For families visiting San Diego, there are any number of great options for dining out.
Here’s a selection of some of the best the city has to offer, grouped by restaurant type (family dining or casual) and neighborhood.
Downtown & Gaslamp
The Cowboy Star
If you want top-quality American steak complemented by hearty sides and delicious sauces, look no further than the Gaslamp’s Cowboy Star.
With its own onsite butcher shop, an unstuffy atmosphere and decor that recalls the romanticism of the Old West, The Cowboy Star serves up cuts from the country’s top Certified Humane Angus herd as well as fresh local seafood.
Uncompromising service and regional heirloom recipes set this outlet above more mundane central offerings.
Puesto is a double-height discovery that’s won numerous local food competitions and now features two additional outposts in La Jolla and Los Olivos.
Taco Tuesdays are just one reason to stop in at Puesto; others are delectable ceviche, guacamole, shared plates and salads.
Jack & Giulio’s
Outdoor seating is on the menu at Jack & Giulio’s, a discerning traditional Italian eatery in San Diego’s popular Old Town neighborhood.
Pasta specialties are made from scratch in-house from old-world recipes.
Antipasti, seafood, chicken and veal are on offer as well, as are California and Italian wines by the glass or half-bottle.
New Orleans Creole Cafe
Old Town’s New Orleans Creole Cafe is set in an old-fashioned 1890s-era home complete with a front porch and casual outdoor tables.
New Orleans Po-Boy sandwiches on French baguettes, chicken and sausage gumbo and hearty jambalaya give this minuscule gem a genuine creole-cajun vibe.
Try the crawfish etoufee or the fancy mac and cheese with andouille.
New Orleans Creole Cafe, 2482 San Diego Avenue, San Diego CA 92110, 619.542.1698
Juniper & Ivy
Juniper & Ivy is an upscale bistro featuring nouvelle American food with a Left-coast hipness thanks to chef Richard Blais.
The winner of Bravo’s “Top Chef All-Stars,” Blais has an all-star culinary team to assist him. Menu selections include seafood, steak, pastas and refined desserts to satisfy tasteful appetites. Call ahead to check if there’s a wait.
With its sampling of California farmlands’ bountiful harvest combined with a Mexican heritage, Little Italy’s industrial-modern Bracero is fast becoming a rising star of San Diego’s food renaissance.
A large multilevel indoor/outdoor space entices with a raw yet refined charm and warm openness.
Flavors of chile, corn, fresh lime and salsa infuse Bracero’s offerings of tostadas, tortas, beef, fish entrees and more.
If you’re a pizza aficionado, the low-gluten, light-crust pizzas of Napizza will delight you with their fresh and healthy toppings like chia seeds, kale, and mahimahi.
Green-certified Napizza lets its dough rise for 72 hours before baking for an authentic Roman result that’s deliciously good for you.
There are also super-healthy salads with avocado, kale, walnuts and quinoa. Everything on the menu is made onsite from scratch.
Mission Bay & Pacific Beach
The Fishery is the restaurant component of a thriving local fish market run by the Pacific Shellfish Seafood Company, which has been supplying seafood to San Diego’s most respected restaurants for over 30 years.
The ocean-to-table menu is market-driven and offers tastings on Tuesdays featuring locally grown produce and the catch of the day.
Oscar’s Mexican Seafood
A cash-only, affordable cafe set in a small storefront, Oscar’s Mexican Seafood has mouth-watering options that make it a regular destination for locals — so much so that they’ve expanded to four other locations; this is the original one.
Ceviche, grilled fish, burritos, tacos and tortas are created quickly and to perfection and can be ordered to-go.
Galaxy Taco, a colorful new addition to La Jolla, is an airy and fun laid-back place offering grilled seafood, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, ceviche and soups.
Traditional entrees make an appearance for Sunday brunch with a Mexican touch. Tortillas are made from scratch in-house daily.
The Promiscuous Fork
Giant-sized burgers and filling sandwiches make The Promiscuous Fork an unpretentious yet tempting hole-in-the-wall for foodies in La Jolla wanting something a little beyond the ordinary.
With a range of different toppings and options from uncommon cheeses to bacon and habanero pesto, this unassuming indoor/outdoor shop features a few counters to sit at, or you can take your food with you.
Carl Schroeder, the award-winning chef of Market restaurant, is a three-time James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for his seasonal dishes featuring hand-selected, locally grown ingredients.
Steak and seafood choices topped by delicate glazes and sauces make this one of North County’s most highly regarded establishments and one of the top dining rooms in the city.
Carnitas’ Snack Shack
Carnitas’ Snack Shack is a friendly and homey hideaway featuring pork in many of its signature dishes.
The laid-back outdoor seating area is matched by the simple and tasty offerings of sandwiches, tacos, burgers and pork belly. The location is one of two currently open, and a third one is in the works.
Chef Hanis Cavin took home the Chef of the Year award from the California Restaurant Association in 2009.
A casual outdoor dining spot in South Park is Buona Forchetta, an authentic Neopolitan brick-and-clay oven pizzeria featuring the freshest ingredients, wines and pastas made from scratch.
Locals rave about the crusty concoctions turned out by the golden-tiled oven nicknamed “Sofia.” The restaurant’s motto is ‘May the Fork Be With You!’
Station Tavern is a modern, open-air beer garden with a play area for kids and plenty of outdoor space.
Serving up burgers and children’s favorites like grilled cheese and hot dogs, it offers delicious house-made sauces and vegetarian options for the health-conscious. Craft beers are on tap for brew lovers.
By Type of Food
Bar & Grill
BO-Beau Kitchen & Garden
Specializing in French cuisine and comfort food this is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. The dim lighting and intimate atmosphere are great for adults, but the big yellow school bus is a massive draw for the kids.
BO-Beau Kitchen & Garden – 8384 La Mesa Blvd, La Mesa, CA 91942
A spacious bar with waterfront dining, locally sourced pub food, craft beer, and wine by the glass. Let the kids run free in the large play area while enjoying a drink and the beautiful view.
Waypoint Public – 3794 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
Station Tavern & Burger
This open air beer garden serves traditional comfort food with a massive selection of craft beer. There is a huge outdoor dining area with a mini train for kids to play on, while you enjoy another round of beers or try some delicious dessert.
Station Tavern & Burger – 2204 Fern St, San Diego, CA 92104
This 50s-style diner has been a family staple in San Diego for a quarter century. Take the kids on a trip down memory lane with authentic 50’s style waitresses serving up great burgers & delicious shakes.
Corvette Diner – 2965 Historic Decatur Rd, San Diego, CA 92106
With several locations popping up all over San Diego, the Burger Lounge puts a new twist to on American favorite. Serving only high quality grass fed beef, this is one burger joint that the whole family is sure to love.
Burger Lounge – several locations throughout San Diego
In addition to great food, Slater’s also has a huge selection of craft beers, making it a great place to catch a game. Home of the famous 50/50 burger, these giant burgers are made with half beef and half bacon, in the same patty.
Slater’s 50/50 – Liberty Station, 2750 Dewey Rd #193, San Diego, CA 92106
Old Town Mexican Cafe & Cantina
Serving standard Mexican dishes & authentic hand-pressed tortillas this is some of the best Mexican food available in Old Town. Enjoy authentic Mexico, with strolling mariachis, and a festive atmosphere that the kids will love.
Old Town Mexican Cafe & Cantina – 2489 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110
The Taco Stand
Authentic Mexican fare includes handmade tortillas, guacamole and certified angus beef. The casual indoor/outdoor atmosphere make this a great spot that the whole family will enjoy
The Taco Stand – 645 B St San Diego, CA 92101
Las Cuatro Milpas
Around since the early 1930’s this is old-school Mexican known for its carnitas and handmade tortillas. Lines are notoriously long and the picnic-table decor is very casual so bring the kids and don’t forget your appetite.
Las Cuatro Milpas – 1857 Logan Ave, San Diego, CA 92113
Village offers New York style pizza with some of the best views in San Diego. The relaxed atmosphere is great for kids and adults to enjoy the authentic taste from back East in beautiful Coronado.
Village Pizzeria – 1206 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118
Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza
Serving wood fired California style thin crust, all ingredients are organic and locally-sourced. Now with locations all over the California and Nevada area, Sammy’s is a family favorite.
Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza – 12925 El Camino Real J21, San Diego, CA 92130
Fillipi’s Pizza Grotto
A casual spot for Italian food in Little Italy. Filippi’s accepts to go orders for those who are headed out to sightsee.
Fillipi’s Pizza Grotto – 1747 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
Blue Water Seafood
Serving a selection of locally sourced seafood, Blue Water is as fresh as it gets. With great views of the bay, the patio is great on a sunny day and the inside is casual enough for kids to get crayons and color.
Blue Water Seafood – 3667 India St, San Diego, CA 92103
The Fish Market
The Fish Market offers a wide selection of grilled seafood, sushi & oysters from all over California. With excellent harbor views, this is a premier family destination for seafood in San Diego.
The Fish Market – 750 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
Anthony’s Fish Grotto
This family-friendly seafood spot is old school, but when you want fried seafood it doesn’t get much better than Anthony’s. With fantastic views of the bay, this is a great place that everyone in the family can enjoy.
Anthony’s Fish Grotto – 1360 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101