Perhaps you've arrived in San Diego and have time to kill before boarding your cruise. Or, maybe you're based near the B Street Cruise Terminal, located in the downtown neighborhood, for a few days surrounding your voyage at sea. Either way, a number of San Diego's best restaurants are within a short walk or taxi ride away.
For the times you'd like to grab a quick sandwich and perhaps some festive Italian snacks to keep in your cabin, head on over to nearby Little Italy. The pizza and meatball subs from Filippi's Pizza Grotto are divine, plus the market offers up plenty of to-go options.
The new revitalized Headquarters in Seaport Village is home to boutique shopping and excellent restaurants. A fine dining top pick is Eddie V's, known for consistently stellar service and mouthwatering seafood and steaks with a supper club vibe. It's pricey, but most diners agree a meal here is worth every penny.
If you'd like a spot within walking distance of the cruise port, try Anthony's Fish Grotto for casual seafood. It's literally on the bay and one of the best places in town to watch a sunset. Fried seafood and clam chowder are favorites.
What can be better than good food and a cruise? Lucky you.
Anthony's Fish Grotto
Literally steps from the cruise port overlooking the bay, this award-winning restaurant has been serving seafood since 1946. It is a brilliant place to catch a sunset and is known for excellent service, however, the casual decor is a little bit dated--some say that's part of its charm. The vibe is kid-friendly. Popular menu items include clam chowder, crab cakes and various fried seafood. The sun dried tomato butter that comes with fresh bread is amazing. Plenty of TVs play sporting events in the bar. The Star of the Sea event center is part of the restaurant and popular for weddings and other special occasions. (619-232-7408)
Puesto - The Headquarters
Playing off the success of the La Jolla location, this Puesto in the revitalized police headquarters retail zone is bigger and more upscale with less focus on fast-casual food. Here, the attention turns to craft cocktails, plated presentation and lingering over margaritas. Tacos are everywhere in San Diego, but these kick it up a notch with sustainable, quality ingredients and a twist of cheese fried on to the tortilla... don't cringe, it's delicious. Bright, contemporary art meshes with rustic wood tables. There's seating indoors on two stories as well as on a patio. Still, you go for the tacos more than anything. Vegetarians opt for squash blossom tacos while meat-lovers gravitate to chicken al pastor or the lobster taco.
Filippi's Pizza Grotto
Family-owned and operated since 1950, Filippi's Pizza Grotto is a go-to spot for Italian food in Little Italy. This casual restaurant is famous for mouth-watering pizzas (locals rave about the cheese) and monumental meatball subs. There can be a wait, but it's one locals are willing to endure. Walk through the deli and into the restaurant and feel immediately transported into Italy with Chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling and a rustic vibe. Beer and wine are on offer. Large portions feed stomachs and provide good value for money. Parking can be tricky so plan time to find a spot. ((619) 232-5094)
Also, located in Little Italy near the cruise port, Buon Appetito is known for being small yet intimate and famous for homemade ravioli, lasagne, risotto and gnocchi that prides itself on being similar to a San Francisco-style eatery. They have a quaint bar with 50+ wines available. Try the lobster tail ravioli simmered in vermouth and served in a saffron sauce or linguine with clams, bay scallops, shrimp and mussels in a red or white sauce. Most importantly, don't miss out on the homemade tiramisu for dessert. They're known for excellent service though be mindful that it can get busy during peak times because it's such a local favorite. (6192389880)
Bencotto Italian Kitchen
The cruise ships port very close to Little Italy which means awesome Italian food is easy to find. Bencotto means a meal "well done" or cooked perfectly. Voted Best Italian Restaurant by San Diego Magazine three years in a row, Bencotto puts a uniique spin on traditional Italian cuisine by offering dishes designed to share. The atmosphere is contemporary though mixed with the feel of an Old World kitchen. Pasta is the signature dish and guests can order it al dente or cooked to their liking choosing also between eight sauces. Bencotto is located in the "Q" building in Little Italy. A take-out menu is also available. ((619) 450-4786)
The Fish Market
For the times you crave fresh seafood in a family-friendly atmosphere, the Fish Market will do. The restaurant offers a huge menu ranging from sushi to smoked fish to fresh filets. The daily fresh-catch board boasts as many as 16 choices as the restaurant has the area's largest selection of premium seafood. The relaxed space features maple tables and panoramic Bay views, and reasonable prices only bolster the place's stellar reputation. A retail fish market on site offers fresh seafood for sale as well as restaurant menu items on a to-go basis. Upstairs, Top of the Market offers fine dining. (619-232-3474, 619-234-4867)
Island Prime / C Level Lounge
Hop in a cab for a roughly 5-minute drive from the cruise port to Island Prime and C Level, the more casual dining restaurant of the pair. The restaurants sit on stilts over the San Diego Bay and it's a popular spot for dinner or drinks, with the kids or without. Expect California cuisine celebrity chef Debra Scott and craft cocktails paired flawless service. Popular orders include hazelnut-crusted diver scallops with goat cheese and elephant garlic risotto cakes. Lobster lovers should indulge in the "Study in Lobster" which includes sherry bisque, lobster lollipop, and lobster roll on house made brioche. Both restaurants have an excellent gluten-free menu. C Level does not take reservations. (619-298-6802)
Ruth's Chris Steak House
Ruths Chris is located at the base of the Wyndham San Diego Bayside, across the street from the cruise port. The upscale restaurant is famous for prime steaks that come out sizzling in a heap of butter, elegant steakhouse decor, fairly relaxed ambiance, top-notch service, and an impressive wine list. The restaurant enjoys a lovely view over the San Diego Bay to Coronado with a little bit of outdoor seating, too. In addition to steaks and Maine lobster, other favorites include crab-stuffed mushrooms and chocolate sin cake. There is also a set menu where $45-55 gets you a 4-course meal. Note that valet parking is $6. (619-233-1422, 800-544-0808)
Top of the Market
Located upstairs from the more casual Fish Market, this refined venue offers views from Point Loma to the Coronado Bridge, along with cuisine that is nothing short of spectacular. An incredibly broad offering of seafood might include Norwegian salmon, Alaskan halibut, New Zealand mussels, or Chilean sea bass that is all flown in daily. The romantic setting features crisp linens, flickering candlelight, refined service, and exhibition-style cooking. Pasta and steaks are also served, along with an expanded wine list. Service is always attentive. The restaurant is considered one of the best in Southern California. The dress code is smart casual. (619-232-3474, 619-234-4867)
Eddie V's Prime Seafood
This Eddie V's location in the revitalized police headquarters is a big one. Occupying the space of the former courthouse, this location sports a two-level interior including mixed woods, glass accents, a 20-foot wine wall, three private dining areas and a V Lounge with live jazz daily. The vibe is of an elegant steakhouse or supper club and a meal here is a splurge that very few people complain about. Service sparkles as do the steak, while crab cakes, lobster bisque, bananas foster, crab fried rice and fresh seafood filets do not disappoint. Seafood arrives fresh from all over the world. This restaurant is perfect for date night. ((619) 615-0281)
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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