About 10 years ago I lived in San Diego for two years pursuing one of my post graduate degrees. Recently, I had the chance to go back to San Diego for a conference and G came out with me so that we could see how much the city has changed and check out some old haunts. The city itself has changed significantly. When I lived there the Gaslamp District, downtown, was just two short streets with some restaurants and clubs. But, now with the new convention center and Petco Park, downtown is hopping with new residential developments and many more eateries. Luckily we were able to hit some classics favorites and discover some new places as well!
One thing that stands out to me about food in Southern California is the quality of the fast food. Two of our favorites are Rubio’s Mexican Grill and In-n-Out Burger. Even though they are chains and food is out quickly, the food is freshly prepared using high quality ingredients. Rubio’s is a Mexican food chain with Baja classics such as fish tacos. The fish tacos are my favorite and I must get them anytime I am at Rubio’s! The white fish is beer-battered and served with shredded cabbage in a tortilla (definitely corn!) and a tangy white sauce. The fish is fried only after ordering so it is always crispy and hot! Each location has a salsa bar with a variety of salsas. Even though it is a fast, relatively cheap meal it is fresh and tasty!
In-n-Out Burger is another Southern California fast food chain that we must visit when we are in the area. In-n-Out is bare bones and just serves burgers, fries, and milkshakes which allows them to focus on the quality of the ingredients. They use 100% pure beef without any fillers or additives from cattle which are specially selected. They also use real potatoes for the fries and premium ice cream for their milkshakes. I do realize that this is still fast food and not a gourmet burger but at the same time you can taste the difference. These burgers are delicious, fast, and cheap!
We did discover another delicious quick burger during this trip at the Burger Lounge. While it is not the fast food chain that Rubio’s and In-n-Out Burger are, there are three locations in the San Diego area. We happened to find it when walking on Coronado. They offer grass fed beef from one particular farm in Kansas. They are also a Certified Green restaurant which follows specific guidelines for recycling, composting, water and energy conservation. It is a sleek modern style place with steel fixtures and wooden benches. It is a counter service type eatery where you place your order at the counter and they bring your food to your table. The burgers are delicious, juicy, and prepared to order! They also offer a homemade vegetarian burger and several salads. It is not necessarily fast food but it is fast, casual dining. Really a great option to be able to eat out and still maintain your ethical and environmental goals! There is a demand for these types of places in California which allows them to thrive. Now if only we can generate some of this interest on the east coast!