The 20 Best Places To Eat & Drink in San Diego
Located on the picturesque California Pacific coast, San Diego is one of the top tourist destinations in the USA. The city is best known for its gorgeous beaches and warm climate, and is one of the best places to visit in the US for foodies. Home to award-winning restaurants, boutique coffee shops and trendy wine bars, there’s something delicious to discover on every corner. We've searched through the hundreds of different bars, restaurants, coffee shops and fast food outlets to bring you our pick of the top 20 places to eat and drink in San Diego in 2021.
Tom Ham's Lighthouse
Yes it really is a lighthouse and yes, you really can dine on the balcony overlooking the harbour. Established in 1971 by Tom Ham, his children now own and run the restaurant, which still operates in and around the original lighthouse, now one of the most recognisable landmarks in San Diego. But this would only matter if the food were good, which luckily, it is! Serving a variety of dishes, Tom Ham’s makes good use of the resource at its very front door – the sea! Oysters, shrimp, scallops and mussels are all specialities, and the restaurant also does a very popular Maine lobster. All of this can be enjoyed on the balcony, where diners can watch boats entering and exiting the harbour. It’s also the perfect place to enjoy a summer sunset with a bottle of wine.
Eddie V's Prime Seafood
Founded in Austin, Texas, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood has now spread throughout the United States, with 24 restaurants - including in San Diego. Located on the waterfront, you can enjoy wonderful sea views as you tuck into an array of fresh seafood. Pacific tuna steaks, raw oysters, Chilean sea bass and a range of top quality steaks are available, as are a selection of hand-crafted, fresh cocktails. The San Diego branch of Eddie V’s also has a standalone bar, the V Lounge, which is the perfect place to enjoy a bottle of wine accompanied by some relaxing jazz music after your dinner – try and catch happy hour for money off your bill, too!
Consistently touted as one of the best places to eat in San Diego, Mister A’s lets you dine in truly remarkable surroundings. Located on the twelfth floor of 2550 Fifth Avenue, the restaurant’s panoramic glass windows offer magnificent views over the bay and the rest of the city. Serving gourmet American and French cuisine, some of the menu highlights include Roasted rack of lamb, Rosemary shrimp, Maple leaf duck breast and Maine lobster salad. You get what you pay for and this fine dining does come at a price, but there are few, if any, better places to enjoy a meal in San Diego.
Found in the Little Italy district of San Diego, this charming Italian restaurant is like stepping onto continental Europe, without leaving California! Owner and Head Chef Scott Harris has won numerous awards and accolades for his restaurants, and none more so than Davanti Enoteca. Traditional antipasti, pizza, meats and pasta are all bursting with flavour and given traditional Italian names, such as “Orecchiette con salsiccia” and “Prosciutto e rucola” – the only problem is trying to pronounce what you’d like to the waiting staff! The restaurant also does takeaways and even offers a take home pizza kit, so families can make their own Davanti pizzas from home.
Knotty Brewing Co.
Consistently rated as one of the top breweries in San Diego, the Knotty Brewing Company is the place to head if you’re a lover of craft beer. Head Brewmaster Donovan Lane cultivated his love for craft beers at home as a teenager, after his dad bought him a home brewing kit. This passion is now evident in the Knotty Brewing Company, where as well as their own beers, a number of fresh craft beers are also sold on tap. The bar itself is small and cosy, with just a few tables and a pleasant atmosphere. Beer tastings are offered if you aren’t quite sure what to try, and the staff are renowned for their friendliness and expertise in craft beers – they can help you with recommendations.
The Kettner Exchange is named after San Diego’s founding father, William Kettner, and the beautifully designed building features references to the San Diego Bay and the city’s great nautical history throughout. The food on offer matches the grandeur of the establishment, with guests enjoying a range of mouth-watering dishes in the restaurant’s sunlit dining room or out on the open air patio. Dishes on the dinner menu include specialities such as Tempura Chilean sea bass and duck meatballs, whilst a range of wines and freshly prepared cocktails can be enjoyed after your meal – the patio in particular is the best place relax and enjoy your drinks
The Wine Bar by The Winery Restaurant
The Winery restaurant has plenty to shout about, with contemporary indoor and outdoor dining and a range of delicious meals including seafood, pizzas, salads and poultry. But the venue is probably best known for its inhouse wine bar. Once again making use of a significant patio area, guests can enjoy a glass of wine and a light bite either indoors or outdoors, where they can take advantage of gorgeous surrounding views. Try a plethora of different wines, a selection of craft beers or champagne, with an entire “Let’s Do Bubbles” section on the menu for those in the mood to celebrate.
Backyard Kitchen & Tap
Located just a short walk from the Pacific waterfront, Backyard Kitchen and Tap offers a fantastic place to both eat and drink in San Diego. Award-winning local beer and delicious cocktails are best enjoyed in one of the outdoor cabanas or whilst gathering around a firepit, the outdoor bar always on hand for refills and the San Diego climate keeping away the cold. For diners, Backyard Kitchen’s menu offers something for everybody. Weekly events such as Taco Tuesday have always proved popular, whilst you can order staples such as fish and chips, burgers and steak all week long.
Barbusa is another of San Diego’s top Italian restaurants, selling a mouth-watering variety of artisan pizza, handmade pasta and more. With a focus on Sicilian cuisine, Barbusa is the latest restaurant to be added to the portfolio of the Busalacchi family, which operate a number of restaurants in the area. As well as the classic Italian dishes already mentioned, diners to Barbusa can expect to see the exclusive Milanese staple Osso Buco and a Sicilian bone in rib eye steak on the menu. Barbusa also offers private dining for large groups, parties or business meetings.
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And with 7 branches in San Diego alone, Breakfast Republic have really tapped into this market, providing the best breakfasts to be found in the city. Modern, chic and bright, the restaurants themselves are wonderful, cheery places to start the day and your mood is sure to improve further with the arrival of your meal. Staples on Breakfast Republic’s menus include multiple varieties of eggs benedict, omelettes, pancakes and French toast. The restaurants open from 8am to 2pm each day, and are also popular for brunches, where a cheeky bottle of prosecco or a couple of mimosas can easily be added to your order. Breakfast Republic is also very conscious of issues surrounding sustainability – you won’t find plastic straws in any of their restaurants, and food waste is composted rather than thrown away.
San Diego tea lovers after something a little different simply have to try matcha. The ancient Japanese drink is a powdered tea, similar to other herbal teas except that the entire leaf is whisked into the drink, rather than simply being infused. This makes it stronger and ensures that all the healthy antioxidants make into your drink, instead of just a handful. For a healthy, stress-busting, immune-booting hot drink, Holy Matcha’s two San Diego cafes are the perfect place to head. Alongside your matcha tea, the café also serves a range of food including avocado toast, poached eggs and a range of snacks, such as donuts.
James Coffee Co.
James Coffee Company is more than just a café. Yes, you can enjoy a cup of exclusive, in-house crafted coffee, but you also get to browse some of the boutique shops which make up the building. James At Home sells a variety of coffee home brewing equipment, whilst there’s also an independent eyewear shop, a card shop, a barbers and much more. And of course you can purchase some of the James Coffee Company’s own coffee beans to take home with you. So why not visit and make a day of it?
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
With six coffee shops along the Pacific coastline, much of California is within reach of one of the Bird Rock Coffee Roasters’ fine establishments. The company prides itself on its relationship with its coffee farmers, establishing real connections to ensure that only the best coffee beans find their way into your drink. Their coffee shops are trendy places to relax with a hot drink and watch the world go by. Alternatively, you can also enjoy takeout coffee or buy their beans wholesale to enjoy from home, the choice is yours! You can even buy branded merch from the company shop, only for the truest of coffee fanatics.
Coffee & Tea Collective
Since opening in 2010, the Coffee & Tea Collective has grown to two cafes in San Diego, as well as a booming online business for tea and coffee. The cafes themselves are minimalist and bright, with plenty of space for chatting or working (there are power sockets to charge your laptop or tablet) and gentle soothing music playing in the background. Expert baristas behind the tills can help you find the perfect blend of exotic tea or the richest coffee to taste, and you can pair it with a light Danish pastry or Belgian street waffle.
Little Italy Food Hall
The Little Italy Food Hall epitomises this part of San Diego, with Italian delights galore to choose from. Bringing together 6 independent, local food outlets with a mass open-air catering hall seating hundreds of diners, this new concept has taken off around the world in places such as London; and in San Diego it is proving one of the most popular food destinations in the entire city. Cuisine available in the food hall includes freshly made pizza, pasta, gelato, and less Italian options such as tacos. There are also several bars selling a variety of wine, beer and cocktails, making the Little Italy Food Hall the perfect place to spend a summer evening with friends and family.
Point Loma Fish Shop
One of three Fish Shops in San Diego, the Point Loma outlet is perhaps the company’s most popular, selling a variety of locally caught fresh fish, from swordfish, sea bass and mahi-mahi to shrimp and oysters. Marinaded to your liking and served in a taco, sandwich, salad or platter, it is one of the finest places in all of San Diego to enjoy a fish supper. Oyster Night takes place every Thursday and diners can enjoy their meal in the modern nautical themed restaurant or outside on the well lit patio. You can even buy some of the day’s fresh catch to take home and cook yourself if you so choose.
Prohibition is one of San Diego nightlife’s best kept secrets. The underground 1920s themed bar is styled on the infamous Prohibition era. Alcohol was outlawed and so the industry went underground, with boozy parties taking place in disregard of the law and smugglers bringing whiskey, rum and more to the shores of the USA. There is a smart dress code in place at Prohibition, so leave your flip flops at home and immerse yourself in the unique style of this amazing bar. Dimly lit and with funky music playing throughout the night, there are few better places in the city to enjoy fresh cocktails, a fine bourbon or a rum punch.
Coffee is a part of life in San Diego. And rather then jumping straight to one of the big chains, what better way to enjoy your morning caffeine fix than by sampling a locally produced beverage? All of Clairemont’s organic coffee is roasted in San Diego County and sold alongside a range of smoothies, acai bowls, ice cream and more. There’s free Wi-fi and a range of comfortable seating, making the coffee shop the most enjoyable place to while away a few hours. The establishment is known for its customer service and offers a takeaway service as well as a sit-in menu.
So you’ve enjoyed a delicious dinner in San Diego and now you’re wondering what to do next? Well, how about you head to Soda Bar for some live music and a few drinks? This small bar is incredibly cosy and intimate, with a really friendly feel to it. It plays host to a number of up and coming music artists, all performing live in the bar. Drinks prices are not excessive and the stools around the bar provide a comfortable place to enjoy the music, and to have your next drink close to hand.
It isn’t easy to become known as an expert in something as simple as a sandwich. But K Sandwiches have managed it. Founded in 2005, the company ethos is on bringing simple, humble but delicious food to the community. The store sadly burned down in 2015, but after a lengthy rebuilding process, is now back and better than ever. Using the freshest local ingredients and the same recipes as the original store, popular menu items include banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches), croissant sandwiches and breakfast specialities, all coming with a range of fillings, including plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. And prices are super affordable, with a mid-range sandwich costing around $5 – perfect for a quick lunch on the go.
Well, is that enough to keep you going? You won’t be going hungry in San Diego, that’s for sure, with a plethora of restaurants, bars, coffee houses and more to keep you well fed and watered. Whether it’s fresh seafood, authentic pizza or a hoppy craft beer, you’re sure to find what you’re after in this Californian gem.
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