Restaurants nearby conference site and hotel
The San Diego area has no shortage of dining options. These are all chosen based off our personal preferences and experiences. You’ll find much more than this available if you do a little bit of research. Apart from Hillcrest, I’ve listed places that are walking distance from the campus or conference hotel (Best Western Hacienda) or located along Trolley stops.
Most of these restaurants are touristy and I thought it best here to recommend one at each end Old Town. Cafe coyote serves standard Mexican fare with fresh tortillas, a decent beer and tequila list, and a good deal of outdoor seating. On the other end is Fiesta de Reyes. Same description as cafe coyote without the decent beer list (but with booze).
A bit more outside is la piñata. Same description as Fiesta de Reyes but (I think) the best of the bunch for solid Mexican food (and excellent kitsch).
Lastly, El Agave. It’s pricey. But these folks provide genuinely authentic Mexican food (which means the offerings and preparations do not cater to the Americanized version of Mexican cuisine). The food is excellent and tequila list is massive and fairly priced. It’s highly recommended.
This area is very nearby (one short uber ride from old town or one stop south on the trolley) and you can find a diverse set of restaurants and cuisines all of which are very much recommended.
Nacho Libre is a taco shop that never doesn’t have a (long) line. And there’s good reason.
Saffron is a very good Thai restaurant that has an every day menu of soups and noodle dishes complemented by (limited supplies) of daily specials (which always include a curry). There’s good eating here and ‘clean’ food option (that is, super healthy for restaurant food).
Hit the Regale Beagle (that’s right, Mr. Roeper) if it’s a sausage and serious craft beer you want. Food prices are good and sausages (ranging from Moroccan lamb to classic Brat) are made in house and can be had on a roll or over a salad.
Blue Water Grill is an excellent (but a tad pricey) fresh fish restaurant. You buy the fish from the fish counter and choose from various preparation options (fish taco, blackened, etc.). Quite a line forms here too.
Shakespeare pub has reliable pub grub.
Also, there’s a wine bar folks really seem to like but I’ve never been and can’t recall its name.
Cafe Vero has very good gelato for dessert and really solid coffee.
Nearby USD (Morena District)
All of this is down the hill from campus and quite walkable (assuming you can endure the hill on the return trip).
Ballast Point – there’s a food truck, usually bbq, but you go here for the craft beer (let’s be honest). 5-7 minute walk.
JT Thai – as advertised, it’s ‘street food’ but you’ll get solid Thai street food. Can’t go wrong here if you like a curry or noodle dish. It’s not too large. 7-8 minute walk.
Pacific Time is West Coast type stuff with fresh baked breads, American lunch fare, good salads, good coffee, wine, and beer, and a staggeringly good PBJ (seriously). 7-8 minute walk.
El Matador (excellent, fresh salsa) and reliable Mexican basics; don’t be turned off by the interior. The food is solid and the price is right (and the chilaquiles verde is pretty excellent if you can get them to give you an order during the lunch hour). 8-9 minute walk
Tio Leo’s – classic San Diego Mexican restaurant. 10-12 minute walk.
Starbucks plaza (about a 10-12 minute walk down hill or 15-17 up hill). It contains many other places (express style) to eat. Two sandwich shops (one is a Subway) a Pho Kitchen (Vietnamese), Zpizza (which is a basic pizza joint). If you want a coffee, but don’t want Starbucks, try Rose’s Donuts (cash only!) or Pacific Time.
Bull’s BBQ – bit further but still walkable (15-17 minutes) but I think really solid bbq
Sardina’s Italian – is right near Bulls bbq and offers really good southern Italian style (pizza, pastas, chicken parm, etc., and really surprising home made sausages and meatballs).
Little Italy is for dinners afterward if you want to take the trolley is. I’d recommend all of these places: Pan Bon (best Italian); Prep Kitchen (best restaurant); Ironside (most interesting atmosphere but only seafood and vegetarian). These are also good: Bencotto (pricey but excellent Italian that has sister restaueant, Monello); Petrini; Civico 1845 (proper vegan options); lastly, the Crack Shack is just an neat San Diego dining experience (though the chicken (and one fish sandwich) are really just ok, it’s a very cool spot that makes the food taste better).
Khyber Pass http://khyberpasssandiego.com/
Hash House A Go Go https://www.yelp.com/biz/hash-house-a-go-go-san-diego was trendy, at least as of a couple of years ago,
A bit further afield if you have the time and interest
The first two places would be pretty close and affordable by uber … the last is not …
Tom Hams lighthouse – awesome bayside dining experience (wonderful views and setting even at night) and very solid American fare
Stone Liberty Station – a bit pricey but excellent California style dining experience (decor, menu, craft beer). I recommend this one
Ashoka the Great (Indian of course) http://ashokasd.com/
George’s at the Cove in La Jolla (make a reservation) – amazing views and really good American (Californian) style cuisine at a reasonable price given the setting.