September 24, 2022
California small towns – San Diego: part 3 – a guide to the best restaurants in town
Are you visiting the city of San Diego? Have you been so busy visiting the multiple attractions that you have not thought about where to eat yet? Then this guide can help you out. I will start by recommending restaurants in the main areas of the city so that you have an idea about what options are available.
Fame and tourism have contributed to the birth of many clubs and restaurants in the Gaslamp Quarter, each with its own particular atmosphere.
- Morton Steakhouse (285 J St) is a chain restaurant. The original restaurant was founded in Chicago in 1978. In this refined restaurant with various rooms and a bar, you can dine from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm and eat excellent beef, pork and lamb dishes but also an excellent lobster broth (bisque), many other delicious meals and several irresistible desserts, such as creme brulee, cheesecake, double chocolate mousse, and bread pudding with white chocolate and pecans.
- The Old Spaghetti Factory (275 5th Ave) specializes in pasta dishes, including spaghetti with tomato sauce and meatballs, baked lasagna, and fettuccini Alfredo, but there are other good dishes, such as filet and a healthy salad with shrimp. Try the cheesecake with strawberry compote. The restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner at affordable prices, has an enchanting setting with soft lighting, antique candlesticks, painted lamps, decorations, and even a tram wagon in the center of the main room where customers can eat. Once a month, the restaurant hosts a Murder Mystery Dinner. It is a two-hour event during a three-course dinner with a murder case to solve. The cost is $60.
- The House of Blues (1055 5th Ave) is known for live music and 11:00 am Sunday brunch accompanied by gospel music. On the official website, you can check out the musical events. Although the restaurant is closed on Mondays, you can come here to enjoy a meal Tuesday through Thursday from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm, and Fridays and Saturdays until 11:00 pm. Try Southern specialties, gumbo, jambalaya, cajun pasta, and other tasty dishes such as green beans with barbeque and sweet cornbread with jalapeno and cheese. Another good option, although in my opinion, it is not as flavorful, is the barbecue sandwich. For dessert, you may consider trying some key lime pie.
The Gaslamp Quarter is definitely a fun place to spend the evening, with lights and restaurants, some of which are open until late at night.
- Whiskey Girl (702 5th Ave) has a country vibe. I recommend chicken wings, Caesar salad with grilled chicken, pizza, and sandwiches. The place serves lunch and dinner every day, breakfast on the weekend, and brunch on Sunday. From Monday to Friday you can listen to live music and sports fans can sit at the bar and enjoy a game on TV. There is also a kid’s menu. However, between 7:00 pm and 2:00 am, you must be 21 to enter the restaurant.
The Whiskey girl is sometimes confused with Whiskey House (420 3rd Ave), which is famous for holding a record in the Guinness Book of Records for the most types of whiskey served.
- Altitude Sky Lounge (660 K St) located on the 22nd floor of the Marriott San Diego Gaslamp Quarter, is a popular bar on the hotel’s terrace with a wonderful panoramic view, DJ entertainment, furniture, and braziers to cool down in the evening but also to create a nice atmosphere. The bar is open from 5:30 pm to 1:30am and requires business-casual attire. Beer, wine, cocktails, appetizers, and sandwiches are served at moderate prices.
- Henry’s Pub (618 5th Ave) specializes in American cuisine at very reasonable prices. Some popular choices are crispy shrimp and vanilla waffles with berries and whipped cream. Brunch is served on Sundays.
Old Town San Diego
If you want to explore the historic district of the city and eat typical Mexican food, visiting San Diego’s Old Town is a must.
- The Coyote Cafe is known for its handmade tortillas and generous portions. The restaurant is a local favorite and it is especially busy during rush hour. The café is open for both lunch and dinner.
- Casa de Reyes is another good alternative is to have lunch at. It’s the main restaurant within the Fiesta de Reyes shopping area, where everything is Mexican-themed.
- Barra Barra Saloon is a great option for a quick bite.
- Hungry’s Kitchen & Tap, located opposite the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Old Town, is a restaurant frequented by a young crowd where you can eat simple dishes at affordable prices.
- Casa Guadalajara is one of the most famous and popular restaurants in the Old Town. Located in a traditional building, this restaurant also prepares homemade tortillas, which helped the restaurant be named Best Mexican Restaurant by the California Restaurant Association in 2010.
- El Agave has a very special atmosphere. It is impossible not to notice the huge collection of tequila bottles on the shelves of the restaurant, which gives it the appearance of a museum. It is not a purely aesthetic choice. In fact, El Agave is known for its selection of over two thousand different brands of tequila.
San Diego’s coastline: Marina Embarcadero, Harbor Island, Coronado, and more
The Marina District is full of restaurants and bars.
- San Diego Pier Café is one of the best known restaurants in this area. The menu is predominantly seafood and the prices are not so cheap, but the real value of this restaurant lies in the location. The cafe is built on wooden stilts and is definitely a great place to dine, especially at sunset. Not far away and no less charming is the Harbor House Restaurant. Here too you are sure to find excellent seafood and views of the ocean.
- Top of the Market (750 N Harbor Dr), considered to be one of the finest restaurants in the city with a view from Point Loma to the Coronado Bridge. It is known for its phenomenal dishes including Pacific swordfish, Alaskan halibut, clam soup, and pasta with lobster. To end the meal, there is no shortage of desserts such as vanilla custard with pistachios and creme bruleé. Monday to Friday, there is happy hour from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
- Island Prime (880 Harbor Island Dr). Some courses are very expensive but there are also moderately priced dishes like crab cakes, giant white prawns, a nice assortment of cheeses, potatoes au gratin with melted cheese and fresh herbs, and ham wrapped around asparagus with balsamic vinegar. You can choose to eat indoors or on the patio where you can enjoy even better views of the ocean and the city. Business casual attire is recommended. You can decide whether to pay $7 for valet parking or park your car yourself.
Shelter Island is a recreational area near Point Loma in San Diego Bay, connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land.
- Bali Hai Restaurant (2230 Shelter Island Dr). People come here to enjoy the exotic, Hawaiian, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine. The specialties include coconut shrimp, sesame salmon, smoked tuna sandwich, orange lobster, and Pad Thai lamb (lime, vegetables, noodles, and tamarind sauce). There are also desserts such as hazelnut cheesecake, strawberry mousse, and Tropical Island Bomb (coconut, mango, passion fruit, white chocolate and tropical fruit sauce). Happy hour takes place Monday to Friday from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm, while brunch is served on Sundays in the late morning. The restaurant overlooks the San Diego Bay.
There are several restaurants in Coronado at its most famous hotel, the Hotel del Coronado (1500 Orange Avenue). Here are some of them.
- 1500 Ocean: serves dinner and offers a beautiful ocean view.
- Sheerwater: serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Enjoy meat, fish, and salads while admiring the view of the ocean and the sunset.
- Eno: serves lunch and dinner, inside, or at the outdoor fireplace. Pizzas are baked here in a wood-burning oven.
- Crown Room Brunch: serves Sunday brunch in an elegant setting with dark wood decor.
- Sun Deck: an ideal place for cocktails and appetizers on a terrace surrounded by braziers.
- Sea 180 at Pier South Hotel (800 Seacoast Dr), is a casual venue with views of the ocean. The food is good and the prices are reasonable. The menu offers shrimp cocktails, filet mignon, and lobster roll but, if you want, you can also have a classic cheeseburger.
Restaurants on the coast near San Diego
- At Dini’s (3290 Carlsbad Blvd), you can admire the Pacific Ocean while enjoying good food. This restaurant serves California cuisine for lunch, dinner, and brunch (on weekends). Happy hour is Monday to Friday from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm, while on weekends it’s always open from 11:30 am to 7:00 pm.
Encinitas is known as the location of Swami Beach, referenced in a song by the Beach Boys.
- Swami’s Café (1163 S Coast Hwy 101), a casual venue located near the coast with wooden decor. Here you can enjoy omelets, pancakes, waffles, and toast as well as salads, sandwiches, and dishes with international flavors, such as fish tacos, rice, and vegetables, all flavored with curry.
- At the Pacifica del Mar (1555 Camino del Mar), you can enjoy fresh local dishes in a hospitable setting overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The many menu options include Caesar salad, filet mignon, and grilled swordfish.
- Crab Catcher (1298 Prospect St) specializes in local fish. Shellfish are the most expensive, but also the most popular items on the menu. The restaurant, open for lunch, dinner, and brunch on the weekend, has a beautiful clifftop setting. Happy hour is every day from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm while on Friday and Saturday there is live music.