The Best San Diego Restaurants
The best San Diego restaurants include fantastic seafood and steak
houses but there are also many "fusion cuisines" that combine
ingredients from around the world making a stunning presentation that
will excite your taste buds. For the most part, these are restaurants unique to San Diego and found nowhere else.
We have divided the sections into Seafood and Steak, Mexican, Wine Pairings, American Cuisine and Fusion.
Best San Diego Restaurants
Seafood and Steak
The Poseidon is located on the beach in Del Mar and right next door to another great restaurant, Jake's. About half of the dining area is indoors and the remainder is an open patio with great views of the ocean from all locations. This is one of the best San Diego restaurants to enjoy a view of the beach and surf. This restaurant specializes in extremely fresh seafood and tender meats combined with fresh organic produce that makes a beautiful presentation.
I started out with the beet and citrus salad made with organic baby spinach, oranges, cherry tomatoes, fennel, pine nuts, thinly sliced radish, goat cheese with a meyer lemon vinaigrette.
Beet Citrus Salad
My entree was the pan seared, pistachio crusted, steelhead salmon on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed spinach with a very nice citrus pomegranate beurre blanc sauce.
Pistachio Crusted Steelhead Salmon
My wife ordered the organic spinach salad with mushrooms, feta, bacon, strawberry, cucumber, quail eggs and a tasty warm bacon dressing.
Baby Spinach Salad
Her main entree was, an all time favorite, the pan seared Chilean sea bass served with white truffle celery silk bed, cherry tomatoes, edamame and a light lemongrass beurre blanc sauce.
Chilean Sea Bass
During a recent visit for lunch, my wife had the half pound burger with bacon and cheese. It comes with your choice of fries, cole slaw or house salad.
Half Pound Pojo Burger
I had the Calamari sandwich. A large and very tender calamari steak with a nice panko crust on sourdough bread.
We finished our lunch with a very nice berry creme brulee. Tasty and light. An added treat was the slice of pistachio bread.
Berry Creme Brulee
Poseidon is one of my favorite San Diego restaurants for a beautiful sunset dinner with great food, service and views of the Pacific. It is also very popular with the locals and not overly large so reservations are highly recommended.
Jakes Del Mar
Jake's specializes in the freshest seafood and tender steak entrees. My favorites are 1) the Roasted Garlic Spiced Ahi - roasted squash, red pepper couscous, garden fresh basil, sun dried tomato yuzu purée and lemon zest plus 2) the Seared Scallops - coconut risotto, yuzu pineapple gastrique, crispy plantains, sauteed spinach and charred pineapple. The Angus Filet is also awesome.
Jake's Del Mar is one of the best San Diego restaurants for that perfect sunset dinner. Most tables look directly out over the Pacific.
Located right on the beach in Del Mar in northern San Diego County, Jake's has both great good and stunning views of the Pacific as the photo from my table shows below.
Ocean View at Jake's Del Mar
Jake's Del Mar is very popular but is not an overly large restaurant with a small bar adjacent to the dining area. Reservations are highly recommended. Ample paid parking is available at the lot across the street and valet parking available at the entrance.
Island Prime is located in the same building as it's sister restaurant C-Level and right next door to another related restaurant, Coasterra. Island Prime offers a completely different menu but shares the same great Chef and kitchen. Island Prime offers an indoor dining area with prime waterfront seating, and as other restaurants in this area, offers one of the best views of all San Diego restaurants.
Both C-Level and Island Prime are part of the Cohn restaurant group run
by Executive Chef Deborah Scott. All Cohn restaurants are fantastic
and offer a very unique combination of ingredients and a presentation
that is stunning.
We started our meal with a great Cabernet Sauvignon from the Daou winery in Paso Robles California, about a 5 hour drive north of San Diego. We were pleasantly surprised when our waiter brought us some delicious, homemade and very unique bread that was puffy and hollow inside with a great crust.
I started out with the citrus and fennel salad.
Citrus and Fennel Salad
My wife had the macadamia crusted sea bass served with a roasted pineapple salsa. Both entrees were delicious.
Macadamia Crusted Sea Bass
My entree was the pan roasted sea scallops presented on top of a risotto cake with crunchy prosciutto topped by butternut squash.
Pan Roasted Scallops
Located on San Diego's Harbor Island, and directly across from the airport, is C-Level, an outdoor restaurant right on San Diego Bay with gorgeous views of the San Diego skyline and surrounding waters. This is a favorite Saturday or Sunday afternoon stop for some great food, drinks and views. While the view in the day is great, the night time view of the downtown San Diego skyline is spectacular making this one of the best San Diego restaurants for dinner after the sun sets.
The blackened shrimp spinach salad is one of our favorites.
Spinach and Blackened Shrimp Salad
This is without a doubt, one of the best San Diego restaurants that
has the whole package, food, sunshine, water, comfortable outdoor or indoor seating and a great view of
downtown San Diego, Point Loma and San Diego Bay.
C-Level View of San Diego Bay
C-Level, and it's adjoining indoor sister restaurant, Island Prime,
offers excellent seafood and steak on a water front atmosphere. C-Level does not take reservations and during peak hours, waiting times are commonly 45 minutes to an hour. Island Prime does accept reservations and they are recommended, especially if you want a window table.
minutes from downtown San Diego, C-Level is the perfect place to unwind
after a busy day.
The skirts of fire combines spicy and tender beef on a bed of greens.
Skirts on Fire
Prepared to perfection, the Shrimp Scampi is delicious. This dish combines roasted tomatoes, basil, capers, shallots,
garlic, lemon zest tossed with fettuccine and a white wine butter
Out of all San Diego restaurants, this may be the best key lime pie.
Three of the best San Diego restaurants, all located right next to each other and all with great views, C-Level, Coasterra and Island Prime. Try them all, you won't be disappointed.
Morton's is a high end steak house that specializes in, melt in your mouth, aged beef that is some of the best in the world. Located in San Diego's downtown gas lamp quarter, just a block away from the San Diego Convention center, Morton's is also known as one of the best restaurants in San Diego for great lobster, crab and salmon. The lobster bisque, shown below, was the best that I have ever had anywhere.
If you love perfectly prepared steak and fish then Morton's is for you.
Best San Diego Restaurants
Located on Harbor Island, across from the airport, is Coasterra specializing in modern Mexican cuisine. This is one of my favorite San Diego restaurants, and you can see from the photos below, we go there often!
While there is ample inside seating, the biggest feature of this restaurant is the huge outdoor eating area with views of downtown San Diego and they bay.
Coasterra View of Downtown San Diego
The tequila menu has the best selection of all San Diego restaurants that I have ever seen. I tried the three 1oz sampler.
Coasterra Tequila Sampler
A second, more secluded lounge, makes for a quiet place to get together with friends. The solar panel roofing allows just a little bit on sunshine to get through. For a comfortable and quiet place to relax this lounge is the best of all San Diego restaurants that I have been to.
I think we found the best burger in San Diego! Starts with a homemade brioche bun with arugula, guacamole, roasted pablanos, oaxacan cheese, cilantro-lime crema, tomato jam and ancho-chili bacon....plus some great steak fries.
Here is the Coconut Lime Shrimp salad with kale, delicious avocados, kale, spinach, cucumber, ruby red grapefruit, red onions and a really nice lemon vinaigrette.
Coconut Lime Shrimp Salad
For entrees, my wife had the Parrillada Mixta, a combination of angus skirt steak, Mexican white jumbo prawns and blackened chicken breasts.
I had the Enchiladas de Mariscos, a mixture of Mexican white Shrimp, bay scallops, pacific seabass, house made chorizo, smoked pablano cheese, queso fresco, salsa verde with Mexican rice and beans.
Enchiladas de Mariscos
Below is the Ensalada de Mariscos, a beautiful salad, with slightly spicy scallops, shrimp, mussels and sea bass prepared with greens, avocado, carrots with a light citrus dressing, inside of a, crispy and tasty, flour tortilla.
Ensalada de Mariscos
Another great lunch entree is the blacked chicken salad with field greens, avocado, roasted corn, black beans, sweet red onions, carrots, zuchinni, grilled panela cheese with a pomegranate vinaigrette.
Coasterra Chicken Salad
Both the Coasterra Chicken Salad and the Ensalada de Mariscos are perfectly paired with the Ferrari Carrano Chardonnay.
Ferrari Carrano Chardonnay
The outdoor seating area is large and airy with every seat having a great view of San Diego bay and the downtown skyline. Seating is first come, first serve with reservations accepted only for indoor dining. This is by far one of the best San Diego restaurants for a great view.
Best San Diego Restaurants
Wine Vault & Bistro
Of all San Diego restaurants, the Wine Vault and Bistro, located on India Street near downtown San Diego, offers the best wine and dinner pairings. The atmosphere is perfect for serving dinner groups of 2 to 12 in a quaint, not too fancy, casual atmosphere. The setting is small and located on the second story of a renovated old San Diego building.
Some of the best wines in the world are carefully paired with 6 course meals. The food is fantastic and the wine even better. The Winemaker is also present and speaks for a few minutes about each course.
Total pourings usually consist of 6 wines, red, white and dessert totaling about 20 ounces per person.
Advance reservations are required, often times weeks in advance. The Wine Vault and Bistro is closed on Wednesday to prepare the next week's menu.
Winesellar Home Page
Shown below is the Butter Poached Prawns with Safron Rice and Sofrito. This serving was paired with a Justin 2012 Chardonnay, a crisp medium plus body with hints of lemon, ripe yellow apples, peach and butterscotch. This is a great wine for $17 per bottle.
The Winesellar & Brasserie
The Winesellar offers casual bar dining, a wine store with selections from around the world plus a small, quaint second story dining area offering excellent seafood, salads and meat entrees. What set the Winesellar apart from other restaurants is that you can select the wine of your choice from the store and then carry it up to the restaurant. There is no corking fee and prices do not include the standard restaurant price markup.
This is somewhat of a "sleeper" restaurant that is well known by locals but a hard find for visitors due to its business park location with no beach or city view. However, this is a great place to select that perfect bottle of wine from a very large selection and walk it up to your table and enjoy a great meal.
I had the caramelized scallops with a squid ink potato puree, vegetables and citrus foam. The scallops were cooked perfectly and very tender with a nice crust. I love scallops, and this entree was at the top of my list of all San Diego restaurants.
My wife selected the angus beef short ribs that sat on a bed of swiss chard, baby carrots, butternut squash mousseline and topped with fresh green beans and a red wine sauce. This dish was prepared perfectly and very tender.
Angus Beef Short Ribs
Best San Diego Restaurants
Located in San Diego's Little Italy, seconds from downtown San Diego, is the hottest new restaurant in the city is Kettner Exchange. This two level, two bar American Cuisine restaurant is based on small, medium and large plates that are shared.
My favorites are the seared scallops and spicy shrimp (shown). The scallops are only seared on one side making a nice crust while keeping the inside translucent and tender. They are served alongside roasted potatoes, crispy potato chips, cauliflower and very small and delicate hon shimeji mushrooms.
The spicy shrimp sits on a bed of arugula with shitake mushrooms and chipotle aoili. The preparation is similar to tempura but is much lighter and does not have the heavy batter.
The atmosphere at Kettner Exchange is great, not too bright but light enough. Large hinged windows next to tables can be opened up to let the sea breeze flow through. All of the food is beautifully prepared and equally tasty.
Back to the 50s is the theme of the Corvette Diner. This is the perfect family restaurant with great burgers, fries, sandwiches and shakes to name just a few. After eating, head over to the arcade for some fun with the kids.
The food is excellent and reasonably priced with kid's menu items around $8, burgers about $11 plus extras and sandwiches and platters ranging from $11-15.
It can get crowded, especially on the weekends, so call ahead.
The Corvette Diner is located in the Point Loma area, just a few minutes from downtown.
Corvette Diner Entrance
The Grill at the Lodge at Torrey Pines
Located at the world famous Torrey Pines Golf Course, and adjacent to the Pro Shop, the Grill at the Lodge offers my favorite, the "Drugstore Burger", one of the best burgers in San Diego. Of course there are many more great menu items including meat and seafood plus a full bar.
The entrance is right next to the putting green by the Pro Shop. This is a extremely popular lunch spot during weekdays and visited by many who work in the area. Therefore reservations are recommended. Hint ! - Lunch at 11:15 or 11:30 gets a good jump on the crowd. Both indoor and outdoor patio seating is available so make sure you specify when making your reservations.
The view is amazing looking westward over the golf course towards the cliffs of Torrey Pines and the deep blue Pacific ocean.
Hash House a Go Go
Located in San Diego's Hillcrest community, just a few miles north of downtown San Diego, this small, quaint and very unique restaurant gets my vote for one of the best restaurants in San Diego for breakfast. Lunch and dinner are also served and are equally as good.
San Diego Magazine rated Hash House a Go Go as "Reader's choice best breakfast". The New York Times rated it as "36 hours in San Diego must have dinner"
The Hash House is known for the best fried chicken and waffles.
Fried Chicken and Waffles
Portions are huge and most leave the restaurant with to-go bags.
Breakfast starts at 7:30 am, 7 days a week and is served with lunch until 2pm on weekdays and 2:30pm on weekends. They are closed from 2:30 until the 5:30pm until the dinner servings start.
The double patty bacon burger with onion ring is one of my favorites.
Bacon Burger and Fries
Hint! - Weekend lines for breakfast often start well before the 7:30am opening and it is not unusual to see lines around the corner.
Don't miss out on Hash House a Go Go for a great meal and a unique experience.
San Diego Restaurants
Cucina Urbana is located very close to San Diego's Little Italy and is just a few minutes from downtown San Diego. This is one of my favorite and best San Diego restaurants.
Featuring California inspired Italian cuisine that is combined with locally grown organic produce, results is a very unique collection of appetizers and entrees. The setting of a modern style kitchen is combined with an old country farmhouse made out of locally reclaimed material plus a large, on the wall, wine selection make the atmosphere warm and relaxing.
My favorite appetizer is the Fresh Squash Blossoms. Stuffed with a herb ricotta that is made up of basil pesto and cured lemon aioli, these deep fried treats are just the start to a great dining experience. My favorite entrees are 1) Lasagna al Forno with beef, pork, veal, tomato and besciamella, 2) Margherita Pizza with san marzano tomato, homemade mozzarila and basil and 3) Spicy Shrimp Puttanesca Angel Hair Pasta with olive, caper and tomato.
Shown below are three large and tasty portions of the ravioli.
The majority of the entrees are under $20. You can personally select your own bottle of wine from the large selection on the wall and bring it back to your table. There is a modest $8 corking fee but the wines are not marked up nearly as much as the normal restaurant standard, making this an especially attractive deal. On Sundays, select any bottle over $20 and the corking charge is waived.
Cucina Urbana is a special place and reservations are recommended, sometimes many days, even weeks in advance.
The calamari salad was amazing and very tender.
The Indigo Grill is part of the Cohn group of family restaurants, all of which are absolutely amazing and combine ingredients from around the world in a stunning presentation that is almost too beautiful to eat...I said almost.
The menu is a varied collection of meat, poultry and fish that combines native American with Mexican and Southern ingredients and spices.
From the appetizers to the main entrees, they are all beautifully presented in generous portions.
For appetizers I love the Scallop and Shrimp Ceviche which is prepared in lime juice with a cucumber pico de gallo. It is light and refreshing. Other favorite entrees of mine are the Kaffir Lime Duck that combines a goat cheese risotto cake over garden fresh spinach with bacon and red onion salad and grilled zucchini skewer topping. The New Mexican Chili Stuffed Filet is served with garlic mashed potatoes, crunchy small onion rings, caramelized tomatoes and gorgonzola cheese. This is a wonderful dish that I like prepared medium rare.
Shown is one of my favorites, the Pecan Crusted Rainbow Trout. Deliciously prepared without a single bone, not one.
Pecan Crusted Rainbow Trout
The Indigo Grill is located just minutes from downtown San Diego in the historic Little Italy section.