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Hillcrest has always been known for good food. The epicenter of the LGBTQ+ community could arguably be called San Diego's first foodie neighborhood. Before the tide of craft breweries, artisanal doughnuts, and design-conscious bistros, the area offered a wide variety of tastes, cultures, and price points. Hillcrest—along with neighboring Balboa Park and Bankers Hill—keeps things fresh and exciting, welcoming adventurous flavors from all corners of the world.
From San Diego staples to new kids on the block bound for distinction, these neighborhoods are filled with so many top restaurants, you may never get to them all. However, there is no reason not to try. Restaurants of every genre fill cozy corner spots, high-ceilinged expanses, and mood-lit nooks—and finding the best is a worthy endeavor. Here are a few stars to point you in the right direction.
Where: 1220 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
Over the years, Gossip Grill has blossomed into a full patio bar and restaurant with a dance floor. The restaurant serves American comfort food, and the lively place is decked out with feminine inspired art, fabulous chandeliers, and a foliage facade outdoor patio bar with fire pits. As the sun sets, Gossip transforms into a dance nightclub for the ladies, but don't worry, the dance floor is open to men and everything in between.
Where: 1642 University Ave, Unit 100, San Diego, CA 92103
Sexy, chic and casually elegant, insideOUT's main dining room opens to an outdoor atrium with sitting nooks, relaxing water features, and spacious seating for guests to experience a hidden urban oasis in the heart of Hillcrest. The seasonal menu reflects a creative approach to California and Mediterranean-inspired fare using the freshest ingredients from local purveyors.
Where: 3831 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92103
Dipped in pink, Breakfast & Bubbles offers champagne and breakfast all day so you can live out your most luxurious brunch dreams. Did someone say caviar pancakes? This is the spot that welcomes and unites everyone in the LGBTQ+ community with a glass of bubbly for celebrations, toasts, and countless clinks of togetherness.
Where: 1421 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
This lively Mexican restaurant creates a party vibe with a festive atmosphere and extensive menu of margaritas. Everyone is welcome at this "Home, Sweet Homo", and you're guaranteed to have a fabulous Betty experience. Baja Betty's is a great place to go for Taco Tuesdays and Bubbles and Brunch on weekends.
Where: 308 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
No visit to San Diego would be complete without a meal and good time at this iconic LGBTQ+ gathering spot featuring spacious outdoor patio seating and an upper deck to watch all the action. Colorful, fun, and filled with friendly locals and visitors on any given afternoon or night, Urban MO's is a Happy Hour favorite and known for great burgers and strong cocktails adorned with plastic farm animals.
Where: 3628 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
Upon opening, Hash House A Go Go became an instant hit and neighborhood favorite. What would you expect from a restaurant that serves over-the-top portions of twisted, Midwest-inspired farm food and crafted cocktails? Dorothy, you're not in Kansas anymore.
Where: 3805 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
This casually sophisticated restaurant and cocktail bar is dedicated to genuine neighborhood hospitality, obsessively sourced ingredients, and dishes that are artfully prepared from scratch. Diners can enjoy shared plates, sandwiches, salads, and specials like Nashville Hot Chicken and St. Louis Cut Pork Ribs.
Where: 3940 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
The name says it all. This is the place to go for breakfast and brunch, especially if you're passionate about good food, sustainability, and community. Snooze's creative twists on breakfast range from Bravocado Toast and a Bountiful Buddha Bowl to Funky Monkey French Toast and Juan's Breakfast Tacos.
Where: 3752 Park Blvd, Unit 105C, San Diego, CA 92103
With big floor-to-ceiling windows, an open kitchen, and expansive patio, Trust provides the perfect setting for a fun, relaxed meal with LGBTQ+ family and friends. Seasonal and local ingredients grace the menu, and a woodfire grill brings added flair and flavor to shared plates and entrees. All you need to do is sit back, socialize, and sip astonishingly good cocktails.
Where: 1451 Washington St, San Diego, CA 92103
This brasserie-meets-American diner is a favorite within the LGBTQ+ community and is loved for its comfort food with a twist. The neighborhood hotspot, popular for weekend brunch, serves up fresh bacon-spiked donuts and other treats passed around the dining room on large boards. You can also enjoy a wide selection of mimosas and Bloody Marys.
Where: 3797 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92103
The partners of this farm-to-neighborhood eatery grew up in Sicily, and their rich culinary background is tasted in every delicious bite. The seasonal Sicilian-crafted dishes are made from locally sourced ingredients, and diners socialize and relax in a warm, welcoming ambiance.
Where: 505 Laurel St, San Diego, CA 92101
Classic Italian blends seamlessly with laidback California modern at this beloved Bankers Hill eatery, located just a short walk from Balboa Park. Cucina Urbana's ingredients are top-notch; the preparation masterful, and the environment warm and welcoming. The extensive wine list is available at retail level, so when you find one you like, you can take a bottle to go.
Where: 2550 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
You'll indulge on sophisticated cuisine and panoramic views of downtown and San Diego Bay from the 12th floor patio of the iconic Mister A's. Located next to Balboa Park, the restaurant is one of San Diego's cherished and formal culinary landmarks and is the perfect setting for a special occasion or date.
Where: 2706 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
This colorful Bankers Hill eatery serves up modern Mexican soul food, woven with bold Latin flavors and clever Asian touches. You can feast on menu favorites like a Brazil Bowl with coconut rice, black beans, mango salsa, rich coconut chili sauce, and steamed greens. Paired with the food menu is a beer and cocktail menu.
Where: 2949 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
The rustic, comfortable setting is the perfect complement to Donna Jean's seasonal plant-based cuisine that even the most stubborn meat eaters can appreciate. This everyday restaurant is a neighborhood place where you feel welcomed and at home every time you walk through the door.
Where: 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
Located in the House of Hospitality, The Prado offers historic charm in the heart of Balboa Park. Its lush courtyard is a stunning setting for special occasions and romantic meals, and the eclectic menu of Modern American classics with Spanish and California influences is always a hit. The restaurant is part of the local Cohn Restaurant Group which has been a strong supporter of the LGBTQ+ community.
Where: 1450 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
Tucked between the San Diego Museum of Art and sculpture garden, this open-air casual eatery and bar offers salads, sandwiches, bowls, beer, wine, and cocktails, and is an ideal stop between museum visits. With live music on weekend evenings and the Museum of Us' iconic California Tower as a neighbor and dining companion, you can't ask for a prettier setting.
Where: 2215 E Pan American Rd, San Diego, CA 92101
Located next to the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Tea Pavilion offers a large selection of imported teas along with causal Asian fusion dishes including soups, salads, sandwiches, and rice bowls. The outdoor patio is set amidst Balboa Park's beautiful gardens and striking architecture and within listening distance to the open-air Spreckels Organ Pavilion.
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