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13 Best Restaurants in San Diego

Explore your taste buds in San Diego.
Last Updated
:
February 9, 2024
by
Editorial Staff
A view of the beach from Dockside 1953, the waterfront restaurant in Mission Bay, San Diego at the Bahia Resort Hotel
©
Bahia Resort Hotel
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Y’all can keep your fancy white tablecloths and $50 steaks because in San Diego the real culinary gems are as casual as your favorite pair of flip-flops. Is fine dining dead to us? Well, we’ll still happily don a blazer for the sake of a chilled seafood tower every now and then. But leave that Michelin Guide stuffiness back east, because San Diego is all about the tacos, brews, and stick-to-your-ribs goodness without an ounce of pretension.

From hidden strip mall treasures you’d never expect to be life-changing food, to oceanfront patios slinging fish tacos worth selling your firstborn for, we’ve tracked down the best spots that have perfected that laidback SoCal dining vibe. You know – the kind of places you casually roll up to after a day getting pitted while Longboarding, sandy feet and all. Most don’t take reservations, would choke at the word “terrine,” and proudly think In-N-Out qualifies as gourmet. But that’s exactly why the locals love them.

So, leave your restaurant judginess beyond the San Diego city limits and get ready to discover the hottest (yet totally chill) restaurants that have earned cult followings up and down the coast.

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The 13 Best Restaurants in San Diego

From break-of-dawn taco stands to just-barely-still-standing late-night ramen dives, here are the quintessential SD restaurants you simply can’t miss.

Dockside 1953 interior
Dockside 1953
  • Address: 998 W Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109
  • Located near/in: Bahia Resort Hotel
  • Contact: (858) 539-7634
  • Hours: Mon – Thu (7:00 AM – 11:00 PM), Fri – Sat (7:00 AM – 12:00 AM), Sun (7:00 AM – 11:00 PM)

Dockside 1953 is the nautical-inspired signature restaurant and bar at the Bahia Resort Hotel. Its patio area features cozy fire pits and a covered trellis that overlooks the marina. The menu is designed to be enjoyed indoors or outdoors. The waterfront restaurant is located on the second floor, making it an ideal spot for a night out with friends.

This waterfront restaurant offers a variety of eclectic dishes that are sure to please any palate. From flatbread pizza to fish tacos, the menu includes something for everyone. For sushi lovers, the city’s premier sushi bar, Harney Sushi, has more than 30 specialty rolls. In addition to sushi, traditional Thai food is also available at Supannee House of Thai.

Nested on the beachfront, the Dockside 1953 restaurant is part of the Bahia Resort Hotel and features panoramic views of Mission Bay. The restaurant features a casual atmosphere and a coastal-inspired menu. The menu will feature classic California dishes and contemporary dishes. The restaurant also features a 3,100-square-foot patio with a beautiful marina view.

Service options: Dine-in | Takeaway | No delivery

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Oceana Coastal Kitchen

Oceana Coastal Kitchen interior
Oceana Coastal Kitchen
  • Address: 3999 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109
  • Located near/in: –
  • Contact: (858) 539-8635
  • Hours: Mon – Thu (7:00 AM – 10:00 PM), Fri – Sat (7:00 AM – 11:00 PM), Sun (7:00 AM – 11:00 PM)

Oceana Coastal Kitchen is an exceptional new addition to the San Diego food scene. It was opened in early 2015 and features California-inspired, chef-driven dishes. Located on the Catamaran Cruise Ship, Oceana captures the local lifestyle, and owner Steven Riemer hails from Southern California.

This seafood-oriented restaurant offers indoor and outdoor dining, a picturesque bayside view and free Wi-Fi. This upscale establishment also features a cozy cocktail lounge and live jazz. The menu includes classic California dishes and signature dishes as well as a large selection of seafood dishes.

The dining room at Oceana Coastal Kitchen is lush and tropical, with wooden walls and etched glass tops. The menu emphasizes California wines, which the kitchen sources from local wineries. There are over 50 labels to choose from, and nearly thirty varietals by the glass. The restaurant also serves its own pale ale, as well as craft drafts from popular local breweries.

Service options: Dine-in | Takeaway | No delivery

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Ambrogio15

Ambrogio15 exterior
Shantala A. / Yelp
  • Address: 926 Turquoise St h, San Diego, CA 92109
  • Located near/in: –
  • Contact: (858) 291-8650
  • Hours: Mon – Thu (12:00 PM – 9:00 PM), Fri – Sat (12:00 PM – 10:00 PM), Sun (12:00 PM – 9:00 PM)

Ambrogio15 is a famous pizzeria that offers “The Milano Pizza Experience” and a variety of specialty pizzas, including whole wheat and white crusts. The pizzas feature secret dough recipes from Italy and are made using organic and natural flour. There are also options for salads and tiramisu.

FYI, the Ambrogio15 is led by a Michelin-starred chef. The restaurant has three locations – in Little Italy and Del Mar – where you can enjoy a fine Italian meal. One of the specialties of the Pacific Beach location is the Taglieri meat and cheese board, which is a heavenly display of meat and cheese. In addition, the atmosphere and service are top-notch.

The multi-restaurant complex Del Mar Highlands Town Center features a beer deck and a central craft cocktail bar, Understory. This place is a local favorite. In addition, Ambrogio15, KiinThai, and Le Parfait Paris have introduced new dishes from a Michelin-starred chef. Marufuku Ramen has recently opened in the Bay Area and is another favorite.

Service options: Dine-in | Kerbside pickup | No-contact delivery

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Smallgoods Cheese Shop & Cafe

Smallgoods Cheese Shop & Cafe exterior
Smallgoods Cheese Shop & Cafe
  • Address: 7524 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037
  • Located near/in: –
  • Contact: (858) 886-7217
  • Hours: Mon (Closed), Tue – Sat (9:30 AM – 5:30 PM), Sun (Closed)

The La Jolla Cheese Shop is probably the only true cheese shop in town. It’s also a deli, cafe, and caterer. Plus, it’s ACS-CCP certified. In addition to serving some of the best cheese in San Diego, Smallgoods also features some of the best charcuterie and gourmet American goods.

The cheeses at this artisan cafe are made by small American producers. You can also order gourmet sandwiches and fresh produce from local farmers’ markets. Smallgoods Cheese Shop & Cafe has a grab-and-go container for takeout orders. The Eastwoods, who runs the restaurant, offers sandwiches made to order and cheese plates to go.

Service options: Dine-in | Kerbside pickup | No-contact delivery

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Bobboi Natural Gelato

Bobboi Natural Gelato exterior
Bobboi Natural Gelato
  • Address: 8008 Girard Avenue La Jolla, CA 92037
  • Located near/in: –
  • Contact: (858) 255-8693
  • Hours: Mon – Thu (11:00 AM – 9:30 PM), Fri – Sat (11:00 AM – 10:00 PM), Sun (11:00 AM – 9:30 PM)

Ice cream is a popular food in San Diego, and you can find a variety of unique flavors at Bobboi Natural Gelato in La Jolla. For those who prefer a more traditional scoop, check out Shake Shack for frozen custard that’s been blended with Betty’s Pie Hole pieces.

Nearby, Watanabe’s Angels & Hearts Harajuku Creperie serves up taro charcoal caramel soft serve. An’s Dry Cleaning in North Park has an extensive menu, and the location is a bonus.

Service options: Dine-in | Takeaway | Delivery

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The Baked Bear

The Baked Bear San Diego exterior
The Baked Bear
  • Address: 4516 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109
  • Located near/in: –
  • Contact: (619) 320-1237
  • Hours: Mon – Thu (12:00 PM – 11:00 PM), Fri – Sat (12:00 PM – 12:00 AM), Sun (12:00 PM – 11:00 PM)

The Baked Bear is one of San Diego’s top ice cream sandwich and artisan cookie parlors. Recently, the ice cream sandwich chain has opened two new locations, in La Costa and Carmel Valley. Both locations will open in early April. The one that we’re gonna talk about right now is in the Pacific Beach.

As most locals there already knew, The Baked Bear‘s main offering is custom ice cream sandwiches. These ice cream sandwiches can be made with a variety of cookie flavors. They also feature rotating seasonal flavors and a Cookie of the Month. In addition to ice cream sandwiches, you can also find donuts, brownies, and baked goods.

This ice cream shop is a San Diego favorite that will open its first location in San Antonio this summer. This ice cream shop specializes in homemade cookies and brownies, as well as artisan ice cream flavors. There are also plans to open a location in Austin this summer.

Service options: Dine-in | Takeaway | Delivery

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Salt & Straw (Little Italy)

Salt & Straw Little Italy exterior
Salt & Straw
  • Address: 1670 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
  • Located near/in: –
  • Contact: (619) 542-9394
  • Hours: Mon – Sun (11:00 AM – 11:00 PM)

Salt & Straw, an ice cream chain from Portland, is expanding into San Diego. The ice cream company is known for its small batches and uses local, seasonal ingredients. It also offers take-home pints. The San Diego location is slated to open on Friday, December 15.

While ice cream is the main attraction of Salt & Straw, there are other options available, too. Try the Strawberry & Lemon Verbena Curd, which is available at only the San Diego storefront. It is made from strawberries and lemon verbena that are grown in an organic farm.

Service options: Dine-in | Takeaway | No-contact delivery

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Parma Cucina Italiana

Parma Cucina Italiana exterior
Valerie T. / Yelp
  • Address: 3850 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
  • Located near/in: –
  • Contact: (619) 543-0049
  • Hours: Mon – Thu (4:00 PM – 9:00 PM), Fri (4:00 PM – 9:30 PM), Sat (12:00 PM – 9:30 PM), Sun (12:00 PM – 9:00 PM)

If you’re looking for a restaurant that serves authentic Italian food, Parma Cucina Italiana is worth a try. With a relaxed ambiance and warm staff, you’ll be treated to the best in Italian food. Their menu features traditional pasta dishes such as lasagna, ravioli, and tagliatelle, as well as meat and fish dishes. The restaurant also offers a large selection of beers and wines.

Parma Cucina Italiana is one of San Diego’s top Italian restaurants. Run by a husband and wife team with over 30 years of experience running Italian restaurants in Italy, this restaurant offers classic Italian fare with an innovative twist. The menu features house-made pasta dishes, flavor-packed meat main courses, fresh vegetables, and daily specials. The restaurant also offers a great wine list and Lavazza coffee.

Parma Cucina Italiana is located in the Mission Valley East neighborhood. It’s close to the Old Trolley Barn Park and Adams Avenue. It has been a local favorite since 2015.

Service options: Dine-in | Takeaway | No-contact delivery

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Kono’s Cafe

Kono's Cafe exterior
Kono’s Cafe
  • Address: 704 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109
  • Located near/in: –
  • Contact: (858) 483-1669
  • Hours: Mon – Sun (7:00 AM – 3:00 PM)

Kono’s Cafe is an iconic Pacific Beach coffee shop and diner that serves classic American dishes but with a California flair. The breakfast menu includes everything from giant breakfast burritos to bacon and scrambled eggs.

It’s a great choice for those who want to get a head start on the day and still stay within your budget. The prices are also very reasonable, with most meals coming in under $10.

Service options: Dine-in | Takeaway

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The Mission Cafe (Mission Beach)

The Mission Cafe Mission Beach exterior
The Mission Cafe
  • Address: 3795 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109
  • Located near/in: –
  • Contact: (858) 488-9060
  • Hours: Mon – Fri (7:30 AM – 1:30 PM), Sat – Sun (7:30 AM – 2:00 PM)

The Mission Cafe is a beloved local eatery that has been serving the community since 1995. This urban bistro, founded by Fay Nakanishi, Deborah Helm, and Thomas Fitzpatrick, has evolved from a small coffee house to a full-scale restaurant, earning national acclaim and multiple awards.

The cafe, especially from its Mission Beach, San Diego branch, offers a unique dining experience, combining a casual, homey ambiance with a unique menu that has made it a favorite among locals and tourists alike. The restaurant’s interior is adorned with original works by local San Diego artists, and large windows allow natural light to shine through, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Besides, The Mission Cafe also specializes in Asian-Latin fusion fare with an international twist, focusing on the use of fresh ingredients and artful presentation. From the griddle, you can enjoy a variety of pancakes, including classic buttermilk, strawberry banana, granola banana, blueberry, and lemon curd pancakes. The menu also features a range of sandwiches, salads, and specialty drinks, including house-brewed coffee, cold brew, espresso, lattes, and a variety of hot teas.

Service options: Dine-in | Takeaway | No-contact delivery

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Sushi Ota

Sushi Ota exterior
OpenTable
  • Address: 4529 Mission Bay Dr., San Diego, CA 92109
  • Located near/in: –
  • Contact: (858) 880-8778
  • Hours: Mon (Closed), Thu (5:00 PM – 10:00 PM), Wed – Fri (11:30 AM – 2:00 PM) | (5:00 PM – 10:00 PM), Sat – Sun (5:00 PM – 10:00 PM)

Located in a strip mall, the Chef-owned Japanese outfit crafts premium sushi and offers omakase tastings. Although it’s modest in size, the cuisine here is outstanding. It’s worth a trip just to taste the sushi. If sushi is your thing, Sushi Ota is one of the best San Diego restaurants. The chef’s choice menu is popular with local diners.

Chef Yukita Ota hails from Kumamato, Japan. He grew up and worked in sushi restaurants in his native country. After visiting San Diego in 1982, he decided to settle in the city and open his own sushi restaurant. In addition to the menu, the staff at Sushi Ota are friendly and helpful. The restaurant’s sushi bar features eight seats, with some extra outdoor seating. His menu focuses on traditional sushi, while also featuring trendy specials and an omakase-tasting menu for the adventurous diner.

Service options: Dine-in | Kerbside pickup | No delivery

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The Taco Stand

The Taco Stand North Park exterior
The Taco Stand
  • Address: 3000 Upas St #105, San Diego, CA 92104
  • Located near/in: –
  • Contact: (619) 795-8797
  • Hours: Mon – Thu (11:00 AM – 10:00 PM), Fri – Sat (11:00 AM – 11:00 PM), Sun (11:00 AM – 10:00 PM)

The Taco Stand is one of the best Mexican restaurants in San Diego, and with a variety of locations to choose from, it has won over locals and foodies alike. Inspired by the taco stands of Tijuana, this San Diego restaurant serves up authentic Mexican food. Choose from a variety of burritos and tacos to suit your tastes.

The Taco Stand, which opened in La Jolla in 2013, has been ranked as one of the best restaurants in San Diego by TripAdvisor. The ranking is based on the number and quality of reviews posted by users over a 12-month period.

Service options: Dine-in | Takeaway | Delivery

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Harney Sushi

Harney Sushi exterior
Harney Sushi
  • Address: 3964 Harney St, San Diego, CA 92110
  • Located near/in: –
  • Contact: (619) 295-3272
  • Hours: Mon – Fri (4:00 PM – 10:00 PM), Sat – Sun (1:00 PM – 10:00 PM)

Harney Sushi, a San Diego staple, serves some of the best sushi in the city. Founded in 2001, the restaurant focuses on fresh ingredients and inventive sushi creations. Its staff combines creativity, knowledge, and style with a unique ambiance to create an unforgettable dining experience. The restaurant is also known for offering live music and catering services. Whether you’re in the mood for a romantic date, a fun family outing, or a business lunch, you’ll find plenty to choose from.

Located in the historic Gaslamp District, Harney Sushi offers a dining experience that is not only delicious but also sustainable. The restaurant’s sushi is sourced locally and sustainably, and its staff can tell you where it comes from. The dimly-lit interior creates a relaxed, friendly atmosphere that invites socializing. You can also enjoy food and drink specials daily. On certain nights, the Old Town location features live music and other entertainment.

Service options: Dine-in | Kerbside pickup | No-contact delivery

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