With an exclusive wine list, unparalleled service and a menu executed by chef William Bradley, this S.D. staple at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar is second to none. And the honorifics just keep rolling in: five stars from AAA and Forbes rank the North County destination as one of the top 40 restaurants in the United States. This, as well as Bradley’s rep as a Relais and Châteaux elite grand chef, easily makes him one of the most decorated chefs in the county, with good reason.
5200 Grand Del Mar Way
A.R. Valentien at The Lodge at Torrey Pines
Executive chef Jeff Jackson, a winner of the Bocuse d’Or Culinary Gold Cup, and chef de cuisine Kelli Crosson lead the nose-to-tail charge in S.D. Needless to say, their house-cured meat plate is fantastic. Insiders tip? The off-menu Atomic Burger is perfect for heat-seekers.
11480 N. Torrey Pines Road
This stylish indoor-outdoor eatery creates contemporary farm fare using the property’s kitchen garden. Look for fresh and flavorful dishes and don’t miss the astounding cheese selection.
17550 Bernardo Oaks Drive
This modern Italian gem cranks out fresh tagliatelle, gnocchi, lasagna, pappardelle and ravioli 12 hours a day (customize with the famed pink cream sauce). This is the only West Coast spot serving the delicacy.
750 W. Fir St.
Born and Raised
A modern steakhouse nestled in historic Little Italy, Born & Raised boasts table-side cart service, an open-air bar on the second floor overlooking the city and the culinary talents of executive chef Jason McLeod. Enjoy the Dinner for Two menu in the dining room whose design is an elegant take on Art Deco.
1909 India St.
This hip hangout is about as close to the great outdoors as it gets without pitching a tent. Chef Andrew Bachelier utilizes wood-fired fare to create standout seafood dishes of the day, served whole and sizzling with flavor. As for dessert, in true campfire fashion, it boasts some of the best s’mores in town.
2725 State St.
Death by Tequila
Known for flavorful dishes and beautiful plate presentation, Death by Tequila’s menu is boasting with options from wood-fired salsa to a tequila flan. Try one of its many tequila options to see where its name originates.
569 S. Coast Highway 101
This steakhouse’s signature USDA prime beef now comes with an ocean view, thanks to this La Jolla iteration. Go with its wheelhouse fare—the 14-ounce prime filet—and you can’t go wrong.
1250 Prospect St.
The oceanfront restaurant is an outpost of the Texas-based chain, which specializes in fresh seafood, high-end cuts of beef and highly stylized service. Menu standout includes an oversize tomahawk. Steak lovers: Spoil yourself with add-ons like battered oysters with bearnaise sauce and a lobster tail.
1270 Prospect St.
The sister location to famed San Diego sushi house Sushi Ota isn’t tradition-bound: Modern flair shows on creations like the Kitchen Sink Roll, a massive juggernaut of sea creatures (tuna, octopus, salmon, etc.). Find chefs sitting at the bar indulging in owner-sushi chef Roger Nakamura’s omakase menu.
2760 Fifth Ave.
Herb & Wood
Brian Malarkey’s latest success offers fresh, vibrant flavors and wood-fired fare. The high-designed Kettner Boulevard addition is the perfect spot for date night or a power dinner of dishes like grilled venison loin with designer drinks to match.
2210 Kettner Blvd.
Pendry San Diego’s fine dining establishment, Lionfish, is the newest high-profile hangout worthy of the see-and-be-seen set. Chef Jojo Ruiz works magic in the kitchen with seasonal, sustainable and local ingredients.
435 Fifth Ave.
Modern coastal Italian cuisine with executive chef Ronnie Schwandt at the helm makes Maretalia one of the top Italian restaurants around San Diego. The dishes are prepared with fresh, local seafood and are hand-crafted to perfection.
1200 Orange Ave.
Offering European fare with a relaxed, casual dining atmosphere, Mille Fleurs’ dishes range from Oeufs (deviled eggs and caviar) to Chino Farms Ravioli prepared with sweet potatoes, pumpkin and sage. You can’t go wrong with this menu.
6009 Paseo Delicias
Downtown’s penthouse resto is as iconic San Diego as it gets—with contemporary flourishes on traditional. Timeless classics? The view of the 747s landing at Lindbergh, and chef Stephanie Voitzwinkler’s fine cuisine, which includes favorite dishes like the Maine lobster strudel.
2550 Fifth Ave., 12th Floor
Chef Jason Knibb’s Jamaican jerk pork belly is a star dish, but perhaps the best dining option here is not to handcuff Knibb—go for a Mercy of the Chef experience and let the guy run wild. Otherwise, start with the lamb tartare with cured egg yolk and move on to mains like the braised oxtail tortellini.
910 Prospect St.
Stake Chophouse & Bar
Denouncing the steakhouse cliché, Stake Chophouse & Bar resembles anything but the traditional chophouse of years past. Exec Chef Tim Kolanko’s menu is classic and the ingredients pedigreed, from a massive 50oz Tomahawk rib chop to a 35-day dry-aged bone-in New York strip, Stake shines as a cut above the rest. Perched on a rooftop overlooking downtown Coronado, Stake boasts a sleek, black onyx and white leather interior and a global wine program that houses over 2,000 bottles prominently displayed in two glass cellars.
1309 Orange Ave.
The Pony Room
The approachable menu here includes a classic ceviche with plump shrimp and mahimahi tacos. Locals sip skinny margaritas at Rancho Valencia’s chic, reincarnated bar, where tequila is the spirit of choice. A members-only agave spirits program focuses on guided tastings and comes with the chance to have your name engraved on the Pony Room’s All Agave trophy.
5921 Valencia Circle
The Marine Room
At high tide, waves spray the windows at one of S.D.’s ultimate rooms with a view. Chef Bernard Guillas, an inductee into the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France, is a global cuisine master. Proof? We love the Cervena elk loin with wattleseed and rhubarb, and just about everything else on the menu.
2000 Spindrift Drive
Grab a glass of wine and choose from favorite small plates seared ahi tuna and fresh seasonal oysters. Opt for the chef’s nightly special of fresh wild game or fowl, which ranges from Venison and Elk to Rabbit and Squab.
4301 La Jolla Village Drive
Across the hall from The Pony Room, find one of the most gorgeous dining rooms in S.D., replete with Damien Hirst artwork and a plush wine cellar downstairs. Chef Jarrod Moiles focuses on a strong coastal cuisine that is exemplified throughout his dishes. For meat eaters, the Brandt Beef rib cap is remarkably flavorful and tender, and a good counterpart to light farm dishes like the Chino’s market vegetable salad, a medley of raw, cooked and pickled local veggies.
5921 Valencia Circle