Grab Lunch in San Diego, for Business or Pleasure
By Katie Dillon
San Diego Local Expert
At lunch time, the sun is usually at or near its highest point, which can turn this meal into one of the most pleasant in America's Finest City. Whether it's a work meeting or an afternoon out with the family, we've listed the 10 of the best lunch restaurants in San Diego for you to consider.
Because of the panoramic ocean view, upscale-casual ambiance and fresh cuisine, George's Ocean Terrace in La Jolla ranks at the top of our list. It's nearly impossible to stay in a bad mood while dining here with nature as the backdrop. Chow on fish tacos and other California cuisine paired with a specialty cocktail.
For the burger of a lifetime, try Hodad's in Ocean Beach. With a location steps from the beach, it's so casual that shoes are optional. Ditch the diet and really splurge on a good burger, otherwise you won't experience the full effect.
A North County San Diego lunch spot includes oceanfront Jake's Del Mar which is literally on the sand. Kids love it and adults do, too.
Wherever you are in the county, you won't be disappointed. And, some of these restaurants even serve breakfast all day, just in case you slept too late.
Las Cuatro Milpas
Barrio Logan isn't really one of San Diego's tourist hot spots but some locals argue that Las Cuatro Milpas is the one place to take out of town guests for Mexican food. There is almost always a line--that can take up to an hour at lunch. The menu is small as it's a you-get-what-they-serve type of place. That's just fine with locals who have been eating here for over 20 years with some driving miles and miles for a Las Milpas fix. Menu items usually include tamales, tacos, burritos rice and beans with delicious homemade tortillas. The only meats are pork, chicken and chorizo. ((619) 234-4460)
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 ahi tartare tacos, seafood salad, or lobster club. Try street tacos, 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. The restaurant and menu have just received an awesome refresh. (858-755-2002)
Island Prime / C Level Lounge
C Level Lounge is the more casual of the two, but has a similar menu to Island Prime. You'll want to sit outside on the patio during lunch for fantastic sunshine-filled views over the San Diego Bay. Note that Island Prime is only open for dinner, but it's a fashionable destination for dinner or drinks with enchanting skyline views, a wealth of trendy cocktails, and flawless service. The restaurants sit on stilts, resting over the San Diego Bay. Both have an excellent gluten-free menu. C Level is known for salads, sandwiches, ahi tun a stacks and more made from locally-sourced ingredients when possible. Happy hour starts at 3:30pm should your lunch linger (it happens). (619-298-6802)
With a reputation of making some of the best bread in San Diego, Con Pane also serves up breakfast and lunch favorites in addition to baked goods. The lunch menu is small, but it will be hard to fight the urge to pair a sandwich with a chocolate croissant, cookie or similar. Pets are welcome on the patio outside and kids order favorites like peanut butter and jelly that literally oozes out the sides. The Liberty Station location allows for plenty of parking though if you're pressed for time, call Con Pane in advance to skip any waiting. Con pane uses bread so fresh that you're bound to take a loaf or three home with you after lunch. ((619) 224-4344)
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)
Prado at Balboa Park
Picturesque Balboa Park, with its museums, lush gardens and performing arts venues, is on every visitor's itinerary. And at the end of a busy day exploring the park's many treasures, there's no better place to relax than Prado, where the eclectic decor blends historic charm with modern flair. The menu is a mix of traditional and modern as well, with options such charred Portobello carpaccio, adobo-braised pork osso bucco, seafood paella, and grilled flat iron steak. Gourmet sandwiches and salads are a great lunch option. The patio is family-friendly for both lunch and dinner and they also have a great happy hour. (619-557-9441)
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. ((858) 454-8409)
Recently featured on Food Network's "Diner's Drive-Ins and Dives" Hodad's serves up huge, juicy, gourmet burgers without attitude. The atmosphere is dive-like with license plates and memorabilia lining the walls and music blasting. They don't care if you're shoeless or shirtless (men only!) at this Ocean Beach location as it's THAT casual. If you're lucky enough to grab a table, make sure to not linger as the line snaking out the door is anxiously awaiting burger heaven. Don't forget to pair a beer with your burger or an awesome shake. This is definitely one of San Diego's most famous restaurants. ((619) 224-4623)
Bertrand at Mr. A's
Bertrand at Mr. A's just might be one of the best places to enjoy a skyline view of Downtown San Diego, Coronado, Balboa Park and Point Loma, with the occasional plane landing or taking off from the airport. The restaurant is perpetually voted one of the most romantic places to eat in the city. However, its casual elegance is also welcoming to families and you may leave your jacket and tie at home. Dressy jeans and business casual are appropriate here. American cuisine is on the menu though dishes change based on seasonality of locally-sourced ingredients. Chef Stephane Voitzwinkler also infuses his Alsatian German upbringing into dishes such as spaetzel and house-made sausage, which is balanced out by more healthful California cuisine. Shawn Barker, the in-house mixologist can whip you up a specialty cocktail to compliment the view and menu. (619-239-1377)
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. For lunch, you can't beat the combination of view, food and ambiance on the Ocean Terrace. Here, the casual bistro menu of salads, sandwiches, pastas, seafood and more reflects the use of fresh local ingredients and unique combinations of flavors to create a memorable dining experience. (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.
Read more about Katie Dillon here.