How exciting is it to move to a new town and go exploring? The first things we encourage ourselves to do is hunt for something familiar or go bold and discover something new – especially when it comes to food. Instead of checking Yelp reviews, why not rely on experience from a local like me? Having grown up here when this area was just rolling hills and vacant lots, I’ve scoped out a few foodie hotspots in the Southbay, where San Diego keeps a suburban dream in its back pocket. This hidden gem is my home, Otay Ranch.
It’s tough to have a definitive list like this without explaining why, so each restaurant listed here has been categorized accordingly. Whether you are a young couple enjoying your first apartment together or a family that prefers something kid-friendly, there’s a restaurant here for you. Here are my top 5 picks for dinner tonight:
Best Date Night Experience at Savoie Eatery
Their website proclaims themselves as the “best food in town – where the French and Italian Rivieras meet.” If you don’t believe me, read their reviews. It is conveniently located in the Otay Ranch Towne Center across from the AMC Theaters. Dinner and a movie? Winner, winner chicken dinner! The decor is quite whimsical and you start feeling a bit like Alice lost in Wonderland or maybe like Sleeping Beauty in Disneyland. Beware, if you don’t have a reservation, then be prepared to wait a half hour or more. They are plugged right into Open Table, so make plans ahead of time or give them a call at 619-591-5757.
2015 Birch Road, Ste. 720 , Chula Vista CA 91915 (Image found on Savoie website)
Best Family Friendly Experience at Pho Hiep Grill
Let’s get this straight – I’m referring to the Eastlake location. It is conveniently located in the Eastlake Villagewalk shopping center where you will also find Trader Joe’s and Sprouts. Just beyond, there is a spectacular coy and turtle pond where your little ones can pay a quarter for fish pellets. Some forewarning – the pellets look like Cheerios so supervision is recommended. Besides the location, their customer service goes a long way towards making you feel welcome. Where else can you find an owner walking from table to table greeting his guests? After chatting with him a bit, he will tell you that the decor is all handcrafted in Vietnam. He takes great pride in his heritage and the quality of his food. This particular location can cater to large families with your choice of dining inside or on the outdoor patio. Pricing for appetizers and meals are in the low range and what you’d likely pay for fast-food not a sit-down place. Score one for family-friendly and two for budget friendly as well!
872 Eastlake Parkway Suite 310 , Chula Vista CA 91914 (Image found at Pho Hiep Grill website)
Best Happy Hour at Romesco’s
It was voted Reader’s Choice Best Restaurant of 2014 by Modern Luxury Riviera San Diego magazine and if this mouthwatering ad for Happy Hour doesn’t get to you, then convince yourself to enjoy one of the most unique happy hour experiences in San Diego. Not only is there live music – and when I mention live music it could be a classically trained violinist, a live band, or a DJ – but there is also a secret bar for those wanting to feel like they’re in a speakeasy.
4346 Bonita Road , Bonita CA 919102 (Image found on Romesco website)
Best Takeout Experience at In-N-Out
How familiar are you with their secret menu? Next time you wait in line at the drive-thru, order the 4 by 4 protein style with fries-well topped animal style. Since it’s early beginnings, this fast food chain took no shortcuts and stuck to using fresh ingredients – inevitably staying ahead of competition by catering to millennials who expect “Quality you can taste.” We are lucky to have one of the only In-N-Outs in the Southbay and yes, lines are usually out the door at lunch and dinner!
1725 Eastlake Parkway, Chula Vista CA 91915 (Image found at In-N-Out wallpaper downloads)
Best Place for Late Night Munchies at Lolitas Taco Shop
Who else is stoked that they are opening another location? Show of hands please. When it comes to satiating the late night munchie monster, most restaurants open late tend to be of the Mexican flavor. However, when it comes to great Mexican food, Lolitas Taco Shop wins by a landslide. This restaurant is home to tsunami burritos (shrimp and carne asada) and freebies like fresh green onions, spicy carrots and salsa verde. In order to avoid the rush, it is best to call in your order ahead of time.
601-1A East Palomar Street , Chula Vista 91911 (Image found at Lolitas Taco Shop website)
A blog about food does a hungry writer make! If you fly in for a visit or decide to take a job and relocate to San Diego, be sure to stop by Otay Ranch and discover what else can be found in this hidden gem.