Imagine sipping a specialty cocktail at sunset amid cool ocean breezes after a lovely day of sightseeing in San Diego. Whether it's breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a few drinks, waterfront dining is a part of life here in San Diego that visitors from out of town must put on their to-do list. San Diego has plenty of restaurants that fit the bill, ranging family-friendly dining to a special date night.
The most unique waterfront dining experience is at The Marine Room restaurant in La Jolla. Built in 1941 to withstand high tides and waves crashing against the windows, this building is literally on the sand. During high tide dinner season, guests are only separated from dramatic surf by custom-built, sturdy glass.
North county residents flock to Jake's Del Mar especially in good weather. Located on the beach, this family-friendly restaurant has an extensive gluten-free menu along with, salads, seafood, Jake's Bistro Burger and more casual favorites.
Island Prime / C Level Lounge rest on stilts that hold the restaurant above the San Diego Bay for also a dramatic San Diego skyline view. Dine casually on C Level's heated patio or formally at Island Prime--the choice is yours.
It's easy to forget about stresses of the day, when you're gazing out over the water at any of these 10 best waterfront restaurants in San Diego.
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)
JRDN is beachfront Tower 23 Hotel's 10,000 square foot contemporary oceanfront steak and seafood restaurant, featuring casually sophisticated cuisine. If you need a hip and trendy place that's less hectic than Gaslamp options, this is also your place to grab a drink. Lounge with your companions, listen to live music and enjoy a specialty cocktail along with ocean breezes. JRDN has indoor/outdoor seating right on the Pacific Beach boardwalk which makes for excellent views and people watching. The clean, simple but modern decor includes color-changing lights and a giant water wall. It's certainly more upscale than neighboring bars but maintains a fun and casual atmosphere. (858-270-5736)
The Shores Restaurant - La Jolla Shores Hotel
Located steps away from the ocean, The Shores Restaurant has one of the best views in all of San Diego. It is almost as if you can reach out the window and touch the sand. Sunday brunch is a la carte and features favorites such as huevos rancheros, brioche french toast, chilaquiles and more. Renowned chef and award-winning cookbook author, Bernard Guillas, changes the menu based on what is in season. The Shores Restaurant is a part of the La Jolla Shores Hotel and provides room service to the lucky guests. Happy hour in the bar is an awesome place to enjoy the sunset over the ocean. (8584560600)
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, impeccable service, and exhibition-style cooking. Pasta and steaks are also served, along with an expanded wine list. The restaurant is considered one of the best in Southern California and has an exhibition-style kitchen. The dress code is smart casual. (619-232-3474, 619-234-4867)
It's hard not to relax over breakfast at Brockton Villa, while gazing out on to the gorgeous La Jolla Cove. This historic building maintains a casual, cottage feel reminiscent of dining at a friend's beach house. Go for the Coast Toast, Brockton Villa's proprietary french toast recipe (french bread soaked in whipping cream), or pulled pork chilaquiles. The Crab Ipanema (crab benedict) is also famous. Indulge in a fresh orange juice mimosa or two. Kids have their own reasonably priced breakfast menu featuring pint-sized portions of popular dishes. Service is friendly, too. Then, walk off your breakfast at La Jolla Cove. ((858) 454-7393)
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. They've recently revamped the interior and menu. (858-755-2002)
Pacific Coast Grill
Pacific Coast Grill's new beachfront location makes it one of the most scenic spots in North County to eat or grab a drink. The festive, al fresco patio wall borders the sand and the ocean breezes are as relaxing as you might imagine. The California cuisine menu is made with fresh, local and free range ingredients. Popular items include mussels, lobster tacos, and burgers with fresh-cut Kennebec fries. Gluten free and plenty of vegetarian options are available. PCG is can also host your next private party between the indoor Reef Room and a patio buyout. Reservations are accepted and highly encouraged, especially during peak times. ((760) 479-0721)
Island Prime / C Level Lounge
A fashionable destination for dinner or drinks, Island Prime boasts enchanting skyline views, a wealth of trendy cocktails, and flawless service. The restaurant is sitting on stilts, resting over the San Diego Bay. Local celebrity chef Debra Scott's deft touch is in evidence with creations like 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. Perfectly grilled steaks are always a fine choice as well. C Level Lounge is more casual, but has a similar menu. Both restaurants have an excellent gluten-free menu. (619-298-6802)
George's at the Cove
Dramatically situated on Prospect Street in La Jolla overlooking the blue Pacific, George's at the Cove combines exceptional 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 and bar destination. The menu, which specializes in California cuisine, 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 as well as TBL3, a unique opportunity to put your meal into the capable hands of Executive Chef and Owner, Trey Foshee, throughout 12-14 amazing courses. (858-454-4244)
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 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 happy hours and dinners as well as other not-to-be-missed experiences. (866-644-2351)
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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