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A place of sliced steak with wasabi.
Steak and wasabi at Izakaya Maize.
James Tran

The Hottest Restaurants in San Diego, February 2023

The latest lineup includes a new izakaya, a fresh hotel restaurant, Korean hot pot, and more

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Steak and wasabi at Izakaya Maize.
| James Tran

More often than not, tipsters, readers, friends, and family of Eater have one question: Where should I eat right now? And while the restaurant industry is still being affected by the pandemic, new restaurants continue to persevere and are managing to open their doors to diners eager to get back to dining out.

Note: map points are not ranked.

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Chef William Eick’s fine dining take on modern Japanese cuisine, which started as a pop-up before opening in its own intimate space in Oceanside’s Tremont District, spotlights progressive dishes that combine Japanese technique with Southern California ingredients.

A matcha ice cream waffle on a large dish.
A dessert course at Matsu.
Matsu

Sandpiper Wood Fired Grill & Oysters

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The George’s at the Cove team has replaced Galaxy Taco with a relaxed, upscale restaurant that brings fresh oysters to La Jolla Shores along with a flexible menu that includes wood-grilled meats like California squab, prime rib, and double-cut pork chops and accompanying sides. Executive chef Christine Rivera recently departed the restaurant and sous chef Marty Fay has been promoted to lead the kitchen.

A cocktail bar with an undersea mural on the back wall. Crave Imagery

Swagyu Chop Shop & Burger - Pacific Beach

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Chef Steve Brown’s largest restaurant yet brings together a wagyu beef butcher shop, burgers, and a steakhouse experience in an expansive space in Pacific Beach. The recently-remodeled restaurant and bar now offers upscale dinner service (including his wagyu tasting menu) along with brunch.

Large patio filled with chairs and tables with a red sunshade overhead.
Swagyu Chop Shop & Burger
J.Dixx Photography

Gold Finch Modern Delicatessen

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The Urban Kitchen Group’s interpretation of a modern Jewish delicatessen is a breezy Torrey Pines area restaurant where its chefs are taking on all of the essentials, from stocking the deli counter with staples like chicken liver pate, egg salad, and pastrami to baking up fresh knishes, rugelach, and honey cake. Its daytime menu includes mazto ball soup, noodle kugel, and brisket, along with retooled classics like the popular giant latke topped with a fried egg, mushroom, broccoli rabe, horseradish, and labneh.

A communal table inside a modern restaurant.
The dining room.
Kimberly Motos

Qin West Noodle

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Still drawing lines at peak meal times, this fast-casual Chinese transplant from the LA area landed at Westfield UTC bearing a quick-service menu that does serviceable versions of stir-fried classics, including chicken chow mein and beef fried rice, but excels more in its noodle-based regional specialties. Highlights range from noodles tossed with beef shank, pickled cabbage, peanuts, and lily flowers to cold dressed noodles with cucumber, and a beef noodle soup that can be customized with various noodle shapes.

People eating inside a modern restaurant.
Qin West Noodle UTC.
Candice Woo

Haidilao Hotpot San Diego

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Reservations are recommended for this highly-anticipated restaurant that recently landed at Westfield UTC. As China’s largest high-end hot pot chain, Haidilao is known for its attentive service and thoughtful extras, including wireless phone charging at tables and protective aprons and bags for keeping diners’ clothes and smartphones tidy. Its tomato and spicy Sichuan hot pot are the most popular, but you can try up to four broths per tabletop.

Wolf In The Woods

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Its Mission Hills neighbors are thrilled that this long-awaited restaurant has finally opened. The cozy, wine-focused space features a New Mexican-inspired design and serves an eclectic menu of snacks and tapas from executive chef Carmine Lopez (Great Maple) that includes yellowtail aguachile, harissa octopus, and citrus-cured salmon.

Crudo Ceviche & Oyster Bar

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This sparkling new addition to the Little Italy dining scene is 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 from executive chef Miguel Angel Gomez. Seafood-friendly drinks include sake, champagne, and a selection of labels from wine regions throughout Mexico.

A raw bar at a seafood restaurant.
The raw bar at Crudo.
Kimberly Motos

The Desmond

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Acclaimed LA chef Jason Neroni of Venice Beach icon, the Rose, has been spending significant time in San Diego where he created this sleek new restaurant for downtown’s revamped and renamed Kimpton Alma. Supported by chef de cuisine Aldo Negrete and pastry chef Erin Steidley, Neroni’s seasonal menu for the dinner-only space includes everything-spiced Parker House rolls served with black sesame and smoked eggplant dip and local black cod prepared in the style of Japanese unagi. The chef, who is in the process of opening a highly-anticipated pizzeria in LA, will reportedly be bringing his pizza prowess to a new poolside bar opening at the hotel later this year.

A modern dining room.
The dining room.
The Desmond

Jomaru Korean Hot Pot (조마루 감자탕)

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San Diegans are the first to try this global chain with hundreds of outposts in Asia that just debuted stateside. Specializing in gamjatang, a traditional pork bone-based stew, Jomaru Korean Hot Pot serves the hearty and warming dish in individual and shareable portions with optional additions like noodles and rice cakes. Finish your meal with fried rice cooked with the remaining bits of meat and vegetables. Other dishes to try include crispy-edged chive and seafood pancakes and bo ssam, cabbage wraps with pork belly and oysters.

A pot of gamjatang.
A medium-sized pot of gamjatang.
Candice Woo

ARTIFACT at Mingei

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The stunning renovation of the Mingei Museum includes sleek and modern new restaurant from well-established hospitality group behind Cucina Urbana. Situated among the museum’s collection, Artifact offers a transportive menu that spans the globe, with beautifully-presented dishes and accomplished cocktails. A new dinner experience, featuring a three course prix fixe menu or a la carte items is now offered on Thursday and Friday evenings.

A sleek and modern restaurant dining room and cocktail bar. Kimberly Motos

Mabel's Gone Fishing

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A gift to North Park from the ladies behind the Rose, this Spanish-meets-SoCal spot serves up wine-friendly dishes that showcase local seafood. With an adjacent bottle shop specializing in natural wine, the restaurant also makes a strong showing in cocktails of the gin-based variety.

A curved cocktail bar.
The cocktail bar.
Kimberly Motos

Little Thief/Papalito

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With an impeccably curated wine list, this bar and bistro from the team behind Vino Carta and Bottlecraft is the hottest new hangout in North Park. Pair a glass of something natty with smoked meat from Papalito, chef Drew Bent’s in-house Sonoran barbecue outfit, or a sandwich stuffed with fried chicken or smoked local fish.

Tables inside a wine bar.
The dining room at Little Thief.
Kimberly Motos

Grand Ole BBQ Y Asado

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After three years away, Grand Ole BBQ’s original spot in North Park is back and more grand than ever; the soaring space now features a larger patio along with an indoor dining area and bar. In addition to its accomplished Texas-style barbecue (and Argentine specialties on Sundays), the restaurant has expanded its menu to include more vegan options, sides, and desserts.

A casual dining room filled with picnic tables. Kimberly Motos

White Rice Bodega

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Chef Phillip Esteban’s first stand-alone restaurant for his Filipino rice bowl chain pairs the fast-casual menu with beer and natural wine. Its silog bowls come topped with everything from crispy pork belly to grilled chicken and a vegan mushroom and tofu sisig. Filipino flavors extend to desserts and drinks, including taho (sweetened tofu and fruit) and ube milk tea.

The outdoor patio of a restaurant. White Rice Bodega

Market on 8th

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South Bay’s thrilling food hall holds a diverse collection of cuisines, offering everything from Filipino, Thai, and Indonesian food to Southern barbecue. Built to service the local community and draw interested diners to downtown National City, the public market also houses a beer garden and tap station from Novo Brazil Brewing.

Exterior of building with Market on 8th sign. Kimberly Motos

Izakaya Maíze

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The first solo restaurant from chef Nate Horton (Swagyu, Animae) highlights his background in wagyu beef and Asian cuisine, mixing high-end steaks with modern izakaya dishes and influences and ingredients that reflect his Hispanic heritage. Bringing a rare tasting menu opportunity to East County, the bar also offers creative cocktails that showcase Japanese whisky and agave spirits.

A modern Japanese restaurant’s dining room.
Inside Izakaya Maize.
James Tran

Matsu

Chef William Eick’s fine dining take on modern Japanese cuisine, which started as a pop-up before opening in its own intimate space in Oceanside’s Tremont District, spotlights progressive dishes that combine Japanese technique with Southern California ingredients.

A matcha ice cream waffle on a large dish.
A dessert course at Matsu.
Matsu

Sandpiper Wood Fired Grill & Oysters

The George’s at the Cove team has replaced Galaxy Taco with a relaxed, upscale restaurant that brings fresh oysters to La Jolla Shores along with a flexible menu that includes wood-grilled meats like California squab, prime rib, and double-cut pork chops and accompanying sides. Executive chef Christine Rivera recently departed the restaurant and sous chef Marty Fay has been promoted to lead the kitchen.

A cocktail bar with an undersea mural on the back wall. Crave Imagery

Swagyu Chop Shop & Burger - Pacific Beach

Chef Steve Brown’s largest restaurant yet brings together a wagyu beef butcher shop, burgers, and a steakhouse experience in an expansive space in Pacific Beach. The recently-remodeled restaurant and bar now offers upscale dinner service (including his wagyu tasting menu) along with brunch.

Large patio filled with chairs and tables with a red sunshade overhead.
Swagyu Chop Shop & Burger
J.Dixx Photography

Gold Finch Modern Delicatessen

The Urban Kitchen Group’s interpretation of a modern Jewish delicatessen is a breezy Torrey Pines area restaurant where its chefs are taking on all of the essentials, from stocking the deli counter with staples like chicken liver pate, egg salad, and pastrami to baking up fresh knishes, rugelach, and honey cake. Its daytime menu includes mazto ball soup, noodle kugel, and brisket, along with retooled classics like the popular giant latke topped with a fried egg, mushroom, broccoli rabe, horseradish, and labneh.

A communal table inside a modern restaurant.
The dining room.
Kimberly Motos

Qin West Noodle

Still drawing lines at peak meal times, this fast-casual Chinese transplant from the LA area landed at Westfield UTC bearing a quick-service menu that does serviceable versions of stir-fried classics, including chicken chow mein and beef fried rice, but excels more in its noodle-based regional specialties. Highlights range from noodles tossed with beef shank, pickled cabbage, peanuts, and lily flowers to cold dressed noodles with cucumber, and a beef noodle soup that can be customized with various noodle shapes.

People eating inside a modern restaurant.
Qin West Noodle UTC.
Candice Woo

Haidilao Hotpot San Diego

Reservations are recommended for this highly-anticipated restaurant that recently landed at Westfield UTC. As China’s largest high-end hot pot chain, Haidilao is known for its attentive service and thoughtful extras, including wireless phone charging at tables and protective aprons and bags for keeping diners’ clothes and smartphones tidy. Its tomato and spicy Sichuan hot pot are the most popular, but you can try up to four broths per tabletop.

Wolf In The Woods

Its Mission Hills neighbors are thrilled that this long-awaited restaurant has finally opened. The cozy, wine-focused space features a New Mexican-inspired design and serves an eclectic menu of snacks and tapas from executive chef Carmine Lopez (Great Maple) that includes yellowtail aguachile, harissa octopus, and citrus-cured salmon.

Crudo Ceviche & Oyster Bar

This sparkling new addition to the Little Italy dining scene is 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 from executive chef Miguel Angel Gomez. Seafood-friendly drinks include sake, champagne, and a selection of labels from wine regions throughout Mexico.

A raw bar at a seafood restaurant.
The raw bar at Crudo.
Kimberly Motos

The Desmond

Acclaimed LA chef Jason Neroni of Venice Beach icon, the Rose, has been spending significant time in San Diego where he created this sleek new restaurant for downtown’s revamped and renamed Kimpton Alma. Supported by chef de cuisine Aldo Negrete and pastry chef Erin Steidley, Neroni’s seasonal menu for the dinner-only space includes everything-spiced Parker House rolls served with black sesame and smoked eggplant dip and local black cod prepared in the style of Japanese unagi. The chef, who is in the process of opening a highly-anticipated pizzeria in LA, will reportedly be bringing his pizza prowess to a new poolside bar opening at the hotel later this year.

A modern dining room.
The dining room.
The Desmond

Jomaru Korean Hot Pot (조마루 감자탕)

San Diegans are the first to try this global chain with hundreds of outposts in Asia that just debuted stateside. Specializing in gamjatang, a traditional pork bone-based stew, Jomaru Korean Hot Pot serves the hearty and warming dish in individual and shareable portions with optional additions like noodles and rice cakes. Finish your meal with fried rice cooked with the remaining bits of meat and vegetables. Other dishes to try include crispy-edged chive and seafood pancakes and bo ssam, cabbage wraps with pork belly and oysters.

A pot of gamjatang.
A medium-sized pot of gamjatang.
Candice Woo

ARTIFACT at Mingei

The stunning renovation of the Mingei Museum includes sleek and modern new restaurant from well-established hospitality group behind Cucina Urbana. Situated among the museum’s collection, Artifact offers a transportive menu that spans the globe, with beautifully-presented dishes and accomplished cocktails. A new dinner experience, featuring a three course prix fixe menu or a la carte items is now offered on Thursday and Friday evenings.

A sleek and modern restaurant dining room and cocktail bar. Kimberly Motos

Mabel's Gone Fishing

A gift to North Park from the ladies behind the Rose, this Spanish-meets-SoCal spot serves up wine-friendly dishes that showcase local seafood. With an adjacent bottle shop specializing in natural wine, the restaurant also makes a strong showing in cocktails of the gin-based variety.

A curved cocktail bar.
The cocktail bar.
Kimberly Motos

Little Thief/Papalito

With an impeccably curated wine list, this bar and bistro from the team behind Vino Carta and Bottlecraft is the hottest new hangout in North Park. Pair a glass of something natty with smoked meat from Papalito, chef Drew Bent’s in-house Sonoran barbecue outfit, or a sandwich stuffed with fried chicken or smoked local fish.

Tables inside a wine bar.
The dining room at Little Thief.
Kimberly Motos

Grand Ole BBQ Y Asado

After three years away, Grand Ole BBQ’s original spot in North Park is back and more grand than ever; the soaring space now features a larger patio along with an indoor dining area and bar. In addition to its accomplished Texas-style barbecue (and Argentine specialties on Sundays), the restaurant has expanded its menu to include more vegan options, sides, and desserts.

A casual dining room filled with picnic tables. Kimberly Motos

White Rice Bodega

Chef Phillip Esteban’s first stand-alone restaurant for his Filipino rice bowl chain pairs the fast-casual menu with beer and natural wine. Its silog bowls come topped with everything from crispy pork belly to grilled chicken and a vegan mushroom and tofu sisig. Filipino flavors extend to desserts and drinks, including taho (sweetened tofu and fruit) and ube milk tea.

The outdoor patio of a restaurant. White Rice Bodega

Related Maps

Market on 8th

South Bay’s thrilling food hall holds a diverse collection of cuisines, offering everything from Filipino, Thai, and Indonesian food to Southern barbecue. Built to service the local community and draw interested diners to downtown National City, the public market also houses a beer garden and tap station from Novo Brazil Brewing.

Exterior of building with Market on 8th sign. Kimberly Motos

Izakaya Maíze

The first solo restaurant from chef Nate Horton (Swagyu, Animae) highlights his background in wagyu beef and Asian cuisine, mixing high-end steaks with modern izakaya dishes and influences and ingredients that reflect his Hispanic heritage. Bringing a rare tasting menu opportunity to East County, the bar also offers creative cocktails that showcase Japanese whisky and agave spirits.

A modern Japanese restaurant’s dining room.
Inside Izakaya Maize.
James Tran

Related Maps