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Discover San Diego's Best BBQ Spots

Find San Diego's Top BBQ

Mmm, ‘barbecue’. Thinking about the word sends your taste buds into smoky overdrive. And if we combine this perfect thought with the ideal city, we get the best vacation combination. 

Just imagine the vastness of San Diego, which has a warm climate and pleasant aroma from a culture of great seafood and barbecue. That’s how we want to imagine an excellent vacation. So, what if we discover the best and most iconic places for BBQ in San Diego? It’s easy: you don’t have to think about where to go, you don’t have to think about what you can order or cook. You already have a pre-prepared list of these places. What’s the next step? You just pack up and enjoy a nice vacation. 

So, if you’re already drooling over a BBQ, you’re in the right place. Let’s discover these hidden gems of San Diego, where you can taste what you dream of.

But read this article first.

A Tour of San Diego’s BBQ Landscape

As mentioned (you already know), San Diego is a warm city with endless beaches and a super relaxed atmosphere. In such a city, you only want to relax, not work. Right?

Locals love barbecue and grilling, which makes them different from many other cultures. San Diegans love these cooking processes; they’re a significantly developed part of their lives. It’s even divided into two little sub-spheres: Classic and Fusion.

Long-standing San Diego residents are committed to traditional and classic cuisine. Traditional BBQ cooking involves a limited amount of cultural fusion. But our young, hipster residents prefer Fusion, where you can combine several cultures into an unexpected dish. So, we know a few places for patrons of these two choices.

Traditional Smokehouses: A Taste of Classic BBQ

First, let’s deal with the classic many San Diego residents adore. It is the classic preparation that many people rave about for its satisfying aroma and juicy flavor. So, if you’re a devotee of classic barbecue cooking, we have a couple of locations for you perfectly filled with the taste of classic cooking: 

  • Phil’s BBQ offers classic BBQ with flavorful smoke. You’ll find many delicious food options here, but we have the best recommendation. Slow-smoked brisket will explode your emotions when you take a bite. It is a tender masterpiece that will not leave you indifferent. 
  • Coronado Meat Market & Smokehouse is our second recommendation for a BBQ place in San Diego. We chose this local favorite because it offers some seriously savory delights in the traditional style. Be sure to try their cooked pulled pork and homemade side dishes.

Fusion BBQ Restaurants: Where Cultures Collide

San Diego is a progressive city with a vibrant foodie scene. So, it’s no surprise that restaurateurs are experimenting with cultural influence. Thanks to them, Fusion BBQ, offering exciting combinations, has started to pop up. If you’re interested in checking out the scene, we have a couple of list-worthy suggestions: 

  • Pig From Pit. It’s the first San Diego BBQ place on our fusion list. Why? Pig From Pit offers an unusual combination of classic BBQ with a Korean twist. Granted, we’re not all fans of Korean cuisine, and it can be pretty eclectic, but when the dish has a barbecue, you feel a little calmer. Therefore, this place is a must-visit. And try some of their famous dishes!
  • BLQ Smokehouse. This incredible restaurant at San Diego BBQ has made a lot of noise among locals and visitors alike. The whole point is that it, too, offers an exciting fusion of Asian styles. In recent years, Asian cuisine has become increasingly widespread. So, the owners decided to combine classic barbecue and Asian cuisine. A slightly sweetish tinge can often characterize some Asian foods–this complements traditional barbecue cooking perfectly. So make sure to check it out! 

Believe us, this is just a fraction of the best BBQs in San Diego. The variety is vast, and you can find even weirder and more exciting combinations of classic BBQ cooking all over town. So, if you are a fan of tradition, then choose restaurants with traditional BBQ. But if you are ready to try something new and indulge your taste buds, you are welcome to check out some adventurous fusion-style restaurants.

Signature Dishes That Define San Diego BBQ

Even though San Diego is slowly moving towards mixing styles from other cultures, their local specialties remain. Of course, you can make these dishes anywhere: in another city, another country, etc. But it is the local enthusiasm that you can only experience by trying them in this unique city. So, if you’re just a tourist, memorize what you need to try at San Diego’s BBQ before you leave:

  • The Brisket Experiment. Brisket may be a barbecue staple, but the folks in San Diego have taken it to a new level. Now, you can enjoy perfectly cooked brisket tacos with incredible toppings. P.S. San Diego turns everything into a taco.
  • Smoked Seafood. Who says you can only barbecue meat? San Diego is a city near the ocean. That means there’s a lot of seafood. Some locals consider smoked seafood a religious calling. And who are we to say otherwise? You’re unlikely to find such a dish in New York City. Apples? Sure.
  • Vegetarian Delights. We’re not all meat eaters. That doesn’t mean San Diego’s best BBQ has nothing to offer! Try the portobello mushrooms cooked with the flavorful smoke from the smokehouse. Adding buns and a few sauces makes these authentic burgers a vegetarian’s dream. 
  • Craft Beer Pairings. Let’s also remember that barbecue pairs perfectly with a cold one. San Diego is the city that creates many tasty craft beers. If you walk into an establishment, you will most likely be offered a beer list to choose the perfect pairing for your barbecue. So, don’t deny yourself this pleasure and try a local beer.

Where the Locals Go for BBQ in San Diego

Local BBQ Favorites in San Diego

Want to experience San Diego BBQ like a true local? Look beyond the tourist traps and head to these hidden gems:

  • Bull’s Smokin’ BBQ. This Morena Blvd. favorite offers Carolina-style BBQ with a generous helping of local charm. Their dog-friendly patio makes it perfect for a casual weekend hangout.
  • Smokey and the Brisket. This one of the best San Diego places is already gaining a loyal following for its Texas-style BBQ. Locals love their melt-in-your-mouth brisket, and their weekend-only dino beef ribs are legendary.
  • Park 101. Nestled in Liberty Station, Park 101 offers a taste of Texas Hill Country BBQ. Their menu features classics like smoked brisket and pulled pork. It’s alongside unique options like Texas turkey and party fowl sandwiches. They’re a favorite lunch spot for office workers in the area.

Remember that San Diego is also a city that is filled with tourists. And that’s why we’ve saved you a few tips on how you can experience barbecue like a real San Diego resident:

  • Weekdays. We recommend avoiding weekends if you don’t want to waste your life standing in line. Weekends are filled with locals and tourists. Therefore, the queues at any establishment are unbelievable. If you want to avoid this, visit an establishment on a weekday. There will be absolutely no queue at all. 
  • Follow the Smoke. Just walking around the city, you are likely to smell this characteristic aroma of meat. So, if you’re hungry, trust your nose and come for the delicious aroma of meat. 
  • Happy Hours. Many establishments like to attract more and more visitors. That’s why they have promotions on certain days and times. It can be a special offer on specific dishes or some drinks. The beauty of such promotions is that you can try different dishes on red days while spending a little money.

Following these tips can help you taste the best BBQ in San Diego. So make sure you memorize them, and you can taste whatever you want like a true local in the city.

Planning Your BBQ Tour in San Diego

How can you create the perfect itinerary if you’ve never been to the city? That’s where we come in with our perfectly crafted itinerary, where you can sample all of the city’s specialties: 

  • Morning. Our first tip is to start your morning with a hearty breakfast at Phil’s BBQ. We’ve already written about this establishment above, and we know you’ll find something delicious there. 
  • Lunch. You will probably come in to cool off after exploring the city and strolling under the blazing sun. At BBQ Smokehouse, you can find cooling beers and Asian-inspired smoked meats. Afterward, explore the nearby museums of Balboa Park. Or take a stroll through the beautiful gardens.
  • Evening. End your barbecue adventure with a visit to a local brewery. As mentioned, many establishments offer equally delicious beers to accompany the juicy and flavorful barbecue. So, if you feel tired after your walk, savor a nice beer to pair with your smoked meats.

With some planning, you’ll find the best San Diego BBQ. And, if you haven’t been to San Diego yet or have been but haven’t dove into their BBQ culture, you’re missing out on a lot. We recommend you visit this city again, take your family and friends, and fire up your taste buds with the mouthwatering world of San Diego BBQ.

Daniel Kaser
Daniel Kaser

Co-Founder of SDBBQ®

Daniel hails from Carlsbad, California. With strong family values and a passion for perfection, Daniel ensures top-quality grill cleaning and maintenance services, delivering exceptional results and clear communication to every client.