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Tasty Travels: 11 of the Hottest dishes in San Diego

Posted on: January 6th, 2017 by Taryn Jeffries No Comments

I have found myself knee deep in a winter cold that has me dreaming of sunny destinations. If you hear a similiar call and a journey to San Diego is in the cards anytime soon for a little sunshine and surf, don’t forget about the food! The city of San Diego is offering up a diverse culinary culture, suitable for the most discerning adults. With innovative new food trends, accessibility to fresh ingredients and a tight partnership between local and celebrity chefs along with a substantial influence from the Mexican border help to make San Diego a playground for food enthusiasts. Knowing where to go is a whole different story. Fortunately we have 11 of the hottest dishes in San Diego (and drinks) for you to discover on your next trip!

11 of the Hottest Dishes in San Diego (and Drinks)

Shrimp and Bone Marrow Sopes | Bracero Cocina de Raiz

Bracero Concina de Raiz in the popular Little Italy neighborhood exemplifies San Diego’s signature Cali-Baja cuisine. Local patrons have been packing the restaurant since it opened for business in 2015, so it’s no shock that one of San Diego’s hottest dishes can be found here. Bracero’s popular shrimp and bone marrow sopes features fresh shrimp, bone marrow, fried parsley and chile de arbol dished up on a thick tortilla made of fried masa.

Shrimp Bone Marrow Sope

Photo Credit: Bracero

Prop 64 Cocktail | True North Tavern

On November 9, 2016, California voters passed Proposition 64, effectively legalizing adult consumption of marijuana. With availability comes experimentation, and True North Tavern in the eclectic North Park community is one of the first bars in San Diego to experiment with cannabis oil. The cocktail features Amarillo hop bitters, egg whites, lime simple syrup, Chareau aloe liqueur and Nolets gin, topped with non-psychoactive drops of cannabis oil.

True North's Prop 64 cocktail

Photo Credit: True North Tavern

Seared Cauliflower Steak | Kindred

Decked with heavy metal imagery and evil-looking cats around every turn, the all-vegan Kindred in the charming South Park neighborhood is undoubtedly one of San Diego’s quirkiest restaurants. Fortunately, the food is as much of a draw as the décor. In addition to presenting an imaginative cocktail list, the dinner menu serves snacks, salads, main dishes and desserts. A favorite is the seared cauliflower steak: grilled cauliflower crowned with orange squash puree, tahini beets, puff pastry and steak sauce. Even serious meat eaters might consider a vegan lifestyle after a trip to San Diego.

Kindred Cauliflower Steak

Photo Credit: Leah Lipson

Pork Belly App | Carnita’s Snack Shack

While San Diego is a vegan-friendly destination, Carnitas Snack Shack professes to be where “vegans go bad,” although it does offer vegetarian selections. Home to all things pork related, both their North Park and Embarcadero locations highlight a menu of mostly burgers and sandwiches, but it’s actually a no-bun dish that’s a must-have. The pork belly app served with braised duroc pork, sweet-spicy glaze, frisée salad, apples, radish and lemon vinaigrette is a meat lover’s delight.

Carnitas Snack Shack Pork Belly App

Photo Credit: Chris Rov Costa

The Lusca | Miss B’s Coconut Club

San Diego is in the midst of a tiki renaissance, and Miss B’s Coconut Club is one of the hottest new spots to try out this trend. Named after a mythological giant octopus, this enormous punch, shareable with 5-10 people, features the house blend of rum, guava-mango kombucha, Nocello liqueur, citrus, honey and papaya and is presented in a silver octopus bowl, embellished with a pineapple crown. Found only at Miss B’s Coconut Club in Mission Beach, the Instagram-worthy cocktail is sure to get many likes.

11 of the Hottest Dishes in San Diego: The Lusca

Photo Credit: Miss B’s Coconut Club

S’mores French Toast | Breakfast Republic

San Diego is a laid back city, so it’s no shock that brunch venues abound. With a fun décor and an all-breakfast spread, Breakfast Republic is where locals go for the most important meal of the day. Since opening in North Park in June 2016, the eatery has rapidly broadened to Liberty Station and Encinitas, with plans to open two more locations. The highlight of the menu is the s’mores French toast, which features a decadent graham-cracker crust and thick-sliced brioche bread topped with toasted marshmallows and chocolate sauce.

Smores French Toast

Photo Credit: Breakfast Republic

Señor Croque | The Crack Shack

When celebrity chefs set up shop in San Diego, they don’t always adhere to white table cloths and fancy tasting menus. With an all-day menu of chicken-and-egg-based dishes, Richard Blais’ The Crack Shack in Little Italy provides an informal, al fresco dining environment with a full beer and cocktail bar, a bocce ball court and a white giant chicken statue that actually crows. For those who like a challenge, the señor croque is a hearty and messy chicken sandwich made with crispy free-range chicken, bacon, fried egg, cheddar cheese and miso-maple butter on a brioche bun.

The Crack Shack's Senor Croque

Photo Credit: Monica Hoover

Alkaka the Fierce | False Idol

The passage to one of San Diego’s most coveted new bars is as difficult to track down as a reservation at this hot spot.  Tucked away behind a refrigerator door inside the newly redesigned Craft and Commerce restaurant, False Idol is the brain child of legendary tiki king Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, Whitechapel) and another example of the tiki trend taking over San Diego. An angry idol is the inspiration behind Alkaka the Fierce, a punch bowl-style cocktail made with chai-infused bourbon, aged and dark rum, vanilla, pimento dram, and orgeat served in a sharable bowl with a faux volcano that erupts, literally.

Maple Bacon Doughnuts | Great Maple

For breakfast or brunch, as a main dish or dessert, the maple bacon doughnuts from Great Maple are sure to satisfy hungry guests. Served warm on a wooden board, the freshly prepared doughnuts are covered with a signature maple bacon glaze, pieces of bacon and powdered sugar. Reservations are suggested as the retro-modern eatery in the Hillcrest area tends to be packed on weekends.

Great Maple's Maple Bacon Doughnut

Photo Credit: Great Maple

Devil’s Dozen “Benny” | Firehouse

Is it a doughnut? Is it eggs benedict? It’s actually both! Firehouse, a restaurant and bar in Pacific Beach with sweeping ocean scenes, serves The Devil’s Dozen “Benny” every day until 3 p.m. Foodies can start off the day with a vanilla-bean glazed doughnut sourced from Devil’s Dozen local doughnut shop, capped with maple-peppercorn bacon, poached eggs, lemon hollandaise and side of potatoes. With the beaches of Pacific Beach only a few steps away, full-bellied visitors can catch a snooze on the beach afterwards or hit the waves to burn off the calories.

Firehouse Devils Dozen Benedict

Photo Credit: Jim Sloane

Raindrop Cake | VaniTea Cafe

A Japanese translucent cake served with brown sugar, soybean flour and frequently dressed up with a flower, the raindrop cake has taken social media by storm. The chilled delicacy isn’t actually a cake at all, since its principal components are agar, a vegan gelatin, and mineral water. Nevertheless, this picture-worthy dessert is trending and VaniTea Cafe, a small dessert and coffee shop in Chula Vista, is one of the first ones to make it in San Diego.

VaniTea Cafe Raindrop Cake

Photo Credit: VaniTea Cafe

We hope this list helps get your San Diego vacation off to a delicious start!


If you are looking for the best and latest in Arizona restaurant and culinary news, please make sure to sign up for our newsletter, give us a like on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram to make sure that you never miss a bite!

© Taryn Jeffries 2017

About the Author - Taryn Jeffries

Editor and Chief Eating Officer of PhoenixBites, 2017 Food Writer of the Year (Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame) Taryn grew up in a small town in Illinois with a doting Grandmother who taught her the way around a kitchen and that food is representative of love. Her current quest is to find the love in local dishes and the chefs behind them. In addition to running all things PhoenixBites, Taryn is also a freelance writer, sharing her insight on the best dishes and where to get them each and every month.

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