The Full List...
Lucha Libre: Mission Hills; North Park
If there's one place you eat at from this list, it's this Mexican restaurant. There's no wrong order here, but there's definitely a right one: The Surfin' California Burrito (pictured) and the Champion Fries with Steak.
Phil's BBQ: Point Loma; SD Airport; Rancho Bernardo
A Point Loma staple, this will be the best BBQ you'll find in the greater San Diego area. Enjoy the ribs, tri-tip, and all the sides. And have fun getting messy!
Hodad's: Ocean Beach; Downtown SD
Thick milkshakes, burgers, fries, and all the things. Super casual eatery for juicy burgers. But if you're looking for something a bit more upscale, consider Bare Back Grill in Pacific Beach.
Extraordinary Desserts: Little Italy; Bankers Hill
A local and tourist favorite, Extraordinary Desserts serves up an ever-changing menu of sweet treats. You can't go wrong with any order!
Venice / West Side
Neighbor: $15 cocktails, light bites, and gorgeous ambiance.
Gjelina: Just down the street from Neighbor, this spot is known for their pizza and charcuterie.
Gjelina Take Away (GTA): If you don't have the patience to wait for Gjelina, check out their to-go spot. Swoop up a pizza, sandwich, or try the blackened fish.
Felix: For handmade pasta, make a reservation at Felix. The pizza is also said to have a fluffy yet crunchy crust.
The Tasting Kitchen: Classic trendy Venice Beach eatery. I would probably order a Mezcal Margarita, order oysters, get another round of drinks... and then stumble to Hinano Cafe.
Hinano Cafe: This beer and burger shack first opened in the 1960s and is right by the pier. Heads up: It's cash only, though not sure if that changed this year.
Dudley Market: Patio dining right by the water. This is more of a seafood and wine restaurant, but some say the fried chicken is great.
Coffee and Lunch:
Coffee Connection: Mar Vista
Potentially your nearest specialty coffee shop. Large courtyard, WiFi, and nice espresso-based drinks. The Mayan seems to be a popular order.
Philz Coffee: Santa Monica
I'm a black coffee drinker, but I'm a sucker for their Mint Mojito Iced Coffee. Already a known chain (and I'm sure you're familiar), but at this point it's a California essential. Just don't get their coffee black.
Plant Food + Wine: Venice
If vegan food's a mood, consider this casual spot which has a gorgeous patio. I'm told the tomato sandwich is the thing to order.
San Fernando Valley
Casa Vega: Sherman Oaks
The locally famous low-key celebrity jaunt. It might be the dim lighting indoors that attracts celebs, or it's just the killer margaritas. But amid Covid, they outfitted their parking lot for nice outdoor dining.
Lala's: Studio City
This location has ample parking in the lot and on the street, with patio dining. No judgment if you want to drink the chimichurri.
The Front Yard: North Hollywood
This outdoor spot opens at 3pm on the weekends for happy hour dining. Haven't been here yet, but it sounds like most of the food — burgers, flatbreads, light bites — is a hit.