With fabulous weather and beautiful beaches and people to boot, it’s not really fair that San Diego gets to have such an impressive array of delicious, award-winning restaurants. Here are eight of our faves.
Located in the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, San Diego’s first Michelin-starred restaurant and Southern California’s most acclaimed fine-dining restaurant is sure to impress. Reservations are required for Chef William Bradley’s modern European fare, which is as beautiful as it is delicious. Choose from either the four-course prix fixe or go all out with the 10+ course chef’s tasting menu.
Southern California freshness meets Southern Italian flavor at this beloved corner place in the heart of Banker’s Hill. The highly acclaimed spot is refined yet affordable. Reclaimed wood lines the stylish, contemporary space, giving it a modern rustic ambiance, with open kitchens, large alfresco patios, communal seating, spacious bar areas, and intimate table settings.
Go with family or friends on a casual night out so you can get a bunch of plates to share. The menu features housemade pasta, pizza, large plates, and antipasti, as well as a signature cheese and salumi program. Start with the chicken liver pâté, fried squash blossoms, a side of the truffle parm fries, and the rib eye carpaccio. For an entree, try the squid ink pasta with mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari, serrano chilies, and tomato, or the short-rib pappardelle with cremini mushrooms. Then there’s dolci: Choose from Italian classics like tiramisu, gelato, or the cheese plate.
There is a retail wine shop within the restaurant, so CUCINA urbana’s wine program is on point. They offer over 200 labels from around the world, with an emphasis on California and Italian varietals. Or, try a seasonal craft cocktail.
“San Deigo’s best restaurant” is a tri-level New American spot in the nearby suburb of luxurious La Jolla. George’s renowned Chef Trey Foshee’s cuisine matches the exquisite views of the Pacific from the patio. On the lower level, California Modern offers a chef’s six-course tasting menu, while the rooftop Ocean Terrace restaurant serves elevated takes on American classics. Or you can just go for cocktails at the Level2 bar and watch the sky get painted as the sun sinks over the ocean.
Top Chef alum Brian Malarkey’s sprawling upscale flagship venue is located in San Diego’s Little Italy. Herb & Wood offers a cool, delicious take on California cuisine. The menu changes daily and is focused on locally sourced ingredients, like fresh seafood. The award-winning restaurant serves rustic, wood-fired dishes, with meat-centric and veggie-only entrees, plus pizza and pasta. This is a great place to go on a double date or for Sunday brunch to enjoy some old-school cocktails and share plates while soaking in the atmosphere.
If you’ve ever watched the Food Network, you’re probably familiar with Top-Chef All-Star winner, Chef Richard Blais. His "Left Coast Cookery," Juniper & Ivy, is located in an old warehouse on the northern edge of Little Italy. The spacious, modern restaurant serves eclectic New American fare from a rotating menu that highlights the freshest, most seasonal locally sourced ingredients.
This award-winning restaurant has been packed since it opened in 2014. Inventive chef-driven techniques are applied to familiar concepts and ingredients, resulting in artful plating that is designed for sharing. The menu features pasta, seafood specials, and interesting large plates, all with Blais’s signature spin. From the buttermilk biscuits to a whole duck for two; everything is served on rustic elements of stone, wood, and steel.
San Diego is a taco town, and LOLA 55 is the mayor, serving simple, delicious tacos with tasty sides and solid cocktails. The city’s laid–back culture is reflected in the East Village all-day eatery’s counter-service ordering, but these aren’t your average tacos. Lola’s take on carne asada involves mesquite-grilled filet mignon, avocado mousse, a smoky pasilla salsa, and crispy leeks, served with jalapeno toreado. Carolina Reaper salsa makes the smoked fish taco insanely spicy. Wash it down with a citrusy agave cocktail made with seasonal fruit and aguas frescas.
Culinary aficionados must visit this oceanfront La Jolla restaurant that has been recognized with a “Michelin Guide Plate Distinction” and “extraordinary to perfection” rating by ZAGAT. Ideally located in the Grande Colonial Hotel on historic Prospect Street, NINE-TEN serves up inventive takes on seasonal cuisine made with fresh ingredients from local artisan farmers. Open for breakfast and lunch and dinner, NINE-TEN’s menu of “evolving California cuisine” rotates daily, featuring local fish selections.
Dine al fresco on the sidewalk patio or ocean-view terrace, or in the intimate and narrow high-ceiling dining room. NINE-TEN’s contemporary-chic atmosphere is the perfect combination of sophistication and casual elegance. Emerald green and light wood create a warm ambiance, centered around an ocean-inspired panorama created by acclaimed artist, Dana Montlack.
Special prix fixe menus are expertly matched with vinos from the restaurant’s extensive, Wine Spectator awarded wine cellar. Award-winning Chef Jason Knibb (a 2011 Iron Chef America Challenger and 2010 Rising Star Chef winner) and Pastry Chef Jose Alonzo III offer a “Mercy of the Chef” tasting menu that will keep you on your toes. A separate bar offers a limited menu and happy hour specials daily.
Located in the heart of downtown La Jolla, this neighborhood bistro has been serving gourmet comfort food for over a decade. The ever-changing menu of handmade pasta, delicious salads, and fresh seafood focuses on fresh ingredients that reflect the fresh bounty of the Southern California seasons. Whisknladle’s fantastic food is thanks to its back to basics “slow food” approach. Lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch are prepared from scratch and meant for sharing.
The comfortable and relaxing casual-chic environment offers dining in the cozy lounge or on the
breezy covered patio. Gourmets and gourmands alike will appreciate Whisknladle’s comforting dishes and clever cocktails.