I am not an expert on San Diego and the places mentioned below are no means an exhaustive list of the best food spots in the city. But I recently visited my friend Emily and we went to some pretty incredible restaurants, cocktail bars, and coffee shops that I can’t wait to tell you about.
Here’s a map of the places described below. Since my friend lives in Normal Heights, we ate more in that neighborhood.
1. Liberty Public Market
Upon arriving at the bus station in downtown San Diego, my longtime friend Emily picked me up and we drove to Liberty Public Market. It’s a former U.S. Naval Station stretching over many acres, full of a whole spectrum of restaurants and artisanal shops — oyster bar, butcher shop, boozy brunch spots, plus stalls offering sweets, coffee, cheese, and so much more. And that’s just the food options; there are also vendors selling flowers, jewelry, candles, pet items, etc. You can easily spend two hours nibbling and scoping out all the merch.
(I had so many photos of Liberty Public Market that I debated giving it its own post, but figure it makes more sense to write about it in context with other restaurant recommendations. Scroll way down to get to number 2 on this list!)
List of food options (here is the official map):
Check out this Thrillist listicle on the best things to eat in Liberty Public Market (true story: browsing that list makes me hungry to go back again — you need multiple trips to properly try everything!).
Pro tip: this place (Le Parfait Paris) has the BEST croissants. Get the chocolate almond!
Emily and I sat outside, catching up over our morning treats:
A few shots from inside Liberty Public Market:
Emily and I both bought jewelry from Kai & Skye — I fell in love with a delicate pair of bronze triangle studs. Everything was reasonably priced.
The exterior is lovely to walk around too:
I love this sign:
This standalone store / coffee shop is located near the entrance; it’s worth walking through:
View towards the downtown San Diego skyline:
2. Lucha Libre Taco Shop
I was very excited to eat tacos in San Diego, and Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop did not disappoint. The have a Mexican wrestler theme going on which is so much fun. And their food is delicious.
There’s a wrestling ring in the back of the restaurant so you can literally eat IN the ring, or just below it. Plus there are costumes and masks! When we first arrived there were lots of kids up there running around.
Ha, there is even a hanging microphone (that actually works but isn’t annoyingly loud) so that someone can call the action in the ring.
Here is Emily’s burrito — my tacos came out shortly after. They have a bunch of different salsas / sauces to pick from at the fixings bar.
Emily and I posed with props after the kids left:
3. Polite Provisions
This lively cocktail bar Polite Provisions is in Emily’s neighborhood, Normal Heights. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a fun (but not crazy) night out. They have a huge list of specialty cocktails to choose from (like maybe 50 of them?), and they’re so creative — I got a pumpkin horchata. Plus the drinks cost around $8 each so you can have a few and not break the bank. It does get super crowded inside but we easily found seating on the patio.
We walked by Polite Provisions the next morning and it looks so pretty in the daytime:
4. Blackmarket Bakery North
This gem of a bakery is located right next to Polite Provisions, and instead of ordering a second drink, we decided to check out Blackmarket Bakery instead for dessert. It proved to be an excellent decision.
Emily got one of the bread puddings:
And I got a cookie sundae — a molasses cookie topped with a layer of peanut butter and a scoop of ice cream. It tasted as good as it looks.
5. Hawthorne Coffee
We started our Sunday morning at Hawthorne Coffee in Emily’s neighborhood. They get high marks.
6. Sugar and Scribe
Next we drove north to La Jolla for brunch at Sugar and Scribe, a celeb chef restaurant run by Maeve Rochford and located just blocks from the water.
We didn’t sample the baked goods but they looked enticing:
This chicken salad focaccia sandwich was delicious:
Doesn’t this next photo make you want to try every item on the menu?
7. Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
If I lived near La Jolla, I would frequent Bird Rock Coffee on a near daily basis. It’s got a laid back vibe, feels like a neighborhood hangout, and they serve fun-flavored lattes. Sold.
I got the Trophy Wife latte — macadamia nut flavor. Reminded me of Hawaii! Next time I’ll try the Gold Digger or Sugar Daddy.
There’s an art cooperative space next door, with more tables open for laptops or conversation:
Happily caffeinated Erica:
8. Cafe Coyote
Our last food stop on this whirlwind San Diego tour was a late lunch in Old Town before I caught my 6pm bus back to Los Angeles. If you haven’t been to San Diego before, Old Town is like Little Mexico — a whole village of shops and restaurants offering tasty treats and goodies from south of the border (which, incidentally, is only a few miles away). Emily has a few favorite restaurants in Old Town and we ended up at Cafe Coyote.
Women make tortillas over stovetops in front of the restaurant — people from the sidewalk can purchase them directly:
Last meal in San Diego… for now:
This list is just scratching the surface — there are so many other delicious places in San Diego that I hope to try on future visits. Not to mention spots in the Gaslamp District or Little Italy that I’ve visited in the past. There is no shortage of yummy food spots in San Diego! If you have a favorite spot, let me know in the comments below and I’ll add it to my list.
And that wraps up my San Diego posts… for now. Now that my friend Emily will be in San Diego for awhile, I hope to get down there again soon!