Whether you’re just visiting, or live in the area, Downtown San Diego has you covered whether you’re wanting a day at the peaceful Japanese Friendship Garden, or heading to a Padres game in Gaslamp. Downtown San Diego is also the location for a constantly evolving and suddenly very lively food scene with options for all. Below, we take a look at just some of what Downtown San Diego has to offer.
1290 F St., San Diego, CA 92101
Lola55 takes its inspiration from Oaxaca, Mexico, and puts its own flair to create unique, flavorful tacos. With a rotating menu, make sure to check online to read up about what’s available that day to get you salivating before you even place your order. The tacos may steal the show, seriously you can’t go wrong – filet mignon, chicken, carnitas, fish – but the sides are nothing to scoff over. The chipotle rice is cooked in chicken jus and chipotle and served with blistered tomatoes and cilantro, and the quesadilla Oaxaca uses Oaxacan cheese and is a delight to eat along with their dipping salsas. Combine all three and enjoy a night of gluttony! And while the bar is not fully open, you can get yourself one of their delicious margaritas to go, or get the whole kit and do it yourself at home.
1435 Sixth Ave., San Diego, CA 92101
If you’re looking for chilaquiles in Downtown San Diego, the search ends here. Cocina35 looks to bring the flavors and smells of authentic Mexican cuisine to San Diego with its own spin. You can have your chilaquiles served eight different ways, with the ability to customize it so you can create your perfect version of the dish. The La Bomba chilaquiles give you a heaping amount of the always delicious cochinita pibil and tops it with creamy habanero-cilantro salsa. If you’ve met your quota of chilaquiles, the torta and burrito la loteria are both great options. Finish off the meal with one of their desserts like their churros, cajetas, or flan. Cocina35 has a little bit of everything for you to enjoy.
455 Tenth Ave., San Diego, CA 92101
The name tells the story but the focus at Monzu is to transport you to Italy with their freshly made pasta. After taking some time off due to COVID, they have come back with a bang. The flatbreads are delightful – such as their spicy Calabrian sausage served with a red sauce, or their Tartufo which is made of burrata, truffle honey, truffle carpaccio, and black pepper. Make sure to try out one of their pasta dishes such as the pistachio pesto gnocchi which is stuffed with asiago cheese, and their Sicilian pistachio pesto, served with burrata flakes and cherry tomato. The tagliatelle alla bolognese takes slow-cooked ground beef, chalk filled with flavor, and served with perfectly cooked tagliatelle topped with cheese.
1495 G St., San Diego, CA 92101
If you come to You and Yours Distillery you will be blown away by the sheer size – coming in at a massive 2,300 square foot production, it is beautifully decorated and includes a full production distillery, event room, tasting room, oh and some surprisingly great food options. The cocktail menu features all of its own spirits and is absolutely delicious on its own front but partnered with the fantastic food options, you’ll have yourself a great time. The fried chicken and waffles uses a dry gin waffle and perfectly crispy fried chicken topped with hot honey. The snack board has a little bit of everything to overload your tastebuds with everything from London Dry pickles, to buttery mini buttermilk biscuits, to luxurious country ham. For dessert – the Worms in Dirt partners devil’s food with a Gin mousse, local favorite Stella Jean ice cream, graham crackers, and vodka-infused gummy worms for an extremely unique dessert that is only for adults 21 and over. If you’re looking for good food and good cocktails – you’ve found your spot.
532 Fourth Ave., San Diego, CA 92101
Tacos, salsa, and beer – what else could you ask for? The abodabo tacos are always a crowd favorite with their beautifully cooked and marinated grilled pork. The surf and turf is a unique twist on a taco that incorporates juicy shrimp and delicious steak. Their fish taco is a baja-style crispy fish and is also a Tacos el Cabron favorite. If you’re looking for something bigger, you can get most of them in a giant burrito that should certainly fill you up. The birria also pays homage to traditional Mexican flavors and aromas and is delicious in its own right. Make sure to try out all of their different salsas as well to balance out all of the flavors of your meal.
6. La Puerta
560 4th Ave., San Diego, CA 92101
The margaritas and tacos are the stars of the show at La Puerta – a Sinaloa inspired restaurant in the heart of Downtown San Diego. Start your meal off with some of their guacamole that comes with Panela cheese, fresh pico de gallo, and spiced with serrano peppers. Their signature dish, Carnitas, and pancakes, takes a generous portion of slow-roasted pork and is served alongside freshly made pancakes and comes with two eggs – a very unique option. Their street taco, especially their carne asada and cochinita, are must-haves. The surf’n’turf fries are another La Puerta favorite and come with arranchera steak, sauteed shrimp, and topped with delicious chipotle crema. For those of you that are particularly hungry La Puerta also has massive one-pound burritos, including their decadent surf’n’turf option, while the California burrito is stuffed with arranchera steak, french fries, and more while drizzled with crema.
7. Cowboy Star
640 Tenth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
If you’re looking for a solid fine dining restaurant to grab some steak or seafood, Cowboy Star will blow you away. Enjoy your meal in a laid-back and elegant space, perfect for gathering with friends, an intimate date night, or a family dinner. The gorgeous interior space features exposed beam ceilings, cowboy accents, and an open kitchen, which offers an insider’s view of the heart of the restaurant. The menu combines contemporary American cuisine with a unique Western flare and only offers fresh seafood and angus. Start your meal off right with the sea star platter, which comes with the freshest chilled shellfish and a variety of other seafood to snack on. For your entree, if you’re looking for a truly outstanding dish, the Hokkaido Wagyu New York steak is nothing short of exceptional. The Wagyu beef is flown directly from Japan, and the dish includes confit lemon potatoes, glazed carrots, sturgeon caviar osetra, yuzu kosho aioli, carrot tops, chimichurri and juniper berry sauce. To end your meal on a good note, try their housemade desserts such as the amazing pumpkin sticky toffee cake or the classic banana pudding.
611 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Lavo is the perfect spot to sit down and enjoy a quality Italian meal. They are known for their one-pound Wagyu meatball along with housemade pastas and pizza. The menu is complemented perfectly by delicious handcrafted cocktails and a wide variety of the best fine wines. Located in the lively neighborhood of the historic Gaslamp Quarter, Lavo is a light-filled loft-like restaurant with an open kitchen, dining room with plush banquettes, a 3-sided bar perfect for sports, and outdoor dining. Olive trees, antique wood floors and mirrors, and amber glowing pendants make perfect for both celebratory group dinners and intimate dates. The Wagyu meatball may be the star of the show at Lavo, but be sure to also try some other favorites like the reginette seafood alfredo, a pasta dish that comes with shrimp, scallops, and lobster butter coated in a light cream sauce. Or go the more classic route with the penne alla vodka or chicken parmigiano. Don’t skip out on dessert here – the 20 layer chocolate cake is absolutely heavenly.
520 Front St, San Diego, CA 92101
If you’re looking for an exceptional and affordable restaurant to grab some breakfast, Richard Walker’s is nothing short of delicious. This casual spot is famous for its hefty portions of pancakes, baked omelets, and crepes, among others. This restaurant has the perfect family feel and offers outdoor seating with a sweeping view, perfect for people watching. Some must try dishes here are the the classic egg benedict, thin Swedish pancakes, and raspberry crepes, stuffed with fresh raspberries and served with a generous topping of raspberry syrup. Don’t know what to choose? The ultimate benediction is a great option and comes with one of each three benedicts on a single platter and is served with crispy hashbrowns. The menu at Richard Walker’s also offers a variety of juices and steaming hot coffee.
10. Underbelly Ramen
750 W Fir St #101, San Diego, CA 92101
Underbelly Ramen, located in Little Italy, is a remarkable, yet affordable, restaurant in downtown San Diego. If you’re craving a bowl of ramen, this is a spot you absolutely need to check out. Some dining options here include the belly of the beast, a ramen dish with tonkotsu broth, soft boiled egg, oxtail dumplings, and hoison glazed short rib. The pork belly bao is also a good choice – fluffy bao buns stuffed with tender sticky pork belly. If you’re a huge fan of chicken wings, try the crispy chicken wings from Underbelly and you won’t be disappointed. Choose from sweet and spicy sauce or teriyaki. The drinks and cocktails at Underbelly are also as equally impressive as the food. Our favorites are the ube coolada, the pink momonga, and the hard light, and there’s also a selection of sake to choose from.
For more recommendations on where to eat and drink around San Diego, check out our San Diego city page.
This article was originally published on Feburary 5, 2021 and last updated on November 9, 2023. Please refer to restaurant websites and social media pages for the most up-to-date information.