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38 Essential Restaurants in San Diego, Spring 2022

San Diego’s essential eateries across an array of cuisines, neighborhoods, and price points — even during the pandemic

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Presenting San Diego’s updated Eater 38, your answer to any question that begins, “Can you recommend a restaurant?”

This standout group of 38 must-try restaurants reflects the best of our diverse dining culture and is meant to cover the city of San Diego and beyond while spanning a range of price points and neighborhoods.

With every update, Eater San Diego adds a few restaurants that have newly become eligible or have stepped up their game. As such, a few restaurants are retired from the map each quarter — not necessarily forever — to make room.

Restaurants on this list must be open for six months to be qualify for consideration. For buzz on newer restaurants, check out our monthly Eater heatmap.

If your favorite restaurant isn’t on list, send us a note nominating it for inclusion; we’ll be posting updated versions of the Eater 38 map throughout the year.

For all the latest San Diego dining intel, subscribe to Eater San Diego’s newsletter.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Dija Mara

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232 S Coast Hwy
Oceanside, CA 92054
(760) 231-5376
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Helping to kickstart the culinary evolution of Oceanside, the restaurant has attracted the attention of the Michelin Guide, which honored it as a 2020 “new discovery” along with four other San Diego restaurants. The restaurant conveys the complex flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine through its interpretation of some of the area’s signature dishes.

2. Wrench and Rodent

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1815 S Coast Hwy
Oceanside, CA 92054
(760) 271-0531
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Another standout in Oceanside, sushi spot Wrench and Rodent showcases chef/owner Davin Waite’s unique skills with foraging and far-out flavor innovations. Though his path veers from traditional sushi to include unconventional rolls and creative sauces, Waite is uncompromising in his care for ingredients.

The sushi bar at Wrench and Rodent Wrench and Rodent/Facebook

3. Jeune et Jolie

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2659 State St Suite 102
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 637-5266
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Chic to the max, the second Carlsbad restaurant from the team behind Campfire is a modern French restaurant seen through a SoCal lens. An enviable open kitchen is the sparkling stage, turning out a sophisticated but not at all stuffy menu that’s quickly become an industry favorite. Under executive chef Eric Bost, Jeune et Jolie was one of a handful of local establishments given a Michelin star.

Kylle Sebree

4. Campfire

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2725 State St
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 637-5121
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Jeune et Jolie’s casual sibling is now overseen by chef Eric Bost. At this sincere charmer, wood-fired cookery permeates every aspect of the menu, including the creative cocktails. Smoked and grilled meats, seafood, and vegetables are showcased in an atmosphere that’s equally suited for date night or family dinners.

Carlsbad's New Campfire Sets Off Sparks in North County's Food Scene

5. Market Restaurant & Bar

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3702 Via De La Valle
Del Mar, CA 92014
(858) 523-0007
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Chef/owner Carl Schroeder, whose extensive culinary experience includes working with famed chef Michael Mina and Bradley Ogden, has kept the longstanding restaurant open while remaining faithful to a hyper-seasonal cooking style inspired by local farms including the nearby Alice Waters-endorsed Chino Farm. The restaurant is offering a three-course tasting menu in the dining room while a la carte service is available in the bar and lounge.

6. Addison Restaurant

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5200 Grand Del Mar Way
San Diego, CA 92130
(858) 314-1900
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At San Diego’s only two Michelin star restaurant, Addison is guided by longtime executive chef/director William Bradley, whose team leads diners through elaborate nine course chef’s tasting dinners.

Front entryway of Addison Restaurant with a sunset sky in the background. Addison [Official photo]

7. A.R. Valentien

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11480 N Torrey Pines Rd
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 777-6635
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The signature restaurant of The Lodge at Torrey Pines transcends hotel dining by a mile. Longtime guiding light Jeff Jackson recently took on a new position as corporate culinary advisor, passing on the executive chef role to former chef de cuisine Kelli Crosson, who oversees its impeccably-sourced farm-to-table cooking, featuring dishes like housemade terrines, Liberty Duck breast and leg confit, and beets with pistachio butter, in a warm and welcoming Craftsman-style dining room.

8. George's At The Cove

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1250 Prospect St
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 454-4244
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This three-floor stunner offers choose-your-own-adventure dining. Though its fine dining lower- level restaurant closed during the pandemic, George’s still offers top-notch views and food at its rooftop terrace and craft cocktail-focused gastrobar. As San Diego’s top supporter of Chino Farms, the ingredients are impeccable, and executive chef/partner Trey Foshee is one of the city’s most admired chefs.

The dining room at George’s at the Cove George’s at the Cove [Official photo]

9. Nine-Ten Restaurant and Bar

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910 Prospect St
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 964-5400
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San Diego has several stellar hotel restaurants and this is one of them. The La Jolla restaurant, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, is helmed by longtime executive Jason Knibb who admired by the food-obsessed and other local chefs for his precise and never pretentious California cuisine. Check out his signature dish, the Jamaican jerk pork belly.

10. Yakitori Hino

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7420 Clairemont Mesa Blvd #104
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 880-6048

Japanese food is one of San Diego’s strong suits and this modest and unassuming Kearny Mesa spot is an under-the-radar industry favorite. The restaurant offers expertly-grilled yakitori as well as an interesting array of izakaya dishes, from takowasa (raw octopus with wasabi) to fried smelt.

Sign saying “Hino” in front of restaurant. Candice Woo

11. Menya Ultra

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8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd m
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 571-2010
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This Japanese transplant with multiple locations has garnered national attention and Michelin Plate recognition thanks to masterful bowls of ramen, set apart by a signature tonkotsu broth that rich but not overly heavy and noodles made in-house that have near-perfect pull and chew.

Menya Ultra Ramen

12. Wayfarer Bread & Pastry

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5525 La Jolla Blvd
La Jolla, CA 92037

When it set up shop in the quiet coastal community of Bird Rock in 2018, Wayfarer brought the beach its first real-deal bakery. Established by owner and master baker Crystal White, it’s become a destination worth trekking to for its flaky pastries sweetened with local produce and sturdy-crusted loaves made of heirloom grains.

The bread counter at Wayfarer Bread & Pastry Wayfarer Bread & Pastry [Official photo]

13. The Fishery

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5040 Cass St
San Diego, CA 92109
(858) 272-9985
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For a city of its size, San Diego has too few restaurants dedicated to showcasing local seafood and the bounty of the West Coast. This family-run Pacific Beach institution is a seafood distributor, retail market, restaurant, and cocktail bar in one.

The front entrance of The Fishery The Fishery [Official photo]

14. SOICHI

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2121 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 677-2220
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This gracious family-run Adams Avenue sushi bar, which has been awarded a Michelin star, offers a multi-course omakase experience from master sushi chef Sochi Kadoya and a well-curated sake selection.

Platter of nigiri from Soichi Sushi Soichi Sushi/Facebook

15. Et Voilà!

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3015 Adams Ave #103
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 209-7759
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This neighborhood bistro, run by a veteran of the city’s best French restaurants, has charm for days. Its relaxed bar and comfortable dining room are a fine setting for French classics that include made-to-order sky-high souffles.

Dining room at Et Voila Et Voila [Official photo]

16. Tuetano Taqueria

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2548 Congress St
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 856-7013

The Michelin-recognized taqueria has now settled in as the anchor tenant at the Old Town Urban Market. Though the move from San Ysidro has resulted in higher prices, the slow-simmered birria and roasted bone marrow still make for an unparalleled combo. Next door at her Mexican seafood spot Mar Rustico, chef Priscilla Curiel is turning out accomplished smoked tuna burritos and ceviche.

A birria taco topped with bone marrow with consome and salsa on the side. Candice Woo

17. Fort Oak

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1011 Fort Stockton Dr
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 722-3398
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The sophomore entry from Trust Restaurant, honored with Michelin Plate status, is already a staple in Mission Hills where it offers up a range of experiences via its relaxed cocktail bar or upscale dining room.

Haley Hill Photography

18. Sushi Tadokoro

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2244 San Diego Ave
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 297-0298
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The winner of a coveted Michelin star, this Old Town restaurant tops many sushi aficionados’ lists for its adherence to traditional Japanese style and technique featuring well-crated nigiri sushi. The setting is spare but there’s fireworks on the plate.

Front entrance of Sushi Tadokoro Sushi Tadokoro [Official photo]

19. Tribute Pizza

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3077 North Park Way
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 450-4505
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Though it was initially built to honor some of the world’s great pizzerias, the North Park restaurant has carved out a highly-respected identity that may inspire tributes of its own. Its accomplished “Neo-Neapolitan” pies are often topped with farmer’s market produce.

20. Trust Restaurant

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3752 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 795-6901
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This stylish independent restaurant, an Eater Award-winner, has handily sustained its success over the years and spawned a growing hospitality empire, is overseen by hard-working chef/co-owner Brad Wise.

Dining room at Trust. Lyudmila Zotova

21. Wine Vault & Bistro

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3731 India St
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 295-3939
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The unique format of this atypical restaurant allows the kitchen to change its menu daily and offer seasonal, creative plates at accessible prices. Operating regularly Thursday through Saturday, the wine bar and shop serve three and five-course set menus and features winemaker dinners on other nights of the week.

Dining room at Wine Vault & Bistro Wine Vault [Official photo]

22. Cori Pastificio Trattoria

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2977 Upas St
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 573-6159
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The first solo restaurant from popular chef Accursio Lota has been well-received by locals as well as the international culinary community. The cozy North Park eatery, where the chef celebrates his Sicilian heritage, has been honored by Gambero Rosso, an Italian food and wine magazine.

Pasta dish from Cori Pastificio Trattoria Sam Wells

23. Starlite

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3175 India St
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 358-9766
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Nearly 15 years ago, Starlite helped locally kickstart the concept of a craft cocktail bar that also serves great food and it’s still one of San Diego’s best practitioners of the combo.

The bar at Starlite Starlite [Official photo]

24. CUCINA Urbana

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505 Laurel St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 239-2222
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Tables at this well-established Bankers Hill spot are still some of the most sought-after in town thanks to a shareable Italian-inspired menu that’s both modern and familiar.

Dining room at Cucina Urbana Cucina Urbana [Official photos]

25. The Rose Wine Bar

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2219 30th St
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 281-0718
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The neighborhood favorite spent 2020 enhancing its offerings, from adding lunch service to expanding its seasonal dinner menu, tacking on a full cocktail list, and even opening an adjacent bakery. A longtime champion of the natural wine scene, it’s also the best place in town to taste and buy local wine.

Two dining tables in front of the bar inside the Rose Wine Bar in South Park Arlene Ibarra

26. Juniper & Ivy

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2228 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 269-9036
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After a short break from day-to-day operations, longstanding executive chef Anthony Wells is back running the kitchen of this well-established Little Italy restaurant. Wells recently refreshed the menu with new dishes that still adhere to his commitment to support local farmers and fishermen.

Dining room at Juniper & Ivy Juniper & Ivy [Official photo]

27. Herb & Wood

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2210 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 955-8495
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With local celeb chef Brian Malarkey at the helm, Herb & Wood is a stunning spot to see-and-be-seen, but it has also managed to become one of the city’s top destinations for thoughtful yet accessible dining.

Dining room at Herb & Wood Bailey Films

28. Kettner Exchange

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2001 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 255-2001
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Executive chef Brian Redzikowski shines brightest at his Chef’s Table experience, when he can fully tap into his culinary depths, but the well-trained chef’s Asian-inflected a la carte menu is also consistently tasty and thoughtful.

The bar at Kettner Exchange Kettner Exchange [Official photo]

29. Born and Raised

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1909 India St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 202-4577
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This Little Italy steakhouse is firmly on its way to becoming a classic. Thrill to Caesar salads, omelets, and steak tartare made tableside followed by luxurious cuts of dry aged beef cut to order, prized Wagyu beef grilled on Japanese charcoal, and retro hits like Tournedos Rossini and Steak Diane. 

The rooftop patio at night with columns made to look like trees with twinkling lights and a black and white striped floor. Born & Raised [Official photo]

30. Civico 1845

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1845 India St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 431-5990
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This warmly-welcoming restaurant, one of the anchors of Little Italy offers menu of Southern Italian seafood dishes made with local ingredients as well as modern innovations on Italian classics using vegan and gluten-free ingredients.

Dining room at Civico 1845 Civico 1845 [Official photo]

31. Morning Glory

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550 W Date St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 629-0302
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Awarded Bib Gourmand status by the Michelin Guide, this crowd-drawing brunch spot stands out by serving an internationally-inspired breakfast menu and commendable cocktails in a pink-hued, fantastical setting.

Pink velvet booths at Morning Glory sit under a large chandelier shaped like a pink flower. Morning Glory [Official photo]

32. KINDRED

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1503 30th St
San Diego, CA 92102
(619) 546-9653
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This South Park rebel makes its mark with the rarely-seen pairing of top-notch craft cocktails with a chef-powered, vegan menu. Add a dose of seriously eye-catching design and you’ve got a winner.

Dining room at Kindred Kindred [Official photo]

33. Buona Forchetta

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3001 Beech St
San Diego, CA 92102
(619) 381-4844
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With outposts throughout San Diego, the flagship location of this friendly, family-owned Italian restaurant remains the most beloved. Regulars rave about the pizzas that emerge from its signature gold-tiled ovens as well as the pastas, both are also available gluten-free.

Pizza coming out of the oven at Buona Forchetta Buona Forchetta [Official photo]

34. Animae

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969 Pacific Hwy
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 432-1225
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Filipino food has never had such an opulent stage than at Animae, where executive chef Tara Monsod is cooking an exciting Pan-Asian menu highlighted by her take on Filipino classics like lumpia and kare kare. Already bustling with the chef’s supporters, the restaurant also received Michelin Plate honors from the Michelin Guide.

A wedge of charred cabbage in brown butter miso with a charred lime.
Coal-fired cabbage at Animae.
Jim Sullivan

35. Cowboy Star Restaurant and Butcher Shop

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640 Tenth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 450-5880
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This enduring East Village steakhouse serves contemporary American cuisine from longtime chef Victor H. Jimenez. The best seat might be at the chef’s counter, where you can watch the kitchen while enjoying a multi-course meal.

36. Callie

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1195 Island Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 255-9696
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Though it’s still one of the hottest reservations around, the newly-eligible Callie steps onto the Eater 38 stage as an essential contributor to San Diego’s restaurant culture. Showcased through chef Travis Swikard’s California-Mediterranean cuisine, local ingredients shine and the East Village food scene gets a whole lot brighter.

Hummus, baba ghanoush, and pita. Kimberly Motos

37. Serea Coastal Cuisine

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1500 Orange Ave
Coronado, CA 92118
(619) 435-6611
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The anchor restaurant at the iconic Hotel del Coronado is also a showcase for the region’s best seafood. Chef JoJo Ruiz (Lionfish, Ironside) has a long history of supporting local fisherman, whose fresh catch is cooked whole and served tableside just steps from the beach.

38. Aqui Es Texcoco

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520 Broadway
Chula Vista, CA 91910
(619) 427-4045
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This Chula Vista fixture is a frequent stop for locals and a temple to traditional lamb borrego, cooked slowly until succulent and served in simple, tasty preparations, from tacos to flautas. Adventurous diners might try the whole roasted lamb head.

1. Dija Mara

232 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054

Helping to kickstart the culinary evolution of Oceanside, the restaurant has attracted the attention of the Michelin Guide, which honored it as a 2020 “new discovery” along with four other San Diego restaurants. The restaurant conveys the complex flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine through its interpretation of some of the area’s signature dishes.

232 S Coast Hwy
Oceanside, CA 92054

2. Wrench and Rodent

1815 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054
The sushi bar at Wrench and Rodent Wrench and Rodent/Facebook

Another standout in Oceanside, sushi spot Wrench and Rodent showcases chef/owner Davin Waite’s unique skills with foraging and far-out flavor innovations. Though his path veers from traditional sushi to include unconventional rolls and creative sauces, Waite is uncompromising in his care for ingredients.

1815 S Coast Hwy
Oceanside, CA 92054

3. Jeune et Jolie

2659 State St Suite 102, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Kylle Sebree

Chic to the max, the second Carlsbad restaurant from the team behind Campfire is a modern French restaurant seen through a SoCal lens. An enviable open kitchen is the sparkling stage, turning out a sophisticated but not at all stuffy menu that’s quickly become an industry favorite. Under executive chef Eric Bost, Jeune et Jolie was one of a handful of local establishments given a Michelin star.

2659 State St Suite 102
Carlsbad, CA 92008

4. Campfire

2725 State St, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Carlsbad's New Campfire Sets Off Sparks in North County's Food Scene

Jeune et Jolie’s casual sibling is now overseen by chef Eric Bost. At this sincere charmer, wood-fired cookery permeates every aspect of the menu, including the creative cocktails. Smoked and grilled meats, seafood, and vegetables are showcased in an atmosphere that’s equally suited for date night or family dinners.

2725 State St
Carlsbad, CA 92008

5. Market Restaurant & Bar

3702 Via De La Valle, Del Mar, CA 92014