Since I live in San Diego, travelers often ask me for my recommendations for paleo restaurants in and around the city.
I have to be quite honest: there really aren’t many dedicated paleo establishments (though there’s one that’s pretty close to it) but if you know what to ask for here, it’s easy to eat paleo/ paleo-ish / gluten-free if you know what to ask.
There are obviously different levels of non-negotiable when it comes to intolerances, allergies and the like so knowing what you can compromise on can open up more menu options.
I’ve found that servers are keen on making substitutions, especially with requests like swapping a bun for a lettuce wrap. Many restaurants have gluten-free items marked on the menu, too.
Bear in mind these are my recommendations for places we like and go to often, but this isn’t an exhaustive list because new restaurants are opening here all the time. Also, we don’t stress about cooking oils, for example, when we go out to eat so don’t expect that these restaurants are only using healthy cooking oils, grass-fed or free-range meats, etc.
- Locations: Downtown, Little Italy & South Park
- Our fave: Black iced coffee
- Locals tip: They don’t have much for dairy-free options but it’s a fun, central place for people to meet up.
- Locations: Tierrasanta
- Our fave: Cold-brew coffee
- Locals tip: They have a great customer loyalty program and they do gluten-free treats.
- Location: Downtown
- Our fave: Pour over
- Locals tip: Pretty hipster and fun, but bring a coat if it’s cold…the door is always often and this warehouse-style space can be chilly inside.
- Locations: Normal Heights and Golden Hill
- Our fave: Cold-brew coffee
- Locals tip: Take home some of the coffee they roast themselves.
- Locations: Hillcrest and Del Mar
- Our faves: The corned beef hash or the gluten-free pancakes for a splurge.
- Locals tip: Get there before 8 am to beat the line.
- Location: University Heights
- Our faves: House Smoked Grass-Fed Beef Brisket Hash and House Smoked Pork Belly with Eggs.
- Locals tip: Grab a spot at the counter for faster seating.
- Locations: Downtown, North Park, and Mission Beach
- Our faves: Mission Rosemary with gluten-free rosemary toast or Mission French Toast with gluten-free cinnamon bread for a splurge.
- Locals tip: Easiest to find parking on one of the side streets around the North Park location.
Lunch / Casual Dinner
- Locations: Kearny Mesa and Encinitas
- Our faves: This is probably the easiest place to eat really healthy and almost everything can be done gluten-free, dairy-free, etc. Try the Cali breakfast wrap on a coconut wrap.
- Locals tip: The Kearny location is in a business park which seems odd so just follow the directions.
- Locations: Downtown and University Heights
- Our faves: For breakfast get the Farmer’s Board; for lunch, the gluten-free mixed fries make a killer appetizer.
- Locals tip: Downtown can get super busy so we like U Heights for a more relaxed atmosphere. Sit outside under the canopy.
- Locations: Downtown, Point Loma, Mission Valley & UTC
- Our faves: Tuna Nicoise and Backyard Steak
- Locals tip: Easy to come here with a bigger crowd for a quick bite
- Locations: Fashion Valley Mall
- Our faves: Bison Burger on a lettuce wrap and Spaghetti Squash Casserole, add chicken
- Locals tip: Super busy on weekends so if you’re in a rush, come during the week
- Location: Harbor Island
- Our faves: A big-ass steak. Any kind.
- Locals tip: You’ve got to make reservations. Ask if you can be seated by a window so you can see the harbor view.
- Location: Little Italy
- Our faves: Fanny Bay Oysters and, if you’re willing to do a little gluten, the Carne Cruda Asada Toast
- Locals tip: Go with a group of 4+ and get small plates to share so you can try a little of everything
- Location: Normal Heights
- Our faves: Mustang Bar & Bandito
- Local pick-up & delivery available