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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 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.

Campus Eats

Several places on campus will keep you fed during the day. None are very exciting, unfortunately.

Your Morning Coffee

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.

Price Center

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 and think. 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 starving.


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.

Old Student Center

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 poetry readings.

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 Friday afternoons.

Miscellaneous Food

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.

Close To Campus

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.

La Jolla Village Square

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. El Torito 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.

University Town Centre

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 ok. 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 beer. The Food Court at UTC can supply decent food in a pinch; try the Greek place for cheap, but good, gyros.

Costa Verde (the Mall that Refuses to Fill)

This is the mall across the street from UTC where Albertson's is now. It has one of the better bookstores near campus (Bookstar), Blockbuster video, as well as a relatively-expensive-yet-very-good mexican fast food restaurant (La Salsa). Aesop's Tables, has reasonably priced Greek food.

Renaissance Town Center

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 food), 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 Reader.

Other close to Campus

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 stores.

Late Night

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 Denny's on 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 Restaurant on 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 midnight.

Coffee Shops

Most of the good coffee houses are located in Hillcrest (see below) but there are several coffeehouses near campus. Starbuck's (a 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.

Further Away

Chinese Food

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

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 bit pricey.

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 food.

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 Pearl Street. 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 Beach.


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 chips and 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 as well.


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.

Misc. Food

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 it.

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.

Cafes in Hillcrest

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 cafes.

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, smokers):


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.
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Next: Get Involved! Up: User's Guide to the Previous: Moving In