Nicknamed America’s Finest City, San Diego is known for many things, like its beautiful weather and stunning beaches. You might not think of barbecue, but you’d be wrong! People work hard and play hard here, so when it comes to food, they look for the best. This includes the best barbecue.
When I’m in San Diego, I love to spend time at all the attractions on Mission Bay. While I’m there, I have to stop by Coaster Saloon for some of the best barbecue in San Diego! While barbecue may not be native to southern California, that’s what makes it so great. This thriving metropolis offers up some of the highest quality barbecue in every style from every region.
Inspired by the variety you can find in San Diego, I’ve put together a list of my favorite places to get barbecue in this great city.
1127 Morena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110
First on my list of the best barbecue in San Diego is Bull’s Smokin’ BBQ. Located on the corner of Morena Boulevard and Buenos Avenue, this stop serves up Carolina-style barbecue. Enter through swinging saloon doors to find wooden tables and wrought-iron chairs. Gracing the walls are horseshoes, cowboy hats, and pictures of John Wayne.
The decor continues out onto the back patio, where you can enjoy a quiet, laid-back meal. I love their pulled pork sandwich, coleslaw, and hush puppies. They also have a great selection of draft beer. Plus, they’re dog-friendly! Bring Fido and they might get a free bone.
2625 Lemon Grove Ave, Lemon Grove, CA 91945
Located in Lemon Grove, you can find Coop’s just south of Cypress Avenue on Lemon Grove Avenue. Just look for the yellow awning! At this hidden gem, you can order some of the finest West Texas barbecue in San Diego. And if you love Coop’s as much as I do, they also cater!
You’ll often see staff smoking meat in the parking lot and this place stays busy. But the staff is friendly and the line moves fast. You can order meat by half-pound. There are also sides, sandwiches, combos, and desserts. I recommend my favorite, a plate of rib tips, potato salad, and coleslaw. Don’t forget the sweet tea!
Phil’s BBQ could be the closest thing to California-style barbecue. Owner Phil Pace has been doing barbecue mesquite-grilled for the residents of San Diego since 1988. You can find them at many convenient locations in the metropolitan area.
Get the tri-tip with a side of their crispy onion rings. Plus, feel good that you’re supporting a good cause when you visit Phil’s. The company has donated over a million dollars to charities across the US. Phil also started a non-profit rescue facility and rehabilitation center for horses called the Resque Ranch.
1520 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109
Check out the Iron Pig in Pacific Beach on Garnet Avenue. Here you’ll find some of the best Texas-style barbecue in San Diego! Inside, enjoy spacious cafeteria-style seating and plenty of stools at the bar. There are lots of outdoor dining spaces if you want to bring the pups to this dog-friendly establishment!
Enjoy craft beer and thick slabs of brisket. For something fun and filling, I recommend the brisket burrito! If you come for happy hour, there are special deals on draft beer and $5 food items. The Iron Pig Alehouse is open for lunch on the weekends or dinner during the week.
Hazard Center, 7510 Hazard Center Dr #215, San Diego, CA 92108
This popular California chain can be found in the Hazard Center Shopping Mall on Hazard Center Drive in Mission Valley. A casual spot, come enjoy a relaxing meal with family or friends. Enjoy a modern take on western interior design that feels high-quality.
I recommend the beef ribs with a side of sweet potato fries and grilled asparagus. Wood Ranch does grill well, and their sweet and spicy barbeque sauce is excellent on everything.
4255 Market St, San Diego, CA 92102
Visit Bowlegged BBQ on the corner of Toyne Street and Market Street in Mount Hope. Here, you’ll find the best East Texas-style barbecue in San Diego. Outside, there are usually racks and ribs in the smoker. Inside, the R&B-themed dining room is bejeweled with framed pictures and memorabilia.
Come here for genuine barbecue soul food. Enjoy the outdoor seating area and you’ll feel like you’re at a backyard barbecue! Order the hot links and ribs with collard greens and dirty rice for a magical time. And save room for an East Texas tradition of German chocolate cake!
5025 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107
BBQ House is a bustling restaurant on Newport Avenue, a few blocks from Ocean Beach Pier. Their open-air style storefront stays busy, especially during happy hour every day from 4 to 6 PM! The staff is friendly and kids are welcome. On nights when the NFL is playing, they have a special menu selection.
This bar and grill offers beer, wine, and cocktails. Their draft beers are always good, and they serve up a nice fusion of California and barbecue. Try their smoked wings or pulled pork sandwich. If you have a dog, order something for them off the Pup Menu!
8910 Troy St, Spring Valley, CA 91977
Head to Spring Valley where you can get some of the best barbecue in San Diego at Cali Comfort BBQ. They’re located on Troy Street near the Goodlands Acre Park. Cali Comfort does what they call California-style barbecue, and they also make excellent margaritas!
The Walchef family had a passion for slow-smoked barbecue using California aromatic woods like hickory and mesquite. For the best Cali Comfort Experience, order their family meal, The Tailgater BBQ Feast. It comes with 6 different types of barbecue smoked meats, 3 sides, and jalapeno cornbread.
The Walchefs’ vision and passion for the modern restaurant business led them to create the Cali BBQ Media Company. They’re streamlined ordering barbecue online in southern California and offer this service for Cali Comfort. You can also listen to their business podcast through their website.
8622 Lake Murray Blvd, San Diego, CA 92119
One of my top picks for barbecue in San Diego is Pioneer BBQ in Lake Murray. Check them out on Lake Murray Boulevard near San Carlos Drive. Their bold corrugated steel storefront will catch your eye! Inside, the striking interior design is made up of a mix of country and colonial design for a beautiful and refreshing take on the styles.
Enjoy a quality setting while you relax over a drink and good Texas barbecue. Try their signature Pioneer cocktail with Maker’s Mark, cognac, maple syrup, and applewood smoke! I ordered their brisket, which is juicy and tender and doesn’t need any sauce to make it delicious (a sign of top-notch barbecue).
15505 Olde Hwy 80, El Cajon, CA 92021
Head to northern San Diego for casual Central Texas-style barbecue in El Cajon. Find the Grand Ole BBQ Flinn Springs on Olde Highway 80. They recently expanded into a larger venue with a spacious outdoor area. Check their website to find out about regular live music events at Grand Ole BBQ.
Sit indoors where you can enjoy rustic wood-paneling and a long bar. You can also head out back to sit under string lights, enjoy fire pits and take in rolling hill views. Grand Ole BBQ was on Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives for their signature El Borracho-style meat.
For a fun experience, order the pulled pork in this style. Your plate will come smothered in queso, Fritos, and salsa!
744 Ventura Pl, San Diego, CA 92109
Check out Coaster Saloon just steps away from Mission Beach and Belmont Park. They do slow-smoked Texas-style barbecue on Ventura Place. You can spend the day exploring everything Mission Bay has to offer and then grab a frozen glass pint of beer at Coaster Saloon.
They have plenty of relaxing, airy indoor and outdoor seating with views of the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster. Play some foosball or yard games on the patio or watch a game on the flatscreens inside. At a place like this, I recommend embracing a California take on Texas barbecue. Start with the fried green peppers and order the brisket-loaded nachos.
6904 Miramar Rd #211, San Diego, CA 92121
Abbey’s Real Texas BBQ can be found in the Miramar Village Shopping Center on Miramar Road. Here you’ll find some of the best barbecue in San Diego in an unassuming storefront. Inside, find wooden tables covered in red and white checkered tablecloths.
Owners Matt and Athena Shlemon fell in love with Texas barbecue in the 80s. They then went to Texas to learn all about it. Coming back to their home in San Diego, they opened up a genuine Texas-style barbecue restaurant as their family legacy.
I can attest to the authenticity! You order meat by the half-pound and up. I recommend trying the fried okra, burnt ends, and BBQ pinto beans for the real deal.
Check out Manna BBQ for a great Korean barbecue in San Diego. There are a handful of locations in the metropolitan area, with more planned to open. Come here for the increasingly popular table-grilled Korean-style barbecue. You’ll have a blast, having creative control over your meal with friends and family.
Choose from 2 All-You-Can-Eat menus with a variety of meat, seafood, and vegetarian options. The staff is attentive and knowledgeable, ready to help with whatever you need.
4020 Bonita Rd, Bonita, CA 91902
Lil Alex BBQ is on the corner of Bonita Road and Old Orchard Lane in Chula Vista. This is a casual neighborhood place where you can enjoy great mesquite wood barbecue. Enjoy a friendly, easy-going staff with a laid-back attitude.
Choose from indoor or outdoor seating. Besides a la carte meats, you can order salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, desserts, sides, and alcohol. I loved both the beef and pork ribs, and recommend pairing it with the grilled corn on the cob.
600 W Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
Find Kansas City Barbecue in the heart of downtown, surrounded by some of the city’s biggest attractions. This is the place to get top-notch Kansas City-style barbecue in San Diego. Find them on the corner of W Harbor Drive and Kettner Boulevard.
Inside, you’ll love the friendly, casual feel of red booths, checkered tablecloths, and nostalgic memorabilia all over the walls. KC BBQ’s claim to fame is being a film location in the classic movie, “Top Gun.”
You’ll know it when you walk in, between pictures from Top Gun all over, and a staff that loves to talk about the filming! You must order a Kansas City classic of dry-rubbed brisket, their tomato-based barbecue sauce, and coleslaw.
2820 Historic Decatur Rd, San Diego, CA 92106
Find The Pig’s Gig on Historic Decatur Road in Liberty Station, just minutes from the San Diego Airport. Partners Chef Eric Gallerstein and Jacob Bartlett are San Diego barbecue veterans. They previously established the highly successful Mastiff Sausage Company. They went on to start the Pig’s Gig with a passion for southern barbecue with a California twist.
Order at the counter and eat at the industrial-style cafeteria dining hall or outside at picnic tables. You’ll find jars of pickled onions and jalapenos marinating on the counter. If you like fusion, you’ll love this San Diego takes on southern classics. I recommend a plate of bourbon-baked beans, smoked cauliflower, and braised chicken thighs.
1201 1st St #5, Coronado, CA 92118
Visit Lil Piggy’s Bar-B-Q on North Island in the Coronado Ferry Center. They do low-and-slow hickory-smoked Memphis-style barbecue in San Diego. You can order inside and enjoy breathtaking views of downtown San Diego while you sit on spacious covered patios.
There are also places to eat at public tables on walkways around the Coronado Ferry Landing Park. There’s a fantastic beer selection in the coolers inside. Choose from a large range of smoked and barbecued meats and sides, sandwiches, and more.
I loved the pulled pork sliders on toasted buns, as well as the coleslaw and bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers.