San Diego, California: A 24 Hour Culinary Journey

We recently spent 24 hours in San Diego, exploring the cities up and coming food scene and experiencing a handful of the cities best craft beer breweries


Growing up in San Diego, I could always count on delicious tacos, perfect weather (almost year round) and tons of traffic… Now that I’ve been away for about 8 years, I have a whole new appreciation for my home town and was pretty excited to see that nothing has changed too much, except for maybe a whole new group of restaurants and lots of breweries!

So when we  collaborated with Visit California to come up with a mini food based road trip, it only made sense to start in San Diego and visit some of the new places popping up all over and a few of the classics.


Breakfast at Cafe Gratitude

For breakfast we decided to check out Cafe Gratitude, a community-minded restaurant focused on serving up plant-based, gourmet dishes. What I noticed first were the many kind words decorating the facade of the building, which made me think that Cafe Gratitude would be a great restaurant not just for my body, but my mind as well. As cheesy as it might sound, it was really nice to be surrounded by all the positivity :)

We started our breakfasts with fruit smoothies and then Chris went straight for the “Vivid”, an açai superfood bowl with crispy quinoa, cashew granola, coconut, forest berries, banana, ginger syrup and goji berries. I opted for the cafe’s “Trusting” which was a barbecue tempeh scramble with market vegetables, mushrooms, spinach, avocado and gluten-free sourdough toast. To say the very least, I was in heaven. It was so good! Also, if you visit Cafe Gratitude, be sure to try their hot sauce. It’s made in house and is incredible.


Lunch At Coasterra

You can’t come to San Diego and not try Mexican just can't! So although I have an undying, unconditional love for traditional street tacos, I’m hopeless to refuse the more modern takes on Mexican food that restaurants like Coasterra are twisting up and turning out.

Sitting right on the bayfront with perfect views of the San Diego skyline,  Coasterra, is a relaxed yet trendy spot, perfect for lunch, sunset drinks and dinner! The dishes are rich in variation, freshness and flavor and come with delicious greens, fresh fish, and surprisingly bold flavor combinations.

The spicy carnitas mulitas is a must on any visit to the restaurant. These delicious mulitas are a mouth-watering mix of oaxacan and cotija cheese, carnitas, refried beans, fresh avocado and classic lime crema nestled in a corn's like a really fancy quesadilla, but so much better. One of our other favorites included the ahi tuna tostada, flavored with garlic and sesame and topped with avocado, lemon agave slaw, Spanish peanuts and cilantro. What stole the show, however, was Chef Deborah’s “skirts on fire” quesadilla, which included spicy carne asada, blue cheese, pineapple serrano salsa and a sprinkling of cilantro. I can still almost taste the way the juicy, sweet pineapple twists with the carne’s spicy kick for a cool satisfying finish. The portions here are huge, so definitely plan on sharing!


Dinner at Vistal

Though we left Coasterra happy and full of Mexican food, by evening we were ready for dinner. We chose Vistal, a chic waterfront restaurant specializing in seafood, which was located inside the Intercontinental Hotel, which was conveniently where we were staying at.

As far as San Diego’s culinary scene goes, Vistal is the new kid on the block. Despite its status as a fledgling restaurant, I was so impressed by this restaurant's ambiance, presentation, and overall flavor. The outdoor patio is perfect, and we thoroughly enjoyed easing through our meal as we took in San Diego’s fresh nighttime air.

For your first visit to Vistal, I can’t stress enough that their pickled black cod, chicken fried steak, and Baja Prawns are musts. The menu also includes an impressive sprinkling of dumplings, like  their sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi which was my absolute favorite. Served up with fresh, local lobster, this Gnudi also contained the bold flavors of tahitian squash, vanilla beurre blanc and smoked pistachios.


Don’t Forget The Breweries

San Diego is home to over 150 breweries. If you’re a craft beer aficionado or just looking for a cool place to grab a quick drink, the good news is that in downtown San Diego and Little Italy, there are so many breweries to choose from. Unfortunately, we only had one night to drink our way through San Diego’s best brew spots, so we stopped in our favorites and made the most of it. That being said, there’s a lot missing in this list! But hey, we did what we could (and most of these were conveniently within walking distance from our hotel).


Based out of Copenhagen, Denmark, Mikkeller collaborates with other breweries to produce their recipes instead of producing goods out of an official brick-and-mortar brewery of their own. Their recipes are often experimental and range to fit just about anyone’s taste. We’ve been to their locations in Copenhagen, San Francisco, and San Diego as well. The location is small, but you’ll be impressed.

Ballast Point

Okay, this one’s no secret—Ballast Point Brewery is one of the biggest breweries in the San Diego area, but we absolutely cannot stay away. We blame this partially to their Habanero Sculpin beer (aka really spicy beer), which is surprisingly delicious. With both indoor and outdoor seating options, this brewery has a nice, casual ambiance.

Stone Brewery

Stone brewery and tap room is another big player in San Diego’s beer game. It’s been around awhile, and was what we grew up with back in our San Diego dwelling days. There’s a ton of options here, and the outdoor area is a great bonus for those looking to relax.


San Diego is home to over 150 beer breweries


Where to Stay: Intercontinental San Diego

Enjoying great food and craft beer is hard work; it can really wear you out :) For the perfect culinary gallivant through San Diego’s best breweries and restaurants, you’ll want a great hotel to catch your rest in. For our trip, we stayed in the Intercontinental San Diego one of the cities newest hotels and we were excited to check it out. It has this beautiful, social, vibrant vibe to it. For the duration of our stay, we had the pleasure of sleeping in one of the corner rooms with a view looking over the water. The room was delightfully spacious and bright, with plenty of natural light and an airy ambiance.

Location wise, this hotel was such a great base to explore my old neighborhood. Located between Little Italy and Downtown San Diego, the Intercontinental sits right on the waterfront. There’s nothing I enjoyed more than strolling along the water, reminiscing about how the area used to be, and marvelling how much it’s grown!

As a San Diego native, I know that location is everything in this city. That’s why we chose to stay right on the harbor, between Downtown and Little Italy. It was the perfect base to visit our favorite spots and discover some new places.

Thank you to Visit California and Visit San Diego for help to organize this trip for us!