2015 Top 10 San Diego Dishes

Top 10 List

Any entry on this list would be well worth repeating.

San Diego, which some Angelenos see as L.A.’s laid back kid brother, had a big culinary growth spurt. Neighborhoods like Little Italy, the East Village, and Kearny Mesa are coming on strong. Popular areas like North Park and University Heights continue to plug gaps. I visited San Diego County four times in 2015. Learn about my 2015 Top 10 San Diego dishes, which appear in alphabetical order.

10. Galaxy Taco Lengua Taco [CLOSED]

George Hauer, chef Trey Foshee and chef de cuisine Christine Rivera debuted this open-air La Jolla Shores restaurant in 2015. The space features a patio with retractable roof and colorful tables, a dining room with colorful heirloom corn mural, and full bar sporting a Day of the Dead-style painting. Heirloom, GMO-free corn tortillas are the backbone of many dishes, including ambitious tacos.

Taco San Diego

Lengua ($5.50) features tender hacked tongue slathered with salsa verde featuring tomatillo, cilantro, and charred onion salsa on a sturdy house-made blue corn tortilla. Spoon on two other house salsas – hoja santa chipotle salsa and salsa roja – to add even more flavor to the mix.

9. Nomad Donuts Dirty Chai Donut

Cameron Corley and Brad Keillor are making San Diego’s most impressive donuts in this North Park shop with an olive green facade, open kitchen, and double hobo bindle logo. The business partners and friends surfed together and cooked up a donut driven business plan. They clearly have a hit on their hands, particularly when it comes to supple raised donuts with good chew, vivid colors, and bold flavors.

Donuts San Diego

I enjoyed Nomad’s Ube Taro Coconut and Blackberry Rosemary donuts, but Dirty Chai (top center) takes top prize.

8. The Crack Shack Chicken Lollipops

This chicken and egg emporium from chefs Richard Blais and Jon Sloan and business partner Michael Rosen builds on the success of sister restaurant Juniper & Ivy. The outdoor space houses a big patio with wood and corrugated metal, a giant chicken statue, mural of Abbey Road complete with chicken heads, and a jam-packed bocce court. Executive chef Bradley Austin presides over the kitchen, which produces avian comfort food, much of it fried and on buns. Their straightforward fried chicken is too heavy on the batter for my taste, but I was really impressed with chicken lollipops. A sauce caddy is available with curry mustard, buttermilk ranch, cracksup, Baja hot sauce, kimchi BBQ, and chimichurri. Mix and match to find your sweet spot.

Fried Chicken San Diego

Chicken lollipops ($9) corral a passel of drumsticks with lighter crusts and spiced gremolata. The juicy sextet is flavorful on its own, and even better when paired with certain house sauces.

7. Supernatural Sandwiches Kirin

This increasingly ambitious sandwich shop from Tony Nguyen, Chris Perzichino, Jeremy Chen and Anthony Tran took their matters to another level by adding talented chef Craig Jimenez. Now, mythical sea creatures, which inspired sandwich names like the Hydra and Kraken, are also depicted on a wall mural in their Miramar strip mall digs.

Sandwich San Diego

Kirin ($10) is a shrimp banh mi with Chinese sausage, cilantro, cucumber and seasoned mayo on crusty Bread & Cie. bread.

6. Juniper & Ivy In-N-Haute Burger

The first Little Italy restaurant featuring the food of Richard Blais is industrial chic, with exposed rafters, an open kitchen, and lamps above booths that look like they climbed out of “War of the Worlds.” I would have been happy to stick with the menu, but am glad we veered off-menu for In-N-Haute Burger ($17), a messy beast of a burger that comes with “animal style” thrice-fried French fries studded with relish and molten cheddar cheese and slathered with 1000 Island dressing.

Hamburger San Diego

In-N-Out inspired Juniper & Ivy’s secret burger, which features two 3.5 ounce patties, caramelized onions, 1000 Island dressing, and molten cheddar on a brioche bun.



Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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