Restaurant Guide for the Soccer Community: San Diego Edition
Once again, thousands of members of our soccer community will visit the San Diego area for various tournaments, showcases or playoffs this summer. Even during these "business" trips, there is plenty of time to experience the unique food and culture of the place that I called home for over 30 years.
One of my favorite things in life is to share a meal with family and friends. From downtown San Diego to Oceanside, this area offers every type of food in some unbelievable settings. However, unlimited meal options means you can fall down the internet rabbit hole and waste your life away on Yelp or Tripadvisor just looking for one great dinner option. I'm going to share with you my favorite spots that will give you a glimpse of the southern California lifestyle.
Quick and Easy
Everyone knows when you come to California, you have to try In-N-Out Burger. The first In-N-Out opened in Baldwin Park, CA in 1948 and has been created a cult like following over the years. There has been so much written about In-N-Out that I will only add my favorite order: Double-Double animal style, extra crispy fries and a Lemon-Up (Half Lemonade/ Half 7Up). Add a Neapolitan shake if you are really hungry.
Founded in Santa Barbara (1969) you will find my other favorite California burger shop. The combination of their Charburger with locally grown produce provides a taste of what I call California fresh. I recommend the Santa Barbara style (on Sourdough toast with avocado and bacon.) In addition to burgers, they offer fresh grilled ahi-tuna and chicken sandwiches as well as crisp salads. Must have side order: Habit Onion Rings. I'm normally not a big onion ring person because they tend to be soggy and greasy. These rings are crispy, flavorful and quite possibly addicting, especially when you dip them in ranch.
Wahoo's (Taco's and more)
I used to live in Newport Beach about a mile from the original store (Costa Mesa 1988) and it has been a staple of my diet ever since. I'm not sure any other restaurant captures the essence of southern California's surf/skate culture than Wahoo's. Even before you order, the stickers on the windows/doors, the surfing and skating videos on the TVs and the laid back atmosphere prepares you for the grinds you are about to enjoy. The fusion of flavors created is a reflection of the founders' upbringing but also mirrors the diversity of the region. Known for their wild caught fish tacos (grilled, Cajun or crispy style), Wahoo's also serves chicken, carnitas, carne asada, shrimp and tofu. You can order these proteins in tacos, burritos or as a plate with a side of black beans or spicy white beans and rice. You can't help but leave in a great mood, ready to share your positive vibes with the world.
Filiberto's or Roberto's Taco Shop
Taco Bell is not Mexican food. There, I said it. If you are looking for something fast, quick and delicious you can find a local taco shop every few blocks in San Diego. The most established of these comfort food restaurants are Filiberto's or Roberto's Tacos. Try their 3 rolled tacos with cheese and guacamole or a chicken quesadilla. Since you are here I suggest a California Burrito.
Best places to watch the World Cup game
Pitcher's Sports Bar
Through the soccer world I met former pro and current owner of Pitcher's Sports Bar, Troy Merrill. We have remained friends for over 12 years and I've watched from a far as he transformed a dingy, local dive bar to a destination for sports, beer and a great culinary excellence. Pitcher's still caters to the local scene and has a neighborhood feel but it's so much more than that. Menu items like Cajun Chicharrones, Dirty Fries, Cali Cheese Steak, Jalapeno Bacon Burger and the 13 flavors of wings mean you aren't having your average meal. With it's menu of craft beer, spacious indoor/outdoor spaces and countless TVs, Pitcher's gives you a true feel of the San Diego sports lifestyle.
I stumbled across this gem a couple years ago. With it's wall of TV's and proximity to the So Cal Sports Complex, it became the go to place to watch the World Cup last year. Any given day you would find 15-20 college coaches taking a lunch break in between youth games to cheer for their favorite squads. Rookies offers an array of traditional bar appetizers, plus burgers sandwiches, wraps and salads. Their "House Favorites" which include Mahi Mahi tacos and a Ribeye steak round out the menu.
Craft Beer and more
San Diego ranks up there with anywhere in the world for Craft Beer lovers. There are so many high quality breweries that you can practically throw a rock and hit one. Ballast Point, Stone, Lost Abbey, Alpine, Viewpoint, Belching Beaver and Green Flash are just a few that you might recognize. This has created a food culture that creates menus with food/beer pairings. Here are a few of my favorite spots where the quality of the food equals the quality of the beer.
South Beach Bar and Grille (My top pick)
South Beach Bar and Grille takes fish tacos to the next level. Choose from the following grilled tacos: swordfish, shark, wahoo, mahi mahi, yellowtail, shrimp, langostino lobster or tofu. If you prefer fried over grilled, you can choose beer battered cod, calamari, oyster, shrimp or veggie. Wash your food down with one of their over 40 beers or 22 tequilas while you watch the sunset over the ocean. It doesn't get much better than this.
From the Piggy Bank Mac on Tap to Seared Ahi salad to the Tofu Quinoa Bowl or Beyond Burger (Vegan), there is a little something for everyone. Many of their menu items are beer infused to compliment the flavors. My favorites: Double Truffle Fries, Beer Sausages, with a Beeramisu for dessert.
Bagby Beer Company
Bagby has one of the biggest selections of plant based, Vegan and allergy friendly food. Try the following vegan friendly Spicy Corn Dogs or Spicy Sausage Cavatelli. Don't worry, the selection for all of you meat eaters is just as extensive. I suggest the Short Rib Sliders or the Thai Chicken Sandwhich.
If you like bacon and burgers, this is your heaven. Slater's is famous for their 50/50 burger which is 50% ground beef and 50% ground bacon. If you are a first timer, order the Original 50/50, the B'B'B' Bacon or the Sriracha Burger. Pair your burger with and endless rotation of local taps.
Pizza and beer just goes together. Pizza port is a brewery disguised as a pizza joint which makes it one of the only breweries you can bring your family and still enjoy an adult beverage. The menu is traditional but the pizza/beer pairings are anything but ordinary. Pizza port is just a great place to hang out with family and friends.
I hope you enjoy my top picks. There are endless choices but these restaurants will give you a feel of what it is like to live the California lifestyle. Cheers!