The Best Restaurants & Bars In Oceanside guide image


The Best Restaurants & Bars In Oceanside

Come to this city that's just north of San Diego for the beach and a great meal in your flip-flops.

As an upper coastal city just outside of San Diego, Oceanside is often a blip on people's radars. It's a 30-minute drive or quick Amtrak ride from central SD though, and you can spend a whole day here lounging on the beach, hitting up the boardwalk, checking out the vintage shops, and most importantly, eating and drinking at some great restaurants.

We’ve heard some people refer to the restaurant scene in Oceanside as flip-flop fine dining. But don’t worry, you’ll still get seated even if you arrive closed-toe. It just means that this beach town outside of San Diego has a ton of good spots that are relatively casual. There are Southeast Asian street snacks with a side of ocean breeze, a delicatessen carving up massive piles of pastrami, and a rooftop bar at one of the water-adjacent hotels where you can catch the sun disappear behind the California coastline.

Read on for all of the best restaurants and bars in Oceanside. And if you’re looking for more places to eat in the area, check out our guides to the best restaurants in San Diego and its popular North Park neighborhood.


Dija Mara

The Balinese-inspired brunch at Dija Mara will rewire your brain's idea of eggs benedict. Their version with confit tuna and green curry hollandaise will live in your head rent-free, along with the kaya coconut jam brioche toast and egg bowls with spicy eggplant. There are so many good options on the food and drink menu that you can't go wrong, especially if you're sipping one of their cocktails, like the Pandan-y Dropper made with pandan-infused agave wine.

The restaurant’s interior feels like a trap for people who are unironically obsessed with Banksy, which is to say there’s a lot of concrete and metal clashing with a graffitied back wall.

Heritage, like other BBQ spots, proves that brisket is the chameleon of smoked meats. Theirs is good no matter what form you choose, whether it’s stuffed into a sandwich with pickles, piled on top of texas chili fries, or bursting out of tacos loaded with queso fresco.

This is one of the places where their sides like the potato salad and pesto mac are also entree-sized, just a bit smaller than some of the tiny dogs you might see on the patio. Located off of Oceanside’s main stretch of South Coast Highway, their roomy booths and ample tables make this a solid spot for a company Happy Hour (fewer things build trust than seeing your coworker’s face slathered in BBQ sauce).

When you can't spend hours sampling all the different vendors at a night market, come here to try a variety of different Asian street foods from one of their orange barstools. Eat veggie-packed dumplings, pan-fried tofu topped with ginger scallion sesame oil, twice-fried Mak Mak wings drizzled in fish sauce, and khao man gai all under one roof. It’s also close to the water, so it’s good for a post-beach lunch when you want something delicious but don't want to spill sand on any velvet banquettes. After a long morning of playing mermaids, grab one of Mak Mak’s refreshing housemade fruit-pureed seltzers in tropical flavors like kumquat calamansi and lychee-guava lemonade.

Rye’s & Grind calls itself a modern delicatessen, which in our eyes just means somewhere you can devour a pastrami while Rihanna bumps in the background. Their plates are the size of “just in case you don’t eat the rest of the day,” whether you’re taking your pastrami in a hash with bell peppers and a side of red or green salsa, or layered into the Pastrami Pusher sandwich with slaw and swiss cheese.

If starting your morning with a pile of cured meat isn’t on your vision board (but breakfast booze is), get the Drunken Arctic Monkey drink, an espresso cocktail laced with peanut butter whiskey and coconut cream, while a breeze wafts through their large, roll-up windows. On your way out, grab an everything bagel for later.

Matsu does a 10-course, three-hour-long Japanese tasting menu in a space so intimate that the food gets the spotlight it deserves—literally. There are only 14 lights in the dining room, which are above the 14 wooden tables, making each course feel like it’s getting up on stage to audition for the role of “Your Favorite Part Of The Meal.”

The menu changes with the season, but some recent standouts were the grilled, all-cabbage gyoza with caviar, braised sunflower and cuttlefish, and house tempura-battered ebi. This is the type of place where your water glass gets its own coaster, each course comes with a fresh plate and maybe a custom-made knife, and the service is attentive without being annoying. 

Besides some fast-casual cafes, sit-down vegan restaurants are still pretty rare in San Diego. Enter The Plot. Go for lentil and wild rice-based meatless loaf and Okinawan sweet potato gnocchi with snap peas and house parmesan while sitting on the decked-out patio. There’s an herb garden, heat lamps, and spare blankets for when the weather has the nerve to dip below 70 degrees. 

After a long day at the beach getting sand in every bodily crevice possible, a meal at Valle will make you feel like a brand new person (just please shower first). The oceanfront view is perfect to impress on date night, even though you might fight over who gets to face the water.

When it comes to the food, they do an eight-course tasting menu that puts a Baja California spin on surf and turf: tamales with mole coloradito, braised lamb in birria broth, and plates of fish so artsy they deserve to be in LACMA. For $120 you can add on the wine pairing, which is worth it to try Mexican wines from Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe, an area that’s not too far away but whose bottles still aren’t too common in San Diego yet.

The best spot at Allmine is at the tiny bar with cushy stools, where you (and the rest of the Oceanside regulars) can hang out and pretend you’re the main character. Spend some time chatting with the owner, who’ll give you drink recommendations for natural wines from Texas Hill Country, bubbles from Portugal, and a selection of local draft and canned beers. They even host a Book and Wine Club, an opportunity for diners to tipsily argue about the merits of an unreliable narrator while eating the mushroom and spicy merguez sausage-topped pie. If you want to go out nearby after your meal, head down the street to Local Tap House.

Cococabana is a rooftop bar with beach resort energy where the snacks and drinks are both great. Tear into the charbroiled beef skewers, sop up all the avocado crema and jerk butter that comes with the wild mushrooms, and slurp down the oysters topped with candied mango. When golden hour starts, watch the sun set behind the Pacific Ocean and drink the O’Side Rider, a mix of tamarind and chile-infused mezcal, watermelon, mint, and fresh lime, before figuring out a full dinner move. 

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photo credit: Deanna Sandoval

The Best Restaurants & Bars In Oceanside guide image