By: Ann Wycoff
With more than 70-miles of coastline, it's no surprise San Diego is sprinkled with many spectacular spots for waterfront dining. From the Pacific Ocean to San Diego Bay, hundreds of restaurants offer memorable meals just steps from the shore. Here are some of the local favorites, known for their cuisine and exceptional views.
At San Diego's Embarcadero you’ll find a bounty of bayfront restaurants waiting to be explored. In the center of Seaport Village in the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego, Sally's Seafood on the Water lives up to its name with outdoor tables overlooking the marina and a menu that ranges from sushi to ceviche and beyond. Just a few blocks north, you’ll find more San Diego Bay landmarks: Anthony's Fish Grotto on the Bay, which for more than 60 years has lured locals with an Italian-American take on fresh seafood, and the Fish Market, where the daily catch is char-grilled and oysters are served on a deck suspended above the water with a backdrop of sailboats.
On the other side of the bay from the Embarcadero, Shelter and Harbor Islands are home to their own waterfront icons where mid-century cool still rules. On Shelter Island, the 1960's hot spot, Bali Hai Restaurant, still celebrates tiki culture, and its chic renovation has further elevated its appeal as a perfect spot for Mai Tais and South Seas cuisine like coconut shrimp pupus, ahi poke and fresh catch. Diners can arrive in style by boat and dock right by Bali Hai. Vessel is the new mod restaurant at Kona Kai Resort that offers up views of the yacht-dotted harbor and cliff-side mansions on Point Loma. The menu features fun small plates and handcrafted cocktails, and live music and underwater images on giant video screens add to the scene. Retro cool Island Prime - C Level Lounge, on Harbor Island, also makes the most of its location with floor-to-ceiling windows and an over-the-water patio where it's hard not to be distracted from your spicy steak salad and lobster mac 'n cheese by all the sleek yachts and water play fun.
Just steps from Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach, JRDN offers a modern twist on waterfront dining. Here, overlooking the ocean waves, contemporary cuisine is paired with a cool vibe in a room filled with motion and music. The restaurant boasts an undulating wall, highlighted by colorful spotlights and an open-air patio separated from the beach by panes of glass where diners nosh on seafood and steaks while sipping colorful cocktails and watching the sun set. At Oceana Coastal Kitchen at the Catamaran Resort & Spa, alfresco dining and a seafood-centric menu await. Enjoy sushi, crabcakes, braised scallops and more, while watching the stand-up paddle boarders and kayakers glide across Mission Bay.
The Grande Dame of San Diego waterfront dining is most definitely the Marine Room. Built on the sands of La Jolla Shores, this iconic dining room has been a San Diego destination since debuting in 1941. The restaurant quickly became famous for pounding surf creating dramatic displays outside the expansive windows and executive chef Bernard Guillas’ delicious contemporary French cuisine with an emphasis on seafood. At George’s at the Cove, three restaurants await, all with ocean vantage points. George’s Cal Modern melds executive chef Trey Foshee’s progressive coastal cuisine that celebrates our local farms with spectacular views of La Jolla Cove, the cliffs of Torrey Pines and the endless blue of the Pacific. Up top, Ocean Terrace calls for roof-top dining that features handcrafted cocktails and SoCal gourmet casual cuisine like fish tacos, kale salad, pastas and more. That same menu can be found at George’s Bar, a lovely ocean-view spot to watch the game and sip a local beer.
Pacific Coast Grill sits waterfront in lovely Cardiff by the Sea. Grab a table on the patio or upper deck, an idyllic setting to sip blackberry margaritas, nibble on sushi rolls and watch the local surfing talent catch the last waves of the day at sunset. Dolphins frolic in the kelp beds and whales can be spotted seasonally as they migrate and feed off the coast.
Though not truly an island, Coronado does offer nearly 360 degrees of waterfront dining. Mistral at Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Spa is a lovely perch above the bay for global fare with breathtaking views of the Coronado Bridge, sailboats slicing through the sea and the lit-up cityscape at night. Iconic Hotel del Coronado, with its Queen Anne architecture and red roof turrets, is home to 1500 Ocean, a sophisticated gem that serves up California coastal cuisine and stellar views of the Pacific. There’s also waterfront dining at the Coronado Ferry Landing where you’ll find Peohe's, known for its flavorful Pacific island-inspired fare and umbrella drinks, and Candelas on the Bay for a modern upscale take on the flavors of Mexico.
So whether you're an adventure seeker looking for dramatic surf and far-flung flavors or just a seafood lover looking for a portside perch, San Diego's restaurants deliver. From quaint Coronado to the sands of Cardiff Beach, there are waterfront restaurants galore for outstanding meals with a view to match.