The best food to try when you’re a student in San Diego


One of the fun parts of studying at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) is trying the delicious local cuisine. Food here is heavily influenced by the city’s proximity to Mexico. Cali-Baja cuisine is a mix of fresh Californian and Mexico’s Baja Med ingredients, and fresh seafood is often on the menu. Here are a few of the local specialties you can try, cook, or share with friends while you’re a student in the city.

Fish Tacos

The humble taco is a San Diego staple, and you won’t have to even leave campus to find one thanks to Taco Villa. But the signature local taco to seek out is the fish taco. Typically, they’re lightly battered and fried fresh fish (usually cod or mahi-mahi) served in a corn tortilla with cabbage, pico de gallo, and a creamy sauce.

You can have a go at making your own fish taco for a student meal with friends, or head out on a taco crawl. There are plenty of taco shops and street stands across the city. Not a fan of fish? There’s the adobada taco, carne asada, al pastor, and plenty of veggie taco options too.

California Burritos

Another popular San Diego dish is the carb-heavy California burrito. It’s a dish unique to San Diego and originated in the city in the 80s, although the origin is disputed. The California burrito may have started life in a local restaurant called Santana or from a Roberto’s Taco Shop.

A classic California burrito is a soft flour tortilla stuffed with fries, carne asada, cheese, and guacamole. If you need a burrito that leaves no room for anything else, or you want to split one with a friend, this is the local dish to try.

Gaslamp’s Ice Cream

The Gaslamp District, and in particular Convoy Street, is the place for a San Diego ice cream. The most famous ice cream parlor is Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop, part of the Ghirardelli chocolate company, founded in San Francisco in 1852, and is a delight of delicious chocolate treats and dessert.

Head to SomiSomi for a special Korean ice cream dessert in a fish-shaped waffle cone known as Ah-Boong. Another unusual ice cream worth trying in the Gaslamp district is Iceskimo’s Taiwanese shaved snow desserts.

Acai Bowls

For a healthy snack, acai bowls are the perfect go-to food in San Diego, especially by the beach. The Brazil acai berry is the super fruit at the heart of every bowl, and it has become a popular power breakfast in the US since it was first popularized on the beaches of San Diego.

A typical acai bowl has acai berries blended with fruit and served with granola, coconut, and other toppings. A popular acai bowl spot for students is Northside Shack, where you can create your own or go for one of their own blends.