With so many lunch spots on offer in San Diego, knowing what you want to eat when the clock nears noon is not always an easy decision to make. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a long leisurely repast with friends, a more formal business pow-wow or simply looking to grab a quick bite before heading back to the office, we’ve rounded up 15 essential cafes, restaurants and neighborhood eateries to visit for your midday meal.Read More
15 Essential San Diego Lunch Restaurants
Grab-and-go, fast-casual, power spots & more
1. Artisan Bento
Japanese-inspired and customizable bentō boxes make a perfect health-focused fast casual lunch option. Popular choice miso salmon ($11.50) comes with miso and mirin-cured salmon, two onigiri rice balls, small salad, and miso soup with an optional extra side of lotus root or seaweed glazed with sesame seeds. Other protein options include chicken skewers, ginger pork, sashimi, and mushroom tofu.
2. Supernatural Sea To Sandwich
SuperNatural's menu of seven "sea-to-sandwich" signatures - ranging from the garlic-shrimp Siren to the bacon and scallop-stuffed Neptune, plus "sinister" subs like Korean steak iteration Chimera – make it one of the fastest and tastiest lunch stops in Miramar. Sides include togarashi shrimp chips and a creamy scallop bacon chowder.
Art, food and culture collide at this Barrio Logan hotspot, where "new traditional" hand-pressed tortilla tacos cost each $2.50 and come stuffed with everything from carne asada to carnitas, birria, fried fish and sautéed veggies. Count on sides like frijoles del olla, Mexican street corn, plus beers, aguas and mixed drinks like the hooch horchata.
4. Homestyle Hawaiian
Tuck into well-priced hearty Hawaiian dishes at this popular homegrown mini-chain, which also boasts locations in Chula Vista and the Sports Arena. Plate lunches start at $7 and include steamed rice and macaroni salad; don't miss the slow-roasted Kalua pig, lava chicken and spam masubi.
Also Featured in:
5. Crack Shack
Just shy of its one-year anniversary, most days come lunchtime there’s still a good-sized line at Richard Blais’ casual chicken and egg concept. Folks flock here for the signature sandwiches including perennial favorite Coop Deville stuffed with fried chicken and pickled Fresno chilies, kimchi-seasoned deviled eggs, togarashi chicken lollipops, Mexican poutine and more.
6. True Food Kitchen
In addition to sandwiches, salads (Mediterranean quinoa, seared albacore) and pizzas (Brussels sprout & wild mushroom, house-made chicken sausage), you’ll find perfectly portioned entrees, including a pan roasted chicken and Scottish steelhead salmon on the menu at this health-conscious café. Stay refreshed with tonics, teas and sodas like the Honey Bee Ginger Beer or enjoy a lunchtime tipple with a Citrus Skinny Margarita
7. Iron Pig Alehouse
Iron Pig’s lunch special costs $7.99 for half a large sandwich, side of your choosing and a pickle (the pulled pork on brioche with slow smoked beans is a great option), plus a $4 beer from around 15 off the happy hour list. The smoked taco trio ($9.99) and smoked brisket ‘mansalad’ are also noteworthy menu mentions.
8. Carnitas' Snack Shack
Hanis Cavin wildly popular counter-service spot is revered for its pork sandwiches and craft beer. While the menu changes daily their signature triple threat pork sandwich, shack fries and carnitas tacos are probably its three most famous features.
9. Cafe Gratitude
Going vegan has never looked so good. Current seasonal specials at this 100 percent plant-based eatery include raw Mexican lasagna “Fabulous”, the “Brilliant” coconut ceviche and “Kansha” chilled ramen noodles. Long-standing menu faves include the “Humble” curry bowl and “Inspired” asparagus risotto. There are pressed juices, smoothies, milkshakes and housemade spritzers too if you’re leaning more towards a liquid lunch.
10. The French Gourmet
Served daily until 3 p.m. lunch at this European-style bistro, bakery and wine shop comprises sophisticated Gallic delicacies like soupe a l’oignon gratinée and house specialty pâté sampler. There’s the obligatory salade Niçoise, plus lunch entrees ranging from steak pommes frites and seafood crêpes to a Mediterranean Cornish game hen.
11. Bahn Thai
This intimate Thai eatery tucked along Park Boulevard serves up generous portions of popular dishes like Tom Yum soup, papaya salad, drunken noodles and pineapple fried rice to a busy lunchtime crowd (pro tip: avoid the rush and stop by after 3 p.m. when things quiet down).
12. CUCINA enoteca Del Mar
Treat yourself to an upscale Italian lunchtime feast at this Flower Hill mainstay. There’s stuffed fried squash blossoms, gourmet pizzas, pasta selections and salads, plus min ‘vasi’ mason jars filled with everything from smoked trout to creamy burrata. Beverage wise, refreshers come 0-proof or alcohol included, along with local craft brews and a wide selection of Italian wines by the glass or bottle.
13. Dobson's Bar & Restaurant
Reservations are recommended at this decades-old power lunch spot in the Gaslamp, famed for it’s continental flair and welcoming ambiance. In addition to the eatery's signature mussel bisque you can also fill up on gourmet sandwiches, soups and salads for around $8-$14. Larger entrées include wild mushroom risotto and a petite filet mignon.
For a quick, tasty meal the “happy belly combo” deal at Napizza hits the spot: double up on a more than generously sized slice of gourmet pie (the porcini truffle mushroom is a must), balance your single slice with a salad, or do the half sub/soup plus a fountain drink for $11. Add $4 if you’d prefer a draft beer or house wine. Save room for some delicious dolci too, specifically a fresh, housemade cannoli.
15. Tender Greens
This casual cafeteria-style chain serves up a wide selection of globally influenced sandwiches and salads using locally sourced ingredients. Chicken, steak, fish or falafel can all be made into a sandwich, hot plate or simple salad ($11.50), and served up with plant-based side and rustic soups ($5+).