Mustachioed guys, tanned girls, salty air, salty drinks…yes, San Diego is living the good life. And while everyone from the Grateful Dead-loving hippies to Bentley-driving executives have a laid-back attitude about most things, they have zero patience for subpar food. This is a craft beer-guzzling, farm-to-table-lovin’ town, so you best believe that grub here doesn’t disappoint. Taste it for yourself during San Diego Restaurant Week.
What to expect during Restaurant Week in San Diego
Over 180 restaurants are participating in this year’s event, representing nearly every neighborhood in the city. These eateries offer fixed priced menus with two to three courses. More importantly, nearly all of them offer dessert, so you can proudly order a sugary treat without a shame bell to remind you of any guilt.
Sites between bites
Most of San Diego’s restaurants can be split into two categories—white linen eateries with ocean views, and hipster-friendly joints with ubiquitous mason jars and chalkboard menus. Test them both during your foodie tour of the city. Here’s a helpful guide to the best eats in town:
When most people think of San Diego, they picture the beach, the zoo, and “Anchorman,” but there’s more to the city than that. Make your first stop in San Diego, CA Balboa Park. With classic Spanish architecture, lily ponds, and over a dozen world-renowned museums, it’s easy to understand why Balboa is considered “The Smithsonian of the West Coast.” Once you’ve worked up an appetite, stroll into the Prado, the best restaurant in the park. Try the vegetarian black bean soup made with a sour splash of lime, and give your taste buds a feast with the skirt steak panini, fried tomatoes, and chimichurri sauce. You might even want to order a craft beer to go with lunch before popping into the Museum of Man, which is currently hosting an exhibit all about those tasty suds.
The Hillcrest neighborhood doesn’t do subtle. Gastropubs brim with suspenders and beards, retro clothing practically spills out of thrift stores, and the biggest LGBT parades and festivals boom through the streets year-round. After shopping for used books and faux gypsy tapestries, get a late lunch. Hit up D Bar, one of the best San Diego restaurants. The chic building is known for its floor-to-ceiling windows, old-school Edison lights, and plates pretty enough to make anyone’s Instagram page. The salad pizza sandwich is one of their classic picks, made with pesto, goat cheese, pine nuts, and organic grape tomatoes. But really, you can order anything on the menu and feel classy.
Viewfinder tip: San Diego is known for fish tacos, so if you see any on the menu, order them right up!
If you still want to do some shopping after Hillcrest, just drive up University Ave to North Park, which has a plethora of funky art cafes, vintage clothing stores, and record shops. It’s also home to the Smoking Goat, one of the top San Diego restaurants since it opened in 2011. With exposed brick walls, punk chandeliers, and elegant, French-inspired meals, it’s a feast for both your eyes and belly. Everything from the duck fat truffle fries to the free-range chicken in au jus sauce is pitch-perfect (unlike the San Diego baseball team, but don’t get locals started…).
You’d be challenged to find something more lovely than a beach sunset in San Diego. The real question is where in town you want to watch the sun slip under the waves. Sure, you can find nice views from taquerias in Mission Beach or brewery pubs like Cannonball in Pacific Beach, but why not take advantage of Restaurant Week prices and great views in La Jolla? Take Brockton Villa, for instance. Get a seat right on the water, then dunk your spoon into the Epic Chowder, which is filled with sea clams, blue crab, and saffron cream.
Next, cut into the whisky and Grana Padano-crusted filet mignon, served with loaded bacon mashed potato. Just leave a little room for some s’mores pot de crème, because it’s practically a crime to enjoy a beach day without s’mores.
You can also drive a little further up the coast to Oceanside and step into 333 Pacific. Crunch into the sweet chili calamari before forking the pan-seared salmon served with herbed polenta cake. And don’t worry about ordering the indulgent flourless chocolate cake—just walk it off on the Oceanside Pier across the street.
San Diego Restaurant Week lasts from September 20-27th. Tourist season begins to wane in September, but it’s still a busy calendar month. Thus, it’s best to book your San Diego hotel as soon as possible. Flights to San Diego land in downtown, which is close to the Gaslamp, zoo, and Balboa Park, but you might want to rent a car if you want to hang out on the shore, as the trolley doesn’t extend to the beaches yet. With the details all figured out, you’re ready to eat!
Whether you want crispy shrimp or filet mignon, you can find it in America’s Finest City. Some locals love San Diego Restaurant Week so much, many have alerts on their phones and their week already mapped out. As our buddy Ron Burgundy would say, it’s kind of a big deal.