169 Best Restaurants in San Diego, California

Ambrogio by Acquerello

$$$$ | La Jolla Fodor's choice

Elegant yet unpretentious, this fine dining restaurant by chefs Choi Cheolhyeok and Silvio Salmoiraghi, integrate elements of Italy, France, Korea, Japan, and California to build masterpieces in an eight-course tasting menu. Both chefs have an impressive pedigree, formerly at the helm of Michelin Star restaurants in Tokyo and Italy, but at Ambrogio, they have joined forces to redefine modern Italian cuisine in San Diego. Prepare for a playful balance of flavors, colors, and textures that changes quarterly. The menu might feature black cod with toasted polenta, linguine with truffles, or Japanese wagyu with spinach and cognac. After eight courses, the assortment of pastries seems doable when paired with an impressive list of over 100 curated wines. Pace yourself for perfection and what might be a three-hour dining experience. An exceptional "Walk in the Garden" tasting menu is available for vegetarians. 


$$$$ Fodor's choice

The large, plush booths and elegant decor at Animae suggest an air of sophistication, while the soundtrack of '90s-era hip-hop adds a flash of casual cool to keep it from ever being too stuffy. Not that such a thing is at risk at this dazzling Embarcadero bistro, which pairs indulgent, tender Wagyu beef steak cuts with a variety of dishes inspired by Japan and Southeast Asia. In fact, with dishes like the Hunan lamb chops, hamachi, and duck kimchi fried rice, it's just as tempting to forgo a single cut of meat in favor of sampling so many of their other culinary creations.

969 Pacific Hwy., San Diego, CA, 92101, USA
Known For
  • aged Wagyu beef filet
  • whole branzino
  • wide variety of Japanese whiskeys
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch

Artifact at Mingei

$$ | Balboa Park Fodor's choice

Innovative restauranteur Tracy Borkum raised the bar of in-park dining with the unveiling of Artifact, located in the Mingei commons and courtyard. Taking culinary inspirations from around the globe, flavors and spices from Morocco to Peru are on display in lunch and dinner menus billed as "craft cooking inspired by ancient methods, spices and botanicals." Several vegan and gluten-free options are available. Breakfast and quick-serve options are available daily at the adjacent Craft Cafe.

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Blind Lady Ale House

$ | Normal Heights Fodor's choice

There's almost no combination on earth as satisfying as pizza and beer—which just happen to be Blind Lady's specialties. The old-world-style pizzas are topped with organic ingredients, like house-made chorizo and avocado, which offer an excellent complement to their extensive beer selection, which is updated on their chalkboard daily. Just be patient waiting for a seat at the popular neighborhood spot, which is decorated with upcycled materials such as reclaimed wood floors and glass cases of vintage beer cans.

Born and Raised

$$$$ Fodor's choice
The name is cheeky if a little morbid; the title refers to the restaurant's speciality—steak. It's a twist on a classic steak house, with a menu full of aged, prime cuts of beef served with a number of sauces, or perhaps try the table-side-prepared steak Diane with flambéed jus. With its large gold doors, intimate booths, and stiff Manhattans, everything about the restaurant feels like old luxury, until you notice the portraits of famous rappers on the walls.

Buona Forchetta

$ | South Park Fodor's choice

A golden-domed pizza oven, named Sofia after the owner’s daughter, delivers authentic Neapolitan-style pizza to fans who often line up for patio tables at this dog- and kid-friendly Italian restaurant in South Park. Pizzas make a meal or can be shared, but don’t miss the equally delicious appetizers, heaping salads, or fresh pastas, and be sure to save room for some dolci.


$$ | Point Loma Fodor's choice

A wall of mason jars with pickled vegetables and brined olives transports you to an Italian market in Rome where the owner’s mother perfected generations of recipes that have made their way into this Point Loma eatery. Since its 2019 opening, customers have lined up for generous portions of homemade Italian staples including pasta, gnocchi, meatballs, sausage, bread, and decadent desserts. Choose your pasta shape, sauce, and topping, or simply lean on the advice of the knowledgeable waitstaff. The tagliere cutting board is piled high with prosciutto, burrata, green olives, artichoke hearts, and marinated vegetables beckoning a dunk of focaccia with every bite, while the risotto and tagliata are cooked to perfection and the spaghetti with mussels and clams will have you reenacting Lady and the Tramp. For the finale, get your camera ready for the table-side tiramisu drenched in espresso and topped with mascarpone fresco. The outdoor patio is inviting year-round, even in winter when heat lamps, wool blankets, and sheepskin rugs keep things cozy. 

Eddie V’s Prime Seafood

$$$ Fodor's choice

Don't be put off by the name, or that it is part of a small chain. This fine-dining restaurant at the Headquarters at Seaport in Downtown has won a devoted following for classic seafood, casual but sophisticated settings, and nightly live jazz. Chilled oysters and other shellfish compete with Maine lobster tacos and kung pao–style calamari to start the meal. The polished staff helps with informed descriptions of almost two-dozen entrées starring fish flown in fresh daily and prime steaks. Sea bass in a savory soy broth and Parmesan-crusted sole are favorites, while the seafood chopped salad is light and sharable. Truffled mac and cheese and au gratin cheddar potatoes are not-to-be-missed sides. Nightly happy hours in the V Lounge offer $8 wines, cocktails, and appetizers.

A second location in La Jolla has wonderful ocean views and the same dinner menu and happy hour specials. It also serves lunch on weekends.

789 W. Harbor Dr., San Diego, CA, 92101, USA
Known For
  • wallet-friendly happy hour deals
  • the shellfish tower, featuring oysters, crab, shrimp and Maine lobster
  • indulgent truffled mac and cheese
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: No lunch

Extraordinary Desserts

$ Fodor's choice

For Paris-perfect cakes and tarts embellished California-style with fresh flowers, head to this sleek, serene branch of Karen Krasne’s pastry shop and café. The space with soaring ceilings hosts breakfasts, lunches, and light dinners, accompanied by a wide selection of teas, coffee, organic wines, and craft beers. For those who don’t want to start with dessert, there are sandwiches, soups, salads, and artisanal cheeses, plus a kids' menu of grilled cheese or free-range turkey served on local bread. When it’s time to satisfy your sweet tooth, try a slice of passion fruit ricotta cake, a mini-banana cream pie, or helping of croissant bread pudding. The original shop near Balboa Park, at 2870 4th Avenue, serves only desserts, coffees, and teas.

Extraordinary Desserts

$ | Hillcrest Fodor's choice

This café lives up to its name, which explains why there's often a line, despite the ample seating. Paris-trained Karen Krasne turns out award-winning cakes, tortes, and pastries of exceptional beauty, while the Japanese-theme patio invites you to linger over yet another coffee drink.

Herb & Wood

$$ Fodor's choice

Design lovers will fall for celebrity chef Brian Malarkey's sprawling restaurant, a former art store that has been refashioned into four luxe spaces in one—an entryway lounge, outdoor lounge, fireplace-dotted patio, and the main dining room, which is flanked by beaded chandeliers, lush banquettes, and paintings in rich jewel tones. The menu is heavy on wood-roasted dishes, many of which are apt for sharing, like the roasted baby carrots or hiramasa with crispy quinoa. There are also larger options like an oxtail gnocchi and pizzas with toppings from mushrooms to bone marrow. 

2210 Kettner Blvd., San Diego, CA, 92101, USA
Known For
  • roasted baby carrots with cashew sesame dukkah
  • pillow-soft oxtail gnocchi
  • the secret menu Parker House rolls topped with Maldon sea salt
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: No lunch Mon.--Sat.


$ | Ocean Beach Fodor's choice

Surfers with big appetites, and fans of Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, chow down on huge, messy burgers, fries, onion rings, and shakes at this funky, hippie beach joint adorned with beat-up surfboards, stickers, and license plates from almost every state. Don’t be put off by lines out the door---they move quickly and the wait is worth it, especially for the Guido Burger; inspired by Guy Fieri, it's topped with pastrami, onions, pickles, and Swiss cheese. Wash it down with one of their own microbrews including a hazy IPA and a Mexican lager. A miniburger is a less-filling option, and there are veggie and chicken patty options for the red-meat averse. Newer outposts—as family-friendly as the original '60s joint—are Downtown and at Petco Park.

Liberty Public Market

$ | Point Loma Fodor's choice
This bustling market and food hall is just one of the latest additions to an ever-expanding Liberty Station, the historic mixed-use redevelopment of San Diego's former Naval Training Center. Vendors offer everything from lobster rolls to empanadas, gumbo, or tostadas, making it an excellent place to pop in for a quick but high-quality meal.

Liberty Public Market

$ | Liberty Station Fodor's choice

The city's former Naval Training Center is home to more than 30 vendors so even the pickiest of diners will be pleased. Options include tacos and quesadillas at Cecilia's Taqueria; fried rice, pad Thai, and curries at Mama Made Thai; lavender lattes from Westbean Coffee Roasters; fried chicken and fries from Fluster Cluck; sweet and savory crepes from Olala; more than a dozen Argentinean empanadas at Paraná; and croissants, éclairs, and macarons at Le Parfait Paris. There are a few communal tables indoors, but the best seating is the kid- and dog-friendly outdoor patio, outfitted with Adirondack chairs and market lights.  Not all vendors are open for breakfast.

Little Lion Cafe

$$ | Ocean Beach Fodor's choice

Amid surf shacks and hippie beach bars, this restaurant perched on stunning Sunset Cliffs feels like a hidden European bistro. The sisters who run the show come from a long line of successful local restaurateurs and have brought their passed-down expertise to the thoughtful service and simple, healthy menu that features entrées like plant-based tacos, quinoa bowls, and the Bistro Burger with Hatch Chile cheddar on a brioche bun. The morning menu features chia seed puddings and baked eggs, which are a welcome contrast to the typical indulgent brunch fare.

Michele Coulon Dessertier

$ | La Jolla Fodor's choice

The desserts are magnificent at this small, charming shop in operation for nearly 50 years, where dessertier Michele Coulon confects wonders, using organic produce and imported chocolate. Snack on cookies, cupcakes, brownies, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and mini-desserts. But this is not just a place for dessert: lunch is served Tuesday through Saturday (the store is open 9 am to 3 pm), and the simple menu includes quiche and salads. Other irresistible treats found here are a chocolate-lovers’ Torte Lion Belge, pear-frangipane tart, and Marjolaine Torte with layers of meringue, chocolate ganache, and buttercream.

7556 Fay Ave., San Diego, CA, 92037, USA
Known For
  • Instagram-worthy presentation
  • the buttercream- and berry-filled Gateau Aileen
  • gluten-free items usually are available
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun. and Mon. No dinner, Reservations not accepted


$$$$ | Mission Beach Fodor's choice

An unexpected oasis of elegance among an often too casual Mission Beach, Moe's delivers an unpretentious but classic steak-house experience. Splurge-worthy treats such as Japanese A5 Wagyu or the Bone-In Ribeye are tempered by lighter and more wallet-friendly dishes marked as "Entree Alternatives." Classic cocktail fans will appreciate the extensive martini menu and other tried and true favorites. The impressive bar with its rich wood details and high-backed leather seating is an experience in itself. Be sure to save room for the decadent desserts.

3768 Mission Blvd., San Diego, CA, 92109, USA
Known For
  • classic steak-house atmosphere
  • generous hand-cut steak selections
  • elegant bar and cocktail service
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: No lunch

Morning Glory

$ Fodor's choice

Among the plentiful and popular brunch options in Little Italy, Morning Glory stands out for not just elevating its breakfast options but making breakfast and brunch its only concern. The dazzling, pink-hue brunch palace is a luxurious sight to behold, with plush seating, a vending machine full of champagne, and a giant metal flower-shape lamp at the center of its outdoor dining area. Yet the menu is where visitors will find its most appealing delights, from its many variations on hot cocoa, to its internationally inspired egg dishes and extra indulgent flapjacks, French toast, and soufflé pancakes.

Make sure to show up early—the restaurant doesn't take reservations and the waitlist fills up fast.

Nomad Donuts

$ | North Park Fodor's choice

The doughnuts at Nomad are big, fluffy, colorful, and would make Homer Simpson drool. Its rotating menu of internationally inspired doughnut flavors is made with natural ingredients, like real fruit, and almost all of them have a vegan counterpart as well. Just make sure to show up early—doughnuts this good don't stick around for long.

3102 University Ave., San Diego, CA, 92104, USA
Known For
  • cinnamon-sugar cruller
  • pomegranate with Meyer lemon drizzle doughnut
  • Panther milk breve, iced with sweetened condensed milk

Prep Kitchen Little Italy

$$ | Little Italy Fodor's choice

Urbanites craving a hip casual setting and gourmet menu pack architectural salvage–styled Prep Kitchen Little Italy, tucked upstairs above a busy corner in this thriving neighborhood. With first-date cocktails, after-work brews, or birthday champagne, diners relish familiar choices like meatball sandwiches, chops, and pork belly with kimchi Brussels. Generously sized dishes like spicy Carlsbad mussels or fusilli Bolognese could serve as dinner for two. Farmers’ market flatbreads, changed daily, are made for sharing, too, while the hefty WNL Burger topped with bacon and egg is a staple lunch, brunch, and dinner. There are also locations in Del Mar and La Jolla.


$ Fodor's choice

Bold graffiti graphics, chandeliers with tangled telephone wires, and beat-heavy music energize this Downtown eatery that celebrates Mexican street food with a modern twist. Settle into one of the interior rooms or the sunny patio under orange umbrellas to sip margaritas and other specialty cocktails, Baja wines, or fruity aguas frescas made daily. Guacamole, ceviche, seafood tostadas, and a festive stack of chili-and-salt-spiced mango whet appetites for tasty street tacos—nine varieties including lobster, mushroom, and striped bass that can be mixed and matched for plates of three. Deep-fried carnitas with a cactus leaf salad, grilled filet mignon, and octopus tacos round out the menu. The original (and smaller) Puesto is in downtown La Jolla.

Raglan Public House

$ | Ocean Beach Fodor's choice

Inspired by the grass-fed burgers they sampled in New Zealand, the founders of this convivial eatery set out to replicate those same high-quality flavors in their Ocean Beach spot. The interior nods to the outdoor-oriented Kiwi country, with surfboards turned into light fixtures, rugby photos, and bodyboards as wall art. An outdoor "parklet" wrapping the corner lot draws a crowd, clinging to the laid-back atmosphere and chill staff that will know you by name before the meal is over. Food focuses on burgers with organic, grass-fed beef, as well as chicken, lamb, and seafood options dressed in garlic aioli and tomato chutney, along with huge portions of onions rings and fries. The meat pies have a croissant-like crust, and there are also salads for those seeking greens. The weekend brunch menu delivers chilaquiles, steak and tamale Benedict, and cheesy grits. With 24 beers on tap, this OB mainstay was one of the first local businesses to pioneer the craft beer movement.


$$$$ Fodor's choice

Adjacent to the Hotel Del Coronado's more casual, family-friendly Sheerwater is its more dazzling upscale restaurant, Serẽa. With tables featuring stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and a menu of sustainable, market-fresh seafood, Serẽa puts full emphasis on its seaside location. Sip a seasonal cocktail, indulge in a rich shellfish platter—either roasted or on ice—and let your server wow you with a tableside whole fish presentation, set to the sounds of nearby crashing waves.

1500 Orange Ave., San Diego, CA, 92118, USA
Known For
  • the "Pearl Diver" dessert, served in a white chocolate shell
  • tableside wood-grilled or flash-fried fish
  • breathtaking ocean view
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon.--Wed.

Sushi Ota

$$ | Pacific Beach Fodor's choice

One fan called it “a notch above amazing”—an accolade not expected for a Japanese eatery wedged in a strip mall in Pacific Beach. But it’s a destination for lovers of high-quality, superfresh raw fish from around San Diego and abroad; reservations strongly encouraged.

The front parking lot is very small, but there's additional parking behind the mall.

4529 Mission Bay Dr., San Diego, CA, 92109, USA
Known For
  • velvety hamachi belly
  • sea urchin specials
  • chef's omakase tasting menu
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon. No lunch weekends, reservations essential

The Crack Shack

$ Fodor's choice

Next to his successful fine-dining restaurant, Juniper and Ivy, celebrity chef Richard Blais has opened this more casual eatery complete with a walk-up counter, picnic-style tables, a bocce court, and a giant rooster—a nod to the egg- and chicken-theme menu. Ingredients are sourced from high-quality vendors and used for sandwiches, of which the fried chicken varieties shine, as well as salads and sides like fluffy minibiscuits with a miso-maple butter and a Mexican spin on poutine. The all-outdoor space feels like a cool playground for foodies, and there's even a slick bar that doles out craft cocktails.


$$ | Hillcrest Fodor's choice

Old-school wood-fire techniques meet modern architecture in this busy bistro where comic book–style art covers the concrete walls and the bottle-lined bar beckons locals and visitors alike. Locally sourced ingredients and smoky, savory flavors feature in the well-balanced menu; be sure to save room for one of the inspired desserts.


$$ | Pacific Beach Fodor's choice

Occupying a prime oceanfront lot just south of Crystal Pier, the views from the raised dining room are impressive. Throw in an excellent raw bar, a wide selection of shared plates, and a buzzy bar scene and you get Waterbar's "social seafood" concept.


$ Fodor's choice

The line that inevitably wraps around the building is indicative of the quality of the tacos and the large selection of local craft beers on tap. Indeed, these are some of the best tacos in all of San Diego, ranging from the classic carne asada and Baja fish tacos to fried-shell beef tacos and Califas, which features French fries inside the tortilla.

3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro

$$ | Ocean Beach

Enthusiasts from around the world laud this combined wine shop, bar, and cozy California bistro. Available from lunch until 10 pm, the American bistro fare starts with baked Brie or chicken-liver mousse, moves on to savory short-rib sliders and seafood risotto, and ends with flourless chocolate marquise or goat’s milk cheesecake.

2265 Bacon St., San Diego, CA, 92107, USA
Known For
  • more than 1,000 bottles of wine
  • consistently top-notch
  • knowledgeable staff who can offer bottle recommendations
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon.

A.R. Valentien

$$$$ | La Jolla

Champions of in-season, fresh-today produce, the chefs at this cozy room in the luxurious, Craftsman-style Lodge at Torrey Pines have made A.R. Valentien one of San Diego’s top fine dining destinations. Be prepared for food combinations that are simultaneously simple and delightfully inventive—crispy skin sablefish; duck confit; prime rib with bordelaise, and an impressive collection of California wines.