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Phaedra Cook

Where to Eat Near Petco Park

A guide to the best eateries around the stadium

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Even when it’s not baseball season, there’s still plenty going on at Petco Park, including concerts, festivals, and more. Though the stadium’s food choices have improved drastically, the surrounding East Village and Gaslamp neighborhoods have no shortage of interesting places to grab a bite and a drink (or two) before or after a game or event. The diverse options include Greek food, wood-fired pizza, fresh fish, juicy steaks, Mexican eats, and more. Here are the most worthy stops near the park as well as a few on the way from the Gaslamp and Imperial Station trolley stops.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. NOBU San Diego

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207 Fifth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 814-4124
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Feeling flush with cash? NOBU, just across from the Gaslamp trolley stop, provides plenty of opportunities for spending it — but it’s not considered a world-class Japanese restaurant for nothing. The San Diego location of the restaurant co-founded by sushi master Nobuyuki Matsuhisa and actor Robert De Niro is on the bottom floor of the Hard Rock Hotel and diners have to actually enter through the hotel lobby to get inside. Inside, it’s quite lovely, with the brightest spot being at the sushi counter. Indeed, no visit is complete without a selection of nigiri, which is one of the things Nobu does best. The uni is especially great, as the restaurant sources local sea urchin, a true treasure from San Diego’s waters. The Black Cod with Miso is Matsuhisa’s most famous signature dish but the tobanyaki preparations of beef, tofu, seafood, mixed vegetables, albacore tuna or mushrooms served in searing hot cast iron bowls are also interesting. To drink alongside, try one of the many kinds of Hokusetsu sake, which Nobu has exclusive rights to sell in the United States.

A selection of nigiri at NOBU San Diego
Phaedra Cook

2. Donovan's Steak and Chop House

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570 K St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 237-9700
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Donovan’s is only a block west of Petco Park and evokes the spirit of an old Chicago steakhouse. The only problem with diners hitting it up before an event is that they may not want to leave on time. The rich interior decked out in natural woods is surprisingly cozy and it’s easy to linger. Steaks and chops — both lamb and pork — are of course the name of the game but don’t ignore the sides. The Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Bacon has plenty of both cheese and bacon and is worth fighting over for the last bite. Potatoes are available four different ways, including with sautéed onions and the peppercorn sauce that goes even better on steaks. Donovan’s is not cheap but the bar menu, with dishes ranging from $12 to $28, eases the pain a little bit. To drink alongside, there’s a good wine selection and classic cocktails, like the Sidecar with cognac, orange liqueur and lemon juice in a sugar-rimmed glass.

Seared Cajun Lamb Chops with Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Bacon and sautéed potatoes at Donovan’s Steak and Chop House
Phaedra Cook

3. Tin Fish Gaslamp

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170 Sixth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 238-8100
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Those who take the trolley to the Gaslamp stop will find that Tin Fish is an easy place to stroll into. The sprawling patio is a good match for a city with nearly perfect weather and is actually nicer than the interior, which is a little dive-y. That’s fine, because the emphasis is on seafood classics, like thick clam chowder served in locally baked sourdough bread bowls and fish and chips. For the beautifully battered and fried fish, diners can choose swordfish, salmon, sea bass or the original, which is Alaskan pollock. The waffle fries alongside are perfectly crispy and seasoned with a spice blend. Have the best of all worlds and get the Crowder Cheese Fries — fries topped with both that fine chowder and cheese.

Fish & Chips at Tin Fish
Phaedra Cook

4. Meze Greek Fusion

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345 Sixth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 550-1600
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Meze looks vaguely like a club from the outside but diners shouldn’t let that dissuade them. Inside, there are authentic Greek dishes, beers and wines awaiting them. The happy hour, which runs from 3 to 6 p.m. Sundays through Fridays, is where the deals are at, featuring $4, $5, and $6 mezes (small plates and snacks) that include the excellent Fiery Feta Mac ‘N’ Cheese, spankopita and Greek-style meatballs; Greek beers like Mythos and Santorini Crazy Donkey IPA from $3 to $5; and $4 off the price of Greek wines by the glass. The dinner menu is divided into cold appetizers, hot appetizers, soup and salad and entrées, including traditional Greek moussaka, a flavorful eggplant casserole with zucchini, potato and seasoned ground sirloin; and souvlaki (kabobs) with a choice of grilled and marinated filet mignon, lamb, chicken, or shrimp.

Fiery Feta Mac ‘N’ Cheese at Meze Greek Fusion
Meze Greek Fusion

5. Jsix

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616 J St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 531-8744
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Jsix is located on the ground floor of Kimpton Solamar Hotel and serves every meal of the day — from breakfast to dinner. Along with an emphasis on local and sustainable ingredients, chef Anthony Sinsay gets his inspiration from his Filipino roots as well as from Mediterranean and Spanish cuisine. Those ideas are expressed in dishes such as yellowtail ceviche with coconut, citrus, chilis and red onion and Carrot Pappardelle made with heirloom carrot “bolognese,” carrot top-pistachio pesto and lemongrass ricotta. The hotel offers Sunday brunch but is then closed until Tuesday. Head to Upper East Bar on the roof after dinner for a cocktail and a nice downtown view.

Strawberries and Cream dessert at Jsix
Jsix Restaurant at Kimpton Solamar

6. The Blind Burro

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639 J St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 795-7880
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Tequila, margaritas and tacos are the order of the day at this Baja-inspired Mexican spot. The airy bar area is a big draw — and so is the happy hour, which runs from 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays. A legit, bacon-wrapped TJ Dog with fries is only $4.50 and house margaritas are $6. Baja Tuesdays feature $17 bottomless margaritas (you are only allowed to stay for two hours — and that should be plenty) and two-for-$7, -$8 or -$9 tacos, including the award-winning lengua, coffee-rubbed salmon and al pastor. Thursdays feature the same bottomless deal on sangrias. Specialties on the regular menu include very fancy seafood enchiladas with crab, shrimp, scallop, mahi mahi, mole rojo black beans, queso fresco, escabeche, candied jalapeño and roasted poblano cream; and the Burro-ito Barbacoa with slowly braised beef, rice, pinto beans, salsa verde, onion, cilantro, tomato, crema, avocado and salsa de barbacoa.

Al Pastor Tacos at The Blind Burro
The Blind Burro

7. Bub's At The Ballpark

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715 J St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 546-0815
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Bub’s is essentially a big ol’ honky tonk and proud of it. There’s a big, neon sign out front that says Hot Tots and, indeed, the skillets of topped tater tots are a real treat. The best, and the one most in line with the Petco Park theme, are the Ballpark Tots with sliced hot dogs, chili, cheese and grilled onions. The burgers are also very good, especially the pleasantly sloppy Schm’animal Style (an homage to a certain popular burger chain) with “secret sauce” aka Thousand Island dressing, caramelized bacon, onions, lettuce, tomato and pickles. For drinks, there are plenty of craft brews, including the weekly $4 featured local beer. Happy hour isn’t available during ballgames and special events, but when it is, there’s a wider range of $4 draft beer, $5 well drinks, half-off wings and half off “red baskets,” which include seasoned fries, onion rights, sweet potato tots or regular ones and salsa and guacamole with chips.

Spinach & Artichoke Tots at Bub’s At The Ballpark
Phaedra Cook

8. Fairweather Rooftop Bar

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793 J St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 578-2392
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Fairweather features great food and cocktails downstairs and an open-air, tiki-influenced bar upstairs with a view of Petco Park. (The downstairs used to be known as Rare Form when it was still owned by CH Projects, but the new owners decided to simplify things by just calling both floors by one name.) The happy hours Mondays through Fridays run from 4 to 6 p.m. and feature specials on daiquiris, mai tais, margaritas and pina coladas, as well as $1 off draft beer and $2 off house wine. Signature, must-try dishes include the Rare Form 44 sandwich, with a heap of rustic pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss and special sauce on grilled rye (diners can also get these as toppings on top of crispy fries) and the El Cubano, made with a hoagie roll spread with whole grain mustard and aioli then filled with smoked ham, pulled pork and pickles, then pressed on a hot flattop. What’s not to love? To find the upstairs bar, go through the downstairs dining room to the back hallway, hang a right and look for the door that says “Yes.”

The balcony bar at Fairweather overlooking Petco Park
Bradley Schweit

9. Social Tap San Diego

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815 J St #101
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 398-8938
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Every ballpark needs a nearby sports bar and Social Tap fills that need. There are about a zillion TVs (fine, maybe only 20) and the back patio, adorned with a nice selection of greenery, has a view of Petco Park. (Don’t expect to see much from there as the trees obscure the view of what’s happening on the field.) For drinks, it may be better to stick with beer, wine and shots. We ordered a martini and a mule that were both practically straight pours of gin. The food, though, is actually rather good — and excellently priced during happy hour, which runs from 3 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and all day on Sundays. The Double Royale with Cheese might have a fancy name, but it’s just a good, honest burger with American cheese melted onto two patties, iceberg lettuce, onion, tomato and “secret sauce.” In other words, it’s like someone took a Big Mac and make it actually worth eating. It’s only $9 during happy hour (and still a worthwhile buy at the regular price of $13) and comes with crisp, perfectly salted fries. The Buffalo wings are non-traditional in that these are not saucy, but crunchy, spicy and still will disappear in a heartbeat. Social Tap isn’t going to make foodies happy, but it’s a nice haven for sports fans.

Double Royale with Cheese burger at Social Tap
Phaedra Cook

10. Half Door Brewing Co.

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903 Island Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 232-9845
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Diners and drinkers flock to this picturesque, 1900s-era house before and after Petco Park events for the bird’s-eye view from the second-floor patio and to see what creative offerings the brewmasters have on tap, such as Hype Machine, an East coast-style hazy IPA and Young Danny Boy ESB (extra special bitter). Inside, there are bars both upstairs and on the first floor. While Half Door doesn’t look like an traditional pub, the food leans that direction anyway. The menu includes shepherd’s pie, Brewer’s Pie (Coleman’s stout braised short rib topped with a big round of puff pastry) and bangers and mash. There’s a good selection of meat-free entrées here too, though, such as golden fried goat cheese with sweet chili-soy glaze and scallions and the HDBC Salad with oven-roasted tomatoes, spinach, gorgonzola, brioche croutons and balsamic basil vinaigrette.

Fried Goat Cheese at Half Door Brewing Company
Phaedra Cook

11. Oscars Mexican Seafood

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7205, 927 J St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 564-6007
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This casual storefront is an easy stop for park-goers who want some serious Baja Mex. The Torta de Oscar is a serious winner for lunch or dinner (and we won’t judge anyone who has it for breakfast, actually). It’s filling enough to split with a friend and includes smoked marlin, skirt steak, spicy shrimp, cabbage, onion, tomato, cilantro and avocado on a toasted bolillo. There is, of course, a wide selection of tacos, including spicy shrimp and skirt steak, as well as ceviche and grilled fish served as the diner’s choice of a plate, burrito, taco, torta or salad. Although there’s a big selection of hot sauces on the tables, don’t fail to try the housemade creamy red and green sauces in the ice bucket across from the register area. Eat indoors or watch the world go by at the outside counter facing J Street.

Torta de Oscar at Oscars Mexican Seafood
Phaedra Cook

12. Basic

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410 Tenth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 531-8869
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The food focus at this perpetual hot spot — in a garage-style setup with an admittedly hipster vibe — is indeed basic, with the menu consisting entirely of wood-fired pizzas with the sole exception of the organic mixed green salad with pears, candied walnuts, crumbled gorgonzola and vinaigrette. The pizzas, have thin but chewy crusts that land somewhere between New York- and Neapolitan-style. The “small,” which starts at $15 for a four-cheese, meatless version, feeds two very hungry people while the large, which starts at $24, feeds four. The build-your-own options gives a choice of “red pies” or “white pies” with Parmesan or mozzarella, or pick one of nine with pre-selected ingredient combinations. The Pepper Pizza, a red pie with mozzarella, cherry peppers and gorgonzola, is a spicy-salty treat that’s especially worthy. If dirty martinis are your bag, baby, try the filthy Basic version with gin and blue cheese-stuffed olives.

One of the crispy-crusted pizzas at Basic
Phaedra Cook

13. Dirty Del's

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499 Tenth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 677-3789
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People either love Dirty Del’s or they absolutely hate it. Gourmands and snobs, don’t bother: this is the divey-est dive bar in the area, able to fulfill “dumb drunk food” needs for cheap. It doesn’t even accept credit cards, only cash or Venmo, and it makes Bub’s down the street look like fine dining. Let’s face it, though: people who are going to the ballpark and need to fulfill beer and hot dog cravings can save a couple of bucks by stopping at Dirty Del’s on the way. Plain hot dogs with do-it-yourself packet condiments are a measly four bucks or aim for the giant, $8 Big Wang, a half-pound hot dog covered in nacho cheese (the bright orange kind, of course), pickled jalapeños, bacon and onions. During happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m., all draft beers are $4 and food specials include $2 Taco Tuesdays and Wasted Wednesdays with a grilled cheese and bag of chips for $6. Dive bars have a place in this world and that’s why Dirty Del’s celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2018.

The “Big Wang,” a half-pound hot dog at Dirty Del’s
Phaedra Cook

14. Monzu Fresh Pasta

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455 Tenth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 802-4355
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Monzu is one of those tiny restaurants where the hands-on owners, Aldo de Dominicis Rotondi and Serena Romano, who seem to always be there, remember diners after just a few visits. DO ask for an Italian wine recommendation as they are extremely knowledgeable and can steer diners to a perfect pick. (Some wines are available by the bottle to purchase and take home, as is a selection of made-from-scratch pastas.) The pasta dishes are always delightful, especially the seductively rich and filling cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) raviolos, which are super-sized ravioli. Monzu’s rendition of the Sicilian dessert cassatina is utterly remarkable, with a creamy, sweet ricotta filling perfectly complemented by the almond flavors of a marzipan wrapper. There aren’t many seats (about 20 or so), so if heading there before a Petco Park event, get there early. Monzu closes at 9 p.m. daily.

Cacio e Pepe Raviolo at Monzu
Phaedra Cook

15. Harvest By The Patio

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369 Tenth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 541-8301
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Updated, 9/21/2018: Harvest by the Patio is only going to exist in its current form until mid-October 2018. It’s closing to rebrand to Himmelberg’s, a surf-style eatery estimated to open in January 2019. Read the full article for details.

One of the most underrated spots for conscientious dishes and well-made cocktails in the area, downstairs Harvest By The Patio is an and easy grab-and-go spot featuring pre-made sandwiches and salads and a surprisingly great retail wine section. Upstairs is the dining room and it’s usually not packed. (We’re probably ruining some diner’s day by giving away their secret spot.) Happy hour runs all day on Mondays, 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays and even 2 to 6 p.m. on weekends — even on game days. It’s $10 for 12 salt and pepper wings with garlic, chili, lime and herbs and $7 for a chicken bratwurst hoagie. On the regular menu, the crispy, deep-fried artichoke hearts with fried lemon slices thrown right in alongside are incredibly crave-able and Harvest’s half-pound house Angus burger on toasted brioche with white cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, and garlic aïoli is one of downtown’s best. Regular prices can run a buck or two more than at others, but the thoughtful, well-made dishes are worth it.

Crispy artichokes with lemon-ginger dipping sauce at Harvest By The Patio
Phaedra Cook

16. Lolita's Mexican Food

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202 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 269-6055
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For people taking the trolley to the 12th and Imperial Station, Lolita’s is right on the way to Petco Park. It’s one of six locations that grew out of the original founded in 1984 by Joaquin and Delores (Lolita) Farfan. There’s nothing fancy about the space or the food, but it’s a convenient, quick stop for classic (albeit sometimes underseasoned) Cali-Mex. That’s why before Petco Park events it’s often packed; sometimes even with a line out the door. The enchiladas are quite flavorful, nicely sauced and the shredded lettuce on top is a crisp counterpoint. Lolita’s burritos are considered a San Diego classic. Tacos can be hit or miss — there’s a fine line between “crisp shell” and “tough shell” — but service is usually friendly.

Taco and enchilada plate at Lolita’s near Petco Park
Phaedra Cook

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1. NOBU San Diego

207 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
A selection of nigiri at NOBU San Diego
Phaedra Cook

Feeling flush with cash? NOBU, just across from the Gaslamp trolley stop, provides plenty of opportunities for spending it — but it’s not considered a world-class Japanese restaurant for nothing. The San Diego location of the restaurant co-founded by sushi master Nobuyuki Matsuhisa and actor Robert De Niro is on the bottom floor of the Hard Rock Hotel and diners have to actually enter through the hotel lobby to get inside. Inside, it’s quite lovely, with the brightest spot being at the sushi counter. Indeed, no visit is complete without a selection of nigiri, which is one of the things Nobu does best. The uni is especially great, as the restaurant sources local sea urchin, a true treasure from San Diego’s waters. The Black Cod with Miso is Matsuhisa’s most famous signature dish but the tobanyaki preparations of beef, tofu, seafood, mixed vegetables, albacore tuna or mushrooms served in searing hot cast iron bowls are also interesting. To drink alongside, try one of the many kinds of Hokusetsu sake, which Nobu has exclusive rights to sell in the United States.

207 Fifth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

2. Donovan's Steak and Chop House

570 K St, San Diego, CA 92101
Seared Cajun Lamb Chops with Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Bacon and sautéed potatoes at Donovan’s Steak and Chop House
Phaedra Cook

Donovan’s is only a block west of Petco Park and evokes the spirit of an old Chicago steakhouse. The only problem with diners hitting it up before an event is that they may not want to leave on time. The rich interior decked out in natural woods is surprisingly cozy and it’s easy to linger. Steaks and chops — both lamb and pork — are of course the name of the game but don’t ignore the sides. The Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Bacon has plenty of both cheese and bacon and is worth fighting over for the last bite. Potatoes are available four different ways, including with sautéed onions and the peppercorn sauce that goes even better on steaks. Donovan’s is not cheap but the bar menu, with dishes ranging from $12 to $28, eases the pain a little bit. To drink alongside, there’s a good wine selection and classic cocktails, like the Sidecar with cognac, orange liqueur and lemon juice in a sugar-rimmed glass.

570 K St
San Diego, CA 92101

3. Tin Fish Gaslamp

170 Sixth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Fish & Chips at Tin Fish
Phaedra Cook

Those who take the trolley to the Gaslamp stop will find that Tin Fish is an easy place to stroll into. The sprawling patio is a good match for a city with nearly perfect weather and is actually nicer than the interior, which is a little dive-y. That’s fine, because the emphasis is on seafood classics, like thick clam chowder served in locally baked sourdough bread bowls and fish and chips. For the beautifully battered and fried fish, diners can choose swordfish, salmon, sea bass or the original, which is Alaskan pollock. The waffle fries alongside are perfectly crispy and seasoned with a spice blend. Have the best of all worlds and get the Crowder Cheese Fries — fries topped with both that fine chowder and cheese.

170 Sixth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

4. Meze Greek Fusion

345 Sixth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Fiery Feta Mac ‘N’ Cheese at Meze Greek Fusion
Meze Greek Fusion

Meze looks vaguely like a club from the outside but diners shouldn’t let that dissuade them. Inside, there are authentic Greek dishes, beers and wines awaiting them. The happy hour, which runs from 3 to 6 p.m. Sundays through Fridays, is where the deals are at, featuring $4, $5, and $6 mezes (small plates and snacks) that include the excellent Fiery Feta Mac ‘N’ Cheese, spankopita and Greek-style meatballs; Greek beers like Mythos and Santorini Crazy Donkey IPA from $3 to $5; and $4 off the price of Greek wines by the glass. The dinner menu is divided into cold appetizers, hot appetizers, soup and salad and entrées, including traditional Greek moussaka, a flavorful eggplant casserole with zucchini, potato and seasoned ground sirloin; and souvlaki (kabobs) with a choice of grilled and marinated filet mignon, lamb, chicken, or shrimp.

345 Sixth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

5. Jsix

616 J St, San Diego, CA 92101
Strawberries and Cream dessert at Jsix
Jsix Restaurant at Kimpton Solamar

Jsix is located on the ground floor of Kimpton Solamar Hotel and serves every meal of the day — from breakfast to dinner. Along with an emphasis on local and sustainable ingredients, chef Anthony Sinsay gets his inspiration from his Filipino roots as well as from Mediterranean and Spanish cuisine. Those ideas are expressed in dishes such as yellowtail ceviche with coconut, citrus, chilis and red onion and Carrot Pappardelle made with heirloom carrot “bolognese,” carrot top-pistachio pesto and lemongrass ricotta. The hotel offers Sunday brunch but is then closed until Tuesday. Head to Upper East Bar on the roof after dinner for a cocktail and a nice downtown view.

616 J St
San Diego, CA 92101

6. The Blind Burro

639 J St, San Diego, CA 92101
Al Pastor Tacos at The Blind Burro
The Blind Burro

Tequila, margaritas and tacos are the order of the day at this Baja-inspired Mexican spot. The airy bar area is a big draw — and so is the happy hour, which runs from 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays. A legit, bacon-wrapped TJ Dog with fries is only $4.50 and house margaritas are $6. Baja Tuesdays feature $17 bottomless margaritas (you are only allowed to stay for two hours — and that should be plenty) and two-for-$7, -$8 or -$9 tacos, including the award-winning lengua, coffee-rubbed salmon and al pastor. Thursdays feature the same bottomless deal on sangrias. Specialties on the regular menu include very fancy seafood enchiladas with crab, shrimp, scallop, mahi mahi, mole rojo black beans, queso fresco, escabeche, candied jalapeño and roasted poblano cream; and the Burro-ito Barbacoa with slowly braised beef, rice, pinto beans, salsa verde, onion, cilantro, tomato, crema, avocado and salsa de barbacoa.

639 J St
San Diego, CA 92101

7. Bub's At The Ballpark

715 J St, San Diego, CA 92101
Spinach & Artichoke Tots at Bub’s At The Ballpark
Phaedra Cook

Bub’s is essentially a big ol’ honky tonk and proud of it. There’s a big, neon sign out front that says Hot Tots and, indeed, the skillets of topped tater tots are a real treat. The best, and the one most in line with the Petco Park theme, are the Ballpark Tots with sliced hot dogs, chili, cheese and grilled onions. The burgers are also very good, especially the pleasantly sloppy Schm’animal Style (an homage to a certain popular burger chain) with “secret sauce” aka Thousand Island dressing, caramelized bacon, onions, lettuce, tomato and pickles. For drinks, there are plenty of craft brews, including the weekly $4 featured local beer. Happy hour isn’t available during ballgames and special events, but when it is, there’s a wider range of $4 draft beer, $5 well drinks, half-off wings and half off “red baskets,” which include seasoned fries, onion rights, sweet potato tots or regular ones and salsa and guacamole with chips.

715 J St
San Diego, CA 92101

8. Fairweather Rooftop Bar

793 J St, San Diego, CA 92101
The balcony bar at Fairweather overlooking Petco Park
Bradley Schweit

Fairweather features great food and cocktails downstairs and an open-air, tiki-influenced bar upstairs with a view of Petco Park. (The downstairs used to be known as Rare Form when it was still owned by CH Projects, but the new owners decided to simplify things by just calling both floors by one name.) The happy hours Mondays through Fridays run from 4 to 6 p.m. and feature specials on daiquiris, mai tais, margaritas and pina coladas, as well as $1 off draft beer and $2 off house wine. Signature, must-try dishes include the Rare Form 44 sandwich, with a heap of rustic pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss and special sauce on grilled rye (diners can also get these as toppings on top of crispy fries) and the El Cubano, made with a hoagie roll spread with whole grain mustard and aioli then filled with smoked ham, pulled pork and pickles, then pressed on a hot flattop. What’s not to love? To find the upstairs bar, go through the downstairs dining room to the back hallway, hang a right and look for the door that says “Yes.”

793 J St
San Diego, CA 92101

9. Social Tap San Diego

815 J St #101, San Diego, CA 92101
Double Royale with Cheese burger at Social Tap
Phaedra Cook

Every ballpark needs a nearby sports bar and Social Tap fills that need. There are about a zillion TVs (fine, maybe only 20) and the back patio, adorned with a nice selection of greenery, has a view of Petco Park. (Don’t expect to see much from there as the trees obscure the view of what’s happening on the field.) For drinks, it may be better to stick with beer, wine and shots. We ordered a martini and a mule that were both practically straight pours of gin. The food, though, is actually rather good — and excellently priced during happy hour, which runs from 3 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and all day on Sundays. The Double Royale with Cheese might have a fancy name, but it’s just a good, honest burger with American cheese melted onto two patties, iceberg lettuce, onion, tomato and “secret sauce.” In other words, it’s like someone took a Big Mac and make it actually worth eating. It’s only $9 during happy hour (and still a worthwhile buy at the regular price of $13) and comes with crisp, perfectly salted fries. The Buffalo wings are non-traditional in that these are not saucy, but crunchy, spicy and still will disappear in a heartbeat. Social Tap isn’t going to make foodies happy, but it’s a nice haven for sports fans.

815 J St #101
San Diego, CA 92101

10. Half Door Brewing Co.

903 Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Fried Goat Cheese at Half Door Brewing Company
Phaedra Cook

Diners and drinkers flock to this picturesque, 1900s-era house before and after Petco Park events for the bird’s-eye view from the second-floor patio and to see what creative offerings the brewmasters have on tap, such as Hype Machine, an East coast-style hazy IPA and Young Danny Boy ESB (extra special bitter). Inside, there are bars both upstairs and on the first floor. While Half Door doesn’t look like an traditional pub, the food leans that direction anyway. The menu includes shepherd’s pie, Brewer’s Pie (Coleman’s stout braised short rib topped with a big round of puff pastry) and bangers and mash. There’s a good selection of meat-free entrées here too, though, such as golden fried goat cheese with sweet chili-soy glaze and scallions and the HDBC Salad with oven-roasted tomatoes, spinach, gorgonzola, brioche croutons and balsamic basil vinaigrette.

903 Island Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

11. Oscars Mexican Seafood

7205, 927 J St, San Diego, CA 92101
Torta de Oscar at Oscars Mexican Seafood
Phaedra Cook

This casual storefront is an easy stop for park-goers who want some serious Baja Mex. The Torta de Oscar is a serious winner for lunch or dinner (and we won’t judge anyone who has it for breakfast, actually). It’s filling enough to split with a friend and includes smoked marlin, skirt steak, spicy shrimp, cabbage, onion, tomato, cilantro and avocado on a toasted bolillo. There is, of course, a wide selection of tacos, including spicy shrimp and skirt steak, as well as ceviche and grilled fish served as the diner’s choice of a plate, burrito, taco, torta or salad. Although there’s a big selection of hot sauces on the tables, don’t fail to try the housemade creamy red and green sauces in the ice bucket across from the register area. Eat indoors or watch the world go by at the outside counter facing J Street.

7205, 927 J St
San Diego, CA 92101

12. Basic

410 Tenth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
One of the crispy-crusted pizzas at Basic
Phaedra Cook

The food focus at this perpetual hot spot — in a garage-style setup with an admittedly hipster vibe — is indeed basic, with the menu consisting entirely of wood-fired pizzas with the sole exception of the organic mixed green salad with pears, candied walnuts, crumbled gorgonzola and vinaigrette. The pizzas, have thin but chewy crusts that land somewhere between New York- and Neapolitan-style. The “small,” which starts at $15 for a four-cheese, meatless version, feeds two very hungry people while the large, which starts at $24, feeds four. The build-your-own options gives a choice of “red pies” or “white pies” with Parmesan or mozzarella, or pick one of nine with pre-selected ingredient combinations. The Pepper Pizza, a red pie with mozzarella, cherry peppers and gorgonzola, is a spicy-salty treat that’s especially worthy. If dirty martinis are your bag, baby, try the filthy Basic version with gin and blue cheese-stuffed olives.

410 Tenth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

13. Dirty Del's

499 Tenth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
The “Big Wang,” a half-pound hot dog at Dirty Del’s
Phaedra Cook

People either love Dirty Del’s or they absolutely hate it. Gourmands and snobs, don’t bother: this is the divey-est dive bar in the area, able to fulfill “dumb drunk food” needs for cheap. It doesn’t even accept credit cards, only cash or Venmo, and it makes Bub’s down the street look like fine dining. Let’s face it, though: people who are going to the ballpark and need to fulfill beer and hot dog cravings can save a couple of bucks by stopping at Dirty Del’s on the way. Plain hot dogs with do-it-yourself packet condiments are a measly four bucks or aim for the giant, $8 Big Wang, a half-pound hot dog covered in nacho cheese (the bright orange kind, of course), pickled jalapeños, bacon and onions. During happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m., all draft beers are $4 and food specials include $2 Taco Tuesdays and Wasted Wednesdays with a grilled cheese and bag of chips for $6. Dive bars have a place in this world and that’s why Dirty Del’s celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2018.

499 Tenth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

14. Monzu Fresh Pasta

455 Tenth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Cacio e Pepe Raviolo at Monzu
Phaedra Cook

Monzu is one of those tiny restaurants where the hands-on owners, Aldo de Dominicis Rotondi and Serena Romano, who seem to always be there, remember diners after just a few visits. DO ask for an Italian wine recommendation as they are extremely knowledgeable and can steer diners to a perfect pick. (Some wines are available by the bottle to purchase and take home, as is a selection of made-from-scratch pastas.) The pasta dishes are always delightful, especially the seductively rich and filling cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) raviolos, which are super-sized ravioli. Monzu’s rendition of the Sicilian dessert cassatina is utterly remarkable, with a creamy, sweet ricotta filling perfectly complemented by the almond flavors of a marzipan wrapper. There aren’t many seats (about 20 or so), so if heading there before a Petco Park event, get there early. Monzu closes at 9 p.m. daily.

455 Tenth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

15. Harvest By The Patio

369 Tenth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Crispy artichokes with lemon-ginger dipping sauce at Harvest By The Patio
Phaedra Cook

Updated, 9/21/2018: Harvest by the Patio is only going to exist in its current form until mid-October 2018. It’s closing to rebrand to Himmelberg’s, a surf-style eatery estimated to open in January 2019. Read the full article for details.

One of the most underrated spots for conscientious dishes and well-made cocktails in the area, downstairs Harvest By The Patio is an and easy grab-and-go spot featuring pre-made sandwiches and salads and a surprisingly great retail wine section. Upstairs is the dining room and it’s usually not packed. (We’re probably ruining some diner’s day by giving away their secret spot.) Happy hour runs all day on Mondays, 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays and even 2 to 6 p.m. on weekends — even on game days. It’s $10 for 12 salt and pepper wings with garlic, chili, lime and herbs and $7 for a chicken bratwurst hoagie. On the regular menu, the crispy, deep-fried artichoke hearts with fried lemon slices thrown right in alongside are incredibly crave-able and Harvest’s half-pound house Angus burger on toasted brioche with white cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, and garlic aïoli is one of downtown’s best. Regular prices can run a buck or two more than at others, but the thoughtful, well-made dishes are worth it.

369 Tenth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

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16. Lolita's Mexican Food

202 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
Taco and enchilada plate at Lolita’s near Petco Park
Phaedra Cook

For people taking the trolley to the 12th and Imperial Station, Lolita’s is right on the way to Petco Park. It’s one of six locations that grew out of the original founded in 1984 by Joaquin and Delores (Lolita) Farfan. There’s nothing fancy about the space or the food, but it’s a convenient, quick stop for classic (albeit sometimes underseasoned) Cali-Mex. That’s why before Petco Park events it’s often packed; sometimes even with a line out the door. The enchiladas are quite flavorful, nicely sauced and the shredded lettuce on top is a crisp counterpoint. Lolita’s burritos are considered a San Diego classic. Tacos can be hit or miss — there’s a fine line between “crisp shell” and “tough shell” — but service is usually friendly.

202 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101

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