San Diego is known as “America’s Finest City,” and it’s not hard to see why. This Southern California city is as southern as the state gets, giving it pleasant year-round temperatures, beautiful beaches, and attractions for families and adults alike.
Its northern neighbors, like Los Angeles and San Francisco, often get a lot of attention in California when it comes to good food. And while that may be well-deserved, San Diego’s food scene is arguably just as diverse and gourmet. Any visitor or local of this sunny city should be delighted by the eateries it offers.
San Diego‘s culinary landscape ranges from taco shacks that are tasty enough to keep you on this side of the border to high-end dining rooms rated by the likes of Michelin and Forbes. This is a city with fresh seafood, prime cuts of meat, and culinary delights from every corner of the world.
We’ve put together the following list of some of the best restaurants San Diego has to offer. No matter your budget, dress code preference, or palette, there’s plenty of great food in this city. Use this list as a guide for planning the perfect meals.
Best Restaurants in San Diego
1. Addison Restaurant
Address: 5200 Grand Del Mar Way, San Diego, CA 92130
We have to start our list of amazing San Diego restaurants with Addison Restaurant, San Diego’s first and only restaurant to have three Michelin stars. This elegant, upscale restaurant is located in the Fairmont Grand Del Mar and is led by executive chef William Bradley. Chef Bradley uses local and regional ingredients and Southern California influence to create his seasonal nine-course tasting menus.
This culinary journey delights all guests and is truly a three-Michelin-star experience. The warm and romantic ambiance allows you to relax while enjoying your meal.
I highly recommend adding wine pairings to the tasting menu to get the best dining experience. Some ingredients you might look forward to include A5 Wagyu beef, caviar, Kumamoto oysters, and cod.
There is no written menu, as the nine courses change seasonally. The restaurant is also happy to accommodate any dietary restrictions you may have, so let them know at the time of booking.
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2. Carnitas’ Snack Shack
Address: 1004 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
If you want to know where locals eat in San Diego, you’ll find them at Carnitas’ Snack Shack on the Embarcadero waterfront. This San Diego eatery is best known for its juicy pork sandwiches, delicious tacos, and refreshingly cold beer. They’re open all day, so whether you’re craving a breakfast burrito or late-night nachos, Carnitas’ Snack Shack has what you need to satisfy those cravings.
By far, the most popular menu items are the pork sandwiches. The Triple Threat sandwich is stacked high with pork loin schnitzel, pulled pork, bacon, mouthwatering pepperoncini relish, and shack aioli, all on a soft brioche bun.
Don’t forget the queso fries, which are seasoned shack fries topped with carnitas, queso, and pico de gallo. The fish tacos are also fresh and delicious.
Carnitas’ Snack Shack is also one of the best restaurants in San Diego for families because of its huge shareable boxes of tacos and nachos. Add a beer bucket with six mix-and-match canned beers for the adults. Vegetarian sandwiches and burritos are also available.
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Address: 3175 India St, San Diego, CA 92103
Starlite is a beautiful hidden gem located in Mission Hills. It serves craft cocktails and great food in an intimate space with a relaxed atmosphere. The dreamy hexagonal-shaped dining room features a stunning chandelier and twinkle lights that will really make you feel like you’re dining in the night sky.
This San Diego restaurant is great if you’re looking for simple but delicious food and an impressive drink menu. Since this is a gastropub, it only is open to those 21 and over. The bar offers a great selection of inventive takes on classic cocktails like the salted maple Old Fashioned and the Starlite Mule.
As for food, Starlite offers small plates to share, salads, and full entrees. Some of their most popular menu items include grilled octopus, roasted bone marrow, and pan-roasted Jidori chicken. If you’re in search of something a bit lighter but still full of flavor, I recommend the persimmon and apple salad.
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4. The Crack Shack – Little Italy
Address: 2266 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
The Crack Shack is a local hotspot in Little Italy with all kinds of fried chicken meals and amazing sides. You can often see a line going out the door – a telltale sign of some tasty grub.
It’s even touted by some as having the best fried chicken in the US. The original location is in Little Italy in San Diego but has now expanded to Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Houston, and all over Southern California.
You can get everything from traditional buckets of chicken to fried chicken sandwiches, grilled chicken sandwiches, bowls, and fun sides. I have to recommend the Caesar’s Chick, which is basically a Caesar salad on a bun.
The tangy flavors of the pickled red onions and pepperoncinis combined pair amazingly well with the grilled Jidori chicken breast. The fried chicken oysters and Mexican poutine make for amazing shareable sides that will delight your taste buds.
Don’t want to stand in that long line? The Crack Shack is available for delivery and pick-up to satisfy your cravings.
5. The Fish Market – San Diego
Address: 750 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
If you’re looking for San Diego’s best local seafood restaurant with a view, head over to The Fish Market. It’s located right on the bayfront next to Tuna Harbor Park and features a casual and welcoming atmosphere. Guests can enjoy the fresh sea breeze on the restaurant’s outdoor patio or choose to eat in the dining room.
The vast menu includes everything from ahi poke with wonton chips, crispy octopus, and a smoked fish sampler. Not a fish eater? No worries. The Fish Market offers many non-seafood menu items, including a New York steak with rosemary chimichurri sauce, baby kale salad, and their signature cheesy garlic bread.
A kids’ menu is also available. If you’re just looking to enjoy the views and the fresh air with a drink or two, the restaurant has a fantastic drink menu of classic cocktails, California drafts, wine, and more.
Don’t forget to save room for dessert! The Fish Market offers homemade classics like key lime pie and chocolate mousse on their dessert menu. It’s definitely one of the best places to eat in San Diego if you want fresh seafood, incredible views, and the perfect oceanfront atmosphere. It’s worth noting that this is a cashless restaurant, so don’t forget your credit or debit card.
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Address: 3000 Upas St, San Diego, CA 92104
If you’re looking for affordable Japanese comfort food, head to Underbelly in North Park. There’s nothing better than a rich and comforting bowl of ramen and a cold, refreshing beer. If that sounds like the perfect meal for you, Underbelly has you sorted.
Of course, the most popular menu items are the ramen bowls. You can choose bowls with tonkatsu broth or vegetable broth with specialized toppings or create your own bowl.
The long list of toppings includes soft-boiled eggs, beef brisket, bacon-wrapped mushrooms, eggplant-wrapped tofu, and shishito peppers. The large portions and affordable price point make this a must during your time in San Diego.
You also won’t want to miss the bao buns here at Underbelly. Delicious fillings include pork belly, fried chicken, and albacore tuna.
My mouth is watering just thinking about the pork belly buns. And don’t forget the mochi ice cream! The drink menu is quite extensive, too, especially with craft beers.
7. The Rose
Address: 2219 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
The Rose wine bar in South Park is the perfect cute yet casual spot to get together with friends. As you’d expect, this wine bar features an extensive wine list from the greatest wine regions in the world.
They also serve beer, cider, and a ton of cocktails and mocktails. It’s the ultimate after-work neighborhood joint or just a great spot to stop by for casual drinks and food.
This spot isn’t lacking when it comes to delicious food, either. You can share small bites like empanadas, fancy pickled veggies, and market oysters or get bigger plates like The Rose Burger, margarita flatbread, or apple cider-glazed pork porterhouse.
For dessert, I highly suggest the Secret Sister Olive Oil Cake served with home-made jam. It’s light and fluffy and not overly sweet.
Looking for a charming weekend brunch spot? Head to The Rose! Enjoy a mimosa while you indulge in some of The Rose’s exclusive brunch items, like the carnitas hash with poached eggs, classic biscuits and gravy, and a seasonal quiche.
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8. Born and Raised
Address: 1909 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
As one of the most popular restaurants in San Diego, Born and Raised doesn’t disappoint with its phenomenal decor, gorgeous outdoor patio, and luxurious dry-aged beef. This classic San Diego eatery has secured its spot in the Michelin guide with its fabulous steakhouse dishes and top-notch service. It’s a classic American steakhouse with a French flair.
All the details of Born and Raised have been thoughtfully designed, from the towering floral pieces throughout the restaurant and outdoor patio to the low, romantic lighting, and of course, the outstanding plating and flavors. You can have the staff prepare omelets or Caesar salad tableside or enjoy some superb steak cuts like Tomahawk, Wagyu, and dry-aged porterhouse.
Even the sides will have you drooling with options including Parisian gnocchi, Vichy carrots, and coal-roasted leeks. Caviar service is also available.
The steaks aren’t the only reason to visit Born and Raised. Be sure to check out the extensive drink menu featuring wine and spirits from around the world.
If you’re unsure of what to get, consider one of the tableside options like a martini, Manhattan, or Rob Roy. They have all the classic cocktails you could want and more.
Stop by after work to enjoy their weekday happy hour every Monday through Friday from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Born and Raised is only open for dinner and is quite popular, so don’t forget to make a reservation ahead of time.
9. Ironside Fish & Oyster
Address: 1654 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
If you’re a fiend for raw seafood like me, you must add Ironside Fish & Oyster to your list of restaurants in San Diego to try. The eatery sits in a renovated warehouse with industrial and nautical-inspired decor.
The menu changes almost daily to provide only the best fresh seafood available, but you can always find something delicious, whether you take your seafood raw or cooked. And don’t worry, vegetarian dishes are available here, too.
The big thing to try here is the Raw Bar dinner or Raw Bar lunch. My favorite is the kanpachi crudo, served with white soy, scallions, and lime zest. This perfect combination of flavors will have the sashimi just melt in your mouth.
If you want to order something to share, order the Big Ironside Platter. It comes with six oysters, six shrimp, rockfish ceviche, and aguachile. It’s the perfect amount of food for two to share.
This seafood restaurant is definitely one of the best restaurants in San Diego to get a true taste of the city’s fresh coastal cuisine. And if you’re not feeling seafood, Ironside offers delicious alternatives like the peach and burrata salad and a flavorful roasted half-chicken.
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10. NINE-TEN Restaurant
Address: 910 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037
Located in La Jolla’s iconic Grand Colonial hotel, NINE-TEN Restaurant is touted as one of the best restaurants in all of Southern California. It perfectly combines the chic sophistication that Southern California is known for with casual elegance. Award-winning chef Jason Knibb and pastry chef Jose Alonzo III are both incredibly experienced in the restaurant industry and strive to create impeccable menus made with the best locally-sourced ingredients.
The lunch and dinner menus change seasonally and sometimes even daily based on which ingredients are available at the time. Entrees include vegan options like the roasted cauliflower steak, tantalizing seafood options like the pan-seared Maine scallops in a Meyer lemon sauce, and braised lamb shank. You can’t go wrong with any of the entrees.
Save room for dessert, or risk missing out on some pretty delectable bites. The half-baked chocolate cake just melts in your mouth and is a must for anyone with a sweet tooth.
This Michelin-guide eatery is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as for weekend brunch. It caters to all dietary needs offering vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options.
11. Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
Address: 5627 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037
With several locations throughout San Diego, this award-winning coffee shop is the perfect stop for all your caffeination needs. Bird Rock Coffee Roasters has been a staple in the area for over a decade and continues to provide high-quality drinks for the community and beyond. Their rigorous selection process and direct trade with farmers allow them to serve and create only the best coffee.
Starting off with the drink selection, you can choose to get a classic tea or coffee or opt for a nitro cold brew or sparkling tea on tap. Bird Rock offers a wonderful selection of lattes infused with eclectic flavors. The Honey B Latte is warm and comforting but if you’re looking to try something unique, order the Iced Dirty Horchata.
The food selection is awesome as well. The vegetarian soyrizo burrito is packed with flavor and includes avocado, potatoes, salsa, and eggs.
The mini dippers are mini burritos filled with eggs, cheese, and bacon that come with their own cheesy dipping sauce. If you want some lighter options, Bird Rock has its own home-made granola and seasonal scones.
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12. Serea Coastal Cuisine
Address: 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118
Serea Coastal Cuisine is worth the 15-minute ferry ride from San Diego to Coronado. Located in the legendary Hotel del Coronado, this beachfront restaurant focuses on sustainable seafood practices when it comes to both raw and cooked items. The menu is a phenomenal mix of Mediterranean-meets-California with menu items like the Serea mezze and Baja kanpachi.
The well-accomplished chef JoJo Ruiz is famous throughout the region for his creativity and commitment to sustainability. This commitment is reflected in the menu tremendously through its local seafood and produce ingredients.
Start off with the crispy saganaki appetizer, which is basically fried cheese and vegetables. If you’re looking for a vegan option, I recommend the wood-roasted cauliflower.
If you’re dining with a group, you should definitely order some tableside fish, either wood-grilled or flash fried. All tableside fish is caught locally and responsibly. If your kids aren’t big on seafood, there is a kids’ menu available as well.
The restaurant is well-equipped with a full bar to serve any cocktail you desire, along with an extensive wine list. The curated selection of local drafts and specialty cocktails is sure to delight the most adventurous libation lovers.
13. Wayfarer Bread & Pastry
Address: 5525 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037
Wayfarer Bread is a small neighborhood bakery located in Bird Rock. This hidden gem’s menu varies from week to week, with an amazing selection of bread, pastries, sandwiches, and grocery items.
They source many of their ingredients from local farms around San Diego County, one of the factors that bring in locals and visitors alike. Wayfarer Bread can also be found on shelves of local markets around San Diego.
Every Friday and Saturday, the bakery has a pizza night with various pizza offerings. The pizzas are made fresh in small batches and can be pre-ordered during the week. Toppings include winter squash, chorizo, toasted pepitas, tomatillo sauce, and French onions but change bi-weekly.
Wayfarer offers all the essential bread types like sourdough, English muffins, and baguettes. The pastry selection includes classics like cinnamon buns and chocolate croissants to more fascinating confections like the blood orange vanilla scone and citrus pistachio croissant.
Every week, a meat and vegetarian sandwich option are offered. All pastries can be pre-ordered for pick-up through the bakery’s website until 5:00 am on the same day.
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Address: 3105 Ocean Front Walk, San Diego, CA 92109
I know we’ve talked about a lot of seafood on this list, but we can’t talk about San Diego’s food scene without mentioning Cannonball. This beachfront eatery is known for its phenomenal Japanese cuisine and amazing sushi. With unbeatable views of Mission Beach from its rooftop terrace, Cannonball is among the best restaurants in San Diego for dinner.
No matter if you’re sitting for a meal or just drinks, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of Cannonball’s outdoor seating. The restaurant features small plates, salads, entrees, sushi rolls, and nigiri.
For a mix between Asian cuisine and California flair, try the Cannonball Burrito, their signature dish. It’s a sesame soy wrap filled with shrimp tempura, crab, tuna, green onion, avocado, cream cheese, and spicy mayo. Absolutely delicious!
Just like the food offerings, the drink menu is unique and inventive. Enjoy their wide selection of sake and Japanese whiskey, or opt for a glass of wine or a local draft beer. Cannonball also features several fun and fruity cocktails, like the Sunny & 75, which is made with gin, guava, elderflower, and sparkling wine.
Cannonball is open for lunch and dinner, but I highly recommend getting there just before sunset. You can also enjoy live music performed by local San Diego artists from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm every Thursday evening. It’s the perfect atmosphere to enjoy the beauty of San Diego.
15. Tribute Pizza
Address: 3077 N Park Way, San Diego, CA 92104
There are plenty of pizzerias in San Diego, but not many like Tribute Pizza. This classic and authentic spot for Italian fare is located in the North Park neighborhood, and while it may be a few miles from the attractions and hotels of downtown, it’s certainly worth the drive or bus ride.
Tribute Pizza is one of the few places in San Diego that makes real wood-fired pizza, and you’ll find more than a dozen varieties available in three different sizes on their eclectic menu. There’s a huge range of vegetarian and vegan options, too. Tribute is obsessed with the high quality and freshness of their ingredients, which goes for their non-pizza entrées and salads, too.
The food is complemented by a very large drink menu, containing cocktails and wines that will transport you straight to the canals of Venice or the cliffs of Amalfi. You can enjoy it all in their roomy dining room around the open-air kitchen or take it back to the beach for sunset.
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16. MARKET Restaurant + Bar
Address: 3702 Via De La Valle, Del Mar, CA 92014
San Diego is full of fabulous restaurants, but if you’re willing to drive just a bit north of the city to Del Mar, you’ll find a spot that’s well-known to locals of the San Diego area. MARKET Restaurant + Bar is one of the prime places for high-end ambiance and unbelievable food in this seaside town.
In the dining room, a three-course tasting menu with optional wine pairings is the only thing served. Guests can choose one of four to eight different options for each course, though, and there is a huge variety of items. The cuisine is best described as “California fare” – seasonally-available local, fresh ingredients brought together in wonderfully creative combinations that foodies always love.
There’s also a bar area apart from the dining room, where a California-inspired sushi menu is served à la carte. This part of the restaurant has an equally impressive reputation, so be sure to look at both menus before making your decision. A reservation at MARKET Restaurant + Bar is highly recommended if you put this place on your list.
Address: 1195 Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
If you’ve got a craving for fresh, Mediterranean cuisine, then head over to Callie, chef Travis Swikard’s first solo restaurant. This classy kitchen and bar combine traditional Mediterranean flair with contemporary ingredients. You can choose to dine à la carte or opt for the Mediterranean feast, which is five courses served family-style.
Start off with some pita and crudités accompanied by Callie Fire Hot Sauce. The exceptional dinner menu will have your mouth watering with selections like the Aleppo Chicken with sumac pickles, yogurt, and coriander honey, the Pappardelle with duck and korobuta sausage ragu, and the Grilled Duck Dolmas. Many entrees are gluten-free, and there are several vegan and vegetarian items available.
You definitely won’t want to miss out on dessert here at Callie. Each item is perfectly made, combining flavors you’d never thought of.
Some popular favorites include the Meyer Lemon Pavlova made with a rose meringue or the Warm Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookie. The restaurant does not have a kids’ menu, so keep that in mind if you have picky eaters.
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18. Mavericks Beach Club
Address: 860 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109
If you’re looking for a casual spot where the whole family can dine (dogs included), then check out Mavericks Beach Club, just a couple blocks down from Pacific Beach. The restaurant is known for its gourmet take on traditional bar grub with options like poke tacos, ahi nachos, and California fries.
Besides delicious American comfort food, Mavericks Beach Club also offers lighter options. The mahi mahi wrap includes grilled mahi mahi, brown rice, veggies, and a honey teriyaki glaze, all within a spinach tortilla. You can also order a keto bowl, which is charred Brussel sprouts, fajita veggies, cheddar jack cheese, and avocado topped with a grilled flat iron steak.
Brunch items are available on the weekend, including classics like French toast and breakfast burritos. For the adults, Boozy Otter Pops and the Mavericks Margarita will refresh you on even the hottest of sunny San Diego days. Mavericks Beach Club also offers a kids’ menu and even a dog menu.
19. CUCINA urbana
Address: 505 Laurel St, San Diego, CA 92101
Located in Bankers Hill, CUCINA urbana is a stylish Italian restaurant that marries traditional Italian flavors with the fresh ingredients found in California. You’ll love the home-made pasta and large portion sizes, making every menu item a shareable one.
You won’t want to skip any part of this menu, so let’s get into the starters. The traditional fried squash blossoms is one of the most popular small plates and is served with a citrus aioli and herb vinaigrette. Another great small plate to share is the lamb sausage and potato gnocchi in a pecorino cream and herb pesto.
If you’ve got a craving for pizza, I recommend the mushroom and goat cheese pizza. It’s complete with savory caramelized onions and a generous drizzle of truffle oil. All pasta can be made gluten-free upon request, and the flavor combinations are out of this world.
The Rigatoni Bolognese is topped with lemon ricotta and Grana Padano. Or, you can choose the Short Rib Pappardelle with cremini mushroom, carrot and parmesan. A kids’ menu is available, too.
No Italian dinner is complete without dessert. While I’ve never met a traditional tiramisu I didn’t like, the Limoncello Mousse Tart topped with lemon curd, graham crust, torched meringue, and honey roasted pistachio is pretty difficult to pass up. The drink menu is extensive as well, and it includes many lovely zero-proof hand-crafted cocktails.
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