Just a few miles north of the border, San Diego is renowned for its Mexican cuisine. “We have that kind of cultural influence being so close to Ensenada and Tijuana, Mexico, and we get some amazing chefs here," says Justin Robbins, head concierge at Fairmont Grand Del Mar.
But with so many options, how do you find the best place to grab a bite during your vacation? U.S. News asked local experts to highlight the places that represent San Diego’s dedication to authentic Mexican fare. Try one (or more!) of these seven spots during your next visit to San Diego.
[Read: 8 Great Bars in San Diego.]
Local experts highly recommend Coasterra for its breathtaking views of San Diego’s downtown skyline and its creative menu. Branded as modern Mexican and located right on the bay, this restaurant is a splurge but well worth the cost. Heap made-at-the-table guacamole on crunchy tortilla chips and sip south-of-the-border-influenced craft cocktails, like one of its mezcal concoctions. Other specialty cocktails include the organic skinny margarita and the Jalisco mule, a twist on the Moscow mule that replaces vodka with tequila.
For dinner, order the short rib enchiladas smothered in a decadent mole poblano sauce. Or, for lighter fare, try the light, yet flavorful, sea bass. This restaurant is often booked solid, so make a reservation a couple days in advance. Entree prices range between $18 and $49.
Bracero Cocina de Raiz
Edna Gutierrez, public relations manager at the San Diego Tourism Authority, says the restaurant, located in bustling Little Italy, is known for its “high-end Mexican gastronomy [which showcases] the Cali-Baja style of cuisine.”
The albacore, served both seared and tartare, is a must-try appetizer. Bracero’s new brunch menu is also getting a lot of buzz, especially the chilaquiles rojos and the huevos rancheros. Stop by Monday through Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. to enjoy the happy hour menu. Robbins says, “Bracero is definitely a hot spot to be seen.” For parties larger than four, reservations are strongly recommended. Entrees cost about $30. Small plates are all less than $20.
South Beach Bar & Grille
South Beach Bar & Grille is all about the ocean views and the fish tacos. Located in the rustic surf community of Ocean Beach, this restaurant is a well-known local favorite. “Their mahi-mahi tacos are amazing,” says Cathy Gomez, chief concierge at Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego. This spot has a variety of daily specials, including discounted tacos and drinks. South Beach is the picture-perfect place to enjoy a libation while watching the sunset or local surfers catch some waves. Nearly all the tacos cost less than $5.
City Tacos is the place to go for a plate of mouthwatering tacos complemented by an imported Mexican beer or a local craft beer. Located in trendy North Park, this restaurant uses seasonal and local ingredients to dish up unique taco combinations. Local favorites are the smoked portobello con vegetables taco or the puerco agridulce taco, which features pork tenderloin in a demi-glace. If you’re not a beer drinker, sample one of the aguas frescas made on-site daily. Service here is quick but not at the expense of high quality. Drop in on a Tuesday to take advantage of Taco Tuesday discounts. All tacos cost $3.50.
You can’t leave San Diego without stopping by award-winning Puesto. With locations in La Jolla and downtown near Seaport Village, this spot has an “amazing taco menu,” Robbins says. Locals advise you to order the tamarindo shrimp tacos, a side of the herb lime rice and a Puesto perfect margarita. Happy hour is weekdays from 3 to 5 p.m., timed perfectly to catch the sunset at the nearby waterfront. Taco Tuesdays include $2.50 tacos and $3.50 Modelos. For dinner, mix and match three tacos for $15, and large plates start at $16. Buen provecho!
Tacos El Gordo
With its flagship location in Tijuana, Mexico, Tacos El Gordo delivers authentic Mexican cuisine. This restaurant makes its own corn tortillas, serves top-grade meat and uses fresh ingredients in its house-made guacamole and salsas. Located south of downtown in the nearby city of Chula Vista, Tacos El Gordo’s motto is that every customer is family. There is no wrong choice when it comes to the tacos, but popular ones include the tender and flavorful adobada (spiced pork), the succulent lengua (beef tongue) and the traditional tripa (beef tripe). The restaurant also serves Mexican soda. All tacos cost less than $2.50.
[Read: The Best Things to Do in San Diego.]
Rolando’s Taco Shop
Rolando’s Taco Shop is a low-key chain of neighborhood restaurants that will impress you with its authentic Mexican flavors. With several local shops – including in Barrio Logan, a neighborhood just east of downtown with a large Mexican-American population – Rolando’s serves fresh guacamole prepared with Mexican Hass avocados and a variety of house-made salsas. Try the carne asada fries, an indulgent choice beloved by San Diegans, or the hearty surf and turf burrito. Service is fast, friendly and professional. Tacos cost about $3. Combination plates, with rice and beans, start at about $6.
To experience more of what San Diego has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
Dec. 4, 2018
You don't have to travel to a big city to experience nonstop Christmas fun.
Nov. 26, 2018
These family-friendly mountain resorts offer exceptional snow sports and activities for all ages.
Nov. 19, 2018
Get away to enjoy the views and activities at these properties around the world.
Nov. 13, 2018
See how cruise lines are raising the bar with tech-savvy touches and improved luxury experiences.
Nov. 13, 2018
Find out which lines will help you save big on your next cruise vacation.
Nov. 8, 2018
These tips can help you snap stunning and creative images without a fancy camera – or any experience.
Oct. 17, 2018
Play, learn and explore nature together during one of these fun autumn trips.