The Required: San Diego

The Required: San Diego

A definitive guide to San Diego's tried and trues, as chosen by over 5000+ of the nation's top chefs, sommeliers, bartenders, & other food and beverage pros.

August 6, 2020
The Required: San Diego

The Required: San Diego

A definitive guide to San Diego's tried and trues, as chosen by over 5000+ of the nation's top chefs, sommeliers, bartenders, & other food and beverage pros.

August 6, 2020

Hello, San Diego. Welcome to The Required club.

The Required is our expert version of a "best list," comprised of the stand-out restaurants that have garnered the all-time most recommendations from our expert community. That's 5000+ all-star chefs, sommeliers, bartenders, and more–no black box of food editor committees or user surveys, just plain, crave-able cred.

Read on to plan your next trip—or just to be sure you've checked all the boxes on your home turf. 

Soda & Swine

The Story: Consortium Holdings and Michelin Starred Chef Jason McLeod, have reached baller status in a different sense of the term than when we discussed when one of their other projects Born and Raised appeared earlier on this list. At their three locations around San Diego the humble yet mighty meatball reigns supreme, served in slider, submarine, and a la carte forms. 

What to Eat: Go for the trio of meatball sliders for $11, so you can taste the Banh Mi with Vietnamese style meatball, The Bovine with Marinara and Mozzarella, and The Hog with Chorizo Balls and Chipotle BBQ. Our Experts say that the Poutine inspired Dirty Fries with Meatball, Pork Belly, and Gravy Soaked Fries are worth the cardiologic risk, and to save room for their house-made soft serve and fat stacked apple pie. With vegan meatballs, refreshing salads and sides like roasted broccolini, no matter where you fall on the spectrum between Carnivore and Vegan, they’ve got you covered. 

What to Drink: Any of their eclectic selection of old school and small-batch sodas, like Cheerwine or Jackson Hole Huckleberry, or a local microbrew. 

The Vibe: Counter service with open-air dining and communal seating. We’re told they’re dog-friendly if you’re dog’s friendly. 

When to Go: Each of their three locations has a slightly different menu, for instance, their location near UCSD has an a.m. menu with breakfast tacos, sandos, and house-made donuts, while their Liberty Station location has a full liquor license. This is the kind of food one eats to lay a responsible foundation before or after a night of festive drinking, or to soak up the excess the next day. Or if you’re gonna play like the locals do, we could see hitting up Soda + Swine after going hard at the gym or beach, or perhaps just a visit to one of San Diego’s bajillion recreational dispensaries. Happy Hour runs from 3-6 p.m. on weekdays, with discounted drinks and Dirty Fries.

Soda & Swine
North Park, San Diego
$, Happy Hour, Outdoor Seating, New American
2 Recommendations

Yakyudori Yakitori & Ramen

The Story: It would be a crying shame to come to San Diego and not dedicate at least one afternoon or evening eating and drinking your way down Convoy St. in the Kearny Mesa neighborhood. It’s here that Yakyudori Yakitori & Ramen has been pulling in lunch crowds as well as late-night revelers with its consistently simple and excellent Japanese street fare since 2010. 

What to Eat: If you’re as big of a sucker for “meat-on-a-stick” as we are, just go with your heart’s greatest desire, be that trusty ol’ beef, or something slightly more adventurous like grilled squid legs or chicken livers. Our Experts praise their Shoyu ramen broth for being balanced, with just enough salt and umami. 

What to Drink: Sake, Soju and Japanese beers. 

The Vibe: A casual dine-in or take out spot, with bar seating and table service. 

When to Go: Long wait times are common during dinner time, but lunchtime is said to be much more chill and their happy hour runs from 11:30-5 p.m.

Oscar's Mexican Seafood

The Story: Oscar's Mexican Seafood is a local chain famed for its ceviche, tortas and tacos. With several locations to choose from, it’s a clean, simple, counter-service, cash-only spot that remains a long-time favorite amongst locals and visiting friends alike.
What to Eat: Our Experts recommend the Shrimp Tacos– Oscar’s grills cheese to a crisp on a corn tortilla before stuffing it with plump, batter-fried shrimp, dressed with lemon and Worcestershire sauce. Or if you’re all in, go for their house specialty, the Torta de Oscar: smoked fish, spicy shrimp and skirt steak, with cabbage, pico de gallo, avocado and cheese. Don’t forget to grab squeeze bottles of their house-made chipotle mayonesa, cilantro crema, and spicy red sauce before digging in.

What to Drink: Housemade aguas frescas and craft fountain drinks.  

The Vibe: Blue and white signage and decor give their locations a classic, clean maritime feel, with hard-working staff who manage to stay warm and friendly, even when there’s lines out the door. 

When to Go: .99 cent battered fish tacos 2:30-5:30 Monday-Thursday makes Oscar’s great for fuelling up either before or after a day at Balboa Park or hanging in Pacific Beach. 

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