San Diego is an up-and-coming culinary destination, thanks to its stunning Pacific Ocean setting, proximity to Mexico, diverse population, and the area’s extraordinary farming community. Increasingly the city’s veteran top chefs are being joined by a new generation of talented chefs and restaurateurs who are adding stylish restaurants with innovative food and drink programs to the dining scene at a record pace. Yes, visitors still are drawn to the San Diego Zoo and miles of beaches, but now they come for memorable dining experiences as well.

The city’s culinary scene got a significant boost when San Diego emerged as one of the world’s top craft beer destinations, with artisan breweries and gastropubs now in almost every neighborhood. San Diego also was on the cutting edge of the farm-to-table, Slow Food movement. Local sourcing is possible for everything from seafood to just-picked produce from a host of nationally recognized producers like Chino Farms and Carlsbad Aquafarm. The city’s ethnically diverse neighborhoods with their modest eateries offering affordable authentic international cuisines add spice to the dining mix.

San Diego’s distinct neighborhoods have their own dining personalities with friendly restaurants and bistros catering to every craving in this sun-blessed city. The trendy Gaslamp Quarter delights visitors looking for a broad range of innovative and international dining and nightlife, while bustling Little Italy offers a mix of affordable Italian fare and posh new eateries. Modern restaurants and cafés thrive in East Village, amid the luxury condos near Petco Park.

The Uptown neighborhoods centered on Hillcrest—an urbane district with San Francisco flavor—are a mix of bars and independent restaurants, many of which specialize in ethnic cuisine. North Park, in particular, has a happening restaurant and craft beer scene, with just about every kind of cuisine you can think of, and laid-back prices to boot. And scenic La Jolla offers some of the best fine dining in the city with dramatic water views as an added bonus.

Dining Hours

Unless otherwise noted, the restaurants listed in this guide are open daily for lunch and dinner. Lunch is typically served 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, and dinner service in most restaurants begins at 5:30 pm and ends at 10 pm, though a number of establishments serve until 11 pm or later on Friday and Saturday nights.

What to Wear

In San Diego restaurants, generally a "come-as-you-are" attitude prevails. It's a casual city for men and women alike, but going-out dress is generally fashionable and fun, especially for celebratory or upscale dining. Very few dress-up places remain.


Most San Diego restaurants welcome children and many have special kids' menus with food offerings targeted to younger palates and parents’ pocketbooks. Some high-end and bar-oriented establishments may not be appropriate for children—if unsure, call the establishment for confirmation.


With the boom of new apartments and condominiums Downtown and in Little Italy, street parking near many restaurants can be frustrating, especially in the evenings and on weekends. Valet ($10–$15) parking in front of many major restaurants is easy and convenient. Some valet parking is subsidized by restaurants; call ahead for parking offers and suggestions. There are several parking garages and lots throughout Downtown with prices that fluctuate depending on events. For major Downtown events where parking is impossible, consider parking for free at the Old Town transit center and get a quick San Diego Trolley ride to stops in Little Italy, East Village, and the Gaslamp Quarter.


Smoking is banned in restaurants in California. The city of San Diego permits smoking on patios, but it's not allowed in the cities of Chula Vista, Del Mar, El Cajon, Encinitas, National City, and Solana Beach.


Meals in San Diego popular dining spots can be pricey, especially in areas like La Jolla and the Gaslamp Quarter. Many other restaurants are very affordable or offer extra value with fixed-price menus, early-dining specials and early and late happy hours.

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