"Catch of the day" is a specialty in San Diego, where the fish you eat today was probably swimming in the sea last night. The accessibility of the ocean and large local fishing fleet means restaurants of all kinds can offer an extensive selection of seafood, shellfish, and local or flown-in-fresh fish of all kinds.
Fine Dining: Fish and White Linen
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.
Here are a few more restaurant options for San Diego fine dining.
Iconic San Diego Dining: Fish with a View
What could be better than great seafood and a view of the Pacific Ocean? Here are a few to try if you're looking for view that rivals the cuisine.
- Island Prime - C Level Lounge, Harbor Island
Set on stilts and extending out over San Diego Bay with views of the city skyline and Coronado Island, Island Prime serves premier seafood and steaks in a retro, yet sophisticated menu, along with an extensive wine list. The C Level Lounge offers the same great views with a more casual menu and setting.
- George's at the Cove, La Jolla
With its three-level dining overlooking La Jolla Cove, George's at the Cove offers three times the view. Whether you choose upscale dining in the lower level or the casual bistro menu in the middle and upper level, you're assured of fresh ocean catch served with locally grown produce in an innovative contemporary style.
- Sally's Seafood on the Water, Downtown
Fresh seafood and spectacular panoramic views of San Diego Bay distinguish this restaurant at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego. Don't miss their signature crab cakes, artful and creative sushi rolls, and plates of delicately sliced fresh sashimi. For a special treat, take advantage of the Chef's Table, located in the state-of-the-art exhibition kitchen with floor-to-ceiling windows.
- Anthony's Fish Grotto on the Bay, Downtown
In addition to a daily selection of seafood fresh from the oceans, Anthony's offers long-time favorites, like world-famous clam chowders and fish and chips using the secret recipes developed by founder Catherine "Mama" Ghio over 70 years ago.
Here are a few more restaurant options for dining with a view in beautiful San Diego.
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.
Here are a few more restaurant options for fish tacos in San Diego.
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.
Here are a few more options for gourmet food truck dining.
Whether you favor yellowtail, dorado, marlin or California lobster, San Diego restaurants, fish markets and food trucks are all serving it up straight from the sea.