San Diego has emerged onto the national culinary scene, offering a wide variety of fine and casual dining restaurants that have been noted among the United States' finest. These restaurants offer unique ambiance, award-winning entrees, and top-tier service for San Diego residents and visitors looking for a casual first date option or a special anniversary celebration.
Barleymash is one of San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter's hottest dining spots, named after the grain mashing process used in producing beer and bourbon. The restaurant sports modernist decor elements emphasizing recovered wood elements from the renovation of its building, featuring garage door windows that open its dining space as an interior patio. It is an avid supporter of San Diego's craft brewing and distilling community, serving an extensive list of local draft beers and craft cocktails made from fine local liquors. Lunch and dinner are served daily, with brunch menus offered on the weekends. Menus emphasize progressive gastropub fare such as gourmet shareable bar appetizers, signature artisan flatbreads, and high-quality meat and seafood cuts. Downstairs, the restaurant's Ginger's lounge offers martinis and mingling opportunities in an ultra-hip atmosphere.
600 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone: 619-255-7373
Trust is a community-focused New American restaurant in San Diego's Hillcrest neighborhood that is committed to crafting rustic urban dishes emphasizing locally-sourced ingredients and wood-fired preparation techniques. The restaurant is owned and operated by executive chef Brad Wise and co-owner Steve Schwob, known for their experience at top West Coast restaurants such as Cannonball & Draft. It has received accolades from major publications such as USA Today for its Instagram-worthy dish presentation and has been named as one of San Diego's top restaurants by Conde Nast Traveler. Dinner is served daily, with brunch hours offered on weekend mornings. Sea and land fare is emphasized in dishes, with options such as octopus fritters, swordfish rigatoni, and chicken liver toast available at dinner.
3752 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92103, Phone: 619-795-6901
3.Juniper and Ivy
© Juniper and Ivy
Juniper and Ivy is an acclaimed "Left Coast" cookery in San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood, helmed by award-winning chef Richard Blais. The sleek, modern restaurant serves a constantly rotating menu of whimsical New American fare in a wood-heavy decor atmosphere, with dishes conceived by executive chef Anthony Wells. Fresh, seasonal ingredients and New American twists on classics are emphasized, along with small plate options such as toasts and bar snacks. While menus are updated weekly, sample offerings include lobster mushroom teriyaki bites, halibut sashimi, spot prawns with Old Bay butter, and ahi tuna Wellington. Gourmet desserts are also served, including options such as olive oil cake with melon ice cream.
2228 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone: 619-269-9036
© Cafe Virtuoso
Cafe Virtuoso is a sustainability-focused San Diego cafe committed to serving 100% certified organic and Fair Trade coffees and teas. The cafe strives to adhere to the highest standards possible for its coffee preparation as outlined by the Specialty Coffee Association and has received ratings of 90 or higher for all of its coffees reviewed by Coffee Review. It was founded in 2008 by Oregon native Laurie Britton and began serving its internationally-sourced coffees and teas out of its Barrio Logan location in 2014. Today, visitors can order classic coffee shop beverages such as cortados, Americanos, lattes, and cappuccinos, along with unique offerings such as Japanese-style iced coffee, matcha tea lattes, and Ibarra Mexican chocolate mochas. Signature iced teas are also served, along with organic kombuchas and kefir sodas.
1616 National Ave, San Diego, CA 92113, Phone: 619-550-1830
Curadero is a traditional Mexican restaurant located within San Diego's Kimpton Hotel Palomar, operated by executive chef Brad Kraten, the force behind Bay Area restaurants such as Park Place Cupertino and Spago Palo Alto. All of the Gaslamp Quarter restaurant's fare emphasizes authentic, high-quality ingredients, including genuine Baja seafood, Guadalajara chiles, and masa produced by local tortillerias. Regional Mexican dishes are served at breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, including favorites such as carne asada, mole enchiladas, queso fundido, and ceviche. An extensive cocktail list highlights traditional Mexican spirits such as mezcal and tequila, along with a list of imported Mexican craft brews.
1047 Fifth Avenue #100, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone: 619-515-3003
© Civico 1845
Civico 1845 serves up contemporary Italian cuisine in San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood, helmed by Italian immigrants and brothers Dario and Pietro Gallo. The restaurant aims to offer a new generation of Italian fare, focusing on modern twists on southern Italian favorites prepared with fresh, authentic ingredients and classic cooking techniques. Sustainable practices and health-conscious eating are emphasized, with many vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options served daily. Lunch and dinner menus highlight pastas made from scratch, clever antipasti options, and entrees with high-quality meat and seafood ingredients. A wide selection of Italian wines are available by the glass or by the bottle, along with draft and bottled craft beer options.
1845 India St, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone: 619-431-5990
Jsix is a casual bar and restaurant located on J Street in San Diego's East Village neighborhood, operated by Filipino-American executive chef Anthony Sinsay. The restaurant serves a variety of American interpretations of classic Filipino comfort fare dishes, blending in Spanish and Coastal Mediterranean influences to create truly unique fusion fare. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner fare are offered daily, highlighting clever menu options such as Japanese-marinated mussels, Filipino-style spring rolls, yellowtail ceviche with coconut and chili, and carrot pappardelle with pistachio pesto. A full cocktail and liquor list features drinks with an international flair, while an extensive wine list highlights budget and premium wines by the bottle. Local draft beers are also served, along with a variety of domestic and imported bottle favorites.
616 J St, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone: 619-531-8744
© Brian's 24
Brian's 24 is a 24-hour Gaslamp Quarter favorite, serving up hearty, delicious American dishes any time of day or night. The restaurant was opened by a father-son duo in 2008 and is located within the lobby of the historic St. James Hotel, incorporating vintage hotel design elements such as a Joan Crawford-style mahogany bar and an antique crystal chandelier. Oversized portions of classic American comfort fare are offered as lunch and dinner options, including giant deli hot and cold sandwiches, hand-tossed traditional pizzas, clever burgers, and classic entrees such as New York strip steak and homemade meatloaf. Breakfast is also served round the clock, with options such as chicken and waffles, crab cake Benedict, and the restaurant's signature Malted Waffles. Drinks are also served from its full-service bar 24 hours a day, making it a great choice for after-work gatherings, late-night service, or round-the-clock dinner dates alike.
828 Sixth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone: 619-702-8410
© Mister A's
Mister A's is a gourmet French-influenced restaurant opened in 1965 by restauranteur John Alessio, offering dining high atop the Fifth Avenue Financial Center. The restaurant has become a staple of San Diego fine dining, hosting famed guests such as Mexican President José López Portillo throughout its tenure. Since the 1990s, it has been operated by Bertrand Hug, the force behind Rancho Santa Fe's acclaimed Mille Fleurs restaurant. Spectacular 12th-floor views of the San Diego skyline complement gourmet sea and land dishes at breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, with special menus offered for San Diego Restaurant Week and major holidays. A prix-fixe tasting menu is also available, along with a chef's selection menu of fare crafted from locally-sourced farm-to-table ingredients.
2550 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103, Phone: 619-239-1377
10.Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine
© Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine
Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine is an elegant fine dining restaurant in San Diego's Pendry Hotel, serving up delicious modern coastal fare under the supervision of executive chef JoJo Ruiz. The cutting-edge restaurant is certified as an Ocean Friendly restaurant by the Surfrider Foundation and actively strives to reduce the restaurant industry's impact on San Diego's oceans and beaches, making it a great choice for diners looking to minimize their environmental footprint. High-quality seafood entrees served up throughout the week include coal-grilled yellowtail, steamed Baja striped seabass, duck confit tostadas, and local halibut ceviche. A full oyster raw bar is also available, along with a vibrant selection of specialty sushi rolls.
435 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone: 619-738-7200
11.The Pool House
© The Pool House
The Pool House is the chic rooftop lounge of San Diego's Pendry Hotel, offering some of the best panoramic views of the city's beautiful Gaslamp Quarter district. The hip lounge offers indoor and outdoor seating spaces throughout the year and is open to the public daily for lunch and cocktail service. A full menu of sandwiches and burgers highlights elevated fare such as fish tacos, Maine lobster rolls, and meatless Impossible burgers. Specialty cocktails are available by the glass or by the pitcher, perfect for sharing with friends or dates while lounging and relaxing. Frozen cocktails are also served up, along with an extensive selection of bottled and draft beers, fine wines, and sparkling bottles.
550 J St, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone: 619-738-7030
12.Sushi Lounge Poway
© Sushi Lounge Poway
Sushi Lounge Poway was the vision of Katie Rooney and Frank Interlandi, former employees at the popular La Jolla restaurant Sushi on the Rock. The delightful Poway restaurant was purchased and reimagined by the pair in 2006, complete with brand-new menus and decor. Today, the restaurant cultivates a lounge-like atmosphere and focuses on crafting high-quality sushi selections with the best possible ingredients. Specialty sushi rolls are stuffed with seafood, meat, and vegetarian ingredients, available by the roll or in bento box options. Sashimi and nigiri options are also served up, along with shareable tapas such as tempura platters, gyoza, and oyster shooters. Two additional locations are offered in Encinitas and Point Loma.
12622 Poway Rd, Poway, CA 92064, Phone: 858-748-0070
13.The Grass Skirt
© The Grass Skirt
The Grass Skirt is a funky tiki-inspired restaurant and bar from executive chef Brian Redzikowski and beverage director Steven Tuttle, offering lighthearted Polynesian decor and theming and serving a full menu of small bar plates and tropical drinks. The bar has been lauded by publications such as San Diego Magazine, Pacific Magazine, and San Diego Eater as one of the city's most clever bars, serving up Asian and Polynesian bar bites such as bao buns, okonomiyaki fries, Mary's duck spring rolls, and tenderbelly rice bowls. Traditional tiki cocktails are served, including mai tais, painkillers, dark and stormys, and Maui-style margaritas. On the weekends, a full tiki brunch menu is served, highlighting options such as kimchi quesadillas and Fiji albacore bowls alongside Devil's Dozen doughnuts and tropical brunch cocktails.
910 Grand Ave, San Diego, CA 92109, Phone: 858-412-5237
© Breakwater Brewing
Breakwater Brewing is a regional favorite craft brewery, serving up beers brewed in house since 2009 made with equipment salvaged from a New Orleans brewery lost to Hurricane Katrina. The brewery taps a variety of its 18 house beers throughout the year, including favorites such as its Kali Kush sage brush pale ale, Pacific Passion passionfruit and sea salt gose, World Beer Cup champion Rye Dawn rye ale, and six-time San Diego International Beer Festival winning Rasbiscus Mead. The downtown Oceanside brewery also serves a variety of wines, proseccos, and mimosas, alongside a wide menu of American bar fare, including signature pizzas, toasted sandwiches, and clever bar appetizers.
101 N Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054, Phone: 760-433-6064
15.Stone Brewing Company
© Stone Brewing Company
Stone Brewing Company is Southern California's largest brewery and the eighth-largest craft brewery in America, originally founded in 1996 to sell its flagship Stone Pale Ale. The world-class brewery has been credited with putting San Diego on the craft beer map with hop-forward, high alcohol content brews such as its Arrogant Bastard Ale and imperial, session, and flavored variants of its Stone IPA. Several physical locations of the company's World Bistro and Gardens restaurants are operated throughout the world, including a San Diego location at Liberty Station, housed within a former United States Navy mess hall. A J Street tap room also offers many of the company's signature brews on tap.
2816 Historic Decatur Rd, San Diego, CA 92106, Phone: 619-269-2100
16.Latitude 33 Brewing
© Latitude 33 Brewing
Latitude 33 Brewing is a Vista brewing company that serves the best San Diego-style craft beers the 33rd Parallel has to offer, focusing on high-gravity ales crafted with a blend of science and artistry. Pints, cans, and to-go growlers of its year-round and seasonal brews are offered at its public tap room, including favorites such as its Blood Orange IPA, Honey Hips Spiced Ale, Lost Cities Hazy IPA, and Bro-Kini IPA, a collaboration with local breweries Burgeon Beer and Culver Beer. Its tasting room is open seven days a week, with visitors welcome to bring their own food or order from nearby restaurants. Public special events are held periodically at the brewery, including college sports-focused events and events held in collaboration with San Diego's local brewing scene.
1430 Vantage Ct #104, Vista, CA 92081, Phone: 760-410-6333
Amaya is a hybrid Californian and Italian restaurant located at the majestic Fairmont Grand Del Mar golf resort, offering breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner service seven days a week. The restaurant strives to cultivate a Mediterranean-influenced guest experience, offering sweeping views of the estate resort and serving dishes produced with market-fresh seasonal ingredients. Breakfast and brunch menus emphasize farm-fresh egg dishes and griddle-fresh options such as pancakes, waffles, and brioche French toast alongside morning favorite cocktails and health-conscious smoothies. At dinner, homemade pizzas, pasta dishes, and sea and land entrees take center stage, along with a robust wine selection, draft and bottled beers, and cocktails made with the restaurant's own Grand Reserva Patron Anejo tequila.
5300 Grand Del Mar Ct, San Diego, CA 92130, Phone: 858-314-2727
© Courtesy of MikolajLesiak - Fotolia.com
Sushi Ota is an award-winning Japanese sushi and omasake restaurant operated by executive chef Ota, who brings his culinary experience from top restaurants in Tokyo and Osaka to the San Diego region. The restaurant offers sushi and sashimi rolls and Japanese entrees at lunch and dinner, with nigiri and cut roll options emphasizing ingredients such as avocado, cucumber, snow crab, and spicy salmon. Fried tempura appetizers complement classic Japanese entrees such as chicken or beef teriyaki and tekka don rice bowls, served alongside unique concoctions such as miso-marinated seabass and deluxe chirashi sushi platters. A full selection of authentic Japanese sake is also served, including junmai, gingo, and daigingo options.
4529 Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109, Phone: 858-270-5670
© Baci Ristorante
Baci Ristorante is one of San Diego's most legendary Italian restaurants, originally opened in 1979 by Sicilian immigrant Antonio D'Amato. The restaurant has become a staple dining destination for elite San Diegans and international visitors of prestige, helmed today by executive chef Domenico Alioto. Gourmet Italian fare is served in a friendly neighborhood setting at lunch and dinner, highlighting comfort dishes such as penne con melanzane, gnocchi aurora, and linguine alle vongole. Sea and land entrees are also served at dinner, including pollo marsala, veal piccata, and swordfish oreganato. Fine Italian wines are also available by the glass or by the bottle to complement meals.
1955 Morena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110, Phone: 619-275-2094
© Buona Forchetta
Buona Forchetta is a classic Italian pizzeria and restaurant in San Diego's South Park neighborhood, helmed by Italian immigrant Matteo Cattaneo. The restaurant is best known for its use of the unique Sofia high-temperature oven, crafted by Stefano Ferrara and featured in Food and Wine magazine for its ability to withstand temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure proper traditional crafting of Neapolitan-style pizza. Authentic Italian fare is served at lunch and dinner seven days a week, including antipasti and insalate options and craft flatbread pizzas prepared with and without sauce. All pizzas may be made gluten free for an upcharge. A selection of fine Italian wines are also available, along with draft and bottled local beer options, Italian cafe beverages, and traditional limonata and aranciata sodas.
3001 Beech St, San Diego, CA 92102, Phone: 619-381-4844
21.Tom Ham's Lighthouse
© Tom Ham's Lighthouse
Tom Ham's Lighthouse is one of San Diego's finest seafood restaurants, housed within the functioning Beacon No. 9 historic lighthouse that serves as one of the city's coastal landmarks. The restaurant was originally opened in 1971 by UCLA graduate Tom Ham and has become one of the city's greatest 20th-century entrepreneurial success stories. It is still operated by the Ham family today, offering dramatic eye-catching views of the San Diego Bay and Coronado Bridge alongside high-quality gourmet seafood dishes served at lunch and dinner daily. Entree highlights include iced shellfish platters, pan-seared salmon, Maine diver scallops, and dumpling and clam plates. Land fare is also available, including New York strip steaks, duck breasts, and Jidori half-brick chicken. On Sundays, a full brunch menu offers bottomless champagne, made-to-order omelets, and raw bar options.
2150 Harbor Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone: 619-291-9110
22.Taste of the Himalayas
© Taste of the Himalayas
Taste of the Himalayas serves up San Diego's best Indian, Nepali, and Tibetan cuisine, following the Sanskrit philosophy of atithi devo bhavah, which translates as "the guest is your god." The restaurant offers five locations throughout the greater San Diego region, including locations in the city's Hillcrest, El Cajon, and Point Loma neighborhoods. Classic Indian favorites such as chicken tikka masala, navratan korma, and palak paneer are served for lunch and dinner, alongside unique Nepali and Tibetan options such as kukhara ko masu, ram torya, and ghinge machha. Clever naan options complement dishes, along with traditional appetizers such as pakoras, samosas, and papad wafers.
3185 Midway Dr, San Diego, CA 92110, Phone: 619-866-6922
23.Fung Fung Yuen
© Courtesy of bugking88 - Fotolia.com
Fung Fung Yuen is an all-day dim sum joint that opened in San Diego in 2017, serving up creative dim sum dishes on traditional Chinese-style food carts. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner service seven days a week, serving steamed favorites such as Shanghai-style pork buns, shrimp har gow, and ma-lai cakes. A wide variety of rice rolls are available, including deep-fried dried shrimp rolls, barbecue pork rolls, and vegetarian rolls. Pan-fried options include deep-fried meat dumplings, taro cakes, meat buns, potstickers, and turnip cakes. Sweet baked dishes include creamy egg yolk buns, baked cream buns, egg tarts, and a selection of traditional Chinese desserts available on weekends.
10660 Camino Ruiz, San Diego, CA 92126, Phone: 858-578-8800
© Enoteca Adriano
Enoteca Adriano serves five-star Italian cuisine in a casual BYOB setting, offering a more affordable alternative to some of the city's more expensive gourmet Italian options. The North Pacific Beach eatery features daily specials prepared with high-quality locally-sourced ingredients, blending modern and traditional Italian cooking styles to create unique contemporary dishes. Menus cultivated by executive chef Franco Tossone emphasize antipasti offerings, pasta prima dishes, and gourmet sea and land entrees, featuring twists on favorites such as spaghetti carbonara, pasta pomodoro, and pollo Milanese. Sparkling, red, and white wine options are also available in house, along with draft beers and cocktails.
4864 Cass St, San Diego, CA 92109, Phone: 858-490-0085
24 Best Places to Visit in San Diego on a Date
- Barleymash, Photo: Barleymash
- Trust, Photo: Trust
- Juniper and Ivy, Photo: Juniper and Ivy
- Cafe Virtuoso, Photo: Cafe Virtuoso
- Curadero, Photo: Curadero
- Civico 1845, Photo: Civico 1845
- Jsix, Photo: Jsix
- Brian's 24, Photo: Brian's 24
- Mister A's, Photo: Mister A's
- Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine, Photo: Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine
- The Pool House, Photo: The Pool House
- Sushi Lounge Poway, Photo: Sushi Lounge Poway
- The Grass Skirt, Photo: The Grass Skirt
- Breakwater Brewing, Photo: Breakwater Brewing
- Stone Brewing Company, Photo: Stone Brewing Company
- Latitude 33 Brewing, Photo: Latitude 33 Brewing
- Amaya, Photo: Amaya
- Sushi Ota, Photo: Courtesy of MikolajLesiak - Fotolia.com
- Baci Ristorante, Photo: Baci Ristorante
- Buona Forchetta, Photo: Buona Forchetta
- Tom Ham's Lighthouse, Photo: Tom Ham's Lighthouse
- Taste of the Himalayas, Photo: Taste of the Himalayas
- Fung Fung Yuen, Photo: Courtesy of bugking88 - Fotolia.com
- Enoteca Adriano, Photo: Enoteca Adriano
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of jovannig - Fotolia.com