Eating healthy and traveling can be a challenge, but in San Diego, it’s almost effortless.
With juice and smoothie bars popping up on every corner and a commitment to serving sustainable, local, fresh and nourishing cuisine, San Diego is a healthy foodie’s dream.
(Especially for someone like me who is always looking for tasty dairy-free and gluten-free options!)
My husband Bill and I recently made our first trip to California and had an amazing time exploring the relaxing and beautiful coast and eating lots of delicious and energizing food.
I have to give a shout out to my friend, Janna, who was kind enough to take the time to send me a few of the recommendations below. Bill and I did some exploring on our own, too, and came across some awesome food that we wish we could’ve brought home with us.
Check out my top picks below for places to try the next time you’re in sunny San Diego! I’ll give you more details about the vibe, what we ate, and what you have to try if you go there. Here’s the short list (in no particular order):
- SOL CAL Cafe
- Vitality Tap
- Peace Pies
- George’s at the Cove
- Juice Crafters
- Hillcrest Farmer’s Market
- Burger Lounge
SOL CAL Café
910 J Street, San Diego; 619-255-2927, www.solcal.com
The Vibe: With a tagline of “Healthy. Happy. Yummy,” I knew this place was for me 🙂 They serve cleanse-focused juices, smoothies, elixirs and modern vegetarian eats in a cheerful, contemporary setting. One morning we ran there for breakfast and walked home. The free cucumber water was refreshing and thirst-quenching after our run.
What We Ate
- Lively Liver Elixir (detoxifying combo of dandelion, burdock root, red clover and cinnamon)
- Happy Greens Juice
- Om Sweet Om Smoothie
- Lean Green Smoothie
- Kelp Pesto Noodles with Mushrooms & Sundried Tomatoes
- Waffle with Berries & Cream. Deliciously dairy-free and gluten-free, Bill had these for morning one day. Don’t they look amazing?! He cleaned his plate.
We could have eaten every meal there for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two weeks and eaten something different every time. I would love to go back and try the Cacao Oatmeal, Loaded Baked Sweet Potato, and the Sol Kale Salad.
You Have to Try…Waffle with Berries & Cream
650 1st Avenue, San Diego; 619-237-7625; www.vitalitytap.com
The Vibe: If you don’t know what to look for, you could easily miss this place. It’s inside of a nutrition store. They had a list of dozens of superfood boosters, including chaga mushrooms, chlorella, goji berries, and lucuma powder, that you could add to any smoothie. They encouraged us to post a review on Yelp to get a free detox shot. Free? Sign me up 🙂
What We Ate
- Green Ingredient Smoothie (I was warned this was a pretty “intense” smoothie, due to the lack of sweetness, but I was ready for it). With a blend of greens, mango, lime, lemon, hemp seed, cucumber and spirulina, I knew it was an anti-inflammatory, detoxifying concoction that my body would love. Remember, medicine doesn’t always taste good, but people take it anyway 😉 This is true when food is medicine, too!
- Flexin’ Smoothie (This was Bill’s favorite)
- Avocado Bliss Smoothie
- Undressed Greens Juice
- All Day Energy Shot
- Detox Shot
802 5th Avenue, San Diego; 619-795-0721, www.cafe-21.com
The Vibe: Farm-to-table restaurant in the heart of the Gaslamp district that sources its food from local farmers and distributors and is committed to crafting creative, seasonal, and delicious dishes and drinks. There’s a Mediterranean vibe that I loved about this place, but their menu is eclectic and offers something for everyone. The chef was accommodating and creative when it came to my dairy and gluten-sensitivities, and any dish our servers recommended was a winner. We liked it so much that we went for dinner and brunch.
What We Ate
- Lentil, Cauliflower & Chicken Soup
- Avocado, Mushroom & Eggplant Fries with Mediterranean-inspired Red Pepper Dip & Avocado Mousse (They made it dairy-free and gluten-free for me!)
- Sangria-Marinated Short Ribs (Bill had these and they melted off the bone)
- Black-Eyed Peas, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Onions & Peppers with Spaghetti Squash
- Garden & Vegetable Omelet Skillet with a Strawberry & Mixed Greens Side Salad
- Mango Sweetie Hot Tea (you have to try their homemade teas!)
You Have to Try…the Avocado, Mushroom & Eggplant Fries. Our minds were blown (hence Bill’s face in the pic above)!
Also, if you sign up for their newsletter, they’ll send you special deals, including a free meal on your birthday!
4230 Voltaire Street, San Diego; 619-223-2880; www.peacepies.com
The Vibe: I was super excited to check out this place when I saw their menu online. It’s a Bohemian café with a locally sourced menu of raw, vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free dishes. I’m pretty sure we went to Peace Pies three times for some combination of lunch/dinner/dessert. We loved it!
What We Ate
- Magical Mango Curry Wrap with Kale Chips
- Mediterranean Sampler
- Voltaire Street Tacos
- Majestic Mediterranean Wrap
- Banana Chocolate Coffee Pie
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwich
- Stuffed Date with Maca Cashew Butter
You Have to Try…Mango Curry Wrap & Kale Chips (yum x100)…and the Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwich!
George’s at the Cove
1250 Prospect Street, La Jolla; 858-454-4244, www.georgesatthecove.com
The Vibe: Talk about a view. Wow. Not only was our rooftop table overlooking the Pacific picture perfect, but so was our meal. After multiple people recommended we check out Georges, we knew we had to make it part of our trip.
What We Ate
- Scallop Ceviche
- Seared Yellowtail with Asparagus, Mushrooms and Red Pepper Puree
- Fresh Fish Tacos (Bill ate tacos every day :))
You Have to Try…Scallop Ceviche. My co-worker, Gina, turned us on to this appetizer. She told us we absolutely had to have it, and we’re so glad we took her advice! Light, crisp and refreshing, it was a perfect start to our West Coast lunch on a breezy afternoon.
Multiple Locations; 935 Silverado Street, La Jolla; www.juicecrafters.com
The Vibe: We stumbled upon this place when we were wandering around La Jolla and looking for something hydrating and energy-boosting before dinner. Juice Crafters is a family-owned cold-pressed juice and powerhouse smoothie bar whose approach is to “live well and be well.” That’s my kind of place!
What We Drank
- Green Juice Plus
You Have to Try…Anything on the menu! We only stopped by for something to hydrate us before dinner, but all of their smoothies looked good, especially the Chunky Monkey Smoothie they were advertising outside that day.
Hillcrest Farmer’s Market
3960 Normal Street, San Diego, www.hillcrestfarmersmarket.com
The Vibe: Held Sundays from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., this was our favorite of the three farmer’s markets we checked out while in San Diego. There are over 175 vendors there, so give yourself some time to explore. Take a look out all the awesome eats below!
What We Ate:
- Taste of Africa – This was one of our favorite meals of the whole trip…and the cheapest. For $11, each of us ordered a bowl served with jasmine rice and vegetables topped with rich and creamy (and dairy-free!) curried lentils and chopped and sautéed collard greens. Bill ordered the jerk chicken instead of the lentils, and both of us took our first bite, looked at each other and made “the face” we make whenever we’ve just tasted a little bite of heaven.
- Green Fix – They sell juices and smoothies that highlight vegetables as the star, unlike many smoothie places that load up on the sweet stuff. They have options that accommodate a wide range of taste preferences with varying levels of sweetness, so if you’re gungho, try a jug of the “Raw” version.
- Asana Foods – They have lots of unique paleo options from granola to almond butters and are known for their killer acai bowl. We bought a jar of their cardamom goji berry almond “buddah”. They ship, too, so we can order online here.
- Happy Pantry – Best sauerkraut around. Fermented foods like sauerkraut (something I used to hate until about a year ago!) are excellent for our digestive health, skin, and overall immunity. We loved the variety of combinations and ended up with a jar of the Power Krautage. Bill loved the kimchi as well. Definitely check out this place. The people who work there are super friendly, too.
- B*tchin’ Bars & Dips – I’m not one to swear on this site, but that’s the name of the company! Their paleo-friendly bars, and gluten and dairy-free dips are OUT OF THIS WORLD. They’re made with almonds instead of beans, so people who have trouble with beans might want to try out this as an alternative. My favorites were the Pesto and Bombay curry flavors, but they are all amazing! You can’t help but laugh as the guys taking your order tell you to “have a b*tchin’ day.” Here’s to not taking life too seriously 🙂
4661 Park Boulevard, San Diego; 619-269-9989; www.myplumeria.com
The Vibe: Described by Janna as her “favorite Thai restaurant in all of California,” we knew we had to check it out. On our last night in San Diego, we ventured to Hillcrest to check out this vegetarian restaurant. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy the food there though, so don’t let that stop you.
What We Ate
- Spearmint Tea, Spicy Ginger Tea
- Zen Soup
- Ginger, Tofu & Vegetable Stir Fry
- 5-Spice Duck Stir-Fry
You Have to Try…Zen Soup (one of the most delicious, flavor-packed dishes I’ve ever tried!)
Multiple Locations; Coronado Island, www.burgerlounge.com
The Vibe: Before we left for San Diego, we asked people about “must-see” places, and almost everyone suggested Coronado Island. We spent the morning at the beach and wandering around the island and worked up an appetite. When we saw the line in front of Burger Lounge and the signs for 100% grass-fed beef, we were sold. If only other fast casual chains would get on board with having higher integrity, quality ingredients that taste delicious like Burger Lounge. I’m hopeful it will happen the more we ask for it!
What We Ate
- Turkey Burger on a Fresh Vegetable Salad with Basil Dressing
- The Lounge Burger (100% Grass-fed Beef Burger)
You Have to Try…Turkey Burger with Basil Dressing (YUM!) The best turkey burger I’ve ever had. Period.
4S Commons Town Center, 10511 Commons Drive, San Diego, www.jimbos.com
The Vibe & The Eats: Okay, so it’s not technically a restaurant, but I’m a sucker for cool grocery stores. I went to this place about every other day during the trip for drinks, snacks, immune booster packs (the time change wasn’t loving me), and even toiletries I had forgotten to bring.
It’s always nice to have a trusted grocery store to go to when you’re staying in a new place.
And last but not least, here are a few honorable mentions worth checking out!
Seasons 52 (Focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients)
Puesto (Bill’s favorite taco place. Amazing guac and yummy tacos)
BarleyMash (Not exactly known for their healthy food, but their baby kale salad with lemon vinaigrette and chicken on top was deeeelish!)