Our 3rd annual Guide to the Best Restaurants & Bars by San Diego Comic-Con International, incorporating even more foodie goodness within just a hop and skip (and mere blocks away) from the Convention Center & the #SDCC action to satisfy all those cravings…
SO love Comic Con, but hate waiting in enormous lines and spending wayyyy too much money on mediocre food inside the Convention Center? Of course you do: We do too.
SO here’s a little treat that may be right up your alley: Leave the convention center, and go explore, without having to stray too far from the geek-o-sphere or having to move your car out of that nice and expensive premium parking spot you paid good money for: Our favorite spots are literally a hop and a skip away from Twlight wonderland!
Quick Service + Casual Dining
Quick, Easy, Great Places to kick up your tired feet, put down your heavy goodie bags and masks and reeeelaxxxx.
BASIC urban kitchen & bar (By Petco Park: Approx 5 blks Southeast from Convention Center)
410 10th Ave.
Website & Full Menu || TheMixster.com Review
Open: Mon-Sat 10:30am-2am; Sun 11:30am-2am
- Pizza, Full Bar, Late night menu, Pool Tables, Happy Hour 4-7pm, Live DJs nightly
The best place to hang out between panels hands down. BASIC’s relaxing, cool, urban atmosphere makes it the perfectly comfortable and lovable neighborhood hang. Stick around for a bit to enjoy their thin crust brick oven pizzas, where you can pick and choose your favorite toppings: Ranging from the “basic” to anything but. Definitely a must-visit spot in San Diego… FULL REVIEW.
-Get the BASIC salad. It’s AWESOME
- White Pie with Clams is the house specialty.
- STRONG drinks, great prices.
Neighborhood (3 blocks East of Gaslamp, Approx 8 blks from Convention Center)
777 G St.
Website & Full Menu | TheMixster.com Review
Open: Everyday 12pm-Midnight
- Extensive Craft & local Beer Selection, Vegetarian fare, Gastropub style food, Salads, Food to Share, Pet Friendly Patio
I hadn’t included Neighborhood in years’ past in this guide – simply because it’s one of those places you feel inclined to keep as a secret. It’s really that special. Neighborhood is a well-designed and welcoming space, offering a perfect fusion of tastes for hipster foodies, business people, and come-as-you-are-folks alike. With an every-changing range of beers on tap, not to mention the overwhelming number of beers by the bottle, it is no wonder that beer conessoiurs from all walks of life call Neighborhood their casual cool commonplace. Neighborhood’s fare is just as noteworthy – offering an eclectic and organic gastro-pub selection of elevated & made-to-share bar food & comfort gourmet entrees that help to soak up the endless plethora of craft beer on draft & bottled suds.
The Jalapeño Mac & Cheese is so spicy and incredibly addictive.
Neighborhood’s next-level veggie burger: a Black Bean Burger patty served on a pillowy-soft ciabatta roll with crispy leeks, smoked paprika portobello, swiss cheese, cumin mayo, and pickled yellow chili. It pretty much changes the game.
The Corner (By Petco Park: Approx 5 blks Southeast from Convention Center)
369 10th Avenue
Website + Full Menu || TheMixster.com Review
Open: Mon-Sun 11:30am-2am
- Gourmet Burgers, Full Bar, Happy Hour Specials, Neighborhood Bar Vibe, Live DJs on weekends
Head upstairs and gather your party in any of the comfortably furnished nooks and crannies of The Corner’s open space — that oozes East Village“chill”. Their gourmet burger selection offers a wide range of options, including a veggie friendly “Hippie Burger” with all the yummy fixings, such as caramelized onions. All burgers are served with Sweet potato or regular skinny fries, along with their addictive Wasabi Aioli. Their happy hour is from 4pm-6pm with specials on food and drinks varying daily; call ahead or check the chalkboard out front for details… FULL REVIEW
-Great after Con spot for a more “out of the scene” friendly nightlife/bar experience.
- Board games keep the young, and the slightly older & buzzed ones, equally entertained.
Gaijin Noodle + Sake House (One block West of the Gaslamp, 5 blocks from Convention Center)
627 4th Ave.
Website & Full Menu
Special Hours During Comic-Con 2012! Tues-Thurs: 11am-1am, Fri & Sat. 11am-3am, Sun: 11am-1am
- Ramen, Yakitori, Sake Snow Cones, Late Night Happy hour, Lunch specials, Free Sake Shots
Without a doubt of the best new additions to San Diego’s Downtown, Gaijin Noodle & Sake House simply does everything RIGHT. The visual aesthetic of the decor was thoughtfully done: creating an atmosphere that’s comfortably chic, but lacking any over-the-top typical Gaslamp cheeze & unnecessary foofy-ness. It allows for their selective offering of appetizers & very simply four noodle dishes be the stars of the show. And that they most certainly are. Personally, I can’t even write this without fantasizing about their dreamy Spicy Miso Chasu Hakata Ramen - lovely strands of Hakata Ramen & Honshemeji mushrooms swim in an incredibly rich broth with a total-palette-storming array of luscious flavors and a perfect touch of spice. Stick around for a while and every half-hour or so, you will be treated to a complimentary shot of house sake as part of their restaurant-wide toast at the hit of the gong.
- Sake-infused SNOW CONES. You heard me right. They even hand-shave the ice to order.
-Not into Noodles? Gaijin also serves up a very meaty selection of fresh seared Yakitori selections such as Brandy Beef Skirt Steak and absolutely MIND-BLOWINGLY good Nueske Bacon-Wrapped Jumbo Asparagus a la carte.
- #SDCC COMIC-CON LUNCH SPECIALS & special hours! Tues-Thurs: 11am-1am, Fri & Sat. 11am-3am, Sun: 11am-1am
Website + Full Menu || TheMixster.com Review
Open: Daily 11am-1am
- Late Night Sushi Dining, Lunch Specials, Happy hour (Food & Drink Specials 4-7pm Everyday), Pet-Friendly Outdoor Seating
The Dragon’s Den, a relatively new establishment fixated in the heart of East Village across from Petco Park, has quickly become the hip new haunt for locals. Catering to all patrons across the board, The Dragon’s Den features an extensive menu, with small bites, a fresh selection of well-stocked items from the sushi bar & specialty rolls, family-sized portions, and a full bar served in either the more nightlife-savvy, plasma-TV plastered lounge/bar area, pet-friendly outdoor heated patio, or in the family dining room. Happy hour is served weekdays everyday 4pm-7pm, allowing patrons “ballin on a budget” to sip stiff well cocktails or to nibble on finely-crafted sushi combinations or Salt & Pepper Calamari and indulge in sinful cocktail concoctions around the bar, while DJs spin deep house/lounge set the social vibe.
-Don’t miss the Spicy Scallop handroll. Soooooo deeee vineeee.
- Feeling muy espicy? Ask for the Pork-Stuffed Jalapeños – The Den’s über secret about them because they’re unbelievably uhhhmazing.
Burger Lounge (On 5th/In the Gaslamp, Approx 4 blocks from Convention Center)
528 5th Avenue
Website & Full Menu
Open: M-Th: 10:30am to 11:00pm; Fri & Sat: 10:30am to 3:00am; Sunday: 10:30am to 10:00pm
- Open Late, Local craft beer selections, Pet-Friendly outside seating, the most amazing veggie burger in the history of ever.
Burger Lounge. The menu is small, featuring only 4 different types of burgers, a handful of salads, and a selection of either French Fries or Onion Rings as a side. But everything is AMAZING. Serving only Grass-fed beef, Free range turkey, and Organic cheese, they certainly make up for their small selection with incredibly quality ingredients and intensely fresh flavor. Their Quinoa Veggie Burger – is personally the best veggie burger I have ever had. The immensely addictive Quinoa based patty is cooked perfectly crispy on the outside, topped with a choice of either Yellow or White cheddar, grilled or sliced onions, lettuce, tomato, house-made Thousand island, and served on a fresh baked bun. Paired with always cheery and friendly service, Burger Lounge is indeed a spot worth supporting, and perhaps even obsessing over endlessly.
-The Downtown location just got their beer license, so indulge in a pint of one of the local beers on draft!
-Their kitchen is open til 3am on weekends
-Their location right-smack in the middle of the Gaslamp & their Pet-friendly front patio is PERFECT for Comic-Con people watching.
SMASHBURGER (On Market Street: Approx 5 blocks Southwest from Convention Center)
801 Market Street, San Diego
Website + Full Menu|| TheMixster.com Review
Open: 10am-10pm Daily
Breakfast sandwiches, Huge Menu, Healthy Options, Kid-friendly, Pet-friendly Outdoor Seating.
What isn’t there to love about Smashburger? Choose from either their 1/2 or 1/3 lb. 100% Angus Beef patties or a Smashchicken sandwich and go wild with their extensive menu featuring all kinds of everything-you’d-want-between-a-bun delights and delish add-ons! A healthy selection of salads also help make choosing healthy options a breeze! Sides like the Smashfries – tossed in rosemary, olive oil and garlic – or the Haystack Onions or the Fried Pickles with buttermilk ranch dressing, make great accompaniments to any Smash-selection. And their Downtown location is the only one to serve breakfast so rev up in the morning and get your day smashing!
- The Baja Smashburger or Smashchicken pack some hot hot heat and come with guacamole. Win.
- Häagen-Dazs Milkshakes are top notch indulgences.
- Their morning coffee from Cafe Virtuoso is absolutely smashing.
More of our favorite Bars & Restaurants after the jump!!!
Chocolat Cremerie & Bistro (In Gaslamp: Approx 4 blks East from Convention Center)
509 5th Avenue
Website & Full Menu
Open: Sun -Thurs: 9 am- 12am; Fri & Sat: 9am – 1am
-Espresso, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Crepes, Gelato, Wine, Beer, Outdoor Seating
Chocolat bistro and cremerie, nestled in the heart of the Gaslamp and merely a minor skip away from the Convention center, is the essence of Italian cool chic — without the price tag. Although this is a great spot to kick back and socialize, the service is great and the food comes out extremely quick. Extensive and wide ranging menus, including a HUGE selection of salads, flatbreads, pastas, and more, are satisfying with ingredients including gourmet cheeses, cured meats, and fresh produce… FULL REVIEW
- A Selection of over 35 house-made gelatos
-Flatbreads are tasty and easy to share.
Proper Gastro Pub/Wine Steals (INSIDE Petco Park: Approx 4 blks South of Convention Center)
795 J Street
Website & Full Menu || TheMixster.com Review
Open: Daily 11am – 2am
-Rooftop bar/dining, lunch, happy hour (4-7pm/7days a week), $4 You-Call-Its Friday nights 7PM-close, dinner, Full Bar, Wine Bar,
This yummy Gastro-pub and its adjoined neighborhood wine bar are extra awesome because you are able to intertwine the best of each in either restaurant. Our advice? Hit the rooftop bar, with a birds eye view inside Petco Park and the Ballpark itself. It’s the perfect place to catch a few of those famed San Diego sunshine rays and take in a gorgeous view with easy access to the bar and the entire menu from BOTH restaurants, including the killer happy hour… FULL REVIEW
- Pizzas from adjoining Wine Steals are AMAZING; as is the selection of wines at neighborhood friendly prices.
- Happy Hour offers nearly all the appetizers at half-price, and great discounts on well drinks & draft beers at the bar.
For those looking for the memorable and impressive upscale dining experience right in the heart of all the action.
Nobu: Hard Rock Hotel San Diego (Gaslamp: 1 Blk East of Convention Center Center)
207 5th Ave
Full Menu & Website
–Serving Lunch & Dinner, Private Room Available, Late night menu, Full Bar, Sushi Bar, Place to be Seen, Upscale Traditional Japanese Cuisine
If you’re looking for a meal that will undoubtedly leave an impression on your guests, Nobu is the only upscale locale that is guaranteed to impress any table, that has a bit of extra coin to drop. Sure the restaurant is expensive; but with world class cuisine, the world’s most elite sushi chefs, fish flown in whole daily to be masterfully prepared in house or even served still live to adventurous patrons, and their unmatched, impeccable service, it is money well spent for a genuinely, memorable experience.
- Open for Lunch & Dinner
- It’s tradition at ALL Nobu restaurants to start with the Yellowtail Jalapeño. It’s delicious, worth every penny, and it would be rude not to.
- King Crab Tempura w/ Amazu Ponzu is to die for.
- ALL Desserts are made in house daily — ask your server to create a custom dessert platter to get the best the house has to offer.
- Every Server is a Serious Foodie — Let them Prepare the menu for you, they never fail to impress*.
*Skip the “World Famous” “Black Cod w/ Miso in Lettuce Cups”. Black Cod isn’t caught locally (therefore not freshest available offering) and it’s a horrible and unpleasant-tasting dish. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.
Searsucker (Gaslamp: 6 blks East of Convention Center)
611 5th Ave
Open: Daily 5:30pm-12am; Sunday Brunch 11am-2pm
- Celebrity Chef, Full Bar, Seafood, Corporate Dinner, close to ALL nightlife, “New American Classic Cuisine”
With its culinary lead by famed local chef and former Top Chef competitor Brian Malarkey alongside San Diego’s nightlife pioneer, James Brennan, Searsucker is in the hands of SD’s most prominent and renowned leaders for delivering top-of-the-market quality and premiere customer service. Stay true to the San Diego lifestyle and indulge in one of the assumed many fresh seafood delicacies, prepared by Malarkey himself, who’s famed expertise lies in his impeccably crafted and unique culinary presentations, using only the freshest and finest local offerings available.
- MAKE RESERVATIONS
- The Swordfish with dried cherries and almonds is Malarkey’s specialty dish. If in doubt, this dish is an absolute winner every time.
- Duck, Duck, Kale – if the name alone doesn’t convince you, there’s something wrong with you.
BICE (Gaslamp: 4 blks East of Convention Center)
425 Island Avenue
Website & Full Menu
Open: 5PM Daily
-Upscale Italian Cuisine, Extensive Wine List, Full Bar, Perfect Pastas, Cheese & Salumi Bar*, Happy Hour (5pm-7pm) Elegant yet Social Atmosphere.
Everything at BICE Ristorante is absolutely-to-die-for. Fresh Pastas tossed in beautiful & expertly prepared sauces. Bowls filled with gorgeously tender Calamari rings that have been spared from the typical breaded and fried doom and instead have been lusciously bathed in fragrant broths and paired with fresh and crunchy bread. A special bar designated exclusively for Formaggi e Salumi (Cheese & Cured Meats) with an array of tempting and smoldering gourmet cheeses and so very delicately-sliced charcuterie makes me weak in the knees just at the very thought.
To top with a wine selection that cannot be surpassed, and served at the most perfect temperature, BICE is the Gaslamp’s gem of exquisite Italian Cuisine.
- Happy Hour is from 5pm-7pm daily with an extensive menu of tempting $5 offerings. Mussels in a white wine, garlic and parsley broth are consistent winners.
- Special Wine and Cheese flight offered exclusively at the Formaggi e Salumi bar . (Also, 5pm-7pm daily)
- GET THE HOMEMADE BUFALA MOZZARELLA — it’s made fresh daily, and it is stunning.
Red Pearl Kitchen
440 J Street Suite 108
Website & Full Menu
Open: Daily 4pm – 2am
Gluten-Free Options, Family-Style Eating, Reservations Accepted, Full Bar, Late-Night Menu, Downtown Nightlife Atmosphere, Pan-Asian Cuisine
For a “nightlife-esque” atmosphere, a sexy red glow, cute waitresses bouncing around, and upbeat, loud music to kick start the long night ahead of you off right, Red Pearl Kitchen is the life of the party. Once things get busy, the kitchen gets flustered easily; order ahead of time with your waitress to ensure the night goes smoothly. The Hot Pots are deliciously bursting with bright flavors and these tantalizing concoctions, served over fluffy clusters of Jasmine rice, are perfect to split between two friends. The Shittake-Vegetable Spring Rolls are the best way to begin the meal, and are all-around crowd pleasers. The chef usually has a daily menu of gluten-free selections prepared upon request, so call ahead to avoid disappointment.
- The Jade Mistress cocktail, made with Chili-infused Vodka and Thai Basil Lemon Sugar, is not for the faint of heart, but it remains a house-specialty as it’s beloved by those can take the heat.
-Happy Hour is 4pm-7pm with $5 appetizers & $4 Draft Beer