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Oysters at Verbena Kitchen
Oysters at Verbena Kitchen
Shay Studios

The Hottest New Restaurants in San Diego, September 2021

Check out the city’s newest restaurant discoveries

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Oysters at Verbena Kitchen
| Shay Studios

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.

Restaurants have been placed on the map in geographical order, from north to south.

Editor’s Note: The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions.

Know of a brand new restaurant with a good amount of heat that should be added to the list? Send us a tip!

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Small Barn Old Town

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28535 Old Town Front St
Temecula, CA 92590
(951) 225-2820
Visit Website

Arriving last summer in Old Town Temecula and recently reopened for outdoor dining, this modern bistro house in a renovated historic building is an extension of a local boutique winery and boasts a menu from “Top Chef” veteran Angelo Sosa, who previously gained acclaim for his culinary creations at Death by Tequila in Encinitas.

2. Ember & Rye

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7447 Batiquitos Dr
Carlsbad, CA 92011
(760) 448-1234
Visit Website

With two weeks of 100 reservations per night booked even before the restaurant officially opened, it’s safe to say that San Diegans are curious about the latest restaurant from celebrity chef and ‘Top Chef’ veteran Richard Blais. Part of the Park Hyatt Aviara, it’s a steakhouse, of sorts, fueled by a wood-fired grill on the patio, but also houses a tasting bar where chefs plate playful snacks like white chocolate-covered radishes and caviar with fish-shaped pancakes.

Beef tartare at Richard Blais’s Ember & Rye
Beef tartare
Courtesy photo

3. Vaga

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2100 N Coast Hwy 101
Encinitas, CA 92024
(760) 452-3500
Visit Website

Acclaimed chef Claudette Zepeda’s latest, deeply personal restaurant project is Vaga at the new Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas. Though Zepeda originally gained notice for dishes that explored and celebrated her Mexican heritage, this menu reflects the diversity of food the chef has discovered while living and cooking in her hometown of San Diego.

Dan Dan pastry at Vaga
Dan Dan pastry
Kimberly Motos

4. Waverly

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2005 San Elijo Ave
Cardiff, CA 92007
(760) 230-1682
Visit Website

The second act for the group behind Kettner Exchange, which opened its first North County project, a welcome addition to the Cardiff neighborhood. While their other eateries are nighttime hot spots, Waverly is a more relaxed restaurant that gives chef Brian Redizkowski the chance to create a daytime-focused menu.

5. The Shop: Pizza + Cocktails

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11967 Bernardo Plaza Dr
San Diego, CA 92128
(858) 524-6565
Visit Website

A pair of brothers, vets of the San Francisco pizza scene, bring a much-needed new dining option to Rancho Bernardo. The family-friendly space, which also serves notable cocktails, specializes in deep dish pizza.

Bar and dining area of The Shop in Rancho Bernardo Courtesy photo

6. Sky Deck

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3790 Townsgate Dr
San Diego, CA 92130
(858) 793-5757
Visit Website

Del Mar Highlands Town Center’s new multi-restaurant collective is still filling in, but there’s plenty to eat and drink right now. The Sky Deck spans a beer deck and central craft cocktail bar called Understory, plus other self-contained outposts from local favorites like Ambrogio15 (which introduced new pizzas and other dishes from a Michein-starred chef), KiinThai, and Le Parfait Paris as well as Bay Area transplant Marufuku Ramen.

Milano City of Gold pizza (Burrata, Saffron Bechamel, Breaded Veal Eye of Round Milanese Style, Bone Marrow, Raw Filet Mignon Tartare, Gremolata, 24k Gold Leaf)
Milano City of Gold pizza
Courtesy photo

7. La Clochette Du Coin

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4680 Cass St
San Diego, CA 92109
(858) 412-5558
Visit Website

This European-inspired cafe’s in-house bakery produces fresh-baked pastries and artisan breads that provide the foundation for an expanded menu that includes tartines, omelettes, salads and more

8. Swagyu Chop Shop & Burger - Pacific Beach

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966 Felspar St
San Diego, CA 92109

Chef Steve Brown has landed his wagyu beef butcher shop and burger concept in an expansive new home in Pacific Beach where the restaurant and bar can also host multi-course chef tasting dinner. Brown intends to add a you-call-it steakhouse component based on the extensive meat counter.

front patio of Swagyu Chop Shop & Burger
Swagyu Chop Shop & Burger
J.Dixx Photography

9. Fortunate Son

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2943 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 391-3766
Visit Website

CH Projects transformed Soda & Swine on Adams Avenue into a takeout-tailored Chinese American eatery serving up chef Tony Guan’s rendition on classic Americanized Chinese cuisine, including egg foo young, crab rangoon, and General Tso’s chicken.

Courtesy photo

10. The Wise Ox Butcher & Eatery

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2855 El Cajon Blvd Suite 1
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 564-8976
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The group behind Trust and Fort Oak restaurants took over popular butcher shop The Heart & Trotter, expanding beyond its well-stocked meat counter to including sandwiches, weekend specials, and prepared food.

Courtesy photo

11. Menya Ultra Hillcrest

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690 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 782-9060
Visit Website

Ramen master Takashi Endo’s newest noodle shop is where to find brand new menu items, including shio tonkotsu ajitama ramen and Nagoya-style karaage. The Hillcrest location is also the only spot to feature his latest vegan versions of shio and miso ramen. For the first two weeks of April, the restaurant is offering 30 percent off all ramen, beer specials, delivery discounts, and free Hammond’s ice cream with every ramen purchase.

vegan shio ramen at Menya Ultra in Hillcrest
Vegan shio ramen
Courtesy photo

12. Hoxton Manor

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3131 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 230-5017
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This North Park newcomer is run by veterans of Oceanside’s Dija Mara, Eater’s 2018 Restaurant of the Year. While Southeast Asian cuisine is still in the spotlight here, the focus has mostly shifted to Vietnam and Thailand with modern, SoCal sensibilities applied to traditional flavors.

Courtesy photo

13. Civico by The Park

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2550 Fifth Ave UNIT 120
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 310-5669
Visit Website

The brothers behind Il Dandy in Bankers Hill revamped the space into a reflection of Civico 1845, their successful Little Italy restaurant. This location offers favorite dishes, including its well-received vegan menu, as well as both Calabrian and Roman-style pizza.

James Tran + Olivia Beall

14. Callie

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1195 Island Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 255-9696
Visit Website

The long-awaited solo project from Boulud alum and hometown chef Travis Swikard is the hottest reservation in town, with the East Village restaurant and bar earning early acclaim for its skillful and approachable California-Mediterranean cuisine.

A table with a glass of wine, sliced baguette and a plate of burrata agnolini topped with zucchini blossoms
Callie
Kimberly Motos

15. Sovereign Thai Cuisine

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1460 J St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 310-5837
Visit Website

Newly-opened at the edge of Fault Line Park in the East Village, this Asian restaurant increases awareness of Issan cuisine, the traditional food of the Thailand’s northeastern region. Currently offering to-go service, its partners are veterans of Thai Papaya and Sab-E-Lee, two local Thai standouts. Their menu includes both Thai and Lao versions of papaya salad and other lesser seen dishes like Thai-style fried chicken as well as curries, noodles, and more.

16. Verbena Kitchen

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3043 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 269-5776
Visit Website

Veteran local chef Ronnie Schwandt’s first solo restaurant is a little more than a month old and just added a Sunday-only brunch that includes chilaquiles, shrimp and grits, and a BLT with Canadian bacon as well as early hits from his regular seasonal menu like the deviled eggs and wagyu beef tartare. Sunday drink specials range from white truffle-infused Bloody Mary to a cold brew cocktail spiked with vodka.

Courtesy photo

1. Small Barn Old Town

28535 Old Town Front St, Temecula, CA 92590

Arriving last summer in Old Town Temecula and recently reopened for outdoor dining, this modern bistro house in a renovated historic building is an extension of a local boutique winery and boasts a menu from “Top Chef” veteran Angelo Sosa, who previously gained acclaim for his culinary creations at Death by Tequila in Encinitas.

28535 Old Town Front St
Temecula, CA 92590

2. Ember & Rye

7447 Batiquitos Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92011
Beef tartare at Richard Blais’s Ember & Rye
Beef tartare
Courtesy photo

With two weeks of 100 reservations per night booked even before the restaurant officially opened, it’s safe to say that San Diegans are curious about the latest restaurant from celebrity chef and ‘Top Chef’ veteran Richard Blais. Part of the Park Hyatt Aviara, it’s a steakhouse, of sorts, fueled by a wood-fired grill on the patio, but also houses a tasting bar where chefs plate playful snacks like white chocolate-covered radishes and caviar with fish-shaped pancakes.

7447 Batiquitos Dr
Carlsbad, CA 92011

3. Vaga

2100 N Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024
Dan Dan pastry at Vaga
Dan Dan pastry
Kimberly Motos

Acclaimed chef Claudette Zepeda’s latest, deeply personal restaurant project is Vaga at the new Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas. Though Zepeda originally gained notice for dishes that explored and celebrated her Mexican heritage, this menu reflects the diversity of food the chef has discovered while living and cooking in her hometown of San Diego.

2100 N Coast Hwy 101
Encinitas, CA 92024

4. Waverly

2005 San Elijo Ave, Cardiff, CA 92007

The second act for the group behind Kettner Exchange, which opened its first North County project, a welcome addition to the Cardiff neighborhood. While their other eateries are nighttime hot spots, Waverly is a more relaxed restaurant that gives chef Brian Redizkowski the chance to create a daytime-focused menu.

2005 San Elijo Ave
Cardiff, CA 92007

5. The Shop: Pizza + Cocktails

11967 Bernardo Plaza Dr, San Diego, CA 92128
Bar and dining area of The Shop in Rancho Bernardo Courtesy photo

A pair of brothers, vets of the San Francisco pizza scene, bring a much-needed new dining option to Rancho Bernardo. The family-friendly space, which also serves notable cocktails, specializes in deep dish pizza.

11967 Bernardo Plaza Dr
San Diego, CA 92128

6. Sky Deck

3790 Townsgate Dr, San Diego, CA 92130
Milano City of Gold pizza (Burrata, Saffron Bechamel, Breaded Veal Eye of Round Milanese Style, Bone Marrow, Raw Filet Mignon Tartare, Gremolata, 24k Gold Leaf)
Milano City of Gold pizza
Courtesy photo

Del Mar Highlands Town Center’s new multi-restaurant collective is still filling in, but there’s plenty to eat and drink right now. The Sky Deck spans a beer deck and central craft cocktail bar called Understory, plus other self-contained outposts from local favorites like Ambrogio15 (which introduced new pizzas and other dishes from a Michein-starred chef), KiinThai, and Le Parfait Paris as well as Bay Area transplant Marufuku Ramen.

3790 Townsgate Dr
San Diego, CA 92130

7. La Clochette Du Coin

4680 Cass St, San Diego, CA 92109

This European-inspired cafe’s in-house bakery produces fresh-baked pastries and artisan breads that provide the foundation for an expanded menu that includes tartines, omelettes, salads and more

4680 Cass St
San Diego, CA 92109

8. Swagyu Chop Shop & Burger - Pacific Beach

966 Felspar St, San Diego, CA 92109
front patio of Swagyu Chop Shop & Burger
Swagyu Chop Shop & Burger
J.Dixx Photography

Chef Steve Brown has landed his wagyu beef butcher shop and burger concept in an expansive new home in Pacific Beach where the restaurant and bar can also host multi-course chef tasting dinner. Brown intends to add a you-call-it steakhouse component based on the extensive meat counter.

966 Felspar St
San Diego, CA 92109

9. Fortunate Son

2943 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
Courtesy photo

CH Projects transformed Soda & Swine on Adams Avenue into a takeout-tailored Chinese American eatery serving up chef Tony Guan’s rendition on classic Americanized Chinese cuisine, including egg foo young, crab rangoon, and General Tso’s chicken.

2943 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116

10. The Wise Ox Butcher & Eatery

2855 El Cajon Blvd Suite 1, San Diego, CA 92104
Courtesy photo

The group behind Trust and Fort Oak restaurants took over popular butcher shop The Heart & Trotter, expanding beyond its well-stocked meat counter to including sandwiches, weekend specials, and prepared food.

2855 El Cajon Blvd Suite 1
San Diego, CA 92104

11. Menya Ultra Hillcrest

690 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
vegan shio ramen at Menya Ultra in Hillcrest
Vegan shio ramen
Courtesy photo

Ramen master Takashi Endo’s newest noodle shop is where to find brand new menu items, including shio tonkotsu ajitama ramen and Nagoya-style karaage. The Hillcrest location is also the only spot to feature his latest vegan versions of shio and miso ramen. For the first two weeks of April, the restaurant is offering 30 percent off all ramen, beer specials, delivery discounts, and free Hammond’s ice cream with every ramen purchase.

690 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92103

12. Hoxton Manor

3131 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
Courtesy photo

This North Park newcomer is run by veterans of Oceanside’s Dija Mara, Eater’s 2018 Restaurant of the Year. While Southeast Asian cuisine is still in the spotlight here, the focus has mostly shifted to Vietnam and Thailand with modern, SoCal sensibilities applied to traditional flavors.

3131 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92104

13. Civico by The Park

2550 Fifth Ave UNIT 120, San Diego, CA 92103
James Tran + Olivia Beall

The brothers behind Il Dandy in Bankers Hill revamped the space into a reflection of Civico 1845, their successful Little Italy restaurant. This location offers favorite dishes, including its well-received vegan menu, as well as both Calabrian and Roman-style pizza.

2550 Fifth Ave UNIT 120
San Diego, CA 92103

14. Callie

1195 Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
A table with a glass of wine, sliced baguette and a plate of burrata agnolini topped with zucchini blossoms
Callie
Kimberly Motos

The long-awaited solo project from Boulud alum and hometown chef Travis Swikard is the hottest reservation in town, with the East Village restaurant and bar earning early acclaim for its skillful and approachable California-Mediterranean cuisine.

1195 Island Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

15. Sovereign Thai Cuisine

1460 J St, San Diego, CA 92101

Newly-opened at the edge of Fault Line Park in the East Village, this Asian restaurant increases awareness of Issan cuisine, the traditional food of the Thailand’s northeastern region. Currently offering to-go service, its partners are veterans of Thai Papaya and Sab-E-Lee, two local Thai standouts. Their menu includes both Thai and Lao versions of papaya salad and other lesser seen dishes like Thai-style fried chicken as well as curries, noodles, and more.

1460 J St
San Diego, CA 92101

Related Maps

16. Verbena Kitchen

3043 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
Courtesy photo

Veteran local chef Ronnie Schwandt’s first solo restaurant is a little more than a month old and just added a Sunday-only brunch that includes chilaquiles, shrimp and grits, and a BLT with Canadian bacon as well as early hits from his regular seasonal menu like the deviled eggs and wagyu beef tartare. Sunday drink specials range from white truffle-infused Bloody Mary to a cold brew cocktail spiked with vodka.

3043 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92104

Related Maps