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Where to Eat Out in San Diego Like a Local

Where to Eat Out in San Diego Like a Local? Which are the best restaurants in San Diego, California, if you wanna eat like a local? Check out Jessica’s top picks: 7 places where to eat out in San Diego like a local and be super happy.

When most people think of San Diego, they usually think of gorgeous coastline, perfect weather, and a laid-back, beachy culture. And while all of these things are quintessential San Diego, they leave out what has become a fast-growing culinary scene in San Diego – one that just might give its bigger siblings of LA and San Francisco a run for their money.

Some of the best local restaurants in San Diego still run relatively under-the-radar, so if you’re planning to visit San Diego, you’ll want to be sure to bring this list with you, which is a rundown of a few local favorites. You certainly won’t go hungry if you’re visiting the city!

The Crack Shack

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? That’s the philosophical question behind The Crack Shack, a modern and casual, family-friendly restaurant where your meal will include a delicious creation starring chicken, eggs, or both.
There are two Crack Shack locations – one in Little Italy, and one in Encinitas, so regardless of where your San Diego hotel is located, you’ll be relatively close to one of the city’s Crack Shacks. Kids will love the sandbox and the mini bocce ball court, and adults will love the Crack Shack’s creative cocktail list.
Price Range: $ (less than $15 per person)

The Prado

Located in the very center of Balboa Park, The Prado Restaurant is a tried and true San Diego favorite, and is absolutely perfect for out-of-town visitors to the city. Ask for a table outside, where you can soak up the gorgeous Spanish garden setting, and make sure to allow for time before or after dinner to stroll around Balboa Park and check out a museum or two. Even if you don’t make it into a museum, at the very least, you’ll appreciate the architecture throughout the park, which is stunning.
Price Range: $$ ($15 to $35 per person)


Chef Brian Malarkey is a local San Diego celebrity, thanks to his appearance on Top Chef back in 2007. Since then, he’s been responsible for opening many of San Diego’s most popular restaurants, including Herringbone and Searsucker. Herb + Wood is Malarkey’s most recent endeavor, and it’s a hands-down favorite for San Diego foodies. If you can’t make it to dinner at Herb + Wood, stop by for a pre-dinner craft cocktail in the restaurant’s art deco-style bar, which is well worth a visit.
Price Range: $$$ (over $50 per person)


I love a good concept restaurant that also has delicious food! It’s difficult to do these two right at the same time – but Campfire nails both. The best dish at Campfire just might be the charred broccoli, which is actually an appetizer – it’s heavenly. Save room for dessert, because you know you’re going to want to try the restaurant’s famous s’mores – cooked over your very own tabletop set of coals.
Price Range: $$ ($15 to $35 per person)


No trip to San Diego would be complete without sampling the city’s amazing Mexican food! It’s tough to pick just one Mexican restaurant to recommend, since there are so many good ones, but you can’t go wrong with Fidel’s in Solana Beach.
The tacos are crisp, the cheese is gooey, and by no means should you leave without ordering the guacamole dip – a plate of warm, cheesy chips, covered in four scoops of Fidel’s famous guacamole. The perfect pairing is one of Fidel’s house margaritas!
Price Range: $ (less than $15 per person)

Wine Wault & Bistro

If you’re a food and wine lover, you will absolutely adore the San Diego Wine Vault and Bistro. Check out the restaurant’s calendar beforehand to see what’s on offer, but on most weeknights, it’ll be a 3 to 5-course dinner, with an optional wine pairing. The menu for the evening will be published on the website, so check it out beforehand to make sure they’re serving dishes that you like. The food is phenomenal and best of all – it’s very reasonably priced for a gourmet experience.
If you can make it to one of their winemaker dinners – do it! These events take place about once a month, and they’re an opportunity to taste a lineup of wines from one specific winery, all while dining alongside the winery’s head winemaker. In between courses, you’ll learn the backstory on each particular wine, and how it’s made. These events are such a treat, so if you see one on the calendar while you’ll be in town, call ahead to reserve a table, because they book up quickly!
Price Range: $$ ($35 to $50 per person)

The Marine Room

If you’re looking for fine dining in San Diego, look no further than The Marine Room, equally best known for its beachfront setting and its gourmet cuisine. Plan your visit to The Marine Room for high tide, when waves will literally crash against the windows of the restaurant. You can’t get any better beachfront dining than this!
Price Range: $$$ (over $50 per person)

There you have it, the top 7 must-try restaurants in San Diego. Enjoy eating your way through the city!

This post has been written by Jessica C., the author of The Belle Voyage; she is a Midwestern girl turned Southern Californian and knows how to live life out of a suitcase without foregoing her beauty and fashion favorites. She has lived and studied on four continents, regularly cross-crosses the U.S. for business, uses her vacation days to embrace new adventures, and always has her travel makeup bag packed and ready to go.

[None of these places have paid or given me, Veru, or Jessica a free meal/drink for our review here. All pictures belong to their respective owners; cover by Giuseppe Milo. For more info on how and where to eat and drink like a local while traveling, click HERE. If you want to write about food in your place, get in touch with me by email]

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About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska works as SEO Manager and Localization Project Manager She's an accredited journalist, a member of the British Guild of Travel Writer, and a certified sommelier. She's the co-owner of TheFoodellers and a bunch of other websites.
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