8 Essential San Diego Restaurants Everyone Should Try
Location is what makes San Diego stand out when it comes to food. Near both the ocean and California’s southern border, this city by the beach is a haven for fresh seafood and Mexican cuisine. The area is well known for its wine – there are more than 100 wineries in San Diego county – offering exciting ways to pair local ingredients with local wine. That’s why San Diego restaurants have such a stellar reputation — from drinks to dessert, everything on the menu is top notch.
The food scene is diverse in this part of California: You’ll find rustic American food prepared in wood-fired ovens, lavish white tablecloth restaurants with decadent menus and stunning views, Asian inspired flavors, and lots of straight-from-the-ocean seafood.
One thing almost all the best San Diego restaurants have in common is their obsession with locally sourced ingredients – whether its oysters, fish, or produce – seasonal food, and luxury settings. Ornate dining rooms meet the freshest possible ingredients at these San Diego restaurants. With so many things to do in San Diego make sure you make time to book a table at one of these essential San Diego restaurants.
Ironside Fish & Oyster
This chic industrialist space that resembles a renovated garage showcases San Diego’s legendary seafood offerings. Seafood in almost all its many iterations are on the menu – from raw oysters, to clam chowder, crab cakes, mussels, and shrimp. The Ironside Platters combine multiple seafood dishes and are a great way to get to know the menu.
Ironside Fish & Oyster: 1654 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
Herb & Wood
Located in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood, Herb & Wood focuses on Mediterranean dishes prepared in wood-fired ovens. Simple ingredients like carrots, beets, and chicken populate the menu. Seating is an open air garden courtyard with a fireplace and the walls are decorated with paintings of beaches, meant to evoke San Diego’s seaside location.
Herb & Wood: 2210 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
One of the most elegant restaurants in San Francisco is Mister A’s with its expansive views of the San Diego skyline and rooftop patio. The white tablecloth restaurant features blue velvet chairs and the menu is both French and Mediterranean inspired. Decadent dishes with rich flavors, like Maine lobster pot pie and black truffle cacio e pepe, stand out on the menu.
Mister A’s: 2550 Fifth Ave 12th floor, San Diego, CA 92103
Awarded Bib Gourmand status by the Michelin Guide, Callie is another San Diego restaurant that takes its influence from the Mediterranean. The restaurant might borrow from global flavors, but local farms and fishermen are the kitchen’s main purveyors. The menu highlights seafood in particular, and spice has a big part to play too – look out for habanero dressing and Israeli hot sauce.
Callie: 1195 Island Ave., San Diego, 92101, USA
Born and Raised
With its mahogany decor and leather booths, Born and Raised as a glamorous atmosphere. High end cuts of meat and seafood are what this restaurant is all about: king crab, lobster, and every variety of steak you can imagine are on the menu. If you’re there on a date, consider the “dinner for two” portion of the menu, which includes a steak sampler platter, dry aged duck, or a beef wellington – all the share.
Born and Raised: 1909 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
Juniper & Ivy
Incorporating Latin and Asian flavors, Juniper & Ivy is sometimes described as a love letter to San Diego. Local ingredients – like uni sourced from the waters of the city’s coast – take center stage on the menu. The menu at this Little Italy restaurant is constantly evolving based on what fresh ingredients are available – in fact, the restaurant is so dedicated to local ingredients and wine that you’re unlikely to taste food like this anywhere else in the country.
Juniper & Ivy: 2228 Kettner Blvd., San Diego, 92101, USA
Addison is the only restaurant in Southern California with three Michelin stars – an accomplishment to be proud of. The nine course tasting menu showcases ingredients like caviar, oysters, and Iberian ham. Situated inside the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, the restaurant features stunning views of the San Diego hillsides.
Addison: 5200 Grand Del Mar Way, San Diego, CA 92130
Located in the Marina District of San Diego, this restaurant is dedicated to wagyu steaks. The Art Deco-inspired dining room – decorated with leather booths, chandeliers, and heavy velvet curtains – reflects the high end menu. Most of the dishes of the menu are prepared using a coal-fired oven or Japanese robata grill, and while steaks are the focus, guests can also find crab noodles, short ribs, and lamb chops on the menu. There’s a full list of cocktails, but the best thing to try on the drinks menu is the selection of sakes.
Animae: 969 Pacific Hwy, San Diego, CA 92101
Where to stay in San Diego
After you’re done exploring San Diego during the day, come back to one of these top-rated San Diego Airbnbs. All close to the beach, with comfortable bedrooms, and plenty of room lounge when you’re not out in the city, these Airbnbs are close to downtown San Diego. With spaces for both families and couples, you’ll find a place to love here.
South Park casita
This cozy house features a peaceful courtyard with a fountain, bench, and lush green vegetation on all sides. Full of natural lights and plants, the space is small (the washing machine is in the kitchen) but it’s the perfect size for a couple or someone traveling solo. The location is ideal too – it’s just a few miles from both local beaches and the downtown San Diego area.
Price: $133 per night
Cozy cabin the mountains
This romantic cabin in the mountains is decorated with exposed woodwork. There’s a deck out front that’s perfect for lounging during the day, and a sunny kitchen, as well as a soaking tub in the bathroom. Perfect for a couple looking for a secluded getaway, the house is five minutes from the beach or a scenic half hour drive from local wineries.
Price: $290 per night
Mid-century modern luxury home with a pool
This modern home has a backyard that you will fall in love with: From the covered cabana complete with a swing and a couch, to the fire pit surrounded by lounge chairs, to the pool and hot tub, it embodies San Diego sophistication. With four bedrooms, the house fits a total of ten guests, the large dining room and living room give your whole family lots of space to lounge, cook, and relax.
Price: $804 per night