The Best Restaurants In San Diego

Our go-to fish taco spot, a restaurant tucked into a wine shop, frosty adult slushies, and more.
The Best Restaurants In San Diego image

photo credit: Deanna Sandoval

While it’s true that you can find plenty of excellent fish tacos and craft beer in San Diego, there’s so much more to explore. The beautiful weather, access to some of the best produce in the country, and the fact that Mexico is just 20 miles away make this area an exciting place to eat, drink, and hang out. 

And there are plenty of great restaurants and neighborhoods to check out. If you’re heading up the coast, have some pizza in Oceanside before hitting the beach or going for a hike. If you’re staying in or near Downtown, grab brunch and caffeinate in the East Village, then go for fancy Vietnamese food in Golden Hill. Also, make sure to get to La Jolla so you can sip on homemade limoncello and twirl up pasta on a gorgeous patio after getting your obligatory shot of the famed sea lions (from a safe distance, of course). 

Here are the 23 restaurants you should be prioritizing around town. You’ll find casual lunch spots, fine dining right on the ocean, plant-based picks, brunch options, and more. We've also got guides on where to eat and drink in North Park and Oceanside.



photo credit: Deanna Sandoval

Southeast Asian

$$$$Perfect For:Unique Dining ExperienceDate NightDrinking Good CocktailsFeeling Hot


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Kingfisher is one of the buzziest places in town that you’ll definitely need a reservation for. Located in Golden Hill, one of San Diego’s lesser-touristed and underrated neighborhoods, you’ll find beautifully-plated food that incorporates flavors from all over Southeast Asia. Go for some mussels in coconut and Thai basil broth, wild mushroom congee laced with crispy garlic, and smoked dry-aged duck with rice noodles, crunchy lettuce wraps, and nuoc cham chimichurri. 

The dining room is anchored by this oval-shaped bar and a large, golden sculptural light fixture, as if your best design-savvy friend had a blank check to execute one of their many Pinterest boards. They also have a small, quieter outdoor patio that’s great for dates and dinners when you just want to gossip with your closest friends.

photo credit: Deanna Sandoval


North Park



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Getting a reservation at Mabel’s Gone Fishing is like trying to squeeze into a hot yoga class around here at peak hours—it’s basically impossible, even if you’re just trying to get a seat at the bar. The menu leans heavily on Iberian Peninsula-inspired seafood dishes and snacks, which are great for sharing a few bites or a full meal. You could pair your Spanish gin and tonic with a platter of Baja oysters and a side of chorizo and bread and stop there, but you should keep going and add a whole, delicately fried fish with smashed potatoes, and a plate of clams in ham broth.

Mabel’s works for date night or hanging with a few friends, and you’ll keep company with a mostly local crowd and some mermaid sculpture friends at the bar. The service is always attentive, even during the weekend crush. Afterwards, head a few blocks down to catch some live music at The Observatory.

If you’re looking to hit one of the hottest restaurants near Downtown, book a reservation at Wolf in the Woods. This tiny spot has tons of intimate little nooks with Southwestern touches, like dried chiles hanging from the ceiling and Indigenous-printed textiles, plus a sidewalk dining area outside that feels very European (and not like the Southwest at all).

They have a tightly edited menu of tapas and lighter dishes with a New Mexican twist, like a sweet corn soup with hatch chile and crushed pine nuts, chilled octopus with harissa, and meat and cheese boards to share. It's also got an impressive wine and cocktail list of refreshing spritzers and lesser-known varietals like Spanish verdejo. The restaurant is located a short drive from Downtown in the middle of the residential parts of Mission Hills neighborhood, which is also where you’ll find Fort Oak.

Marisi is an Italian spot where servers refold your napkin every time you get up and you don’t have to flag someone down when you’re ready for another drink. So yes, it’s good if you’re going to dinner with people who either said out loud or had the thought, “I want to be wined and dined,” but also works just as well for any standard group dinner. Start with some warm homemade focaccia before digging into any number of pasta dishes, like duck ragu pappardelle or tagliatelle with crab, and know their aperitif list is solid and they make their own limoncello.

Both the inside—with views of the round, gilded bar, and open kitchen—or the covered outdoor patio filled with plants are great places to be. They also have one of the better setups for a private dining room: Marisi’s Lemon Room seats up to 26 guests, is wrapped in citrus-printed wallpaper, and is ideal for that large work dinner where you’ll finally meet Jen from accounting.

photo credit: Deanna Sandoval

This spot is Temporarily Closed.

Tucked into a wine shop off the 101 in Solana Beach about 30 minutes from Downtown San Diego, Long Story Short serves beautiful dishes and flavor combinations that highlight the immaculate local produce. You’ll probably try something different every time you go, since the menu is based on the chefs’ weekly farm trips. For example, you might eat cured yellowtail with figs one week, and brothy mushroom tortellini with lemon thyme oil the next. The space works well if you want to dine solo or with a date at the bar, but with just a few large tables, you should save your group outing for somewhere else.


City Tacos is one of the best and most reliable places for a round of tacos in San Diego. While they have multiple locations, the North Park spot is nice and central, with lots of bars and shops around to check out afterward. You can choose from fish, meat, and a bunch of vegetarian options, or go for a packed combo steak and shrimp surf and turf taco. At some locations, you’ll find regional specials like achiote-tinged cochinita pibil or a veracruzana fish taco topped with the classic medley of tomato, onion, garlic, and capers. Finish off with a round of churros.

Fort Oak is where to go for expertly charred seafood dishes cooked over a Santa Maria-style wood-fired grill. The space used to be a Ford dealership, but now there’s a horseshoe-shaped bar and a chef’s table instead of a bunch of F-150s. 

It’s a great spot for almost anything, whether that’s a solo round of cocktails (including low-abv options) and $1 oysters at Happy Hour, a date night in the indoor-outdoor dining room, or a group dinner fueled by a giant seafood tower of oysters, lobster tiradito, and scallop aguachile. Stay for desserts like the citrus ice cream pie, and consider checking out the cash-only dive and karaoke bar The Lamplighter that’s just a five-minute walk away.

The oceanfront Marine Room has been a fine dining French restaurant since 1941, but in 2021, a new chef took over and really made this place a destination for sustainable seafood. The updated menu consists of finely executed surf and turf with unexpected elements that probably require some tweezer action, like hamachi crudo in coconut aguachile and wagyu with onion ash and sweet drop peppers. A year later, they added a cozy lounge with an exclusive menu of dry-aged bluefin carpaccio and lamb lollipops.

That lounge is great for a meal of light bites if you want something more casual than a full, multi-course white tablecloth dinner. But for longtime lovers and pals, the dining room is the place to go for an unparalleled sunset dinner—especially during King Tide season when the waves actually wash up against the restaurant’s windows.

Maybe you had a big night out at nearby Petco Park, or overdid it at the clubs and lounges in the neighboring Gaslamp Quarter and need a reliable breakfast. This preserved corner building from the 1870s serves morning staples like french toast made with housemade cinnamon bread, plus some of SoCal go-to's, like breakfast burritos and chilaquiles. It also has a full coffee bar with great drip and specialty drinks—order the hammerhead, which combines espresso and drip for a more aggressive jolt. When you’re feeling more like a normal human, head over to The Quartyard. They’re always hosting different events like live music, roller skating, yoga classes, and more.

The Waverly in Cardiff is a bit of a drive from Downtown, but it’s within walking distance of a great longboarding beach, and a popular camping spot. With its pastel tones and airy setting, the restaurant is a pleasant place to eat anything from their menu that’s kind of all over the place—they’ve got soft shell crab sandwiches with chipotle aioli, funfetti pancakes, and Turkish poached eggs with Aleppo pepper and cooling yogurt and mint. 

It gets pretty busy on weekends, so if you’re coming with a group, definitely make a reservation. We like it best as a fun brunch spot, since there are plenty of specialty cocktails, non-alcoholic spritzers, local hard seltzers, and kombuchas, as well as a resident magician and mentalist if you’re game for some David Copperfield energy with your mimosa.

Oscars Mexican Seafood in Pacific Beach should be your first stop in town for some really good batter-fried or grilled fish tacos. The place is pretty casual, there’s usually a line, and the tacos come with the classic toppings: shredded cabbage, onion, tomato, cilantro, and avocado. Depending on what’s available that day, you can order fresh yellowtail or snapper in a burrito, torta, or plate, but there’s also some great ceviche and shrimp, chorizo, and veggie tacos, too.


If you’ve done the fish taco thing and want a high-end meal, come to Animae for wagyu steaks alongside reimagined traditional Filipino dishes like short-rib kare kare served with bagoong peanut oil and long green beans. There are four kinds of Japanese and American wagyu, including one that’s even been aged in snow. The restaurant has a playlist that pumps out ‘90s hip-hop and R&B throwbacks and a velvet-heavy dining room with floor-to-ceiling curtains and a huge work of art depicting a robot floating in the ocean behind the bar. Make a reservation here for date night, or bring your entire friend group to go all out.

Callie might be one of the hardest reservations to get in town. But if you plan ahead and make a reservation for a group, the Mediterranean menu delivers a ton of hits like zhoug-drizzled hummus with warm pita, juicy Aleppo-spiced chicken, and lemon saffron linguini with local uni. The drink list is also excellent, with Italian and Spanish wines by the glass or bottle, local craft beers, and plenty of mezcal- and gin-based cocktails. The tables that face the semi-open kitchen are the best seats in the house, but the dining room is also a great spot for impressing a date or getting a bit fancy with your longtime partner. And if you plan to see a Padres game while you’re in town, Callie is just a five-minute walk to Petco Park. 

Addison is the Mount Everest of fancy San Diego restaurants. All of the dishes on the $355-per-person seasonal tasting menu are expertly executed, whether that’s chicken liver churros, a crispy potato cube layered with black truffle and Iberico ham, or sashimi with kiwi and melon. Beyond the food, Addison has an extensive, excellent wine and cocktail list, including bottles from smaller producers and rare champagne. The restaurant just got a refresh in 2020, so now it’s warmer, brighter, and complements the space’s arched windows and high ceilings. All that makes Addison a phenomenal place to celebrate that promotion you’ve waited years for, or when you want to pull out the stops for something really romantic.

Estela's dining room.

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Allmine is a cozy pizzeria in Oceanside with a great mushroom- and spicy merguez-topped pie and small plates like savory cheese puffs and stuffed roasted squash with couscous. The place has brick walls, hanging plants throughout, and a few tables on its tight outdoor patio, but the best spot in the house is at the tiny bar with cushy stools. 

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 great selection of local draft and canned beers. Go for an early dinner before a night out in downtown Oceanside, which should include a stop at Local Tap House and a fancy cocktail at Frankie’s.

Barrio Dogg is a low-rider-themed restaurant and bar serving hot dogs on a Sonora-style bun and lots of tasty toppings. The Xolito is inspired by the way they do it in Tijuana, with a slick of mayo, grilled onions, jalapeños, cheddar cheese, and crunchy garlic. You could also get a bacon-wrapped dog, or opt for a veggie dog, but definitely consider sticking around for a cold michelada with a sweet-tangy-salty chamoy rim. It’s a good option before a show at The Rady Shell, a game at Petco Park, or when you desperately need something after walking around the neighborhood and admiring the outdoor murals.

Hamburger Hut’s burgers are what you’d get if In-N-Out went upmarket. They serve craft cocktails, mocktails, and frosty adult slushies, and swap regular ground beef for 100 percent grass-fed wagyu that’s sandwiched between King’s Hawaiian sweet buns. (If you’re not in the mood for beef, the menu has a tuna or yellowtail fish burger with chili-lime tartar and fresh poke with taro chips.) They’ve got a great partially-covered outdoor patio with a fire pit and oversized games like Connect Four, which makes this a perfect spot to bring kids or just have a relaxed group meal. Plus, its location on the 101, a short distance from Moonlight Beach, makes it an ideal pre- or post-beach stop.

Izola Bakery’s bread and other baked goods, like fresh croissants and warm Tahitian vanilla knots, are a gift to Downtown’s East Village neighborhood. On weekends, you can enjoy live music alongside a slice of sourdough speckled with pecans and Castelvetrano olives in the former photography studio-turned-bakery. They’re always adding new treats to the mix, like a buttery morning bun made with Southern California oranges. If you’re pressed for time, preorder your goods on Izola’s website a few days ahead, and know that parking in these parts can be tricky.

Tribute Pizza does creative takes on thin and crispy wood-fired, “Neo-Neapolitan”-style pizzas in honor of famous pizzas and pizza-makers around the world. You can also order sheet pan pies and NY-style pizza, and they do a Classic Combo Supreme that’s a spin on the natural treasure that is Costco Food Court’s supreme pie. The huge, corner space in a former North Park post office is airy yet cozy, with views of the open kitchen and heat lamps on the patio. It’s great for large groups of friends and families, solo diners, as well as neutral territory for first or early-in-the-game dates. Beyond pizza, don’t skip the shareables like oak-roasted vegetables, and a meat and cheese board with housemade pickles and preserves.


Artifact is not your average museum restaurant serving dry turkey sandwiches and bland fruit cups. It opened in 2021 in the lobby of Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park, and is a prime place to stop for lunch and try foods from historic cultures. You’ll find dishes from Siam and the Fertile Crescent, which encompasses areas of the Middle East including present-day Lebanon, Israel, and Turkey. Expect items like shrimp gyoza in delicate yuzu dashi broth and lots of plant-forward options—the veggie samosa topped with a bright mango chutney and the crispy tofu with mushrooms and black vinegar dish are both excellent. 

If you want to try a little bit of everything, get the snack tray: it’s a shareable starter that comes with curried vegetables with labneh, lemony chicken satay skewers, and muhammara. You’ll sit among other park-goers at bistro tables or at the wood-topped bar where you can admire the swirly gold beer taps that double as an art piece, like the light installation overhead.

Besides some fast-casual cafes, sit-down vegan restaurants are still pretty rare around San Diego. Enter The Plot in Oceanside. Go for lentil- and wild rice-based meatless loaf and Okinawan sweet potato gnocchi with cherry tomatoes and nori tapenade. The plant-based proteins are particularly good and all made in-house, including its chickpea-based tuna and lion’s mane mushroom crab featured in sushi rolls. 

You’ll definitely want to be outside on the patio—it feels less like a restaurant and more like a fancy friend’s backyard complete with an herb garden, heat lamps, and spare blankets for when the weather has the nerve to dip below 70 degrees.

Civico 1845 in Little Italy does lots of Calabrian pasta dishes, but the highlight here is a full menu of vegan options. Linguine al verde, for example, is dressed in spinach pesto, roasted hazelnuts, and finished with lemon zest, while gnocchi features “Italian sausage,” eggplant, and vegan mozzarella. When you add in an extensive wine-by-the-glass list, a dedicated Aperol spritz menu, and its selection of digestifs, Civico makes for a great, relaxed date-night spot in one of the city’s busiest neighborhoods.

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