Best of Old Town San Diego: Restaurant Guide
With a fabled past and restored spirit, Old Town San Diego is considered to be the birthplace of California. And while it is a cornerstone destination for tourists and out-of-town guests, the historic park remains a true San Diego icon — boasting a celebrated culture and authentic Mexican cuisine. From freshly hand made tortillas and an unlimited supply of fruity margaritas, to the sounds of the mariachi, here is a tour of some of Old Town’s finest restaurants and dining venues.
Cafe Coyote y Cantina
Boasting more than 100 Tequilas on tap, Cafe Coyote is in fact a certified “Tequila House” by the prestigious Academia del tequila (in Mexico City) and is one of only two in the entire U.S.; with an obvious endless list of margarita possibilities, the ever-popular ‘Gold’ or ‘Original Coyote’ Margaritas never disappoint. As an Old Town favorite for the past 20 years, Cafe Coyote has definitely made their mark with a festive combination of live mariachis, hand made tortillas and authentic menu selections; the Langostino Taco was recently added to the line-up, featuring corn tortillas stuffed with breaded and deep-fried langostino lobster, and were also featured on Food Network’s “Heat Seekers” for their mix of Naga Dragon Salsa. Weekly specials include Tequilla Thursday and Taco Tuesday.
What to order:
Queso Fundido - Grilled bell pepper strips, melted cheese casserole served with handmade flour tortillas and chorizo (Mexican sausage).
Huevos Estrada - Traditional cheese enchiladas made-to-order in a skillet and topped with two eggs over easy. Served with sour cream, refried beans, and homestyle potatoes.
Famous Old Town Carnitas Platter - Tender pieces of pork slow cooked in Mexico’s traditional style. Served with Mexican rice, refried beans, guacamole, salsa fresca, onions, cilantro, and lime.
Casa de Reyes Mexican Cuisine
Surrounded by a festive courtyard ambiance within the carrizo arbor, Casa de Reyes Old Town San Diego, pays homage to its vibrant past, restoring the marketplace venue that once thrived throughout the 1800s; coupling a vibrant living landscape of garden greens, unique shops, a nearby stage for live music and entertainment, as well as an outdoor dining terrace. With hand made flour tortillas and a host of specialty margaritas, Casa de Reyes is also widely known for their menu selections — offering a range of authentic Mexican cuisine; the enchiladas, shrimp ceviche and chocolate churros are highly recommended among diners. Literally settled in the heart of Old Town, it also makes a great destination to simply people watch, or just kick back during happy hour. Kids eat free on Mondays.
What to order:
Legendary House Margaritas - On the rocks or blended, these traditional-style margaritas feature premium Tequila, Orange liquor and house made sweet and sour; not to mention a host of fresh fruit flavors as well.
Chicken Fajitas - Marinated chicken (also comes in beef) with onion, peppers and tomato tossed on a hot grille and served with sour cream and guacamole. Includes rice and beans.
Fish or Shrimp Tacos - Sautéed mahi-mahi or shrimp on a soft corn tortilla with shredded green and red cabbage slaw, spicy cream, cotija cheese, cheddar and jack cheese, pico de gallo and avocado.
A local favorite with rave reviews, Casa Guadalajara in Old Town San Diego celebrates the spirit and flavors of Mexico with an all-encompassing dining experience; with traditional folk art and a bold color palate lining the walls, to the sounds of a live mariachi band and authentic cucina flavors, it is no surprise they received the California Restaurant Associations’s award for “Best Mexican Restaurant” in 2010. Located on the outskirts of Old Town, Casa Guadalajara’s top picks feature tamales, flautas and mole pablano; not to mention a top happy hour destination in the county (weeknights, 4-7 p.m.). A vegetarian menu is also available.
What to order:
Cadillac Margarita - Made with Sauza Hornitos, triple sec premium sweet & sour, and Grand Marnier on the side.
Seafood Chimichanga - A succulent combination of shrimp, lobster, and sea bass in a creamy jalapeño sauce wrapped in a crispy flour tortilla and topped with a mild jalapeño sauce.
Grilled Chicken and Mango Quesadillas - A very tasty blend of flavors fills a handmade flour tortilla. Served with jalapeño cream sauce.
The Cosmopolitan Restaurant
Restored to its former glory, the Cosmopolitan Restaurant Old Town San Diego, serves Mexican and America Grille favorites, along with a variety of seafood selections; the menu does change throughout the year, yielding to local availability and seasonal harvests. The dining room is complete in 1870s decor, however, the orchard patio provides an inspired alfresco ambiance — infused with a citrus grove, grape vines and fresh herbs. Sunday Brunch at 10 a.m. is a treat, as are the Award Winning Cinnamon Churros for dessert. Entertainment in the evenings is standard, as is the weeknight happy hour from 3-6 p.m.
What to order:
Traditional Old Town Taco + Burrito Plates - Choice of carne asada, pollo asada, fried cod, garlic shrimp, grilled salmon or sea bass.
Cosmo Fajitas - Served with tri-colored peppers, onions, tomato, and avocado. Choice of pollo asada, carne asada, or garlic shrimp.
Angus Flat Iron Steak - With 1855 Black Angus beef (known for excellent quality, fine marbling and exceptional flavor), this is served with baby potatoes, onion rings, asparagus, and chimichurri pesto.