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A bowl of mussels.
Mussels at Books & Records.
Kimberly Motos

The Hottest Restaurants in San Diego, February 2024

The latest lineup includes a restaurant that offers live jazz

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Mussels at Books & Records.
| Kimberly Motos

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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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.

HomeState

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This LA-based sensation specializes in classic Texas-style breakfast tacos based on homemade flour tortillas and pastured eggs. Besides its bestselling tacos, HomeState is also getting high marks for its creamy queso dip and refreshing house cocktails like frozen spicy Palomas and tequila highballs.

The front of a restaurant.
The Oceanside outpost.
Kimberly Motos

Ramen Nagi

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Does San Diego need another ramen shop? Apparently yes, judging from the ever-present line outside this ramen-ya at Westfield UTC. Though Ramen Nagi is famous in Tokyo for its niboshi (dried fish) ramen, its stateside restaurants specialize in pork-based tonkotsu, with other broth options ranging from spicy miso to squid ink or pesto. Customers are also able to select the thickness and firmness of their noodles, as well as a preferred level of garlic or oil for their bowls Don’t miss the lacy-edged gyoza, too.

Tables inside a ramen shop.
Inside the UTC location.
Kimberly Motos

Elegant and breezy, the La Jolla restaurant interprets modern Italian cuisine with dishes that encapsulate what it is to cook seasonally in San Diego. Recently-installed executive chef Cameron Ingle (Bestia, Pico) is serving whole line-caught local fish as well as handmade pasta like brown butter raviolini filled with honey nut squash.

Carpaccio with American wagyu, pine nuts, and horseradish.
Carpaccio at Marisi
Jim Sullivan

Yuk Dae Jang

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Consistently drawing crowds in Kearny Mesa is the first local outpost from a time-tested Korean chain whose comforting menu includes its namesake dish, a spicy beef and vegetable soup that can be augmented with fresh noodles, as well as tender-skinned homemade mandu (dumplings), pork belly and cabbage wraps, and chilled buckwheat noodles that are the perfect warm weather refresher.

Korean beef soup with fresh noodles.
Yukdaejang with fresh noodles.
Yuk Dae Jang

Spicy Lao Kitchen

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Finding its footing in Kearny Mesa is this family-owned Southeast Asian restaurant centered around Lao cuisine, with standouts that include lemongrass-studded Lao sausage, Lao-style papaya salad, a crispy rice dish called nam khao, and khao piek sen, a lesser-seen Lao noodle soup. A spice level of five is powerfully, properly Lao spicy but dishes can also be ordered with less heat.

A restaurant storefront. Candice Woo

Sushi Ichifuji

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Two highly-trained itamae, veterans of the Michelin-starred Soichi Sushi as well as downtown’s popular Taka Sushi, have paired up to open a sleek restaurant in Linda Vista that showcases their sushi skills through an eight-course omakase menu. With two seatings per night and just 10 seats, reservations are required for the seasonal seafood experience.

A plate of sashimi.
The sashimi course at Sushi Ichifuji.
Candice Woo

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

Two local chefs, alums of casual standouts like Tender Greens and LA’s Gjusta, are behind this daytime cafe with an ultra-seasonal menu whose dishes change on the regular. Tartines of local sourdough bread might be topped with ricotta and fresh fruit preserves or soft scrambled eggs and salmon roe, sandwiches could be filled with housemade porchetta or tuna conserva, and salads and soups rotate depending on prime produce. Keep an eye out for occasional dinner dates, too.

Assorted plates of food on a table.
Assorted dishes on Bica’s patio.
House-smoked salmon

Quixote

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In a dark and moody church-like space within the newly-resurrected Lafayette Hotel, Quixote applies a modern outlook to Oaxacan cuisine with a compelling menu that includes tetela —triangle-shaped masa pockets filled with duck confit — grilled octopus with mole pipian, crab corn doughnuts with burnt chile emulsion, and Oaxacan cheese fondue. Overseeing the open-hearth kitchen is chef José Cepeda, who cooked at contemporary Mexican spots like Mirame in Beverly Hills.

A dining room with stained glass windows.
Quixote’s main dining room.
Kimberly Motos

The newest venture for the team behind Italian charmer Cesarina, this chic and casual Ocean Beach restaurant revolves around the food culture of Rome, with tables sharing carafes of wine and special dishes of the day, including the standout, only-available-on-Saturdays trippa alla romana. The menu extends to some of the city’s best-known classics, from cacio e pepe and pasta carbonara to a version of Roman-style pizza.

Italian food on a table.
Various dishes at Elvira.
Arlene Ibarra

Patisserie Melanie

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A former cottage business turned full-fledged bakery and cafe in North Park whose high-demand baked goods range from buttery viennoiseries like pistachio croissants and kouign-amann to delicate canneles and macarons. Its just-launched dinner service includes French bistro classics like coq au vin, boeuf Bourgignon, and île flottante. 

Assorted pastries and drinks on a table.
Assorted pastries from Pâtisserie Mélanie.
@karijcreativeco

Kinme Omakase

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The Japanese tradition of kaiseki is on display at this intimate and special spot in Bankers Hill from the team behind Azuki Sushi. The 10-seat restaurant hosts two seatings per night for its 10-course seasonal tasting menus that combine sushi and sashimi with grilled and cooked dishes.

A chef plates sashimi.
A sashimi course at Kinme.
James Tran

Books & Records

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Books & Records breathes new life into a hallowed restaurant space in Bankers Hill where live music, including jazz, soul, and R&B, is offered several nights a week. Operated by the owners of Hillcrest’s popular Common Stock, the comfortable space serves a dinner menu from chef Sam Deckman highlighted by scallop and shrimp aguachile with tomatillo nước chấm and a shareable platter of Coca-Cola-braised duck carnitas paired with shiso pancakes, salsa macha, and salsa verde..

Assorted dishes of food.
Selections from the menu at Books & Records.
Kimberly Motos

Fish Guts

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Veteran chef Pablo Becker mans this friendly counter in Barrio Logan where local and sustainable fish informs the menu. Its only lunch offering is a practically perfect fried fish sandwich while dinner hinges around tasty tacos, from opah al pastor and coconut shrimp to an umami-laden mushroom version topped with crispy cheese.

A fried fish sandwich.
The famous fish sandwich.
Fish Guts

HomeState

This LA-based sensation specializes in classic Texas-style breakfast tacos based on homemade flour tortillas and pastured eggs. Besides its bestselling tacos, HomeState is also getting high marks for its creamy queso dip and refreshing house cocktails like frozen spicy Palomas and tequila highballs.

The front of a restaurant.
The Oceanside outpost.
Kimberly Motos

Ramen Nagi

Does San Diego need another ramen shop? Apparently yes, judging from the ever-present line outside this ramen-ya at Westfield UTC. Though Ramen Nagi is famous in Tokyo for its niboshi (dried fish) ramen, its stateside restaurants specialize in pork-based tonkotsu, with other broth options ranging from spicy miso to squid ink or pesto. Customers are also able to select the thickness and firmness of their noodles, as well as a preferred level of garlic or oil for their bowls Don’t miss the lacy-edged gyoza, too.

Tables inside a ramen shop.
Inside the UTC location.
Kimberly Motos

Marisi

Elegant and breezy, the La Jolla restaurant interprets modern Italian cuisine with dishes that encapsulate what it is to cook seasonally in San Diego. Recently-installed executive chef Cameron Ingle (Bestia, Pico) is serving whole line-caught local fish as well as handmade pasta like brown butter raviolini filled with honey nut squash.

Carpaccio with American wagyu, pine nuts, and horseradish.
Carpaccio at Marisi
Jim Sullivan

Yuk Dae Jang

Consistently drawing crowds in Kearny Mesa is the first local outpost from a time-tested Korean chain whose comforting menu includes its namesake dish, a spicy beef and vegetable soup that can be augmented with fresh noodles, as well as tender-skinned homemade mandu (dumplings), pork belly and cabbage wraps, and chilled buckwheat noodles that are the perfect warm weather refresher.

Korean beef soup with fresh noodles.
Yukdaejang with fresh noodles.
Yuk Dae Jang

Spicy Lao Kitchen

Finding its footing in Kearny Mesa is this family-owned Southeast Asian restaurant centered around Lao cuisine, with standouts that include lemongrass-studded Lao sausage, Lao-style papaya salad, a crispy rice dish called nam khao, and khao piek sen, a lesser-seen Lao noodle soup. A spice level of five is powerfully, properly Lao spicy but dishes can also be ordered with less heat.

A restaurant storefront. Candice Woo

Sushi Ichifuji

Two highly-trained itamae, veterans of the Michelin-starred Soichi Sushi as well as downtown’s popular Taka Sushi, have paired up to open a sleek restaurant in Linda Vista that showcases their sushi skills through an eight-course omakase menu. With two seatings per night and just 10 seats, reservations are required for the seasonal seafood experience.

A plate of sashimi.
The sashimi course at Sushi Ichifuji.
Candice Woo

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

Bica

Two local chefs, alums of casual standouts like Tender Greens and LA’s Gjusta, are behind this daytime cafe with an ultra-seasonal menu whose dishes change on the regular. Tartines of local sourdough bread might be topped with ricotta and fresh fruit preserves or soft scrambled eggs and salmon roe, sandwiches could be filled with housemade porchetta or tuna conserva, and salads and soups rotate depending on prime produce. Keep an eye out for occasional dinner dates, too.

Assorted plates of food on a table.
Assorted dishes on Bica’s patio.
House-smoked salmon

Quixote

In a dark and moody church-like space within the newly-resurrected Lafayette Hotel, Quixote applies a modern outlook to Oaxacan cuisine with a compelling menu that includes tetela —triangle-shaped masa pockets filled with duck confit — grilled octopus with mole pipian, crab corn doughnuts with burnt chile emulsion, and Oaxacan cheese fondue. Overseeing the open-hearth kitchen is chef José Cepeda, who cooked at contemporary Mexican spots like Mirame in Beverly Hills.

A dining room with stained glass windows.
Quixote’s main dining room.
Kimberly Motos

Elvira

The newest venture for the team behind Italian charmer Cesarina, this chic and casual Ocean Beach restaurant revolves around the food culture of Rome, with tables sharing carafes of wine and special dishes of the day, including the standout, only-available-on-Saturdays trippa alla romana. The menu extends to some of the city’s best-known classics, from cacio e pepe and pasta carbonara to a version of Roman-style pizza.

Italian food on a table.
Various dishes at Elvira.
Arlene Ibarra

Patisserie Melanie

A former cottage business turned full-fledged bakery and cafe in North Park whose high-demand baked goods range from buttery viennoiseries like pistachio croissants and kouign-amann to delicate canneles and macarons. Its just-launched dinner service includes French bistro classics like coq au vin, boeuf Bourgignon, and île flottante. 

Assorted pastries and drinks on a table.
Assorted pastries from Pâtisserie Mélanie.
@karijcreativeco

Kinme Omakase

The Japanese tradition of kaiseki is on display at this intimate and special spot in Bankers Hill from the team behind Azuki Sushi. The 10-seat restaurant hosts two seatings per night for its 10-course seasonal tasting menus that combine sushi and sashimi with grilled and cooked dishes.

A chef plates sashimi.
A sashimi course at Kinme.
James Tran

Books & Records

Books & Records breathes new life into a hallowed restaurant space in Bankers Hill where live music, including jazz, soul, and R&B, is offered several nights a week. Operated by the owners of Hillcrest’s popular Common Stock, the comfortable space serves a dinner menu from chef Sam Deckman highlighted by scallop and shrimp aguachile with tomatillo nước chấm and a shareable platter of Coca-Cola-braised duck carnitas paired with shiso pancakes, salsa macha, and salsa verde..

Assorted dishes of food.
Selections from the menu at Books & Records.
Kimberly Motos

Fish Guts

Veteran chef Pablo Becker mans this friendly counter in Barrio Logan where local and sustainable fish informs the menu. Its only lunch offering is a practically perfect fried fish sandwich while dinner hinges around tasty tacos, from opah al pastor and coconut shrimp to an umami-laden mushroom version topped with crispy cheese.

A fried fish sandwich.
The famous fish sandwich.
Fish Guts

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