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 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 that 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.
10 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)
9 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)
8 El Pescador Fish Market
Small and unassuming, 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)
7 Con Pane
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. ((619) 224-4344)
6 World Famous
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)
5 Pacific Beach Fish Shop
Despite it's location and seriously casual ambiance, Pacific Beach Fish Shop may surprise you. Pick a fish, select a marinade then decide if you'd like a taco, sandwich, salad or plate. Soak up the sun on the big patio, which also happens to be dog-friendly. Thirsty? They have a rather large selection of local craft beers. Locals rave about the fish and chips, lobster lumpia, tacos and more. Thursday is dollar oyster night and you may now order take-out in advance via their website. Pets are welcome on the patio, which also has a fire pit for warmth, and kids love it here. ((858) 483-4746)
4 The Cottage
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 a line snaking out the door is anxiously awaiting their 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)
2 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. Imagine the sunset at dinner time: This is why this 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 St�phane 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)
1 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. (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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