DINING

When it comes to food and drink, San Diego has certainly grown up in the past decade, shedding its former reputation as a burger-fish taco-and-flip flops-only dining destination. Celebrated chefs, creative cocktails and craft beer characterize the culinary culture, along with a wealth of international cuisines and experiences ranging from toes-in-the-sand casual to world-class fine dining.

Fine Dining

Serving the finest seafood cuisine with service and atmosphere the match, San Diego's fine dining restaurants celebrate the best of the region's bounty, combining locally grown produce and the seasonal catch of the day in unique and innovative dishes. From Yellowfin to Yellowtail, San Diego is serving it up fresh; here are a few to try:

  • Top of the Market / The Fish Market , Downtown
    Downstairs, the frenetic Fish Market offers an enormous selection of fresh seafood - broiled, fried, raw, seared, steamed, grilled, baked, they even have a sushi bar and oyster bar - to crowds of casually-dressed diners. On the second floor, Top of the Market offers an upscale approach with higher prices, dressier clientele, more peaceful atmosphere and more elegant presentations. Both levels offer remarkable views of the harbor and the Coronado Bridge.
  • The Oceanaire Seafood Room , Downtown
    Seafood flown in fresh from around the globe is the catch of the day at this very grown-up, Gaslamp hot spot. It's heaven for fish fans, with at least a dozen fresh selections offered nightly. Other highlights of the menu include several varieties of oysters, the city's best crab cakes and assorted seafood salads. Separate room available for private parties; good for special occasions, and walking distance from the Convention Center.
  • Blue Point Coastal Cuisine , Downtown
    Located downtown on a busy Gaslamp District corner, Blue Point offers world-class people watching, superb martinis, an oyster bar and consistently good fresh seafood. If just-shucked oysters, seared ahi and lobster bisque aren't your cup of chowder, the menu also features steaks, poultry and rack of lamb.
  • Osetra Fishhouse , Downtown
    Located in the heart of the Gaslamp District, Osetra Fishhouse not only offers great seafood and sushi but they also have an extensive wine list presented in a cool, three-story wine tower which dominates the room. Upscale but not stuffy, Osetra is a great choice for seafood lovers.

Casual Dining: Fish in a Taco

Although their origins are in Mexico, there's no doubt that fish tacos have been perfected here in San Diego. First served in the early 80s, both Las Olas Mexican Restaurant and Ralph Rubio, owner of the Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill chain, claim to be the first to bring the fish taco north of the border. And while it is widely debated who has the best in town, here are a few of our favorites:

  • The Brigantine (various locations)
    This local San Diego chain of informal, family-owned restaurants specializes in fresh seafood, much of it from local waters. In addition to the catches of the day like Pacific swordfish and Hawaiian mahi mahi, The Brigantine serves award-winning fish tacos. Offering a spectacular view the Del Mar Fairgrounds, the Del Mar Brigantine is especially popular during the Del Mar summer racing season and the Holiday of Lights in December.
  • Mama Testa Taqueria , Hillcrest
    In 2009, Mama Testa's chef and owner Cesar Gonzalez faced Bobby Flay on The Food Network in a 'fish taco throwdown,' and won! Mama Testa has been serving authentic time-honored recipes straight from Mexico since 2004. The menu is filled with the different styles and flavors of tacos from across Mexico, all with no twist on the traditional recipes. Truly authentic!
  • Las Olas Mexican Restaurant , Cardiff and Carlsbad
    Opened in 1981, Las Olas claims that it "pioneered the now famous fish taco" at its beach side location in the heart of Cardiff-by-the-Sea. While still serving "the original" fish taco, Las Olas also offers healthy selections of fresh San Diego seafood and traditional Mexican favorites in a casual atmosphere with indoor and patio dining.

Dine in or Take out: Fish from a Market

If you're looking for great seafood right off the dock, many seafood restaurants also operate fish markets where you can buy their fresh ocean catch to take with you and cook elsewhere. Dine-in or fresh to go, here are several worth a try:

  • Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill , Mission Hills
    Dine in or take it home to cook yourself, either way this all-fish restaurant offers some of San Diego's freshest fish and shellfish. Featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, the Blue Water menu offers all items prepared with the fish and marinade of your choosing.
  • El Pescador Fish Market , La Jolla
    This La Jolla fish market and seafood restaurant is popular among the local surfers as well as residents. With two refrigerated display cases stocked with locally caught fresh fish, patrons can select what they want and have it prepared to eat there or they can take their "catch" home to cook. Offering hot char-grilled and sauteed seafood items, sandwiches, plates, and salads, this fish market is a local favorite.
  • Pelly's Fish Market , Carlsbad
    Both a fish market and an eatery, Pelly's in San Diego's North County Coastal offers fresh seafood simply prepared at reasonable prices. House specialties include fish tacos, Ono salad and the clam chowder. The restaurant and take out fish is delivered daily and all locally caught.
  • Point Loma Seafoods , Point Loma
    This bustling little seafood market offers ultra-casual dining as well as a great selection of live shellfish, crabs and lobsters and fresh fish of all kinds, plus some of the city's best clam chowder as well as a variety of freshly smoked fish. The take-out menu includes fried seafood, assorted salads and sandwiches, terrific clam chowder and fish platters. The outdoor seating with harbor views makes this a favorite spot for families.

Standing Room Only: Fish from a Food

Truck

If you don't mind standing and eating from a paper plate, then food trucks that specialize in fresh seafood offer a quick, easy way to please your palate. Here are a few that might be coming to a neighborhood near you:

  • Marisco's German Taco Truck , Various Locations
    With multiple trucks that have been around forever, Marisco's German is the no-frills answer to your fish taco dreams, serving up simple Mexican seafood dishes. Order the basic fish taco, a value at any price, the tacos gobernador featuring succulent sautéed shrimp topped with melted cheese, or any of the light, fresh ceviches that sing with the flavors of the sea.

Acqua al 2

From Florence to the Gaslamp, Acqua al 2 brings San Diegans a new taste of Italy. The pasta sampler includes three white-sauce and two red-sauce pastas; the main-course sampler, a selection of three small portions of main-course dishes. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly. 322 Fifth Ave., 619-230-0382, acquaal2.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., RR, CR, OT, $$-$$$

ANTHOLOGY

An elegant but casual bistro providing tantalizing comfort food at its best, from meat loaf to a specialty burger. Lunch & dinner daily. 741 W. Washington, 619-295-6000, thereddoorsd.com . RR, FB B&W, CR, $$-$$$

ANTHONY'S FISH GROTTO ★

Consistently good, rea­sonably priced fresh seafood. Particularly popular for lunch. Lunch Mon.-Sat., dinner nightly. 1360 N. Har­bor Dr., 619-232-5103, gofishanthonys.com . FB, CR, $-$$

ASTI RISTORANTE

North­ern Italian dishes, gour­met sea­food specialties and delectable desserts are the fare at this cozy, elegant bistro at the edge of the Gaslamp Quarter. Lunch & dinner daily. 728 Fifth Ave., 619-232-8844, astisandiego.com . FB, LD, CR except CB, OT, $$-$$$

ATHENS MARKET TAVERNA ★

At Mary Pappas' eat­ery, diners can feast on a three-course Greek-style tsipoura dinner that includes octopathaka and an authentic Greek horiatiki salad. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner Mon.-Sat. 109 W. F St., in the Senator Building, 619-234-1955, athensmarkettaverna.com . FB, CR, $$

BANDAR ★

An exotic dining adventure in the Gaslamp Quarter: Persian cuisine with elegantly contemporary décor. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner Sat. 825 Fourth Ave., 619-238-0101, ­ bandarrestaurant.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., RR, CR, $-$$

BELLA LUNA

Featuring food of Capri, this Italian eatery specializes in fresh seafood and pasta dishes. Lunch & dinner daily. 748 Fifth Ave., 619-239-3222, bellaluna-sandiego.com . FB, LD, RR, CR, $$

BICE RISTORANTE

Combining modern and classic Italian styles, the menu at this classy new Gaslamp spot varies weekly. Dinner nightly. 425 Island Ave., 619-239-2423, ­ bicesandiego.com . FB, LD Sat., RR, AE, MC, V, OT, $$$$

B LOUNGE

Next to Bandar, this offshoot serves the same delicious Persian fare as its parent. Lunch & dinner daily. 845 Fourth Ave., 619-238-0203, bandarrestaurant.com/blounge . FB, LD, CR, $-$$

BLUE POINT COASTAL CUISINE

David Cohn's Frisco-style supper club raises the bar on seafood with butter-poached Australian lobster tail in a sherry saffron sauce. Dinner nightly. 565 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp Quarter, 619-233-6623, dinecrg.com . LD Fri. & Sat., FB, RR, CR, OT, $$$$

BONDI BAR & KITCHEN

This trendy downtown eatery features everything Australian, including imported beers and meats. Specialties include the char-grilled rack of lamb. Lunch & dinner daily. 333 Fifth Ave., 619-342-0212, thebondi.com . FB, LD, CH, AE, MC, V, $-$$

BUCA DI BEPPO

In-your-face, irreverent, family-style Italian dining on mammoth portions of traditional salads, pizzas and pastas in a décor dripping with kitsch and nostalgia. Lunch & dinner daily. 705 Sixth Ave., downtown. 619-233-PAPA, ­ bucadibeppo.com . Also in Carlsbad (1921 Calle Barcelona, 760-479-2533) & Mira Mesa (10749 Westview Pkwy., 858-536-2822). FB, LD Fri. & Sat., RR, CR, $$

BUON APPETITO

The Italian menu boasts more than a dozen pastas, 10 different meat and seafood entrées and an equal number of appetizers. Lunch & dinner daily. 1609 India St., Little Italy, 619-238-9880. B&W, LD Fri. & Sat., CR, $$-$$$

CAFÉ CHLOE

This fresh French bistro in downtown's East Village is a perfect blend of California casual and European flair. Soups are a specialty, but bistro classics like steak with frites are also excellent. Breakfast & lunch Mon.-Fri., brunch Sat. & Sun., afternoon tea (3-5; reservation required) & dinner daily. 721 Ninth Ave., 619-232-3242, cafechloe.com . B&W, AE, MC, V, $$

CAFÉ SEVILLA ★

The starry ceiling and rustic setting add romance to traditional Spanish cuisine such as the tapas sampler, seafood paella, flan and—of course—authentic sangría. Dinner nightly. 555 Fourth Ave., 619-233-5979, cafesevilla.com . FB, LD, RR, CR, OT, $$

CAFÉ 222

The pumpkin waffles and orange-pecan pancakes are favorites at this American café in the Gaslamp Quarter. Breakfast daily, lunch Mon.-Fri. 222 Island Ave., 619-236-9902, cafe222.com . MC, V, $

CAFÉ ZUCCHERO

Coffee-shop ambience with a concise menu of paninis, pizza and pasta, highlighted by a vast dessert case, all freshly prepared by in-house pastry-maker Frank Busalacchi, trained in Sicily. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily. 1731 India St., Little Italy, 619-531-1731, ­cafezucchero.com . B&W, LD Fri. & Sat., CR, $$

CANDELAS

The dinner crowd at this downtown Mexican alta cocina is treated to chef Eduardo Baeza's creation, langosta baeza—fresh lobster stuffed with mushrooms, jalapeño chilies, onions, bacon and aged tequila. Breakfast Sat. & Sun., lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly. 416 Third Ave., 619-702-4455, candelas-sd.com . Also in Coronado (1201 First St., 619-435-4900). FB, LD, CR, OT, $$$

CHIANTI

Italian fare including hand­made pastas and freshly baked bread. Lunch & dinner daily. 644 Fifth Ave., 619-235-8144, ­ chiantirestaurantsd.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., RR, CR, $$-$$$

CHINA CAMP AT FAT CITY

This colorful longtime favorite has an extensive Man­da­rin/Sze­chwan menu. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner night­ly. 2137 Pacific Hwy., 619-232-1367. FB, CR, $$

CHOCOLAT CREMERIE

At this Italian-owned café, gelato is the mainstay, but have Mamma Luisa whip up one of her sweet crêpes, stuffed with gelato, Nutella or mascarpone cream and served with wild berries and fresh bananas. Lunch & dinner daily. 509 Fifth Ave., 619-238-9400, chocolatsandiego.com . B&W, CR, $

CONFIDENTIAL

Executive chef Richard Sweeney's international menu complements the upscale atmosphere at this popular Gas­lamp Quarter restaurant and lounge. Dinner Tues.-Sat. 901 Fourth Ave., 619-696-8888, confidentialsd.com . FB, LD, CR, OT, $$-$$$

THE COWBOY STAR

Guests dine in John Wayne style at this East Village eatery with executive chef Victor Jimenez' blend of rustic American dishes given a modern twist. Lunch Tues.-Fri., dinner Tues.-Sun. 640 10th Ave., 619-450-5880, ­thecowboystar.com . FB, RR, CR except CB, OT, $$$-$$$$

CROCE'S ★

American contemporary cuisine featuring prime meats, fresh fish and live music nightly. Dine on the patio and enjoy the Gaslamp life. Brunch Sat. & Sun., dinner nightly. 802 Fifth Ave., 619-233-4355, croces.com . FB, LD, CR, OT, $$$-$$$$

CURRANT BRASSERIE

A modern space in a historic location, this unique eatery in downtown's Sofia Hotel offers a casual approach to fine dining. Chef Michael Rubino's eclectic menu encompasses American comfort cuisine and a hint of European flavor. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly. 140 W. Broadway, 619-702-6309, currantrestaurant.com . FB, CR, OT, $$-$$$

DE' MEDICI

Decorated with a hint of the Renaissance, this elegant restaurant serves regional Italian fare. Dinner nightly. 815 Fifth Ave., 619-702-7228. FB, LD, CR, OT, $$-$$$

DICK'S LAST RESORT

Irreverent servers and loud music plus heaps of ribs, chicken and crab make for a rau­cous dining adventure in the Gaslamp. Lunch & din­ner daily. 345 Fourth Ave., 619-231-9100, ­ dickslastresort.com . FB, LD, CR, $-$$

DOBSON'S ★

In­ternational and seafood specialties such as mussel bisque with puff pastry top the menu. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner Mon.-Sat. 956 Broadway Circle, 619-231-6771, ­ dobsonsrestaurant.com . FB, CR except CB, OT, $$-$$$

ELEPHANT & CASTLE PUB & RESTAURANT

British favorites such as steak-and-­mushroom pie and beer-and-Cheddar soup. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily. At the Holiday Inn on the Bay, 1355 N. Harbor Dr., 619-234-9977, ­ elephantcastle.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., CR, $$

EL VITRAL

Et Vitral serves its vast selection of tequilas amid a welter of stained-glass windows casting their glow on the contemporary Mexican cuisine. Lunch & dinner daily. 815 J St., East Village, 619-236-9420, ­ elvitralrestaurant.com . FB, LD, CR, OT, $$-$$$

ENOTECA STYLE

Fresh panini and bruschetta enliven the menu at this wine bar tucked into Little Italy. Lunch & dinner Mon.-Sat. 1445 India St., 619-546-7138, enotecastyle.com . B&W, CR, $$

EXTRAORDINARY DESSERTS ★

Decadance, anyone? Karen Krasne's extravagant cakes top any meal delightfully. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily at 1430 Union Street, Little Italy, 619-294-7001; desserts at 2929 Fifth Ave., Bankers Hill, 619-294-2132, ­ extraordinarydesserts.com . LD, AE, MC, V, $$

FILIPPI'S PIZZA GROTTO

Hearty helpings of Italian food fill the bill at this favorite in the Little Italy district. Lunch & dinner daily. 1747 In­dia St., 619-232-5094, realcheesepizza.com . Also in Chula Vista (82 Broadway, 619-427-6650), Clairemont Mesa (5353 Kearny Villa Rd., 858-279-7241), Escondido (114 W. Grand Ave., 760-747-2650), Jamul (13881 Campo Rd., 619-669-1080), Mira Mesa/Scripps Ranch (9969 Mira Mesa Blvd., 858-586-0888), Mission Gorge (10330 Friars Rd., Ste. 107, 619-281-3511), Pacific Beach (962 Garnet Ave., 858-483-6222), Poway (13000 Oak Knoll Dr., 858-748-1800), Santee (10767 Woodside Ave., 619-562-7878) & Temecula (27309 Jefferson Ave., 909-699-8900). B&W, LD Fri. & Sat., CR, $

THE FIELD

Displayed on the walls of this downtown Irish eatery/pub are farming tools and equipment from Ireland; the fare is just as down-home and hearty. Breakfast Sat & Sun., lunch & dinner daily. 544 Fifth Ave., 619-232-9840, ­thefield.com . FB, LD, CR except CB, $

THE FISH MARKET & TOP OF THE MARKET ★

The freshest seafood is the staple at this bayside two-restaurant/retail seafood market complex at Tuna Harbor. Oyster and sushi bars complement casual dining at The Fish Market. Lunch & din­ner daily. FB, CR, $$-$$$. At elegant Top of the Mar­­­­ket, a view of the Coronado Bridge adds to the on-the-water ambience. Lunch & dinner daily. 750 N. Harbor Dr., 619-232-3474 (The Fish Market); 619-234-4867 (Top of the Mar­ket), ­t hefishmarket.com . FB, RR, CR, $$-$$$

THE FLEETWOOD

Across from Petco Park, this restaurant provides comfortable seating for a relaxing meal and drink before or after a game. Brunch Sat. & Sun., lunch & dinner daily. 639 J St., 619-702-7700, thefleetwood.com . FB, LD, CR, $-$$

400 WEST

This American bistro is set beneath the dazzling green silhouette of the Westin San Diego hotel. Guests are served classic California fare in the stylishly sleek dining room or the patio. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily. 400 W. Broadway, downtown, 619-239-4500, ­ westinsandiego.com . FB, CR, $$$

FOX SPORTS GRILL

On the ground level of the Hilton San Diego Bay­front, Fox Sports Grill offers fresh-daily contemporary American cuisine—and for those who are there for more than just the food, 26 plasma and LCD screens. Lunch & dinner daily. 1 Park Blvd., Ste. 101, downtown, 619-231-9000, foxsportsgrill.com . FB, CR, $$

GASLAMP STRIP CLUB

Named after its own strip steak, this meaty lounge offers Gaslampers 21 and older the chance to grill their choice from the menu. Order up a martini or choose a bottle of red from the self-serve wine cellar. Dinner nightly. 340 Fifth Ave., 619-231-3140, dinecrg.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., CR, $$

THE GLASS DOOR

Floating four stories above Little Italy in the Porto Vista Hotel & Suites, The Glass Door offers an unbeatable view of the bay. Try the French toast with hot bananas Foster or the half-pound Wagyu beef burger. Breakfast, brunch, lunch & dinner daily. 1835 Columbia St., 619-564-3755, portovistasd.com . FB, LD, RR, CR, OT, $$-$$$

GRAND CENTRAL CAFÉ

You'll find hearty American cuisine at this spacious restaurant in downtown's historic YMCA building, across from the Santa Fe Train Station. Chef Mario Lopez serves up homemade soups, salads and burgers. Standout dishes include the tuna melt, Southwest grilled chicken and taco salad. All aboard! Breakfast & lunch daily. 500 W. Broadway, 619-234-2233. B&W, AE, MC, V, $

THE GRANT GRILL

Within downtown's historic U.S. Grant Hotel, this San Diego icon offers elegant farm-to-table fresh California cuisine. Chef Chris Kurth creates sophisticated composed dishes and perfectly paired tasting menus. Break­fast, lunch (brunch on Sat. & Sun.) & din­ner daily. 326 Broad­­way, 619-744-2077, grantgrill.com . FB, CR, OT, $$$-$$$$

G­­­REEK ISLANDS CAFÉ & ASAGGIO

At the water's edge, the bustling Greek Islands Café serves tasty gyros, shish kabob and fab­ulous salads. At the adjacent Asaggio, grab fresh-baked focaccia bread, a calzone or a slice of New York–style, thin-crust pizza. Lunch & din­ner daily. 879 W. Harbor Dr., Seaport Village, Asaggio, 619-234-2407; Greek Island Café, 619-239-5216, greekislandscafe.com . B&W, CR, $

GREYSTONE

Whether it's buffalo tenderloin or wild-boar ragu, Greystone chef Alberto Morreale knows his meat, as witness the Gaslamp steakhouse's vast selection of eclectic meats and classic cuts. Dinner nightly. 658 Fifth Ave., 619-232-0225, ­ greystonesteakhouse.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., RR, CR, $$$

HARD ROCK CAFÉ

The Gaslamp Quarter boasts its own link in this renowned chain. The fare is American burgers and fries; the décor celebrates rock 'n' roll memorabilia. Lunch & dinner daily. 801 Fourth Ave., 619-615-7625, hardrock.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., CR, $$

HARD ROCK HOTEL SAN DIEGO

Within the hotel, Nobu combines distinct gourmet Japanese cuisine with distinctive décor. Dinner nightly. 619-814-4124. FB, LD Fri. & Sat., RR, CR, OT, $$$-$$$$. Maryjane's Coffeeshop offers classic American cuisine with a contemporary twist. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily; Sun. brunch. 619-764-6950. FB, LD Fri. & Sat., CR, $$$. 207 Fifth Ave., downtown, hardrockhotelsd.com .

HENNESSEY'S

This Irish pub serves a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner as well as lighter fare like an oven-baked salmon fillet with a potato crust. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily. 708 Fourth Ave., 619-239-9994, hennesseystavern.com . Also in Carlsbad (2777 Roosevelt St., 760-729-6951) & Pacific Beach (4650 Mission Blvd., 858-483-8847). FB, LD, AE, MC, V, $-$$

HENRY'S PUB

This Gaslamp Quarter bar offers fine Finnish cuisine such as peppered, seared Nordic salmon with seasoned butter, creamy mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables. Lunch & dinner daily. 618 Fifth Ave., 619-238-2389, ­ henryspub.com . FB, CR, $-$$

HILTON SAN DIEGO BAYFRONT

The surrounding bay is inspiration for the Hilton's restaurants. Vela accompanies its spectacular views with cuisine from around the world created by executive chef Adam Bussell. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily. Odysea serves appetizers and cocktails daily after 3. 619-564-3333. 1 Park Blvd., East Village, 619-321-4284, hilton.com . B&W, CR, OT, $$$$

HORNBLOWER CRUISES

Enjoy dancing, champagne and a three-course meal of American-style cuisine with ever-changing views of San Diego Bay aboard the Hornblower. Brunch Sun., dinner nightly. 1066 N. Harbor Dr., downtown, 619-686-8700, ­hornblower.com . FB, CR, $$$$

IDA BAILEY'S RESTAURANT

Embellished with antiques, this eatery in the historic Horton Grand ­Hotel serves traditional Amer­i­can fare. Breakfast daily; afternoon tea (by reservation) Sat. 2-5. 311 Island Ave., 619-544-1886, hortongrand.com . CR except DS, $$-$$$

INDIGO CAFÉ

Downtown's Indigo Café puts a bluesy spin on fare such as a veggie wrap and blackened yellowfish. The walls are sprinkled with record covers of jazz artists while the melodies of Bourbon Street float throughout. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily. 1435 Sixth Ave., 619-702-6478, indigocafeandcatering.com . Also in Kearny Mesa (9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., 858-565-2388). CR, $

INDIGO GRILL ★

Set in a native atmosphere, the essence of this Mexican, Pacific Coast and Native American cuisine is found in one ingredient: the chile. Dinner nightly. 1536 India St., Little Italy, 619-234-6802, dinecrg.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., RR, CR, OT, $$-$$$

JIMMY LOVE'S

The creative California cuisine with Mediterranean flair keeps 'em coming back to this high-energy eatery in the Gaslamp. Dinner nightly. 672 Fifth Ave., 619-595-0123, ­jimmyloves.com . FB, AE, MC, V, OT, $$

JOEY'S SMOKIN' BBQ

Savory Southern cooking marks this BBQ joint's home-style cuisine, with hickory-smoked baby back ribs and 1-pound baked potatoes. Lunch & dinner daily. 1041 Fourth Ave., downtown, 619-702-2226, joeyssmokinbbq.com . Also in Carlsbad (6955 El Camino Real, 760-929-1396) & Carmel Mountain (12002 Carmel Mountain Rd., Ste. 268, 858-487-2120). RR, FB, CR except DC, $$

JSIX

Executive chef Christian Graves' coastal menu matches his “slow food” approach to cooking. Breakfast & lunch Mon.-Fri, dinner nightly; Sat. & Sun. brunch. At Hotel Solamar, 616 J St., 619-531-8744, jsixrestaurant.com . FB, LD Thur.-Sat., RR, CR except CB/DC, OT $$-$$$

KANSAS CITY BARBEQUE ★

Barbecue fans swear by the chick­en/rib combos with all the fix­ings. Lunch & dinner daily. 600 W. Harbor Dr., 619-231-9680, kcbbq.net . B&W, LD, MC, V, $-$$

KARL STRAUSS' BREWERY & RESTAURANT ★

San Diego's original brew-pub boasts 35 handcrafted beers to accompany the American cuisine. Lunch & dinner daily. 1157 Co­lum­­bia St., downtown, 619-234-2739, karlstrauss.com . Also in Carlsbad (5801 Armada Dr., 760-431-2739), La Jolla (1044 Wall St., 858-551-2739) & Sorrento Mesa (9675 Scranton Rd., 858-587-2739). FB, LD Fri. & Sat., AE, MC, V, $-$$

LE CAKE CHATEAU

Chocoholics and sugar addicts can choose from the delectable selection or create their own cake, from flavor to filling to icing. Breakfast & lunch Mon.-Sat., dinner Fri. & Sat. 1152 Seventh Ave., downtown, 619-325-0977, lecakechateau.com . CR except CB/DC, $-$$

LINCOLN'S BAR & GRILL

The refurbished bank building housing the Courtyard by Marriott also is home to an eatery offering hearty sandwiches and delightfully seasoned entrées. Breakfast & dinner daily. 530 Broadway, downtown, 619-446-3014. CR, $$$

LITTLE ITALY SPAGHETTERIA

The traditional sports-bar options include a range of Italian cuisine. Lunch & dinner daily. 1953 India St., 619-398-2974, ­ littleitalyspaghetti.com . FB, CR except CB/DC, $$

LOTUS THAI

Authentic Thai food with vegetarian options and chef's specialties. Lunch & dinner daily. 906 Market St., 619-595-0115, lotusthaisd.com . Also in Hillcrest (3761 Sixth Ave., 619-299-8272). B&W, LD Fri.-Sun., RR, CR except DC, $-$$

LOU & MICKEY'S

At the entrance to the Gas­lamp, Lou & Mickey's offers high-quality steaks, seafood and exotic drinks in décor akin to a classic chophouse. Oyster bar. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly. 224 Fifth Ave., 619-237-4900, ­ louandmickeys.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., RR, CR, OT, $$$-$$$$

MALONEY'S TAVERN

The walls are filled with movie-star photos at this underground bar and restaurant, which resembles the set of the sitcom Cheers. (Sam) Mayday Malone's sampler platter is a mix of chicken fillets, mozzarella sticks, potato skins and baby burgers. Breakfast Sun., lunch & dinner daily. 777 Fifth Ave., 619-232-6000, ­ maloneystavern.com . FB, CR, $$

MANCHESTER GRAND HYATT SAN DIEGO

Inside downtown's classy resort hotel, Lael's features Med­i­ter­rane­an cui­sine. Breakfast & dinner daily. 619-358-6735. CR, OT, $$-$$$. Redfield's Lounge specializes in California cuisine. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily. 619-232-1234. FB, CR except CB, $$-$$$. 1 Market Place, ­ manchestergrand.hyatt.com .

MCCORMICK & SCHMICK'S SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

Stationed in the Omni Hotel, it's just a blooper from Petco Park. Chef Nick Padilla adds his own flavor to more than 30 varieties of fresh seafood and an ever-changing menu. Try the Atlantic salmon, stuffed with crab, shrimp and Brie. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily. 675 L St., 619-645-6545, mccormickandschmicks.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., RR, CR, OT, $$$

THE MERK BISTRO ITALIANO

Traditional Italian dishes come with a California flair at this eatery within the Keating Hotel. Dinner nightly. 820 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp Quarter, 619-814-6375, ­themerk.com . FB, LD Thur.–Sat., RR, CR, $$-$$$

MISTER TIKI MAI TAI LOUNGE

Tiki décor surrounds guests of this fun restaurant serving Pacific island cuisine. Exotic cocktails and a poke bar keep customers coming back. Dinner nightly. 801 Fifth Ave., downtown, 619-233-1183, dinecrg.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., RR, CR, OT, $$-$$$

MONSOON ★

With a bounty of exotic Indian fare, Monsoon pours out tasty meals in the Gaslamp. A waterfall runs down the center of the restaurant as part of the lively décor. Lunch & dinner daily. 729 Fourth Ave., 619-234-5555, ­ monsoonrestaurant.com . FB, RR, AE, MC, V, $$$

MORTON'S, THE STEAKHOUSE

Sinatra and cocktails set the mood as generous portions of USDA beef, seafood and classic steakhouse sides are served. An assortment of wines, martinis and decadent desserts indulge the palate. Dinner nightly. At the Harbor Club, 285 J St., 619-696-3369, mortons.com . FB, LD Mon.-Sat., RR, CR except DS, OT, $$-$$$

NEIGHBORHOOD

With a half-pound of grain-fed Midwest beef, Gruyère cheese, caramelized onions and peppered greens on a handcrafted artisan roll, the signature Neighborhood Burger isn't a conventional hamburger. Lunch & dinner daily. 777 G St., downtown, 619-446-0002, ­ neighborhoodsd.com . B&W, LD Fri. & Sat., CR except DS, $$

NEW LEAF

In downtown's Hilton Hotel, this upscale restaurant offers eclectic world cuisine and an urban décor. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily. 401 K St., 619-231-4040, hilton.com . FB, LD, CR, $$-$$$

NOVUS

Your pups will thank you for strolling over to this quaint juice bar and deli in Little Italy, where mochas, soups, sandwiches and doggy treats top the menu. Breakfast & lunch daily. 1501 India St., Ste. 105, 619-230-1222. CR except DC/CB, $

O'BROTHERS

Boasting the only fully certified organic kitchen in California, this burger joint puts a fresh, health-conscious spin on the traditional American meal. Lunch & dinner daily. 188 Horton Plaza, downtown, 619-615-0909, ­obrothersburgers.com . B&W, CR except DS/CB, $$

OCEANAIRE SEAFOOD ROOM ★

Swing back into an elegant earlier era at this Gaslamp supper spot, relaxing in the tall, dark cherry-wood booths under mood lighting. Enticing shrimp, crab and Fijian yellowtail dishes await guests. A few non-fish entrées are also offered, as well as an oyster bar. Dinner nightly. 400 J St., downtown, 619-858-2277, ­theoceanaire.com . FB, RR, LD Fri. & Sat., CR, OT, $$$-$$$$

OLD SPAGHETTI FACTORY

This longtime Gaslamp standard for pasta returns, with fireplace lounge Dussini Loft Bar upstairs. Lunch & dinner daily. 275 Fifth Ave., 619-233-4323, osf.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., CR except CB/DC, $$-$$$

OSETRA THE FISHHOUSE

Chef Alberto Morreale serves up the freshest fish and seafood dishes with flavorful gourmet twists. Specialties include macadamia-crusted scallops with seared foie gras and creamy vanilla bean-walnut-tangerine sauce, and tempura-fried lobster tail, served with a lobster roll and assorted sauces. Dinner nightly. 904 Fifth Ave., downtown, 619-239-1800, ­ osetrafishhouse.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., CR, $$$$

OSTERIA PANEVINO

Italian cuisine, including delectable desserts, in a lively atmosphere of rustic Tuscan décor. Lunch & dinner daily. 722 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp Quarter, 619-595-7959, osteriapanevino.com . FB, CR, $$-$$$

PACIFIC FISH COMPANY

The menu, updated daily, includes sizzling catfish with spicy Thai curry sauce, Pacific swordfish kung pao and live Maine lobsters, New York strip steak or pork chops. Sushi bar & oyster bar. Lunch & dinner daily. 601 Pacific Hwy., in the Embassy Suites San Diego Bay, 619-232-0274, ­ pacificfishcompany.com . FB, LD, CR except DC, $$-$$$

THE PALM

Known for its classic American steakhouse ambience, The Palm adorns its walls with lighthearted caricatures of local notable personalities. Dinner nightly. 615 J St., 619-702-6500, thepalm.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., CR, OT, $$$-$$$$

PANDA INN

Atop the Horton Plaza center, Mandarin and Szechwan cuisine refresh weary shoppers. Lunch & dinner daily. 506 Horton Plaza, 619-233-7800, pandainn.com . FB, CR except DC, $-$$

POKÉZ ★

This lively downtown Mexican eatery features more than 30 vegetarian options and has a large selection of beers. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily. 947 E St., 619-702-7160, pokezsd.com . B&W, MC, V, $

PUERTO LA BOCA

Through brightly colored panes of glass, Puerto La Boca beckons guests to experience Argentinean classics in Little Italy. Lunch & dinner daily. 2060 India St., 619-234-4900, puertolaboca.com . FB, CR, $$$

QUARTER KITCHEN

Featuring an exhibition kitchen and exquisite glass ceiling art by Anna Skibska, this restaurant in downtown's Ivy Hotel serves Asian-influenced American fusion in a sophisticated atmosphere. Signature dishes include caviar tacos and the kitchen-sink salad. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily. 600 F St., 619-814-2000, quarterkitchen.com . FB, RR, LD Fri. & Sat., CR, OT, $$$$

RAMA ★

Traditional Thai cuisine, including seafood, created by a Bangkok-trained chef. Specialties include the Crying Tiger: marinated filet mignon, barbecued and thinly sliced. Lunch Mon.-Sat., dinner nightly. 327 Fourth Ave., 619-501-8424, ramarestaurant.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., CR, $$

RA SUSHI

Savory sushi and high-energy music abound at this trendy place. Try your luck with the Viva Las Vegas specialty roll or the cinnamon tempura ice cream. Lunch & dinner daily. 474 Broadway, downtown, 619-321-0021, ­rasushi.com . FB, LD, CR, $$

RED CIRCLE CAFÉ

Contemporary Russian murals and a huge vodka list highlight this Gaslamp eatery, where chef Antonio Gonzalez has created a menu of contemporary continental dishes. Dinner Wed.-Sat. 420 E St., 619-234-9211, redcirclesd.com . FB, CR except CB/DC, $$-$$$

RED PEARL KITCHEN ★

Authentic East Asian recipes and a hip, contemporary bar scene. Dinner nightly. 440 J St., Ste. 108, 619-231-1100, redpearlkitchen.com . FB, LD Thur.-Sat., CR except DS, OT, $$-$$$

REI DO GADO

This Brazilian steakhouse offers the churrasco, an unlimited buffet of varied meats typical of the South American tradition, everything from filet mignon to Peru com bacon (turkey wrapped in bacon). Lunch & dinner daily. 939 Fourth Ave., San Diego, 619-702-8464, ­reidogado.net . FB, CR, OT, $$$

RICE

On the ground floor of the W San Diego, this downtown restaurant showcases modern Pacific cuisine in an eclectic urban setting. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily; brunch Sat. & Sun. 421 W. B St., 619-398-3082, ­ thewsandiegohotel.com/rice . FB, LD, RR, CR except CB/DC, OT, $$$$

ROCKIN' BAJA LOBSTER

A Puerto Nuevo party downtown, with big buckets of lobster, shrimp, carne asada, grilled chicken and more. Lunch & dinner daily. 310 Fifth Ave., 619-234-6333, rockinbaja.com . Also in Oceanside (258 Harbor Dr. So., 760-967-6199) & Old Town (3890 Twiggs St., 619-260-0305). FB, CR, $$

ROYAL INDIA

In quietly elegant surroundings, the Kambo brothers bring authentic Indian cuisine to the edge of the Gaslamp. Lunch & dinner daily. 329 Market St., 619-269-9999, royalindia.com . Also in the Golden Triangle (in University Towne Centre, 4545 La Jolla Village Dr., Ste. E22, 858-453-5300) & downtown (423 Horton Plaza, 619-795-4444). FB, RR, CR, $$$

ROY'S HAWAIIAN FUSION CUISINE ★

Waterfront Roy's features the exotic flavors of Hawaiian and Japanese gastronomy. Enjoy harbor views while sampling one of the extravagant sushi rolls, or try the popular trio—habachi-grilled salmon, blackened island ahi and Hawaiian-style misoyaki butterfish. Lunch & dinner daily. In Seaport Village, 333 West Harbor Dr., 619-239-7697,­ ­roysrestaurant.com . Also in La Jolla (8670 Genesee Ave., 858-455-1616). FB, RR, CR, $$$

RUTH'S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE ★

The name may be a tongue-twister, but the steaks are the choicest USDA prime beef. Dinner nightly. 1355 N. Harbor Dr., 619-233-1422, ruthschris.com . Also in Del Mar (11582 El Camino Real, 858-755-1454; lunch Fri.). FB, RR, CR, OT, $$$$

ST. TROPEZ BAKERY & BISTRO

Try the St. Tropez panini or the salmon salad with toasted almonds. The bakery offers delectable sweets. Breakfast & lunch daily, dinner Mon.-Sat. 926 Broadway Circle, downtown, 619-696-8695, sttropezbistro.com . Also at 600 W. Broadway, Ste. 130 (619-234-2560), Encinitas (760-633-0084) & Hillcrest (619-497-0297). B&W, CR, $

SALLY'S SEAFOOD ON THE WATER

Fresh fish with a waterfront view is the specialty. Adjacent to the Manchester Grand Hyatt, Sally's serves a variety of nigiri, sushi and sashimi, courtesy of executive chef Sarah Linkenheil. Breakfast Sat. & Sun., lunch & dinner daily. 1 Market Place, 619-358-6740, sallyssandiego.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., CR, OT, $$$-$$$$

SALVATORE'S CUCINA ITALIANA

Authentic Italian entrées at this stylish ris­to­rante at the base of the Meridian. Dinner Mon.-Sat. 750 Front St., 619-544-1865, salvatoresdowntown.com . FB, RR, CR, $$-$$$

SAMMY'S WOODFIRED PIZZA ★

Rain-forest marble, glass mosaic tiles and exotic dark wood provide the background for tapas and Sammy's famous gourmet pizzas, tasty pasta dishes and the “messy sundae.” Lunch & dinner daily. 770 Fourth Ave., 619-230-8888, ­sammyspizza.com . Also in Del Mar (12925 El Camino Real, 858-259-6600), Golden Triangle (8650 Genessee Ave., 858-404-9898), La Jolla (702 Pearl St., 858-456-5222), Mission Valley (1620 Camino de la Reina, 619-298-8222), Point Loma (2401 Truxton Rd., 619-222-3111) & Scripps Ranch (10785 Scripps Poway Pkwy., 858-695-0900). B&W, CR, $-$$

SOGNO DIVINO

From the owners of adjacent Buon Appetito, Sogno DiVino is a sophisticated yet unpretentious trattoria serving wine, appetizers and confections such as peach trifle. Lunch & dinner daily. 1607 India St., Little Italy, 619-531-8887, ­sogno-divino.com . B&W, LD, CR except DS, $-$$

SOLEIL @ K

Executive chef Eddie Fincher focuses on fresh “foods of the sun” with a strong California influence. Grilled flat breads and rotisserie chicken are among the offerings. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily. 660 K St., downtown, 619-446-6088, soleilatk.com . FB, CR, OT, $$-$$$

STAR OF INDIA ★

Fine Indian cuisine includes chicken roasted in a clay oven, cooked with creamed tomato curry and spices. Lunch & dinner daily. 423 F St., downtown, 619-234-8000, starofindia.com . Also in Carmel Valley (3860 Valley Centre Dr., 858-792-1111). B&W, CR, $$

STINGAREE

A multilevel luxury dining and entertainment destination, Stingaree offers French/Italian hybrid cuisine and modern/retro décor. Executive chef Antonio Friscia uses only the freshest ingredients from local organic farmers to create dishes such as achiote-crusted local bass. Dinner Tues.-Sat. 454 Sixth Ave., downtown, 619-544-9500, stingsandiego.com . FB, LD Fri. & Sat., RR, CR, OT, $$$

STOUT PUBLIC HOUSE

Owners Dave Toth and Mark Prendergast serve up unpretentious Irish hospitality. Made with beef and lamb, the belly-filling shepherd's pie is meaty, cheesy and fresh from the oven. Lunch & dinner daily. 1125 Sixth Ave., downtown, 619-702-7933, stoutsd.com . FB, LD, AE, MC, V, $$

SUITE & TENDER

This chic hotel restaurant is known for impeccable service and a decadent spin on surf and turf. Pick out your own steak knife and cut into such delicacies as the lobster and braised short ribs. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly. In the Sè Hotel, 1047 Fifth Ave., downtown, 619-515-3003. FB, LD Fri. & Sat., CR, OT, $$$

TABULE RESTAURANT & BAR

Blending Mediterranean and Far Eastern fare, specialties here include Thai baby back ribs and fried rice with plantains, cream cheese and eel sauce. Dinner nightly. 535 Fourth Ave., 619-238-0048, tabulerestaurantbar.com . FB, RR, LD, CR, OT, $$$

TAKA

Chef Maruyama presides at this upscale sushi bar and Pacific Rim restaurant. Dinner nightly. 555 Fifth Ave., 619-338-0555, takasushi.com . FB, CR except CB/DC, $$-$$$

TEQUILA 100

Authentic Mexican fare including alam­bres—chicken or steak with chopped onions wrapped in a soft corn tortilla. Breakfast, lunch & dinner daily. 756 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp Quarter, 619-233-2838, tequila100.net . LD, FB, CR, $$

THE TIN FISH

Seafood lovers can try grilled fish and lightly breaded and deep-fried plates like the Tin Fish Combo, a large platter packed with fish, shrimp, scallops and calamari. Lunch & dinner daily. 170 Sixth Ave., Gaslamp Quarter, 619-238-8100, ­ thetinfish.net . Also in Imperial Beach (910 Seacoast Dr., 619-628-8414; B&W, MC, V). FB, LD, RR, CH, CR, $-$$

TRATTORIA LA STRADA

A hip, urban eatery offering Italian specialties and a welter of windows to view the passing parade. Lunch & dinner daily. 702 Fifth Ave., 619-239-3400, t rattorialastrada.com . FB, LD, CR, $$-$$$

URBAN BAR & GRILL

Colorful fusion cuisine sets apart this Gaslamp addition. The menu presents a variety of dishes, from traditional filet mignon to roasted Chilean sea bass. Lunch Sat. & Sun., dinner nightly. 827 Fifth Ave., 619-235-8700, ­ urbanbarandgrill.com . FB, LD, RR, CR, $$$

VIN DE SYRAH SPIRIT & WINE PARLOR

Pair the Gaslamp Quarter lounge's inventive menu with its subterranean décor and you're bound to have an interesting night. Drinks & appetizers Tues.-Sun. after 4. 901 Fifth Ave., 619-234-4166, ­ syrahwineparlor.com . FB, CR except DC, $$

VOYEUR

Taking a Goth-flavored peep at the Gaslamp, Voyeur offers a range of delectable small-plate dishes suitable for snacks while dancing. Dinner nightly. 755 Fifth Ave., 619-756-7678, voyeursd.com . FB, LD, CR, $$

WESTGATE HOTEL ★

The Westgate Room serves breakfast, lunch & dinner daily. CR, $$. Afternoon tea served in the grand lobby Fri., Sat. & Sun., 2:30-5 (reservations: 619-557-3650). Le Fontainebleau Room's European atmosphere is the setting for an elegant Sun. brunch. FB, RR, CR, $$$. 1055 Second Ave., 619-557-3655, westgatehotel.com .

WHISKEY GIRL

A sports bar atmosphere and a traditional steakhouse feel, with a pleasing array of American classics. Dinner nightly. 600 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp Quarter, 619-236-1616, ­ whiskeygirl.com . FB, LD, AE, MC, V, $$

ZIA'S BISTRO

As you'd expect at a Little Italy res­tau­rant: Italian cuisine. Lunch & dinner daily. 1845 India St., 619-234-1344, ziasbistro.com . B&W, CR, $$
Balboa Park & Hillcrest

 

Lodge at 32nd San Diego
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  • 740 32nd St
  • San Diego, CA 92102

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