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The Best Cheap Eats in San Diego

The city of San Diego - made famous by Ron Burgundy, Tony Gwynn, and many others - stands out as one of the finest American destinations, with fantastic weather, coastal culture and plenty of cuisine for all tastes. The top cheap eats in San Diego deliver the natives, locals, and visitors to the city with hearty, American fusion food at inexpensive prices. But where are the smartest, savviest San Diego diners headed out to when they're looking for the best cheap eats in San Diego? Welcome to our Tastemakers List. Here, we've gathered together the best, most inexpensive bars and restaurants in San Diego, collected from the in-the-know San Diego diners. With everything from taco joints and fish shacks to downtown hot spots, the cheap eats in San Diego have something for everyone. Grab a table there tonight!

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The OpenTable Team
19 Restaurants
Updated October 01, 2021
Restaurants:Steamy Piggy, Wild Note Cafe, Harley Gray Kitchen & Bar
Price Range:$$ - $$
Cuisines:Chinese, Californian, Contemporary American
Neighborhoods:Kearny Mesa, Solana Beach, Mission Hills
A photo of Steamy Piggy restaurant

Steamy Piggy

$$$$
Chinese
Kearny Mesa
4.1
57 reviews
Inside the pink walls of the Convoy Street local favorite called Steamy Piggy are some of the best cheap eats in San Diego. This friendly and cozy spot specializes in steamed dumplings and baos, made with love in-house. Head out for the daily happy hour for some of the top special deals in the city. Those deals feature $1.50 Kirin or Sapporo drafts along with deals on specialty cocktails. Try the watermelon soju or house mule, and pair them with some of the cheap baos for a nourishing dish. Be sure to try the exclusive bulgogi fries, with kimchi, slaw, spicy mayo, and peanut.

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A photo of Wild Note Cafe restaurant

Wild Note Cafe

$$$$
Californian
Solana Beach
4.5
277 reviews
This artful beach-side bistro is a colorful spot for some of the best cheap eats in San Diego. It's also in an excellent place for a San Diego stroll, right in the middle of the trendy Cedros Design District. The menu is a creative mixture of Pacific and Mexican, boasting plenty of local favorites. Try the lobster dumplings made with port wine sauce or a made-to-order guacamole dish with tortilla chips. Menu "headliners" include lemon butter scallops over linguine and chile-lime steak tacos with caramelized red onion, pickled jalapenos, and cotija cheese.

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A photo of Harley Gray Kitchen & Bar restaurant

Harley Gray Kitchen & Bar

$$$$
Contemporary American
Mission Hills
4.5
1049 reviews
This light and airy Mission Hills bistro is a lively kitchen and bar with one of the best cheap eats in San Diego menus. The daily happy hour is a local favorite. Select from a wide variety of drink specials, like the house lime margarita or a spicy jalapeno "Hot and Hornitos" margarita. Watermelon lemonade features watermelon-flavored vodka, lemon juice, and 7-up. For food, diners can nosh on several specials. Try the pulled pork sliders with Asian slaw, dirty fries topped with brown onion gravy and blue cheese, or fried calamari with house sauces.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?


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A photo of Blanco Cocina + Cantina – Fashion Valley restaurant

Blanco Cocina + Cantina – Fashion Valley

$$$$
Mexican
Mission Valley
4.7
413 reviews
In the middle of the beautiful Mission Valley, Blanco Tacos + Tequila is a light and airy taste of Southern California. Stop in for some of the best cheap eats in San Diego at the Blanco happy hour. Try the double cheese nachos with black beans and guacamole or the restaurant's famous guac, made with roasted poblano and Anaheim chilis and caramelized onion. For a true classic, try the crispy-shell ground beef taco with yellow cheese. Beer specials include the Latitude 33 "Blood Orange" IPA and the local Ballast Point "Aloha Sculpin" Hazy IPA.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Brigantine Point Loma restaurant

Brigantine Point Loma

$$$$
Seafood
Point Loma
4.5
1654 reviews
Overlooking the beautiful America's Cup Harbor, Brigantine Point is an upscale oyster bar with some of the best cheap eats in San Diego. Stop in for the daily seafood oyster bar specials. Try an oyster shooter, oysters Rockefellers with spinach and bacon, or oysters on the half shell. The restaurant also boasts Ketch IPA boneless buffalo wings with blue cheese dipping sauce or grilled mahi-mahi taco with Mexican slaw and cilantro-lime aioli. Try something off the sandwich menu, like the All-American burger with applewood bacon and "Brig" burger sauce.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Dobson's Bar & Restaurant restaurant

Dobson's Bar & Restaurant

$$$$
Californian
Downtown / Gaslamp
4.3
1178 reviews
One of the most historic dining spots in San Diego, Dobson's is a prime spot downtown for some cheap local eats. Around the corner from the famous Balboa Theater, this colorful and cozy spot is an excellent option for bar bites, cocktails, and creative entrees. Grab a seat at the bar for some of the restaurant's famous mussels, done in Bisque en Croute style or steamed with yellow curry sauce. The bar is also a spot for the "Ultimate Dobson's Burger" with goat cheese, bacon, and sauteed mushrooms.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Bernini's Bistro restaurant

Bernini's Bistro

$$$$
Italian
La Jolla
4.7
282 reviews
The village of La Jolla is home to Bernini's Bistro, a relaxed and classic spot off of Fay Avenue. Grab a seat on the sunny patio or at the bar for a few quick bites. The Bistro bar menu features a long selection of California draft beer favorites. Be sure to try the Modern Times oatmeal coffee nitro stout or Coronado "Orange Avenue" wit, or the Trumer pilsner or Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. Pair those drinks with a Bistro sandwich like the prime rib french dip or salmon sandwich with lemon pesto aioli.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Dunedin New Zealand Eats restaurant

Dunedin New Zealand Eats

$$$$
Burgers
North Park
4.7
146 reviews
With fascinating Kiwi dishes and some of the best cheap eats in San Diego, Dunedin New Zealand is one of the more fascinating spots in town. Trek out to this North Park location for the daily happy hour, with specials on select beer and wine, pretzel bites, spicy chicken skewers, and lamb sliders. For some New Zealand tastes, try the wild boar patty with mozzarella and roasted peppers or the swordfish with spicy coleslaw and avocado.

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A photo of Blind Burro restaurant

Blind Burro

$$$$
Mexican / Southwestern
Downtown / Gaslamp
4.4
623 reviews
The Blind Burro is one of the more creative and colorful places in the city. It's also one of the best places for cheap eats in San Diego. A lively spot with plenty of Mexican specials, the daily happy hour features specials on fish tacos, hot dogs, house margaritas, and well drinks. Stop in during a baseball season for some daily Padres specials. Pair the ballgame with a cerveza and shot with Herradura Blanco tequila and an Estrella Jalisco tall can. On Thursdays, head in for the restaurant's boozy "bottomless sangria" special.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of The Henry - Coronado restaurant

The Henry - Coronado

$$$$
American
Coronado
4.8
1264 reviews
This bright and lively spot in the heart of Coronado, the Henry is an excellent option for cheap eats in San Diego. Grab a seat on the outdoor patio for some prime people watching and a few cheap eats. For happy hour on weekdays, select from a fine range of cheap cocktails. Try the fig and ginger mule, skinny margarita, or peach Paloma. Bites include charred shishito peppers and umami sauce, rotisserie chicken nachos, or house-made pretzels and cheese fondue. There's also a "Sam's burger" with grilled onion, white cheddar, and shredded lettuce.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Ki's Restaurant restaurant

Ki's Restaurant

$$$$
Californian
Cardiff By The Sea
4.4
790 reviews
For a homely restaurant feeling, there's no better spot in San Diego than Ki's restaurant. Right on the water in Cardiff, Ki's is a prime place for amazing views and some of the best cheap eats in San Diego. The restaurant comes from is converted from a two-story house, and the menu is full of American favorites with local ingredients. For a Golden State taste, try the "California grill" sandwich with roasted turkey, turkey bacon, and avocado. This is also an excellent place for some prime desserts. Go for the carrot cake with walnuts and cream cheese frosting, or the mocha mud pie with fudge and mixed nuts.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Brigantine Poway restaurant

Brigantine Poway

$$$$
Seafood
Poway / Rancho Bernardo
4.5
1015 reviews
This classic San Diego seafood spot is one of the best places in town for cheap eats. Head out to the Poway location for some of the o.classic seafood sandwiches. Try the soft shell crab BLT with pork belly, tomato, and curry aioli. There's also a traditional crab cake sandwich with mustard aioli, grilled Sonoran spiced swordfish, and fish tacos with cheddar and ranch dressing. Go for the small-plates brig shrimp cocktail or crispy coconut macadamia shrimp to start.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Suckerfree Southern Plate & Bar restaurant

Suckerfree Southern Plate & Bar

$$$$
Southern
Downtown / Gaslamp
4.0
182 reviews
The name is accurate. Suckerfree is a fun, friendly "Southern Plate" bar in the Gaslamp with some of the best cheap eats in San Diego. Some of the restaurant's must-eats are on the accurately-named "Start This Sh*t Off Right" menu. The mac n' cheese flight is famous, with smokehouse and pepper jack cheesy dishes. Try some of the Tennessee hot chicken gizzards or fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese. The sandwich menu includes a 1929 po' boy and the fried green BLT with tomato jam and pimento cheese.

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A photo of West Coast Tavern restaurant

West Coast Tavern

$$$$
Comfort Food
North Park
4.4
211 reviews
In the heart of San Diego's fun North Park neighborhood, the West Coast Tavern is a relaxed spot for some dinner and drinks with friends or family. It's also one of the best places for cheap eats in San Diego. Stop in every day for inexpensive deals on well drinks, select drafts, and house wines. Cocktails also feature cheap mules, margaritas, and an Old Fashioned. For happy hour eats, try the short rib sliders, fried cauliflower, or five-spice wings. Head in during late-night hours to try the poutine fries, made with braised short rib, brown gravy, mozzarella, and caramelized onions.

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A photo of Valentina restaurant

Valentina

$$$$
Contemporary European
Encinitas
4.7
1224 reviews
Right off the North Coast Highway in the town of Encinitas, Valentina is a superb, creative spot for cheap eats in San Diego. To start, try some of the shareable fries with aioli, meatballs and marinara with ricotta, or charred octopus and papas. Main courses include ricotta gnocchi, wild Alaskan salmon, or local seabass with chorizo-corn risotto and piquillo pepper broth. This is also a prime spot for dessert in San Diego. Opt for the espresso chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice or the house churros with Mexican chocolate.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?


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A photo of THE LOT - La Jolla restaurant

THE LOT - La Jolla

$$$$
American
La Jolla
4.2
597 reviews
Movies and cheap eats equal an unbeatable evening in San Diego. Hit up both at THE LOT in Liberty Station. Take in the latest blockbusters or an Oscar-worthy favorite alongside the restaurant's fun happy hour. The menu includes crispy Brussels Sprouts with pomegranate and balsamic alongside barbecue sliders with brisket, coleslaw, and house pickles. Pair the food with some of THE LOT's craft cocktails, like a "White Gummy Bear" with Stoli raspberry, Sprite, and float Chambord. Other drink highlights on the menu include a Pizza Port "Chronic Amber" and the Modern Times "Ice Pilsner."

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?


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A photo of Gaslamp Fish House restaurant

Gaslamp Fish House

$$$$
Seafood
Downtown / Gaslamp
4.2
1041 reviews
One of the best seafood menus in town and a local-favorite happy hour make the Gaslamp Fish House a stop spot for cheap eats in San Diego. This is a top spot for dinner after a stroll around San Diego's gorgeous Gaslamp district. Every day, diners can enjoy some of the restaurant's top appetizers for low, low prices. Try the bacon-wrapped swordfish bites or chilled shrimp with lemon-pepper home-made cocktail sauce. The menu also features smoked fish hush puppies and shrimp flatbread with burrata and caramelized onion. Try one of the craft beer specials or the cheap "Stay Classy San Diego" cocktail with bourbon and apricot brandy.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Little Frenchie restaurant

Little Frenchie

$$$$
French
Coronado
4.6
724 reviews
The comfortable and creative Little Frenchie bistro and wine bar is an entertaining spot for some of the best cheap eats in San Diego. Head out to this Coronado favorite to enjoy the Parisian bistro with a distinctly American twist. The breakfast at Little Frenchie is a standout. Grab one of the restaurant's pastry baskets, with croissant, scone, and danish. A petit fromage du matin features a local breakfast brie, croissant, fresh berries, and wildflower honey. For dinner, the cheese plates - with selections from Vermont, California, and France - are must-have, and excellent entrees include a burger with raclette cheese and onion confit.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Kairoa Brewing Company restaurant

Kairoa Brewing Company

$$$$
Brewery
University Heights
4.5
103 reviews
Head out to San Diego's University district for a few beers and some good times at the Kairoa Brewing Company brewery and restaurant. Select from the "From the Earth" menu for dishes like fried green tomatoes, charred carrots, or New Zealand hot chips with house-made ketchup. The "From the Sea" menu includes an octopus taco, lobster skewers with wasabi mayo, and fried shrimp butties with a pretzel roll. The San Diego-style beers include a "Business Time" IPA with hints of mango and papaya and the "Head High" double IPA with notes of melon and grapefruit.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

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