Who Serves the Best Lunch in San Diego?

August 11, 2015

One thing that I love about being an independent tour guide is the fact that I’m not tied to an office or specific area in San Diego during the day.

That means, the county is my oyster when it comes to picking out exactly what I want for lunch. Whether it’s the ambiance, or a specific genre of food, or even ease and convenience, there are many places to choose from for a great lunch experience. Here are my top 10 picks for the best lunch in San Diego.

Lunch with a View

Seared Ahi Stack at C-Level

C-Level LoungeThis restaurant is amongst my favorite places to come for lunch. It’s situated on the southern tip of Harbor Island near the airport and Downtown San Diego, making it an easy stop when you first land in the city. The views of the city skyline, the Navy airport, and the Bay are worth the wait, but the cherry on top is how delicious the food is.

My top menu picks: The Blackened Fish Tacos, Rosemary and Shallot-rubbed Lamb Sandwich, Seared Ahi Stack

close up of a plate of fries on a table at Amplified Ale Works Kitchen + Beer Garden in San Diego, California, USAAmplified Aleworks
The casual restaurant is located in Pacific Beach, and serves up incredible Mediterranean-infused dishes. In addition, they brew their own beer and serve other craft beers from around the world. You get a view of the beach, and a casual picnic-seating area where you can mingle with old and new friends under the San Diego sunshine.

My top menu picks: Doner Fries with Herb Marinated Chicken, Doner Kebab Sandwich on Pita with Lamb

The Med

The Med at La Valencia HotelWithin the iconic La Jolla hotel often referred to as The Pink Lady, you’ll find a newly remodeled restaurant that serves incredible food paired with views of a lush garden, sparkling pool, and the Pacific Ocean. I would encourage siting on the Ocean Terrace for the best views and photo opts.

My top menu picks: Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad, Cubano, and the Baja Fish Tacos.

Pacific Coast GrillOn the popular drive up the coast on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH/101), you’ll find a popular restaurant that sits on the beach in between Solana Beach and Encinitas. If you sit outside, you’re only obstacle between your toes in the sand and your table is a short wall and protective boulers. This is as close to a San Diego beach you can get with a cocktail in hand.

My top menu picks: Lobster and Crab Guacamole, The Local Wrap, Filet Mignon Sliders

Quick and Healthy

Photo Credit: The Kebab Shop/Facebook

The Kebab ShopThe local eatery has boomed in recent years, and now boasts 8 locations in the San Diego area. With awards like winning San Diego Magazine’s Best Restaurant for Middle Eastern food in 2014, it’s no wonder why I have to have it once a week! It’s casual and healthy, making a great option for those who want to get in, fuel up, and get on with their day.

My top pick: Hands down…the Salmon Doner Kebab with Spicy Hummus.

Photo Credit: Tender Greens/Facebook

Tender Greens
This healthy cafeteria invites patrons down a line of fresh, colorful, and delicious lunch options. The line may look long during lunch hours, but it goes fast as you choose from the extensive menu. As you go through the line, you watch your lunch being assembled right in front of your eyes. Just be sure on what you want because you may be tempted to change your mind midway through.

My top menu picks: Chipotle BBQ Chicken Salad, Roasted Roma Tomato Soup, Herb Brushed Albacore


Saffron Appetizers

The owner of this Thai restaurant has been recognized for her skills in the kitchen by ABC news, Martha Stewart, San Diego Magazine, and many more publications. Her dishes involve fresh ingredients, and are packed with complex, and bright flavors. The walk up counter has you order with the cashier, making it a casual and quick restaurant experience.

My top menu picks: Salad Rolls with Shrimp and Peanut Sauce, Saffron Thai Grilled Chicken, Pad-see-ewe with chicken

Outdoor Seating with Good Food and Beer

Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens

Photo Credit: Stone Brewing Liberty Station/Facebook

This restaurant sits in the heart of Liberty Station, a historic Naval Training Station just west of the airport, and is one of the largest breweries with a full restaurant in San Diego. You can sit in the garden equipped with ponds and stone and steel fountains as you eat and sip on the potent beers of Stone.

My top menu picks: Pulled Wild Boar and Pork Sandwich, Stone BBQ Duck Tacos


Queenstown Burger

Within the historic craftsman home in Little Italy, you’ll find a whimsically decorated establishment serving up some of the best beer and burgers in town. Sit on the porch or patio with Fido, or enjoy the interior design within the small house’s walls.

My top menu picks: Bare Lil’ Lamb Burger, Queenstown Burger

Food Trucks

Photo Credit: Curbside Bites/Facebook

Curbside Bites in DowntownEvery Wednesday from 11am-3pm, you’ll find about 5-7 San Diego food trucks parked just south of Little Italy on B Street between India and Colombia. You can get an array of tasty treats in one location from passionate chefs who are proud to broaden your tastes to their eclectic masterpieces.

I really enjoy eating, and restaurant dining is necessary when you’re on vacation. I am proud to offer this list of my top picks for lunch in San Diego, and I hope you decide to visit at least one of these establishments! Bon appetite!

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