When I think of San Diego dining, one word comes to mind: world-class. The restaurants in the City of Motion rival the very best found anywhere around the globe.
As you’d likely expect, you’ll find fresh seafood, including fish, lobster, and sushi. You can also find genuinely fantastic places for sandwiches, steak, vegan dishes, wood-fired pizzas, and so much more.
San Diego is known as the home of the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, SeaWorld, and other attractions. More than anything, it’s the food that makes the biggest impression on me.
Whether you’re with the family, on a date, hanging with friends, or even dining solo, I’ve found plenty of places you’ll want to know more about. Check out my list of the best restaurants in San Diego below!
2659 State St Suite 102, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Jeune et Jolie offers upscale dining in a casual environment. It’s one of my favorite spots for a date or when dining with a small group of close friends. I especially love sitting outside on their garden patio. A few blocks east of the Army and Navy Academy, you’ll find this restaurant on State Street near Beech Avenue.
Their cuisine is based on traditional French cooking with a decidedly Southern California flair. They serve a four-course meal, where you get to pick several options for each course. Entrée choices include seabass, liberty farms duck, ribeye, and a vegetable platter.
If you’re not interested in the complete dining experience, you can also order individual items from Le Menu du Bar in their bar/lounge area.
3001 Beech St, San Diego, CA 92102
Buonoa Forchetta is in the South Park neighborhood. They’re just a few blocks east of Balboa Park, near the corner of 30th Street and Beech Street, one block north of Einstein Academy Elementary School. The restaurant serves up authentic Italian cuisine in a cozy, family-friendly environment.
The secret to their delicious dishes is Sofia, their handmade brick oven made by the legendary Stefano Ferrara. These unique ovens can produce the incredibly high temperatures (700° to 1000°) necessary for Neapolitan pizzas. While pizza is a major attraction at Buona Forchetta, don’t overlook their other delicious Italian dishes, such as pasta, lasagna, and the Ravioli of the Day.
4529 Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109
When I’m in the mood for sushi, Sushi Ota is my top choice. It’s just a few blocks up from Mission Bay Park on Mission Bay Drive near Grand Avenue. Sushi Ota is helmed by Chef Ota, a Japanese native who opened his restaurant after trying local sea urchin during a visit to San Diego – and found it was the best he’d ever tasted!
They serve fresh (and I’m talking fresh) sushi in a casual, unassuming environment. You can get two pieces of nigiri or eight pieces of cut roll. They have both traditional favorites as well as unique creations. Try the Pizza Roll, a California roll with spicy mayo, or the Diego roll, with spicy tuna, cilantro, sesame oil, and serrano peppers.
5525 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037
Let me introduce you to one of my favorite bakeries in SD. You’ll find Wayfarer Bread in the Bird Rock neighborhood on La Jolla Boulevard between Midway Street and Forward Street. While the building is on the small side, you can’t miss the delicious aromas of baking bread.
Owner Chrystal White, a California native, bakes up delicious treats daily. You can order pastries, bagels, English muffins, and various meat and vegetarian sandwiches. They also have pizza night on Thursday through Saturday from 4:30 pm until 8 pm. Pizza options change weekly and monthly.
11480 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037
A.R. Valentien is where you should go when you’re looking for a fancy night out or have a reason to celebrate. They’re the signature restaurant of the Torrey Pines Golf Course, with both indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the 18th hole. Head to where North Torrey Pines Road meets Callan Road for the closest entrance.
Executive chef Jeff Jackson has created a small, precise menu featuring halibut, roasted chicken, duck breast, artisanal cheese, and fresh ingredients. With several small rooms and booths, you’ll always have a quiet, private dining experience with your companions.
2228 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
If you’re looking for some of the best California cuisines on the entire Left Coast, check out Juniper & Ivy. It’s an upscale, contemporary resto with an ever-changing menu based on the ingredients brought in each morning from local farmers and fishers. They’re in Little Italy, within a few blocks of the Coast Guard Air Station, along Kettner Boulevard between West Juniper Street and West Ivy Street.
Helmed by local culinary legends Michael Rosen, Anthony Wells, and others, the menu serves up a combination of traditional and adventurous dishes. While each day is different, you can expect dishes such as the Crispy Paper Wrapped Pork Ribs or a Tostada with tuna ceviche and pineapple.
910 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037
NINE-TEN is an elegant but accessible restaurant serving up “Evolving California Cuisine,” including seafood, fresh veggies, and more. They’re near Shell Beach at the intersection of Prospect Street and Jenner Street.
They’re the winner of the 2021 Plate Distinction award from the Michelin Guide, and their menu reflects their skill. Dinner is a two-course affair with options such as Roasted Jerk Chicken, Grilled Prime Rib, and other upscale but comforting fares. In my opinion, the best item on the menu is the NINE-TEN burger, with a half-pound of Angus beef.
2725 State St, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Inspired by the many different environments found throughout the state, Campfire delivers simple, authentic dishes cooked with plenty of flames. They’re just south of Ellen Browning Scripps Park on Prospect Street near Jenner Street. It’s a stylish but unpretentious joint where you can watch the staff stoke literal flames while cooking your food.
Proteins and veggies are on the menu here. I’m partial to their smoked and grilled pumpkin and their charred chicken accented with dandelion, smoked plum, and sunflower. Don’t sleep on their desserts, either. Yes, We Have S’Mores is the perfectly decadent way to end your meal.
2210 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
Although only open for a few years, Herb & Wood is already a local legend. This open, airy spot is a sight to behold, with a large, central bar and walls filled with contemporary art. It’s a vibrant, often-busy spot that I recommend for families and groups of friends. They’re in Little Italy on Kettner Boulevard near West Ivy Street.
They serve brunch, dinner, dessert, and cocktails. Entrees include pizza, pasta, seafood, chicken, and steak. Fun fact about their mushroom pizza: It’s the only mushroom pizza I like! I think the secret is their midnight moon goat cheese. Their brunch selection is also quite extensive, making this one of my top recommendations for fans of that mid-morning meal.
1011 Fort Stockton Dr, San Diego, CA 92103
Smoky, wood-fired flavors are the heart of Fort Oak. You’ll find them just east of Mission Hills Park on Fort Stockton Drive near Hawk Street. It’s a fun place with a central bar and floor-to-ceiling windows. They combine simple ingredients with live-fire cooking to create approachable and authentic tastes.
Some of the most popular items on the menu include their Rabbit & Bacon Sausage, Lamb Mortadella, and shareable food such as Broiled Oysters, Charred Caulilini, and Burrata. Also, if you’re in town during late November, Fort Oaks offers a full Thanksgiving dinner for pickup, which feeds about six to eight people.
1503 30th St, San Diego, CA 92102
Kindred has a wild, heavy-metal style that’s not for everybody, but if skulls and witches on the walls are your things, there’s a lot to love here. They’re due east of Powerhouse Canyon on 30th Street at the corner of Beech Street. It’s a fun, rockin’ joint that’s not precisely family-friendly but perfect for a night out with friends.
Their menu focuses on snacks, sides, drinks, and a few choice entrees. If you’re looking to dine, go with the Grilled Cheese, which consists of several types of cheese, onions, and braised kale. As far as drinks, some of my favorites include the River Styx, made with bourbon and coffee liqueur, and the Close Encounters, a concoction of fruity flavors and rum.
1815 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054
I’ll be the first to admit the name sounds pretty unappetizing, but trust me when I say that the food is delicious.
Wrench & Rodent serves creative meals based on French and Japanese cuisine, using local and responsibly-sourced ingredients. You’ll find them in the South Oceanside neighborhood along the South Coast Highway, just across the street from the Oceanside Inn & Suites.
Their adventurous takes on sushi include their Rodent Rolls, such as The Wombat, which features the chef’s choice along with “seasonal pickings and multiple weeds.”
They also offer more traditional options such as five pieces of sashimi or two pieces of nigiri. If you’re not a sushi fan, you’ll find plenty of other options, such as their Teriyaki Chicken and Roasted Cauliflower.
2244 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110
If you’re in San Diego Old Town and craving fresh sushi, I recommend Sushi Tadokoro, home to traditional sushi served with locally-sourced ingredients. They’re just off San Diego Avenue near the Hortensia Street intersection. While the restaurant itself is small, the attention to detail is enormous – and so are the tastes.
Sushi is served using the traditional Edo-mae Japanese method of preparation. Options vary according to by season and local availability but always include sashimi, omakase, grilled, and more. Keep in mind when I saw the place is small, I mean it. I strongly recommend making reservations, especially if you want to eat during prime lunch and dinner times.
3015 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
Bright, airy, and decorated with light woods, I’m always a bit taken aback when I step into Et Viola. It’s a vibrant, inviting bistro with a welcoming neighborhood feel. The contemporary French cuisine is accessible and authentic, making this an excellent spot for quiet dinners with family and friends.
They’re open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Chef Vincent Viale has crafted a menu of fantastic French tastes, such as the roasted duck breast in cherry sauce, the French onion soup, and the mushroom ravioli.
If you and your love are in the mood for romance, make reservations for the restaurant’s Tuesday Date Nights, when meals are $47 per person, and include a bottle of wine.
1654 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
Ironside has a style that evokes the historic fish and oyster houses from the city’s early days. They’re located on India Street near West Date Street in a fully restored, former auction house. Today, this gorgeous restaurant has three open-air areas – a bakery, chef’s table, and raw bar. More than a meal, a visit to Ironside is like taking a peek back into city history.
Seafood of all varieties is what’s on the menu here, with traditional faves such as lobster rolls and clam chowder as well as more exotic offerings such as the Octopus a la Plancha. Different local catches are also available each day. Overall, Ironside is one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego for fresh seafood.
1909 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
Are you looking for a great steak? Do you want to enjoy that steak in a fun, social spot with a hip atmosphere? Born and Raised is where to eat in San Diego when you’re craving steak.
They’re one of the best steakhouses in the city, found due west of Balboa Park at India Street and West Fir Street. Note: the joint is pretty much always jumping, so I recommend making reservations instead of just showing up at the door.
Steak, seafood, and pasta are the main focus here. If you’re not sure what you’re in the mood for, and everything sounds good, I recommend the Steak Sampler.
It includes three ounces of four different types of steak. Perhaps surprisingly, they also have a solid selection of delicious vegetarian dishes, such as their charred carrots and roasted mushrooms.
505 Laurel St, San Diego, CA 92101
Cucina Urbana is a cozy, contemporary eatery with comfy chairs, high ceilings, and a bright, open environment. Their setup is a bit different than the others on this list. Cucina Urbana is both a restaurant and a retail wine shop. They’re due east from the San Diego Museum of Man at the corner of Laurel Street and 5th Avenue.
They serve contemporary Italian with a California flair. You can order pizza, pasta, garden dishes, and more. They’re also an excellent spot for wine lovers, as they have a robust selection of whites, pinks, reds, and bubbles. If you’re a beer fan, they have an intriguing selection of lesser-known brews, including the Pizza Port, an amber ale that pairs perfectly with one of their pies.
3752 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92103
Trust me when I say that this is one of the best places in town for dining with a large group. The restaurant’s entire philosophy is that food brings people together, so they’ve created a menu designed for sharing. They’re only a few blocks north of Balboa Park, near the North Park neighborhood at the corner of Park Boulevard and Robinson Avenue.
Dinner features seafood, poultry, and beef dishes. They serve a fantastic brunch, too. Try their Braised Bacon Grilled Cheese, made with American cheese, a sunny-side egg, chives, and mornay. Nothing beats their enjoying brunch on their outdoor patio when the weather outside is nice.
3175 India St, San Diego, CA 92103
Located in the easy-to-overlook corner of India Street and Sassafras Street, Starlite is worth seeking out because they serve up delicious food in a relaxed, welcoming environment. They’re in Middletown just a few blocks northwest of Park West, right across the street from the San Diego International Airport. You can’t miss their unique octagonal entryway.
They serve a variety of contemporary favorites such as Mac & Cheese, Grilled Octopus, and their signature Starlite Burger, with a half-pound beef patty, gruyere cheese, and caramelized onions. They also have a robust selection of specialty cocktails. My fave is the Starlite Mule, made with vodka, ginger beer, lime, and angostura bitters.
5040 Cass St, San Diego, CA 92109
Talk about fresh fish! The Fishery is only three blocks from the Pacific Ocean, in a restored mid-century warehouse located at the corner of Opal Street and Cass Street. Inside, you’ll find a classic style, friendly staff, and walls adorned with fish decorations.
Founded by the husband-and-wife duo of Judd and Mary Brown, the restaurant has been producing fresh, delicious seafood dishes since they opened their doors in 1997.
They serve up freshly-caught fish, including California King Salmon, Macadamia Crushed Alaskan Halibut, and Pacific Swordfish. I’m a massive fan of their seafood towers. The Grand includes 12 oysters, seven shrimp, ahi poke, sea bass ceviche, and market carpaccio. It’s perfect for sharing with four to six people.
640 Tenth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
With so many great options, it’s hard to say who serves the best steak in San Diego, but the Cowboy Star is absolutely a contender. They’re Downtown on 10th Avenue between Market Street and G Street.
The quality is superb at Cowboy Star. The beef is Certified Humane Angus, and the seafood is certified fresh according to the Seafood Watch Standards established by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Entrees include Roasted Venison Chop, Sauteed Salmon, and Pan Roasted Scallops. They also have a full butcher shop on the premises, where you can buy cuts of meat and prepared food items such as salads, roasted veggies, and mac and cheese.
If you’re in the mood for a drink, stop by between 3 pm and 6 pm on Monday through Friday, when all of their signature cocktails are half off.
969 Pacific Hwy, San Diego, CA 92101
Animae is a unique steakhouse that draws inspiration from the Far East, creating sophisticated and stylish dished with flavors you won’t find anywhere else. They’re easy to find, just off West Broadway and Pacific Highway, only a block away from the ocean. Although the restaurant is upscale and formal, it’s cozy and welcoming, perfect for a date or dinner with close friends.
They’re easily one of the best restaurants in San Diego if you want Japanese Wagyu beef. It’s a rare type of beef with a protected lineage that requires particular expertise to prepare appropriately. Aside from this delicacy, they also serve a variety of other steaks, seafood, and Asian fusion dishes.
1845 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
Civico 1845 is one of my favorite vegan restaurants, not just in San Diego but in the entire state of California. You’ll find them in Little Italy on India Street at the intersection of West Fir Street. You can’t miss the place because it’s atop a hill overlooking the city and the ocean. They’ve been a local favorite since they first opened their doors in 2015.
Their menu consists of traditional Southern Italian cooking, with a wide selection of vegan options. They have vegan lasagna, vegan tiramisu, and even vegan calamari. They’re open for lunch and dinner. It’s upscale food in a casual environment that’s perfect for hanging with friends or family.
Hodad’s claims they have “The Best Burgers in the World,” and while I can’t verify that specifically, their burgers are pretty dang great. They have three locations across the city: Ocean Beach, Downtown, and Petco Park. The vibe inside is ultra-casual and surfer-friendly, with the walls adorned with license plates from around the country.
If you dine at a place that says they have the best burgers in the world, then you’ve got to order one, right? The burgers are big, juicy, and made however you like.
They even have specialty burgers such as the Blue Jay, served with bacon, blue cheese sauce, and grilled onions. If burgers aren’t your thing, they also have chicken, vegan patties, chicken tenders, and other all-American favorites.
1250 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037
I’m not sure what I like more about George’s At The Cove – the food or the view. They use the phrase “at the cove” quite literally, as their ocean terrace offers an expansive view of the Pacific. You’ll find this contemporary eatery near La Jolla Cove on Prospect Street, one block away from the La Jolla Gallery.
The menu is California modern with lots of seafood, vegetable, and chicken dishes. I’m partial to their fish tacos.
Their drink selection is also top-notch, featuring a vast selection of wine, microbrews, and specialty cocktails. It’s a popular place, so you’ll want to make reservations, but George’s At The Cover is one of my top recommendations if you’re visiting from out-of-town or dining with someone who is.
2266 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
Admittedly, the name’s a little weird, but this place serves some of the best (and most addicting) fried chicken in the city. Located in Little Italy at Kettner Boulevard and West Juniper street, you can’t miss this tiny spot — just look for outdoor tables filled with people eating chicken!
Their signature Jidori chicken is served with your choice of honey butter, toro, fire, or sweet heat dipping sauce. With Big Flock and Small Flock meals, The Crack Shack is an easy way to feed a big family or another large group. They also have a great selection of chicken sandwiches, including the Coop Deville with pickled Fresno chilis.
550 W Date St, San Diego, CA 92101
In Little Italy, at the corner of West Date Street and India Street, you’ll find Morning Glory, one of the best breakfast and brunch joints in SD. It’s a casual, contemporary place with indoor and outdoor seating, comfortable booths, and hip décor.
These self-described Pancake Lords serve up a king’s ransom of breakfast dishes, including omelets, steak and eggs, and chicken and waffles. My favorite dish is their Eggs a la Benedict with smoked salmon. Not too many places do seafood for breakfast well, but Morning Glory gets it right every time.
1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118
Serea is the restaurant inside the Hotel del Coronado, but aside from out-of-towners, locals also flock here for their excellent Mediterranean cuisine. They’re on Coronado Beach, just off of I-75. It’s a contemporary, stylish spot with lots of light and plenty of outdoor seating. Note that, because it’s located in the hotel, it can get quite busy at times, so you’re better off making reservations.
They have fresh seafood, including a daily selection of oysters. Wood-grilled dishes are another specialty. I can’t stop raving about their wood-grilled Pacifico Striped Bass, served deboned. As you’d expect from a restaurant in a hotel, they also have a full breakfast menu, with dishes such as a Roasted Vegetable Omelette, Socal Benedict, and California Breakfast Burrito.
2121 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
Helmed by Chef Soichi, this place is another legendary San Diego sushi spot. All dishes are prepared using the original Japanese Omakase method. They’re a bit further inland than many other restaurants on this list, in the Mission Valley East neighborhood along Adams Avenue just east of Old Trolley Barn Park.
I usually order the Make It a Meal Set. It includes an appetizer, grilled fish of the day, and the soup of the day. It’s a fun way to try a variety of fish. Of course, they also have a wide range of other dishes, including four different takeout boxes if you want to eat at home.
8990 University Center Ln, San Diego, CA 92122
Truluck’s offers some of the city’s finest formal dining, with exquisite cuisine, live entertainment, and an overall one-of-a-kind experience. Note that casual attire isn’t allowed, so you’ll need to dress up a bit before heading out. They’re conveniently located on La Jolla Village Drive just east of Highway 5, close to the beach and UCSD.
They serve seafood, steak, and salads. If you’re a steak fan, you’ve got to try their Prime New York Strip, a 16-ounce center-cut wet-aged for 60 days. They also have an extensive gluten-free menu with a variety of seafood and steak choices.
3850 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
You’ll find Parma Cucina in the Hillcrest neighborhood just a few blocks north of Balboa Park on 5th Avenue and University Avenue. They’re an upscale but casual Italian restaurant located near various attractions and landmarks such as the zoo and airport. Their food is accessible and fresh, making them a good choice for families and other groups.
I don’t know the Italian words for “amazingly delicious,” but if I did, it’s how I’d describe their pasta. Some of their most popular dishes include the Ravioli in Rosa and the Lasagna. They also have gluten-friendly options (keep in mind this doesn’t mean the food is necessarily 100% gluten-free).
4212 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111
Matoi serves some of the best sushi in San Diego, although they’re not necessarily well-known throughout the city. I think of them as a hidden gem in the local sushi scene. You’ll need to make reservations because the place is relatively small, holding only about ten diners at a time. They’re a few blocks east of Lindbergh Park between Dellwood Street and Convoy Street.
You have two dining options. The Wakagashire (Omakase) option includes three small appetizers, sashimi, and 12 pieces of nigiri. The Oyabu (Omakase) option includes three small appetizers, sashimi, a grilled dish, a fried dish, a steamed dish, ten pieces of nigiri, and ice cream. At $140, it’s on the pricey side, but it’s also a meal you’re sure to remember.
8583 Aero Dr, San Diego, CA 92123
San Diego can get surprisingly chilly during the fall and winter months, and when it does, I like to head over to Soup Du Jour to warm up. They’re on Aero Drive between the Four Points by Sheraton and the California Institute of Arts and Technology.
When you go, you should start your meal with one of their signature soups, such as the Udon Noodle Soup, the Hot & Sour Soup, or the Corn Egg Flower Soup. They also have a varied range of entrees, typically featuring meats, seafood, and veggies. I’ve never heard of a Sweet and Sour Fish Fillet before I saw it here, and now it’s one of my favorites.
3755 Murphy Canyon Rd, San Diego, CA 92123
If you’re looking for Italian cuisine more authentic than what’s available at Cucina Basilico, grab your passport because you’ll need to fly to Italy. Fortunately, Cucina Basilico isn’t just delicious. It’s also easy to find. They’re on Murphy Canyon Road, just north of Aero Drive and east of I-15. The restaurant itself is a cozy place with wood furniture and lots of natural light.
They serve lunch and dinner. You’ll find a sizable selection of chicken, pasta, and veggie dishes. All their pasta is 100% homemade, and you can add chicken, shrimp, mushrooms, or sausage to any dish. The lunch and dinner menu are similar, although they have several specialty sandwiches only available for lunch.
7878 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92111
I’m going to make you an offer you shouldn’t refuse: If you’re in San Diego, head over to The Godfather restaurant, home to some of the best Italian food in the city. The restaurant was founded by Chef Isidoro Balistreri, who arrived in San Diego from the small Italian village of Aspra with a love of Italian food and big dreams.
Over 30 years later, his Godfather restaurant has become a local fixture. You’ll find the restaurant near Ashford University on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard and Convoy Street.
They have a massive menu with pasta, chicken, steak, and more. If you’re in the mood to live like a star, order the New York Steak Sinatra, seared with wine, marinara, onions, bell peppers, and garlic. Their pasta is also worth noting. You can add meatballs, sausage, vegetables, chicken, or shrimp to any dish.
4320 Viewridge Ave, San Diego, CA 92123
Near Montgomery Field, near the intersection of Ridgehaven Court and Viewridge Avenue, you’ll find Bud’s Louisiana Café, bringing down-home Creole cooking to San Diego. The restaurant is the ninth from legendary restaurateur Bud Deslatte, who has created other spots in Atlanta, Portland, and elsewhere.
If you’ve never had Creole food before, it’s heavily influenced by French, Indian, African, and Caribbean cooking. Creole is slightly different from Cajun food, which has influences from Italian and Spanish cuisine. Some of their menu items include Shrimp and Grits, Pasta Jumbalaya, and Blackened Catfish St. Charles.
10601 Tierrasanta Blvd, San Diego, CA 92124
Aloha from Homestyle Hawaiian, where they’ve been serving up island cuisine for over 15 years. They’re just north of Roadrunner Park on Tierrasanta Boulevard and Santos Road in the Tierrasanta Town Center.
They’re committed to authentic Hawaiian cooking. Breakfast and lunch dishes feature chicken, seafood, pork, rice, and more.
If you’re a “mad hungry bruddah,” they recommend Da Beast, a giant dish with Kalua pig, Portuguese sausage, homemade chili, and Spam. They’re also one of my favorite breakfast places around town. You’ve got to try their Mac Nut Pancakes, made from fluffy buttermilk and topped with their homemade Mac Nut sauce.
3860 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111
Tucked inside a small shopping center near Ostrow Street and Convoy Street, you’ll find Wa Dining Okan, a small plate Japanese restaurant. They’re a cozy space with a constantly changing menu focused on fresh, authentic, and homemade tastes. If you’re with a group, you can order larger dishes to share, such as their Assorted Raw Fish Sushi Bowl.
Note that they don’t have sushi rolls on the menu. But they have sashimi, carpaccio, and other entrees. I typically gravitate towards the Deep Fried and Tempura sections. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I love their Deep Fried Squid Legs!
4646 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111
Bring the heat! The Fire Spot is home to a charcoal grill, where they cook up a wide range of meats, seafood, and veggies. They’re a Korean BBQ joint found on Convoy Street just up from the famous Gun Range San Diego. At The Fire Spot, you’ll find a fun, social environment perfect for date night or family dining.
If it’s meat or veggie, there’s a good chance they can grill it to perfection. My favorites are the Galbi Short Ribs, the Sliced Beef Brisket, and the Pork Belly. They’re also my top choice in town for Spicy Beef Soup.
1202 Camino Del Rio N, San Diego, CA 92108
You can’t miss the Lazy Dog. With its tall, brick tower and wraparound, wooden patio, it looks like an old-timey tavern. They’re just off Camino Del Rio between Trader Joe’s and Puesto. They’re a family-friendly spot serving lunch and dinner every day and brunch on the weekends.
The signature dishes here are TV dinners. Don’t worry — these aren’t low-quality meals made in the microwave. Instead, they’re delicious dishes cooked with fresh ingredients and served in aluminum foil containers meant to resemble classic TV dinners. It’s kitschy fun! They also have a vast (and I mean huge) menu of burgers, sandwiches, fish, and more.
477 Camino del Rio S, San Diego, CA 92108
I’ve been to many Benihanas across the country, but the one in San Diego is arguably my favorite. It’s right in the city’s heart near Balboa Park, Mission Bay, and the Zoo. You’ll find it just off the eight freeway on Camino del Rios South. They’re within walking distance of the Homewood Suites, Quality Suites, and Comfort Suites.
Dinner is the show at Benihana. You and your group will sit at the communal hibachi grill, where the chef will chop and prepare your dishes.
You can choose from steak, chicken, or fish. They also have an excellent kid’s menu, making Benihana a place to take the whole family. Also, although Benihana is often synonymous with a great night out, remember they have fantastic lunch specials, too.
10615 Tierrasanta Blvd, San Diego, CA 92124
Gaetano’s is an unassuming spot that focuses on fresh ingredients and authentic, cooked Italian food. Their San Diego location is found in the Tierrasanta Town Center on Tierrasanta Boulevard and Santo Road. They’re just north of Roadrunner Park.
Pizza and pasta are the favorites here. You’ll also enjoy their house specials, such as their Pasta Primavera, Rigatoni Boscaioli, and Linguini Shrimp and Clams. Every entrée includes soup or salad and giant slices of garlic bread. While Gaetano’s certainly isn’t the hippest resto on the list, they have a cozy atmosphere, and the food is made with love.
8885 Balboa Ave, San Diego, CA 92123
The 94th Aero Squadron is simply stunning. It’s an enormous replica of a WWI French farmhouse packed with military memorabilia, including biplane models hanging from the ceiling and hundreds of old photographs. They’re located on the north end of the Montgomery Field Airport along Balboa Avenue.
There’s no airplane food here. They have fresh, delicious all-American fare such as seafood, poultry, and various cuts of steak. I like to go between 4 pm and 6 pm for their Early Flight Dinners, a fancy version of a traditional airline meal with soup or salad, mashed potatoes or veggies, and your choice of chicken, an eight-ounce prime rib, or the fish of the day.
5451 Kearny Villa Rd, Sanshogun restaurant Diego, CA 92123
For over 30 years, Shogun has been a favorite local fixture. Created by famous restaurateur Bruce Kanenobu, Shogun is a dining experience similar to Benihana, where master chefs prepare the dishes in front of you on a Teppanyaki grill. The restaurant is just off Clairemont Mesa Boulevard on Kearney Villa Boulevard.
Shogun Sushi Rolls are the specialty here. Some of my recommendations include the Alaskan Roll, Caliente Roll, and the Spicy Lobster Roll. If you go before 3 pm, you can order off their lunch menu, including steak and seafood with your choice of soup, salad, and dipping sauces.
629 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
The Lion’s Share is a quiet, cozy spot that’s a great place to celebrate a special occasion or just hang out with family and friends. They’re near the Market Street Pier and Dead Man’s Point neighborhood along Kettner Boulevard and West Harbor Drive.
The food here combines creativity with classic tastes. Some unique favorites include the Rabbit & Dumplings, Boar Bolognese, and even Frog’s Legs. If you’re not feeling that adventurous, they have more accessible options like the Our Burger or Grilled Baja Oysters.
Head over to the La Jolla Coast Walk, where you’ll find Eddie V’s, one of the best seafood restaurants in a town filled with some pretty amazing ones. Their primary San Diego location is on Prospect Street between the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.
Only the best seafood makes it onto the plates at Eddie V’s. Scallops, salmon, sea bass, sole, and more – it’s all here. They also have a full selection of hand-cut steaks. Or why not try both, with their eight-ounce filet mignon and South African Lobster Tail? Although Eddie V’s is a bit pricey, they deliver an authentic seafood experience you can’t find anywhere else.
2265 Bacon St, San Diego, CA 92107
Wine fans indeed won’t find anything to complain about (whine about?) at the 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro. They’re only one block west of the Ocean Beach Athletic Area and Dusty Rhodes Park at the intersection of Bacon Street and West Point Loma Boulevard.
They’re both a full-service restaurant and a wine shop. The dishes are an accessible mix of lunch and dinner faves such as sandwiches, short ribs, pan chicken, scallops, and salads. I’m a frequent visitor for their soup and salad lunch special. They’re also an excellent brunch spot, with make-your-own mimosas for just $14.95 and a full menu of breakfast scrambles.
4864 Cass St, San Diego, CA 92109
Chef Franco Tassone is a local culinary legend responsible for the success of several famous restaurants around town, such as La Terrazza and Zao Sush, before opening Enoteca Adriano on his own. They’re at the corner of Cass Street and Law Street. Inside, the place is cozy but lively, with a fun atmosphere and traditional Italian style.
The dishes include local produce, pasta, seafood, and more. They focus on authenticity and fresh ingredients. If you’re a meat-eater, try their Maiale Milanese, a breaded double-cut pork chop with heirloom tomatoes. Vegetarians will find plenty of options, too, such as the Gnocchi di Casa, with potato dumplings, spinach, and crushed walnuts.
232 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054
The food at Diji is a delectable combination of Southeast Asian, Japanese, and Western dishes. I wasn’t familiar with Balinese Fusion before eating here, but not it’s one of my favorites! They’re on South Coast Highway, just a block down from the Fin Hotel. The restaurant is small and cozy, with soft lighting and cool, hip art on the walls.
So, what is Balinese Fusion? Dishes feature fresh veggies and fruits, peanut sauces, curry, lamb, and more. If you’re new to this cuisine, I recommend the Gado Gado, a plate of seasonal vegetables, quail egg, and homemade peanut sauce. Another good choice is the Grilled Lamb Satay with peanut sauce.
3628 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
Hash House A Go Go is my go-to recommendation for breakfast. They have eight locations across five states, but the San Diego one is my favorite because it’s the original. You’ll find it on 5th Avenue between Brookes Avenue and Anderson Place. They’re one block west of the Marston House Museum and Gardens.
They offer fun takes on Midwestern favorites in a welcoming, social environment. Fare ranges from breakfast, brunch, and lunch favorites. Their signature stuffed burger is worth trying. It has two beef patties stuffed with your choice of mushrooms, cheese, veggies, and more. As far as breakfast fare goes, I’m a fan of their HH Big O’ Pancakes.
From upscale dining to walk-up shacks, San Diego has no shortage of unique places for brunch, lunch, and dinner. While seafood is perhaps the most famous draw, you can also find contemporary California cuisine, authentic Italian, Korean BBQ, and much more.
While I’ve mentioned brunch options when they were available, if you’re looking for more recommendations for everyone’s favorite mid-morning meal, check out the Best Boozy Bottomless Brunch Spots in San Diego.
- Jeune et Jolie
- Buona Forchetta
- Sushi Ota
- Wayfarer Bread & Pastry
- A.R. Valentien
- Juniper & Ivy
- NINE-TEN Restaurant & Bar
- Herb & Wood
- Fort Oak
- Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub
- Sushi Tadokoro
- Et Voilà! French Bistro
- Ironside Fish & Oyster
- Born and Raised
- CUCINA Urbana
- Trust Restaurant
- The Fishery
- Cowboy Star Restaurant and Butcher Shop
- The Crack Shack
- Civico 1845
- Hodad’s (mentioned 2x)
- George’s At The Cove
- Morning Glory
- Serea Coastal Cuisine
- Truluck’s Ocean’s Finest Seafood and Crab
- Parma Cucina Italiana
- Soup Du Jour
- Cucina Basilico
- The Godfather
- Bud’s Louisiana Café
- Homestyle Hawaiian Pub & Eatery
- Wa Dining Okan
- The Fire Spot
- Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar
- Gaetano’s Restaurant
- 94th Aero Squadron
- Shogun Restaurant
- The Lion’s Share
- Eddie V’s Prime Seafood
- The 3rd Corner
- Enoteca Adriano
- Dija Mara
- Hash House A Go Go
Did I leave a restaurant off this list? When picking the best restaurants in San Diego, I don’t want to overlook any good ones, so hit me up with your favorite in the comments below.
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