San Diego

San Diego is filled with famous restaurants, but there are a few places that a tourist or new visitor might overlook. These spots are my top-three favorite places to try on your next visit.

Rocky’s Crown Pub

You’ll find the home of what is arguably San Diego’s favorite hamburger just south of the main path in Pacific Beach. This no-frills, 21+ dive bar only serves two things besides alcohol: burgers and fries. Just like Game of Thrones, this burger is one of the few things (for me) that actually lived up to its hype.

You can order the burger in either 1/2 or 1/3 pound sizes and it comes with the standard fixin’s on a sesame seed bun. There’s no artisan bread, aged cheeses or gourmet toppings — it’s a classic backyard burger. Rumor has it that the key to Rocky’s success is a secret blend of ground beef that’s always fresh and never frozen. It’s a very unassuming burger that packs serious beefy flavor with an undertone of nostalgia — and it’s served with a smile.

Shanghai Saloon

Xiao long bao (XLBs) are Chinese soup dumplings filled with a hot and savory broth that comforts the soul and soothes the heart. These flavor-packed pouches are filled with juicy, flavorful pork and due to their delicateness, XLBs must be served fresh.

Shanghai Saloon is located in a little mini-mall inside the Convoy District, a culinary destination famous for Asian food. As the name suggests, it’s actually a bar inside a larger restaurant named Dumpling Inn. The two places operate at different hours but you can order the XLBs at the bar, which also offers a huge selection of local beers and craft cocktails.

The fresh scent of ginger will arouse your palate when the steamer is brought to your table, but it’s a good idea to wait a few seconds before you pop these bad boys in your mouth so you don’t get burned. The traditional way to eat them? Bite off a little bit of the top and sip the soup. Then, pour a little black vinegar inside the hole before you consume the whole thing.

Las Quatros Milpas

This humble little restaurant is located in the up-and-coming district of Barrio Logan, just under the Coronado Bride and seven miles from Loews Coronado Bay Resort. This picture was taken when it was closed but if you come when it’s open, expect a long line. Dining here feels like you’re eating at a Mexican family’s home — probably because the people who work here are in fact, a family. The abuelita, or grandma, runs the register and the rest of her family preps and cooks their small menu made with traditional family recipes.

The ambiance is nothing to write home about — you’ll feel like you’re in an abandoned cafeteria from the 80s — but you’re here for the food. There are less than 10 items on the menu, so what do you order? You can try the tacos or taquitos but the real show-stoppers are simply the rice, beans and tortillas… That’s it! You don’t need anything else because they do the staples right. And their tortillas are the best in the city: tender, soft, and served warm. You can eat these babies just by themselves.

Las Quatros Milpas is only open from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM Monday through Saturday and the wait averages about 30–45 minutes. But, it’s worth it.

Rumor has it that they may close down soon because the family is looking to retire. The rumor also says that they don’t want to “sell out” and give away their family secrets — so visiting them soon is a good idea!