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14 Restaurants to Try in Carlsbad

Whether traditional or trendy, here’s some of the best eats in the Village by the Sea

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Calling itself the “Village by the Sea”, the city of Carlsbad is steadily building its reputation as a premier dining destination not just in North County but San Diego at large. Though there are still plenty of casual eating spots and family-friendly establishments, the neighborhood also boasts some sophisticated dining options, including one of the county’s only Michelin-starred restaurants. With State Street as its coastal hub, Carlsbad is drawing locals and visitors alike to its sunny shores.

Note: map points are not ranked.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Siam Queen Thai Bistro

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Previously called Lotus Thai, this low-key, friendly restaurant is Carlsbad’s best Thai spot where you’ll find tasty chicken satay, Thai curries, and other comforting classics like pad see ew and choo chi duck.

Jeune et Jolie

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If Campfire is the gourmet restaurant that raised the bar in Carlsbad, then Jeune et Jolie is the Carlsbad restaurant that bounded over it. Founded by Campfire owner John Resnick and chef Andrew Bachelier, it has continued to soar under the direction of lauded chef Eric Bost, who helped the elegant and chic restaurant earn a coveted star in the 2021 Michelin Guide. Featuring French cuisine with a decidedly Southern Californian outlook, it offers a four-course menu or a la carte options at the bar.

Banquette seating with artwork on wall behind it. Lilly Glass

Nick's on State

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One of several dining options at State Street Commons, a new development in the heart of the village, Nick’s has another uber-popular location in One Paseo as well as several others in and around Southern California. Its crowd-pleasing menu includes salads, sandwiches, and specialties like cioppino and maple-glazed meatloaf.

A prime rib sandwich.
Nick’s prime rib dip.
Nick’s on State

Campfire

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The restaurant opened in 2016 and provided an immediate boost to Carlsbad’s dining scene. Earning Bib Gourmand status from the Michelin Guide in 2019, it’s known for great cocktails and a menu powered by a wood-fired grill that includes pasture-raised chicken and well-marbled brisket.

Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi Bar

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When it first opened in 2014, Blue Ocean brought a dose of high design to the neighborhood as well as a welcome infusion of Asian cuisine. It’s since spawned another location in La Jolla, which serves a similar menu of sushi rolls, small plates, and entrees that range from Korean bbq ribs to chicken teriyaki, but the Carlsbad outpost is unique for its Japanese robata grill which turns out a lineup of skewers that include pork belly, wagyu meatballs, baby octopus, and asparagus with bacon.

Paon Restaurant & Bar

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This unassuming wine cellar has nevertheless become a force of its own in the village, winning accolades for the bar and attached restaurant. The restaurant offers lots of options as well, from filet mignon to duck, pheasant, and even a Black Pepper Roasted New Zealand Venison.

The Compass

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This spot in the Village Faire complex has everything you’d expect from a classic gastropub, from a great burger to a bahn mi chicken sandwich or even a short rib stroganoff. The highlight of the menu is a set of bacon-wrapped corn dogs and the Demonic Rocket Salad with strawberries, avocado relish, quinoa, and candied almonds.

Village Kitchen & Pie Shoppe

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Its huge menu covers everything from the conventional (breakfast, sandwiches and salads) to the less conventional (fried chicken livers, a fisherman’s platter with beer-battered cod, and a homemade chicken pot pie, among a lot of other down-home treats). In short, there’s something for everyone, and that’s even before you hit dessert, where you get to choose from over a baker’s dozen of pies — keep an eye out for strawberry rhubarb and the sour cream raspberry.

Vigilucci's Seafood & Steakhouse

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Roberto Vigilucci came from Italy and started the restaurant in 1994 down in Encinitas, and his growing mini empire includes a Gourmet Market on State Street in the Village proper, but this spot, right out on the Coast Highway by itself, is really the crown jewel. You can enjoy a steak or a fresh catch while watching the sunset if you time it right, or just sit at the bar and enjoy smaller dishes like oysters, calamari, Gnocchi al Tartufo (gnocchi with a truffle sauce) or any of the impressive pastas (some of which aren’t so small).

Windmill Food Hall

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If you’re rushing past it on I-5, one of Carlsbad’s most prominent features is of course the replica Danish windmill, right next to the Flower Fields and Legoland on Palomar Airport Road. The windmill was first built to highlight a Pea Soup Andersen’s location, and the building spent a brief moment as a TGI Friday’s before becoming one of the San Diego area’s only food halls, featuring plenty of indoor and outdoor space and a lineup of vendors offering everything from tacos to pho, Korean fried chicken and sushi.

Tip Top Meats

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Tip Top Meats was started by butcher “Big John” Haedrich back in 1967, and it runs the same way today that it did back then — there’s a shop full of German goodies, including chocolates, cheese, beer, wine, and pretzel rolls from the old country, and in the back, there’s a deli counter where you can get a steak, a schnitzel, a stroganoff, or a whole plate of European sausages for very reasonable prices. The place gets busy around lunch, and it’s not the hippest joint in town, but Big John and his place are as legendary as SoCal gets, and the legend will probably still continue for another 50 years to come.

Beach Plum Kitchen

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Opened by East Coast transplants and longtime Carlsbad residents who run several restaurants in the area, this long-standing favorite among local families is focused on breakfast and lunch, serving morning classics like pancakes and omelettes alongside other dishes like a New England lobster roll or the house-roasted turkey club.

Ember & Rye

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The anchor restaurant at the Park Hyatt Aviara is a steakhouse of sorts conceived by celebrity chef Richard Blais (Juniper & Ivy). Overlooking the 18th green of the golf course, the clubby space revolves around impressive cuts of meat along with seafood and has a snack bar serving up some of the chef’s signature concoctions like “oysters and pearls” and white chocolate-dipped radishes.

A bar inside a restaurant dining room.
The snack bar.
Ember & Rye

The Wise Ox Butcher & Deli

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Carlsbad has its own butcher shop courtesy of the Trust Restaurant Group, which offers cuts of meat and other prepared foods that are featured at some of their acclaimed establishments like Rare Society and Fort Oak, now available to cook and enjoy at home.

Refrigerated cases of meat and other foods at a butcher shop. Kimberly Motos

Siam Queen Thai Bistro

Previously called Lotus Thai, this low-key, friendly restaurant is Carlsbad’s best Thai spot where you’ll find tasty chicken satay, Thai curries, and other comforting classics like pad see ew and choo chi duck.

Jeune et Jolie

Banquette seating with artwork on wall behind it. Lilly Glass

If Campfire is the gourmet restaurant that raised the bar in Carlsbad, then Jeune et Jolie is the Carlsbad restaurant that bounded over it. Founded by Campfire owner John Resnick and chef Andrew Bachelier, it has continued to soar under the direction of lauded chef Eric Bost, who helped the elegant and chic restaurant earn a coveted star in the 2021 Michelin Guide. Featuring French cuisine with a decidedly Southern Californian outlook, it offers a four-course menu or a la carte options at the bar.

Banquette seating with artwork on wall behind it. Lilly Glass

Nick's on State

A prime rib sandwich.
Nick’s prime rib dip.
Nick’s on State

One of several dining options at State Street Commons, a new development in the heart of the village, Nick’s has another uber-popular location in One Paseo as well as several others in and around Southern California. Its crowd-pleasing menu includes salads, sandwiches, and specialties like cioppino and maple-glazed meatloaf.

A prime rib sandwich.
Nick’s prime rib dip.
Nick’s on State

Campfire

The restaurant opened in 2016 and provided an immediate boost to Carlsbad’s dining scene. Earning Bib Gourmand status from the Michelin Guide in 2019, it’s known for great cocktails and a menu powered by a wood-fired grill that includes pasture-raised chicken and well-marbled brisket.

Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi Bar

When it first opened in 2014, Blue Ocean brought a dose of high design to the neighborhood as well as a welcome infusion of Asian cuisine. It’s since spawned another location in La Jolla, which serves a similar menu of sushi rolls, small plates, and entrees that range from Korean bbq ribs to chicken teriyaki, but the Carlsbad outpost is unique for its Japanese robata grill which turns out a lineup of skewers that include pork belly, wagyu meatballs, baby octopus, and asparagus with bacon.

Paon Restaurant & Bar

This unassuming wine cellar has nevertheless become a force of its own in the village, winning accolades for the bar and attached restaurant. The restaurant offers lots of options as well, from filet mignon to duck, pheasant, and even a Black Pepper Roasted New Zealand Venison.

The Compass

This spot in the Village Faire complex has everything you’d expect from a classic gastropub, from a great burger to a bahn mi chicken sandwich or even a short rib stroganoff. The highlight of the menu is a set of bacon-wrapped corn dogs and the Demonic Rocket Salad with strawberries, avocado relish, quinoa, and candied almonds.

Village Kitchen & Pie Shoppe

Its huge menu covers everything from the conventional (breakfast, sandwiches and salads) to the less conventional (fried chicken livers, a fisherman’s platter with beer-battered cod, and a homemade chicken pot pie, among a lot of other down-home treats). In short, there’s something for everyone, and that’s even before you hit dessert, where you get to choose from over a baker’s dozen of pies — keep an eye out for strawberry rhubarb and the sour cream raspberry.

Vigilucci's Seafood & Steakhouse

Roberto Vigilucci came from Italy and started the restaurant in 1994 down in Encinitas, and his growing mini empire includes a Gourmet Market on State Street in the Village proper, but this spot, right out on the Coast Highway by itself, is really the crown jewel. You can enjoy a steak or a fresh catch while watching the sunset if you time it right, or just sit at the bar and enjoy smaller dishes like oysters, calamari, Gnocchi al Tartufo (gnocchi with a truffle sauce) or any of the impressive pastas (some of which aren’t so small).

Windmill Food Hall

If you’re rushing past it on I-5, one of Carlsbad’s most prominent features is of course the replica Danish windmill, right next to the Flower Fields and Legoland on Palomar Airport Road. The windmill was first built to highlight a Pea Soup Andersen’s location, and the building spent a brief moment as a TGI Friday’s before becoming one of the San Diego area’s only food halls, featuring plenty of indoor and outdoor space and a lineup of vendors offering everything from tacos to pho, Korean fried chicken and sushi.

Tip Top Meats

Tip Top Meats was started by butcher “Big John” Haedrich back in 1967, and it runs the same way today that it did back then — there’s a shop full of German goodies, including chocolates, cheese, beer, wine, and pretzel rolls from the old country, and in the back, there’s a deli counter where you can get a steak, a schnitzel, a stroganoff, or a whole plate of European sausages for very reasonable prices. The place gets busy around lunch, and it’s not the hippest joint in town, but Big John and his place are as legendary as SoCal gets, and the legend will probably still continue for another 50 years to come.

Beach Plum Kitchen

Opened by East Coast transplants and longtime Carlsbad residents who run several restaurants in the area, this long-standing favorite among local families is focused on breakfast and lunch, serving morning classics like pancakes and omelettes alongside other dishes like a New England lobster roll or the house-roasted turkey club.

Ember & Rye

A bar inside a restaurant dining room.
The snack bar.
Ember & Rye

The anchor restaurant at the Park Hyatt Aviara is a steakhouse of sorts conceived by celebrity chef Richard Blais (Juniper & Ivy). Overlooking the 18th green of the golf course, the clubby space revolves around impressive cuts of meat along with seafood and has a snack bar serving up some of the chef’s signature concoctions like “oysters and pearls” and white chocolate-dipped radishes.

A bar inside a restaurant dining room.
The snack bar.
Ember & Rye

The Wise Ox Butcher & Deli

Refrigerated cases of meat and other foods at a butcher shop. Kimberly Motos

Carlsbad has its own butcher shop courtesy of the Trust Restaurant Group, which offers cuts of meat and other prepared foods that are featured at some of their acclaimed establishments like Rare Society and Fort Oak, now available to cook and enjoy at home.

Refrigerated cases of meat and other foods at a butcher shop. Kimberly Motos

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