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San Diego Neighborhood Guide: College Area

Spreading from SDSU to El Cerrito and Rolando, the enclave has global dining, third-wave coffee, meditation, and more to explore


College Grove Center | Photo by Hailey Hofer

College Area This Month

Timbiriche, October 4, Viejas Arena

Interpol, October 5, CalCoast Credit Union Open Air Theatre

Garden Kitchen

This Rolando restaurant sources ingredients from local purveyors, including Catalina Offshore and Wild Willow Farm. That’s yielded ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms, grass-fed lamb with pesto, and dragon fruit cake. All tables are set up on their charming patio. 



Sang Dao

Thai and Laotian food is the focus at this homespun strip-mall eatery, loved for its curries, herbaceous larb, and sticky rice served in a bamboo container.



The latest outpost of the burger chain has landed on SDSU’s campus with bison burgers, mac ’n’ cheese balls, rare whiskeys, and more, plus a huge patio with fire pits. 



Photo courtesy of SDSU

Aztec Recreation Center

You can get a day or monthly pass to San Diego State University’s sports complex, which includes tennis courts, swimming pools, rock climbing walls, racquetball courts, and fitness classes spanning boot camps to meditation.


Photo by Jam Joseph & Josiah Terronez

Scrimshaw Coffee

Hip, bright, and filled with young professionals, locals, and students, this café serves coffee and espresso made with beans from San Diego’s Coffee & Tea Collective and Tulsa’s Cirque Coffee Roasters, as well as “not coffee” drinks like hot chocolate. They’re just as popular for their bagel sandwiches, like the Basic B with cream cheese, goat cheese, avocado, and chili flakes. 



Photo by Hailey Hofer

Fish Pit

Everything about this place screams “secret foodie joint”—from the well-worn exterior that resembles a boat to the indulgent Pit Nachos made of crispy wontons, diced tuna, and chipotle cream. They’re all about sustainability, using eco-friendly packaging and working with local line-catching fishermen. 



Photo by Hailey Hofer


It doesn’t get more authentic Lebanese than this cozy spot on El Cajon Boulevard, known just as much for its warm, welcoming service as it is for za’atar-dusted bread, oven-baked falafel, and spiced ground beef. Don’t miss their creamy aaysh essaraya dessert, made with rose water and pistachio.

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