San Diego Restaurant recommendations

We will be in San Diego in a couple of weeks for our daughter’s college graduation and am looking for a few restaurant recommendations (can be San Diego, Coronado, La Jolla). Due to the pandemic, we have not been there in over a year, and not sure what restaurants are currently open. This will be our first time eating out and though we are vaccinated, still a little uncomfortable with eating indoors. What are the current regulations WRT capacity? I’d be willing to eat inside if the restaurants are still limiting capacity.

Our first night there, it will just be four of us, celebrating my birthday as well as my daughter’s - something upscale would be nice, but open to anything really, even something casual. We would prefer something with outdoor seating, but willing to eat indoors if restaurants still have limited capacity.

The next night, there will be six of us (our youngest two are flying out together the day after dh and me to surprise our oldest). Something casual, maybe in Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, Hillcrest or around that area? La Jolla is fine too, but she lives in and we are staying in San Diego. We have been to both George’s at the Cove and Duke’s in La Jolla but not sure what else might be good there. Is Brockton Villa any good? Tried to go there once but wait was too long.

Any suggestions for where to order a cake or cupcakes? We will just be doing a cookout on her actual graduation day since we will have too many for a restaurant (13 total).

We’ve been to many different places over the years, but always interested in hearing suggestions from locals. We like all cuisines.

If this place opens up for dining, I highly recommend it.

@Marilyn I’m betting you have some ideas!!

San Diego is currently at 50% capacity indoor dining but restaurants have really gone all out to create and expand their outdoor dining. Some places are more careful than others with the 6 foot distancing between tables. And some are paying lip service to the regulations but are squeezing in as many as they can.

I was so happy to be fully vaccinated and be able to eat out again, and we’ve dined outdoors when we’ve gone out. We’ve stuck fairly close to home so can’t speak to how “safe” we would feel in some of our prior favorites.

Laughing about The Marine Room because I’m not sure they can accommodate outdoor seating! We went on my birthday one year for the high tide dinner - when the waves are higher than the windows. Very expensive.

Brockton Villa is mainly outside but there have been issues with the smell from the seals on the rocks. Last time we were in the area, there was some construction nearby; not sure what’s happening now.

For a celebration meal, we’ve enjoyed Juniper & Ivy pre-pandemic. We haven’t been back yet since much of the ambiance is the indoor theater atmosphere. It is a huge room with high ceilings. Their outdoor area is along the drive and parking area and is sure to be beautifully decorated.

We also went to Born and Raised with our son for his birthday one year. Excellent and expensive. I think they’re now serving meals on their rooftop bar.

Places we’ve been since fully vaccinated include:

Et Voila in North Park. They created a lovely outdoor area in a back parking lot. Very good food and excellent service.

Charles & Dinorah at the Pearl Hotel. Dine around the outdoor pool. A real gem in an unexpected area. I want to go back next week and get the same food I had last time.

Solare in Liberty Station. Upscale Italian award winning restaurant. Ask for outdoors.

Bali Hai on Shelter Island. Most of the seating is indoors (big room, high ceilings) but they have some outside seating. Beautiful views of the San Diego Bay and downtown. Great cocktails; the mai tai is a famous killer (only two allowed).

Tom Ham’s Lighthouse. A bit more staid but reliable food and the same great view. Plenty of outside seating; ask to be upstairs. (They’re using some of the
banquet space downstairs for regular seating.)

Fig Tree Café Liberty Station (breakfast/lunch). They greatly expanded their outdoor patio. Charming and relaxing. Liberty Station · Fig Tree Cafe

We’ve been to some casual places on Point Loma; feel free to pm me for them or any other questions! Where in San Diego will you be staying?

Re cakes and cupcakes, I like our neighborhood bakery: Another good place for pastries is French Gourmet - they seem to have revamped their restaurant so not sure what they look like now: A lot of people recommend Extraordinary Desserts but the one time we went, we though the cakes looked lovely but tasted bland:


…just a few

Yeah, one that would be underwater dining :joy:. Yes, the Marine Room is currently closed; takeout only. Their food is expensive but what we had when we were there a couple of years ago was fabulous. And the view is top notch. :wink: One of a kind of experience.

The Marine Room is so popular that even sea lion pups check it out:

1 Like

@Marilyn, what a fantastic list. Thank you for taking the time to put that together. I will start looking them all up today. My daughter lives near her campus right now (Mission Valley area) but is moving soon. We are staying downtown on the Embarcadero but willing to go anywhere for a good meal. We are very familiar with the area - my husband lived in San Diego/PB years ago, but too long ago for current restaurant knowledge!

@BunsenBurner The Marine Room looks like quite an experience- we will have to save that for another trip when they are open again.

@4kids4us The Marine Room has great food, but the decor is old and outdated. They really need a remodel, but you can’t beat the view!

We live in La Jolla and rarely go to Brockton Villa as the smell from the sea lions kills the atmosphere. in La Jolla has beautiful views, but is a bit pricy. We usually eat at the outside bar there during happy hour.

A great breakfast place in San Diego with lots of locations around town is Breakfast Republic. You have to get there early though.

We like and The Presley | Liberty Station | San Diego, CA both in Liberty Station with great outdoor dining.

We love Carruth Cellars for wine and snacks in Little Italy which has a great outdoor space.
VISIT | Carruth Cellars Urban Winery It is best to have reservations here.

Our favorite brewery is Eppig on the water in Point Loma. The great thing here is now you can bring your own food with you again. The views are lovely and the beer is great. Waterfront Biergarten — EPPIG BREWING

Thanks, sounds like you do know your way around San Diego dining! You can scope out your favorite places in online reviews and check recent pictures to get a feel for how their setup looks now. Also tons of places have really stepped up their take out so you can check your favorites for that. For example, we’ve gotten take out breakfast from Toast a few times.

I tried to stick to restaurants where we’ve actually eaten since being fully vaccinated. I also am not comfortable dining indoors yet. We looked for places that had pleasant outdoor dining ambience. A lot of places expanded onto the sidewalk and parking spaces. Personally I don’t care to eat on the street, so to speak.

Since this is your first foray into dining out, you may be less stressed if you avoid the big tourist and young adult areas (like Gaslamp). I’ve noticed that no matter how much the restaurant staff observes COVID protocol (and they uniformly do), it’s really the other guests that can make you nervous. And the more alcohol, the less observant they become. Those places that have expanded onto the sidewalk and Into parking spaces tend to be more crowded; hard to avoid passing by unmasked diners plus people walking by the place. I favor neighborhood places with existing outdoor patios.

A couple of exceptions to avoiding touristy areas might be, first, The Prado in Balboa Park. They reopened not all that long ago and have a lovely outdoor patio. Dining in the Heart of Balboa Park - The Prado at Balboa Park You could also check Coasterra on Harbor Island. They have a large open outdoor patio. San Diego's Premier Waterfront Dining Destination Normally I would say C Level, but they set up plexiglass dividers rather than space out tables. So you’re still really close to other diners, plus the views are no longer open but through glass.

Wherever you go, make reservations we’ll ahead of time if possible.

Congratulations on your daughter’s graduation!
Go Aztecs!
Go Toreros!
Go Sea Lions,
Go Cougars!

We’re in Northern SD County and my family and I like being on the beach, so we go to places like

or the Poseidon in Del Mar.
With the Poseidon, you are on the beach-outdoors.
(The Lifeguard Tower is right next door). Use the complimentary (I think!) valet parking. Call for reservations at either.

We also like the Tequila Factory in Old Town. Very family friendly and great views of the Bay. (Parking is also underground and people don’t really know about accessing that).

Bit of a caveat: If you go to the coast, and plan on eating outdoors, bring a jacket. Temperatures can be chilly near the water.
Remember we get May Gray and June Gloom.

I second Coasterra’s. Delicious food, nice ambiance, pretty view and fun to watch the planes land. Huge outdoor dining with heat lamps.

We also love JRDN outdoor patio at the Tower23 hotel in PB. It overlooks the ocean and fun to people watch, too.

Thanks for the Del Mar recommendations - we stopped there once for dinner on our way up to Redondo Beach but I can’t remember the name of the place. Jake’s and Poseidon both look great. I’m keeping a list of these recommendations for future trips. Unfortunately due to constraints on time due to some of the graduation activities, we need to stick to San Diego this trip. Our D is staying in San Diego though so we will definitely be visiting again.

I’ve experienced May Gray and June Gloom on previous trips so definitely will have layers to keep me warm. I already warned my kids that it won’t really be beach weather while we are there. In fact, it will probably be warmer at home in MD!

1 Like

Please come back after your visit and let us know where you went and what you thought of them!

Here’s the thread! Always appreciate hearing what people end up doing here.

My personal favorite in the Pt Loma area is Caesarina for best Italian food in San Diego. Nice outdoor patio. But it is not scenic or near anything touristy

1 Like

We feel Caesarina’s outdoor space is pretty cramped so didn’t want to recommend it for a group with some venturing into outdoor dining for the first time. We have been doing take out since it’s five minutes away!

@marilyn, things got a little complicated b/c my husband’s family from San Francisco and Redondo Beach ended up deciding to join us with their kids. Our first night ended up just being me and dh b/c my daughter’s very last paper/exam for her Capstone was due at midnight. Rather than have her worry about working around dinner plans, we opted to go out alone. I narrowed down to Juniper & Ivy (my D had been wanting to go there) and Bali Hai. I forget how Bali Hai won out. Views were awesome! I had the crispy ahi tuna - it was my favorite meal of the weekend! Dh had the rib eye steak and said it was really good. The restaurant was full, though spaced out tables. The only downside was that it was so so loud. Loud to the point we could not speak in normal voices to hear each other (and did not help that a group a few tables away seemed to have too many mai tais and were very loud). Otherwise, dinner was great!

The next night, we ended up in your neck of the woods as my daughter wanted something casual so we went to a pho/noodle place in Ocean Beach. I can’t remember the name - it was good but nothing spectacular. Though it was not planned that way, we finished up just before sunset so made the quick drive over to the cliffs. Not the best sunset due to cloud cover but it was not a total loss.

That was the end of our leisurely trip b/c dh’s family arrived. I won’t get into the gory details. BIL, who does a lot of work in San Diego, had kindly prearranged a reservation at Brigantine at the new Portside Pier complex. The owners are clients of his. There were 13 of us, including a couple kids (8 & 10). Spectacular view, but the food was…not horrible. I had mahi mahi over risotto - it was cold. The green beans that came with it were uncooked. My daughter had filet mignon (good) but her potatoes were also cold. Dh had the ahi tuna and said it was good but that the tuna I got at Bali Hai was much better. Younger daughter had lobster tempura tacos and said they were good. My son had some sort of fondue which he said was good. The service left a lot to be desired (for one thing, the server never checked in on our side of table so I never got to order a glass of wine with dinner, or even a refill of water). I know the hospitality industry is hard hit so we did not complain about the food or service, especially since we were a large group. It was nice to all be together, but I think I’d skip the restaurant until kinks got worked out. It would be a great spot though for drinks on the upstairs lanai area.

By Sunday night, we were beat after a long day in the sun with dh’s family. My daughter’s boyfriend took our kids to Raising Cane’s out in the suburbs b/c we don’t have them here. My son has been once in another state and was dying to go again. Dh and I were planning to just grab some drinks and apps at the hotel poolside grill. We were surprised to find they closed at 5pm when there were a lot of people outside at the pool and its surrounding firepits and tables. We ended up just walking along the Embarcadero until we found something nearby, fully expecting mediocre overpriced tourist food. We went to Edgewater Grill - both got appetizers (dh had tuna poke nachos and I had mini crab cakes with spicy remoulade). Very reasonably priced, food was good and nice view overlooking the harbor. Not a place we would have typically chosen but we didn’t want to get in a car at that point as we were tired.

This was probably way more detail than you wanted but sharing here for anyone who may be interested. :grimacing:

My daughter is staying in San Diego for now so we will be back again and hopefully will make it to Juniper & Ivy next time. Charles & Dinorah also looked interesting as did Et Voila! In fact, all of the recommendations were great - took me forever to decide after looking at menus and locations several times!

Thanks to all who responded with suggestions- I saved them all for future trips!

@coralbrook we will be back so I’m adding that to my list. I don’t need a view for every meal :grimacing:

@Marilyn we ended up eating indoors for most of our meals. We are vaccinated, as is our family, WTE of the two younger kids. I thought I would be more nervous about it since it was our first time really doing anything other than take out. After we “ripped the bandaid” off the first night at Bali Hai, I actually didn’t think about it again! Every where we ate had the tables quite far apart. The noodle place even had plexi glass in between tables.

Thanks for the update! OB Noodle House. Menu Bar 1502 – OB Noodle House Been there plenty of times although not post pandemic. I always enjoy Bali Hai.

We seldom eat around the Embarcadero. My one foray during the pandemic was Animae for my birthday (ate outdoors), partly because it’s a Brian Malarkey place and I like eating at Top Chef chef’s restaurants. In the past we’ve only eaten downtown when going to the theater or such.

I’ve been to the smaller Brigantine near Shelter Island, but since I’m not a seafood eater there isn’t much for me. It’s too bad the new one isn’t reliable.

If your family likes fried chicken, try out The Crack Shack in Little Italy:

We did go back to Charles & Dinorah and enjoyed it just as much the second time around. As a bonus, they were showing Top Gun on the screens (old movies are a thing there). I’ve seen it plenty of times but it’s always fun because it was filmed around the area so you can recognize various locales.