When my oldest daughter left for college in 2013, I was in the checkout counter at the grocery store and saw the latest San Diego Magazine titled “Best San Diego Restaurants”.
Without thinking, I picked it up to see if I had been to any of them.
I HAD NOT!!
LIKE ZERO OF THEM!!
I was shocked and honestly, a tad embarrassed as I had lived here since 2000 and should have at least been to one at this point 😂.
I bought the magazine and right then and there decided I am going to be much better at exploring the dining options in my hometown!
No more BJ’s or P.F. Changs. Well – at least not as often anyway 😂.
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I probably should not proceed with this blog post without telling you guys that breakfast is my FAVORITE MEAL EVER!
If you are looking for the best breakfast spots in San Diego – be sure to check out my blog post with my favorite 8 places to have my favorite meal!
I should also fess up then that I am also REALLY OBNOXIOUSLY PICKY.
No seafood or spices for this gal.
Remember the Life Cereal commercial when the siblings are shocked Mikey likes it?
Yea – that’s me. So clearly if a restaurant made it on a list made by me – you can 100% expect it to be AMAZING cuz the recommendation came from one of the pickiest eaters you will ever meet 🤪.
My List of Best Places to Eat in San Diego County:
Born and Raised
Bet my friends are not surprised I put this restaurant first on my favorite dinner restaurants list.
In my opinion, very few San Diego Restaurants can compete with this AMAZING Little Italy Steakhouse.
We have eaten here multiple times, celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and just everyday life here.
Which makes it so that I can’t even pick a favorite on the menu because everything is truly delicious here!
There are a few vegan items on the menu as well for all you non-steak lovers.
This is also the first place I tried caviar (in case you are wondering – I am not a fan 🤪).
But the martini cart is a must do!!!
And the caesar salad cart (fresh salad mixed right at your table – yes please!).
The owner spent over $6 MILLION to make this joint look like a scene out of The Great Gatsby – and I can attest – he did a really really good job!!
Herb and Wood
Seriously a tie with the above for my top favorite San Diego restaurants is Herb and Wood in Little Italy.
I may even venture to say I am rather obsessed with the group that owns this restaurant (Puffer Malarkey Collective in case you are wondering ;)!)
You cannot go wrong with a single dang thing on this menu – especially the cocktails!!
One thing that only a regular would know though is that their honey glazed Parker House Rolls are not on the menu and should ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be what you request to start your meal with :).
Another insider tip you can come back and thank me for later…
Cowboy Star Restaurant and Butcher Shop
Downtown San Diego
Cowboy Star was one of my first restaurant experiences back when I started my whole getting to know San Diego’s dining scene about 7 years ago! And it still belongs on my list!
If you haven’t noticed by now – I am a steak and potatoes girl (well that is when I am not eating anything breakfast 🤪). So of course, I put this steak house on the list!!
Unlike most of the restaurants on this list – Cowboy Star has zero Vegan options so if that is your diet – keep on scrolling past this one 😂.
They also have a butcher shop for you to buy their quality meats at to cook on your own :).
La Jolla location
Never have I ever had a better taco!!
The cheese is deep fried, the tortillas are made in house, and the margaritas are some of the best I have ever had!
There are multiple SoCal locations to choose from – but my favorite is the downtown La Jolla one for the experience of putzing around the quaint downtown area of La Jolla after you fill up on all this goodness!
Bencotto Italian Kitchen
My favorite Italian restaurant in San Diego. Reservations are not mandatory but definitely suggested – especially on weekends!
They make all their pastas in house and will sell you with your first bite!
The gnocco fritto and riso fritto are absolute musts for appetizers!
And make sure someone at your table orders the “Cheesewheel Pasta” – the ingredients change weekly but all are made in this fun and delicious cheese bowl!
If I am not craving steak and potatoes – I crave pasta… and this is another one of my favorite places to appease that craving here in San Diego!
My youngest daughter and I recently went back to this delicious Italian eatery – there is still outdoor seating (which started in 2020 with the pandemic) and honestly – I hope it never goes away!
You almost feel like you are in Italy (okay – that might be a bit of a stretch – but still!) – who doesn’t love outdoor dining? And luckily for San Diego – there are really only a few months out of the year that it can be a tad uncomfortably cold…
Soooo – I honestly am drooling just thinking about the cocktails, the garlic bread, the pesto pasta, and the bolognese that my daughter ordered…
And I cannot forget to mention the Sicilian donuts for dessert! Or appetizer… nobody is judging here…
Juniper and Ivy
Juniper and Ivy has a very inviting environment and is recognized as a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand establishment.
The menu is constantly rotating and is always the freshest of foods!
Herb and Sea
North County – Encinitas
Owned and operated by the same group that has Herb and Wood above with an equally desirable environment and menu.
Also – you can get the honey glazed parker house rolls here too and as I said above – THEY ARE WORTH IT!!
Little Italy location
Known for their brunch menu (which I have personally had and can attest to their amazingness), their dinner menu is equally as tasty looking!
They were recently voted the #1 Bloody Mary in San Diego by San Diego Magazine readers so there’s that too..
Plus for those of you following me on Instagram or here on my blog – you know that I cannot pass up a restaurant with an actual TRACTOR inside with the rest of their farmhouse themed decor!!! 🤪
North County – Encinitas
One of my two favorite North County dinner restaurants.
Actually found this place from it being an Instagram friend’s favorite restaurant so decided to try it out.
And now it has clearly made my faves list too ;)!
They also have lunch Thursdays and Fridays and brunch Saturday and Sunday!!
Added points for that!!
The environment inside this downtown La Jolla restaurant makes this choice a true dining experience – that is not just about the food.
Although technically I could say that about every restaurant I am suggesting to you!!!
I know – I am making it really hard to choose just one – aren’t I??
Remember when I told you up above that I am NOT A SEAFOOD eater?? And yet – my seafood loving husband and I have enjoyed this restaurant multiple times. I.E. there is something for everyone here!
Truth be told – La Jolla holds a special place in my heart as it is where my husband and I went to college, got engaged and then married.
Plus everything about La Jolla is picture perfect.
And one of the best places in San Diego County to bring a date!!
Okay – maybe I am a bit biased since it is where I spent the majority of my dating years with my husband, but still – Herringbone is a perfect date night restaurant choice!!
I hope you are able to find a few restaurants on my list of favorites that appeal to you! I know I am ready to go out to eat right this minute!!
Now the only question is – where to? 😊
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Lastly, while I have eaten and taken photographs at all of the restaurants in this post – some of the photos for this post have been taken from the Instagram accounts of some of these restaurants with their permission to use.
Life is short, the world is wide.
I want to make some memories.
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Have a wonderful day my friend! I hope something makes you smile today ;).