Our Guide to the Best Dinner in San Diego, California

dinner in san diego

We’ve curated a list of the best dinner spots in San Diego. The food in California is notorious for its uniquely global cuisine and culinary talent, each restaurant and chef upholding their own style and expertise making it one of the most food-forward places in the world. The restaurants in San Diego live up to these renowned standards and give way to some of the best foods we’ve ever had.

Not only is food a focus in this modest city, but interior design, architecture and attention to detail are unlike anywhere else. We’ve created this list from the best tastes we’ve had but also accounted for atmosphere and style.

 

LITTLE ITALY

The gastronomic neighborhood of San Diego

JUNIPER & IVY

dinner in san diego

Constantly evolving menu from celebrity chef Richard Blais. The food here is delicate and unique, with flavors meant to be slowly enjoyed just like your experience there. Fish and other high-end meats are the top selections here for one of the best dinner spots in San Diego.

PRICE: $$$

MENU: New American

LOCATION: Little Italy

ORDER THIS: Short Rib & Cheddar Arancini

 

CIVICO 1845

dinner in san diego

Quaint, cozy and a replica of a pasta shop off the streets of Italy. You can feel the Italian roots seeping from the walls here. With a contemporary approach to classic Italian dishes, your options range from scratch-made pasta to Vegan entreés. This one is ranked among the top Vegan restaurants in San Diego.

PRICE: $$

MENU: Italian

LOCATION: Little Italy

ORDER THIS: Customizable Formaggio Bar – this ones up to you!

 

KETTNER EXCHANGE

dinner in san diego

Mainly an Asian fare, a la carte style with craft cocktails. Kettner Exchange offers an eclectic style with modern cabanas, buzzy vibes, a superior rooftop, and a cozy interior.

PRICE: $$$

MENU: Global

LOCATION: Little Italy

ORDER THIS: Thai Roasted Pork Shoulder

 

CLOAK AND PETAL

dinner in san diego

Japanese tapas and craft cocktails are the specialties here. Cloak & Petal transports you to the world of Tokyo, eluding to the streets and style of its roots.

PRICE: $$$

MENU: Japanese

LOCATION: Little Italy

ORDER THIS: Your favorite roll and a craft cocktail

 

HERB & WOOD

dinner in san diego

Rustic meets upscale, Herb & Wood emphasizes wood-fired dishes from executive chefs providing decades of culinary expertise. The meals provoke conversation and enjoyment, a dining experience with the total package.

PRICE: $$$

MENU: New American

LOCATION: Little Italy

ORDER THIS: Menu changes daily, their Gnocchi is on a continuous rotation of unique flavors

 

BARBUSA

dinner in san diego

Lively and Modern, Barbusa is the upbeat version of the quaint and charming Civico 1845. The pasta options here are handmade and delicate, with flavors unique to Sicily bringing you to one of our top Italian spots for dinner in San Diego.

PRICE: $$

MENU: Sicilian

LOCATION: Little Italy

ORDER THIS: Carbonara Con Piselli

 

BORN & RAISED

dinner in san diego

Straight out of the Gatsby era, the timeless interior of this steakhouse primes you for the level of detail you’ll see in the cuisine. From fur covered seats to a spacious, airy rooftop you will be enjoying the scenes just as much as your high-end steak and cocktail.

PRICE: $$$$

MENU: Steakhouse

LOCATION: Little Italy

ORDER THIS: Menu changes every day, sample menu item I recommend: Braised Beef Short Rib

 

NOLITA HALL

dinner in san diego
Photo from Eater

This dinner spot in San Diego tops the charts for a vibrant atmosphere made for a group night out. A high-class version of a sports bar. Grab your crowd and settle in for a night of craft cocktails, wood-fired pizzas, shuffleboard and watching your favorite sports teams.

PRICE: $$

MENU: New American

LOCATION: Little Italy

ORDER THIS: Old School

NORTH PARK

Young and trendy with attention to the newest foods and styles

 

SMOKING GOAT

dinner in san diego

French-American bistro offering seasonal menus with flavors that take you to a French cafe. Smoking Goat is an upscale farmhouse style dining front with the utmost attention to experience.

PRICE: $$$

MENU: French-American

LOCATION: North Park

ORDER THIS: Scottish Salmon

 

SIAMO NAPOLI

dinner in san diego
Photo from Eater

New for 2019, Siamo Napoli comes from Italian restaurant extraordinaire Flavio Piromallo, a well-known executive in the Italian restaurant community, helping out with multiple shops like Civico 1845 in Little Italy. The restaurant pays tribute to his home in Italy, bringing authentic flavors from Naples right to your plate.

PRICE: $$

MENU: Italian

LOCATION: North Park

ORDER THIS: Sorrento Style Gnocchi or any of their wood-fired pizzas

 

LOUISIANA PURCHASE

dinner in san diego

Bringing the flavors of New Orleans to the streets of California, this popular spot is conveniently situated on Louisiana Street. A modern interpretation of a classic French Quarter restaurant, bringing you a contemporary old-time-y atmosphere.

PRICE: $$$

MENU: New Orleans

LOCATION: North Park

ORDER THIS: Dragos

 

SODA & SWINE

dinner in san diego
Photo from Eater

Casual dining with an order at the counter approach, this humble and cozy joint offers incredible build-your-own sliders. If you are looking for a casual night with really good food and a craft cocktail after, this is your place.

PRICE: $

MENU: Old School Italian

LOCATIONS: North Park, UCSD, Liberty Station

ORDER THIS: Ballroom Blitz – three sliders of your choice. Include the Bahn Mi.

 

SOICHI 

dinner in san diego
Photo from Eater

Known as the ONLY 5-star sushi restaurant in San Diego, Soichi is a spot you shouldn’t miss out on if you admire mastered sushi. Reservations are strongly advised, this is an intimate spot with just a 12-seat bar. The menu is a la carte with some of the freshest fish options around, your only dinner spot in San Diego for an experience like this one.

PRICE: $$

MENU: Sushi

LOCATION: North Park

ORDER THIS: Chilean Sea Bass

 

RARE SOCIETY

dinner in san diego
Photo from Eater

New in 2019, Rare Society brings a contemporary steakhouse to North Park. The vibe is from the Mad Men era with food following a similar suit. Menu items are heavy in meat, with beef entreés topping the charts.

PRICE: $$

MENU: Steakhouse

LOCATION: North Park

ORDER THIS: 8oz Denver Australian Wagyu

 

LA JOLLA

HERRINGBONE

dinner in san diego
Photo by Eater

California coastal cuisine and inventive seafood dishes brought to you by a top chef across California (hint, hint: Herb & Wood). Remodeled from an old warehouse, Herringbone is an upscale experience focusing on foods that are locally sourced and freshly caught.

PRICE: $$$

MENU: Californian

LOCATION: La Jolla, Santa Monica, Waikiki, Las Vegas

ORDER THIS: Stone Crab Cake

 

CATANIA

dinner in san diego

Italian, yet again. Are you grasping that we are huge Italian food fans? This airy, modern space offers expansive ocean views and a relaxed interior. Catania offers Italian cuisine that is fused with a coastal Californian emphasis. Classic coal-fired pizzas round out the menu at this relaxed delight.

PRICE: $$$

MENU: Coastal Italian

LOCATION: La Jolla

ORDER THIS: Manila Clam Basil Pasta

 

WHISKNLADLE

dinner in san diego
Photo from Eater

Brought to you by Chef Ryan Johnston, this restaurant is awarded for its creative take on California coastal cuisine and its partnerships with local farms. Elevated comfort food with respected ingredients for a uniquely coastal style dinner in San Diego.

PRICE: $$$

MENU: New American Bistro

LOCATION: La Jolla

ORDER THIS: Seared Scallops

 

CORONADO

THE HENRY

dinner in san diego

New to Coronado, The Henry is a charming add to the food scene in an already charming part of San Diego. Located just a few blocks from the water, this lively eatery brings in the crowds. With four locations in Southwest USA, this restaurant is sure to be a hit.

PRICE: $$$

MENU: New American

LOCATIONS: Coronado, LA, Dallas, Phoenix

ORDER THIS: Korean Skirt Steak

 

EAST VILLAGE

LIONFISH AT THE PENDRY

dinner in san diego

Located within the 5-star Pendry Hotel, Lionfish focuses modern coastal cuisine with fresh-catch flavor and delicacy. Although there is a variety of fresh options, Executive Chef Jojo Ruiz continues to make each item innovative and focused. We also selected this one for its cozy, inviting interior, one that makes you want to settle in for the night.

PRICE: $$$

MENU: Coastal / Seafood

LOCATION: East Village / Gas Lamp

ORDER THIS: Too many options, go with your go-to sushi or fish preference

 

PROVISIONAL KITCHEN AT THE PENDRY 

Also located at the Pendry, Provisional Kitchen is a restaurant-marketplace hybrid specializing in New American cuisine in a loungey, rustic setting. Set within a greenhouse, the open space bistro welcomes an exquisite dining experience. The food is classic, with modern twists and homegrown ingredients. This is a perfect dinner spot in San Diego but is also great for brunch, coffee or just hanging out.

PRICE: $$

MENU: New American

LOCATION: East Village

ORDER THIS: Pizza ala Benno, if you go on a Sunday try the Cacio E Pepe prepared tableside.

 

RUSTIC ROOT

Modern rooftop restaurant in the hear of Gaslamp, the Rustic Root features local, seasonal cuisine and craft cocktails in contemporary, rustic surrounds. The rooftop is a stylish place to sip cocktails for a relaxed evening out.

PRICE: $$

MENU: New American

LOCATION: Gaslamp District

ORDER THIS: Lobster Pappardelle

 

LOLA 55

We like to throw in casual, order at the counter style restaurants too, and this is one of the top spots for that kind of dining in the East Village. Lola 55 has a loungey interior offering a cozy space to enjoy craft cocktails and gourmet tacos.

PRICE: $

MENU: Mexican

LOCATION: East Village

ORDER THIS: Mesquite Chicken Taco

 

MONZÚ 

Serving scratch made Italian cuisine with contemporary flavors and locally grown ingredients in the heart of San Diego’s East Village. Monzú focuses on fresh pasta and keeps its fare as close to its roots as possible. Transport yourself to the Neapolitan past for the night and excite the tastebuds with Southern Italy’s heritage.

PRICE: $$

MENU: Neapolitan

LOCATION: East Village

ORDER THIS: Gnocchetti Sardi + Scallops

 

POINT LOMA / LIBERTY STATION

CESARINA

With a menu that is constantly evolving, executive chef Patrick Money focuses on handmade fresh pasta, combining heritage Italian-style cooking with regional produce and other thoughtfully sourced ingredients.

PRICE: $$$

MENU: Italian

LOCATION: Liberty Station

ORDER THIS: Customizable pasta – pick your noodle, sauce, ingredients, you name it and it’s yours.

 

BALI HAI

Photo from Eater

Bali Hai is a classic to San Diegoans, my dad recommended this place from his days in San Diego back in the 70’s. Specializing in a classic Polynesian experience, Bali Hai is iconic and famous for its Mai Tai’s, with an added bonus of bay views and phenomenal, relaxed seafood entreés.

PRICE: $$

MENU: Polynesian

LOCATION: Liberty Station

ORDER THIS: Orange Lobster

 

MISSION BEACH / PACIFIC BEACH

TIDAL

Perched on the shores of Mission Bay, Tidal is cozy and relaxed with superior surrounds. The food is aligned with that relaxed approach, with a menu emphasizing California-style seafood entreés and craft cocktails.

PRICE: $$$

MENU: Seafood

LOCATION: Mission Bay

ORDER THIS: Lava Salt Crust Diver Scallops

 

OLD TOWN

The Heritage of Mexico

TAHONA

Bringing modern design and style to the historic Mexican roots of San Diego. Old Town has focused on timeless Mexican specialties for more than 50 years. Tahona is where contemporary restaurant style meets authentic Mexican cuisine. The Mezcal focused Mexican cantina showcases Mexico’s culinary capital of Oaxaca.

 

PRICE: $$

MENU: Mexican

LOCATION: Old Town

ORDER THIS: Mix + match tacos, Soft Shell Crab is highly recommended

 

Also check out San Diego’s Convoy Street. Considered Asian Row, this street has some of the top Asian culinary scenes in the US.

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