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15 of the Best San Diego Food & Drinks to Try This January

Each month, the SDM staff eats their way through the city—here are all of our favorite sips and bites
Healthy food dishes from San Diego restaurant Our Green Affair in Pacific Beach
Courtesy of Our Green Affair

By Emily Heft, Mateo Hoke, Troy Johnson, Samantha Lacy, Cole Novak, and Amelia Rodriguez

After a few months of hot toddy–fueled debauchery, most folks crave a reset come January. But new year virtuousness looks different for all. Some take a break from booze; others partake only in plants. Plenty of us merely try to squeeze in more greens between our breakfast burritos and midnight fry runs. To help undergird your 2024 intentions, here are 15 of our favorite better-for-you bites and sips in San Diego.

Best food and drink to try in San Diego including the Glow Latte from Holy Matcha in Little Italy and North Park

Holy Matcha

Glow Latte

Enterprising ice cream shops did wonders for what was once a mere breakfast residual when they invented cereal milk–flavored shakes. North Park and East Village’s Holy Matcha delivers an accidental, inflammation-busting take on the concept with their Glow latte, a blend of matcha, powdered pearl, tocopherol (an antioxidant), ashwagandha (an allegedly anxiety-soothing herb), rose, and your pick of plant milk. It tastes (pleasantly) like raisin bran remnants and is intended to impart skin with a disco-ball radiance. –AR

Best food and drink to try in San Diego including the otago citrus salad from Kairoa Brewing Company in University Heights

Kairoa Brewing Company

Otago Citrus Salad

Alongside the expected chicken wings and drippy burgers at University Heights’ Kairoa are a wealth of surprisingly legit vegan and veggie-forward options. The citrus salad is a vibrant, seductive orchard on spring mix: blueberries, candied orange peel, charred (!) grapes, kumquat-passion-fruit dressing. Plus crunchy pancetta and creamy goat cheese, because a salad without LA (lavish accessories) is just SAD. –AR

Best food and drink to try in San Diego including Coffee Dark Chocolate from Nibble Chocolate with  coffee from Dark Horse

Nibble Chocolate

Coffee Dark Chocolate

Local cocoa outpost Nibble was founded to combat the heedless scarfing typically associated with candy bars. If Hershey makes the Natty Light of chocolate, Nibble’s ultra-rich, single-origin bars are the fancy scotch—a little goes a long way. They’re all good, but I’m partial to the kind threaded through with ground coffee from SD roaster Dark Horse. –AR

Best food and drink to try in San Diego including the veggie sandwich from Prager Bros. Artisan Bread in Hillcrest

Prager Bros. Artisan Bread

Veggie Sandwich

Like pairing your mom’s old vintage fringe with your Lululemon crop top, the classic ’70s veggie sandwich feels fresh again at Prager Bros. Swap out the cream cheese for flavorful chickpea mash, sub a sad whole wheat loaf for toothsome sourdough miche, and add apples and pickled daikon for crunch over watery alfalfa. The good old days are now. –SL

Best food and drink to try in San Diego including Carrotfish Tacos from plant based restaurant The Plot in Oceanside

The Plot

Carrotfish Tacos

Nixing mahi mahi for a dang carrot may sound like vegan half-assery, but Oceanside’s plant-based pioneers nail the SD classic with neat tricks. A local, hyper-fresh carrot is blanched in kelp broth (giving it a tiny bit of sea flavor, plus umami from the glutamates in kelp), fried in tempura-light English-style batter, tucked in a tortilla slathered in egg-less yum yum sauce, and topped with hot sauce made of kale stems sautéed into submission. –TJ

Best food and drink to try in San Diego including the leftover sandwich from Ultreya Coffee + Tea in Rolando

Ultreya Coffee + Tea

The Leftover

We know, we know. “A Thanksgiving sandwich? With no turkey? What, are you nuts?” We are not nuts. (We think.) Even our most carnivorous editors can’t stop thinking about this vegan sandwich from Ultreya. Poultry or no poultry, this ’wich is a winner. In between the toasted sourdough sits a slice of “cheddar,” plant-based cream cheese with leftover-inspired seasonings, crispy hash browns, cranberry jam, crunchy onions and jalapeños, housemade smoked tempeh, and a little arugula. –EH

Best food and drink to try in San Diego including the I Got Ube alcohol-free mocktail from Books & Records in Banker's Hill

Books & Records

I Got Ube

Bankers Hill’s Books & Records is exactly the kind of sexy, jazz-soaked establishment I avoid during my annual Dry January sabbatical for fear of fatal FOMO pangs… because what craft cocktail program worth its rimming salt gives a whoop about mocktails? Well, this one. The bar’s zero-proof ube-mint-lemon spritzer tastes like a refreshing version of an ube baked good and looks just as pretty as your friend’s negroni. –AR

Best food and drink to try in San Diego including the Chicken Bowl from restaurant Medina in North Park


Chicken Bowl

Medina is a breath of fresh air for El Cajon Boulevard, a destination packed with gastropubs, fast food chains, and greasy joints that tempt me on Friday nights. The Michelin-recognized eatery offers flavorful entrées like their chicken bowl, featuring spiced chicken asado, caramelized onions, and tzatziki on a bed of beans and couscous, topped with a colorful assortment of roasted corn, pickled onions, and arugula. Finally, a healthy antidote for my North Park drunchies. –CN

Magic Overnight Oats from Rising Tide
Courtesy of Rising Tide

Rising Tide

Magic Overnight Oats

Still looking for that elusive harmony between healthy and quick when hunger hits early? SD-based Rising Tide’s overnight oats might be your new best breakfast. Lion’s mane, cordyceps, chaga, and turkey tail mushrooms, plus plenty of protein and no added sugar, mean that with just a little planning the night before, your day can begin better. –MH

Best food and drink to try in San Diego including the alcohol-free mocktail the Angry Gardener from A.r Valentien in Torrey Pines

A.R. Valentien

Angry Gardener

Cocktails are meant to be sipped, but too many mocktails go down like a glass of juice. The Angry Gardener at A.R. Valentien inside the Lodge at Torrey Pines, though, has the it factor all good drinks have, regardless of alcohol content. With DHŌS Gin Free and Orange “spirits,” lime, and raspberry purée, it’s sour enough to slow you down while maintaining crucial balance. No alcohol, no problem. –MH

Hummus Where The Heart is Bowl from restaurant Our Green Affair in Pacific Beach

Our Green Affair

Hummus Where The Heart Is Bowl

Kale, quinoa, hummus, and veggies are what I think I want to eat all the time—until I remember that deep frying and breakfast carbs exist. But with pleasingly pink beet hummus and creamy cilantro-tahini dressing, this bowl from Our Green Affair in PB (with another location in Hillcrest) reminds me that plant-based options can also put a green-flecked smile on my waffle-loving face. –MH

Best food and drink to try in San Diego including the Chagaccino with oat milk from Ironsmith Coffee in Encinitas

Ironsmith Coffee

Chagaccino With Oat Milk

Chaga is a fungus said to promote immunity, fight free radicals, and lower blood sugar and cholesterol. You’d never guess you’re getting all that goodness from this lavish treat. Powdered chaga is blended with rich oat milk and Ironsmith’s coffee for an intense concoction that tastes like fully melted affogato. It puts the “mm” in “mushroom.” –SL

Crispy Forbidden Rice from The Yasai by RakiRaki in Little Italy and the Convoy District

The Yasai By RakiRaki

Crispy Forbidden Rice

“I’d go vegan, but I could never give up sushi,” is a common refrain in omnivore circles—so RakiRaki executive chef Junya Watanabe took up the gauntlet. His fully vegan sushi house The Yasai (with locations in Convoy and Little Italy) leans into Japanese fermentation techniques to impart plants with familiar seafood flavors: shrimp, crab, even scallop. Veganuary participants can get their raw fish fix with spicy “tuna,” snappy jalapeño slices, and microgreens over bite-sized slabs of crispy rice. –AR

The Obecian smoothie from The Cliffs Cafe in Ocean Beach

The Cliffs Cafe


Peninsula-dwelling hermits who never leave OB, this smoothie is for you: strawberry, mango, banana, and pineapple juice, refreshing and not overpowered with OJ like so many cafe purées. The Cliffs Cafe is simply a gem—the kind of family-run joint where they remember the name and order of every regular who can’t be bothered to make it east of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. Not fast, but that’s the charm. Everything here is worth waiting for, especially this. –MH

A San Diego glass of tap water

Your House

Tepid Glass of Water

Our friend who loves yoga said putting ice in it messes with your insides. So guzzle it warm like human breath. You can try the filtered kind as long as you remember to refill the pitcher, because, if you don’t, your spouse is moving out. They’ve had enough. Unofficial science here (not to be adhered to even though you know it in your heart to be right): Drink it out of a rusty garden hose like they did in the ’70s. Those kids are still alive… and they own homes. –TJ

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