San Diego's beaches are both a draw for visitors and huge reason why most of us live here. There's something uber relaxing about watching the sunset over the ocean especially with a cocktail in hand. Restaurants on this list have close proximity to actual sand. A number of fantastic restaurants in San Diego have bay or waterfront views but they are absent from this list. Like we said, there has to be a beach involved!
Also topping the list of 10 best waterfront restaurants, you just can't beat The Marine Room for fabulous beach ambiance. The historic restaurant literally sits on the sand and the modern global cuisine is some of the best in town. Expect a high-end experience that's worth every penny though happy hour is excellent value.
Pacific Coast Grill is a top pick in North County. This restaurant also borders the sand and serves up local, fresh, and free range California cuisine. It's hard to beat a lobster taco and margarita on a this patio while inhaling crisp ocean breezes.
Keep in mind that just because these restaurants are beachfront, doesn't mean that beachwear always flies. Check the dress code before you go and also be sure to make reservations.
SEA180 Coastal Tavern
SEA180 is a Cohn Group restaurant located inside the new Pier South Resort which sits right on the beach in Imperial Beach. Due to its southern location, it's a lesser known gem but that's probably to the benefit of current fans. The menu is largely seafood-based with items like roasted black mussels with chorizo, shrimp ceviche and macadamia nut crusted local catch of the day. But diners can also nosh on salads, steak au poivre, and a cheeseburger with bacon jam. The vibe is upscale-casual and the social hour menu has discounts for those who can arrive on the earlier side. (619-631-4949)
Oceana Coastal Kitchen
Located steps from the beach at Mission Bay, Oceana Coastal Kitchen serves a selection of dishes from land and sea using sustainable, fresh ingredients. Highlights include a 25-foot-long cold bar that serves a selection of oysters, fresh sushi, seafood platters and specialty items, such as yellowtail crudo, sesame sea bass ceviche, king crab legs, tuna carpaccio and more. The focal point of the entire restaurant, however, is an 800-gallon aquarium that is home to fluorescent tropical jellyfish. Sip on a cocktail from a menu of tropical-inspired drinks or enjoy an extensive selection of California wines including nearly 30 by the glass. Restaurant guests also receive complimentary valet parking and dogs are welcome on the patio. ((858) 488-1081)
The Shores Restaurant - La Jolla Shores Hotel
Located steps away from the ocean, The Shores Restaurant has one of the best views in all of San Diego. It is almost as if you can reach out the window and touch the sand. Sunday brunch is a la carte and features favorites such as huevos rancheros, brioche french toast, chilaquiles and more. Renowned chef and award-winning cookbook authour, Bernard Guillas, changes the menu based on what is in season. The Shores Restaurant is a part of the La Jolla Shores Hotel and provides room service to the lucky guests. Happy hour at the bar is great value but the dining room is perfect for date night. (8584560600)
Jake's Del Mar
Jake's Del Mar has been popular with residents and visitors for many years. The restaurant is located right on the sand and open daily for lunch, happy hour, and dinner as well as Sunday brunch. Jake's also has a very large selection of gluten-free menu options available at all times. Choose from seafood dishes such as sesame wasabi ahi, seafood Casear salad, or local Carlsbad mussels. Try mustard and spice California lamb, Jake's Bistro burger, or vegetarian options. The gigantic macadamia nut ice cream, chocolate cookie crust Hula pie is worth saving some extra room for. Jake's has also been recognized for their recycling and other green efforts. (858-755-2002)
Though casual in nature, you may be faced with a wait on the weekends if you don't plan accordingly. World Famous is popular with locals for good reason. Patio seating is adjacent to the beach boardwalk where not only are the ocean views relaxing, the people-watching is entertaining. All-day dining is on offer with the kitchen closing at 11:00pm. There's a light bar menu and the restaurant menu both featuring California cuisine such as a variety of salads and seafood entrees. Happy hour runs Monday - Thursday with the special varying by the day. Tuesdays are the most popular for $1.25 fish tacos that are some of the best in town. As beach parking can be tough, World Famous offers valet on the weekends. ((858) 272-3100)
JRDN is chic Tower 23 Hotel's 10,000 square foot contemporary beachfront steak and seafood restaurant, featuring casually sophisticated cuisine. If you need a hip and trendy place that's less hectic than Gaslamp options, here's your place. Lounge with your companions, listen to live music and enjoy a specialty cocktail along with ocean breezes. JRDN has indoor/outdoor seating right on the Pacific Beach boardwalk which makes for excellent ocean views and people watching. The clean, simple but modern decor includes color-changing lights and a giant water wall. The atmosphere changes also from California casual to West Coast hip as the sun sets. (858-270-5736)
Set within the fashionable and historic Hotel del Coronado, 1500 Ocean is an elegant yet comfortable space with stunning ocean views and contemporary decor, serving coastal California cuisine that emphasizes seafood and fresh produce. Main courses include light options such as Santa Barbara spot prawns and kale salad as well as heartier fare like duo of duck and an American Kobe filet. The wine collection is exceptional and the menu recently debuted by new Chef de Cuisine Meredith Manee has been a success. Ocean 1500 is just steps from Coronado's best beach and is a fantastic place to watch the sunset. (619-522-8490, 800-468-3533)
Poseidon prides itself on being fun for every age with a casual beach vibe. This is definitely true, but it's also a fantastic place for a romantic seafood dinner by the sand on their sizable patio. The entire restaurant has been recently remodeled to a chic, upscale-casual look. The menu has a Mediterranean flair. And, they're open for weekend brunch with fun favorites like macadamia-coconut french toast or huevos rancheros. At dinner, splurge on a lobster tail or something like the wasabi halibut with mushroom risotto and lotus root chips. They can prepare gluten, nut, shellfish and dairy-free options upon request as well. (8587559345)
Pacific Coast Grill
Pacific Coast Grill's new beachfront location makes it one of the most scenic spots in North County to eat or grab a drink. The festive, al fresco patio wall borders the sand and the ocean breezes are as relaxing as you might imagine. The California cuisine menu is made with fresh, local and free-range ingredients. Popular items include mussels, lobster tacos, and burgers with fresh-cut Kennebec fries. Gluten-free and plenty of vegetarian options are available. PCG is can also host your next private party between the indoor Reef Room and a patio buyout. Reservations are accepted and highly encouraged, especially during peak times. ((760) 479-0721)
Perhaps best known for its setting right on the beach, so close to the water that waves crash on the windows during high tides, The Marine Room serves fine, globally-influenced cuisine. Start with the signature lobster bisque, accented with enoki mushrooms, pancetta and yuzu cream. Main course highlights have included a trio of game (elk, ostrich and venison), fleur de sel-rubbed veal, and abalone-mushroom crusted barramundi. Impeccable service, attention to detail, and an award-winning wine list round out the experience. It's a perfect place for a special date or even just because. Look out for grunion run happy hours and high tide dinners among other special events. (866-644-2351)
About Katie Dillon
Katie Dillon originally moved to the seaside community of La Jolla to attend UC San Diego. When the opportunity presented itself, she and her husband set off for a 7 year stint overseas as expats in London and Hong Kong. After traveling the world, they returned to the La Jolla sunshine, with a young daughter in tow.
Katie now writes a lifestyle site called La Jolla Mom and is the author of a book called, “Flying With Kids.” Her work can be seen on NBC San Diego, Red Tricycle, Yahoo! Shine and Have Family Will Travel, a Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts blog.
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