12 Restaurants in Downtown San Diego You Need to Visit

September 27, 2021
Food & Drink
jason wolfe

Downtown San Diego offers a wide selection of restaurants and bars to make your next night out unforgettable. Whether you are a long-time resident or a visitor who is just staying for the weekend, you are bound to find something you enjoy! After a full day of shopping and walking around the downtown area, you will probably be hungry. Luckily for you, Downtown San Diego is filled to the brim with high-quality restaurants serving delicious food that will satisfy your stomach. The next time you spend a night out on the town, visit these popular Downtown San Diego restaurants! 

Are you searching for the perfect gift to give your friend? Surprise them with a virtual GiftYa card! GiftYa cards can be applied to a number of different restaurants in San Diego, including the ones we cover below! Because they are completely virtual, your friend never has to worry about losing theirs! The next time they go out, they can rest assured their meal is on you. 

1. Water Grill

Relatively new restaurant located in the Gaslamp quarter

615 J St | Gaslamp, East Village | watergrill.com/sandiego

Since 2015, the Water Grill has served as one of the most popular seafood restaurants in the city. Located in the Gaslamp quarter, the Water Grill offers fresh and inventive seafoods to hungry visitors. 

On the menu, you will find savory appetizers including Clam Chowder, Crisp Calamari, and Wild Spanish Octopus. Specialty sushi rolls such as the King Crab California Roll and Spicy Lobster Roll are also great for starting your meall off on the right foot. A Raw Bar is also available for guests. As for the drinks, you will find a wide selection of cocktails, wine, and beer. 

“All of the staff was welcoming, so knowledgeable of their menu and followed safety protocols.  I really want to thank the staff for all the hard work they're doing. You guys are awesome!” - Yelp Review

Purchase a GiftYa card for the Water Grill

2. Pushkin Russian Restaurant

Russian-Armenian restaurant named after the great writer Alexander Pushkin

750 6th Ave | Gaslamp | pushkinrestaurantsd.com

When was the last time you had a delicious Russian meal? Pushkin Russian Restaurant serves delicious and authentic Russian meals inside a scenic, fairytale atmosphere. Named after the great Russian writer Alexander Pushkin, this restaurant artfully combines fine cuisine with an elegant interior. 

Savory dishes including pierogies, beef stroganoff, and lamb shank can be found on the menu. If you’re in the mood for seafood, you can select a choice from the restaurant’s salmon, white fish, and chilean sea bass options. Craft cocktails, wine, beer, tea and soda are also available for enjoying alongside your meal. 

“The food was amazing. I loved the drinks, the dessert we had to order another one cause it was so delicious. The service was also perfect. I highly recommend it.” - Yelp Review

Purchase a GiftYa card for Pushkin Russian Restaurant. 

3. Trailer Park After Dark

New restaurant in San Diego that offers a unique dining experience

835 5th Ave | Gaslamp | trailerparkafterdark-sandiego.com

Located in the Gaslamp Quarter, the Trailer Park After Dark offers a unique dining experience for visitors. Comfort food, specialty cocktails, and a one-of-a-kind ambiance await you at Trailer Park After Dark! And yes, there is an actual trailer piece in the restaurant that is open for seating! You can even book a private trailer for a special event. As for the food selection, you will find a wide variety of classic options like grilled cheese sticks, nachos, and tater tots. Cocktails, beer, wine, soda, and juice are all available to enjoy alongside your meal. 

“This place is a BLAST! Hands-down top 5 theme bars I've ever been to. We reserved the 60's trailer this past Saturday for my sister's bachelorette weekend and it was so fun!” - Yelp Review

Purchase a GiftYa card for the Trailer Park After Dark. 

4. The Prado at Balboa Park

Popular spot in Balboa Park known for its spacious outdoor patio

1549 El Prado | Balboa Park | cohnrestaurants.com

Looking for a spacious outdoor dining spot? Stop by The Prado. Located in the heart of San Diego’s Balboa Park, The Prado offers patio seating perfect for warm nights out on the town. In addition to its stunning surroundings, The Prado also offers a great menu. Everything from the Spicy Calamari Fries to the Green Pea & Asparagus Risotto is sure to delight your taste buds. The restaurant’s specialty margaritas and cocktails are also perfect for sipping on alongside your upscale meals. 

“This place never disappoints! From the hostess to waiter, they were so nice and accommodating. We had a great table with a great view looking over the Japanese garden. Our food was delicious as well as our drinks!” - Yelp Review

Purchase a GiftYa card for The Prado at Balboa Park. 

5. Monello

Italian restaurant located in Little Italy offering delicious street food

750 W Fir St | Little Italy | lovemonello.com

Located in Little Italy, Love Monello is a popular restaurant known for its authentic and inventive Italian cuisine. If you’re coming with a group, we recommend starting out by sharing some starters. The suppli al telefono and panzerotti dishes, for example, are great for sharing around the table. 

When it comes to the entree, you have a wide array of pasta, meat, seafood, and pizza selections to choose from. You can even make special customizations to your pasta! If you managed to save enough room for dessert, we recommend trying the restaurant’s homemade gelatis! Vanilla, chocolate, pistacchio, and coffee flavors are all available. 

“Wow! The raspa dura shaved cheese is heavenly. I ordered the spaghetti carbonara and the 4 pepper spaghetti. The spaghetti noodles are so thick and fresh. I love it!” - Yelp Review

Purchase a GiftYa card for Monello. 

6. The Blind Burro

Baja Mexican restaurant located in the Gaslamp quarter

639 J St | Gaslamp, East Village | theblindburro.com

Craving some authentic Mexican food? Stop by The Blind Burrito! Since the start of the pandemic, The Blind Burrito has expanded its outdoor patio. If you want to enjoy food while remaining socially distant and staying outside, The Blind Burrito is a prime choice. You also have the option to order food for pick-up or delivery if you would rather stay at home!

On the menu, you will find appetizing options including Asada Wings, Quinoa Salad, Pollo & Poblana Enchiladas, and Macha Angus Short Rib. Churros are also available for dessert — if you have enough room to fit it in your stomach. 

“The Blind burro is a Mexican/seafood restaurant. They have every kind of mixed drink you can think of. The music is great here. I feel like I'm on vacation in San Diego.” - Yelp Review

Purchase a GiftYa card for The Blind Burro. 

7.  Great Maple San Diego

Award-winning eatery that serves dishes made from seasonal produce and farm-fresh American meat

1451 Washington St | Hillcrest | thegreatmaple.com

The Great Maple is known as a modern American eatery that specializes in comfort food with a twist. All of its dishes are made from seasonal and sustainably-sourced ingredients. What results is a wide selection of delicious and inventive American dishes. 

On the all-day menu, you will find savory dishes such as Parmesan Truffle Fries, Charred Cauliflower Hummus and Mac & Cheese. These dishes in particular are perfect for sharing with friends. If you want a meal to yourself, you can select an option from the main menu or order one of their savory sandwiches or burgers. Whatever you decide, you are sure to leave filled and satisfied. 

“The service was great. The food and drinks never disappoint. We thoroughly enjoyed the egg and chorizo melt, egg and bacon melt, blueberry pancakes with sides of scrambled eggs and sausage.” - Yelp Review

Purchase a GiftYa card for the Great Maple San Diego. 

8. Lumi

Rooftop sushi

366 Fifth Ave | Gaslamp Quarter | lumirooftop.com

Lumi features creative Japanese fare created by Michelin Star Chef, Akira Back. Take, for example, the Akira Back Pizza which is essentially sushi pizza. Yum and definitely Instagram-worthy!

This restaurant also turns into a nightclub where you can enjoy cocktails such as Lumi’s Signature Slushie Cocktail Haru, which is made up of beefeater gin, cherry and orange blossom, honeysuckle, and lemon juice.

“Highlights of the meal would definitely be the Sushi Pizza thing. Looks very plain but the taste was phenomenal! A good crisp and taste of truffle oil in every bite. Hands down one of my favorite dining experiences in San Diego!” - Yelp Review

9. El Chingon

Badass Mexican restaurant 

560 Fifth Ave | Gaslamp Quarter | elchingon.com

El Chingon is a (badass) concept inspired by Pancho Villa and the pistoleros of the Mexican Revolution. 

Come for the cocktails like the Bad Ass Manny Machadolada, made with Malibu Banana Rum, fresh pineapple, fresh lime, cream of coconut and dry curaçao served in a goblet with a coconut rim, frozen chocolate banana, and mini baseball bat, and stay for the tacos and tortas you will inevitably need after your huge drink!

“What a great place. We had the best drinks.Mickey was fun and so entertaining. He made some of the best drinks we've ever had. Food was excellent too. What a great time we all had. Thanks Mickey!” - Yelp Review

10. American Junkie

Modern gastropub

628 Fifth Ave | Gaslamp Quarter | americanjunkiesd.com

This popular restaurant is a modern interpretation of the traditional gastro pub. Not only do they serve the expected gastropub fare, but they also have hand-tossed pizza, Impossible burgers, and tacos. 

The place really comes alive at night, so be prepared for a crowd (a fun crowd, but a crowd nonetheless) and unique cocktails like the Junkie Cup which tastes better than it sounds.

“Glad we came here. The drink tasted like a jolly rancher, my girlfriend loved it. Our nachos were super good. Best restaurant nachos I've ever had. They weren't soggy, but every chip had some of everything. Good spot, would come back for sure.” - Yelp Review

11. BIGA San Diego

Woodfired Italian cuisine 

950 Sixth Ave | Gaslamp Quarter | bigasandiego.com

If you’re craving crisp specialty pizza, check out BIGA San Diego within the beautiful new San Diego Symphony facility, The Shell.

Named after an age-old fermentation process used for Italian breads and pizza dough, BIGA celebrates the handcrafted process as well as the use of seasonal, local ingredients. 

Be sure to try the Bianca, made with house-made fior di latte mozzarella, heirloom cherry tomatoes, raw basil, taggiasca olive, stracchino cheese, Maldon salt, and Italian oregano.

“The pasta and food here is incredible, and the atmosphere is great! The pasta is handmade fresh, and it was incredible! The pizza dough was also amazing! I highly recommend coming here if you are looking for good quality Italian food.” - Yelp Review

12. Gaslamp Burger

San Diego burger bar 

738 Fifth Ave | Gaslamp Quarter | gaslampburger.com 

San Diego’s ultimate burger bar serves burgers made with an aged blend of grass fed organic ground beef, so you can feel good about the burger you’re eating.

They have burgers, dogs, wings, salads, and a huge selection of specialty fries. The BBQ Chicken Fries and Buffalo Chicken Fries are obviously to die for. But if you’re feeling adventurous, try the Nacho Fries or Greek Fries. 

Make sure you get a Chocolate, Vanilla, or Strawberry shake to wash down all the savory goodness. 

If the beef isn’t enough protein for you, check out the Protein Burger. And if you’re a vegetarian, the Veggie Burger is there waiting for you!

“Ordered a philly cheesesteak burger with fries and a SD burger with fried zucchini, along with a beer and a soda. It was hot and fresh. The fried zucchini was really good, as were both burgers

I recommend this spot.” - Yelp Review

Which of these restaurants in Downtown San Diego do you enjoy going to? Let us know in the comments!

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