What?! San Diego is awesome? Breaking news, I know. But, we’ve been to the ol’ Sandy Eggo three times in the last fifteen months and we’re never ready to leave. The weather is perfect, traffic is minimal, you’re never more than 30 minutes away from a good time, and the FOOD. OH, THE FOOD. And, it’s cheap. The ratio of deliciousness to inexpensive is probably the highest in the U.S. Look it up in the census stats, it’s in there.
I also highly recommend buddying up to a local, as we’d probably end up eating at an Applebee’s* if it wasn’t for our friends Mike and Ashley. It’s like having our own personal food tour guides and surf instructor. Speaking of which, if you enjoy witty and sometimes sarcastic writing (which is why you’re here, right?), check out Mike’s surf blog, The Flying Peanut. Warning: It will make you want to quit your day job, move to San Diego, and learn how to surf.
Yeah, so picking five things wasn’t easy…so we picked six.
If you’re looking for a reason to visit San Diego, I’ll give you two: The smoked fish taco and spicy shrimp taco from Oscar’s Mexican Seafood. They are not good. Nor are they great. The only way to describe them would be LEGENDARY. They are the type of tacos you will weave into the lore you tell your great grand children; and while you’ll most likely exaggerate your own amazing feats, you will not need to use any hyperbole with these two corn tortillas filled with magic. As we chowed down on these tacos during our final hours on the West Coast, I put some serious thought into how I could bring a dozen of them home with us on the plane. And although I couldn’t figure out a sanitary way to accomplish that feat, at least I was left with the fond memories of fish, shrimp, cheese, cabbage, pico de gallo, and avocado on a fresh made corn tortilla, topped with habanero crema. This restaurant is the sole reason why my Realtor.com app has a lot of recent “San Diego” searches.
2. Staying at the Secluded Studio with Canyon View (Airbnb.com)
We have found our unofficial second home in San Diego. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, the Secluded Studio with Canyon View in San Diego is a great place to start (click here for $50 off your first Airbnb trip!). Aside from being a clean, bright space with beautiful canyon views from the balcony, the location is perfect and is just a short 5-10 minute drive to all of the restaurants on this list. It’s great if you want to avoid the crowded beaches and packed downtown area, while still being pretty close to everything. You’ll feel like you’re staying with family, as the hosts provided us with bagels, cream cheese, yogurt, tea, coffee, milk, and juice. As much as I enjoy maximizing our food adventures by eating breakfast out, it was nice to enjoy a bagel and coffee, whilst sitting on the balcony over-looking the canyon.
3. Working on a Food Truck for Animals
As much fun as it is to feed ourselves, feeding giraffes and rhinos at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park was pretty freaking cool. Have you ever looked into the eyes of a giraffe?! They make human eyes look like garbage disposal sludge. And rhinos are just like giant puppies who have horns and could kill you if they wanted, but they won’t ’cause you’re on a truck and they LOVE apples. Spend the extra money for the Caravan Safari and make friends with some wild beasts.
This hole-in-the-wall-ish restaurant is exactly the type of place you’d expect to find a solid Mexican meal. Although it might not have won any burrito awards, I have a sentimental attachment. I’m going to get a little mushy here, so get out the tissues and crank up the Journey. El Zarape was the site of…sorry, I’m tearing up a bit here…it was where I had my first California Burrito. I feel like I should mail them an anniversary card every year. I seriously crave this place at least once a month and the pain is compounded by the fact that California Burritos cannot be found anywhere in Northern VA or DC. It’s not a difficult food product to make, but for some reason it’s a freaking unicorn out here. So, to be safe you better eat at least two while you’re there.
5. Coin-Op Game Room
Barcades aren’t specific to San Diego, but we had a good time drinking and time traveling back to the 90s at Coin-Op Game Room. The beers and drinks were top notch, bartenders were friendly, and they had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! And it’s the only place that encourages drinking and driving (MarioKart, of course). Just stay out of the way of the pinball masters. They do NOT mess around.
6. Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream
You know how when you go to an ice cream shop and you try a bunch of flavors and then you have to settle on just one or two? Well, Hammond’s has solved this problem with…(drum roll)…Ice cream flights! Hell yes. Choose up to six flavors, each small scoop is perched on its own mini cone for you to enjoy. It even comes on a cool stand that looks like it was designed by Apple. I don’t know why every ice cream shop in America isn’t stealing this idea.
*Just kidding, we will never eat at Applebee’s. Sorry, John Corbett.