Recently featured on Food Network's "Diner's Drive-Ins and Dives" Hodad's serves up huge, juicy, gourmet burgers without attitude. The atmosphere is dive-like with license plates and memorabilia lining the walls and music blasting. They don't care if you're shoeless or shirtless (men only!) at this Ocean Beach location as it's THAT casual. If you're lucky enough to grab a table, make sure to not linger as a line snaking out the door is anxiously awaiting their burger heaven. Don't forget to pair a beer with your burger or an awesome shake. This is definitely one of San Diego's most famous restaurants.
Recommended for Take Out because: It's been on the Food Network's "Diner's Drive-Ins and Dives" for a good reason.
Katie's expert tip: Get the Blue Jay burger with blue cheese and grilled onions and then dream about it later.
For a hearty pizza that doesn't skimp, try Pizza Port. A family-owned, local favorite for decades, this location has some video games and candy vending machines for the kids as well as TVs that play sports and surfing videos. Bench seating is available but get there early if you'd like to eat in. Call ahead for a takeout order and skip the line. Maybe even pick up a growler of their microbrew beer (Sharkbite Red is a favorite) on the way out. Customize your own pizza or go for the preset favorites. Also popular are the beer buddies (bites made from pizza crust) and Caesar salad. It's definitely family-friendly.
Recommended for Take Out because: Homemade pizza paired with equally good craft beer is an unbeatable combo.
Katie's expert tip: We go for the Monterey Pizza which has pepperoni, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and onions.
Located in a brand new building, Point Loma Seafoods is better than ever. Fish is brought in and selected daily by the owners who also claim that there is also no better shrimp on the market than what they sell. Locals have favored this fish and chips place for years, and it's one of San Diego's best places for al fresco dining. Reasonably priced fresh seafood, party platters, and sushi (there's also a sushi deli should you want a few rolls while you're there) are on offer if you're entertaining at home. Grab some prepared fish or ceviche for takeout, too.
Recommended for Take Out because: A local favorite for healthy, fresh fish prepared to-go or that you can take home and cook yourself.
Katie's expert tip: Have fresh caught fish? Point Loma Seafoods offers custom fileting and smoking. The homemade tartar sauce is to die for, too.
Board and Brew has been a staple in Del Mar since 1979 that serves simple sandwiches with no preservatives, no substitutes and no frozen meats. The secret sauce is another hook that tastes good on any sandwich. But try the Baja Chicken with marinated chicken breast, bacon, and melted jack cheese on a toasted French baguette with mayo, tomato and lettuce. Or, the turkey deluxe featuring turkey breast, cheddar cheese and sunflower seeds served with sweet-sour dressing on a French baguette with mayo, tomato and lettuce. The menu hasn't really changed in ages, because what they've got simply works. Pair your sandwich with a local craft beer, too.
Recommended for Take Out because: Board and Brew is known for simple sandwiches with no preservatives, no substitutes, no frozen meats and a secret sauce.
Katie's expert tip: Get the turkey deluxe or the Baja chicken sandwich and thank us later.
PrepKitchen has several locations all over San Diego, including this one. It's popular for simple, locally-sourced ingredients and great artisanal cocktails. Locals rave about the shared plates including charred octopus with chorizo and fava beans, roasted pork belly with pickled rhubarb and the cutting board, an amazing display of gourmet cured meats, mustards and artisanal cheese. Weekend brunch is also popular with shrimp Benedict, chile verde braised pork shoulder with creme fraiche, red onions and tortillas among other favorites. This location also has a large covered patio that's perfect for soaking up ocean breezes. Other locations include La Jolla and Little Italy.
Recommended for Take Out because: It skews a bit more upscale and they have family takeout meals for 4.
Katie's expert tip: Get the gooey caramel salted brownie and the cutting board cheese and charcuterie.
El Pescador Fish Market in La Jolla has been a local favorite for over 30 years. Place an order to-go, pick up some fresh fish from the market or dine in. El Pescador is known for it's fish sandwiches, with swordfish and calamari being the most popular. Or, pick a fish, decide if you want it char-grilled or sauteed, and then put it on a salad (all salad dressings are homemade) or order a full plate, which includes a small salad and steamed rice. Prices are reasonable, service is friendly and the quality superb. Leave your fancy clothes at home as the ambiance is beach-casual.
Recommended for Take Out because: It's a hidden gem in La Jolla and recently expanded to bigger location.
Katie's expert tip: Take home some honey-smoked salmon. It perks up a homemade salad or morning bagel.
Puesto Mexican Street Food, located in downtown La Jolla and also at The Headquarters downtown, is an upscale fast-casual eatery that serves authentic Mexican food made from whole, wonderful ingredients. All meals are made to order at a walk-up griddle in front of the customer, and are uniquely curated based on the diner's tastes and desire. The menu focuses on a variety of guisados (grilled foods) that include fish, shrimp, chicken al pastor, carne asada and gourmet Mexican vegetarian items like zucchini flower, corn truffle and soy chorizo potatoes. Guisados can be mixed and matched and are served in tacos with stone ground corn tortillas that are layered with crispy hot cheese, guisado bowls and salad bowls.
Recommended for Take Out because: It's upscale, fast-casual Mexican street food that's made-to-order in front of you.
Katie's expert tip: Don't skip the cheese in your taco as it's grilled on to the tortilla.
When you're craving a big grass-fed gourmet burger, Burger Lounge is your place. While there are locations popping up all over San Diego, The Gaslamp outlet provides take-out convenience to those who live, work and play in downtown San Diego. Menu favorites include the quinoa burger (even loved by meat-eaters) and, of course, the traditional lounge burger. Meat is seared on a flat-top grill for a crispy exterior and the buns have just a hint of molasses. Salads and shakes are also available. They've recently added a seared ahi burger and a bison burger to their menu as well as a wide range of salads.
Recommended for Take Out because: It's hearty, can be healthy and food is made with high quality ingredients. Burger Lounge locations are popping up throughout San Diego.
Katie's expert tip: Pair a burger with the 1/2 and 1/2, which is half french fries and half onion rings.
It hasn't been around that long but some are already claiming that Oscar's Mexican Seafood is the best Mexican in San Diego. A hole in the wall near a smoke shop and a dive bar, this gem is casual with a to-go atmosphere and very little seating. The tacos, which can be upgraded to a burrito for just $1 more, are worth the wait--and there is often a wait. Portions are huge with the tacos heaving with meat, cheese and avocados. Double the avocados if you like for just 50 cents and grab an agua fresca with free refills. Parking is usually O.K. on the street.
Recommended for Take Out because: It's probably the best fish taco in San Diego. Reviews are off the charts.
Katie's expert tip: It is popular, but worth the wait for an awesome shrimp or fish taco.
Native Foods is a local institution for healthy takeout that was founded in 1994 in Palm Springs with a goal of designing a menu that's good for both diners and the environment. The entire menu is 100% plant-based with everything made fresh daily. Yes, that means vegan, but even meat-eaters are seen picking up take-out here. It also means that the menu is dairy-free with a long list of gluten-free and wheat-free options. Try the portabella mushroom burger or native vegan nachos. You can even order online in advance for pick-up at the restaurant. There is also a tasty kids menu.
Recommended for Take Out because: Everything is made fresh daily from the salad dressings to the desserts.
Katie's expert tip: It doesn't matter if you eat meat or not, you'll enjoy Native Foods.