Middletown is a Popular Dining Destination
There are two restaurants rows in Mission Hills. One is called Middletown, which is at the foot of Mission Hills along India Street and the other is at the top of the hill at the corner of Goldfinch and Washington. Both are enjoyable discoveries and worth your visit.
Interestingly enough, Middletown got its name in the 1870's as a result of being roughly halfway between San Diego's first settlement in Old Town and Alonzo Horton's New Town, which is our present day downtown San Diego. But what really put Middletown on the twentieth century map as a dine-in, take-out & catering destination was the opening of the now famous El Indio Restaurant, Catering & Tortilla Factory.
Middletown is located on the northern side of the San Diego International Airport, on a hill overlooking the airport. It’s just off the Interstate 5 Freeway at Washington Street, which is one exit south of Historic Old Town.
A good place to begin your discovery of dining alternatives is at Middletown's International Restaurant Row, which begins at the corner of Washington and India Streets. Expect to find lots of little cafés and casual restaurants serving global cuisine. The selection includes Mediterranean, East Indian, Mexican, British, Japanese, Continental, Italian as well as live theater.
Walking Tour of Middletown
You should begin your tour with a visit to the most famous restaurant of them all. El Indio Restaurant, Catering & Tortilla Factory (1) at 3695 India St. (619-299-0333) opened its doors in 1940 as a small tortilleria. Many people skip dining in restaurants in Historic Old Town and come here for no-nonsense, authentic Mexican food. And they have a lot to choose from.
El Indio’s claim to fame is that it introduced taquitos to San Diego. And their world famous, homemade tortilla chips are so delicious that they are served in Mexican restaurants all over town. El Indio isn’t fancy, but the food is good, and it’s quick. Though there are tables indoors, many people like to relax under an umbrella on their sidewalk or garden patios. With such a strong reputation, there is a lot of carryout and catering business. There’s usually a line out the door if you get here at noon, but the line is fast and it’s well worth the wait.
On the south side of El Indio Mexican Restaurant is Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill (2) at 3667 India St. (619-497-0914). The market has a good selection of fresh seafood. Their grilled entrées can be prepared in eight ways. This is a no-frills restaurant serving firstrate seafood that locals just rave about.
To the north of El Indio is Shakespeare Pub & Grille (3) at 3701 India St. (619-299-0230). It’s been voted San Diego’s best pub for the last five years in a row! This is a typical English pub. Their authentic English atmosphere is the reason why this pub is also home to British expatriots who come from miles away to watch their good old English soccer on the big screen TV.
Rubicon Deli (33) at 3715 India Street (858-488-DELI) is well-known for their loaves of bread that are baked fresh daily. With a loyal following and two locations to serve you, expect to see more locations popping up around the county, because it’s more than just a sandwich shop, it’s a place to hang out and meet and greet friends old and new.
Nestled in between Shakespeare’s Pub and the Shakespeare Corner Shoppe is The National Comedy Theatre (4) at 3717 India St. (619-295-4999). This is audience- inspired improv at its best. They are billed as a bar and theater, so you can have drinks (beer or sodas) with the show. They are open on Fri.–Sat. for 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. performances. They pit two improv teams against each other. For huge slices of authentic New York-style pizza, visit N.Y. Giant Pizza (4) at 3715 India St. (619-692-1169). Their pizzas are up to 28 inches and made with cheese and dough prepared fresh daily. Plus they have calzones, sub sandwiches, chicken wings, crispy mozzarella sticks, salads and dessert.
Next on the hit parade of restaurants is Saffron (5) at 3737 India St. (619-574- 7737). What began as a small take-out shop has expanded to the space next door and now is a sizable restaurant. Some say they have the best Thai chicken in town. There are dozens of noodle dishes, salad rolls and soups. Their famous saté is a skewered skinless and boneless all-white meat that’s really delicious. If Thai food is what you crave, then this is the place for you.
Up two short flights of stairs next to Saffron is an incredible wine bar and restaurant. Wine Vault & Bistro (5) at 3731 India St. (619-295-3939) is a real find. They are well-known for their winemaker dinners featuring famous wine makers such as Tobin James.
Complementing these lower Mission Hills cafés is the one and only Gelato Vero Caffe (6) at 3753 India St. (619- 295-9269). It’s another San Diego legend. Opened in 1984, it has been named the best ice cream in San Diego by numerous reviewers. Their handcrafted Italian gelato is made right on-site. What makes it so good is its creamy, smooth, dense consistency. And it is even low in sugar. They have 12 different fabulous flavors, and can transform these into delicious shakes, malts, smoothies and floats. Across lower Washington Street are several more restaurants and a night club. Yes, Middletown has its share of popular night spots too!
The night club is Bar Dynamite (7) at 1808 W. Washington St. (619-295- 8743). It’s one of the hidden hip bars in San Diego. You’d expect to find a place like this in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
A local favorite is Yoshino Japanese Restaurant (8) at 1790 W. Washington St. (619-295-2232). This is an established restaurant with a Japanese atmosphere, serene and well-ordered, with attentive servers. Featured here is a vast array of sushi, as well as tantalizing tempura and teriyaki meals. This restaurant also has a large parking lot in front, which is something of a rarity in this part of town.
A new wine bar that already has a great following is 57 Degrees (15) at 1735 Hancock St. (619-234-5757). This 10,000 sq. ft. retail store and wine cellar is a real find. And their wine bar is a popular hangout for wine lovers.