Top 12 Best Restaurants in San Diego

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Emily Johnson

San Diego is known for its beautiful beaches, iconic landmarks, and of course, its amazing food scene.

RestaurantCuisineHighlight
AddisonFrench-inspired CaliforniaSeasonal, local ingredients, fine dining
The Marine RoomSeafoodWaterfront dining, sunset views
Herb & WoodCalifornian with Mediterranean accentsHandmade pastas, wood-fired entrees
George’s at the CoveSeafoodPanoramic ocean views, fresh local seafood
Cucina UrbanaItalianCalifornia-Italian fusion, seasonal ingredients
Born & RaisedSteakhousePrime cuts, contemporary ambiance
TrustCalifornianSeasonal ingredients, global flavors
Jeune et JolieFrenchArtfully composed shared plates
Little FrenchieFrench-AmericanSeasonal comfort food, cozy environment
CataniaItalianSouthern Italian cuisine, handmade pastas
Ironside Fish & OysterSeafoodFresh catch, chef-driven menu
The FisherySeafoodBeachside dining, sustainable catches
Juniper & IvyContemporary AmericanBold flavors, molecular gastronomy techniques

From tasty Mexican fare to fresh seafood straight from the Pacific Ocean, San Diego has something to offer every palate.

Addison

Name and Location: Addison is located inside the Grand Del Mar luxury resort in the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve just east of the 5 Freeway.

History and Significance: Open since 2006, the elegant restaurant emphasizes seasonal French-inspired California cuisine by acclaimed Chef William Bradley in a refined four-diamond setting. Signature dishes utilize herbs and vegetables from the on-site garden.

What to Expect: Guests select from a tasting menu showcasing dishes like citrus-cured salmon, Wagyu beef tenderloin, squab with foie gras, and smoked chocolate mousse. An award-winning wine collection pairs with the courses.

Visitor Information: Dinner reservations required, with jackets preferred for gentlemen. Valet parking available. The premium multicourse experience runs $98-$250 per guest excluding drinks and gratuity.

Tucked away in a sophisticated and sleek dining room at the Grand Del Mar resort, Addison impresses guests with stylish fine dining and imaginative modern French-inspired California cuisine. Executive Chef William Bradley uses only the best seasonal and local ingredients to create memorable culinary works of art. Some standout dishes include Maine lobster with hearts of palm, truffle macaroni and cheese, and Wagyu beef with foie gras. Addison also boasts an award-winning wine list with over 1500 selections. With its elegant atmosphere and culinary mastery, Addison is undoubtedly one of the best restaurants in San Diego.

The Marine Room

Name and Location: The Marine Room sits along the La Jolla shoreline in coastal San Diego. Floor-to-ceiling windows showcase panoramic Pacific Ocean views.

History and Significance: Initially opened in 1941, the fine dining staple emphasizes sustainable seafood alongside steaks and chops in an iconic wave-adjacent setting. The dramatic oceanfront backdrop during high tides literally brings water up to the windows.

What to Expect: Creative fare like Maine lobster strudel, sesame seared ahi tuna and chocolate cake with strawberry compote takes center stage, complemented by an award-winning wine list spanning 500+ labels. Live music plays nightly.

Visitor Information: Reservations recommended with dinner entrées ranging $48-$65, plus tasting menus offered. Valet parking available. Cocktail attire is appropriate.

Situated with floor-to-ceiling windows directly on the sand in La Jolla, The Marine Room offers one-of-a-kind waterfront dining and some of the best sunset views in San Diego. The restaurant dates back to 1941 and focuses on sophisticated seafood dishes made with an array of global flavors and influences. Popular picks range from pan-seared diver scallops and Scottish salmon to a surf-and-turf featuring lobster and filet mignon. The Marine Room is also revered for its extensive wine list featuring over 1,500 labels. Between the spectacular seaside setting, stellar cuisine, and exceptional wine program, The Marine Room sets the standard for fine waterfront dining in San Diego.

Herb & Wood

Name and Location: Herb & Wood is located in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood downtown. The sleek black-and-white interior resides inside a converted historic brick boiler house.

History and Significance: Launched in 2016 by Chef Brian Malarkey, it blends southern Italian soul food with California ingredients focused on handmade pastas, wood-fired pizzas and rotisserie specialties prepared before guests.

What to Expect: Menu highlights include squid ink tonnarelli, blistered Shishito peppers, half or whole rotisserie chicken with chicken jus and cider braised pork belly done in their namesake wood oven plus craft cocktails.

Visitor Information: Walk-ins accepted but reservations strongly recommended, especially for patio seating. Main plates run $19-$36. Validated parking available in nearby garages, or access by trolley line.

Located in downtown San Diego’s hip Gaslamp Quarter, Herb & Wood exemplifies modern Californian cuisine with Mediterranean and Italian accents. Herb & Wood specializes in handmade pastas, brick-oven pizzas, creative small plates, and wood-fired entrees that burst with fresh, vibrant flavors. Top menu items include the pumpkin ravioli with brown butter and sage, blistered shishito peppers with lemon and parmesan, and the wood oven-roasted half chicken. Herb & Wood also offers an intriguing cocktail menu and one of the best happy hours in the Gaslamp. The industrial-chic interior lined with brick walls and accented by plants, along with the convivial vibe, makes Herb & Wood a go-to downtown dining destination.

George’s at the Cove

Name and Location: George’s at the Cove sits atop a stunning cliffside perch in La Jolla overlooking ocean views through floor-to-ceiling windows.

History and Significance: Open since 1984, George’s offers three dining concepts under one roof—California Modern on the bottom floor, Ocean Terrace Level and George’s Bar. Chef Trey Foshee emphasizes fresh seafood and prime meats.

What to Expect: Menus change with the seasons but often include dishes like smoked salmon pizza, pan-seared sea bass and dry aged porterhouse steak alongside craft cocktails and an award-winning wine cellar.

Visitor Information: Reservations recommended, especially for outdoor terrace seating. Main plates range $36-$98. Valet parking available. Smart casual dress code applies.

For breathtaking views and exceptional seafood, George’s at the Cove ranks as one of the premier restaurants in La Jolla. Occupying an enviable position atop Mount Soledad, George’s panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows showcase sweeping vistas of La Jolla Cove and the Pacific Ocean. George’s is led by an award-winning culinary team that excels at preparing the freshest local seafood and prime meats with global flavors and artistic plating. Menu highlights include the pan-seared sea scallops with Meyer lemon risotto and truffle emulsion as well as the legendary garlic-herb marinated hanger steak. In addition to the stunning scenery and cuisine, George’s offers an award-winning wine cellar with over 9,500 bottles. For a memorable fine dining experience in La Jolla, George’s at the Cove is a can’t-miss destination.

Cucina Urbana

Name and Location: Cucina Urbana operates in the Bankers Hill neighborhood of San Diego near Balboa Park. A sister restaurant sits in Orange County.

History and Significance: Open since 2009 under acclaimed Chef Joe Magnanelli, it focuses on modern Italian-American comfort food made with California ingredients in a casual urban Italian setting.

What to Expect: Signature rustic Italian plates like pizzas, pasta, paninis, salads and tiramisu made from scratch draw loyal locals. Extensive wine and craft cocktail menus complement the dishes.

Visitor Information: Walk-ins accepted but reservations recommended. Main plates ranging $14-$25. Street and valet parking available. The vibrant yet cozy ambiance fits date nights or groups.

In the heart of Bankers Hill, Cucina Urbana blends Italian roots with modern California flair. Cucina Urbana specializes in handmade pastas, wood-fired pizzas, and California-Italian fusion cuisine highlighting seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. Customer favorites include the short rib pappardelle Bolognese, burrata ravioli with wild mushroom sugo, and diver scallops with Brussels sprouts, pancetta, and apple cider gastrique. Cucina Urbana also offers an eclectic wine list focused on small-production Italian varietals along with California selections. The vibrant and convivial ambiance enhanced by the open-kitchen adds to the allure of this Bankers Hill gem. Since opening its doors in 2009, Cucina Urbana has earned acclaim as one of San Diego’s best Italian restaurants.

Born & Raised

Name and Location: Born & Raised is situated downtown in the sophisticated Little Italy neighborhood of San Diego. The 7,000 square foot space resides inside a converted early 20th century warehouse.

History and Significance: Opened in 2019 by prominent San Diego hospitality group CH Projects, it quickly gained acclaim for its contemporary steakhouse concept and extensive whiskey program showcasing rare, limited-edition spirits.

What to Expect: Guests select premium cuts of meat alongside shareable sides and starters like bone marrow and oysters before visiting the spirited whiskey room. The vibe is upscale yet relaxed.

Visitor Information: Reservations recommended for seating in the dining room or casual patio. Steaks run $52+. Valet and paid lot parking available. Attire ranges from casual chic to business.

Helmed by award-winning Chef Adam Cook, Born & Raised elevates the steakhouse experience in Little Italy with its contemporary ambiance and prime cuts of meat. The locally-raised steaks take center stage, cooked sous vide then seared for a precise temperature and melt-in-your-mouth texture. Beyond the steaks, standouts include Wagyu beef carpaccio, Maine lobster Caesar salad, and indulgent sides like truffle mac and cheese. Born & Raised also provides an exceptional craft cocktail program to complement your meal alongside a curated list of domestic and Old World wines. With its sleek dark decor juxtaposed with signature western photography, Born & Raised brings a modern flair to the steakhouse concept, making it a premier downtown dining destination.

Trust

Name and Location: Trust resides in San Diego’s hip East Village downtown neighborhood on Market Street. The corner location features indoor-outdoor dining.

History and Significance: Helmed by Chef Brad Wise since 2018, Trust celebrates nostalgic Italian-American dishes like chicken parm, lasagna Bolognese and New York-style pizzas paired with Negronis, spritzes and Italian wines in a retro setting.

What to Expect: Guests enjoy family-style appetizers followed by hearty main plates or thin-crust pizzas with fun touches like tableside Caesars and rotating gelatos. The vibe balances vintage cool with laid-back hospitality.

Visitor Information: Walk-ins welcome but reservations advised for patio seating. Plates range $12-$28. Nearby garage parking available. The corner location draws a lively after-work crowd.

Nestled along a quiet side street in hip East Village, Trust reinvents the modern bistro by fusing seasonal Californian ingredients with global techniques and flavors. The dinner menu rotates regularly based on market availability but consistently showcases playfully plated dishes like hamachi crudo in a yuzu kosho vinaigrette, scallop agnolotti with chanterelle mushrooms, and vegetarian leek and mascarpone agnolotti. Trust also offers a tasting menu option allowing diners to enjoy a curated chef’s-choice meal. Led by talented Executive Chef Brad Wise, Trust wows diners with its creativity and flavor combinations in an unexpectedly artsy and laidback setting. Since opening in 2018, Trust has fast become a downtown dining hotspot.

Jeune et Jolie

Name and Location: Jeune et Jolie from Chef Eric Bost is located in San Diego’s Carlsbad Village neighborhood, offering intimate French bistro fare inside a quaint historic Craftsman home.

History and Significance: Meaning “young and beautiful” in French, the cozy 26-seat restaurant focuses on seasonal California-French cuisine paired with small production French wines since opening in late 2021 to numerous accolades.

What to Expect: Ever-evolving dishes may include vanquacken farm duck, line-caught rock fish or dry-aged beef alongside standouts like salmon rillettes, chestnut veloute soup, apple tarte tatin and inspired cheese boards.

Visitor Information: Reservations are essential given the tiny space and popularity. The $85 four-course prix fixe menu changes monthly, with select a la carte dishes offered. Street parking available.

Tucked along a charming side street in laidback Carlsbad Village, Jeune et Jolie transports diners to the south of France with rustic French cuisine made from hyperlocal ingredients. The menu focuses on artfully composed shared plates like diver scallop crudo, duck liver mousse, and rotating seafood specials. Larger plates such as steak frites, roasted chicken, and bouillabaisse stews channel the bistros and brasseries of Provence and Paris. Jeune et Jolie also provides an elevated all-French wine list plus classic and modern French-inspired cocktails. Between the intimate seating, gracious hospitality, and beautifully executed French fare, Jeune et Jolie delights visitors as one of the best restaurants in North County San Diego.

Little Frenchie

Name and Location: Little Frenchie operates in Coronado near the ferry landing overlooking the downtown San Diego skyline. The location resides inside a historic 1910 home on a quiet side street.

History and Significance: Opened in 2021 by Michelin-starred Chef DJ Tangalin, the intimate venue focuses on modern French-Filipino cuisine blending Filipino flavors with French techniques in a refined-yet-homey 28-seat space.

What to Expect: Ever-evolving seasonal offerings may include savory coconut-braised beef shanks, crispy pork belly, prawn bisque agnolotti pasta, buko pie and ube ice cream. Multicourse tasting menus offer the best experience.

Visitor Information: Reservations essential given micro size and popularity. Tasting menus run $95-$125 with wine pairings available. Free neighborhood street parking. Jackets not required in the comfy environment.

Embodying casual-chic dining at its finest in Coronado, Little Frenchie serves seasonal French-American comfort food in a cozy and welcoming neighborhood environment. Helmed by classically trained French chef David Coqueran, the menu focuses on American classics with French influences, like fried chicken, braised short ribs, and roasted half chicken. Little Frenchie also prepares can’t-miss starters such as duck pâté with housemade pickles and a tender kale and apple salad sprinkled with goat cheese croutons. Beyond the mouthwatering food, Little Frenchie impresses diners with its carefully curated all-French wine list, comprising both classic and boutique producers. Thanks to its talented chef, cozy ambiance, and flavorful bistro classics, Little Frenchie shines as a Coronado dining destination.

Catania

Name and Location: Catania sits along the La Jolla shoreline overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Floor-to-ceiling windows bathe the space with natural light highlighting coastal views.

History and Significance: Opened in 2000 by chef Alessandro Castellani, Catania encapsulates modern Italian seaside culture through Sicilian-inspired seafood, housemade pastas and vinegar-focused cocktails in a relaxed yet sophisticated setting.

What to Expect: Signature plates like linguine with clams, pizzas, salt-crusted branzino and limoncello tiramisu take center stage complemented by domestic and Italian wines plus spirits like grappa.

Visitor Information: Reservations recommended for window seating. Main courses run $26-$42. Garage parking validated. Smart casual attire welcomed.

Widely considered one of San Diego’s premier Italian restaurants, Catania in Little Italy transports diners to Sicily through vibrant southern Italian cuisine made with California sensibilities. Helmed by Sicilian-born Executive Chef Alessandro Minutella, Catania focuses on handmade pastas, wood-fired pizzas, and contemporary seafood and meat preparations drawing inspiration from Sicily. Signature dishes include squid ink chitarra with sea urchin, clams, and N’duja sausage as well as a 52-ounce dry-aged Tomahawk ribeye for two. Catania also boasts one of San Diego’s best Italian wine lists with over 300 labels. Blending tradition and innovation through its soulful cooking and lively ambiance, Catania offers some of the finest Italian dining in America’s Finest City.

Ironside Fish & Oyster

Name and Location: Ironside Fish & Oyster resides downtown inside San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood. The industrial-chic warehouse interior features towering ceilings, concrete floors and subway tile.

History and Significance: Debuting in 2015, James Beard-nominated Chef Paul Arias plates artistically composed raw bar items alongside grilled and composed seafood dishes inspired by Baja, Japan, Southeast Asia and San Diego’s historic fishing heritage.

What to Expect: Constantly changing dishes include composed plates (think smoked tuna dip, grilled octopus) alongside raw oyster and crudo options, inventive lobster rolls and indulgent fish and chips, enhanced by SoCal wines, beers and cocktails.

Visitor Information: Walk-ins accepted but reservations recommended. Dishes range $15-$45. Nearby lot and garage parking available, or access via Uber. The industrial-chic ambiance draws a stylish crowd.

Sourcing seafood daily from local fishermen and premier West Coast purveyors, Ironside showcases San Diego’s seasonal catch and shellfish alongside a chef-driven menu of shareable plates and entrées. Helmed by Executive Chef Jason McLeod, Ironside impresses with tantalizing dishes like raw local sea urchin, grilled octopus with romesco sauce, and salt spring mussels in a green curry broth. For exceptional craft cocktails, Ironside also houses a speakeasy-style bar downstairs serving Prohibition-era libations. Ironside’s industrial-chic interior dotted with iron beams and brick walls provides an edgy yet laidback setting for its ultra-fresh seafood. Located downtown in Little Italy near the waterfront, Ironside reels in diners as one of San Diego’s premier seafood destinations.

The Fishery

Name and Location: The Fishery overlooks the Pacific Ocean along San Diego’s scenic Pacific Beach boardwalk, steps from the sand. Floor-to-ceiling windows optimize ocean views.

History and Significance: Family owned and operated since 1992 in an iconic Southern California beach setting, The Fishery is helmed by respected seafood chef and author Paul Arias. Seasonal menus showcase fresh, sustainable local catches.

What to Expect: Specialties include composed appetizers (like ahi poke, crab cakes), raw bar selections, tacos, cioppino and wavetossed pasta dishes complemented by beachy cocktails. Oceanfront patio seating soaks up the sunset over drinks.

Visitor Information: Reservations advised for patio seating. Main plates from $22-48. Nearby public parking and easy walkability enhance access. Perfect for beachgoers desiring oceanfront fine dining in a casual setting.

Tucked inside a cozy cottage along the Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Beach, The Fishery captures the essence of beachside dining with its kitschy-cool decor and super-fresh, simply prepared seafood dishes. The Fishery sources sustainable catches directly from local fishermen and highlights seasonal specials in its beach shack setting. Menu favorites include the signature Fishery fish tacos, snapper ceviche tostadas, and beautifully grilled seafood like lemony turbot and Vietnamese-style bronzini with herbs. No trip to Pacific Beach is complete without experiencing The Fishery’s friendly atmosphere and ocean-to-table ethos that keeps locals and visitors coming back.

Juniper & Ivy

Name and Location: Juniper & Ivy is situated in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood downtown. The voluminous industrial space contains an open kitchen and 20-foot ceilings.

History and Significance: Since launching in 2014, Chef Richard Blais has focused on playful molecular techniques applied to seasonal New American plates and handcrafted cocktails in a refined yet relaxed warehouse environment filled with living plants.

What to Expect: Ever-progressing dishes utilize creative preparations and premium ingredients like dry aged duck breast alongside standouts like the burrata appetizer, marinated hanger steak and homemade soft serve ice creams.

Visitor Information: Walk-ins sometimes accommodated, but reservations strongly advised. Shareable plates $9-21, large plates $27-45 plus desserts. Nearby garage parking. Perfect for adventurous foodies.

Regarded as one of San Diego’s best restaurants, Juniper & Ivy in Little Italy wows diners with its tempting contemporary American plates bursting with bold flavors. At the helm is Chef Richard Blais, an acclaimed chef and winner of Bravo’s “Top Chef All-Stars,” who leads Juniper & Ivy with his trademark molecular gastronomy techniques. Celebrated menu items include the liquid nitrogen cherry cheesecake, compressed watermelon with whipped feta, and the dry-aged ribeye cap served with bone marrow butter. Juniper & Ivy also entices guests with craft cocktails on tap, an extensive wine list, and a buzzing bar scene. Thanks to its award-winning culinary team, envelope-pushing cooking methods, and lively atmosphere, Juniper & Ivy stands apart as both an essential San Diego dining experience and pioneer on the national culinary scene.

Conclusion

From Gaslamp Quarter hotspots to laissez-faire beachside cafés, San Diego serves up boundless dining variety spanning casual bites to Michelin-starred meals. The top restaurants in America’s Finest City take advantage of the region’s bountiful land and sea, incredible wine culture, and the city’s proximity to Mexico to deliver some of the country’s most eclectic and tasty cuisine. Whether enjoying clever small plates in a hidden East Village eatery or sunset seafood amid panoramic Pacific views, San Diego’s remarkable restaurant scene offers memorable dining for every preference and budget.

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