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A bowl of braised beef shank with noodles and green vegetables.
Beef osso bucco with egg noodles.
Kimberly Motos

The Hottest New Restaurants in San Diego, January 2021

The city’s newest restaurant discoveries include a globally-minded spot in Balboa Park and a French charmer on 30th Street.

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Beef osso bucco with egg noodles.
| 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.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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. Valle Restaurant

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201 N Myers St
Oceanside, CA 92054

Chef Roberto Alcocer of the Valle de Guadalupe’s acclaimed Malva Cocina de Baja California has transported a taste of the region to Oceanside where his first stateside restaurant has opened at the Mission Pacific hotel. Offering a four-course tasting menu as well as an a la carte option, the fine-dining restaurant features dishes straight from Malva’s menu, made with ingredients from Baja and Southern California.

A long banquette flanked by plants with a painting of the Valle de Guadalupe hanging on the wall behind it.
Dining room at Valle.
Kimberly Motos

2. Vaga

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2100 N Coast Hwy 101
Encinitas, CA 92024
(760) 452-3500
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Acclaimed chef Claudette Zepeda’s latest, deeply personal restaurant project is Vaga at the 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 such as crispy dan dan pastry and lamb shank in pasilla curry.

A circular pastry filled with seasoned ground meat in a sesame sauce.
Dan Dan pastry at Vaga.
Kimberly Motos

3. Waverly

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2005 San Elijo Ave
Cardiff, CA 92007
(760) 230-1682
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The first North County project for the group behind nighttime hot spots Kettner Exchange and the Grass Skirt, Waverly is a more relaxed restaurant that gives chef Brian Redizkowski the chance to create a daytime-focused menu that includes brunch plates, rice bowls, salads, and sandwiches.

4. The Shop: Pizza + Cocktails

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11967 Bernardo Plaza Dr
San Diego, CA 92128
(858) 524-6565
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A pair of brothers, vets of the San Francisco pizza scene, brought this much-needed dining option to Rancho Bernardo. The family-friendly space, which also serves notable cocktails like a spicy paloma made with tequila, mezcal, grapefruit, and firewater bitters, specializes in deep dish pizzas including the the 858, topped with spinach, ricotta, garlic, mushrooms, red onions, crispy bacon.

Bar and dining area of The Shop in Rancho Bernardo. The Shop

5. Sky Deck

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3790 Townsgate Dr
San Diego, CA 92130
(858) 793-5757
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Del Mar Highlands Town Center’s 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.
Ambrogio15

6. Eastern Dynasty

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4690 Convoy St #109
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 836-1168
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Convoy Street has a new Chinese restaurant that specializes in Cantonese cuisine with an extensive menu highlighted by barbecue meats, including roast duck and crispy skinned pork as well as fresh, live seafood ranging from whole steamed fish to lobster with ginger and scallion.

Plate of half a roast duck sliced from Eastern Dynasty.
Roast duck.
Candice Woo

7. bb.q Chicken Convoy

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4344 Convoy St Q
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 268-7000
Visit Website

The newest contender in the Korean fried chicken battle might be the best one yet. This prolific Korean chain, which has been featured in several popular K-drama shows, brines its chicken before frying it to a satisfying crunch. Try the crispy-crusted golden original or the slightly-sweet soy garlic glaze as well as its commendable kimchi fried rice and spicy rice cakes.

A man stands behind a counter in the dining room of bb.q Chicken on Convoy Street. bb.q Chicken

8. La Clochette Du Coin

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

This European-style 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 in a charming, open-air atmosphere.

Two croissants garnished with a leaf-shaped cookie at La Clochette Du Coin. La Clochette Du Coin/Facebook

9. 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 combo in an expansive space in Pacific Beach. The restaurant and bar also offers brunch and a casual, you-call-it steakhouse experience based on its extensive meat counter.

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

10. Fortunate Son

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2943 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 391-3766
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CH Projects transformed Soda & Swine on Adams Avenue into a takeout-tailored Chinese American eatery serving up chef Tony Guan’s rendition of classic Americanized Chinese cuisine, including egg foo young, crab rangoon, and General Tso’s chicken.

A dish of pork belly garnished with chopped peppers and cilantro at Fortunate Son. Fortunate Son

11. Wormwood

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4677 30th St
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 915-6706
Visit Website

Celebrating absinthe and the spirit’s romantic history, this charming bistro and cocktail bar is earning early acclaim for its thoughtful menu, based on French classics refreshed with unexpected flavors and regional ingredients from Southern California and Baja.

A blue plate of sliced raw seafood in a chile sauce.
Scallop, octopus and kanpachi aguachile.
Arlene Ibarra

12. Tuetano Taqueria

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2548 Congress St
San Diego, CA 92110

After shuttering her original San Ysidro shop in October, chef Priscilla Curiel is now cooking up her acclaimed birria in the new Old Town Urban Market. With ample patio seating, the counter-service spot is serving up the spiced, slow-stewed beef in quesadillas, tortas, and her acclaimed birria tacos topped with roasted bone marrow.

A birria taco topped with bone marrow with consome and salsa on the side. Candice Woo

13. Menya Ultra Hillcrest

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690 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 782-9060
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Ramen master Takashi Endo’s latest noodle shop is the fresh spot for items like 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.

A bowl of ramen topped with mushrooms, green onions, and carrots at Menya Ultra in Hillcrest.
Vegan shio ramen
Menya Ultra

14. 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 serves dinner Wednesday through Saturday as well as Sunday brunch. The cozy North Park spot recently released its fall menus, which include fall squash hummus and Moroccan-spiced lamb loin and libations like the Autumn Feels with fall spice vodka, carrot juice, cardamom bitters, lemon and egg whites.

A tall creamy cocktail next to a plate of French toast with syrup being poured on top. Verbena Kitchen

15. Hoxton Manor

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3131 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 230-5017
Visit Website

This North Park newcomer is run by veterans of Oceanside’s Dija Mara, Eater’s restaurant of the year in 2018. 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 in dishes like wok-fried tofu with smoked tomato and wild squid fried rice.

A plate of tofu sauteed in a tomato sauce at Hoxton Manor. Hoxton Manor

16. ARTIFACT at Mingei

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1439 El Prado
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 704-7523
Visit Website

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

17. Sovereign Thai Cuisine

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

Located at the edge of Fault Line Park in the East Village, this Asian restaurant brings attention to Issan cuisine, the traditional food of the Thailand’s northeastern region. With partners that include alums of Thai Papaya and Sab-E-Lee, two local Thai standouts, its menu includes lesser-seen dishes like Thai-style fried chicken as well as curries, noodles, and more.

A plate of larb garnished with mint, chilies, and green onions at Sovereign Thai. Sovereign Thai/Facebook

18. Market on 8th

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41 E 8th St
National City, CA 91950
(619) 856-4538
Visit Website

The South Bay’s thrilling new 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

1. Valle Restaurant

201 N Myers St, Oceanside, CA 92054
A long banquette flanked by plants with a painting of the Valle de Guadalupe hanging on the wall behind it.
Dining room at Valle.
Kimberly Motos

Chef Roberto Alcocer of the Valle de Guadalupe’s acclaimed Malva Cocina de Baja California has transported a taste of the region to Oceanside where his first stateside restaurant has opened at the Mission Pacific hotel. Offering a four-course tasting menu as well as an a la carte option, the fine-dining restaurant features dishes straight from Malva’s menu, made with ingredients from Baja and Southern California.

201 N Myers St
Oceanside, CA 92054

2. Vaga

2100 N Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024
A circular pastry filled with seasoned ground meat in a sesame sauce.
Dan Dan pastry at Vaga.
Kimberly Motos

Acclaimed chef Claudette Zepeda’s latest, deeply personal restaurant project is Vaga at the 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 such as crispy dan dan pastry and lamb shank in pasilla curry.

2100 N Coast Hwy 101
Encinitas, CA 92024

3. Waverly

2005 San Elijo Ave, Cardiff, CA 92007

The first North County project for the group behind nighttime hot spots Kettner Exchange and the Grass Skirt, Waverly is a more relaxed restaurant that gives chef Brian Redizkowski the chance to create a daytime-focused menu that includes brunch plates, rice bowls, salads, and sandwiches.

2005 San Elijo Ave
Cardiff, CA 92007

4. The Shop: Pizza + Cocktails

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

A pair of brothers, vets of the San Francisco pizza scene, brought this much-needed dining option to Rancho Bernardo. The family-friendly space, which also serves notable cocktails like a spicy paloma made with tequila, mezcal, grapefruit, and firewater bitters, specializes in deep dish pizzas including the the 858, topped with spinach, ricotta, garlic, mushrooms, red onions, crispy bacon.

11967 Bernardo Plaza Dr
San Diego, CA 92128

5. 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.
Ambrogio15

Del Mar Highlands Town Center’s 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

6. Eastern Dynasty

4690 Convoy St #109, San Diego, CA 92111
Plate of half a roast duck sliced from Eastern Dynasty.
Roast duck.
Candice Woo

Convoy Street has a new Chinese restaurant that specializes in Cantonese cuisine with an extensive menu highlighted by barbecue meats, including roast duck and crispy skinned pork as well as fresh, live seafood ranging from whole steamed fish to lobster with ginger and scallion.

4690 Convoy St #109
San Diego, CA 92111

7. bb.q Chicken Convoy

4344 Convoy St Q, San Diego, CA 92111
A man stands behind a counter in the dining room of bb.q Chicken on Convoy Street. bb.q Chicken

The newest contender in the Korean fried chicken battle might be the best one yet. This prolific Korean chain, which has been featured in several popular K-drama shows, brines its chicken before frying it to a satisfying crunch. Try the crispy-crusted golden original or the slightly-sweet soy garlic glaze as well as its commendable kimchi fried rice and spicy rice cakes.

4344 Convoy St Q
San Diego, CA 92111

8. La Clochette Du Coin

4680 Cass St, San Diego, CA 92109
Two croissants garnished with a leaf-shaped cookie at La Clochette Du Coin. La Clochette Du Coin/Facebook

This European-style 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 in a charming, open-air atmosphere.

4680 Cass St
San Diego, CA 92109

9. Swagyu Chop Shop & Burger - Pacific Beach

966 Felspar St, San Diego, CA 92109
Large patio filled with chairs and tables with a red sunshade overhead.
Swagyu Chop Shop & Burger
J.Dixx Photography

Chef Steve Brown has landed his wagyu beef butcher shop and burger combo in an expansive space in Pacific Beach. The restaurant and bar also offers brunch and a casual, you-call-it steakhouse experience based on its extensive meat counter.

966 Felspar St
San Diego, CA 92109

10. Fortunate Son

2943 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
A dish of pork belly garnished with chopped peppers and cilantro at Fortunate Son. Fortunate Son

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

2943 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116

11. Wormwood

4677 30th St, San Diego, CA 92116
A blue plate of sliced raw seafood in a chile sauce.
Scallop, octopus and kanpachi aguachile.
Arlene Ibarra

Celebrating absinthe and the spirit’s romantic history, this charming bistro and cocktail bar is earning early acclaim for its thoughtful menu, based on French classics refreshed with unexpected flavors and regional ingredients from Southern California and Baja.

4677 30th St
San Diego, CA 92116

12. Tuetano Taqueria

2548 Congress St, San Diego, CA 92110
A birria taco topped with bone marrow with consome and salsa on the side. Candice Woo

After shuttering her original San Ysidro shop in October, chef Priscilla Curiel is now cooking up her acclaimed birria in the new Old Town Urban Market. With ample patio seating, the counter-service spot is serving up the spiced, slow-stewed beef in quesadillas, tortas, and her acclaimed birria tacos topped with roasted bone marrow.

2548 Congress St
San Diego, CA 92110

13. Menya Ultra Hillcrest

690 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
A bowl of ramen topped with mushrooms, green onions, and carrots at Menya Ultra in Hillcrest.
Vegan shio ramen
Menya Ultra

Ramen master Takashi Endo’s latest noodle shop is the fresh spot for items like 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.

690 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92103

14. Verbena Kitchen

3043 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
A tall creamy cocktail next to a plate of French toast with syrup being poured on top. Verbena Kitchen

Veteran local chef Ronnie Schwandt’s first solo restaurant serves dinner Wednesday through Saturday as well as Sunday brunch. The cozy North Park spot recently released its fall menus, which include fall squash hummus and Moroccan-spiced lamb loin and libations like the Autumn Feels with fall spice vodka, carrot juice, cardamom bitters, lemon and egg whites.

3043 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92104

15. Hoxton Manor

3131 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
A plate of tofu sauteed in a tomato sauce at Hoxton Manor. Hoxton Manor

This North Park newcomer is run by veterans of Oceanside’s Dija Mara, Eater’s restaurant of the year in 2018. 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 in dishes like wok-fried tofu with smoked tomato and wild squid fried rice.

3131 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92104

Related Maps

16. ARTIFACT at Mingei

1439 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
A sleek and modern restaurant dining room and cocktail bar. Kimberly Motos

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.

1439 El Prado
San Diego, CA 92101

17. Sovereign Thai Cuisine

1460 J St, San Diego, CA 92101
A plate of larb garnished with mint, chilies, and green onions at Sovereign Thai. Sovereign Thai/Facebook

Located at the edge of Fault Line Park in the East Village, this Asian restaurant brings attention to Issan cuisine, the traditional food of the Thailand’s northeastern region. With partners that include alums of Thai Papaya and Sab-E-Lee, two local Thai standouts, its menu includes lesser-seen dishes like Thai-style fried chicken as well as curries, noodles, and more.

1460 J St
San Diego, CA 92101

18. Market on 8th

41 E 8th St, National City, CA 91950
Exterior of building with Market on 8th sign. Kimberly Motos

The South Bay’s thrilling new 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.

41 E 8th St
National City, CA 91950

Related Maps