For many, surfing is as much about spending time with friends as it is about riding waves. There’s a rich history of rituals surrounding surfing, one of which is post-surfing eats. Surfing is a physically demanding sport, so it’s not surprising many surfers emerge from the water hungry. Iconic surf cafes exist in nearly every beach town, ready to feed the needs of salty surfers straight from the beach. Here’s our list of must visit surf cafes, restaurants and bars in San Diego that won’t mind a bit of sand on your feet.
704 Garnet Ave. San Diego, CA 92109
An iconic breakfast spot right on the Pacific Beach boardwalk, near the entrance to Crystal Pier. Kono’s has been around since 1991, and has probably had a line out the door the entire time. It’s a beloved neighborhood favorite serving classic American breakfast food sea-side until the early afternoon.
4657 Mission Blvd. San Diego, CA 92109
A Pacific Beach establishment since 1989, Taco surf is a kitschy taco shop serving classic San Diego Mexican food. Known for their rolled tacos and California burritos, Taco Surf also doubles as a mini museum with many different styles of surfboards covering the ceiling. Eat here and you can say you’ve “Bean to Taco Surf”.
Lahaina Beach House
710 Oliver Ct, San Diego, CA 92109
Lahaina Beach House is so established, they don’t even have a website. Located right on the sand in Pacific Beach, this place is nearly all patio and is fantastic for eating, drinking and people watching. Lahaina’s is probably more often thought of as a beach bar, but they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu is small, but the food is solid. If you’re under 21, take note that they do card at the door starting in the late afternoon.
Wavehouse Beach Club at Belmont Park
3125 Ocean Front Walk, San Diego, CA 92109
Belmont Park is a must see in San Diego. Built in 1925 for the World’s Fair, Belmont Park includes a sea-side wooden roller coaster and many shops and attractions. It’s like a mini-theme park at the beach. Adding to the excitement, Wavehouse arrived in 2001. Wavehouse is home to the only man-made standing barrel wave machine in the United States. Enjoy hammocks, cabanas, lifeguard chairs and umbrellas, along with food and drinks as you kick back in the sand. Watch people take on the wave machine, or jump in yourself for a fee.
5010 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107
Hodads has multiple locations, but the location in Ocean Beach is the original. Known for giant burgers, a love of VW vans and the surfing lifestyle, Hodad’s burgers are an Ocean Beach institution dating back to 1969 and have been in their current OB location since 1991. If you’re lucky, you can even grab the booth that’s housed inside the front of a half a VW van affixed to the wall. Hodads can get crowded at times, but the food and atmosphere are definitely worth it.
South Beach Bar and Grill
5059 Newport Ave San Diego, CA 92107
Since 1992 South Beach Bar and Grill has been serving up some of the best fish tacos in San Diego. And that’s a bold statement, given how many locations are known for fish tacos in San Diego. Also on the menu are chicken and beef tacos, shellfish, burgers and salads. South Beach is a great location to watch a sunset, but if you’re under 21, make sure to get there before 6pm when they start checking IDs at the door.
600 Palm Ave, Imperial Beach, CA 91932
Big Kahuna’s serves up authentic, filling Hawaiian meals. Their first restaurant opened on Oahu, Hawaii in 1992 and their first Mainland location was established in Pacific Beach in 2001. Now they’re located in Imperial Beach, serving South County surfers Hawaiian Style BBQ, piles of sticky rice and their famous Big Kahuna’s Cheezy Stix.
Kous Kous Moroccan Bistro
3940 4th Ave. San Diego, CA 92103
This is a San Diego Surf School favorite so we had to get it in here even if it's a short trip away from the beach! Started by Chef Moumen Nouri, this gem in the Hillcrest neighborhood serves some of the best Moroccan food available worldwide paired with some unique cocktails and craft brews. After a long surf session, surfers need to replace those calories and Moroccan food is certainly up to the task. Try the Chicken or Berber Lamb Tagine - you can think us later!
135 N Hwy 101, Solana Beach, CA 92075
Pizza Port not only serves up delicious California style pizzas, they’re also a brewery that’s so popular, they’re up to five locations and their beers can be found throughout San Diego. Don’t let the brewery title fool you, Pizza Port is a great family friendly destination with all the makings of a good Pizza Parlor. Picnic table communal seating, self serve soda (they even brew their own root beer), TVs and coin op video games to keep everyone in the family entertained. The Solana Beach location of Pizza Port is the original location where the legacy began.
2050 S Coast Hwy 101, Cardiff, CA 92007
Bull Taco isn’t one of the older establishments in San Diego, but the view from their Cardiff location can’t be beat. Tucked away on the grounds of the San Elijo state camp ground, a non-descript window turns out amazing street tacos, burritos and more. Authentic and laid back, Bull Taco is a great spot to enjoy a cliff side ocean view with some delicious Mexican food.
121 Liverpool Dr. Cardiff, CA 92007
Pipe’s café has been the post dawn patrol breakfast spot for North County surfers since 1995. Breakfast is served all day, in addition to their lunch menu. Portions are huge and you can dine among the multi colored tiki’s on their patio. Their moto is no shirt, no shoes, no problem. Enough said.
VG’s Donut and Bakery
106 Aberdeen Dr, Cardiff, CA 92007
Family owned and in the same location since 1969, VG’s is a true San Diego gem. A fully functioning bakery offering cakes, cupcakes and cookies, VG’s is best known for their hand made donuts. Made fresh two times a day, it’s not uncommon to see a line out the bakery door. Once you sink your teeth into a fresh maple bar, old fashioned or their signature buttermilk blueberry bar donut, you’ll realize the wait was more than worth it.
2939 Carlsbad Blvd. Carlsbad, CA 92008
Las Olas has been serving Authentic Mexican food in San Diego since 1981. The original location is in Cardiff, but if you find yourself in Carlsbad, they have a second location that’s a great place for a post-surf bite. Many of Las Olas employees have been with the company for over 20 years and will be happy to tell stories of San Diego beach days past.
608 Mission Ave. Oceanside, CA 92056
Another San Diego original that became so popular, they had to add multiple locations to accommodate demand. With fresh juices and a healthy menu complete with many vegetarian options, Swami’s café embodies the California lifestyle.
1 Oceanside Pier, Oceanside, CA
Ruby’s Diner is not a San Diego original. The first location was opened in Newport Beach and while Ruby’s is now a restaurant group with over 27 locations, one of those locations is on the end of the Oceanside pier. A classic retro-diner complete with burgers and milkshakes, you can transport yourself to the Surfin Safari days of the 50’s and 60’s and enjoy a meal atop the ocean.
Ocean Friendly Restaurants
The Surfrider Foundation of San Diego County works with local restaurants to reduce the amount of disposable plastic used in dining and takeout. They publish a list of restaurants in San Diego that have greatly reduced their impact on the oceans. If you enjoy your time in water, and want to help protect the Southern California coastline, you can help by patronizing the establishments on the Ocean Friendly List. https://sandiego.surfrider.org/ofr-participating-restaurants