The Hottest Restaurants in San Diego

By Darlene Horn | March 2, 2015 By Darlene Horn  |  March 2, 2015

San Diego's food scene is experiencing unprecedented growth, with a slew of exciting new restaurants hitting the city. From an East Village gem to a garden paradise in Mission Hills, here's an update on the 10 hottest restaurants lighting up the San Diego landscape right now.

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    StreetCar Merchants of Chicken, Doughnuts & Coffee

    Why It’s Hot: Who knew that chicken and donuts could be a winning combo? Throw in coffee and you have a hot ticket, with people swarming from early till late for dense, brioche-based donuts with crazy flavors like strawberry kiwi lemonade and three kinds of fried chicken cooked to order.

    Must-Order: Any one of their rotating donuts before they sell out.

    Insider Tip: If you have a tolerance for heat, try the off-menu Nashville Hot chicken. You'll have to sign a waiver first.

    4002 30th St.; 619-546-9010

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    The Original Sab-E-Lee

    Why It’s Hot: The question really should be, when isn’t it hot? Since moving to larger digs kitty-corner from its original location, the sleeker new restaurant can accommodate more patrons hungry for authentic Issan-style Thai food.

    Must-Order: Go beyond the drunken noodles and try salted fish rice and pork larb (both pictured).

    Insider Tip: They still don’t accept credit cards.

    6925 Linda Vista Rd., Suite B; 858-650-6868 

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Double Standard Kitchenetta

    Why It’s Hot: Lots of curbside appeal draws you in, from the faux grass underfoot to cane chairs by the entrance. But there’s a lot to keep your appetite satisfied too, like housemade agnolotti (pictured), Berkshire pork belly and wood-oven-roasted beef filet, all presented on beautifully composed plates.

    Must-Order: Mushroom toast topped with foraged mushrooms and crème fraîche.

    Insider Tip: Glance into the yellow-framed mirror to decipher some of the chalkboard art by the restrooms.

    695 Sixth Ave.; 619-269-9676

  • Halcyon and Stella Public House

    Why It’s Hot: These Texas imports corner the market on good eats in an up-and-coming area of East Village. Halcyon, the opens-early-and-closes-late half of these adjoining sister restaurants, serves coffee creations from boutique roasters around the U.S. Next door, Stella Public House serves hefty meals featuring wood-fired pizzas and inventive beer cocktails.

    Must-Order: Spiked coffee drinks like the chocolate espresso martini with s'mores (pictured).

    Insider Tip: Bring your headphones if you venture in during the day; construction of a nearby high-rise building and adjacent park is expected to last until summer.

    1429 Island Ave.; 619-234-0808

  • The Patio on Goldfinch

    Why It’s Hot: The newest addition to the Mission Hills dining scene by The Patio Restaurant Group is an open, airy space with exposed-concrete blocks and a wall of plants trailing one side of the patio. The thoughtfully approachable menu strikes a chord with locals for its innovative bistro dishes incorporating locally sourced ingredients. The main difference that sets it apart from its sister restaurant, The Patio on Lamont, is the restaurant’s glass-enclosed “cheese cave.”

    Must-Order: No visit is complete without one of their carefully curated cheese plates. We also recommend their Spanish octopus, cork-cooked to yield tender meat.

    Insider Tip: It’s always hopping, so reservations are highly recommended.

    4020 Goldfinch St.; 619-501-5090

  • Table No. 10

    Why It’s Hot: This endeavor by first-time restaurateur and executive chef Jason Gethin with partner Cooper McLaughlin is already one of the hottest dinner tickets in town. With an emphasis on small plates, the menu is peppered with reimagined American fare — think deconstructed Caesar salad with Brussels sprouts in lieu of romaine. 

    Must-Order: Seared scallops and pork belly with a sunchoke and coconut cream sauce.

    Insider Tip: Take a peek at what’s going on in the kitchen on the first floor past the maitre d'.

    369 10th Ave.; 619-550-1262

  • Bottega Americano

    Why It’s Hot: East Village’s mecca to Italian cuisine opened its doors in the late last summer with high expectations…and it didn’t disappoint. From the marble-topped tables to views of the goings-on in the kitchen, the space is a hub of activity that serves a wide range of dishes.

    Must-Order: Lamb osso buco is an all-round favorite, served with mascarpone polenta, roasted tomatoes and a pine nut-mint gremolata.

    Insider Tip: It’s far easier to grab an impromptu meal during the lunch hour than later in the day when RSVPs are highly recommended.

    1195 Island Ave.; 619-255-7800

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Juniper & Ivy

    Why It’s Hot: It’s been widely anticipated ever since news leaked out that Richard Blais was opening a restaurant in San Diego, and since its opening last spring, the restaurant has seen steady business seven days a week. With a rotating seasonal menu that includes foraged ingredients picked that day by the crew and sightings of the former Top Chef winner, a visit to the restaurant is unique every time.

    Must-Order: End the memorable meal on a sweet note with the restaurant's already legendary Yodel filled with devil’s cake, white chocolate and hazelnut brittle.

    Insider Tip: If you can’t score reservations, go early to nab a table before the dinner crowd arrives.

    2228 Kettner Blvd.; 619-269-9036

  • Photo by: Darlene Horn

    Ironside Fish & Oyster

    Why It’s Hot: One of last year's big openings came in the form of a highly stylized restaurant in the heart of Little Italy. With a concept revolving around oysters and other seafood fare under the direction of executive chef Jason McLeod, the best part of CH Holdings' latest project might be the excellent bar menu, which includes a section devoted to cocktail and oyster pairings. 

    Must-Order: Start with an order of oysters and work your way up to the succulent lobster roll housed in a fresh brioche bun baked in-house.

    Insider Tip: Head in for $1 oysters Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 PM.

    1654 India St.; 619-269-3033

  • Photo by: Carnitas Snack Shack

    Carnitas' Snack Shack

    Why It’s Hot: Since opening in 2011, Carnitas’ Snack Shack has been a popular destination for pork-centric dishes. Hungry people line up outside the order window day and night. Along with items such as their carnitas tacos and pulled-pork poutine, their Triple Threat Pork sandwich continues to bewitch those looking to satisfy a craving for pig. Further proof is their expansion into Del Mar with plans to open four more outposts in Southern California.

    Must-Order: You can’t go wrong with three succulent pork products — pork loin schnitzel, pulled pork, bacon — piled high in their Triple Threat Pork sandwich.

    Insider Tip: Get in line early on the weekend for the North Park location before the window starts taking orders.

    2632 University Ave.; 619-294-7675
    12873 El Camino Real; 858-350-7675

Places Mentioned


Fish And ChipsLittle Italy
Food21 Decor26 Service22 Cost$43

Great Maple

AmericanUniversity Heights
Food24 Decor22 Service23 Cost$27

Supernatural Sandwiches

Sandwich ShopMiramar
Food- Decor- Service- CostM
Food27 Decor19 Service22 Cost$15

Puesto at The Headquarters

MexicanMarina District
Food24 Decor24 Service21 Cost$26

Puesto Mexican Street Food

MexicanLa Jolla
Food24 Decor24 Service21 Cost$26


Mission Bay
Food- Decor- Service- CostI

The Patio on Goldfinch

Mission Hills
Food23 Decor25 Service21 Cost$32

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