San Diego is one of those cities where buzz words like “farm to table, organic, locally sourced” are norms, not novelties. Southern California chefs use mostly seasonal ingredients, unless they source the very best (such as New England scallops or Maine lobsters) from another region. This is, of course quite evident in the healthy and wholesome dishes available on the menus.
Here are the top five restaurants (not according to any formal standards or classification) that we tried. All of them have very different ambiances and located in different neighborhoods across San Diego. If you are a tourist in the city, you definitely want to account for some extra time exploring the areas before dinner.
1. 1500 Ocean at Hotel Del Coronado. Located at the historic property where the famous Marilyn Monroe movie, Some Like It Hot was filmed, Hotel Del Coronado is must-see for any visitor to San Diego. Coronado Island is a short ride from downtown by way of ferry or drive across the bridge. Stay at the hotel if your wallet allows, but at least go for date night dinner to 1500 Ocean. Outdoor fireplaces, cool ocean breeze, classy interiors, make for an intimate ambiance. Enjoy delicately prepared bounties from the kitchen such as this melt-in-your-mouth yellowfin tuna sashimi with jalapeño and avocado mousse, tooth-picked by a dainty tangerine radish. Entree of perfectly grilled sea scallops with a medley of grapes, almonds, capers, green beans, Thai basil and pickled lemons is far from a “simple” recipe. For desert, don’t shy away from the molten chocolate cake with poached cherries, toasted almonds, and vanilla ice cream. Your taste buds will thank you! 1500 Ocean has a great selection of wines and cocktails as well. Make your reservation after sunset you can get a chance to stroll along the beach.
2. PrepKitchen in Little Italy. Not an Italian restaurant as suggested by its location. This is the latest globally inspired creation by the Whisk n Ladle group, which has three acclaimed locations across San Diego. The hip and trendy PrepKitchen believes in a lot of flavor, and simple presentations. Their original idea of selling food prepped and ready to go did not take off as clients demanded the sit-down restaurant experience. With an extensive handcrafted drinks menu , seasonally evolving dishes, and a variety of tapas, PrepKitchen is the watering hole/ late night hang out restaurant that is also popular with the locals.
3. Cody’s in La Jolla is a cozy spot by the water, only walking distance from the seals. Hit any time of the day and get a table at the open air patio or the stylish interior. The food at Cody’s is fresh and delicious. Try the French toast for breakfast, and lobster rolls for lunch. Even the pancakes are the most scrumptious you will ever have.
4. Amaya’s at Grand del Mar resort features a distinctive menu with Mediterranean influences. Set in a gorgeous countryside setting with Italian inspired architectures, a visit to Grand del Mar is worth alone the trip. Carefully appointed suites, infinity pools, manicured gardens, award winning spa, wooded quiet scenery and top notch service are some other reasons to stay overnight. Chef Matthew Sramek presents an array of tempting appetizers, pastas and risotto, and savory entrees, such as Grilled Garlic Prawns with a pistachio and sweet pepper romesco and Rotisserie Veal Chop with gratin of asparagus and prosciutto.
5. NINE-TEN at the Grande Colonial Hotel in La Jolla is a popular destination among the local fashionable crowd and foodies in-the-know. Led by award-winning Chef Jason Knibb and Pastry Chef Rachel King, the restaurant offers the perfect combination of sophistication and casual elegance along downtown La Jolla’s historic Prospect Street. Evolving California Cuisine emphasizes a market-driven, farm-to-table philosophy with locally made cheeses, artisnal breads and an award winning wine cellar. Every dish is created with extra attention to wow the diners with visual and textual finesse. Looks too good to eat?