San Diego is a playground for outdoor activities, but rarely considered as a fine dining destination. In the past, America’s Finest City had marginal food options and San Diego’s food scene appeared to be relegated to strip malls. Those days are long gone as San Diego is now considered to have the best food scene on the west coast.

Yes, the scene has big-name restaurants where it can be hard to get a reservation. Some of the eateries aren’t perfect, but they have become a huge phenomenon because of the overall experience. It can be hard to pick just one, so let’s take a look at a few of our favorites. Here is a local’s guide to can’t miss restaurants in San Diego.

Addison at the Grand Del Mar

For a night of fine dining, San Diegans have been flocking to the Addison at the Grand Del Mar in Carmel Valley. First-time diners are impressed by how each entrée is elegantly presented and the wine on offer is the perfect complement to their meal. The menu alternates according to the season as executive chef William Bradley combines French culinary tradition with seasonal flavors. Although French in style, all the ingredients come from local farms and markets. The service is impeccable with guests appreciating the staff’s attention to detail. The Addison isn’t a regular dining experience, but everyone should come and enjoy an evening at the top restaurant in San Diego.

Photo by Darren Edwards


One of the most popular happy hours is located in the heart of La Jolla at Herringbone. Each patron is amazed by the amount of creative drinks and beers on offer. The spacious indoor/outdoor patio is the anchor of the dining area. Herringbone is also a popular place for a post-dinner cocktail. The décor is a stylish mix of rustic and modern design that adds perfectly to the surroundings. The menu is rich in diversity with dishes from all over the world, but the regulars worship their seafood entrees. Sunday’s brunch is the best option with bottomless mimosa as the featured attraction.

Breakfast Republic

If you’re looking for a unique breakfast experience, then Breakfast Republic is your choice. The menu is quite imaginative with s’mores French toast and Oreo or bacon pancakes being the most popular items. Customers love that it’s traditional and modern at the same time and that each component is cooked to perfection. The interior design received just as much attention as the menu with an authentic, intimate interior.

Photo courtesy of Galaxy Taco

Galaxy Taco

San Diegans have crowned Galaxy Taco the standard in Mexican fine dining among an abundance of quality options. The restaurant’s location is a few blocks away from the ocean in La Jolla and the outdoor patio is heated for those chilly evenings. The menu is centered on a Baja-centric cuisine that is highlighted by the popular cerviche tostada and lamb barbacoa tacos. Each entrée is recommended to be accompanied by a selection from the south-of-the-border cocktail menu or a pint of beer from a local San Diego brewery. The ingredients are locally grown and the tortillas are made in-house. Their lunch menu pays homage to the street food found in nearby Tijuana.

Tribute Pizza

San Diego has plenty of quality pizzerias to choose from, but Tribute Pizza is standing out from the competition. The restaurant is filled each night with satisfied customers. The menu honors the owner’s Italian roots with a wide variety of pizza pies and homemade pasta. Each order is made with ingredients supplied by local companies and personally designed to the customer’s wishes. The regulars rave about the taste of the wood-oven burnt crust offered on each slice of pizza. Plus, the interior design is sleek and contemporary, which distinguishes itself from other pizzerias.