Del Mar may be small in size but restaurant choices are big. Most of the restaurants do a great job of maximizing ocean breezes and casual beach vibe. A majority of these restaurants have been local institutions for years.
On the east side of the freeway near affluent Rancho Santa Fe, Market Restaurant and Bar earns consistently positive reviews for chef creativity, outstanding seasonal cuisine and top notch customer service. Guests love the complimentary amuse bouche, sushi and other favorites.
On the totally other end of the spectrum, go for a solid sandwich to take to the beach or eat on a sun-soaked patio at Board and Brew, which has been around since the 1970s. The sandwich menu (and secret sauce) is such a winner that it hasn't changed much over the years, other than the addition of craft beer... and who can argue with that?
For a beachfront meal, try Jake's Del Mar. In addition to the interior (now appropriately coastal-themed), they also renovated the menu to include favorites like ahi tacos, the Jake's bistro burger and, of course, the famous Hula pie.
The only difficult decision is where to go, so we're here to help by outlining 10 awesome picks.
CUCINA enoteca Del Mar
CUCINA enoteca Del Mar is only a few years old but very popular with Del Mar residents. Hospitality veteran Tracey Borkum's latest project involves a 7000 square foot restaurant and wine shop just east of the I-5 in Flower Hill Promenadel. The wine selection consists of a carefully curated selection of familiar names and more rare and esoteric small-batch gems for both the novice and seasoned oenophile. The restaurant menu combines the flavors of Italy with the organic freshness of California including an ambitious in-house cheese program, house made charcuterie and sausage, hand crafted confections, and a selection of artisanal breads and pastas prepared from scratch. ((949) 861-2222)
Pacifica Del Mar
Fabulous ocean views, a lively bar scene, an award-winning wine list, and a well-conceived menu have catapulted Pacifica Del Mar to the top of the metro San Diego restaurant heap. The menu is varied, emphasizing seafood dishes such as arborio rice crusted halibut, salt and pepper prawns with udon noodles and black bean-garlic sauce, and broiled lobster. The house-cured ribeye is fantastic, too. Wednesday's half-price martini night is well attended and it's the perfect time to try out one of their creative cocktails, like the Kiwi-Tini, Pomerita or Blueberrry Mojito. They are open for both lunch and dinner as well as breakfast on the weekends. (858-792-0476)
Del Mar Rendezvous
Del Mar Rendezvous was created by the people behind San Diego's famous Dumpling Inn and is a higher-end Chinese food option located in Del Mar Plaza. The menu has over 100 dishes on it and a wide array of Chinese fare complimented by a modern mix of Asian flavors. The restaurant prides itself on artful presentation and believes in using only the highest quality ingredients. You can see what the chefs are up to through the open kitchen. Not to mention, the restaurant boasts an award-winning Wine Spectator wine list, sake choices and a variety of craft beers. The atmosphere is casual-chic and kids are welcome. (858-755-2669)
Brigantine Del Mar
The Brigantine has been a local favorite for decades. Perhaps the most famous dish on the menu is the fish tacos, which are beer-battered and covered in cheddar cheese and ranch dressing. Or, order from the famous oyster bar paired with a Brigantine house salad with cranberries, blue cheese and mixed lettuce. The overall vibe is casual and you can choose to eat in the even more casual bar area (where the awesome happy hour is), in the dining room or on the glass-enclosed patio out back. Keep in mind that this restaurant does get busy in the summer, especially during horse racing season. (8584811166)
Prepkitchen - Del Mar
PrepKitchen has several locations all over San Diego, including this one. It's popular for simple, locally-sourced ingredients and great artisanal cocktails. Locals rave about the shared plates including charred octopus with chorizo and fava beans, roasted pork belly with pickled rhubarb and the cutting board, an amazing display of gourmet cured meats, mustards and artisanal cheese. Weekend brunch is also popular with shrimp Benedict, chile verde braised pork shoulder and creme fraiche, chilaquiles, huevos rancheros and other favorites. This location also has a large covered patio that's perfect for soaking up ocean breezes. It is conveniently located on 15th street. (8587927737)
Cafe Secret specializes in delicious and reasonably-priced seafood-based, Peruvian cuisine. Beautifully-plated food is served in a relaxed and welcoming setting. Whether you are in the mood to indulge in something new or just want to enjoy some old favorites, Cafe Secret promises that the inventive menu won't disappoint. Menu items include a ceviche bar, empanadas and other seafood favorites. No matter what your occasion calls for or your appetite demands, the friendly staff at Cafe Secret will make your next dining experience a pleasant one. The vibe is rustic and casual at this eatery that's gaining recognition across the county as one of the best restaurants around. (7608158989)
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)
Board & Brew, Del Mar
Board & Brew has been a staple in Del Mar since 1979. The local favorite serves simple sandwiches with no preservatives, no substitutes and no frozen meats. The secret sauce is another hook that tastes good on any sandwich. But try the Baja Chicken with marinated chicken breast, bacon, and melted jack cheese on a toasted French baguette with mayo, tomato and lettuce. Or, go for the turkey deluxe featuring turkey breast, cheddar cheese and sunflower seeds served with sweet-sour dressing on a French baguette with mayo, tomato and lettuce. The menu hasn't really changed in ages, because what they've got simply works. Pair your sandwich with a local craft beer, too. ((858) 481-1021)
KITCHEN 1540 is an award-winning restaurant located in the L'Auberge Del Mar, one of San Diego's luxury boutique hotels. But, this isn't your standard hotel restaurant. The menu here is eclectic and infused with Chef Brandon Fortune's Southern charm. Beautifully-plated shrimp n'grits, fried green tomatoes and Memphis ribs are a few of the comfort food offerings. Tasty salads and main dishes like Barramundi allow you to feel less guilty about indulging in the low and slow baked bread pudding (order it). The restaurant features an open presentation kitchen, tasting table, a private dining room wrapped in wine-encased walls, and private cabanas on the patio that are available for intimate dining. (8587936460)
Market Restaurant & Bar
Market's decor in an earthy palette of persimmon, sage and chocolate is perfectly suited to chef Carl Schroeder's inventive Asian-tinged cooking. Fresh fruits and vegetables play a prominent role in virtually every dish, from the sushi menu straight through to dessert. Standouts include a blue cheese souffle with Bartlett pears, grapefruit-avocado salad with goat cheese, prime flat iron steak with roasted winter vegetables, the signature Cabernet braised shortribs, and Meyer lemon and huckleberry cream pie. The chef sends out a different amuse bouche nightly. Service is also top notch and the menu changes daily based on what is in season. (858-523-0007)
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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