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A Creative Culinary Epicenter

Hip, original and innovative eats

San Diego's one-of-a-kind vibes bring chefs from all over the world to create inspiring dishes in California's Beach City. 

Chefs are drawn to San Diego for more than its perfect weather and unbeatable beaches–its innovative atmosphere has turned it into a hotbed for culinary creativity where chefs are encouraged to experiment. Today, local chefs are elevating their dishes to include both local ingredients and influences and the far-off flavors of their cultures and upbringing. With a year-round growing season and a thriving local fishing fleet, eating in San Diego was craft before craft was cool.

Saffron Thai

Owner Su Mei Yu—a regular at local San Diego farms like Chino Farm—combines the freshest local ingredients from the San Diego region with traditional recipes and preparations from her Thai upbringing. After immigrating to San Diego as a teen, Yu opened the hole-in-the-wall Saffron Thai Grilled Chicken in the Mission Hills neighborhood. The local spot is famous  for its Thai Grilled Chicken dishes served with Cambodian salad, jasmine rice and tons of flavor. 

Il Dandy

In the kitchen at this Banker’s Hill restaurant, you’ll find father-son duo Antonio and Luca Abruzzino, both honored with Michelin Stars for their namesake restaurant in Calabria, Italy. They joined with friends and local restaurateurs in San Diego to bring the unique ingredients and techniques from their homeland to Southern California where, like in Southern Italy, both seafood and rich produce are abundant. Primarily sourcing from longtime Pacific Beach-fishing-family the Saraspes, standout dishes include spot prawns with house made citrus salt, pork belly with cherry red wine sauce, an Estiva Salad with tomatoes and seared yellowtail and a rotating menu of seasonal pizza and pasta.

Lola 55

With velvet sofas, turquoise and brass accents and soaring loft ceilings in East Village, Lola 55 doesn’t feel like the average San Diego taco spot. And it’s not. Owner Frank Vizcarra indulged his true passion for local, sustainable food by opening a small shop named after his mom where the ingredients from his native Mexico work in tandem with local produce on a flavor-packed, budget-conscious menu. Taco standouts include mesquite chicken with chicharrones and peanut salsa macha; spicy smoked fish (local catch with jalapeño, bacon, citrus soy, red mustard frill, crema and Carolina Reaper salsa). To boot, there are several vegan options like rainbow cauliflower with eggplant bacon, avocado mousse, almonds, golden raisins, morita dulce salsa.

OB Noodle House

Born in Cambodia by way of China, chef Steven Yeng draws inspiration from a variety of cultures at his locally loved OB Noodle House. Folks flock to Ocean Beach for his creative Asian-fusion dishes, as well as a classic giant bowl of pho. Foodies at the Food Network and other top culinary publications have featured the San Diego hotspot on national food television shows and magazines. The success of the original OB Noodle House spawned a second location a few blocks away, and Yeng is continuing to expand the funky beach neighborhood’s food scene with other bars and restaurants.

Barrio Dogg

The evolution of classic, comforting street food achieves its final form at this Barrio Logan mainstay, serving up elevated hot dogs, fries and delectable desserts. With a focus on community and culture, the Barrio Dogg team is committed to serving traditional Mexican flavors (cactus fruit, chile con carne, cotija) alongside creative fusion-inspired dishes, such as El Samurai, which includes hoisin BBQ, Siracha and wasabi sesame seeds, and La Havana, an homage to the classic Cubano sandwich. The diverse flavors that make up the menu are an accurate representation of the culturally flourishing neighborhood the restaurant calls home.

Pop Pie Co.

Executive Chef Gan Suebsarakham draws inspiration from his Thai upbringing, as well as his travels around the world to create his eclectic menu found at Pop Pie Co. in University Heights. Flavors of Asia, Australia, Europe and right here in San Diego are featured on the menu composed of both sweet and savory pies. Feeling adventurous? Head Down Under and sample the famed Aussie Meat Pie, Vegemite included. If your sweet tooth needs to be addressed, the classic Apple Crumble offering comes with a unique twist – orange zest and a secret blend of spices.


Looking for more fun things to do? From where to shop, eat and play to what's happening around town, the Visitor Planning Guide is your roadmap to San Diego fun. 

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