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23 Gaslamp Restaurants and Bars That Are Actually Worth Trying

The heart of San Diego houses a number of places to eat and drink — here are a few standouts with notable new ones.

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San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter is a lively neighborhood, packed with restaurants and bars, making it the place to check out if you’re looking to have a night out on the town. With flashy restaurants, hopping nightclubs, and spirited sports bars, it tends to cater to visitors but the densely-packed area also holds tons of dining options across all types of cuisines that appeal to locals too. Here’s a list of restaurants and bars worth dining and drinking at in the Gaslamp.

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The Desmond

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Chef Jason Neroni has introduced three-course and five-course chef’s tasting menus to the anchor restaurant inside the Kimpton Alma San Diego. If you’re looking to go a la carte, good choices include the pasta or seafood specialties like the king salmon. 

An aerial photo of plated food.
Plated dishes at The Desmond
Kimpton Alma/Andrea Holden

The Grant Grill

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The signature restaurant of the historic U.S. Grant Hotel is always a good bet; try the Grant Grill beef burger or seared scallops. Desserts, like lemon-lime crème brulee, are a must-try, along with cocktails like the Tutto Limone, a gin drink made with lemon leaf bitter tea and lemon juice.

Saint James French Diner

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The adorable “American diner meets French bistro” features standouts like steak tartare crostone, roasted chicken, and juicy burgers — American or Parisienne style made with Bordelaise sauce. Pair with cocktails like Bee’s Knees, made with gin and honey. 

French bistro and American diner dishes.
French bistro and American diner dishes.
Saint James French Diner

STK San Diego

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A steakhouse known across the world, STK’s locations include New York, Delhi, Dubai, Prague, and Mexico City. Its extensive steak and seafood menu includes a World of Wagyu special with starters and samplers. Date night specials include a meal for two and a bottle of bubbly for $69 per person. 

Steak seasoned with garlic butter with glass of scotch on the side STK Steakhouse/Instagram

Smokin J's BBQ

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This is the third and biggest location yet for the local barbecue outpost whose meats are smoked overnight in Poway and delivered daily to the downtown restaurant. Its menu features everything from brisket and pulled pork to St. Louis ribs and chicken available in individual or family-sized portions with tempting sides like smoked succotash.

A dining room in a restaurant.
The dining room.
Dee Sandoval

Karina's Cantina Gaslamp

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Karina’s in Gaslamp showcases a robust cocktail menu to pair with its iconic ceviche, seafood plates, and traditional Mexican dishes like carne asada. The location has ample space for large parties with happy hour specials that run every afternoon and all day on Mondays. 

Michelada, shrimp and Mexican ceviche. Karina’s Cantina Gaslamp/Facebook

Le Parfait Paris

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This locally-owned patisserie and cafe focuses on French bistro fare like jambon fromage sandwiches, quiche Lorraine, and sweet or savory crepes. Don’t miss out on the desserts, including rainbow-hued French macarons and luscious parfaits. 

French eats, a macaroon and wine Jesus Martinez/Le Parfait Paris San Diego

Greystone Prime Steakhouse & Seafood

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The elegant steakhouse showcases Wagyu beef from several sources, including A5 Japanese Wagyu, Australian Greg Norman Farms A8 Australian Wagyu and Miyazaki Prefecture Japanese Wagyu, and American Wagyu. Customers can also stop here for Padres specials (two tacos and a beer for $12) and pre-theatre three-course meals for $39.

Werewolf

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A downtown hangout spot popular for its champagne and mimosa specials, you’ll also find brunch dishes like Homer Cakes (fluffy cakes with raspberry jelly filling and glazed donut icing). Werewolf also has a special nightly evening menu with Werewolf nugs, burritos, and burgers, all available after 3 p.m. along with karaoke.

LAVO Italian Restaurant

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The Italian restaurant with other locations in L.A., New York, and Las Vegas is known for its onw-pound Wagyu meatball, house-made pasta, and a 20-layer chocolate cake. The restaurant is also offering a $39 prix-fixe three-course menu from Monday through Thursday.

A tall tiered cake with frosting and a sign reading Lavo.
20-layer chocolate cake at LAVO.
Wonho Frank Lee

Barleymash

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The popular cocktail and sports bar sets itself apart with its beer-and-bourbon-based dishes from executive chef Kevin Templeton, who’s been featured on a range of cooking shows. Try mango-mojito chile chicken wings, Champ burger with beef and ale-braised pork shoulder, and spiced shrimp flatbread with the sweet chinchilla cocktail. The place keeps it lively with DJs, live music, and comedy in the main restaurant and speakeasy.

Bloody mary bar. Barleymash San Diego

Bang Bang

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Sushi boats, specialty rolls, and sake bomb headline the menu at the Asian fusion restaurant with a happy hour Wednesday through Sunday and VIP bottle service. The location turns into a lively venue where producers and underground artists perform after hours. Designed by the creative team, Gillian and Mauricio Couturier (Wolfie’s Carousel Bar and redesigned Mr. A’s), the Gaslamp restaurant boasts the “largest disco ball on the West Coast.” 

Red sushi sashimi laid out with toppings and a Hawaiian purple flower. Bang Bang San Diego/Instagram

Saltwater

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This dinner-only seafood restaurant is a product of the San Diego Dining Group that brought Greystone, Osteria Panevino, and Butcher’s Cut to the Gaslamp. Select the fish from the display case, specify the weight, and how you want it to be prepared for a choose-your-own-adventure meal. Customers can also add on caviar or oysters. 

Plate of oysters Saltwater/Facebook

Taka Restaurant

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The Japanese restaurant in the heart of Gaslamp showcases sashimi flown in from Japan, along with an extensive drinks menu that ranges from sake, shochu, and cocktails. The team also offers an omakase menu or you can order teriyaki and sushi pieces on its own.

Sushi chefs behind the bar at Taka Restaurant
Sushi chefs behind the bar at Taka Restaurant.
Yelp

Rustic Root

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Find comfort food like rustic fried chicken, St. Louis barbecue ribs, and something sweet from the signature dessert cart in the rooftop dining space with views overlooking the Gaslamp Quarter. Their weekend brunch features a Bubbles and Berries menu with a bottle of champagne, berries, fruit purees and fruit juices. 

Brunch with mimosas. Rustic Root/Facebook

Tacos el Cabron

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A taco shop serving authentic Tijuana-inspired tacos, this place is open from 8 a.m. everyday and shuts at 1 a.m. on the weekdays and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Try their surf and turf burritos or Baja shrimp tacos, paired with their margarita flight. 

Selection of tacos Tacos el Cabron/Facebook

Cafe 222

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This friendly, cozy diner is considered one of the best breakfast places in town. It’s particularly known for its waffles with flavors like pumpkin and blueberry cornbread. Pancakes are good, along with the peanut butter and banana stuffed French toast that was featured on national television. 

Waffle with strawberries and whipped cream. Cafe 222/Facebook

Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine

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One of the anchor restaurants drawing diners into the Pendry Hotel, this elegant, two-level seafood restaurant centers on fresh catch and sustainable fish under the direction of executive chef and James Beard Smart Catch leader, JoJo Ruiz. Try the Prime KC Cut Striploin “Oscar” and the Bonecrusha (tuna toro and caviar in bone marrow butter).

Sushi sashimi on a blue plate. Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine

Provisional Kitchen

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Provisional Kitchen has a more casual approach, set in an airy dining area with high ceilings and plush velvet couch for communal seating. Dining options are available all day with specialties like churro French toast, panini sandwiches, or an evening five-course chef’s tasting menu. Weekend brunch features an Ostrich Egg Platter, equal to 16 chicken eggs. 

Margherita pizza. Provisional Kitchen

Huntress

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This soaring and style space pairs up a prime steakhouse serving cuts like dry-aged porterhouse, tomahawk steaks, and ribeyes, as well as top-notch seafood with a bar featuring a bountiful collection of Japanese whisky. End with the “Magic Mushroom” dessert, a showstopper that serves two. 

Steak. Huntress/San Diego

Lumi by Akira Back

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This rooftop restaurant from world-renowned celebrity chef Akira Back brings Japanese and Peruvian-influenced Nikkei cuisine to San Diego. Set in an eye-catching atmosphere with views of downtown and outdoor fire pits, the menu features a daily seven-course omakase menu with daily-caught sashimi, a female-brewed sake tasting menu, and cocktails from a Toki Japanese highball machine. 

Sushi, nigiri, sashimi and other Japanese food options. Lumi by Akira Back

Meze Greek Fusion

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Meze stands out among the Greek restaurants in the city that are worth mentioning. With vast spaces for large events, it’s a great option for traditional Greek foods done with a California twist. Don’t miss the shrimp and ouzo saganaki (jumbo shrimp flambeed in ouzo tableside), chicken souvlaki, and baklava cheesecake.

Greek food. Meze Greek Fusion/Facebook

The Wild Hare

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One of the newest restaurants in the neighborhood, the garden-themed Wild Hare anchors the Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter and the hotel’s recent $22.5-million renovation. Dishes like ahi poke include ingredients from the onsite garden. The fried chicken sandwich and shrimp pappardelle are also standouts.

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The Desmond

Chef Jason Neroni has introduced three-course and five-course chef’s tasting menus to the anchor restaurant inside the Kimpton Alma San Diego. If you’re looking to go a la carte, good choices include the pasta or seafood specialties like the king salmon. 

An aerial photo of plated food.
Plated dishes at The Desmond
Kimpton Alma/Andrea Holden

The Grant Grill

The signature restaurant of the historic U.S. Grant Hotel is always a good bet; try the Grant Grill beef burger or seared scallops. Desserts, like lemon-lime crème brulee, are a must-try, along with cocktails like the Tutto Limone, a gin drink made with lemon leaf bitter tea and lemon juice.

Saint James French Diner

The adorable “American diner meets French bistro” features standouts like steak tartare crostone, roasted chicken, and juicy burgers — American or Parisienne style made with Bordelaise sauce. Pair with cocktails like Bee’s Knees, made with gin and honey. 

French bistro and American diner dishes.
French bistro and American diner dishes.
Saint James French Diner

STK San Diego

A steakhouse known across the world, STK’s locations include New York, Delhi, Dubai, Prague, and Mexico City. Its extensive steak and seafood menu includes a World of Wagyu special with starters and samplers. Date night specials include a meal for two and a bottle of bubbly for $69 per person. 

Steak seasoned with garlic butter with glass of scotch on the side STK Steakhouse/Instagram

Smokin J's BBQ

This is the third and biggest location yet for the local barbecue outpost whose meats are smoked overnight in Poway and delivered daily to the downtown restaurant. Its menu features everything from brisket and pulled pork to St. Louis ribs and chicken available in individual or family-sized portions with tempting sides like smoked succotash.

A dining room in a restaurant.
The dining room.
Dee Sandoval

Karina's Cantina Gaslamp

Karina’s in Gaslamp showcases a robust cocktail menu to pair with its iconic ceviche, seafood plates, and traditional Mexican dishes like carne asada. The location has ample space for large parties with happy hour specials that run every afternoon and all day on Mondays. 

Michelada, shrimp and Mexican ceviche. Karina’s Cantina Gaslamp/Facebook

Le Parfait Paris

This locally-owned patisserie and cafe focuses on French bistro fare like jambon fromage sandwiches, quiche Lorraine, and sweet or savory crepes. Don’t miss out on the desserts, including rainbow-hued French macarons and luscious parfaits. 

French eats, a macaroon and wine Jesus Martinez/Le Parfait Paris San Diego

Greystone Prime Steakhouse & Seafood

The elegant steakhouse showcases Wagyu beef from several sources, including A5 Japanese Wagyu, Australian Greg Norman Farms A8 Australian Wagyu and Miyazaki Prefecture Japanese Wagyu, and American Wagyu. Customers can also stop here for Padres specials (two tacos and a beer for $12) and pre-theatre three-course meals for $39.

Werewolf

A downtown hangout spot popular for its champagne and mimosa specials, you’ll also find brunch dishes like Homer Cakes (fluffy cakes with raspberry jelly filling and glazed donut icing). Werewolf also has a special nightly evening menu with Werewolf nugs, burritos, and burgers, all available after 3 p.m. along with karaoke.

LAVO Italian Restaurant

The Italian restaurant with other locations in L.A., New York, and Las Vegas is known for its onw-pound Wagyu meatball, house-made pasta, and a 20-layer chocolate cake. The restaurant is also offering a $39 prix-fixe three-course menu from Monday through Thursday.

A tall tiered cake with frosting and a sign reading Lavo.
20-layer chocolate cake at LAVO.
Wonho Frank Lee

Barleymash

The popular cocktail and sports bar sets itself apart with its beer-and-bourbon-based dishes from executive chef Kevin Templeton, who’s been featured on a range of cooking shows. Try mango-mojito chile chicken wings, Champ burger with beef and ale-braised pork shoulder, and spiced shrimp flatbread with the sweet chinchilla cocktail. The place keeps it lively with DJs, live music, and comedy in the main restaurant and speakeasy.

Bloody mary bar. Barleymash San Diego

Bang Bang

Sushi boats, specialty rolls, and sake bomb headline the menu at the Asian fusion restaurant with a happy hour Wednesday through Sunday and VIP bottle service. The location turns into a lively venue where producers and underground artists perform after hours. Designed by the creative team, Gillian and Mauricio Couturier (Wolfie’s Carousel Bar and redesigned Mr. A’s), the Gaslamp restaurant boasts the “largest disco ball on the West Coast.” 

Red sushi sashimi laid out with toppings and a Hawaiian purple flower. Bang Bang San Diego/Instagram

Saltwater

This dinner-only seafood restaurant is a product of the San Diego Dining Group that brought Greystone, Osteria Panevino, and Butcher’s Cut to the Gaslamp. Select the fish from the display case, specify the weight, and how you want it to be prepared for a choose-your-own-adventure meal. Customers can also add on caviar or oysters. 

Plate of oysters Saltwater/Facebook

Taka Restaurant

The Japanese restaurant in the heart of Gaslamp showcases sashimi flown in from Japan, along with an extensive drinks menu that ranges from sake, shochu, and cocktails. The team also offers an omakase menu or you can order teriyaki and sushi pieces on its own.

Sushi chefs behind the bar at Taka Restaurant
Sushi chefs behind the bar at Taka Restaurant.
Yelp

Rustic Root

Find comfort food like rustic fried chicken, St. Louis barbecue ribs, and something sweet from the signature dessert cart in the rooftop dining space with views overlooking the Gaslamp Quarter. Their weekend brunch features a Bubbles and Berries menu with a bottle of champagne, berries, fruit purees and fruit juices. 

Brunch with mimosas. Rustic Root/Facebook

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Tacos el Cabron

A taco shop serving authentic Tijuana-inspired tacos, this place is open from 8 a.m. everyday and shuts at 1 a.m. on the weekdays and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Try their surf and turf burritos or Baja shrimp tacos, paired with their margarita flight. 

Selection of tacos Tacos el Cabron/Facebook

Cafe 222

This friendly, cozy diner is considered one of the best breakfast places in town. It’s particularly known for its waffles with flavors like pumpkin and blueberry cornbread. Pancakes are good, along with the peanut butter and banana stuffed French toast that was featured on national television. 

Waffle with strawberries and whipped cream. Cafe 222/Facebook

Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine

One of the anchor restaurants drawing diners into the Pendry Hotel, this elegant, two-level seafood restaurant centers on fresh catch and sustainable fish under the direction of executive chef and James Beard Smart Catch leader, JoJo Ruiz. Try the Prime KC Cut Striploin “Oscar” and the Bonecrusha (tuna toro and caviar in bone marrow butter).

Sushi sashimi on a blue plate. Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine

Provisional Kitchen

Provisional Kitchen has a more casual approach, set in an airy dining area with high ceilings and plush velvet couch for communal seating. Dining options are available all day with specialties like churro French toast, panini sandwiches, or an evening five-course chef’s tasting menu. Weekend brunch features an Ostrich Egg Platter, equal to 16 chicken eggs. 

Margherita pizza. Provisional Kitchen

Huntress

This soaring and style space pairs up a prime steakhouse serving cuts like dry-aged porterhouse, tomahawk steaks, and ribeyes, as well as top-notch seafood with a bar featuring a bountiful collection of Japanese whisky. End with the “Magic Mushroom” dessert, a showstopper that serves two. 

Steak. Huntress/San Diego

Lumi by Akira Back

This rooftop restaurant from world-renowned celebrity chef Akira Back brings Japanese and Peruvian-influenced Nikkei cuisine to San Diego. Set in an eye-catching atmosphere with views of downtown and outdoor fire pits, the menu features a daily seven-course omakase menu with daily-caught sashimi, a female-brewed sake tasting menu, and cocktails from a Toki Japanese highball machine.