San Diego offers a rich variety of cuisine, with eateries to suit all tastes and budgets. Although Little Italy is quickly becoming San Diego’s trendiest dining district, everything from American to French to Japanese cuisine is on offer. Here, we take a look at 10 of the best restaurants San Diego has to offer.
1. Cucina Urbana
This Italian kitchen presents the finest Californian produce and wine in a family farmhouse setting.
Cucina Urbana’s contemporary menu fuses the flavors of Italy with California’s seasonal organic bounty. Menu highlights include fried squash blossoms stuffed with lemon ricotta and mint arugula gremolata as well as squid ink radiatore served with clams, mussels, shrimp, and calamari.
2. The Lion’s Share
This eatery skips the pretentiousness of some of its haughtier contemporaries, its bold artwork laced with humor. The venue’s quirky animal caricatures lend an “Alice in Wonderland meets Banksy” feel to the establishment. This culminates in a truly unforgettable fine dining experience.
The Lion’s Share has received several notable awards, including being named by Food Network among the 40 Best American Bars for Food Lovers. It also received the Best Bar Food in America accolade from Food and Wine.
3. Sushi Ota
Born in Kumamoto Kyushu, Japan, Chef Ota worked in some of Tokyo and Osaka’s most revered restaurants. He visited San Diego in 1982, and upon sampling the local sea urchin, found it was by far the finest he had ever tasted.
This simple experience changed the course of the sushi chef’s culinary journey, prompting him to stay in San Diego and open this award-winning sushi bar in 1990.
4. Kettner Exchange
Kettner Exchange’s unique décor pays homage to the founding father of San Diego, William Kettner, with subtle nods to the bay’s nautical history.
Executive Chef Brian Redzikowski presides over the kitchen, presenting a rotating menu that incorporates some of the most inventive dishes in San Diego. From grilled quail char sui to suckling pig larb, Kettner Exchange offers some of San Diego’s finest fare in its main attraction, the rooftop patio.
5. Piatti La Jolla
This traditional Italian restaurant has a relaxed ambiance, presenting simple, honest, good food in stylish surroundings. Owned by the Moana Restaurant Group, Piatti La Jolla exudes its own warmth and charm in the welcoming atmosphere of a traditional trattoria.
Menu highlights include herbed cauliflower cakes, beef carpaccio, cavatappi, and saffron pappardelle.
6. Mister A’s
Mister A’s, with its enviable location, ranks among San Diego’s most popular restaurants. The establishment has received numerous accolades over the years. These include a Diner’s Choice award in 2018 and being ranked one of America’s Top 100 Most Scenic Restaurants in 2017.
Opened by prominent Californian entrepreneur, John Alessio, in 1965, Mister A’s is located on the top floor of the Fifth Avenue Financial Center. The establishment has received some notable guests over the years, including José López Portillo, the President of Mexico.
7. Parc Bistro Brasserie
This award-winning brasserie presents classic French cuisine in stylish surroundings. The restaurant’s focus is presenting simple, fresh food in an informal setting, combining attentive service with the finest creative cuisine.
Menu highlights include the seafood tower; Florentine crepes served with chicken, spinach and bechamel sauce; and a flat iron steak sandwich.
8. Herb and Wood
Herb and Wood, located in North Little Italy, is the brainchild of Chef Brian Malarkey. This sought-after dining establishment serves some of the best food in the city.
The venue features pieces by John Lane, the Artist in Residence, who was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. Lane produces simple, transcendental pieces painted in the style of Les Fauves. Some of his works are available for sale in the restaurant, adding a contemporary edge to the venue’s chic, opulent decor.
The venue caters for private events, from large, lavish parties to intimate receptions. With a focus on seasonality, Chef Malarkey updates the menus constantly, taking advantage of the finest locally-sourced produce.
9. Ironside Fish and Oyster
Like Herb and Wood, Ironside Fish and Oyster is situated in Little Italy, an area that is gaining a reputation as one of San Diego’s trendiest dining districts. The restaurant’s décor is contemporary and quirky. One wall features a hundred golden piranhas, another a large octopus cradling a light bulb.
The establishment is famous for its cocktails, with offerings like “Baby Jesus in Velvet Pants” and “Swiss Pile Driver” among more than 50 entrants in the craft cocktail menu.
Ironside is regarded as the jewel in Little Italy’s crown for its bold design and grandeur. Diners flock from all over San Diego to enjoy innovative dishes in these truly spectacular surroundings.
10. Juniper and Ivy
Juniper and Ivy’s kitchen incorporates a wealth of culinary talent, spearheaded by Executive Chef Anthony Wells and Top Chef Richard Blais.
Signature dishes include confit of duck with kung pao sauce and cashews; tuna wellington with sauce au poivre, butterball potatoes, and black kale; and dry-aged New York strip with broccoli chimichurri and cheddar bearnaise.