$10 or Less in the Gaslamp
The best part of urban living is the ability to sample tasty food from around the world without getting in your car. The Gaslamp Quarter has countless tourist-driven restaurants where you can drop $20 to $50 on a decent meal. But where do the local downtowners go for authentic eats for $10 or less?
Pho Xpress (Vietnamese)
1125 Sixth Avenue, 619-531-9333
Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is a noodle soup that originated in Vietnam 130 years ago. Though a relatively new dish in the States, it’s become quite the phenomenon lately. San Diego is one of the top pho cities in the nation, with nearly 40 restaurants specializing, and it seems like a new one opens every month. Pho Xpress is the real deal. You can taste it in the broth, which owner John Phan cooks up during an intense seven-hour procedure (the broth must simmer for hours to optimize flavor). Pho Xpress is very popular for lunch, but it can make for a quick dinner bite before a show at the House of Blues or Symphony Hall.
Mint Downtown Thai
732 Fourth Avenue, mintsdthai.com
Though Mint’s located squarely in the tourist district on Fourth Avenue, 60 percent of its customers are locals. With lunch prices at $7 and dinner at $9, it’s no surprise the place has developed repeat business from downtown dwellers. The Duangploys are lifetime restaurateurs who closed their restaurant in Bangkok 20 years ago to move to the United States. They have opened four eateries in San Diego, with Mint the newest, serving up Thai staples such as drunken noodles, Pad Thai, fried rice and curry dishes.
624 E Street, barebackgrill.com
Bareback has been around for a few years, both downtown and in Pacific Beach, but its “Lunch Bucket” deal has never received the praise it deserves. Start with a delicious, organic Queenstown Fave burger with red onion, garlic aioli, tomato chutney and Edam cheese, then pair it with fries and a draft beer (we won’t tell your boss you had a beer at lunch), all for $11. At first glance, Bareback may appear to be a normal American sports bar with a couple of New Zealand flags on the wall. There’s more to it. The organic burgers are juicy and flavorful, but it’s the toppings that make them New Zealand – style. Beet root, fried eggs, grilled pineapple and cucumber relish are just some of the crazy fixin’s you’ll find here.