AAA Travel Tips / San Diego, Culinarily Speaking

San Diego, Culinarily Speaking

AAA/Frank Swanson
By AAA Travel Editor Frank Swanson
February 04, 2019
Let’s face it. Some places in the United States don’t have a lot to offer when it comes to decent Mexican food. If you’ve ever bitten into a bad burrito or tasteless taco, don’t lose heart! Visit San Diego. It’s just a hop, skip and a jumping bean from the Mexican border, and the dishes served at local restaurants are authentic, flavorful and mouthwateringly delicious. What’s more is you’ll have a whole lot more to choose from than mere tacos and burritos.
Festive patio area at Cafe Coyote y Cantina Mexican restaurant in San Diego's Old Town district.
AAA/Frank Swanson
Cafe Coyote y Cantina
2461 San Diego Ave.
AAA Inspector Rating
(619) 291-4695
It’s hard to miss AAA Two Diamond Café Coyote y Cantina, an Old Town landmark that seems to throw a party every evening. With its bright Mexican murals, outdoor courtyard, second-floor balconies and crowds spilling out onto the street, the place doesn’t exactly keep a low profile. Tortilla ladies make fresh tortillas by hand in outdoor kitchens up front right along the sidewalk, and mariachis drift among the tables entertaining guests. While the mood is light-hearted, Café Coyote takes its regional Mexican cuisine seriously and even hosts Tequila Ambassadors Thursday evenings to educate diners about the traditional liquor.
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Casa Guadalajara's relaxing open-air patio in Old Town San Diego where delicious Mexican food is served
AAA/Frank Swanson
Casa Guadalajara
4105 Taylor St.
AAA Inspector Rating
(619) 295-5111
San Diego’s Old Town is home to several excellent Mexican restaurants, but AAA Two Diamond Casa Guadalajara stands out as one of the neighborhood’s best places to eat. The margaritas are served cold and tasty, and the freshly made tortillas arrive at your table warm and tender. Decorated with folk art, vibrant tiles and multicolored papel picado banners, the dining room creates a delightful setting for such savory dishes as carne asada tampiqueña (beef strips seasoned with roasted green chile) or pollo en mole pipian verde (chicken in a pumpkin seed sauce).
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Cocina 35 is a quick-serve Mexican restaurant in the Cortez Hill neighborhood of downtown San Diego
AAA/Frank Swanson
Cocina 35
1435 6th Ave.
AAA Inspector Rating
(858) 309-5461
A quick-serve restaurant offering authentic Mexican food in downtown’s Cortez Hill neighborhood, AAA One Diamond Cocina 35 is a great spot for lunch if you’re wondering where to eat. They are also open for breakfast and claim to serve the “best chilaquiles in town”—no idle boast considering they prepare several versions of the dish, which consists of crispy tortilla strips sautéed in salsa. Build your meal by selecting dishes displayed buffet-style, which include tacos, burritos and tortas (sandwiches), and order one of their refreshing aguas frescas (water mixed with fruit and sugar) made daily.
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Exterior of El Agave Tequileria Mexican restaurant in Old Town San Diego
AAA/Frank Swanson
El Agave Tequileria
2304 San Diego Ave.
AAA Inspector Rating
(619) 220-0692
The owners of AAA Three Diamond El Agave Tequileria have chosen to go a different route from other wildly colorful, fiesta-themed local restaurants in Old Town. The mood here is sedate and upscale, with dark wood tones, white linen tablecloths and subdued lighting. You might get dizzy looking at all the tequila bottles arrayed along the walls and on shelves hanging from the ceiling. There’s even a separate tequila menu listing more than 2,000 brands from which to choose! Even some of the dishes feature tequila sauces, as well as a black mole sauce that people rave about.
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Entrance to Miguel's Cocina Mexican Restaurant in Old Town San Diego
AAA/Frank Swanson
Miguel's Cocina
2444 San Diego Ave.
AAA Inspector Rating
(619) 298-9840
Another one of the best restaurants in Old Town, AAA Three Diamond Miguel’s Cocina has a reputation for outstanding traditional Mexican cuisine. Among the highpoints: handmade tortillas, spicy chicken mole and fresh salsa and guacamole. Fajita lovers have eight options to choose from including chicken, lobster, shrimp, portobello mushroom and skirt stake. The pollo asada burrito comes topped with Miguel’s popular jalapeño white sauce, which is delicious and decadent.
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