San Diego: best places to eat on a budget

I adore San Diego and I adore the food here. Spending about a week here has given me the time to try all the food that I wanted to. I’m always on a student budget, so I’m always looking for cheap places to go that have good food. These are the places that stood out to me.

In n Out

I had to try In n Out burger when I was here, and it did not disappoint. Cheeseburger with onions and fries animal style for me, double cheeseburgers for R. I also appreciate their tiny menu so much, I hate decisions and love simple.

El Zarape

There are two of these in close proximity to each other, but one of them it more expensive, and one of them has .99 cent fish tacos. I’ve been here a few times because they are amazing, and a dollar. I didn’t try any other food item on the menu, but their giant margaritas are good too.

El Zarape

Senior Grubby’s

We grabbed some burritos to go on our way home from Carlsbad and ate them on the beach. If you’re in Carlsbad and looking for Mexican- this is the place to go.

Senior Grubby's

Soda and Swine

PIZZA KNOTS. YES. So good. And a side of fries. We sat here playing Scrabble and drinking. Honestly, these pizza knots were amazing, and this place is really cute with an open ceiling, a fireplace, and lots of board games.


Lolitas is right across from the baseball stadium- don’t be scared away by the line because it goes quickly. We both got the California Burrito. I was sceptical about this one because of the fries in the burrito, but it was unreal. It was bigger than my head and I couldn’t finish it.


The Crack Shack

R said that the sandwich he got here was in the top five things he’s eaten in his entire life, and he has eaten a lot of things. He got the Firebird, and I got the G-Bird. The line here went quickly as well, definitely worth it. We went before the farmers market in Little Italy because it’s very close. We ended up going back the next day and I had the Firebird too, he was “both surprised and disappointed” that I finished it all.

The Crack Shack
The Crack Shack
The Crack Shack

Baked Bear

Yes, you need this in your life. Ice cream sandwiches made out of cookies or brownies. So good, worth the line, worth the calories.

Buona Forchetta

We figured we needed at least one nice-ish dinner that didn’t consist of .99 cent tacos. Make a reservation for this place, we didn’t and waited over an hour. Luckily, there’s a brewery across the street so we played Scrabble and watched the hockey game while we waited. Our food came out in what seemed like minutes, we got the octopus, focaccia bread, and a margarita pizza, all of it was amazing, especially the pizza. I don’t love octopus, but R loved it. We got cannolis for dessert, ALMOST as good as the ones I had in Italy.

Nomad Donuts

Seriously regretting not picking up a couple doughnuts here, but what can you do? I got an everything bagel with garlic and herb cream cheese. There were literal chunks of garlic in the cream cheese. If you’re vegan, they had tons of vegan options for delicious looking doughnuts.

Nomad Donuts

We usually do breakfast at home, and we made lunch at our Airbnb a couple times. Sometimes we would just grab a sandwich at Von’s and eat on the beach. We went to several breweries that would be worth checking out, except I didn’t pay attention to the names of them. There are just so many in this city!

Mike Hess

My favourite thing about San Diego is the great Mexican food. There are so many options, and it’s always so good. I think this is the first trip we’ve gone on where we haven’t eaten hummus, falafel, shawarma, or kebabs, and I’m not even mad about it. Have you found the best food in San Diego? If there’s anything I missed that’s worth checking out, let me know, I’m sure I’ll be back in this city soon.

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