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A bowl of porridge.
Manna porridge.
Devin Castañeda

The 38 Essential Restaurants in San Diego

San Diego’s essential eateries across an array of cuisines, neighborhoods, and price points 

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Manna porridge.
| Devin Castañeda

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

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

If your favorite restaurant isn’t on the 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.

Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

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Eater maps are curated by editors and aim to reflect a diversity of neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices. Learn more about our editorial process. If you buy something or book a reservation from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

The only local restaurant to earn a star in the 2023 Michelin Guide California, this Oceanside restaurant helmed by chef Roberto Alcocer, who already ran the acclaimed Malva restaurant in Valle de Guadalupe, is giving diners a taste of the culinary thrills that can be found in its namesake region.

Tables and a couch in a restaurant.
The dining room at Valle.
Kimberly Motos

Wrench and Rodent

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This Oceanside sushi spot showcases chef Davin Waite’s unique skills with foraging and far-out flavor innovations. Though his approach is broad enough to include both traditional sushi and unconventional rolls paired with creative sauces, Waite is uncompromising in his care for ingredients.

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

Jeune et Jolie

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Chic to the max, the second Carlsbad restaurant from the team behind Campfire applies a SoCal twist to modern French fare. An enviable open kitchen is its sparkling stage, turning out a sophisticated but not-at-all stuffy four-course menu from executive chef Eric Bost and chef de cuisine Jacob Ruck, Jeune et Jolie is one of a handful of local establishments to have earned a Michelin star.

Kylle Sebree

Campfire

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Jeune et Jolie’s casual sibling is a Carlsbad charmer where wood-fired cookery and creative cocktails are center-stage. Smoked and grilled meats, seafood, and vegetables are showcased in a stylishly rustic dining room that’s equally suited for date night or family dinners.

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

Though initially opened as a stopgap while chef Andrew Bachelier (Jeune et Jolie, Cucina Enoteca) works towards launching his larger restaurant partnership with pro skater Tony Hawk, it’s safe to say that this North County cafe, Eater’s 2023 winner for neighborhood restaurant of the year, has already become a beloved fixture in Leucadia. Diners have fully embraced Manna’s feel-good menu which includes comforting savory porridge, craveable salads, and other creative seasonal dishes.

A restaurant patio.
The patio at Manna.
Kimberly Motos

Market Restaurant & Bar

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Chef Carl Schroeder, whose extensive culinary experience includes working with famed chefs Michael Mina and Bradley Ogden, remains faithful to a hyper-seasonal cooking style inspired by local farms, including the nearby Alice Waters-endorsed Chino Farm. The restaurant offers a three-course tasting menu in the dining room while a la carte service is available in the bar and lounge.

Addison Restaurant

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San Diego’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Addison is guided by longtime executive chef/director William Bradley, whose team leads diners through elaborate nine-course chef’s tasting dinners of contemporary California cuisine that revolves around the seasons.

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

A.R. Valentien

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The Lodge at Torrey Pines’s signature restaurant transcends hotel dining by a mile. Executive chef Kelli Crosson oversees the restaurant’s impeccably-sourced farm-to-table cooking. Housemade terrines, Liberty Duck breast and leg confit, and beets with pistachio butter are all on the menu, served in a warm and welcoming Craftsman-style dining room.

George's At The Cove

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Celebrating its milestone 40th anniversary, this La Jolla institution is comprised of three levels that each boast ocean views. Level2 serves lunch and dinner with a focus on craft cocktails while the breezy rooftop Ocean Terrace is a coveted perch from which to enjoy a menu of coastal cuisine from chef and partner Trey Foshee, executive chef Masa Kojima, and pastry chef Aly Lyng.

A rooftop restaurant with ocean view.
The Ocean Terrace.
George’s at the Cove

Nine-Ten Restaurant and Bar

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San Diego has several stellar hotel restaurants and this is one of them. The La Jolla spot, located in the Grande Colonial Hotel, is run by longtime executive chef, Jason Knibb, who is 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.

Yakitori Hino

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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. Find expertly grilled yakitori, from crispy-edged chicken wings to lusciously tender meatballs, along with a compelling selection of izakaya dishes, including takowasa (raw octopus with wasabi) and fried smelt.

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

Golden City Restaurant

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Although there are newer Chinese restaurants, this Kearny Mesa stalwart owes its longevity to its expertise in Cantonese cuisine. Area workers regularly drop in for its lunch specials and large groups gather around its lazy Susan-topped tables to share platters of standout dishes like lobster with ginger and green onion, crispy-skinned roast squab, and sauteed clams.

Wayfarer Bread & Pastry

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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, the takeout-only spot has become a destination for its flaky pastries sweetened with local produce and sturdy-crusted loaves made from heirloom grains.

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

The Fishery

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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 helmed by executive chef Jon Bautista (Kingfisher, George’s at the Cove) is also a seafood distributor and retail market, which ensures that the freshest catch ends up on the menu every day.

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

Soichi Sushi

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This gracious family-run Adams Avenue sushi bar, which has been awarded a Michelin star, offers an eight-course omakase experience from master sushi chef Sochi Kadoya that includes delicately-prepared appetizers, nigiri, and sashimi offered alongside a well-curated sake selection.

Platter of nigiri from Soichi Sushi Soichi Sushi/Facebook

Et Voilà!

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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]

Fort Oak

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Honored with Michelin Plate status, the sophomore entry from the chefs behind Trust Restaurant, is a staple in Mission Hills. With a relaxed cocktail bar, upscale dining room, and chef’s counter perch it offers a range of dining experiences.

A modern dining room with glass walls.
The main dining room.
James Tran

Sushi Tadokoro

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Well-crafted nigiri sushi is one of the attractions at this Michelin-starred Old Town restaurant, which tops many sushi aficionados’ lists for its adherence to traditional Japanese style and technique. The setting is spare; all of the fireworks are reserved for what’s on the plate.

Front entrance of Sushi Tadokoro Sushi Tadokoro [Official photo]

Tribute Pizza

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Though it was initially built to honor some of the world’s great pizzerias, this North Park restaurant has earned respect for its own menu creations, from homemade bread and farmer’s market-sourced vegetable plates to its “Neo-Neapolitan” pies that ranges from creatively-topped weekly specials and classic pies.

Mabel's Gone Fishing

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This North Park restaurant, which serves up seasonal seafood and mixes stellar gin and tonics, has racked up accolades that include being named to Eater’s list of the best new restaurants in America and earning Michelin Bib Gourmand status. Building on the goodwill garnered by the Rose, their South Park wine bar, the team has established another community-minded space that’s easy to love.

A curved cocktail bar.
The bar.
Kimberly Motos

Trust Restaurant

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Overseen by chef Brad Wise, this stylish independent restaurant, an Eater Award winner, has both sustained its success over the years and spawned a rapidly-growing hospitality group. With a dinner menu highlighted by pasta and wood-grilled proteins, it also offers a can’t-miss brunch. fort

A modern dining room with glass walls.
The dining room.
Trust

Cori Pastificio Trattoria

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This cozy Italian restaurant from Accursio Lota celebrates the popular chef’s Sicilian heritage and has been well-received by locals as well as the international culinary community. Located in North Park, the cozy spot serves handmade pasta, including some made with ancient grains, and entrees like pistachio-crusted lamb chops and eggplant parmigiana.

Pasta dish from Cori Pastificio Trattoria Sam Wells

CUCINA Urbana

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This Bankers Hill restaurant and wine shop, run by one of San Diego’s most prominent hospitality groups, has enjoyed enduring popularity due to its consistently-good contemporary Italian cuisine that includes pasta, pizzas, and starters like fried squash blossoms and seasonal starters.

Dining room at Cucina Urbana Cucina Urbana [Official photos]

Juniper & Ivy

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Continuing to serve as one of the anchors of Little Italy’s ever-growing restaurant scene, this foundational farm-to-table restaurant is in a transition period, being overseen by chef emeritus Jon Sloan as it searches for a replacement for longtime executive chef Anthony Wells.

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

Herb & Wood

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Herb & Wood is still a stunning spot to see -and -be -seen in, with its California-meets-Mediterranean menu of grilled meats, pastas, and wood-fired pizza, as well as a standout brunch, keeps diners coming back. Six years in, the restaurant is now being headed up by executive chef Carlos Anthony under the mentorship of its celebrity chef owner, Brian Malarkey.

Dining room at Herb & Wood Bailey Films

Kettner Exchange

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An expansive rooftop patio is part of the draw at this bi-level restaurant that’s a fixture on the nightlife scene but was also recognized with Michelin Bib Gourmand status in 2021 for executive chef Brian Redzikowski’s consistently tasty and thoughtful food that inflected with Asian ingredients and techniques.

The bar at Kettner Exchange Kettner Exchange [Official photo]

Born and Raised

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This Little Italy steakhouse has firmly established its classic status. 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]

Civico 1845

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This warmly-welcoming restaurant, one of the anchors of Little Italy’s food scene, offers a 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]

Morning Glory

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Awarded Bib Gourmand status by the Michelin Guide, this perenially popular brunch spot stands out by serving an internationally-inspired breakfast menu (think egg fried rice and breakfast carbonara) 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]

Crudo Ceviche & Oyster Bar

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Thrilling diners with Baja-style plates of fresh seafood, from platters of chocolate clams to standout dishes like shrimp aguachile en salsa verde, tuna and scallop tostadas dressed with guajillo chile mayo and ponzu, and tiradito mixto in XO sauce, this stylish spot along Little Italy’s main thoroughfare also serves seafood-friendly drinks like sake, champagne, and regional Mexican wine.

A bar inside a restaurant.
The bar at Crudo.
Kimberly Motos

KINDRED

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This South Park rebel makes its mark with the rarely-seen pairing of top-notch craft cocktails with a creative and comforting vegan menu. Add a dose of seriously eye-catching design and you’ve got a winner.

Dining room at Kindred Kindred [Official photo]

Buona Forchetta

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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]

Kingfisher

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Kingfisher continues to be one of the city’s most dynamic restaurants, bringing destination dining from executive chef David Sim and team to the undersung neighborhood of Golden Hill with a menu that elegantly modernizes classic Vietnamese dishes while highlighting San Diego treasures like Chino Farm. Don’t miss the dry-aged duck, available in limited quantities, or the fantastically creative cocktails.

A gold cocktail bar. Kimberly Motos

Executive chef Tara Monsod is cooking the restaurant’s most compelling menu to date. Earning Michelin Plate honors for the restaurant, Monsod’s cuisine brings a new perspective to classics like lumpia and kare kare by showcasing Filipino flavors and ingredients on an opulent stage.