When it comes to San Diego restaurants, the choices have never been better or more varied.
For more than a decade, the local dining scene has steadily grown, spanning design-centric farm-to-table restaurants to convivial pizza joints to award-winning sushi in a strip mall. But since 2019, San Diego's culinary scene has truly taken off.
Here are some of the city's best.
1. Smallgoods Cheese Shop & Cafe
If you're in San Diego and want to go to a cheese shop, you've come to the right place. The La Jolla Cheese Shop is 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.
2. Bobboi Natural Gelato
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.
There are several locations across San Diego that have received top honors for their food. The list includes Bobboi Natural Gelato, Sweet & Salty Cafe, and Yoshino Japanese Deli, which is located on the Pacific Ocean. In the city center, you can also find restaurants like T-Deli, Sushi Ota, and Alforon. The delis in Hillcrest and Lemongrove are also included in the top eight.
One of the best gelato places in San Diego is also a popular destination for tourists. The ice cream shop on Newport Avenue offers seasonal flavors as well as dairy and sugar-free options. One of the most popular items on the menu is the hot waffle ice cream sandwich, which is served between two airy waffles.
3. Oceana Coastal Kitchen
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.
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.
4. Dockside 1953
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.
Located 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.
In Pacific Beach, Ambrogio15 pizzeria 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.
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.
6. The Baked Bear
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 Baked Bear offers 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.
7. Salt & Straw
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.
8. Parma Cucina Italiana
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.
9. Kono's Cafe
This iconic Pacific Beach coffee shop and diner 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 all meals coming in under $10.
A San Diego favorite for breakfast is the Old Townhouse Cafe, which opened in 1973. This simple diner offers classic American breakfast dishes like egg and bacon omelets, as well as chicken fried steak. However, the menu also pays tribute to San Diego's Latin influence. The menu offers a California chorizo scramble that combines gourmet chorizo with piquillo peppers and fresh cilantro. Another popular dish here is the maple bacon doughnut.
10. The Mission - East Village
The Mission - East Village in San Diego is home to numerous breweries, showcasing San Diego's booming craft beer scene. Check out Mission Brewery, which offers tours of its brewhouse, is dog-friendly, and has a private event space. This brewery specializes in lagers, blondes, and German wheat beers. The Mission Brewery was established in 1913 and is three blocks from SHIFT.
There are over 700 businesses located in this neighborhood, making it one of the largest in Downtown San Diego. Located near the Bay and the Gaslamp Quarter, the area is home to a wide range of restaurants and entertainment options. The East Village is also home to the San Diego Padres baseball team, which opened its stadium in 2004.
11. Sushi Ota
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.
12. The Taco Stand
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.
13. Harney Sushi
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.