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.
Restaurant, French, $$$
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.