20 Best Restaurants In San Diego, Ranked

Though Los Angeles tends to get most of the foodie hype in SoCal, San Diego is another coastal city that is home to a diverse and delicious culinary scene. It might not have as many celebrity-owned restaurants or Michelin-starred spots, but it is still very worth exploring both for locals and visitors. Since it is so close to the border, expect to find some of the best Mexican food and tacos. The seafood is also supremely fresh, and there are actually tons of oceanfront eateries to choose from.

While Downtown San Diego is home to wonderful hubs like Little Italy and the Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego County encompasses everything from Oceanside to Carlsbad to La Jolla. That said, there are tons of restaurants that stretch all along the coast. Whether you're craving authentic birria from a casual taco stand or are trying to plan a special dinner complete with ocean views and white tablecloths, keep reading for our ranked list of the best restaurants in San Diego.

20. Fort Oak

Fort Oak is a solid place to kick off any evening in San Diego. The restaurant is located in an old Ford dealership which has been revamped to feature an eye-catching bright blue bar at the center of the dining room. Pull up a stool and indulge in one of its house cocktails. Fort Oak has a great selection of martinis that range from extra-briny (the Chevelle) to more citrus-forward (the Vega).

The food at Fort Oak is similarly delicious and draws its main inspiration from freshly-caught seafood and wood-fired flavors. Split a fresh platter of oysters, which are only $1 at happy hour, or the bright scallop aguachile, which is made with cucumber, onion, cilantro, and coriander oil. You can also explore Fort Oak's wood-fired dishes with an umami plate of goat milk cavatelli with fennel sausage and summer truffle, the fermented, herby charred caulilini, or the ever-popular hearth-roasted carrots.

19. El Comal

San Diego is home to some of the best Mexican food in the United States, and El Comal is one of the best Mexican restaurants in San Diego. The North Park neighborhood spot is famous for its hot, fresh meals, and stays true to the delicious heat embedded in its name — el comal is an earthenware griddle. If you're going to get one dish from El Comal, it should be the Baja fish taco.

It's deceptively simple. The taco comes fried or grilled and is topped with cabbage and pico de gallo. Bring it to the beach or park and enjoy it while soaking up the San Diego sun for an unbeatable experience. El Comal also cooks up some delicious house mole. Enjoy it rolled into enchiladas and topped with crema or as an add-on to the restaurant's tacos and burritos. 

18. Addison

A meal at Addison certainly isn't the most frugal dining option in San Diego, but it's one of the city's most lauded restaurants for good reason. The restaurant's dining room is spacious and warm, featuring high ceilings, deep wood, and massive, arched windows. The restaurant's grandeur extends to its meals. Its nine-course tasting menu comes in at $355 a head, shifts with the seasons, and is informed by Southern Californian ingredients and culinary influences.

Frequent dishes served at Addison include Kumamoto oysters served with a splash of champagne, a rich bite of Kobe beef short rib, and fig wafers complete with peanut butter caramel and horchata. For an additional fee, the meal can be accompanied by an expert wine pairing. If you want to reign it in a bit, you can choose from Addison's impressive selection of craft cocktails.

17. Aqui Es Texcoco

After making its way from Barbados to Mexico, the Texcoco region became known for popularizing lamb barbacoa, which involves slow-roasting meat for hours in an underground fire pit. Aqui Es Texcoco recreates this process with a specialized oven, which has helped this laidback Chula Vista spot carve out its reputation as one of the best places to get lamb barbeque in San Diego. Unsurprisingly, the lamb barbeque plate is a must-order. The dish comes with a small bowl of lamb broth, tortillas, salsa, lime, cilantro, and onion, so get ready to dish up and dig in.

Round out your meal with a slice of homemade caramel flan, or a warm, sweet plate of the camote enmielado (honeyed yams). If you're feeling thirsty, Aqui Es Texcoco offers drinks ranging from house cocktails to iced buckets of beer that are the perfect complement to any plate of barbacoa.

16. Diji Mara

The Indonesian-inspired restaurant hosts a menu of small plates that you'll want to share with everyone you know. The ambiance at Dija Mara is casual but the dishes are celebratory. The brunch is decidedly different from most other fare you'll find in the county. It's filled with Balinese twists on brunch classics, such as the Thai sausage hash, confit tuna benedict, and kava jam toast.

If you end up at Dija Mara for dinner, grab the nasi goreng. It's everything you crave in a weeknight meal and features wok-fried rice topped with tender confit chicken, bay shrimp, and sunny egg for a savory and satisfying dish best enjoyed after a long day at work. If that isn't enough reason to grab a meal at Dija Mara, they have a great selection of well-priced cocktails. Sure, you could just stop in for a drink, but you'll probably have a hard time skipping out on the charred eggplant once you're already there.

15. Mabel's Gone Fishing

If you're in search of an upscale night out with a neighborhood feel, this Spanish-inspired North Park spot is a great contender. The dining room at Mabel's Gone Fishing is playful yet upscale, complete with colorful tiles, bouquets of fresh flowers, and eye-catching ceramic dishware that you'll want to bring home with you. The seafood-forward menu of small plates is also perfect for a party of any size, whether you're splurging with a group of friends or tucking in solo.

Regardless of how many companions you bring along, you should order the swordfish schnitzel. The crisp dish is perfectly paired with fennel, salsa verde, and tangy tonnato sauce. Snag a slice of the caramelized, souffle-esque Basque cheesecake if you're craving something sweet, and if you're feeling thirsty, grab a Spanish gin and tonic.

14. Campfire

Located in Carlsbad, Campfire specializes in wood-fired American cuisine in a modern, camping-inspired setting. Though the interior is stunning and sleek, snag a table on the patio if possible to dine under the ethereal string lights at sunset. Everything from the decor to the plating works together to create an immersive dining experience that is wholly unique and inventive.

The menu is broken down into four sections titled Trailhead, Kindling, The Fire, and Trail's End, proving that the camping theme remains through and through. The broccoli with chermoula and lime is a must-order as are the wagyu skewers, kanpachi crudo, and smoked brisket. If you're feeling extra fancy, splurge on the grilled Maine lobster with yuzu butter. While s'mores might seem like the obvious dessert choice, don't skip the Vasco cheesecake.

13. Menya Ultra

If you've just enjoyed a sunset at Torrey Pines and want a dinner that'll warm you up after braving the cool ocean breeze, Menya Ultra is a short drive inland. Plus, it just so happens to serve up some of the best ramen in Southern California. The first Menya Ultra location was founded in Japan and was quickly recognized as one of the best ramen shops in the region. Once the restaurant started opening locations in San Diego, acclaim quickly followed.

Pick up a bowl of its signature Tonkotsu Paitan soup, complete with the restaurant's noodles, which are made fresh every day, house-made broth, a slice of pork chashu, bean sprouts, green onion, wood ear mushroom, roasted sesame seeds, red pepper, ginger, and a splash of chili oil for a bit of spice.

12. Valle

It's not all that difficult to find great Mexican food in San Diego, but contemporary Mexican food reaches a new level at Valle. The restaurant centers a seasonal menu of Baja cuisine, cocktails, beer, and wine perfect for your next extra-special occasion. Its Oceanside location necessitates a great seafood selection — the tostada and tacos de pulpo are two of the best dishes on the menu.

If you're stumped on what to get for dessert, the Chocolate de Metate (stone ground chocolate) is a luscious blend of ganache, crumble, and ice cream, making it the stuff of a chocolate lover's dreams. Valle's dining room is intimate and beautifully lit, featuring gorgeous woodwork, spacious booths, and a cozy bar. You can also enjoy your meal on Valle's outdoor patio, which features an adorable succulent display and a breathtaking oceanfront view.

11. Juniper & Ivy

Juniper & Ivy's dining room was previously an abandoned warehouse located on the outskirts of Little Italy, and blends industrial elements and luxurious finishes, creating an elevated, yet un-stuffy feel. The menu centers around seasonal ingredients hand-selected by local farmers and fishermen, so dishes shift daily. However, Juniper & Ivy still stocks some iconic dishes and has made a name for itself as one of the most inventive restaurants in the county.

The carne cruda asada tartare is served on a slice of sourdough and topped with cotija cheese, jalapeño crema, and half a dozen quail eggs. The dish is spicy, rich, and showy in the best way. Juniper & Ivy's gnocchi is another surefire hit, with flavors ranging from ricotta to chorizo, to squash blossom. Of course, the restaurant's San Diego locale results in some great seafood, and its refreshing tuna crudo is given a sweet spin with toppings like cucumber, charred Fresno chiles, coconut snow, and strawberries.

10. Ed Fernandez Birria

Yelp reviews can be misleading, but when your restaurant has a five-star rating and over 800 reviews, you've probably got something good going on. Since 2006, Ed Fernandez Birria has served up to-go orders every weekday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The restaurant's ridiculously tender birria is slow-cooked with chiles and spices and is paired with cilantro, diced onions, and a side of radishes and limes. It's then finished with a kick of house-made salsa and served atop two gorgeous golden brown tortillas.

It doesn't get more classic than that combination, but the birria tacos are exactly what people come to Ed Fernandez's for (and definitely what you should order). Though it's not the centerpiece of the restaurant, the tender, caramelized flan is also worth indulging in. Pick up a slice and finish off your meal with something sweet.

9. Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub

Since 2013, Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub has been serving up playful, creative sushi at its eclectically-decorated location in Oceanside. If you're stumped on what to order, the $75 customized omakase is the way to go. However, if you're feeling more decisive about your dinner, the restaurant offers plenty of house rolls that have become local favorites.

The decadent truffle oil-topped Hedgehog is one of Wrench & Rodent's most popular items, alongside the tangy Chronic and slightly spicy Del Mar. With a dedicated plant-based section on the menu and vegan-friendly omakase, the sushi at Wrench & Rodent can be enjoyed by all of your loved ones regardless of dietary restrictions. If you're not drawn to the sushi selection, the restaurant also offers sweet chili, teriyaki, and yakisoba bowls complete with either chicken or tofu.

8. A.R. Valentien

A.R. Valentien combines a laidback San Diego feel with a meticulously maintained fine dining experience. Located in The Lodge at Torrey Pines, its dining room features tributes to California craftsman architecture, featuring lush earth tones, light emanating from stained glass lanterns, and wood-framed windows with a view of the Pacific Ocean.

The signature restaurant serves Southern Californian cuisine that shifts alongside seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients. The menu is satisfying from front to back, but A.R. Valentien shines in its hearty, meat-forward dishes. The chicken liver pâté is a Lodge staple. The creamy spread is served with slices of grilled toast, pickled carrots, and dollops of mustard so that you can create your ideal bite. Also, the Liberty Farms roasted duck breast and confit leg is unabashedly cozy, served alongside potato dumplings, sheep's milk feta, and fava beans with a bright hit of friseé and preserved kumquat.

7. Market Restaurant & Bar

Market Restaurant & Bar is Del Mar staple for those seeking a refined and elegant dinner. The interior is sleek and modern, setting the ideal backdrop for a romantic date night or special celebration. Reservations are definitely recommended, but if you happen to waltz in one evening and snag a spot at the bar or lounge, you can enjoy the separate sushi menu that is served there. The menu is super simple and only features a handful of nigiri and sashimi along with some rolls. That said, the fish is incredibly fresh and high-quality.

The standard dinner menu features a la carte options along with a three-course tasting designed by the chef. The tasting menu is only $79 which is a pretty solid deal for a place of this caliber and can be enhanced with a wine pairing for $65.

6. Soichi Sushi

Looking to enjoy an elevated omakase experience in San Diego? Soichi Sushi is the premier spot for authentic Japanese omakase and is led by renowned Chef Soichi Kodya. Watch as Chef Soichi meticulously prepares each course with an attention to detail that spans the entire dish. From the presentation to the taste, dinner at Soichi Sushi is an experience that you won't soon forget. The standard omakase option is $150 per person for dine-in, but you can also opt for the nigiri omakase which is slightly cheaper at $110 per person.

If you're looking to get a small taste of Chef Soichi's creations, go with the petite omakase which is only $55 and includes three tasting dishes along with six pieces of nigiri. If you want to order takeout, there are also a few nigiri box options along with a la carte rolls and sushi.

5. Jeune et Jolie

Jeune et Jolie transports guests to a modern bistro in France with its cafe-style tables, plush booths, and gold accents. The French fare features a California twist in the customizable four-course tasting menu. Being able to choose your own courses in a tasting menu is a rare right granted to patrons, and for only $105 per person, this option is definitely the way to go. Just be sure to make a reservation in advance. 

Each course on the tasting menu has between three or four options to choose from, and there are several vegetarian options available. However, if you want to enjoy a more casual meal and walk in to grab a seat at the lounge or bar top, you can order some a la carte options such as white asparagus and veal tartare.

4. Et Voilà! French Bistro

When it comes to traditional French cuisine, few do it better than Et Voilà! The menu focuses on tried and true bistro favorites that keep loyal regulars coming back for more. The dim-lit interior transports diners to Paris for an evening while serving up craft cocktails and an extensive selection of French wines.   

Start off with the escargot and beef tenderloin tartare before moving on to your main courses. From a traditional coq au vin to roasted duck breast, many of the entrees are rich and comforting. However, if you prefer something lighter, the roasted ocean trout is well-worth exploring. Those looking to enjoy discounted bites should visit Et Voilà! during happy hour which takes place 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

3. Sushi Tadokoro

Since receiving a Michelin star in 2021, Sushi Tadokoro has gained major popularity. The previously low-key sushi spot in Old Town is open Tuesday through Saturday and serves traditional Edomae-style sushi. All of the ingredients used are 100% homemade, and there is a huge emphasis on sourcing locally and seasonally. Sushi Tadokoro is a living example of the saying that "food is art," and it's important to note that each and every bite is made with an ample amount of dedication and attention to detail.

Reservations are pretty much required if you want to get a spot, and since the restaurant is pretty small, seats are very limited. Everything from the nigiri to the few cooked dishes is top-notch, and there really is no better place to take the sushi lover in your life.

2. The Plot

When it comes to vegan food, no one does it better than The Plot. Even the most hesitant of carnivores will have their minds blown at how realistic and delicious the food is. Rather than relying on fake meats like Impossible Meat, everything at The Plot is made in-house from real ingredients. The weekend brunch is ideal if you're looking for a spacious and warm patio in Oceanside. The sausage and biscuit is a must-order that almost tastes better than the real thing.

Plus, if you're looking to make your brunch boozy, order the Bloody Mary and add the chicken nug. The skewer it comes on is almost a meal in and of itself. At dinner, everything from the "sushi" to the seasonal risotto is sure to impress, and you'll definitely want to pair your wine with a glass of wine.

1. Las Cuatro Milpas

It wouldn't be right if the No. 1 spot on our list wasn't a traditional Mexican restaurant. Despite the fact that there is tons of competition when it comes to Mexican cuisine in San Diego, Las Cuatro Milpas always manages to impress. This beloved taco hotspot is open every day except Sunday and is best known for its homemade tortillas which have been loved by locals since 1933. The fact that Las Cuatro Milpas has been in business for as long as it has proves just how amazing the food is.

The menu changes pretty frequently, but you can always expect to find the beloved rice and beans on the menu. When it comes to ordering tacos, you can choose between flour and corn, but corn is the most popular. In addition to tacos, tamales are another big hit at Las Cuatro Milpas.