Maybe your movie let out late or you need a bite after a long day at work. Or, you've hit the bars and danced up an appetite. While not terribly common, it is definitely possible to grab late night meal in San Diego. And, no, we're not talking fast food or big chains either. The options are as delicious as they are unique and in sit-down environments designed for lingering.
When hearty diner food hits the spot, head over to Studio Diner, recently featured on the Food Network's "Diners Drive-ins and Dives" TV show. It's comfort food like biscuits and gravy or fish and chips with healthier options should your companion be in the mood for lighter fare. A bit off-the-beaten-path in Kearny Mesa, some argue it's worth the drive.
The only restaurant in downtown San Diego to offer round-the-clock meals is Brian's 24, located adjacent to the historic Ramada St. James hotel. Order huge portions of breakfast, lunch and dinner at any time since this is a restaurant that never sleeps.
Costa Brava, also our top tapas and small plates restaurant, also claims a spot on the late night list for the ability to order food until midnight, just as they do in Spain.
San Diego isn't much of a late-night city to begin with, but here are 10 great options for late night food.
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. Bartender Gavin and his 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)
Chef Scott Harris, of Chicago restauranteur famous for his Francesca restaurants, opened Davanti Enoteca here in San Diego (there are two locations, Del Mar and Little Italy)as a contemporary Italian restaurant. Go with friends or on a date to share a variety of cured meats and cheeses as well as antipasti. Favorites include beef carpaccio with arugula and capers and black summer truffle salami. Of course, mains like pizza calabrese and handmade pastas round out the heartier side of the menu. Portions are also sizable and it's open late night as well as for brunch on the weekends between 10:00am and 2:00pm. ((619) 237-9606)
Chef Karen Krasne earned a Certificat de Patisserie from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and it has put her in good stead with area gourmets who flock here for a slice of coconut cream torte, a wedge of tangy-sweet tart, a scoop of intensely-flavored ice cream, or a handful of unbelievably awesome chocolate tea cookies. Offerings vary from day to day, but frequently incorporate fresh fruits and flower garnishes, making them as gorgeous to look at as they are wonderful to eat. Hours are until 11:00pm Sunday through Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday. There is now also a Balboa Park location. (619-294-2132)
If there's one thing the Gaslamp Quarter needs, it's a place to nosh after a late night at the clubs. Brian's 24 is extremely popular for ordering breakfast, lunch or dinner 24 hours a day. The owners were fed up that a 24-hour option did not exist so they decided to open their own. Go for huge portions of comfort food like a hearty BBQ chicken salad, corned beef hash Benedict, or even a Philly cheesesteak sandwich. Lighter fare is also on offer for the health-conscious. It's family owned and operated and located off the lobby of the historic Ramada St. James hotel. (619-702-8410)
Not only is Harney Sushi a favorite of San Diego locals for sushi, they are pioneering the sustainable fish movement. They've recently introduced edible QR codes printed on rice paper with water-based ink that show where the fish came from to assure customers no fish fraud (a common practice with sushi) was involved and that customers are only eating the very best. Needless to say sashimi is a popular order but there is plenty of cooked Japanese food to choose from as well as specialty cocktails. Harney has a festive vibe with both indoor and outdoor seating available as well as a DJ spinning tunes on some evenings. ((619) 295-3272)
If you're looking for Mexican food in the Gaslamp, La Puerta is your place. La Puerta is famous for street tacos that can only be made better by pairing them with a freshly-squeezed margarita (no mixes here). Over 100, 100% blue agave tequilas are on offer complete with tasting notes to help diners select which is right for them. Happy hour runs daily from 3:00pm-7:00pm, usually with 1/2 drinks and appetizers like the carne asada fries. After 3:00pm (and when musicians are playing) you must be 21 years and older to enter. The kitchen is open until 1:00am so stop by for late-night eats. (619-696-3466)
When you're in the mood for good times and great cuisine, be sure to checkout Studio Diner. The menu at Studio Diner features a wide array of great selections, made from only the freshest and highest quality ingredients, with something sure to please every member of your group. Try the turkey Reuben sandwich, T-bone steak and eggs, patty melt or other hearty fare but be sure to save room for Yo Mama's apple pie or decadent carrot cake. This is a fantastic spot for late night dining as they're open 24 hours a day Thursday through Sunday and until midnight during the rest of the week. (8587156400)
Costa Brava seems like a hole in the wall to many San Diego residents. It's tucked away on a busy street in Pacific Beach though the ambiance inside is notably Spanish where guests are welcomed like family. Great for a date or meal out with the family, there's live music (even a Flamenco show) on occasion. Go for tapas like spicy potatoes, octopus, chorizo, tortilla espanola and more. Even the bread is baked at the restaurant. If you like soccer, park yourself here during important games as it's broadcast live. They are open from 11:00am to midnight daily and also have a happy hour. ((858) 273-1218)
Basic (sometimes referred to as Bar Basic) serves up authentic Italian in East Village near PETCO Park. Basic's approach is a simple one void of frills and fancy ingredients. What guests will find is a no-nonsense drink list and amazing thin-crust pizza cooked in a brick oven. The restaurant is a huge 5000 square-foot space in a converted warehouse with a simple, contemporary design. There are two bars and a lounge area so it can turn into a nightlife scene after Padres games and on weekends. Get there early if going before a Padres game as there can be a line. ((619) 531-8869)
South Beach Bar & Grille
South Beach Bar and Grill is much more than just a funky beach hangout. They boast perhaps the best fish taco in all of San Diego. The mahi-mahi taco is a favorite as is the fried calamari taco. Though happy hour from 3:00-6:00pm is great value with discounted drinks and half-priced menu items, the bar is open until 2:00am every day. The ocean view is spectacular and craft beer offering plentiful. Leave the kids at home and college students beware as the entire bar is 21 and over all of the time. Be prepared to grab the first table you see as it can get crowded, especially on Taco Tuesday. ((619) 226-4577)
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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