San Diego is known for many things, one of which is amazing Mexican food. And locals sure do love their tacos! With a plethora of taco shops in San Diego, sometimes it can be difficult to decide where to go for Taco Tuesday or just to get your fix. No one wants to search endless possibilities only to be disappointed by a subpar taco that’s unable to satisfy a craving for deliciousness. If you’re looking for a new go-to or just want to mix it up, have no fear! This post will point you in the right direction to find some of the best tacos in San Diego.
South Beach Bar & Grill
This is my absolute favorite taco spot for spectacular seafood tacos! Being able to see and smell the ocean while enjoying a tasty fish taco and a delicious cocktail is pretty much my idea of heaven. I mean who doesn’t love an ocean view! Just ignore the parking lot between the restaurant and the beach 😉 You might not think much of South Beach when you first walk in because the downstairs is a little dark and dingy but trust me, the party is upstairs! It’s nice and bright with a large bar and lots of seating around the corner. The patio is narrow but extends the length of the restaurant with bar seating facing the Pacific. Although kids are welcome, I’d still consider this to be a bar so daytime or early dinner is best if they are joining you. It’s also a great place to watch the game if you have a sports fan in your midst.
Seafood tacos are the jam at South Beach, although they do have a few vegetarian options like fried zucchini and seasoned tofu as well as some good ol’ carne asada and chicken tacos. Otherwise, it’s all grilled or fried seafood. Fried options include baja (beer-battered cod of course), calamari, oyster, or shrimp. The grilled choices are swordfish, shark, garlic chile shrimp, wahoo, lobster, mahi mahi or yellowtail. My personal favorites are the fried oyster tacos and the lobster. But the choice that will really make the difference in the flavor of your meal is whether you select corn or flour tortillas. Although both come with monterey jack, corn tortillas include chipotle salsa, green cabbage, avocado, and a lime & cilantro crema. On the other hand, the flour tortilla tacos come with pico de gallo, red cabbage and a rancho crema.
Neighborhood: Ocean Beach
Type of restaurant/vibe: bar & grill, casual
Type of tacos served: seafood
Average cost of taco: $4.50. All tacos, except lobster, are $2.95 on Tuesdays
Alcohol served: full bar
Hours: Sun – Mon 11am – 10 pm, Tuesday 11 am – 1 am, Wed – Sat 11 am – 12 am
Dog-friendly: yes, on the patio but it’s kind of tight and seating is limited
City Tacos’ high energy vibe was evident before we even walked in the door since you could hear the music while waiting in line outside. Once you walk in you see the staff rocking and rolling trying to get as many taco orders processed and tables cleaned for everyone to enjoy their experience without having to wait very long. The decor matches their fun-loving vibe with Instagram-worthy murals, a foosball table and plenty of outdoor seating. And my favorite part (before even getting to taste the tacos!) was that they had a VJ! So not only was the music great with all kinds of classics, oldies, and today’s hits to sing along to, you also got to watch the music videos while you enjoyed your meal. It made the whole dining experience that much more fun!
City Tacos has something for everyone in your crowd! The menu options vary just a bit depending on the location. Their “house favorites” are more fusion-style like the Mexicali which is steak, onions, and peppers served over mashed potatoes. They have a wide variety of seafood tacos, my favorite being the Puerto Nuevo, fried lobster tail over pinto beans and topped with tomatillo sauce and fried rice noodles. The El Especial is definitely something special with shrimp, squid, and octopus! They also have several traditional and vegetarian options, when a few vegan and paleo tacos as well.
Neighborhood: Multiple locations. La Mesa, North Park, Imperial Beach, Encinitas, Sorrento Valley, Pacific Beach.
Type of restaurant/vibe: fun, casual
Type of tacos served: traditional, seafood, fusion
Average cost of taco: $3.85. House Favorites are $3 all day on Taco Tuesday!
Alcohol served: beer, wine, kombucha
Hours: Sun – Thurs 11 am – 10 pm, Fri – Sat 11 am – 11 pm for La Mesa, other location hours vary
Dog-friendly: yes, on the patios
The Taco Stand
No San Diego taco lineup is complete without mentioning The Taco Stand! This Baja-inspired taqueria is a Southern California staple with 4 locations throughout San Diego, from Encinitas to downtown (there are also locations in Miami and soon to be Vegas if you need some tacos while there too!). Although it can be a long wait and have limited seating at times, it is oh so worth it! We have family that lives downtown and they refuse to get tacos anywhere else. The tacos are made to order just behind the glass, which can be fun for the kiddos in your party, especially if you can snag a front-row seat at the counter.
First of all, the tortillas are freshly made, so extra points there for sure! The Al Pastor is a fan favorite for sure with rotisserie marinated pork, cilantro, onions, cilantro sauce, and pineapple. Otherwise, they have an assortment of traditional, vegetarian, and fish tacos for your enjoyment. And if you are feeling adventurous, they even have a cactus taco! Aside from their amazing tacos, they also have the best salsa bar with a variety of choices to make your tacos even more delicious.
Neighborhood: Downtown, North Park, La Jolla, Encinitas
Type of restaurant/vibe: casual, laid back
Type of tacos served: traditional, seafood, baja
Average cost of taco: $3.50
Alcohol served: beer
Hours: Mon -Thurs 9 am – 9 pm, Fri 9 am – 11 pm, Sat 11 am – 11pm, closed Sundays for the Downtown location, other location hours vary. Encinitas is a good late-night option on Friday and Saturday since they are open until 1 am!
Puesto serves up bougie tacos at their two chic, lively locations in San Diego. The spacious two-story downtown location is located in The Headquarters building which is the restored police station and the other (smaller) location is in the heart of La Jolla Village. Their decor pays homage to their Mexican roots with lots of bright, vibrant colors and patterned tiles but with an edgy twist! They have large graffiti-like spray-painted murals by local artist Chor Boogie throughout the restaurants which echo Puesto’s overall trendy vibe. They will also be opening their largest location (10,000 sq ft!) in Mission Valley very soon complete with a brewery featuring Mexican lagers.
Although the tacos are on the pricier side, $19 for 3 tacos plus upscale prices on most of them, you can see why their tag line is “trophy tacos” when looking at the overall selection. I mean, it was the first time I’d seen a filet mignon taco on a menu! There are 2 different style shrimp tacos, a lobster taco, a few gluten-free and vegetarian choices and several “traditional” with a Gringos beware though, just because the words “spicy” and/or “jalapeno” are not used in the description, it does not guarantee your mouth will not be on fire. We had some sensitive palates in our party and out of all the tacos were ordered, only the Tamarindo Shrimp wasn’t overly spicy (in fact it was on the sweet side). With that said, this may be more of a date night taco spot rather than a family dinner spot given the menu options and price point.
Neighborhood: Downtown, La Jolla, and coming soon in Mission Valley
Type of restaurant/vibe: trendy, upscale
Type of tacos served: gourmet, artisanal, seafood, vegetarian
Average cost of taco: $7.15. Taco Tuesday -$3.50 per taco + applicable upscale charges (so that’s 7.50 for a lobster taco) – 3pm to close!
If alcohol is served: full bar
Hours: 11 am – 10 pm downtown, 11am – 9 pm in La Jolla
Dog-friendly: yes, on the patios
Taco Surf has been a popular taco shop in Pacific Beach since 1989 and is a favorite among locals. My boyfriend tells everyone coming into town not to believe the hype of the other PB taco spots and just go straight to where they have the best hole-in-the-wall greasy tacos and drunk food, his favorite being the potato roll tacos. Located just steps away from the ocean, Taco Surf carries the beach vibe indoors with its impressive display of surfboards that line the walls and ceiling. The owner is a collector so there are definitely more than a few boards to admire!
Whether you’re craving crispy, soft, or rolled tacos, Taco Surf has you covered! The crispy tacos are mostly of the traditional variety with chicken, turkey, beef, or potato. There are a lot more soft tacos to choose from which include traditional (carne asada, carnitas, adobada, pollo asado) and pescatarian options (fried or grill fish, shrimp). They have limited choices for rolled tacos with only beef, chicken or potato, but the rolled potato comes with guac! They also have a “Chicken Little Taco” for the wee ones.
Neighborhood: Pacific Beach
Type of restaurant/vibe: casual, laid back
Type of tacos served: traditional, crunch, soft, rolled
Average cost of a taco: $3. Crispy beef, chicken, potato, turkey, and soft tortilla fried fish tacos are $2.50 on Taco Tuesday.
Alcohol served: none
Hours: 8:30am – 10pm
Las Cuatro Milpas
Las Cuatro Milpas has been serving up authentic tacos in Barrio Logan since 1933! Their longstanding history as a San Diego favorite is evident by the consistently long line out the door and sometimes even around the corner. Trust me, it’s worth the wait! Although the line may be long, you better have your order ready when you get to the counter because they serve you cafeteria-style and those ladies are on a roll! They made 7 tacos and 3 bowls of beans and rice appear before us nearly instantly. And be prepared because they are cash only! Las Cuatro Milpas takes no-frills to the max with zero decor other than mirrors, picnic tables, and checkered table cloths, letting the food speak for itself. Be prepared to potentially share a table with others since it’s always so packed.
So their extensive taco menu includes pollo or carnitas on a corn tortilla. Yup, that covers it! I mean, why mess with success right?! I’m typically more of a flour tortilla kinda girl, but I much prefer the deep-fried corn tortilla tacos at Las Cuatro Milpas, if for no other reason than to try to hold your taco together longer with all that juicy goodness inside. You can also order a side of rice and beans (which comes in a single bowl and requires you to top with onions IMO) that also come with freshly-made, warm flour tortillas, but it’s pretty much a meal in itself! The tacos are large and two can easily satisfy. My teenager wasn’t able to finish her second along with eating only half of her rice and beans (and she can typically put some food away). For what Las Cuatro lacks in variety, they make up for in flavor and recipes that have stood the test of time. P.S. I’ve heard some pretty great things about their menudo too!
Neighborhood: Barrio Logan
Type of restaurant/vibe: casual
Type of tacos served: authentic, traditional
Average cost of taco: $1.95 (cash only!)
Alcohol served: none
Hours: Mon – Fri 8:30 am – 3 pm, 6 am – 3 pm Saturdays, closed Sundays.
Is anyone else hungry now? I sure am! So I know I couldn’t have possibly covered all the amazing taco shops in San Diego in a single post, so I want to hear from you! Where’s your go-to spot to get your taco fix? Do you prefer a hole-in-the-wall or something a little more upscale? Traditional or fusion? Let me know where I should eat next in the comments below!
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