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. 

Tacos El Gordo

The Story: The family-run Tacos El Gordo, which opened in 1998 has played a large role in establishing San Diego’s criteria for what makes a proper Tijuana style taco: the perfect ratio of hand made tortilla to grilled meat, dressed in chopped onions and cilantro, with plenty of house-made salsas and cooling guacamole to counteract all that heat. 

What to Eat: Expertly spiced and marinated Adobada tacos, carved right off the spit, served with grilled chunks of the same pineapple whose juices tenderize and sweeten the meat as it roasts and becomes perfectly caramelized in the process. Their Carne Asada fries (think steak nachos, but with French fries replacing tortilla chips) and Vampiros de Lengua (tortillas made crispy with griddled cheese, stuffed with tender shredded beef tongue) are also excellent choices.  

What to Drink: Housemade Horchata (sweet rice milk seasoned with cinnamon.) 

The Vibe: An authentic, inexpensive taco joint. For maximum efficiency, the perennially popular Tacos El Gordo has you first pay at the register, then stand in a line specific to your protein choice. Don’t worry: if you get confused, one of their many regulars or staff will be happy to show you the ropes. 

When to Go: Open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays, until 4 a.m. on weekends, you shouldn’t have a problem fitting a visit to Tacos El Gordo into your itinerary.

Tacos El Gordo
Hot Spot
Otay Mesa West, San Diego
$, Mexican, Tacos
3 Recommendations

Poma's Italian Deli

The Story: An Ocean Beach institution since 1965, the family-run Poma’s Deli has thrived for fifty-plus years with little more than their stellar reputation and word of mouth as advertising. A classic Italian-American delicatessen, to date, none of their customers have walked out of Poma’s still hungry. 

What to Eat: Our experts say you’re here for the Meatball Sub with Marinara and Provolone, Torpedo Sub with Cotto and Hard Salami, Mortadella, Provolone and fixings, and the Eggplant Parm a la Carte. 

What to Drink: Italian and American soft drinks.

The Vibe: A straight ahead Italian American deli with counter service and simple seating, that would be just at home in the NYC of yesteryear as it is ion Ocean beach. 

When to Go: Open seven days a week from 10 a.m.-9 p.m., hit up Poma’s when you’re famished after a surf sesh, or you’re running with a hungry pack. Their classic flavors, huge portions, and inexpensive prices make Poma’s an ideal place to bring kids and grandparents.

Poma's Italian Deli
Hot Spot
Ocean Beach, San Diego
$, Outdoor Seating, Pizza, Sandwiches, Italian
2 Recommendations

Phil's BBQ

The Story: Phil’s has been serving family-style BBQ since 1998. Although namesake and owner Phil Pace says he has no particular lineage or pedigree tied to regional American BBQ, our Experts say what Phil does have is an inherent sense of decency and kindness towards his staff and customers, which along with one well-protected rub recipe and the use of mesquite, make Phil’s some of the best BBQ you’re liable to find in California 

What to Eat: Mesquite grill finished Baby Back Ribs, Beef Ribs, Chicken or any combination thereof, along with sides like coleslaw and onion rings. Their portions come in ¼, ½ and full sizes, which makes Phil’s an ideal destination for families. 

What to Drink: They’ve got a full bar, along with local brews and soft drinks. 

The Vibe: Decorative interior brick, cursive neon and red, white and blue signage give all four of Phil’s locations a casual Americana vibe without feeling overly precious. They offer notoriously friendly counter service and first come first serve seating. 

When to Go: Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, Phil’s is a great bet when you’ve worked up a powerful appetite and aren’t looking to break the bank. You can also call ahead for take-out if a picnic at the beach or park is more your style.

Phil's BBQ
Hot Spot
Midway, San Diego
$$, Bbq, Bar
2 Recommendations
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