The downtown San Diego area near PETCO Park, the state-of-the-art stadium where the Padres Major League baseball team plays, is a foodie's paradise any time of the year.
The vibe in this part of town is definitely urban, perhaps rejuvenated, too, with trendy restaurants and microbreweries opening up within walking distance of each other. It's lively, fun and a destination for San Diego residents in addition to tourist. Most of the restaurants on this list are located in the East Village neighborhood, with some in the Gaslamp.
Ask a local and Neighborhood is probably at the top or near the top of their near PETCO Park dining list. Not only is the beer excellent but the gourmet burgers and dressed-up American classics please even picky tastebuds. The second most popular choice is Basic with its thin-crust pizza and no-fuss atmosphere. Pair your pie with a stellar craft cocktail in this spacious converted warehouse. Feeling like Asian? Lucky Liu's is a popular spot for modern Chinese fare.
Plenty of San Diego's best restaurants have outlets actually inside the park such as Rimel's, Phil's BBQ, Lucha Libre and more, but this list focuses on places to eat surrounding the ballpark for grub before or after the game or when San Diego's favorite baseball team isn't playing at home.
Lolita's Restaurant - Downtown
Lolita's opened their first location over 20 years ago in Chula Vista. Since then, this family-owned and operated business has expanded to 5 locations including this one in East Village near PETCO park and the Convention Center. Locals love the hearty favorites such as carne asada fries, carne asada burrio, Tsunami burrito (shrimp and carne asada mix) as well as the tacos. Hot sauces are firey and flavorful. Note that portions are big so prepare to go home full or share. It's casual and quick so either order and take it to go or sit down in the restaurant to eat. (619-269-6055)
Lucky Liu's Chinese is a local favorite for handmade dumplings and a trendy vibe. People hankering for authentic Chinese may be dissuaded by the modern branding and upscale feel, but they shouldn't be. There's handmade dim sum, dan dan noodles and even Grandma's Secret Menu with seafood clay pot and black pepper filet mignon. Other fans rave about the wings and Peking duck. It opens at noon for lunch. Reservations can be made online though many order to-go from here, too. Service is notably fast and it's kid-friendly. Stop into the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum, just steps away from the restaurant. ((619) 255-5487)
Bub's at the Ballpark
In addition to watching sports on the vast array of plasma TVs, it's possible to shoot hoops in the in-house court at Bub's at the Ballpark, one of the city's best sports bars. It's also eco-friendly as it was constructed using various architectural salvage from throughout the West coast, including reclaimed wood, scrap metal, and reused brick. Formerly located in Pacific Beach, it's now near the ballpark as the name implies. Happy hour is 7-10pm, 7 days a week with half-priced red baskets (fries, rings, fried pickles and more). Order up a craft beer or even a PBR in a can. ((619) 546-0815)
Traditional and contemporary French fare is Cafe Chloe's forte, and the ambience is pure Parisian bistro. In no time at all, it became a local favorite, and now enjoys widespread popularity. The food doesnt suffer a bit, although at peak times service is understandably a bit slower than usual. Nevertheless, the inviting atmosphere and menu of updated classics makes it ideal at any time of day. Mussels in saffron broth, steak frites, and macaroni-pancetta-gorgonzola gratin (upscale mac and cheese) are just a few of the options; the wine list is admirable. (619-232-3242)
The Hotel Solamar's trendy restaurant (actually adjacent to the hotel) focuses on California coastal cuisine, lots of seafood, super fresh, usually organic local produce created with a "slow food" approach. The restaurant was recently renovated to place more emphasis on the bar area by cutting out some of the dining space. No matter--the emphasis on approachable drinks with a handshake seems to be working. Menu items inspired by the West include brown butter basted pork chops, bacon-wrapped monkfish, a hearty burger and more. The rooftop part of the restaurant is called LOUNGEsix where guests can order specialty cocktails and small bites from JSix including house-made charceuterie. You may even reserve a LOUNGEsix cabana to entertain guests, but make a reservation in advance. It's a hip place to enjoy the good weather and ocean breezes. (619-531-8744)
Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery
Tilted Kilt is one of San Diego's best pubs (Scottish, Irish and English-inspired) with good grub near PETCO Park. There is also a location in Mission Valley and a few others around Southern California. Big sandwiches and pub food like nachos, calamari and more can be found here. They also have over 30 bottled and draft beers on offer. Hoppy Hour is from 3:00-7:00pm and again from 9:00pm-close when appetizers are between $2-$5, no doubt meant to pair with a drink. Multiple TVs provide entertainment. Warning: The waitresses are scantily-clad in crop tops and kilts (they even have their own calendar for purchase). ((619) 814-5458)
Bottega Americano is a European inspired (though mostly Italian) restaurant and marketplace featuring five interactive food bars, an epicurean market for those who would like made-to-order takeout meals and a central dining space. It's the type of place that buzzes with activity... like a mini Eataly. The lengthy menu covers staples like pasta and pizza though osso bucco, several crudo options and quite a few sharable plates round it out. And, knowledgeable bartenders whip up amazing drinks. San Diego residents can request a locals card for 10% off. They also have a happy hour with drink and food specials to take advantage of. (619-255-7800)
Rare Form is modern-day European deli that is part of a cool dual-concept venue which includes a rooftop bar called Fairweather. Perhaps start at Rare Form to enjoy classic butcher shop items including pates, terrines, sandwiches with house-cured meats, in addition to the likes of matzo ball soup. You could also opt for their lineup of savory waffle sandwiches including crispy chicken and maple syrup and smoked ham and swiss... their own spin on deli traditions. Then, head upstairs to Fairweather, a place dedicated to "drinks from sunny places" from a menu of classic cocktails, throwback cocktails, 12 beers on tap, wine and more festive fun. ((619) 255-6507)
Basic (sometimes referred to as Bar Basic) serves up authentic Italian in East Village near PETCO Park. Basic's approach is a simple one void of frills and fancy ingredients. What guests will find is a no-nonsense drink list and amazing thin-crust pizza cooked in a brick oven. The restaurant is a huge 5000 square-foot space in a converted warehouse with a simple, contemporary design. There are two bars and a lounge area so it can turn into a nightlife scene after Padres games and on weekends. Get there early if going before a Padres game as there can be a line. ((619) 531-8869)
Neighborhood is one of the most popular restaurants near PETCO Park. It's a gastropub with quality beer, locally sourced food, and intelligent design that's clean and modern. Hearty, gourmet twists on American classics grace the menu. We're talking fried chicken deviled eggs, jalapeno mac and cheese, and chorizo corn dogs to start. Steak tacos, burgers, and butter-poached black mussels serve as main options. Vegetarians opt for a number of salads and even the beet burger while those with a sweet tooth should not skip the apple pie. Note: because condiments are made in house, this is a ketchup-free zone. You won't miss it. ((619) 446-0002)
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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