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!
1195 Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Callie is a contemporary restaurant located in the Bankers Hill neighborhood of San Diego. What sets it apart is the unique blend of cuisines. There are many influences behind the meals that you can order, but they all come together perfectly. Another aspect of this restaurant that I adore is that you can see directly into the kitchen from almost every table.
If you feel overwhelmed by the diversity of options on their menu, consider trying some of my recommendations that won’t disappoint. When it comes to appetizers, you can’t go wrong with the babaganoush. Regarding an entree, I always go back and forth between the Aleppo Chicken and the Squid Ink Rigatoni. And obviously, the Turkish Rice Pudding to round it out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
5200 Grand Del Mar Way, San Diego, CA 92130
Addison is conveniently located in the Carmel Valley neighborhood, near the Del Mar racetrack and the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. It wasn’t until recently that I found out it is San Diego’s first and only three-star Michelin restaurant. However, I can certainly believe it. The food quality is exquisite.
I recommend going for the nine-course tasting menu if you can swing it. The selections change seasonally, and it’s a little on the pricy side, but it gives you the opportunity to try many different menu items in one visit. For a special occasion, it’s a perfect choice.
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.
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.
2469 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92102
There are many reasons that I love visiting Kingfisher. Not only is the Vietnamese food they serve the best in the area, but the neighborhood of Golden Hill where it resides is such a quaint and picturesque pocket of the city.
Having a top-notch meal in a phenomenal atmosphere is excellent all around. It can be challenging to visit Kingfisher and not order the entire menu. Trust me; I’ve been tempted on more than one occasion. To help you in your decision-making, start off with the Diver Scallops. I can’t even begin to describe the blend of spices; it’s so perfect and flavorful. You won’t regret it!
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.
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.
2001 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
Visiting Kettner Exchange (named for the founding father of San Diego) is an entire experience. While they have fabulous food and drinks, they are also a lounge. You can pop in for an evening out with friends or stop by after work for a quick drink. So if you’re looking for a dining spot in the Little Italy neighborhood, this restaurant should be on the top of your list.
Notably, Kettner Exchange also hosts an annual food festival called KexFest. This event is very popular, and those who attend receive all-inclusive access to new menu items and drinks. If you’re just in the area for a brief visit, you can find many fantastic meal options on their menu.
1044 Wall St, La Jolla, CA 92037
Marisi is a charming restaurant located in the La Jolla Village neighborhood near La Jolla Cove and Ellen Browning Scripps Park. There are two things that bring me to Marisi frequently.
First and foremost is the food. It’s fantastic, and I have yet to have a bad meal there. The second is the generous portion sizes, regardless of what you order. When it comes to their menu, I am a sucker for the Agnolotti. However, I just as frequently order the Gnoccetti. You can’t go wrong with either option.
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.
2548 Congress St, San Diego, CA 92110
Tuetano Taqueria has been a huge hit among fans of Mexican food ever since it entered the San Diego scene. Moreover, it’s a notable part of the Old Town Urban Market, a highly popular destination for foodies and anyone looking to experience different cuisines.
Even though I’m a huge fan of Mexican dishes, I still get blown away every time I visit Tuetano Taqueria. I love their beef Birria with melted cheese, but you can’t go wrong ordering anything else they offer, whether it’s tacos, quesadillas, or tortas.
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.
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.
Ambrogio By Acquerello
7556 Fay Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037
Ambrogio by Acquerello is a fine dining experience focused on the highest ingredients and techniques. Their menu relies on local produce and offers a fusion of contemporary Italian cuisine, where the traditional flavors of Milan meet the exoticism of Pacific Asian influences.
The concept is a partnership with the Michelin Starred Ristorante Acquerello in Italy. Ambrogio by Acquerello is a tasting menu experience, with two 7-course Tasting Menu options: the ‘Dancing with the Stars’ showcasing the Chef’s signature dishes and the ‘A Walk in the Garden’ offering a Vegetarian-Vegan experience.
In addition to the tasting experience, guests also have the option to do the Chef’s Table experience, which is a culinary experience for 2 to 6 guests that takes place in their Private Kitchen Living Room. The Chef prepares and personally serves an 8-course meal prepared for the occasion, while the guests can watch the team at work.
2591 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
The first thing I will say about Black Radish is that when you visit this restaurant for the first time, you must order the Shellfish Stew. If you do not, you will still likely have a fantastic meal. However, you will always wonder what you missed out on, and you do not want that.
I discovered this place while sightseeing La Jolla area with a friend, and we mainly just enjoyed bar snacks and drinks. I saw these plates of food constantly passing me by and knew I needed to get back soon. The next day I visited again, and the rest is history.
Gelati & Peccati
3066 B University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
Gelati & Peccati is a popular dining spot in the North Park neighborhood near the Ray Street Arts District. They offer some of the best pizza and gelato you’ll find in the greater San Diego area. So it comes as no surprise you can expect significant wait times on their busier evenings.
I love the simplicity of this establishment. You walk up to the counter and select your desired pizza from a variety of Roman-style offerings. They then warm up your selection, and you have it back within a few minutes. Add your favorite gelato flavor, and you’re set with dinner and dessert for the night!
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.
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).
4161 Voltaire St, San Diego, CA 92107
Cesarina is a great family-style restaurant located in the Ocean Beach neighborhood, near the Ocean Beach Pier and Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. They offer kids menus and desserts, and the dining room gives a warm atmosphere for making memories.
My whole family enjoys the create-your-own pasta option on the menu. Essentially, you select what type of noodle you want, choose a sauce, and pick any toppings that interest you. You can tailor this menu option to your specific taste buds!
If that doesn’t interest you, many other fantastic meals are available on the menu. And don’t leave without dessert. Obviously, you can never go wrong with the classic Tiramisu. But the Cantuccio al Forno is also a fantastic choice.
Market Restaurant & Bar
3702 Via De La Valle, Del Mar, CA 92014
Market Restaurant & Bar is an amazing dining spot located in the Del Mar Heights neighborhood in San Diego. What I love about ordering food here is that you can take different routes.
If you’re a sushi lover, you can order your favorite roll right from the bar. If you’re looking to sit down and eat, there is an extensive menu with a variety of options. Lastly, you can opt to participate in Chef’s three-course menu, which changes regularly.
You’ll find unique flavor combinations on the menu that combine multiple styles. The Hiramasa Tartare is a popular starter, followed by the Miso Marinated Sea Bass. For dessert, take a chance on the Rhubarb Sundae. The tartness combines perfectly with the sweetness of the ice cream.
2121 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
If you’re craving sushi, I highly recommend checking out Soichi Sushi restaurant in the University Heights neighborhood. They have an extensive menu, so there’s always something new to try, even if you become a regular.
Moreover, they offer various types of sushi that aren’t always available at other restaurants.
So far, my favorite’s been Nigiri Omakase, which starts with four tasting dishes as appetizers and follows it up with 12 pieces of sushi and a soup.
To top it off, you’re served delicious house-made ice cream for dessert. And yes, their other dishes sound just as mouth-watering, so don’t hesitate to explore any options that pique your interest.