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Top 10 Restaurants In Carlsbad, California

Top 10 Restaurants In Carlsbad, California

Picture of Helen Armitage
Updated: 9 February 2017
Hyper-local seafood in a Victorian mansion, authentic Mexican eats against a background of live mariachi music and New England-inspired fare in a restaurant-cum-museum. These are just some of the memorable dining experience that Carlsbad, CA has to offer. Check out our guide and find a restaurant to suit you.

The Land & Water Co

Based within a Carlsbad landmark, the beautiful former Twin Inns Victorian mansion built in 1887, The Land & Water Co is a restaurant from talented local chef Rob Ruiz, a veteran of some of the best sushi restaurants in San Diego, that focuses on hyper-local fare centered around California cuisine with distinct French, Japanese and Hawaiian flavors. Though the exterior of the property is charmingly historic, the inside of The Land & Water Co is thoroughly sleek and modern and an open sushi bar allows guests to see the restaurant’s talented chefs at work. Seafood and sushi are the real pull on the menu with dishes that include pan-seared steelhead with buckwheat soba noodle salad.

The Land & Water Co, 2978 Carlsbad Boulevard, Carlsbad, CA, USA, +1 760 729 5263


A downtown Carlsbad favorite, Paon is an elegant restaurant and wine bar featuring a stylish art deco-themed interior with a stylish lounge that exudes old Hollywood charm and a beautiful patio ideal for alfresco dining on balmy summer eves. Serving California inspired cuisine with French influences, Paon sources the ingredients that go into its delicious dishes both seasonally and locally. Guests can expect dishes like pan-roasted pheasant with wild mushrooms, Swiss chard, vegetable truffle risotto and Madeira sauce or pan-seared Maine diver scallops with vegetable ragout and a lobster-potato puree. An extensive wine list is available to complement Paon’s sophisticated fare.

Paon, 2975 Roosevelt Street, Carlsbad, CA, USA, +1 760 729 7377


© Courtesy West Steak and Seafood
© Courtesy West Steak and Seafood

West Steak and Seafood

Serving guests healthy farm-to-table fare, including plates crafted from vegetables, herbs and fruit picked fresh daily from its own local chef’s garden, West Steak and Seafood is one of Carlsbad’s best-lover restaurants. Newly appointed executive chef David Abella oversees an imaginative menu of creative surf ‘n’ turf dishes, baked blue crab cake appetizer with jalapeño aioli and roasted red pepper coulis, slow-braised prime beef chili and bean soup, and the filet mignon and Maine lobster entrée with cauliflower au gratin, balsamic-port demi-glace and beurre blanc. Handcrafted cocktails and a carefully selected wine list are also served.

West Steak and Seafood, 4980 Avenida Encinas, Carlsbad, CA, USA, +1 760 930 9100


Casa di Bandini

Based amongst the boutiques and restaurants of Carlsbad’s upscale Forum Shopping Center is Casa de Bandini, a lively, vibrant restaurant offering authentic Mexican fare alongside live mariachi entertainment and a well-stocked cantina with over 50 tequila-based drinks. Exuding a colonial Mexico-themed design throughout, Casa de Bandini’s interior features colorful tiles, folk art and warm terracotta floors while a charming courtyard includes its very own water fountain. Start with an appetizer like Mexican shrimp cocktail with avocado, celery, tomato and onion before following with a mouth-watering entrée such as the diner favorite pollo fundido, a crispy, deep-fired tortilla filled with shredded chicken and topped with a melted cheese sauce.

Casa de Bandini, 1901 Calle Barcelona, Carlsbad, CA, USA, +1 760 634 3443

Vigilucci’s Cucina Italiana

For classic Italian fare in the heart of downtown Carlsbad, look no further than Vigilucci’s Cucina Italiana. Owned by San Diego-based restaurateur Roberto Vigilucci, a native of Milan, Vigilucci’s Cucina Italiana first opened its doors on Carlsbad’s historic State Street in 1999, and since then has been delighting diners with its elegant ambience, award-winning wine list and classic Tuscan dishes. Try dishes like the carpaccio di manzo, raw slices of filet mignon topped with arugula, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, capers and shaved parmagiano, and homemade lobster ravioli with rock shrimp, fried leek and spinach, roasted corn and a creamy saffron sauce. Finish with a classic Italian dessert like tiramisu or cannoli.

Vigilucci’s Cucina Italiana, 2943 State Street, Carlsbad, CA, USA, +1 760 434 2500


Courtesy of Perfect Pairings
Courtesy of Perfect Pairings

Perfect Pairings

Opened in late 2012 by proprietor Alex Morrison and executive chef Aaron Gentry, Perfect Pairings is a restaurant with a clear mission in mind – to serve exquisitely crafted seasonal plates that perfectly complement the flavors and aromas of its wines and craft beers. Guests can choose from either a four course prix fixe or six course chef’s tasting menu, each available with a choice of beer or wine flights, and with menus that change every two weeks diners can expect new and inventive dishes each time they dine at Perfect Pairings. Current standout dishes include the split pea and barley soup with ham hock and English cheddar and the roasted pork tenderloin with poached egg, rice pilaf and savoy cabbage.

Perfect Pairings, 300 Carlsbad Village Drive, Carlsbad, CA, USA, +1 760 453 7974


© Courtesy Twenty/20 Grill & Wine Bar
© Courtesy Twenty/20 Grill & Wine Bar

Twenty/20 Grill & Wine Bar

Located at the upscale Sheraton Carlsbad Resort and Spa, perched atop the city’s highest point, Twenty/20 Grill & Wine Bar serves delectable dishes based around the cuisine of coastal California and gets its name from its stunning, panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Guests can choose from several spaces in which to dine, a luxurious dining room, cozy bar, laidback lounge or on the restaurants’ popular outdoor covered terrace, while feasting on mouth-watering dishes like the fig and smoked chicken flatbread topped with chorizo, goat’s cheese cilantro pesto and pickled red onion, or the braised pork short ribs with roasted acorn squash, caramelized celeriac and heirloom carrots.

Twenty/20 Grill & Wine Bar, 5480 Grand Pacific Drive, Carlsbad, CA, USA, +1 760 827 2500

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Green Dragon Tavern & Museum

A dining destination perfect for history buffs, Green Dragon Tavern & Museum combines traditional and new American cuisine with a museum dedicated to the history of the American Revolution. Opened in 2013, the venue is a faithful replica of Boston’s original Green Dragon Tavern, where Samuel Adams and his fellow revolutionaries plotted the Boston Tea Party that kick-started American independence, and history fans will enjoy touring the museum and learning about colonial American before dining. A New England-inspired menu features plenty of American comfort food classics like clam chowder, steamed seasonal mussels, Maryland crab cakes and cast iron skillet-cooked mac ‘n’ cheese.

Green Dragon Tavern & Museum, 6115 Paseo del Norte, Carlsbad, CA, USA, +1 760 918 2421

Fish House Vera Cruz

Known throughout the local region for its delicious, fresh seafood Fish House Vera Cruz started out in neighboring San Marcos where it first set up shop in 1979 before opening its second location in Carlsbad. As Fish House Vera Cruz has fresh fish delivered each day, diners are guaranteed an amazing dining experience, while the restaurant’s method of grilling its fish to perfection over a mesquite charcoal grill ensures maximum flavor. Guest favorites include the Boston clam chowder, the signature Vera Cruz shrimp cocktail and the Romano potato side dish though plenty of other mouth-watering dishes are available like little neck clams on the half shell or fish tacos.

Fish House Vera Cruz, 417 Carlsbad Village Drive, Carlsbad, CA, USA, +1 760 434 6777


© Courtesy The Armenian Café
© Courtesy The Armenian Café

The Armenian Café

For something a little out of the ordinary, head down to The Armenian Café, a unique restaurant offering authentic Greek, Mediterranean and Lebanese fare. It has been the recipient of various awards, including Best Breakfast in San Diego County and Best Marinated Rack of Lamb. Start your authentic dining experience with an appetizer of kebbe, ground lamb with bourghul wheat mixed together and stuffed with a flavorsome filling of walnuts, onions, pine nuts and herbs, followed by a succulent pork shish kebab served with rice pilaf, grilled vegetables and garlic dip and finish with a dessert of kashta-lea, an Armenian take on tiramisu.

The Armenian Café, 3126 Carlsbad Boulevard, Carlsbad, CA, USA, +1 760 720 2233