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Our Favorite San Diego Restaurants

San Diego’s diverse population and easy access to freshly grown local ingredients as well as a proximity to Mexico and the bountiful Pacific Ocean fuels its eclectic restaurant scene. The city has everything from quick snacks offered by food trucks to trendy gastronomic delights served at high-end eateries. The passionate culinary community delivers options ranging from casual comfort food to haute cuisine in five-star restaurants accompanied by handcrafted beers and locally bottled wine.

San Diego boasts top chefs who celebrate the slow-food, farm-to-table movement. The food renaissance is occurring throughout San Diego thanks in large part to the city being one of the world’s top centers for craft beers. There are artisan breweries and gastro pubs in virtually every neighborhood. Ethnic communities are also the setting for affordable international cuisine.

Old Town San Diego

Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in Old Town, the Café Coyote is a traditional Mexican-style cantina. You can listen to strolling mariachi bands and watch cooks prepare fresh tortillas. Enjoy the fountains as you dine outdoors in the colorful courtyard.

Serving hand-pressed tortillas and authentic Mexican cuisine, the Old Town Mexican Café and Cantina has a festive atmosphere. One of the most popular restaurants in Old Town, the eatery is crowded during peak dining hours.

Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant features a menu of American grill favorites and authentic Mexican-inspired dishes. The hotel and restaurant is decorated to reflect the colorful history of this historic building that was constructed in 1822.


Serving interesting interpretations of American comfort foods like pancakes, waffles and French toast, Café 222 is open for breakfast and lunch. Featured on the Food Network program “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” the restaurant offers outdoor seating. Arrive early to avoid the crowds.

Pokez features classic Mexican dishes like tacos and enchiladas as well as an all-day breakfast and vegetarian selections with entrees offered at less than $10. The restaurant has a vibrant décor and a trendy atmosphere. They are open from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Upstairs from the fish market, the high-end Top of the Market offers fresh seafood, sushi and a marvelous view of the bay. The white tablecloth restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and features al fresco patio seating.

Gaslamp Quarter

The Broken Yolk Café serves a traditional American breakfast and brunch menu. The service is quick and friendly, so the no-reservation policy is seldom an issue. The casual bistro has outdoor seating and a takeout menu.

Bandar is an elegant eatery that is open for lunch and dinner. The award-winning Persian restaurant also features signature cocktails. In addition to takeout, this casual family-owned eatery has outdoor seating.

The award-winning Oceanaire Seafood Room offers an oyster bar as well as an evolving menu of fresh seafood dishes. The high-end restaurant features a 1930s décor with a cocktail bar adjoining the lively dining room. Expect longer wait times during peak dining hours.

Little Italy

Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, Pappalecco is a charming, quick-bite café renowned for its delicious homemade gelato. The pet-friendly bistro has a few inside tables, but seating is primarily al fresco.

Featuring a romantic atmosphere, Mimmo’s Italian Village is open for lunch and dinner. Situated near the neon Little Italy sign, this casual restaurant is kid-friendly and has outdoor seating. The menu includes traditional Italian cuisine. Table service is only available during dinner hours.

Bencotto Italian Kitchen has a contemporary atmosphere accentuated by an Old World-style kitchen. Voted the best Italian restaurant in the city, the bistro puts its distinctive twist on traditional Italian cuisine. The casual restaurant has outdoor seating.

Hillcrest and Uptown

Snooze is open for breakfast and brunch. In addition to classic American diner fare, the casual café has outdoor seating and a vibrant retro decor inside. The inexpensive kid-friendly restaurant also has free Wi-Fi.

The colorful La Vecindad is a casual hangout with picnic-style seating. The breezy Hillcrest location is an ideal spot to grab a quick bite or a leisurely meal with friends. The line can be long on Taco Tuesday.

Saffron is an award-winning Thai eatery with a relaxed atmosphere. Open for lunch and dinner, it serves a succulent rotisserie chicken. San Diego’s first authentic Thai restaurant, it has covered outdoor seating as well as a takeout menu.

Kearney Mesa

Featuring farm-fresh fare, the Lil’ Farmers Café is open Monday through Saturday. Offering a variety of menu items, the casual eatery is kid-friendly and provides complimentary Wi-Fi.

Crab Town is a casual restaurant serving seafood, including fresh crawfish, shrimp, mussels and crab legs. The restaurant also features clams, lobster and an oyster bar. Conveniently situated in a shopping mall, the eatery has abundant parking.

The Shan Xi Magic Kitchen is open for lunch and dinner. Serving a diverse Chinese menu, the kid-friendly restaurant has outdoor seating and offers complimentary Wi-Fi.

Mission Bay

The popular Mission Restaurant located on Mission Beach offers Asian and Latin fusion fare with an international twist in a laid-back atmosphere. It is open for breakfast and brunch. Arrive early on weekends to avoid the crowds.

Draft is a chic, casual eatery offering brews and ocean views. The American-style bar and grill serves small plates plus a wide selection of domestic, international and craft beers. The gastro pub has several big screens for viewing sporting events.

Tidal is a rustic, relaxed restaurant offering a menu of California-inspired meat and seafood dishes as well as craft beverages served at communal-style tables. Situated where the sea meets the shore, diners also enjoy wonderful ocean views, a cozy lounge and a balcony with a fire pit.

Know Before You Go

You should make reservations at popular restaurants several days in advance. When scheduling your reservations, check the availability of nearby parking options, including garages, surface parking lots and metered street parking. Some establishments offer valet parking service. When the Major League Baseball’s Padres are playing a home game at Petco Park, parking may be at a premium downtown and in the Gaslamp Quarter.