Deciding where to eat in La Jolla depends on multiple factors. Do you want to dine al fresco with an ocean view? Would you prefer locally-sourced California cuisine or Italian? Are flip-flops or heels more your speed? Whatever your mood, La Jolla restaurants fit the bill.
George's at the Cove holds the number one spot for best outdoor dining in San Diego and it tops our list here for completely embodying the San Diego lifestyle. Views of the Pacific Ocean can be admired from any of the three worthy dining options: George's Ocean Terrace rooftop patio, George's Bar or California Modern. We're talking a locally-sourced, seasonal menu in a contemporary environment suitable for date night or catching up with long lost friends.
On the flip side, El Pescador is often listed as a local secret. It's a fish market with a small menu of fish sandwiches, ceviche and smoked fish. Beachwear is totally ok and to-go the most popular way to order. Lately, it's a place that out-of-towners search for as the word is leaking out. They have a brand new location with more space, too.
La Jolla does happy hour extremely well, also. Beaumont's in Bird Rock offers Oh-Yeah! hour from 3:00-6:30 p.m. daily including $5 mules, mojitos and margaritas paired with shishito peppers, flatbread and pork belly bites (to name a few).
La Jolla offers everything in between, too. You won't run out of good dining options.
Herringbone, the fifth of Brian Malarkey's San Diego empire, has become a popular spot in La Jolla for lunch, happy hour, dinner and late night fun. The farm-to-sea concept menu is divided up into sections hot, cold, greens, crusts (pizza), plates and 'ands' (side dishes). Go on Thursday for dollar oysters all day long. During happy hour, expect discounted wine, beer and cocktails to pair with them. The spacious indoor/outdoor patio with a high ceiling, Snake Oil cocktails and positive vibe make Herringbone a happening place well into the evening. The plated Sunday brunch has a $12 bottomless mimosa option. (858-459-0221)
Duke's La Jolla
Duke's La Jolla is owned and operated by San Diego and Maui-based TS Restaurants and features a menu much like its sister restaurants in Hawaii. This Duke's also boasts spectacular ocean views from a prime La Jolla location on Prospect Street and is one of the area's most family-friendly sit-down restaurants. The food draws on both Hawaiian and Californian influences using seasonal, all-natural and locally-sourced ingredients. Signature dishes include Tahitian octopus cooked on a wood frill with smoked papaya, cucumber, lime and coconut milk, Lilikoi Ceviche with coriander stem, tomato, avocado, Fresno chili, and 24 Hour Kalbi Short Rib served with house made kimchee, smoked potato salad and Kewpie yogurt. A not-to-be-missed dessert is the famous Hula Pie, a masterpiece with macadamia nut ice cream, a chocolate cookie crust, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. ((858) 454-5888)
Grab some complimentary coffee and coffee cake and leg out the weekend wait, because the food will be worth it. Recipient of accolades locally and nation-wide, breakfast, is what The Cottage is known for and is very popular with locals. The light, airy interior and outside patio both provide family-friendly, pleasant dining space. Stay for the oatmeal pancakes, grilled vegetable omelet and Baja chicken hash. Take home some baked goods and granola with you, which are for sale inside. Kids receive a menu to color and Wikki Stix, usually. The Cottage is open for dinner seasonally and has a cookbook available, too. Don't expect to linger during peak times as other guests will be waiting. ((858) 454-8409)
El Pescador Fish Market
Located in a new larger spot, El Pescador Fish Market in La Jolla has been a local favorite for over 30 years. Place an order to-go, pick up some fresh fish from the market or dine in. El Pescador is known for it's fish sandwiches, with swordfish and calamari being the most popular. Or, pick a fish, decide if you want it char-grilled or sauteed, and then put it on a salad (all salad dressings are homemade) or order a full plate, which includes a small salad and steamed rice. Prices are reasonable, service is friendly and the quality superb. Leave your fancy clothes at home as the ambiance is beach-casual. ((858) 456-2526)
Located in sleepy Bird Rock, Beaumont's Eatery is loved by locals as an upscale-casual gathering spot for a seasonal menu, craft cocktails and live music. The contemporary interior of the restaurant just received a major overhaul to include rich colors and bright accents while the menu is slightly revamped to include new, creative dishes. Kids aren't left out here, either, as their menu spans from simple noodles to Teriyaki skewers. The bartending staff mix excellent cocktails that are a bargain at happy hour. Look for seasonal additions to the drink menu, as well. The burger was recently voted best in La Jolla by a local poll. (858-459-0474)
Perhaps best known for its setting right on the beach, so close to the water that at particularly high tides the waves crash on the windows, The Marine Room also happens to serve fine, globally-influenced seasonal 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. Check the special event calendar for high tide breakfasts and dinners as well as other not-to-be-missed experiences. (866-644-2351)
Piatti Ristorante & Bar
This cozy Tuscanesque cafe is as popular a hangout for surfers as it is with the more senior members of La Jolla society. Terra-cotta tiled floors, bottles of chianti, and a Roman fountain all contribute to the setting for an authentic Italian menu. Highlights include gourmet wood oven-fired pizzas, Pappardelle "Fantasia," and Tagliolini con Funghi Arrabiato. Piatti also offers a sizable selection of vegetarian and gluten-free options as well as a nice kid's menu. A word to the wise--this place is extremely popular on the weekends, so come early. Dine on the patio year-round or host a party here. Piatti is located in La Jolla Shores. (858-454-1589)
With a farm-to-table approach, Whisknladle succeeds in making simple food taste extraordinary. The menu changes with the season and is void of fuss. Everything is made from scratch, including the tonics and purees for the artisanal cocktails. Favorite dished include pan-seared scallops, mussels frites, house made sorbets and gelatos, and more. Happy hour is 7 days per week from 3:00-7:00pm with discounts on tapas, sangria, wine and cocktails. Make a reservation in order to avoid disappointment and leave the fancy dress behind (if you like). They also have a private dining room that seats up to 16 people and a supper club social where people make new friends and eat incredible food. (8585517575)
Nine-Ten is all about California style, from the contemporary detailing of the dining room to the creative menu. Every plate is vibrant with fresh produce from small local farms which means that the menu is seasonal, though favorites like Jamaican Jerk Pork Belly (the chef's mother's recipe), braised short ribs and half-baked chocolate cake remain almost year-round. Chef Jason Knibb, who trained under masters such as Wolfgang Puck, has a deft hand with sous-vide cooking. Everything is done well here from the food to the Wine Spectator award-winning wine list to the service. Nine-Ten is located inside the historic Grande Colonial Hotel. (858-964-5400)
George's at the Cove
Dramatically situated on Prospect Street in La Jolla overlooking the blue Pacific, George's at the Cove combines exceptional California cuisine and service with spectacular views from every level of the multi-tiered restaurant. Dine in the contemporary restaurant and bar indoors, dubbed California Modern; choose the Ocean Terrace, a great rooftop dining spot; or settle in at George's Bar, a casual dining destination. The menu, which specializes in seafood, reflects the use of fresh local ingredients and unique combinations of flavors to create a memorable dining experience. The restaurant also offers a creative, delectable dessert menu. Foodies with deep pockets can book the exclusive TBL3, where Executive Chef Trey Foshee serves a special 12-14 course menu. (858-454-4244)
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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