And now for something completely different.
In the spirit of Americana and the fusion of Memorial Day along with the SoCal/NorCal super regionals, I have decided to do something a little fun this week.
Initially I was prompted by a horrible review of burger joints in San Diego this past week, so I thought I’d give a quick review of what I consider the best burgers in town.
I am an authority.
My list covers just about every possible demographic, so I’m sure that you’ll be able to find one of these that you’ll like whether you’re single, married, with kids, or looking for a bar style environment….
When you come to San Diego, you’re going to want get the best burger in town after a hot day at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, not to mention more bang for your buck than paying $8 for a bottle of water…
#10 – Hodad’s – 5010 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107 (619) 224-4623
I put it first on the list (or rather at the end), because it’s kind of the default of a lot of people that come into town that want a good, local, timeless burger.
Postitives – Great vibe, great beach scene, family friendly, beers on tap
Negatives – Crowded, usually a line, hippies. Lots of hippies.
#9 – The Sandbar – 718 Ventura Place, Mission Beach, CA 92109 (858) 488-1274 (21+)
This is probably the best boardwalk burger in Mission Beach. The crowd is college age, and you must be 21 to get in. This is not a family friendly location, but the bar food, and the 30+ TV flat screens to watch any and all possible sports are there for you to choose from. If you like the college scene, this is the place for you. If you like bikinis with American flags on them, this is the place for you. If you like quiet, this is not the place for you…. Oh, and there’s a roof top too!
#8 – Soda and Swine – 2943 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116 (619) 269-7632
This little gem tucked away in the hip Abbot-Kinney-esque neighborhood of University Heights is a different approach on the burger. They have meatball sliders and pulled pork sliders that rival any gastropub stylized burger. The atmosphere is family friendly with alcohol options which is connected to Polite Provisions next door via a back hallway. Seating is picnic table style and the roof is retractable for those glorious sunny San Diego days. Be sure to get the pulled pork nachos as an appetizer, they’re unreal.
Do you have screaming brats? This is the place…. But before you make a decision see #2.
#7 – The Monkey Paw – 805 16th St, San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 358-9901 (21+)
For the hipster. This place is a delight. The burgers are delectable and the gastropub food is on fleek. Try the waffle cut fries, but remember to get cheese and pulled pork dripped and oozed all over them. This is a bar, so kids aren’t welcome, but your pocket book is. They have easily over 50 beers on tap by bottle and by local or international brewers. If you like a frothy cold one, this is the place for you. If you’re under 4’ tall, it’s not. Moments away from downtown, parking is surprisingly easy to find on the street, and Petco Park is only a 10 min walk if you’re 6’ tall.
#6 – Hamilton’s 805 – 1521 30th St, San Diego, CA 92102 (619) 238-5460 (21+)
Owned by the same people as The Monkey Paw, Hamilton’s again nails it on the head with over 50 locally brewed beers on tap as well as some international labels. The décor is great and the burgers are unbelievable. If you like a little heat, be sure to get the Witchfyre Burger. It’s my favorite. You can also find a 20’ shuffle board, and play a round of pool. Sorry kiddies, this one isn’t for you……. Choose your own adventure and skip to #2.
#5 – Carnitas Snack Shack – 2632 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104 (619) 294-7675
Family friendly, this outdoor gastropub is the perfect environment for a large family or all your Crossfit friends to spread out and sit in the sun or the shade. The food is awesome, and the pork burgers are the best. Make sure everyone gets at least one of everything on the list so everyone can taste test. The Pork Belly App is to die for, and the Triple Threat Pork burger is unreal. And the corn-slaw is freaking unbelievable.
Family friendly, but the wait can be a bit. There’s usually a line about 20-30ft on average at the walk up window. But well worth the wait.
#4 – Jeffery’s Burgers – 2152 Avenida De La Playa, San Diego, CA 92037 (858) 454-8038
If your kids are dying to get into the water regardless of temperature just because, hey, it’s San Diego…. Jeff’s is the perfect place for you. The burgers are simple and strictly American in style. Reminiscent of Coney Island, the mustard is French’s, and the fries are crinkle cut. You can’t go wrong. This place is always busy, but the line moves fast, and orders are up quick. Massive plus: when you’re kids are done being wet and covered with sand, Jeff’s doesn’t mind. There’s people with no shoes, no shirts, and getting plenty of service. Sand is welcome too. A huge plus for families. Minor drawback: not much seating. Get the food to go, and walk to La Jolla Shores about three blocks away… It’s a win-win.
#3 – Tioli’s Crazee Burger – 4201 30th St, San Diego, CA 92110 (619) 282-6044 (North Park Location)
Or you can go to their Old Town Location at: 2410 Congress St San Diego, CA 92110
A family friendly pub, this restaurant has it all…. Bison, Kangaroo, Elk, Antelope, Crocodile, the list goes on…. With easily over 25 brews on tap or wines by the bottle, this place is great for the parents as well as the kids. Seating is limited at the North Park location, so if you have kids, you might wanna try Old Town… Run by a bunch of cranky Krauts, this place is great for a good juicy burger and fries.
#2 – Station Tavern and Grill – 2204 Fern St, San Diego, CA 92104 (619) 255-0657
Are you a yuppie? How about a hipster with too many children? Do you have a sling that holds your child up front? Do you breastfeed in public as a statement of your liberation? Station is the place for you. Tons of outdoor seating, your entitled stroller space should find a happy home here along with tons of micro brews available and a kid’s place to play on a large wooden cut out of a vintage trolley. So while mom and dad are getting hammered and trying to remember the days before kids, their little progeny are off playing in the pea gravel. The menu is small, but there’s no need for a big one. The food is on point, the tater tot portions are HUGE, as well as the fries. Get the chipotle mayo as a dipping sauce, you won’t be disappointed. Try their paprika spread as well. This is my go to on a Friday night. For a smaller crowd, go after 8pm.
#1 – Balboa Tavern and Grill (Formerly The Tin Can) 1863 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101 (21+)
It was really hard picking the #1 spot or even trying to put these restaurants in order. If you have friends in town and need a good burger, and you’re more into the Rockabilly scene. This burger is for you. The burgers come on rectangular buns and have kind of a ‘Hobo’ or ‘Poor Boy’ feel. The meat is juicy and the toppings are fresh. This is the kinda place you’ll find live music on a weekend night, and the crowd is more 30 something-esque with a few old salty folk mixed in. The drinks are stiff, and the burgers are good. If you want a true experience and only 15 minute walking distance to the Gaslamp Quarter, go here, and hit the other ones on your way out of town.
Well, there you have it, my top 10 burgers in San Diego. This isn’t your highbrow cultured kinda list. This is the tried and true list. These burgers have stood the test of time, and restaurant closures. Most of these listed have been open for 10 years or more, so they’re neighborhood staples. If you go to George’s at the Cove for a burger I will hunt you down, I will find you, and I will kill you.
And on a lighter note, I hope to see you at regionals!