Eating your way through San Diego

Our guide to local and sustainable eats

Smoked fish bahn mi served at Mitch’s Seafood (Dane Petersen)

By Courtney Crenshaw and Dane Petersen

CleanMed is right around the corner and this year, national leaders in health care sustainability will gather in sunny San Diego to inspire change and discuss strategies for solving the important health and sustainability issues of our time.

Whether your food is served in a hip restaurant or within hospital walls, local, sustainably produced meals support the creation of a food system that nourishes both people and the planet.

This year’s CleanMed attendees will enjoy the winning meal of the Health Care Culinary Contest and have the opportunity to choose from a group of sessions designed for sustainability and food service professionals, which focus on sourcing healthy, local, and sustainably produced foods.

Join us on a tour of San Diego’s burgeoning food culture. Just a little advice: Be sure to bring your appetite.

Farm and dock to table

We begin our food tour with an appreciation for local sourcing and from-scratch cooking.

The Garden Kitchen provides sustainable housemade farm-to-table options with menus that change weekly to keep it fresh.

Looking for a real sensory experience? Check out Urban Solace, a modern restaurant that uses natural ingredients, hormone- and antibiotic-free meats, and sustainably caught or raised seafood. If you stick around through the weekend, plan to enjoy their outstanding bluegrass brunch. You can’t beat tasty treats and live tunes.

Crispy duck confit, roasted butternut squash puree, pomegranate reduction at Urban Solace / Grain bowl and smoothie at Local Greens (Dane Petersen)

Fast and fresh

If you’re on a budget, Local Greens is a fast fresh food option located in both Solana Beach and in the Liberty Station Public Market. The menu features soups, salads, wraps, bowls, burritos, and smoothies.

San Diego County Farm Bureau has a program called San Diego Grown 365 in which a restaurant can contractually guarantee that at least 80 percent of its fresh produce is procured from local farms.
Look for the program’s emblem on restaurant menus and windows, and enjoy the fruits of San Diego while supporting a thriving local food economy.

Community-supported restaurant

Unique among restaurants in San Diego and across the country, The Red Door has taken a holistic approach following a new trend of community-supported restaurants (CSR). Like community supported agriculture, in which customers buy a share in a farm, CSRs allow members to buy into the business with an annual membership that includes perks like special dinners, deals, preview tastings, and local farm tours.

Local catch

A source of pride for many locals but often missed by visitors, this part of the tour is a nod to San Diego’s former claim to fame as the Tuna Capital of the World and one of California’s richest seafood communities.

Mitch’s Seafood is a fisherman’s dream located on San Diego’s working waterfront in the Point Loma neighborhood. Nothing tastes better than locally caught, sustainable seafood paired with a local craft brew.

Thrill-seekers looking to splurge might enjoy sitting eye-level with crashing waves during high tide at The Marine Room, a sophisticated restaurant devoted to fresh seafood, seasonal variety, and hand-selected local ingredients.

Sushi Ota, a truly hidden gem (Dane Petersen)

Don’t let it’s location fool you — Sushi Ota is an amazing sushi bar that offers some of the freshest sushi in San Diego and just-so-happens to be tucked away in the back of a convenience store parking lot.

Viva sabor in San Diego

A visit to San Diego would not be complete without trying some of the best Mexican cuisine outside of Mexico. The Old Town Mexican Café, a staple in San Diego for more than 40 years, is famously known for their handmade tortillas and live mariachi music.

Old Town Mexican Cafe’s adovada street tacos and ceviche (Dane Petersen)
Customers enjoy tacos outside of Oscars Mexican Seafood (Dane Petersen)
Muchos tacos at Oscar’s including their especial smoked fish and scallops (Dane Petersen)

Can’t decide between seafood and Mexican cuisine? Oscar’s Mexican Seafood has got you covered. Oscars is walking distance from the beach, so order your tacos to go.

If you find yourself in the La Jolla area and looking for a tasty taco and margarita, look no further than Galaxy Taco. This restaurant serves homemade blue corn tortillas, which take the taco experience to the next level.

Enjoy homemade blue corn tortillas at Galaxy Taco (Dane Petersen)

At CleanMed

Reserve your spot at the table with other CleanMed attendees at the Harvest for Change dinner. We will break bread at 7 p.m. May 8 at the Harbor’s Edge Restaurant.

The Health Care Culinary Contest finalists have been chosen, and CleanMed is your chance to taste the winning recipe. This delicious plant-forward meal will be served at the Practice Greenhealth Environmental Excellence Awards Gala at 6:30 p.m. May 9.

Neighborhood eats

Steps from CleanMed

Island Prime & C Level 880 Harbor Island Dr.
This family-owned and operated steak and seafood restaurant rests on stilts atop the San Diego bay and overlooks the city skyline and Coronado.

Two views from Island Prime: the scenery and your plate (Dane Petersen)

Tom Ham’s Light House 2150 Harbor Island Dr.
An iconic restaurant and one of San Diego’s best-known architectural landmarks that offers a beautiful view of the harbor and downtown. It’s also popular for $1 oysters during happy hour.

Bali Hai 2230 Shelter Island Dr.
This Polynesian-themed restaurant is a popular local spot for taking in breathtaking views of the bay while sipping on a fruity cocktail. It’s been family-owned and operated for over 50 years.

Mission Hills

The Patio on Goldfinch 4020 Goldfinch St.
Seasonal menus, gluten-free, vegetarian, and nut-free options. Locally sourced and sustainable food goes into the chef-inspired menu dishes

Harley Gray Kitchen & Bar 902 W Washington St.
Family-owned neighborhood restaurant featuring a mash-up of tastes and flavors using locally sourced ingredients in fun atmosphere.

Gaslamp District

Hodad’s Downtown — 945 Broadway
In addition to great eats, Hodad’s nonprofit foundation contributes to charitable efforts, such as keeping our beaches clean.

Café 21 802 Fifth Ave.
Dedicated to serving local, organic fare with flair and an almost all organic bar.

Miso Ahi tuna salad at Garden Kitchen (Dane Petersen)

Liberty Station

Soda and Swine 2750 Dewey Road #104
Casual dining in a hip atmosphere with an open roof.

Fig Tree Café 2400 Historic Decatur Road #103
This neighborhood restaurant boasts homegrown rosemary and selects its produce and eggs from a family farm in nearby Ramona.

North Park

Snooze 3940 Fifth Ave.
A breakfast, brunch, and lunch eatery. One percent of Snooze’s sales makes its way back into the local community through the donation of in-kind goods and services for causes, including school gardens, food banks, and beach cleanups.

Chicken mole enchiladas at Old Town Mexican Café (Dane Petersen)

Carnitas Snack Shack 2632 University Ave.
Serving thoughtfully-sourced, pork-centric American cuisine and local craft beers in a fun, no fuss environment.

The Smoking Goat 3408 30th St.
Committed to carefully sourcing local, sustainable and organic ingredients to provide guests with a culinary experience reminiscent of the European countryside.

Interactive map of all of the venues described in this guide.

Courtney Crenshaw is Health Care Without Harm’s Healthy Food in Health Care program California regional procurement and engagement coordinator.
Dane Petersen is San Diego Community Health Improvement Partners’ food systems program assistant.