Old Town is one of San Diego's most popular attractions so between shopping and exploring the state park area, you might get hungry and need a place to eat. Truth be told, Old Town is full of Mexican restaurants that get a little bit of a bad rap for being touristy and not authentic enough but don't let that dissuade you.
If you ask a local what their favorite restaurant in Old Town is, you'll usually hear two answers. One is Cafe Coyote, where most dishes are made from scratch daily at the restaurant. The margarita/tequila selection is plentiful while the patio provides excellent people watching. The other is Old Town Mexican Cafe and Cantina for its delicious margaritas and carnitas. Both have tortilla ladies making delicious handmade tortillas while guests watch. Be prepared that both places can get busy during peak times.
There are a handful of restaurants offering other cuisine choices. One is Sushi Tadokoro, which is widely regarded as offering the very best sushi and sashimi in San Diego. Christopher's on Congress provides a classy wine bar option for those who would like to pass on the tequila.
Speaking of tequila, should you like to indulge in a fish bowl-sized margarita or the thousands of tequilas on offer, the trolley stops in Old Town.
Jack & Giulio's Italian Restaurant
Jack & Guilio's Italian Restaurant used to be located in Pacific Beach, but has been in business since 1961. In addition to a nice list of Italian wines, they are famous for their scampi in addition to homemade pastas, veal, poultry, beef, and seafood specialties. They also have the space for large groups and events on their patio or private balcony. The hole-in-the-wall atmosphere is warm and the service friendly, making it a perfect break from the Mexican food restaurants in Old Town. The chef for the last 40 years is none other than Guilio himself and most of the pasta is made fresh daily. (6192942074)
Old Town is among San Diego's top tourist stops, and all those visitors need to eat somewhere. Mexican restaurants are obviously popular, and Casa Guadalajara in Bazaar del Mundo ranks near the top of the list. Tortillas made in-house, fab margaritas and live mariachi bands give it an edge over much of the competition, but the food is quite well-prepared and fresh, with all the expected choices plus a few non-standard ones. Try the chimichangas or enchiladas. Be prepared to wait on weekend evenings. Choose to dine indoors or on the patio amid the fountains. People also love the folk art and overall ambience. (619-295-5111)
Casa de Reyes
Casa de Reyes feels like its own little village with plenty of seating a small entertainment area and shops lining the restaurant's courtyard--all part of Fiesta de Reyes. It's a great place to enjoy a margarita al fresco. Guests rave about the carnitas, tamales, chili rellenos and the fresh guacamole. Portions are huge as are the fish bowl-sized margaritas. Because it has an open vibe, it's also a great place to eat with the kids. Live entertainment happens nightly in the lush garden area. Because of the location right off of Old Town State Historic Park, it is popular with tourists. ((619) 297-3100)
Miguel's Cocina - Old Town
Miguel's is a popular Mexican restaurant chain in San Diego that's famous for cheese sauce. It has made a name for itself by serving reliable Mexican-American food in a fun, kid-friendly atmosphere. Chips and salsa arrive as soon as you're seated, along with a dish of pickled vegetables and a bowl of jalapeno white sauce, which earns raves from just about everyone. You'll find a broad menu with plenty of options such as albondigas soup, ceviche, carnitas, fish tacos, pollo asado, calamari-wrapped chile rellenos, enchiladas suizas, and lobster or shrimp fajitas. Service is usually good though the restaurant can get busy. ((619) 298-9840)
Cosmopolitan Hotel & Restaurant
Welcome to the The Old Town Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant. Our Full Service Restaurant and Bar is open 7 days a week for Lunch, Dinner and Sunday Brunch, serving American Grill, Seafood and Mexican inspired favorites. Happy Hour is honored daily from 3-6 PM.
Old Town's Cosmopolitan is also a 10 room Bed and Breakfast Hotel. Each room beautifully furnished with 1870's antiques and private baths. The Cosmopolitan is the only hotel in the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Built in 1822, it was once the family home of Juan Bandini. In 1869, under the ownership of Albert Seely, the operator of the only stagecoach run from San Diego to Los Angeles, it was expanded with the 2nd floor to become the Cosmopolitan Hotel. It's a uniquely San Diego story. With great care, CA State Parks, has recreated the Cosmopolitan's colorful history. We'll tell you the full story in person, if you'd like.
Whatever your pleasure, we'd like to share with you a beautiful place in San Diego's history. We offer delicious food at reasonable prices and the choice of indoor or orchard patio dining. Private parties and specialized events available. Your enjoyment and dining pleasure has our full attention. (6192971874)
Old Town Mexican Cafe and Cantina
Old Town is one of San Diego's top attractions, and all the restaurants in the area are nearly always packed. OTMC has a bit of an edge over the competition: the "tortilla ladies" who make over 7000 tortillas every day, strolling mariachis, and an atmosphere that's unfailingly festive. Then there's the food. Most folks rave about the carnitas while other good choices are pozole, albondigas soup, menudo, Mexican style ribs or rotisserie chicken, Steak Azteca, chicken mole, or a big old burrito stuffed with chile verde, machaca, carne asada, or beans. Wash it all down with an ice cold margarita or cerveza. (619-297-4330)
Not only is Harney Sushi a favorite of San Diego locals for sushi, they are pioneering the sustainable fish movement. They've recently introduced edible QR codes printed on rice paper with water-based ink that show where the fish came from to assure customers no fish fraud (a common practice with sushi) was involved and that customers are only eating the very best. Needless to say sashimi is a popular order but there is plenty of cooked Japanese food to choose from as well as specialty cocktails. Harney has a festive vibe with both indoor and outdoor seating available as well as a DJ spinning tunes on some evenings. ((619) 295-3272)
From tortillas to tamales to salsa, Coyote Cafe; makes everything from scratch every day, on the premises. Start the day with a Breakfast Margarita, chilaquiles, menudo, or a chile relleno omelette. For lunch, try the chile verde, a quesadilla, tortilla soup, or a taco salad. If your appetite is massive by dinnertime, this is the place to go. Hearty portions of traditional and gringo favorites arrive steaming and flavorful: tamales, tequila-lime shrimp, carnitas, California burritos (huge tortilla stuffed with carne asada, cheese and French fries!), and enchiladas. Good margaritas, a decent selection of tequila, pitchers of sangria, and ice cold cerveza, too. (619-291-4695)
Sushi Tadokoro serves up traditional Edo-mae style sushi in Old Town. The venue is small and intimate, quite like sushi restaurants in Japan, and guests may feel temporarily transported when dining here. Delivery of some seafood from Japan is received by Sushi Tadokoro in the same amount of time as markets in Tokyo. Note that the restaurant is closed on Sundays and that they do not take American Express. They boast the best uni (sea urchin) in San Diego and you will get what you pay for here. However, they do have daily happy hour featuring discounted drink and appetizer specials. (619-297-0298)
About Katie Dillon
Katie Dillon originally moved to the seaside community of La Jolla to attend UC San Diego. When the opportunity presented itself, she and her husband set off for a 7 year stint overseas as expats in London and Hong Kong. After traveling the world, they returned to the La Jolla sunshine, with a young daughter in tow.
Katie now writes a lifestyle site called La Jolla Mom and is the author of a book called, “Flying With Kids.” Her work can be seen on NBC San Diego, Red Tricycle, Yahoo! Shine and Have Family Will Travel, a Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts blog.
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