Courtesy of Catania/Photographer Paul Body
Backyard Kitchen & Tap
Sara Norris/Thrillist
South Park Brewing
The Whiskey House
Sara Norris/Thrillist
Sara Norris/Thrillist
Erin Jackson/Thrillist
Courtesy of Bushfire Kitchen
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1. The Balboa Bar & Grill 1863 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101 (Bankers Hill)

Tin Can Alehouse (known for live music, canned beers, and a couple of guys slinging burgers through a little window) was rebranded as The Balboa Bar & Grill, featuring live music on Fridays and Saturdays, craft beers & cocktails, and extended kitchen hours -- meaning you can get mouthwatering burgers every day, from 11am-midnight.

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2. Catania 7863 Girard Ave Ste 301, La Jolla, CA 92037 (La Jolla)

Catania, located on the top floor of the La Plaza center overlooking La Jolla Village, was inspired by owners Arturo Kassel and Ryan Johnston’s two-week road trip through Italy. The fare focuses on Italian coastal cuisine, and in an effort to keep things authentically Italian, they’re sticking to an exclusively Italian wine & craft beer program.

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3. Backyard Kitchen and Tap 832 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109 (Pacific Beach)

Backyard Kitchen & Tap is "a place for PB to play" with a menu full of elevated bar eats like lobster mac & cheese, a grilled sausage board, and a selection of flat breads created by Executive Chef Bill Sauer.

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4. Water Grill 615 J St, San Diego, CA 92101 (East Village)

This resto is heavy on seafood, and offers a shrimp bánh mì that you absolutely must try. Plump and juicy tempura-battered shrimp hangs with cucumber salad, daikon sprouts, pickled red onion, and sweet chili sauce on this non-traditional but totally tasty bánh mì sandwich served with house-made chips. Bonus: it also happens to be one of the most budget-friendly lunch or dinner items going.

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5. Green Flash Gastro 6550 Mira Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92121 (Mira Mesa)

This in-house food truck from Green Flash Brewing Co has an ever-changing menu with things like pork belly bahn mi or braised short rib sandwich with Gouda, caramelized onions and horseradish crème fraîche.

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6. South Park Brewing Company 1517 30th St, San Diego, CA 92102 (South Park)

South Park Brewing Company is a seafood-centric casual eatery whose limited menu focuses on thoughtfully prepared snacks, like ceviche, poke, tacos in shrimp, white fish, and grilled opah varieties. If you’re craving something heartier, opt for a sandwich, like the Tony Montana Cubano with ham, Swiss, pulled pork, pickles, and house-made beer mustard served hot and melty or the shrimp and bacon grilled cheese on buttered Texas toast. The taps pour house-made South Park Brewing Co. beers, like the Know For Sure Pale Ale and the Poor But Kind IPA.

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7. The Whiskey House 420 Third Ave, San Diego, CA 92101 (Gaslamp Quarter)

Rivaling the whiskey selection at Aero Club and Seven Grand is the 600 whiskeys available at The Whiskey House on the corner of 3rd and J St in the Gaslamp. It has a small menu and the kitchen keeps it simple with cheese and charcuterie boards, a selection of sandwiches, and sausages made in-house every day.

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8. The Wooden Spoon 805 East Valley Pkwy, Escondido, CA 92025 (Escondido)

Owner/Chef Jesse Paul has a long history of cooking at some of the best restaurants in San Diego, but this Escondido spot is all his own. The dishes that make up his upscale comfort food menu are seasonal, sustainable, locally sourced and made from scratch daily. You have to try the Spoon Burger, which is made from house-ground beef, bacon-onion jam, smoked blue cheese, and tomato aioli; and be sure to finish off your meal with the butterscotch pot du crème with sea salt ganache and whisky Chantilly.

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9. Lumberyard Tavern 967 S Coast Highway 101 Ste 101, Encinitas, CA 92024 (Encinitas)

Take the 4x4 Challenge at Lumberyard and attempt inhale a burger with 4½ lb. patties, four slices of cheese, four pieces of bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, and a fried egg on a pretzel roll alongside a full pound of fries in 30 minutes or less. The rules are strict: no modifications, no substitutions, no utensils, and no napkins -- but if you can pull it off you get a photo, your name on a plaque, and a T-shirt.

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10. Tabletop Commons 1263 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103 (Hillcrest)

Tabletop Commons is a Hillcrest house of cards, games, and properly executed junk food.

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11. Bushfire Kitchen 3433 Via Montebello Unit 166, Carlsbad, CA 92009 (Carlsbad)

The sister resto to Temecula’s Bushfire Grill brings healthy, ingredient-focused, made from scratch fare to San Diego. Just because the food is healthy doesn’t mean the menu is mostly rabbit food; in fact, it's full of baby back ribs, organic/grass-fed beef and lamb burgers, and Angus tri-tip.

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