A lot of San Diegans get a little snobby when they have visitors in town and they want to go to Old Town for dinner. Many of the Old Town San Diego restaurants are, how shall we put it… tourist traps. You know the kind… the food is overly “Americanized”, the margaritas are weak, and the decor and atmosphere are just a little over the top and kitschy. Oh and then there is the never-ending stream of Mariachi bands…
Just a little heads up. Old Town is not the place to get the most authentic Mexican food in San Diego. For that, you have to go to National City, Chula Vista, or San Ysidro. Even better yet, head south of the border where obviously you will get the real real stuff. Check out our guide on the best things to do in Tijuana here. That doesn’t mean you can’t find tasty food in Old Town. There are some fantastic restaurants in Old Town that have delicious food and a great atmosphere.
4105 Taylor St, San Diego, CA 92110
This vibrant restaurant serves delicious Mexican food with flare. As you dine on the main outside area on their stunning patio, you really feel like on a mini vacation to Mexico. Yes, it is not the most authentic food, but nonetheless, you will enjoy a tasty meal in a beautiful atmosphere.
The immersive atmosphere sends a warm feeling through your body, making you feel like you’re at a party. The beautiful seating, decor, and food just mush together seamlessly into this wonderful dining experience. I highly suggest making reservations though, it could get busy. Watching the tortilla ladies make homemade tortillas is a special treat.
2244 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110
If you are looking for something extra special, then look no further. Recently decorated with a Michelin Star, Sushi Tadokoro is one of the best Sushi restaurants in San Diego. Enjoy a traditional sushi experience at the bar or splurge on the Omakase menu and tingle your tastebuds with an explosion of seafood. Definitely worth it!
Urban Market Old Town
2548 Congress St, San Diego, CA 92110
If you can’t decide where to go, the Urban Market Old Town food hall might be a good choice. Everyone can grab what they are in the mood for, from fish tacos to birria tacos, donuts, coffee, wine, cocktails and micheladas, and then gather at their cozy rooftop terrace and enjoy their meal.
2461 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA, 92110
+1 (619) 291-4695
As the winner of Best Mexican Food for 18 consecutive years, Cafe Coyote takes pride in upholding that reputation. For over 30 years, this spot has been serving the community Mexican food in a festive intimate environment fit for every occasion.
As you eat, you are more than welcome to sample the array of Tequila or even sip on a mixed drink made by one of the master bartenders. But, no matter what you ave, you are sure to have a good time.
Casa De Fred’s
2470 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA, 92110
+1 (619) 858-8226
This local chain provides loving authentic food that will fill you up for hours on end. The vibe is so funky and interesting. You can bask in the sun outside or enjoy the inside area while you eat. It’s usually quieter on the weekdays and makes for a nice lunch spot or late dinner.
Things are fresh and made with high-quality ingredients and there’s so much versatility. They welcome friends, families, partners, groups that big, small, young, and old. Everyone is treated like family.
If you are looking for a typical SoCal style diner for breakfast or early lunch, Perry’s hits the spot. It is one of those spots, where time stood still, the waitress calls you honey and corned beef hash and french toast taste just like your childhood memory.
2444 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA, 92110
+1 (619) 298-9840
There are a lot of Mexican food places in Old Town but none stands out quite like Miguel’s does. For visitors, they adore the warm loving atmosphere and the food that is always served hot when it’s supposed to. Expect a little bit of a line or a wait time if you just walk in but it is worth the wait or the reservation at this local San Diego chain.
2414 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA, 92110
+1 (619) 255-2090
If you favor rustic style with twists of modern flare, then you will adore Tahona. This bar dedicates its time and energy into the education of the beautiful complexity that is Mexican culture.
They specialize in Oaxacan-inspired food and the iconic mezcal beverage, serving over 120 different versions of it. Their tacos are on the pricy side, but truly innovative and the presentation is simply stunning. Yes, $7+ for a street taco is steep, but in this case, it is worth it. This is an interesting spot, definitely worth visiting. Oh and before we let you go, we need to let you in on a little secret… Psssst… In the back of the restaurant, through a secret passage, is one of San Diego’s coolest Speakeasies: Oculto 477. Go check it out!
Jack & Giulio’s Italian Restaurant
Is this the best Italian restaurant in San Diego? Probably not. But this is one of those cozy neighborhood joints where the locals go for tasty food, a waiter that remembers their name and have great value. Their signature dish is the Scampi alla Giulio – perfectly cooked shrimp in a garlicky white wine sauce with mushrooms over pasta. So good!
Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill
Many consider this one of best seafood restaurants in San Diego. It is not fancy, but the quality is right and the fish tacos are spot on. They are known for their grilled swordfish – always cooked to perfection – and their huge bowls of Cioppino. If you love seafood, this place is a must!
So next time you find yourself hungry in Old Town, give these non-touristy restaurants a try!
Last Updated on May 26, 2023 by Maria Haase