near I15 is another all night coffee shop to check
out, the closest thing to a NY diner I've seen here.
Saska's down in PB is open til 3am on Friday, Saturday and
Sunday, 2am other nights. They've got some good sea food or
steaks, and also usually have coupons in the Reader.
Paul Kube recommended Rudford's
Restaurant, 29th and El Cajon. ``Like their sign says, ``Always
Open, Always Good''. A real slice of life, where the waitresses
all call you honey and the busboys do their best to teach you
Spanish. Don't miss the red jell-o with creamer for dessert.''
If all this fails, stop off at the Ralph's in La Jolla
Village Square and pick up food. It's the only nearby grocery
store that's open all night. Watch out if you arrive between
4am and 5am; their computers are down to update the prices, and
the computer-dependent checker has to ask you how much each item
costs. Von's and Albertson's are open until
Most of the good coffee houses are located in Hillcrest (see
below) but there are several coffeehouses near campus.
Seattle chain) has a store in University Town Center, but only
has outside seating in the food court area of UTC.
Peet's is a Bay Area chain that just
opened in the Renaissance Town Center.
Pannikin Coffee and Tea is one of the oldest local
roasters in town. Pannikin has cafes in a number of locations
around campus, including Old Town, La Jolla (on Girard),
Brockton Villa (near La Jolla Cove),
Del Mar (Flower Hill Mall on Via de la Valle), and
Leucadia among others.
The Leucadia outlet of Pannikin (on Old Highway 101
north of Encinitas Blvd.) is a good place to spend a Saturday
morning - lots of outdoor seating. Watch the cars, bikes, and
trains go by as you sip your espresso.
Chinese restaurants in San Diego aren't highly regarded; most
recommend that you eat Thai food while in San Diego.
However, there's a number of places that are recommended by
various folk. Closest to campus are Panda Country ,
Shanghai in the Von's shopping center and
Chang in Costa Verde. Panda Country is a little
expensive but pretty good, Chang is just plain awful, Shanghai
gets mixed reviews, but I'd also recommend their
restaurant on Quivera Way (Quivera Basin on Mission Bay)
which also serves Mongolian barbeque. It
has a beautiful view and it's not too expensive, perfect for a
first date. (They also have coupons in the Reader a lot.)
Other chinese restaurants that
come recommended are Miss China (on Avenida de la Playa in
La Jolla Shores) Mandarin House on La Jolla Blvd. (called
``a bit noisy''), Double Happiness in Del Mar (not quite
so impressive, and expensive), Tin Ching in Pacific Beach,
and Chang Mai (50th and University).
Peking Palace at
UTC, and the Mandarin House downtown come with lesser
recommendations. The Mandarin Garden in the Mira Mesa
mall is a bit dirty, but their soups are supposed to be good.
Convoy Street in Kearney Mesa is home to a lot of ethnic
food; there's at least three Japanese noodle houses, two Korean
restaurants, one Chinese/Vietnamese place I know of (Savoy) and
a few Chinese restaurants on the street, mainly concentrated
around Convoy at Balboa.
Dim sum in San Diego used to be dismal. San Choy was the
best known, and the Emperor's Palace, and Woo Chee
Chong also supposedly do dim sum.
Vietnamese restaurants are scattered around town, especially
around El Cajon Blvd. and University Ave towards 40th St. (not
the best neighborhoods, however.) Pho Pasteur in Linda
Vista has been recommended. Also Le Bambou in Del Mar.
The two best Thai restaurants in San Diego are Spice and
Rice (downtown La Jolla on Girard) and Amarin Thai (Richmond
street in Hillcrest). Also take a look at Siam
(East part of University Avenue), Royal Thai on Pearl street,
House of Bangkok on Garnet in Pacific Beach,
Siamese Cuisine in Clairemont, and Bangkok Palace in Sierra
Mesa, Saffron Chicken, on India Street (near El Indio) has
Thai-style chicken and daily specials. It's a thai-fast-food place,
but it's good. Spices Thai in the Vons Center at Carmel Valley
Road and Carmel Creek Road also gets wonderful reviews, but runs
$10-15/person for typical meals. Good reasonable priced
Thai off of Convoy is at Chilies.
Hillcrest is really the only place in San Diego one should purchase
sushi. Hillcrest Sushi (6th and Richmond) is one of
the best sushi places in San Diego, but one of the most expensive. Sadly, it
may not be around too much longer due to poor management. At a very close
second is Kazumi (3975 5th Ave Hillcrest), but be prepared to deal
with some poor service. Nobu in Solana beach is also excellent, but a
For cheaper sushi head to Ni Ban on Clairemont mesa just off of 805.
Also go to Convoy between Clairemont Mesa and Balboa Aves. There are 3
decent Japanese noodle houses within a couple blocks of each other.
Chopstix has the lowest prices; the restaurant across the street
from it, The Noodle House has the largest portions, and a
restaurant just north of Chopstix, Tajima (at the back of the
strip mall with the Perrier French Bakery) supposedly has the best
Sushi places to avoid: Samurai in UTC, and
Yakimono in the Vons Shopping Center. Ichiban's in Pacific Beach.
``Did you know that there are neighborhoods in La Jolla where only
Domino's delivers? A fate worse than death.'' Luckily, if you're on
campus, there's others that deliver. BJ's sells Chicago style
deep dish pizza. Their deep dish pizzas get a bit dry, so you may
want to ask for extra sauce. They will deliver to AP&M, supposedly
take credit cards, and always seem to have $2 off coupons in the
Guardian. The pizza is okay; some people like it, some not.
Papachino's in the Von's Shopping Center on Regents makes a better
traditional pizza and is a good place for groups to sit and talk.
Their beer selection is seriously lacking, and the dining room is pink
and green with lots of mirrors. The Straw Hat Pizza (551-0125)
in a hole in the wall just off Avenida de la Playa in La Jolla Shores
make strange pizzas - Thai Chicken Pizza with peanut sauce, chicken
pesto pizza, fresh tomato and basil pizza, and so on. They're also
close to the beach. Joe Pasquale recommends a New York-style pizza
place in Del Mar, Del Mar Pizza on 15th avenue just below Camino
Del Mar. Supposedly, it's quite authentic.
If you're in Hillcrest, check out Bronx Pizza (Washington and 1st)
and grab a slice of ``white stone and pepperoni.''
Other people have mentioned Carino's on La Jolla Blvd. south of
Pizzeria Uno on Mission in PB has some exotic pizzas: seafood,
broccoli and spinach, and a very good sausage, worth trying. There's
also a deep-dish pizza place on Prospect near Hunter's books.
Sammy's Wood-fired Pizza in La Jolla and Del Mar Heights has good
yuppie-pizza. Goat cheese, mmmm! Pizza Nova in Costa
Verde, and now in Hillcrest, has this same style of pizza, and
also very good pasta and salads. So does the newly opened
California Pizza Kitchen in La Jolla Square or in Solana
If there's one thing you'll always be able to find in San Diego,
it's a cheap taco stand. Roberto's is the largest chain,
though there's similar shops called Alberto's, Umberto's,
Rodrigo's and the like around the area. Everyone seems to have
their own favorite. Once you've tried the different Roberto's,
try Alberto's, Cojita's, Don Pedro's, Juan Carlos', and
Taco Salsa in Pacific Beach. Unfortunately, these places
tend to have a hard time keeping the quality consistent.
I like Chevy's in Del Mar, just off 5, they make the
tortilla's no more than 5 minutes before they serve them.
Several people in the department prefer La Salsa,
located in Costa Verde, which usually has pretty good, fresh
food, although the chips always seem stale.
El Indio's on India Street (take I5 south to the Sassafras
exit, turn left on Sassafras and left again on India Street) is
much less of a hole in the wall than those in the first
paragraph and has a bigger menu.
Alfonso's in La Jolla's a bit pricey, but it's gotten some good
comments. The Aztec Cafe in Old Town also has been
mentioned as a good place; they don't take plastic, possibly to
discourage the tourists. Rubio's (in Pacific Beach and
elsewhere, like in the Renaissance Town Center
just east of UTC.) is the
best place for fish tacos, but if you don't want your fish
deep-fried, try Senior Pesca's inside/next to Anthony's Fish
Grotto at La Jolla Village Dr. and Regents Rd. They grill their
fish, making it a bit healthier.
Lorna's Italian Kitchen (noveau italian) near Vons at
Governor at Genesee is a grad student favorite. Lots of food,
interesting menu (that doesn't change much) and moderate
prices. I've personally gotten tired of the stuffed feeling I
have when leaving Lorna's, but it's still fun. Very
crowded, expect to wait on weekends. More
traditional italian food can be found on India Street in
Little Italy. Filippi's Pizza Grotto seems to be really
good, and has a full-on deli in the front. You have to walk
through the deli to get to the restaurant There are other
Italian suppliers in those two or three blocks of India street
There's only one place worth going to: Kaiserhof (2253 Sunset Cliffs blvd
in Ocean Beach).
The only good French restaurant we knew about seems to be gone
now, but for pasteries (NOT dinner - do NOT eat dinner here)
you can try the French Gourmet located on Pearl Street and
Turquoise street. There's a great french
restaurant in Sorrento Valley named Wine Seller's
Brasserie, hidden in some office building
east of 805. Very pricey, but gets wonderful reviews.
Cafe on Park has a small menu of comfort foods - lasagna, chicken
pot pie, steak and chips, etc - but they make them well.
If you want to go to a brew-pub, try the La Jolla Brewery
near the corner of Fay and Pearl, in La Jolla. The Cheese
Shop on Avenida de la Playa in La Jolla Shores gets good
reviews for its sandwiches. If you like seafood, you want to get
dressed up, and you have some money to spend, try Pacifica
Del Mar in Del Mar Plaza, or (if you don't like seafood but
have money to spend) try Il Fornaio in the same complex.
The Corvette Diner in Hillcrest on 5th is great for a
flashback to the 60's - the waitresses wear poodle skirts, the
music (and the corvette parked in the middle of the dining
room) are authentic. They've got good burgers - even through
we've never tried the one that comes with peanut butter on
For breakfasts, Paul Kube pointed me at the Big Kitchen,
30th and Grape, which has become the best breakfast joint in San
Diego in my eyes. ``It'll make you think you're in Berkeley (or
at least the 60's.) The help will quit as soon as they get their
big break in show business; Whoopi Goldberg worked here and has
a menu item named after her. Expect to wait an hour for a table
on weekends, but Judy the Beauty on Duty will ply you with
coffee meanwhile.'' Go there. Now.
Hillcrest is an area of San Diego not far from downtown which
should appeal to die-hard cafe fans. To get to Hillcrest
from UCSD, take 5 south to 8 east to 163 south and get off on
University Avenue (This means don't change lanes after you make
the exit from 8 east to 163 south). You will end up at 6th
Avenue and University Avenue near the heart of Hillcrest.
Hillcrest is situated north of downtown along the numbered
streets; you can go all the way downtown on 4th or come all the
way from downtown on 5th (both are one-way streets). Please
note that a lot of this area has a lot of gay people -
homophobes should stay home!
There are at least nine good or reasonable cafes in or
around Hillcrest at any given time. There are also many good
restaurants with a reasonable spread of prices. In addition,
several of the Landmark Theatres (specializing mainly in "arts"
films) are in Hillcrest and there are many used bookstores.
Most of the interesting parts of Hillcrest occur in an area
bounded by Washington Street to the North, Robinson to the
South, 2nd Avenue to the West, and 7th Avenue to the East.
There are other good areas int he vicinity, but the "walking
diameter" becomes more like 10 blocks instead of three to five.
For example, further east from 6th on University there are two
more cafes on the south side of the street before you hit
Park Blvd. (And heading South on Park takes you to the Zoo and
to Balboa Park). Also, heading west on Washington to Goldfinch
and turning right will get you to a few more restaurants and
One last word; parking is often a *major* problem in downtown
Hillcrest. Check all signs carefully, and check whether the
meter needs feeding! The police will "chalk-and-check" and
write tickets in this area. If you don't mind paying, there's a
pay lot at Robinson and 6th (straight-ahead from 6th and
University as you get off of the freeway... but it's small). If
you're careful, you can find street parking away from the
business sector but beware... some of the *residential* parking
in Hillcrest is handled by permit with the city! There's now
some parking under the Hillcrest Theater - if you go to a
movie it's for free.
Here's a list of some local cafes... (There are more...
but these are the nine I usually rattle off for people)
(Warning: some of these allow, and frequently contain,
For good vegetarian food, you can try Las Cuatro Milpas,
the great beans and rice place in
the Barrio Logan; and Vesuvio's on 30th above Upas,
open for pizza and other Italian takeout until late,
or dine in to really appreciate how much green neon
they have. I've also been told that the Monsoon on 5th
in Hillcrest near the Corvette and the Hillcrest
Theater is pretty ok. Daily's in the Renaissance Town Center
also has a number of veggie entres.
- The Livingroom: 1417 University Ave
- Espresso Roma: University at 4th, not quite on the
- Beignets: 5th at University, not quite on the southeast
corner (Yes, they have beignets)
- Quelle Fromage: University betw. 5th and 6th
- The Study: 4th and University (Nice, quiet atmosphere)
- Euphoria: On university East of 163 (go east from
6th and university, across a bridge, and its on the right on
the next block).
- SOHO: About a block or two further up University from
Euphoria on the same side.
- David's Place: Along the west side of 5th behind the
Brass rail at 5th and Robinson.
Next: Get Involved!
Up: User's Guide to the
Previous: Moving In
Michael A COPENHAFER