- Ellen Von Weigand
Known for its proximity to the ocean and its enviable weather, the local ingredients found in San Diego are among the best in the United States. From fresh fish to California fusion, craft beer to re-envisioned Mexican fare, these 10 restaurants represent the best of San Diego’s culinary scene.
Serving up California-inspired Italian cuisine, Cucina Urbana combines a stylish and modern ambience with superb food and wine. The restaurant has been celebrated as a new leader in San Diego’s recent movement towards affordable dining, and has been featured in numerous local and national publications. Its inspirational interior design merges rustic materials and surfaces with a highly refined, contemporary aesthetic for an overall homey yet bohemian ambience. Short rib pappardelle, baked arctic char and smoked prosciutto and caramelised pineapple pizza are some of the Italo-Californian fusion dishes to be found on the menu.
Cowboy Star Restaurant and Butcher Shop
Cowboy Star Restaurant and Butcher Shop brings the wild west into the realm of fine dining. When he first decided to open a restaurant, owner and creator Jon Weber started from the premise that dining out should be a kind of escape from one’s everyday experience. Inspired by the Westerns he’d watched as a boy, Cowboy Star Restaurant was born. While reflecting on simpler times, diners can enjoy specialties from the contemporary American menu. All dishes are prepared with fresh farm vegetables, and meats hand cut in the restaurant’s own butcher shop.
Blind Lady Ale House
Blind Lady Ale House serves exemplary draft beers through their custom designed direct draw system, which shortens the journey from barrel to glass. To complement its rich programme of lagers, ales, pilsners and more, Blind Lady’s quality menu takes advantage of San Diego’s wealth of local farms and markets, while also importing authentic Italian cured meats and cheeses from Emilia-Romagna and Alto Adige. The brewery’s interior is eclectic and youthful, paying homage to San Diego skate culture with a display of vintage skateboards.
Blind Lady Ale House 3416 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA +1 619 255 2491
Brooklyn Girl Eatery
Brooklyn Girl in San Diego’s Gaslamp district is both a nod to old-time Brooklyn and a great addition to the community’s budding, and forward thinking culinary scene. Owners Michael and Victoria McGeath were inspired by Brooklyn’s current culinary and artistic revival, which is also occurring, albeit on a much smaller scale, in their own’s city’s Gaslamp neighbourhood. Set in a loft space with high ceilings, large windows and exposed air vents, Brooklyn Girl maintains a warm and comfortable ambience. A prevalence of warm wood, natural light and references to classic design make this place both contemporary and timeless. Dishes to try here include open face pulled chicken sandwich and cornbread, the Mediterranean black mussel pot or their variety of wood fired pizzas.
Herringbone is known for its bold attempt to unite opposites. A fish meets field menu features the freshest line caught seafood and free range meat, while the restaurant’s impressive dining room brings the outdoors in with six olive trees, an open plan interior and abundant natural light. A vaulted, wood beamed ceiling presides over the restaurant, while original artwork, colourful tiles and patterned textiles add further character to the ambience. Celebrity Chef Brian Malarkey heads up the kitchen at this La Jolla establishment, turning out specialities such as the Laughing Bird shrimp bucatini, duroc pork loin and white peaches and Colorado lamb sirloin with lobster, for his loyal clientele.
Starlite is more than just a restaurant, complementing its offering of craft cocktails, slow food and Sunday brunch with late night dining in a relaxed yet elegant environment. The resulting design is unmistakably California, mixing 1960s Los Angeles modernism with cutting edge contemporary decor. Tinted glass doors, a slatted hexagonal hallway, stainless steel chandeliers and mirrored ceilings are set against natural elements like stacked stone and walnut panelling. Dishes such as winter squash rollatini, pan roasted jidori chicken and a variety of cheese and salami boards take advantage of natural, local and sustainably sourced ingredients.
George’s California Modern
George’s California Modern conveys the experience of San Diego through its cooking. Dishes like smoked carrot ricotta ravioli, local spiny lobster and Chino Farms vegetable salad demonstrate the flavours, locally sourced ingredients and the healthy lifestyle that defines California. Executive Chef and Partner Trey Foshee recognises that truly great food comes from a deep understanding of the ingredients. George’s takes advantage of San Diego’s year-round excellent weather with its ocean terrace seating area, widely regarded as the region’s best rooftop dining spot.
This charming French restaurant is designed to resemble a quaint Provençal cottage. The interior of BO-beau Kitchen is suffused with a dim, warm lighting, dominated by rustic woods, cases of fine wines and decorative sconces and chandeliers. The patio seating area is equally lovely, lit by stringed bulbs, warmed by the outdoor fireplaces and enclosed by natural stone walls. Diners rave about the crispy brussel sprouts with pancetta, parmesan and balsamic, the ancho chili braised pork, the burger royal and the charcuterie boards. BO-beau Kitchen is part of the much respected Cohn Restaurant Group, winner of numerous awards and accolades including a number of San Diego Golden Medallion Awards.
Whisknladle is celebrated for its international menu, complete with French, Italian and Spanish inspired dishes. The restaurant was opened in 2008 by Chef Ryan Johnston and business partner Arturo Kassel with the goal of bringing pure, farm-fresh cooking back to the city of San Diego. The restaurant has since garnered a national following, recognised as one of the world’s best fine dining establishments. In addition to its top notch menu, Whisknladle boasts a unique and innovatively designed interior. Natural woods, sleek furnishings, warm lighting and temporary walls that open right out onto the street make this the perfect spot for neighbourhood bistro dining.
The Blind Burro
Located right along the Mexican border, the neighbouring country’s spicy cuisine has had a massive effect on the San Diego’s restaurant scene, and many argue about where to find the best enchiladas, tacos and tamales in this coastal city. The Blind Burro in the East Village stands apart from the old fashioned taquerias for its sophisticated version of baja coastal cuisine. A highly inventive menu features contemporary re-interpretations of traditional Mexican dishes. Quinoa and squash cakes, sweet potato-chorizo taquitos and bacon wrapped jalapenos are some of the less conventional options to be found here. Meanwhile the elegant and contemporary interior introduces small references to traditional Mexico for a refined Latin American dining experience.