17 Unforgettable Restaurants in Downtown San Diego

Embark on a culinary journey through Downtown San Diego’s vibrant food scene

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

13. STK Steakhouse

Award-winning steakhouse located in the heart of San Diego

Treat yourself to some of the best brunch dishes in town. Image courtesy of Yelp

600 F St | Gaslamp, East Village | stksteakhouse.com

STK Steakhouse in San Diego is a premier destination for steak lovers seeking a modern dining experience. Located in the heart of downtown San Diego, this upscale steakhouse offers a contemporary atmosphere with sleek decor and a vibrant ambiance. 

STK is renowned for its high-quality cuts of steak that are cooked to perfection and served with style. From tender filet mignon to juicy rib eye, their menu showcases a variety of prime beef options. Complementing the exceptional steaks, the restaurant also offers an array of delectable seafood dishes, creative sides, and an extensive selection of handcrafted cocktails. With its attentive service and stylish setting, STK Steakhouse guarantees a memorable and luxurious dining experience for both locals and visitors alike.

“This food here was DELICIOUS! It's worth every penny. What was even better, however, was our server, Kaite S. She was amazing. Super informative, as it was our first time here, and very attentive.  Next time we are in San Diego, we will definitely be back!” - Yelp Review

14. Madison

Cozy eatery located in University Heights

4622 Park Blvd | University Heights | madisononpark.com

Madison restaurant is a hidden gem that promises an unforgettable dining experience. This charming eatery combines a cozy atmosphere with a culinary adventure that caters to diverse palates. 

Madison prides itself on offering a seasonal menu that showcases the best of Californian cuisine, with a focus on farm-fresh ingredients sourced from local suppliers. From mouthwatering appetizers to indulgent entrees, each dish is crafted with precision and creativity. Whether you're savoring their innovative small plates or relishing in their enticing main courses, Madison's culinary offerings are sure to tantalize your taste buds. Complementing the exceptional food, their well-curated wine list and craft cocktail selection further enhance the overall dining experience. 

“Madison stands out as a culinary jewel in the University Heights neighborhood. It's not just a restaurant; it's a destination for those seeking a unique dining experience in a visually stunning environment. I'm eagerly looking forward to my next visit.” - Yelp Review

15. The Henry

Bright breakfast spot that is known for its savory American dishes

Grab some pastries and a coffee for a morning pick-me-up! Image courtesy of Yelp.

1031 Orange Ave | Isabella Ave & Park Pl | thehenryrestaurant.com

Situated in the heart of San Diego, The Henry is a vibrant and trendy culinary destination that captures the essence of modern American dining. Boasting a stylish and inviting atmosphere, The Henry offers a unique blend of sophistication and casual elegance. 

The menu at The Henry is a delightful fusion of classic comfort food and innovative flavors, with dishes that cater to a variety of tastes and dietary preferences. From delectable brunch options to mouthwatering dinner selections, each plate is meticulously prepared using high-quality, locally sourced ingredients. The Henry also offers a thoughtfully curated wine list, craft cocktails, and a range of specialty coffees. 

“Went for a friend's birthday. Decor and seating are great to accommodate a big group! Food was amazing I wish I got more pictures. Great regular and vegetarian options. Service was great, will definitely return!” - Yelp Review

16. Parc Bistro

French bistro that invites you in with its charming space and mouthwatering dishes

The Blackened Ahi Sandwich is sure to delight your tastebuds! Image courtesy of Yelp

2760 5th Ave | Banker’s Hill | parcbb.com

Parc Bistro is a charming culinary haven that transports diners to the heart of France. This delightful eatery captures the essence of a classic Parisian bistro with its inviting ambiance and mouthwatering cuisine. Step inside, and you'll be greeted by a warm and intimate setting adorned with rustic accents and cozy seating. 

Parc Bistro's menu showcases traditional French fare with a modern twist, offering a delectable selection of dishes made with the finest ingredients. From savory starters like escargots and foie gras to exquisite entrees such as Coq au Vin and Beef Bourguignon, each plate is a culinary masterpiece. The restaurant also boasts an extensive wine list featuring carefully curated selections to perfectly complement the flavors of the cuisine. 

“Food was well prepared-- the highlights were the mushroom ravioli and lobster arancini. I would order these every time I go. The Burrata was also really good but how good can burrata get, right? This was up there.” - Yelp Review

17. Seventh House

Whimsical French restaurant that fills up quickly

2835 University Ave | North Park | seventhhousesandiego.com

Saving the best for last, we present to you Seventh House, an extraordinary upscale dining lounge that seamlessly blends the art of French cuisine with the vibrant flavors of Baja fusion. With an unwavering commitment to quality, Seventh House meticulously selects the finest organic ingredients, ensuring that every plate placed before you is a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds. 

Some of their most popular dishes on the menu include the Pork Belly Omelet, Apple Crepes, and Smoked Turkey Sandwich. Feeling extra peckish? Try the Let Them Eat Cake Tower, which features three bottles of house champagne, vodka punch, fresh fruits, whole cake, and four pastries. 

“Absolutely adore this place. The food is amazing, the staff is attentive, and the ambiance is next level. I've been here several times and I always feel like I'm discovering some cool new decor. Love 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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Trae Bodge

Trae Bodge is the shopping expert here at GiftYa. Trae helps people find the best deals and ideas on popular new items to purchase.

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