15 Famous Foods In San Diego You Have To Try

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Among all the attractive facts about California, you should have heard about the local, fresh food culture in the state. What you may not know is that the food from San Diego is just as vibrant as the city! From the beautiful seafood pulled straight from the ocean to the Baja-inspired cuisine, there are plenty of San Diego foods and dishes to try!

What’s Special About San Diego Foods? 

A lot of the food San Diego is known for relates to its amazing seaside location. Like much of California, San Diego cuisine owes a lot to its coastal access. It means the city has an abundance of fresh seafood, which comes to life in fish tacos, lobster rolls, and much more! 

Since San Diego is so close to Mexico, Mexican cuisine has heavily influenced food from San Diego, giving rise to Cali-Baja cuisine. This fusion of Californian food and Mexican flavors combines fresh, local ingredients with traditional Mexican techniques, resulting in vibrant, flavorful dishes. 

Most Famous Food In San Diego 

Fish Tacos

What food is San Diego known for if not delicious fish tacos? This shouldn’t be a surprise since fish tacos are a perfect combination of two popular San Diego foods: fresh seafood and Cali-Baja cuisine. The fresh seafood in the tacos always delivers a delightful and flavorful experience. 

San Diego fish tacos are bursting with vibrant flavors, often topped with shredded cabbage or lettuce, tangy salsa or pico de gallo, creamy sauces like crema or sour cream, and a squeeze of lime, creating a harmonious blend of tastes and textures. The fun mix of flavors and local ingredients make fish tacos an unmissable San Diego food. 

Fish tacos have become an iconic dish associated with San Diego’s culinary identity, capturing the laid-back and casual atmosphere of the city. It’s also just an iconic dish associated with the city’s larger cultural identity, which you have to try when you visit!

For a deeper discovery of more authentic Mexican cuisine, the Old Town History and Food tour is a great introduction to the city. You even get to visit the cemetery for some ghastly tales of the past.

California-Style Dishes In San Diego Foods

California Burrito 

A lot of famous San Diego foods are also prevalent throughout the state as well, such as the California burrito! This renowned burrito originated in California, particularly in San Diego, so it’s only right that you try one while here. 

California burritos are known for their generous sizes and flavorful combination of ingredients, combining elements of Mexican and American cuisine. 

The key feature of a California burrito is the inclusion of french fries or crispy potato wedges alongside more traditional burrito fillings, creating a unique texture you won’t get in a regular burrito. 

In addition to the french fries, you can expect a California burrito to come with grilled carne asada and classic ingredients, such as beans, cheese, and guacamole. For anyone looking for true San Diego food, make sure you don’t miss out on the California burrito. 

California-Style Sushi / California Roll

With the influence of Asian cultures in California, it is no wonder California-style sushi is one of the famous foods of San Diego. 

California-style sushi is characterized by its innovative and fusion-oriented approach, blending traditional sushi techniques with local ingredients and flavors. It embraces the use of non-traditional ingredients, like cream cheese, mayonnaise, and different vegetables, which introduce new textures and flavors to the sushi rolls. 

While we’re talking about California-style sushi, we can’t forget to talk specifically about California rolls! They are definitely a notable food of San Diego, since it features delicious San Diego seafood options. A California roll typically consists of crab meat, avocado, and cucumber rolled in nori (seaweed) and rice. 

An emphasis on fresh and high-quality ingredients is a hallmark of California-style sushi. Locally sourced seafood and garnishes really put these dishes over the top. It is often extremely visually appealing as well, so snap a photo before you dig in! 

Foods In San Diego: Seafood

Seafood Ceviche

As you should know now, fresh seafood in San Diego can’t be beat, due to the city’s prime location on the coast. 

There is an abundance of different kinds of seafood, which is harvested locally, showcasing the fresh flavors and local pride of San Diego foods. So what better way to enjoy this local delicacy than by chowing down on fresh ceviche? 

Made with raw fish or shrimp marinated in citrus juices, such as lime or lemon, and mixed with onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and spices, ceviche is a light and tangy dish that highlights the freshness of the seafood. 

You can enjoy ceviche at the city’s waterfront restaurants, seafood markets, and beachside eateries. It will allow you to soak in the views alongside the delicious food, and help immerse you in the city’s charm.

Oysters

From their coastal origins to their diverse species and vibrant culinary events, oysters in San Diego are an integral part of the food San Diego is known for. 

The city has a diverse selection of fresh, briny oysters that come from local oyster farms or nearby waters. With a wide range of oyster species, ranging from Pacific oysters to Kumamoto, Fanny Bay, and more, oysters in San Diego are among the best you can get. 

The farm-to-table philosophy and fresh seafood combination make for an exemplary experience of San Diego food. To make it even better, oysters in San Diego are often served with an array of accompaniments that enhance their flavors. 

With an array of traditional garnishes, such as mignonette sauce, lemon wedges, cocktail sauce, or horseradish, there is always a way to customize your San Diego food experience. 

Seafood Cioppino

Inspired by Italian-Americna cuisine, San Diego’s seafood cioppino is a hearty and flavorful dish, guaranteed to satisfy the seafood lovers among you. 

As we know, San Diego foods make use of local ingredients, and this dish is no exception. It typically includes a combination of fresh seafood, such as fish, clams, mussels, shrimp, and crab, cooked in a rich tomato-based broth with herbs and spices. 

You’ll often find this classic served with crusty bread, so you can have a true seafood feast! If you want to try some of the best, consider a meal at Ironside Fish & Oyster, located in the Little Italy neighborhood. Or for a local favorite, step into one of Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill’s multiple locations!

You can also join a Little Italy food tour to sample the best and hidden gems around the neighborhood with fellow foodies!

Sushi Burritos

Sushi burritos are a unique San Diego food creation, which started in San Diego but spread to Southern California more broadly. These oversized sushi rolls are made by combining traditional sushi ingredients such as raw or cooked seafood, rice, vegetables, and sauces, all wrapped in a large sheet of seaweed or a tortilla. They offer a convenient and portable way to enjoy sushi, as well as making use of the fresh seafood in the area. 

The fusion of Japanese and Mexican flavors in sushi burritos resultss in an amazing combination of textures and tastes. They also have Instagram-worthy presentations in addition to great taste, making them very popular among locals and tourists. 

American Classics Foods From San Diego

San Diego-Style Pizza

Pizza probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “food from San Diego,” but San Diego-style pizza is a famous go-to in the city.

This dish is known for the thin, crispy crust that strikes a balance between chewiness and crunchiness. The crust is often made with a light and airy dough, resulting in a distinctively light and delicate texture. 

The toppings on San Diego-style pizza also tend to be bold and flavorful, including fresh ingredients like locally-sourced produce, artisanal cheeses, and high-quality meats. These toppings give the pizzas a unique and satisfying flavor profile, so be sure to give it a try while you’re in town! 

Gourmet Burgers

If you’re looking for a burger while in San Diego, you are in for a treat! The city’s gourmet burger scene showcases a diverse range of creative and high-quality burgers crafted with premium ingredients, elevating the burger experience to a truly gourmet level. 

These burgers often feature specialty and artisanal buns, like brioche or pretzel, which gives them a special touch. 

If you’re looking for a truly awesome burger, check out Balboa Bar & Grill or Hodad’s. These are both local institutions that are known for their burgers. Whether you prefer a classic combination or a unique flavor fusion, both places offer gourmet burgers that are sure to satisfy burger aficionados seeking an elevated indulgence. 

Avocado Toast

While you can get avocado toast in just about any city in the United States, you should not miss out on avocado toast in San Diego. The city brings this hip classic to a new level with fresh ingredients! 

In fact, San Diego produces over 50% of the avocados from California, meaning you’re getting the freshest produce when you order avocado toast in San Diego. 

Avocado toast is normally an open-faced sandwich made with toasted bread, smashed avocado, fresh citrus juice (lemon or lime), olive oil, and salt. You can grab this breakfast classic at any breakfast or brunch place around the city. Don’t miss out on this delicious San Diego food! 

Mexican-Inspired Foods Of San Diego / Cali-Baja Cuisine 

Cali-Baja cuisine is a culinary style that blends the flavors of Mexico and California, which is particularly popular in San Diego cuisine. With the use of locally sourced ingredients, they offer vibrant ingredients and flavors. There are many more options amongst the food from San Diego. Make sure you give them a try! 

Mexican Street Food 

Cali-Baja cuisine often takes elements of Mexican street foods and re-imagine them with a California twist.

Mexican street food in San Diego offers an authentic and flavorful experience that showcases the vibrant culinary traditions of Mexico, with food carts and stalls throughout the city.

As you might expect, tacos take center stage in Mexcian street food, with a wide variety of authentic flavors and fillings, like carne asada, al pastor, carnitas, and grilled fish or shrimp. 

While you may be tempted to just go for Cali-Baja cuisine while in San Diego, don’t forget you can still get an authentic plate of Mexican street food around the city. 

If you want to take it up next level, you can even make a day trip to Tijuana with a Mexican street food tour right across the border!

Carne Asada Fries 

If you’re in the mood for an indulgent dish, go and grab some carne asada fries! Carne asada fries feature a bed of crispy french fries topped with marinated and grilled carne asada, a flavorful and tender grilled beef, seasoned with spices and citrus juices. 

As the name suggests, these fries are typically loaded with delicious toppings such as melted cheese, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, and pico de gallo. 

As you might expect, this is generally an absolutely heaping serving of food, meaning it can be a solid snack or even a whole meal. The combination of savory, crispy fries with juicy and flavorful grilled meat, cheese, and a variety of other toppings creates a delicious flavor that makes it a beloved food in San Diego. 

Desserts And Sweet Foods In San Diego

Gelato 

When checking out all the famous San Diego landmarks amidst the sunny weather, you might find a craving for some cold, sweet treats.

Gelato in San Diego captures the essence of traditional Italian craftsmanship, bringing the creamy and luscious frozen dessert to life. Gelato shops in San Diego pride themselves on using high-quality ingredients, including fresh fruits, premium chocolates, and locally sourced dairy, which makes for a rich, creamy treat. 

If you want to try some of the local favorites in gelato, check out Pappalecco, which is known for its traditional methods and high-quality ingredients. You can also visit Gelato Paradiso, which offers both classic flavors and inventive options as well. No matter what you prefer, make sure you get a scoop while you’re in town! 

Acai Bowls 

If you think about California food, simple and nutritious dishes often come to mind. The acai bowls, which are a famous food in San Diego, fall perfectly into this pattern! The refreshing and nutritious treat captures the essence of the city’s health-conscious culture. 

Acai bowls make for a vibrant breakfast or snack option, featuring a base of blended acai berries. These bowls are typically thick and creamy, resembling a smoothie, and are often topped with a variety of toppings, such as granola, fresh fruit, coconut flakes, chia seeds, and honey (or nut) butters. 

Since the city can be quite hot, these cold treats are popular among foods in San Diego, especially along the coastline. While spending some time at the beautiful beaches of San Diego, cool off with a bowl of Acai.

Drinks In San Diego

Craft Beer

Craft Beer in San Diego is a thriving part of the culinary scene, with a community of passionate brewers dedicated to producing innovative and high-quality beers. In fact, the city has earned the title of “Craft Beer Capital of America” for its craft beer scene. 

The beers embrace creativity and push boundaries with unique ingredients, flavor combinations, and brewing techniques, which means there is always something new to try in the craft beer scene.

San Diego’s craft breweries are known for their vast selection of beer styles, ranging from hop-forward West Coast IPAs to barrel-aged stouts, sour ales, Belgian-inspired brewers, and experimental creations. 

If you want a taste of this unique beer culture, you could try a Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point Brewing Company, Stone IPA by Stone Brewing, or the AleSmith Speedway Stout by AleSmith Brewing Company. Besides, you can always enjoy a pint with the array of delicious San Diego foods.

Sampling Famous San Diego Foods 

When you think about San Diego, you probably think of the things California is known for, such as the stunning beaches, mild climate, and vibrant lifestyle.

However, don’t sleep on the delectable foods in San Diego! Although the fish tacos and acai bowls are known all around the country, there are many other San Diego staples you won’t want to miss out on. 

Whether at a beachside stand, a local spot, or a trendy eatery, take the chance to savor the delicious cuisine on offer.


PIN THESE SAN DIEGO FOODS FOR LATER!

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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.

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