The tacos are great at El Paisa, but if you’re in it for the meat, the al pastor torta is the way to go. Load up the moist, tangy pork with salsa, jalapeños, and a good squeeze of lime and get eating. Then, halfway through, ditch the bread, dump the toppings on those crispy spuds, and dig into the second course: al pastor fries.

Al Pastor Torta at El Paisa in San Diego

Options for cheap eats near the San Diego Convention Center (and Comic-Con) abound, if you know where to look. Most of the spots on 5th, right across from the SDCC aren’t worth your dining dollar, but there are a few gems right on the strip. If you go a little farther north, or east, that’s where you’ll really strike gold. Here are my top picks for cheap eats near the Convention Center (and in downtown SD, in general).

Banh Mi from The District

You can find paninis at just about every sandwich spot, but few are even close to being this good. One reason: the bread. Toast Enoteca & Cucina makes their own focaccia, which makes a huge difference. There are four different options, including tomato and mozz, steak, chicken, and pork. I tried the last two. Find out which one was the best on my San Diego Magazine blog post.

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This killer sandwich is an absolute must-try. The main key to its deliciousness: fresh-made bread. You can choose from several options, including garlic, blue cheese, pesto, and and my personal fave: jalapeño jack. Half a sandwich is more than enough for one person, but you can save a few bucks by pairing up and splitting a whole sandwich.

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Two (or so) years after relocating from the Great White North to San Diego, there are still a few things I haven’t been able to replace, like poutine, honey dip Timbits, and the deliciously confounding sandwiches at New York Subway. It’s a strange and beautiful place. Instead of making hoagies, like the name suggests, Dino, the long-time chef, creates Indian-fusion burritos and satay subs, like this grilled chicken satay sub, which is packed with curried potatoes and mushrooms and freshly grilled chicken. With the potatoes and spice profile, it’s a bit like a roti on a bun. Read more about this sandwich and my other favorite option on Serious Eats.

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