Guide To The Best Restaurants in Old Town San Diego
In this guide, we share the best restaurants in Old Town San Diego for every occasion – whether you want giant margaritas and mariachi bands, more sophisticated Mexican food, or (surprise!) some of the best pizza or sushi in San Diego.
San Diego has so many great neighborhoods to find something to eat, but when it comes to experiencing some of the rich history of the city while you’re out for dinner, you won’t find anything quite like Old Town.
What comes as a surprise to many visitors is that many of the best restaurants in San Diego’s Old Town are NOT Mexican food. The neighborhood is more diverse than most people realize and is constantly evolving.
It has amazing sushi, pizza, and of course, Mexican food and tequila.
We love it, and we know you will, too!
The Rich History of Old Town, San Diego
Although today many people associate Old Town with Mexican culture and food, the neighborhood has a long and diverse cultural history.
Old Town San Diego is often referred to as ‘the birthplace of California’ because it was the site of the first Spanish settlement in California in 1769.
Prior to that, the area was home to indigenous people known as the Kumeyaay that date back as far as 9,000 years – the earliest known people living in what is now known as San Diego.
It was in the 1800’s that the Mexican people living in the area established a presence that eventually became known as El Pueblo de San Diego, which served as the foundation for the property that was protected when the United States established the Old Town State Historic Park, which we now refer to as Old Town.
All of this rich cultural history contributes to the variety of restaurants that make the cut for the best restaurants in Old Town San Diego.
Where is Old Town?
Old Town is an area of San Diego that is bordered by Interstate 5 to the west, Interstate 8 to the north, and Mission Hills to the east and south.
The Best Restaurants in Old Town San Diego
Tahona Bar is the first mezcal tasting room in San Diego. This is one of our favorite restaurants when we want a more sophisticated Mexican food and cocktails experience than is typically found in Old Town. If you’re game, Tahona’s Mezcal specialist will serve you 4 different mezcals and walk you through each expression as you journey through different agaves, producers, and states of Mexico. Or stick to their amazing mixed cocktails and food – you won’t be disappointed!
Tuetano Taqueria is Old Town’s very first birria taco spot, and it’s received a ton of recognition since it opened as its original location has been Michelin-honored – and for good reason. The flavors from their must-try tacos with bone marrow – a rich, and luxurious twist to the normal birria taco – have earned them rave reviews and loyal fans.
Cafe Coyote has been a San Diego institution for over 30 years, and has been recognized as San Diego’s best Mexican restaurant 19 times! This is a perfect place to come with a big group when you are looking for a festive atmosphere, big margaritas and solid Mexican food in the Heart of Old Town San Diego’s Historic Walking District.
Casa Guadalajara is a vibrant and colorful restaurant that has long been popular for its festive décor, trumpeting Mariachis, lush patios, “Birdbath Margaritas” and authentic Mexican cuisine. It’s consistently recognized as a favorite for Mexican food in Old Town.
Barra Barra Saloon & Restaurant
Barra Barra represents Old Town’s merging of Mexico with American traditions in the mid-1800s — providing an intriguing restaurant experience that is steeped in history. You’ll experience an Old World Mexican meal with traditional fare made from recipes that span generations. It’s a relative newcomer to Old Town, but quickly won recognition in the community.
Casa de Reyes
Casa de Reyes serves award-winning traditional Mexican comfort food in a lush garden environment. They are also well-known for their frosty margaritas and daily entertainment ranging from energetic mariachis to historical plays to traditional folklorico dancing.
Old Town Mexican Cafe
Old Town Mexican Café has been a staple in San Diego for more than 40 years. They lay claim to having tortillas that are considered to be “the best in the world” by many, many people – how can you possibly skip on that?! It’s big, has multiple bars, and indoor and outdoor seating, making it a great place to bring your big party to.
Sushi in Old Town?! Yes! Old Town is home to two of the best sushi restaurants in San Diego. Sushi Tadokoro is known for its Edo-mae style sushi. Everything is prepared using the best of local and seasonal ingredients, with hours of careful preparation using skills and techniques acquired over the years. This recipe has earned it a MICHELIN star and is considered a must by San Diego’s sushi-lovers.
Old Town Tequila Factory
Old Town Tequila Factory has panoramic views to go with its delicious made-from-scratch tortillas, famous margaritas, and authentic Mexican food. You can see the barrels that produced the finest Tequila from Mexico, and be sure to try their proprietary VIP Herradura Tequila.
Pizza Bella Italian Bistro is quite possibly Old Town’s best-kept secret. Its award-winning pizza has been recognized as “Best Pizza in America”. Aside from pizza, their menu is a host to a variety of popular Italian pasta and entrees that the locals love!
Harney Sushi is widely recognized as one of San Diego’s premier sushi bar and restaurant experiences – earning awards and recognition as a ‘best date spot’, best sake menu’, and ‘best sushi’ by many local foodies and media. The vibe is progressive and trendy, as opposed to the more traditional sushi environment found at Sushi Tadokoro.
As you can see, the list of best restaurants in Old Town San Diego has much more than just the Mexican food hot spots that have earned it so much attention from tourists and locals for years.
We love to make regular visits to explore the community’s great restaurants, and we’re sure you will, too!
See you there, San Diego!
PS – Still looking for the best places to eat in San Diego? Check out our Guide to the Best Restaurants in San Diego’s Little Italy Neighborhood!