Food & Drink

An editor's guide to eating around town

Sara Norris, the Editor of Thrillist San Diego.

San Diego owes its vibrant food scene to many things: Proximity to the bounty of the Pacific and California's fertile soil, the spiciness that comes with being close to the Mexican border, and plenty of body-conscious beach goers ensuring there's always enough to go around. To help you make the most of stuffing your face, our intrepid editor Sara Norris is here with her picks of the best SD has to offer. Favorite Restaurant: Great Maple. It's one of the newer spots in San Diego, but has quickly become my favorite. The revamped diner design is full of retro touches like typewriters and vintage Marshall speaker covers. Try to go on the days they have pecan pie. Its so delicious that I've had dreams about it. Seriously. Best Late-Night Eats: Starlight Lounge. The name alone should be a giveaway. Their full menu is served until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, but Sunday-Thursday they break out a Late Nite menu with burgers, grilled cheese, steak, mac & cheese, and ice cream sandwiches from 10p-midnight. Best Cheap Eats: Cooking up real Southern food from scratch, Barnes Bar B Que's bringing "da South to ya mouth". Where else can you get fried or smothered chicken, smothered pork, BBQ hot sausages, corn bread, and other soul food favorites for only $.99 in SD? Best Sandwich: Definitely Carnitas' Snack Shack's Triple Threat Pork Sandwich. You can't beat this pork trifecta, stacked high with pork loin schnitzel, pulled pork, bacon, pepperoncini-pickle relish, and shack aioli. Best Sushi: Sushi Kuchi, formerly called Lips. I don't know that the current name is any less questionable for a sushi joint, but the sushi rolls are delicious and there are $1 sake bombs after 7p every night of the week. The staff greets you with a loud welcome and huge smiles every time. This is the place to go on your birthday. While the entire staff serenades you with a happy birthday song, they dim the lights, fire up the strobe light, put on some crazy techno, and, at the end, they gong you on the head with, well, a gong. It's an experience you won't forget... unless you go too big on sake bombs. Best Italian: Bencotto lives up to its name, which is Italian for a meal "done well". There's a bunch of plates designed to share, or create your own combination by choosing one of 12 fresh-made pastas and pairing it with your choice of 10 kinds of sauce. Definitely save room for dessert, because you can't pass up their tiramisu or the Semifreddo Alle Mandorle, which is Italian for "really freaking good half-frozen mousse with almonds, amaretto cookies, and chocolate sauce". Best Chinese: Has to be Jasmine Seafood Chinese Restaurant for these two words: Dim. Sum. With carts delivering over 70 items like potstickers, steamed barbecued pork buns, shrimp dumplings, and more adventurous choices like fried chicken feet and stewed tripe, you could be here stuffing your face for days. Best Mexican: Tony's Jacal is family-owned and a local favorite that has been around since 1946. They have a multi-page menu with tons of traditional Mexican fare, amazing fresh guac, and powerful margaritas. Best Food Truck: Miho's menu is local, fresh and simple. It's a small menu (I mean, a food truck is only so big) with items like a grass-fed burgers, all-natural pulled pork sammies, and free-range duck flatbread, all of which can be ordered with a side of twice-fried Belgian fries with homemade catsup... or a salad (I guess). Best Burger: I can't vouch for the status of their mental health, but Crazee Burger makes one hell of a burger. There's no way to pick a favorite with over 20 on the menu, but with patties made from all kinds of animals, like gator, wild boar, and kangaroo, if you order the same 'ol beef burger, you're the crazy one. Most Gut-Busting Meal/Dish: The Big Fat Fatty from Fat Sal's needs no explanation, but I'll list the ingredients of this monstrosity for you anyway: cheesesteak, cheeseburgers, pastrami, chicken fingers, bacon, mozzarella sticks, fried eggs, jalepeno poppers, fries, onion rings, chili, marinara, and fat sauce, all on a 27in garlic hero. The kicker is, if you can eat it all in under 40min (and survive) the sandwich is free, and you get to create your own sando for their menu. Best Fine Dining: Bertrand at Mister A's. Located on the 12th floor, over looking downtown and the ocean, there's a wrap-around balcony where you can enjoy the view along with your chicken liver pate and escargots de Bourgogne. SD being the land of flippy-floppies, you can get away with wearing pretty much anything anywhere you go, however this place has a dress code. Because it's classy like that. Most Romantic: It's low-lit, cozy, and romantic as hell with glowing candle chandeliers, and on Tuesdays they have a date night special with a specially priced food and wine paring for two... yup, you guessed it: Bo-Beau Kitchen + Bar. Best for Work: Just like the fabric that shares the same name (almost), Searsucker is sophisticated enough impress your boss, and approachable enough for everyone else. Best Lunch: Kitchen 4140's an open-air resto that's a great spot to stop for a bite to eat, or lunch (in the verb form) on the patio next to their on-site herb garden. There are a bunch of gourmet sandwiches to pick from, like the short rib sandwich (beer-braised beef short ribs/pickled onions/mango chutney/asian slaw on roasted pepper bread) or the 4140 Patty Melt: grass-fed sirloin, pimento cheese, and caramelized onions on grilled rosemary olive bread. Best Brunch: Brunch is best eaten outside, and Fig Tree Cafe has a garden-like patio with a white picket fence that makes you feel like you're at a backyard BBQ. Order a side of Man Candy (thick bacon with brown sugar & paprika) with your breakfast, or, if you're feeling more the "unch" side of brunch, there's a list of sandwiches and panini. Get one of the Antioxidant Shots to offset all that Man Candy. Careful of the Goji shot, for although it helps the immune system, vision, and anxiety, it also aids in fertility. Weirdest Food: No joke: at Aqui es Texcoco you can order an entire roasted lamb's head, teeth and all, with tortillas, salsa, lemon, cilantro, and onion. Most Local Food: You can't get much more local than the food at The Linkery. Almost everything on the menu, from the meat and produce to the beer and wine selection, is from a farm in California, if not Southern California. Check out their website to see pictures and descriptions of the farms where they source their ingredients. Best Wings: Phileas Foggs Bar and Restaurant. Their award-winning wings come in a single 1lb or double 2lb order with eight sauce options like IPA Mustard and Foggs Flaming Hot Sauce. Best Donuts: Donut Bar changes it up daily with a new menu full of gourmet donut creations each morning. There's often a line of people trying to get their hands on one... or a dozen... so you've got to get there early, but flavors like Maple Bourbon, Nutella, and Dreamsicle make it well worth getting out of bed at the crack of dawn. And don't worry if you drag yourself in there half-asleep; they have $1 coffee to perk you up. Best Seafood: The Fishery has some of the freshest seafood you can get in San Diego, serving everything from oysters on the half shell, ceviche, and sushi, to entrees like spaghetti with swordfish meatballs and bouillabaisse with Dungeness crab, shrimp, calamari, clams, mussels, fin fish, and saffron-tomato broth. If you think you can make it better than they can, which is highly doubtful, order fresh pieces of fish like wild king salmon or yellowfin ahi tuna from the market counter to cook at home, and please have me over for dinner.

Great Maple in San Diego.
The Starlite in San Diego.
The Triple Threat Pork Sandwich from Carnitas Snack Shack in San Diego.
Pasta at Bencotto in San Diego.
Lobster from Jasmine Seafood Chinese Restaurant in San Diego.
Miho Food Truck in San Diego.
A burger from Crazee Burger in San Diego.
The Big Fat Fatty from Fat Sal's in San Diego.
Bertrand at Mister A's in San Diego.
Bo-Beau Kitchen and Bar in San Diego.
Searsucker in San Diego.
Kitchen 4140 in San Diego.
The Linkery in San Diego.
Brunch at Fig Tree Cafe in San Diego.
Maple Bacon Bars from Donut Bar in San Diego.
The Fishery in San Diego.