San Diego airport food: everything you need to know (plus a little more)

San Diego airport food: everything you need to know (plus a little more)

Flying out of San Diego soon and wondering what the food situation is like? Well, I’ve got good news and bad news for you: San Diego Airport food is both good and bad – and it all depends on what terminal your flight is departing from or arriving to.

Long story short, the best food options are located in Terminal 2. The main reason for this is that Terminal 1 is much smaller and space is far more limited. Naturally, there aren’t as many options to get a quick bite to eat before (or after) a flight and you’re very likely not going to be satisfied with the current options. At least I never am.

Food options in Terminal 2

Terminal 2 at San Diego international airport (SAN) consists of two main concourses: Terminal 2 East and Terminal 2 West. This is the largest of the two terminals, where a majority of the flights depart from. It’s also most definitely the place you want to be if you crave something other than the usual US-style fast food / chain restaurant options.

Terminal 2 West food court San Diego Airport
The Terminal 2 West food court. Come hungry, leave satisfied (and much poorer).

It’s also important to note that, while most of the restaurants in Terminal 2 are located behind the security checkpoint, there are a few options located in the public areas before going through security. Here’s a list of all the food options located in Terminal 2 at the San Diego airport:

Pre-security food options:

Name Location Terminal
Einstein Bros. Bagels Adjacent to Delta check in area T2 West
Ryan Bros. Coffee Baggage claim T2 West
Starbucks Adjacent to Alaska check in area T2 East

Post-security food options:

Name Location Terminal
Artisan Market Gate 23 T2 East
Ballast Point Bar Gate 27 T2 East
Beaudevin Wine & Tapas Bar Gate 42 T2 West
Bubbles Seafood and Wine Bar Main Food Court T2 West
California Pizza Kitchen Gate 26 T2 East
Camden Food Co. Gate 47 T2 West
Dunkin Express Gate 31 T2 West
Elegant Desserts Gate 38 T2 West
Jack in the Box Gate 26 T2 East
Panda Express 26 T2 East
Pannikin Coffee & Tea Gate 38 T2 West
Peet’s Coffee & Tea Gate 26 T2 East
Peet’s Coffee & Tea Main Food Court T2 West
PGA TOUR Grill Gate 36 T2 West
Phil’s B.B.Q. Gate 46 T2 West
Prado at the Airport Gate 26 T2 East
Qdoba Mexican Grill Main Food Court T2 West
Red Mango Main Food Court T2 West
Saffron Thai Main Food Court T2 West
Starbucks Gate 37 T2 West
Stone Brewing Gate 36 T2 West
Tommy V’s Pizzeria Main Food Court T2 West

Note that it is indeed possible to walk freely between the West and East terminals at the San Diego airport. That means (as a Terminal 2 passenger) you’ll have full access to all of the restaurants listed above. Terminal 1 is completely separate with it’s own security checkpoints.

Food options in Terminal 1

Just like Terminal 2, Terminal 1 is split up into two separate (but connected) concourses. Southwest Airlines occupies a majority of gates here, including all of Terminal 1 East and a portion of Terminal 1 West.

Terminal 1 San Diego Airport food
Good news: there are more restaurants located pre-security in Terminal 1 than there are in Terminal 2. Bad news: there are far fewer options overall.

It should be noted that both of these concourses are very small and cramped – so much so that I cannot help to refer to the circular shape of each as “the circles of death”. Yup. It’s really that bad. If you’re curious to see how bad it really is, check out all the gory details in my Frontier Airlines A320neo review from SAN to AUS.

Pre-security food options:

Name Location Terminal
Ciao Gourmet Market Adjacent to Southwest check in area T1 East
Emerald Express Between East and West terminals T1 (both)
Jack in the Box Between East and West terminals T1 (both)
Pacifica Breeze Café Between East and West terminals T1 (both)
Ryan Bros. Coffee Ticketing area T1 (both)
Starbucks Ticketing area T1 (both)

Post-security food options:

Name Location Terminal
Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant Gate 7 T1 East
Ciao Gourmet Market Gate 1 T1 East
Ciao Gourmet Market Gate 4 T1 East
Craft Brews on 30th St. Gate 1 T1 East
Einstein Bros. Bagels Gate 3 T1 East
Peet’s Coffee & Tea Gate 11 T1 West
The Counter: Custom Built Burgers Gate 4 T1 East
Urban Crave Street Food Gate 11 T1 West

Important things to know about the food options in terminal 1 (both concourses): 

Since the concourses themselves are small, there are very few options for food once you get inside of each. If grabbing a meal from a coffee shop or a sit down style restaurant is not your thing, make sure you grab something to eat before passing through the security checkpoint and going into the concourse.

If that’s your choice, know that there are a handful of restaurants located pre-security which should satisfy most people. Most of it is fast food though. Your only other option will be light snacks from coffee shops or gift shops.

My recommendation: avoid the food in Terminal 1 altogether unless you’re absolutely dying of hunger (and you have no idea when your next meal is going to be). There simply aren’t very many good options in T1 in my opinion, so it’s in your best interest to eat a good meal before arriving at the airport.

San Diego Airport food FAQ’s

I’ve been flying in and out of San Diego International Airport for over 20 years now, and I’d like to think that I’ve got a pretty good sense of what the food is like. It’s changed a lot over the years, most of it for the better, and the good news is that there’s generally something for everyone. Even the picky eaters.

Anyway here are answers to some of the most common questions I get about San Diego airport food:

Is there a food court in each terminal?

Yes! Both terminal 1 and terminal 2 have food courts. The food court located in terminal 2 West is the largest of them all, and consists of a wide variety of different kinds of restaurants. There is another smaller food court at the far end of Terminal 2 East, which features chain-style fast food restaurants such as Panda Express and California pizza kitchen.

The food court in Terminal 1 is located pre-security and is shared by both the east and west concourses. Note that most of the food here is of the chain-style fast food variety (such as Jack in the Box).

How long does it take to walk between the two food courts in Terminal 2?

About 10 minutes. Perfect for indecisive people like me who are short on time before or after a flight.

How many Starbucks are at at SAN? And where are they located?

Even though this article is all about San Diego airport food, everyone wants to know where the nearest Starbucks is, right? Anyway, good news:

There are three separate Starbucks locations located at the San Diego international airport. There are two in Terminal 2: one is located post security in T2 West, and the other pre-security in T2 East.

Terminal 1 contains only one location, which is outside the West concourse before the security checkpoint.

Where do I get the best food value at the San Diego airport?

If you’ve ever wondered why airport food is so expensive, don’t worry – I’m right there with you (especially when it comes to SAN). To spend the least amount of money possible, definitely avoid the food court in Terminal 2 west. Most of the restaurants located there are on the pricey side, and I’ve never walked away from a meal there feeling like I got an excellent value for my money.

As far as the best value goes, I would have to nominate Phils BBQ (T2 West). Yes, most people feel nothing short of sticker shock when browsing the menu, but the portions are extremely generous. I can usually get three meals out of a single order – which makes it the perfect place to get takeout from after arriving on a flight from a faraway destination.

Is there any food at the San Diego airport that should be avoided?

Even though I’m generally not afraid to throw anyone under the bus if it’s warranted, I haven’t yet run into any bad food at the San Diego airport. That says a lot considering that I’ve been flying in and out of here for over 20 years and I’ve eaten more than my fair share of meals there. Long story short, most of the restaurants are pretty darn good.

However, take note about what I said about the high cost of food in the Terminal 2 West food court. I wouldn’t even go near there if I didn’t want to pay an obscenely high price for a meal.

San Diego airport food gallery

If you’re anything like me, you’re a firm believer that pictures tell the complete story. Thankfully, I fly in and out of San Diego airport often (it’s my home airport after all) and I’ve got all kinds of pictures of the food options to show you.

Here is a random collection of pictures showing the restaurants inside the San Diego airport:

Terminal 2 West food court San Diego Airport
The Terminal 2 West food court. Hands down the nicest place in the entire airport to grab a bite to eat.
Terminal 2 West food court San Diego Airport pic
It’s also the most expensive food (on average) that you’re going to find in this place. Warning: don’t enter if you’re not feeling spendy.
Phil’s BBQ San Diego Airport
Phil’s BBQ located at the far end of T2 West. San Diego Airport food doesn’t get any better than this!
Pannikin coffee San Diego Airport
Pannikin Coffee & Tea (Terminal 2 West). Sure, it looks nice, but San Diego locals know how pathetically abbreviated this is to the real thing.
Elegant desserts San Diego Airport
San Diego airport food is very diverse. Feeling like making a “silly supper” out of cupcakes and cookies? Elegant Desserts has you covered.
SAN Terminal 2 East food court
This is the food court located in Terminal 2 East. Just a bit less hoity-toity than the one located in T2 West.
SAN T2 East food court
Another shot of the T2 East food court. If you’ve got a thing for coffee and pizza (at the same time), this is your place.
Terminal 1 SAN food court
This is the food court located over in Terminal 1 (which serves both the East and West concourses, pre-security). Even if this doesn’t look all that appealing to you, San Diego Airport food doesn’t get any better than this over here on this end of the airport.
Peet’s coffee San Diego Airport Terminal 1
Once past security in Terminal 1, food becomes scarce. For example, here in T1 West, your only choices are this Peet’s Coffee, or…
Urban Crave restaurant, San Diego Terminal 1
…the Urban Crave bar and restaurant (which is impossible to get a seat at during peak hours). My condolences if you’re flying out of T1 with a grumbling stomach.

My nominations for the best San Diego airport food:

I always feel sorry for anyone with a short layover in San Diego. The food is pretty good, and it’s a real shame to have to miss out on any of  it. There are several restaurants I find myself going to over and over again in this airport (when I have time to spare), and I can’t recommend them highly enough: 

First place: Camden Food Co

If you’ve been a follower of my blog for any amount of time, you should already know the answer to this. I’m an extreme fan of Camden Food Co (located in Terminal 2 west). More specifically, I’ve got a mega crush on the Healthwhich – a somewhat healthy breakfast sandwich crispy on the outside and soft in the middle – the way all delicious breakfast sandwiches ought to be.

Second place: Phil’s BBQ

Located at the very far end of Terminal 2 West, the addition of Phils BBQ was easily one of the biggest reasons why I was so excited about the expansion of this terminal back in 2011.

It’s not like I am a connoisseur of fine barbecue or anything, but it’s one of the most unique restaurants in the entire airport (and a nice change of pace from the usual airport fare). The food portions are plentiful, the staff friendly, and the wait times are never that long considering the fact that it’s a slow-cooked barbecue joint. I’ve never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a full plate of barbecue goodness during peak hours.

Third place: Saffron Thai

This is my third and final choice, which is a health-focused Thai restaurant located in the Terminal 2 West food court. Although I consider the menu items to be priced ridiculously high, the food is a very high-quality and generally more healthy than most of the restaurants at the San Diego airport.

Comments (4)

  1. TSov

    December 19, 2019
    • SANspotter

      December 19, 2019
  2. PZ

    December 22, 2019
    • SANspotter

      December 22, 2019

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