New & Hot Places

Hottest Restaurants in San Diego

From sandwich shops to adventurous concepts from newbies, here's our updated list of the hottest restaurants in San Diego right now. It's one heck of a culinary to-do list!

The Crack Shack

An all-day menu of chicken and egg-based dishes – including fried chicken, chicken sandwiches and deviled eggs (plus a full bar) – are served at this local chain by the team behind Juniper & Ivy with locations in Encinitas and Little Italy. Modern furnishings, a giant chicken sculpture and a bocce ball court make the space hip and happening.

Must-order: Firebird sandwich — a potato roll with spicy fried chicken thigh, Cool Ranch spread, crispy onions and pickles

Insider tip: Like the original Little Italy location, this new restaurant features a bocce court, but also look for a kid-friendly sandbox.

Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisines

NewSeafoodGaslamp Quarter
Executive Chef Jose ‘Jojo’ Ruiz (Ironside Fish & Oyster) highlights modern coastal cuisine with an inspired selection of small plates, sushi and composed entrees at this upscale locale in the Gaslamp's Pendry San Diego hotel. Gleaming wood tables, handsome leather chairs and elegant lighting lend a sophisticated (but not stuffy) air to the two-story space.

Must-order: Crispy rock shrimp served with gochujang and Japanese-style aïoli 

Insider tip: Try a selection of small plates and sides, which start at $7.

Lofty Coffee Little Italy Cafe and Bakery

NewCafeLittle Italy
Upscale local coffee shop chain and roasting facility offering high-quality coffee and tea (plus cafe fare and housemade pastries) in well appointed surrounds with industrial-chic decor and dog-friendly patios.

Must-order: Turkish latte and a chocolate croissant

Insider tip: The on-site bakery creates from-scratch pastries such as croissants, muffins and cookies.


"It's like you've stepped into Italy" at these "charming", "quick-bite" cafes plying "amazing panini" and other "delectable goodies" like biscotti and "great gelato", plus plenty of espresso, at manageable prices; they're counter-service only, but "you're always greeted with a warm 'ciao.'"

Must-order: Affogato served with your choice of gelato

Insider tip: Wood-fired pizzas are only available at the Cardiff and Kensington locations.

Voltaire Beach House

NewOcean Beach
A comprehensive variety of New American eats (including protein bowls, entree salads and burgers) are offered alongside a well-rounded drink list (featuring fresh juice cocktails, slushies and beer) at this airy indoor/outdoor neighborhood hangout in Ocean Beach.

Must-order: The Shortie, a bowl filled with braised short rib, roasted baby potatoes, blistered cherry tomatoes, green beans, crispy onions, blue cheese and a maple bourbon glaze

Insider tip: Bring your dog — more than half of the restaurant is a canine-friendly patio.​

Flower Child

NewHealth FoodDel Mar
Serving an all-day menu of organic, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan dishes, the Del Mar outpost of this contemporary cafe draws a health-conscious crowd. The cheerful, sun-dappled space boasts a buzzy open kitchen and roomy, dog-friendly patio.

Must-order: Forbidden Rice bowl featuring black pearl and red Japonica rice, snap peas, bok choy, broccoli, carrots, onions, toasted sesame and red chile

Insider tip: Mix and match one, two or three grains for your own customized dish.

El Zarape Mexican Eatery

NewMexicanNorth Park
Cheerful, easygoing counter-service outfit offering traditional taco shop fare like burritos, bowls and Mexican beer, plus a weekend brunch in mod, colorful surrounds with a salsa bar.

Must-order: El Zarape nachos — your choice of protein served with avocado, sour cream, beans, fresh salsa and cheese

Insider tip: Counting carbs? Any burrito can be served up as a bowl filled with romaine lettuce, salsa fresca, avocado and queso fresco.

Mendocino Farms

NewSandwich ShopLa Jolla
The La Jolla outpost of this Los Angeles–based counter-serve chain serves up inventive sandwiches, soups and salads crafted with thoughtfully sourced ingredients in a bright, modern space with a wall of potted plants and a foosball table.

Must-order: Seasonal sandwiches like chef Judy’s Korean chicken meatball topped with pickled Asian mushrooms, kimchi aïoli, jalapeños, kale-carrot-scallion slaw

Insider tip: Look for a second location in Del Mar opening this spring

Moto Deli

NewSandwich ShopEncinitas
A diverse selection of innovative, handcrafted sandwiches and open-faced tartines (like porchetta, chimichurri steak and rabbit confit) are served at this mellow, motorcycle-themed joint in Encinitas with an informal back patio and curated craft beer list.

Must-order: Turketta sandwich stuffed with smoked turkey breast, avocado, arugula, bacon, aged white cheddar, Moto spread, apricot mostarda

Insider tip: Addicted to the eatery’s habanero pickles? Buy a jar to take home.

Streetcar Merchants of Fried Chicken, Doughnuts & Coffee

NewSouthern AmericanLa Jolla
The La Jolla outpost of this trendy destination for Southern comfort eats offers an expanded menu spanning cast iron cornbread, po' boy sandwiches and jambalaya (plus fried chicken and square donuts) in a hip space with industrial-chic decor and a sidewalk patio.

Must-order: Chicken-fried chicken — hammered and fried boneless chicken served with Creole sausage gravy and red-skin mashed potatoes

Insider tip: Looking for gluten-free options? There's gluten-free fried chicken here.

Herb & Eatery

NewCafeLittle Italy
This buzzy hangout attached to Little Italy's Herb & Wood offers a host of sandwiches, salads and from-scratch baked goods. The airy interior features communal seating and a chef’s market stocked with gourmet grab-and-go items like fresh pasta and housemade ice cream.

Must-order: Black pepper and thyme gelato (only available to go by the pint)

Insider tip: Grab day-old pastries like cookies and brownies at a discount.


Craft cocktails made with fresh herbs and housemade syrups are complemented by ethically sourced small plates like vegan nachos and braised pork cheeks in puff pastry at this Mission Hills sister venue of The Red Door. The airy, modern space features a bar clad with river rocks, hanging planters and natural wood tables.

Must-order: Lamb sliders topped with arugula and bacon on a brioche bun

Insider tip: Bar By Red Door shares a kitchen and cooking staff with The Red Door Restaurant, its sibling eatery.

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