San Diego's food scene is growing faster than ever, with a slew of exciting new restaurants hitting the city in the past few months. From a North Park donut shop serving uniquely flavored pastries to conveyor-belt sushi on Convoy, here are the 10 restaurants lighting up the local landscape right now.
The second U.S. restaurant from Tijuana chef Javier Plascencia (Romesco), this gleaming, two-story haunt in Little Italy offers modern interpretations of Mexican cuisine (think shrimp and bone marrow sopes), along with agave-based cocktails, craft beer and wines from both California and Baja. Contemporary design meets rustic decorative touches inside the artfully composed space, with a crudo bar, an open kitchen and a terrace.
- Little Italy
Must-order: Albacore Two Ways (seared and tartare)
Insider tip: If you're looking to get the full experience, head in for dinner instead of lunch when the entire menu is available.
Chef-partner Trey Foshee (George’s at the Cove) goes casual at this La Jolla Mexican joint, using local produce in Baja-style eats like ceviche tostadas and lamb barbacoa tacos accompanied by south-of-the-border-inspired cocktails and a sizable tequila and mezcal selection. Located a few blocks from the ocean, the airy space has a beachy feel, with a vibrant corn mural and a heated patio featuring rainbow-colored tables.
- La Jolla
Must-order: Carne asada taco
Insider tip: Take advantage of the $28 tasting menu that includes ceviche, a taco, Benchmark Galaxy lager and 1 oz. of Montelobos mezcal.
Breakfast is the name of the game at this hip North Park joint serving up inventive plates like s’mores French toast and Vietnamese chicken wing bowls that you’ll want to eat well beyond the morning hours (and luckily, you can). The sunny digs feature two patios and a bar supplying kombucha on tap, beer flights and playful cocktails bound to kick-start your day better than a bowl of oatmeal.
- North Park
Must-order: Pancake flight
Insider tip: Reservations are not accepted; seating is first-come, first served.
This North Park BBQ specialist devotes itself to the art of slow-roasted cooking, serving up smoked turkey sandwiches, pork belly sliders and Caroline Gold pulled pork alongside classic Southern sides such as black eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread. The black-and-white-hued dining room is functional and minimally decorated, though food is available to-go as well.
- North Park
Must-order: Carolina Gold pulled-pork sandwich
Insider tip: Call in to reserve a sandwich for lunch before they sell out for the day.
Seasonal salads, made-to-order sandwiches and other market-driven Californian plates are specialties of this health-conscious, LA-based chain breezing into San Diego with its slick, counter-service concept. The contemporary, cafeteria-style digs feature yellow decorative accents and multiple food stations, including one for housemade desserts and, of course, a lemonade bar.
Must-order: Pineapple chicken salad
Insider tip: Skip the lunch and dinners lines and phone in your order to go.
This Los Angeles mainstay known for its all-organic fare plants its roots in the heart of Little Italy, offering dishes like tempeh wraps, pasta kelp noodles and raw lasagna, plus elixirs, smoothies, fresh-pressed juices and more, each titled with upbeat life affirmations like "liberated" and "glorious." An air of calm pervades the modern digs, featuring cream-colored booths, a wood-clad counter with stark-white chairs and artistic accents like macramé hangings.
- Little Italy
Must-order: Fabulous (raw lasagna)
Insider tip: Go to the back of the restaurant for meals and fresh-pressed juices on-the-go.
True to its name, this Gaslamp leviathan features Blush cocktails – craft libations mixed with fruity frozen ice – and an inventive menu from chef Daniel Barron (ex La Valencia) that conjoins Asian and American flavors, from shaking beef tenderloin to shrimp with jambalaya risotto. Equally ambitious, the modern space features polished marble, metal and wood accents, an 18-seat raw bar and oyster lounge, and roll-up garage doors that open to a sidewalk patio.
- Gaslamp Quarter
Must-order: Foie gras ramen
Insider tip: Check out the happy hour, Monday–Friday, 3–6 PM, for $5 sips and discounted appetizers priced from $4 to $6.
The nigiri and maki literally roll to your seat at this Convoy sushi destination, a spin-off of an LA-area chain with 300+ locations in Japan offering a modestly priced selection of fresh fish and cooked Japanese specialties covered in plastic domes and served via conveyor belt. The lofty, modern surrounds feature large booths, plus touch-screen ordering for dishes that don’t pass by in time.
- Kearny Mesa
Must-order: Uni sushi, only available in select markets including San Diego
Insider tip: The entire party must be present in order to be seated.
Situated atop the La Plaza Center, this authentic coastal Italian serves up a menu inspired by a 1,600-mile road trip through Italy (think wood-fired pizzas topped with clams, spicy lamb sausage, sunchoke agnolotti and whole roasted branzino) amid views of La Jolla and the Pacific.
- La Jolla
Must-order: Halibut crudo
Insider tip: Housemade sodas can be spiked with a spirit of your choice for an additional kick.
This quaint pastry shop features Hawaiian masadalas, savory fritters and other fried pastries from across the globe, including donuts, of course. The space is comfortable and vintage with old-school maps on the wall and an antique desk for coffee condiments.
- Donut Shop
- North Park