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Where to find lunch for $15 or less

Ready for your lunch break? Check out these 20 lunches from sandwiches to salads.

Hodad's burger and fries

This San Diego staple is worth every cent.

Table of Contents

Looking for a tasty, local lunch spot that doesn’t break the bank? We’re here for you, San Diego. Check out this list of 20 places where a lunch for one costs $15 or less.

We know cravings are key when it comes to a midday meal, so we’ve broken up these spots into their respective food groups. Think sandwiches and vegan-friendly.

Carnitas' Snack Shack storefront in San Diego

Something good is bacon here.

Photo by Monica Garske + SDtoday

    Fast and casual

    Hodad’s, Ocean Beach and Downtown
    You can’t go wrong with this San Diego classic. A classic cheeseburger will cost $9 and you can add fries for $3.75 or onion rings for $4.75 to make it a meal — and it has Guy Fieri’s approval.

    Pop Pie Co., University Heights, Point Loma + Pacific Beach
    Who says you can’t have pie for lunch? This local chain’s 5-inch savory pies make the perfect lunch with options like classic chicken, Aussie beef, or veggie. Add a side for $3, and this lunch combo will still cost less than $15.

    Urban Plates, La Jolla, Carlsbad, and Del Mar
    This chain was founded in San Diego in 2011 and aims to offer high-quality flavors in a convenient setting. Its everyday value menu with 13 meals under $13 makes the perfect lunch — including its Beet + Avocado bowl or its chicken tender plate.

    Carnitas’ Snack Shack, Embarcadero
    At this bayfront restaurant you’ll find plenty of options under $15, like the Smokey Pig pulled pork sandwich for $14 or a two carnitas taco plate for $13. This outdoor patio offers great views of San Diego Bay, so don’t worry if you pig out because you’ll be right next to great walking paths.

    City Tacos, Six locations
    This local chain spans from Imperial Beach to Encinitas with six locations, and it’s soon to be seven. But, let’s taco ‘bout food. On a $15 budget, you can easily get three tacos — feel free to mix it up, but we always like the San Diego Carne Asada.

    Pro tip: Visit on Taco Tuesday to save 10% on tacos, and put that savings toward a $2.50 Mexican beer.

    Homestyle Hawaiian, Five San Diego County locations
    Whether you’re in the mood for katsu chicken, teriyaki beef, or spam and eggs, this restaurant serves many island dishes under $15.

    Two slices of pizza on a plate from Mr. Moto

    This top-notch pizza is not stranger to unexpected toppings.

    Photo by Michael Beausoleil + SDtoday

    Pizza

    Mr. Moto, Eight San Diego locations
    This local shop was founded in Pacific Beach in 2015 where it gained a reputation for its creative pies and by-the-slice specialties. Generally, a single slice will cost about $5, but we recommend the combo with two slices and a soda for $12.

    Bronx Pizza, Hillcrest
    In 2022, Yelp ranked this pizza shop as the No. 7 best place to get pizza in the US, and it’s also super affordable. You can grab a slice of pizza for $3.50, or you can get a lunch special for $8 with two slices (or a slice and a salad) with a drink — just remember, it’s cash-only

    Gelati & Peccati, North Park
    Head to this walk-up shop to indulge in its ever-changing selection of pizzas made from fresh, Italian ingredients. Most slices cost ~$5, and you can get a lunch combo with two slices and a soda for under $15 (prices vary by pie). If you still have room — and money allows — scoop up some gelato.

    Head Lettuce store logo in Pacific Beach, San Diego

    Get some green without spending too much.

    Photo by Michael Beausoleil + SDtoday

    Salads and bowls

    Head Lettuce, La Jolla + Pacific Beach
    Time for some greens, and this local eatery has plenty of healthy options under $15. We love the Crispy Chicken Cobb for $14.95, or the vegan friendly, superfood-packed Green Goddess for $11.45.

    Grater Greens, Mission Valley
    You won’t be-leaf how many combos you’ll find at this fresh spot, like the Asian Salad for $11.25 or the Apple Cranberry Salad for $10. Or you can create your own bowl with greens and grains for under $15, depending on your selections.

    Greenspot, 4S Ranch, University City
    Lettuce introduce you to this local chain where you’ll find options like the Superfood Salad with grilled tofu for $13 or the Ichiban Steak bowl for $15. There’s plenty more to choose from, but you can always make a custom salad or bowl to get exactly what you want.

    The exterior of the Deli Llama in Hillcrest

    We’re bready for some lunch.

    Photo by Michael Beausoleil + SDtoday

    Sandwiches and wraps

    Smallgoods, La Jolla
    Not to sound cheesy, but this shop sells more than just platters — the sandwiches are great too. The shop has named California Turkey & Cheese sandwich La Jolla’s favorite, but veggie-lovers can try the NorCal or SoCal veggie sandwiches for $12.

    The Marketplace Deli, Bankers Hill
    If you’re looking for a hasty and tasty lunch, this shop near Balboa Park specializes in to-go sandwiches. For $10.69, the California Sandwich is a fan favorite, or you can try the Market Place Sandwich for $9.19.

    Board & Brew, 13 San Diego County locations
    Locals have known and loved this chain since it was founded in Del Mar in 1979. Its 13 locations span from Oceanside to Chula Vista, plus it has a location inside Petco Park. Prices vary by location, but the Turkado — one of its specialties — is ~$11, or you could try the Left Coast Pastrami for ~$14.

    The Deli Llama, Hillcrest
    This restaurant features a circus-themed menu, but the food is the real showstopper. We love the Hula Hooper and Grandmaster Gobbler — both $12.99 — or you can get a combo lunch for $11.99 with a half-sandwich and cup of soup.

    Con Pane, Liberty Station
    You won’t have to spend too much dough for a great lunch at this rustic bread cafe. You can get a whole Seasoned Roast Beef or Italian Salami sandwich for $13.50 — but we recommend the $13.95 box lunch with a half-sandwich on your choice of bread, plus chips and a cookie.

    The mural outside of evolution in Bankers Hill

    It’s a plant-based revolution.

    Photo via Michael Beausoleil + SDtoday

    Vegan and vegetarian options

    Evolution, Bankers Hill
    This vegan restaurant is on a mission to make food that’s great for people and the planet, and its menu has meatless alternatives to many popular dishes. We recommend the California Burrito or Buffalo Chicken Sandwich — both are $11.75 and plant-based.

    El Veganito, La Mesa
    If you’re looking to get your meatless fill of Mexican cuisine, you can find this vegan eatery in Grossmont Center. You can get a taco plate for $12, or you could get a medium order of the Veganito Fries for $15.

    Plant Power Fast Food, Five San Diego locations
    Eating a vegan diet doesn’t mean you’ll need to give up fast food or break the bank to find substitutes. At this Ocean Beach-founded chain, you can get a double cheeseburger for $8.95, a 12-piece chicken nuggets for $10.95, or a milkshake for $6.79.

    Psst... we’re always hungry for more. If you have a favorite, budget-friendly menu item from a local restaurant, let us know.

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