Quick Picks for San Diego, CA: Best Restaurants

San Diego is known as “America’s Finest City,” and after visiting it’s no surprise. It boasts world-class cultural events, a hip and bustling downtown scene that’s both dynamic and incredibly safe for tourists and locals alike, and countless outdoor options to please the nature enthusiast. It’s like having the culture  and energy of Los Angeles, but in a quieter (albeit, more conservative) setting.

It’s also a city with a thriving food scene, where chefs take advantage of the local farms to create incredible, seasonal cuisine that shines like its northern neighbor. Plus, with numerous beautiful settings in the city, owners can make almost any location feel like a wonderful escape.

We turned to local hipster and lady-about-town, Karen Ellis, for some of her favorite picks.

High-End Destinations

Places you’d take a date, the parents, or go to for any special occasion. At these restaurants, it’s about the total experience.

San Diego Island Prime top restaurantIsland Prime
Island Prime
880 Harbor Island Dr.
San Diego, CA
(619) 298-6802

Fantastic food right on the bay. You cannot ask for better. They even have a lower end alternative called the C Level Lounge to start out with drinks, or meet with a bigger crowd. I have been a few times to both restaurants and have never been disappointed.

Peohe’sPoehe's in San Diego is a top rated restaurant for romance
1201 1st Street
Coronado, CA 92118
(619) 437-4474

This is the perfect first date restaurant. It’s right on the ferry landing in Coronado, easy access from the Coronado Bridge, or via the Coronado Ferry across the bay. Request a table with a view of the downtown skyline—it’s absolutely incredible.

Solid Selections

Well-priced restaurants that feature a wonderful atmosphere and incredible food. These are a person’s “go-to” place whenever they’re asked for a recommendation.

Saigon on 5thBest Asian Restaurant in San Diego Saigon on Fifth Avenue
3900 5th Ave. Ste 120
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 220-8828
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This is our default restaurant choice for dinner. The food is extremely good and reasonably priced. It features a fusion of Vietnamese with a bit of Thai, and it’s a perfect way to introduce less adventurous eaters to new flavors. There is really something for every taste here. Personally, I could live on their curries and coconut shrimp. The wait staff is always extremely friendly, and they have an extensive wine list along with a full bar.

Another plus: They are open until 3 AM on the weekends, which can come in handy!

Adams Avenue GrillAdams Avenue Grill in San Diego is a top Restaurant
2201 Adams Avenue
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 298-8440

Our default restaurant choice for breakfast. Crazy, tasty waffles and French toast. They had me at “Nutella Infused.” A really great variety of sweet or savory choices, with some dishes blending both.  My favorite meal, however, is their huevos rancheros. Just the perfect amount of food with a great blend of flavors.

Oh! And their handmade sausage? Amazing. Also, very reasonably priced.

Secret Stashes

These are primarily known by the locals, covering any budget and any type of food; special, secret, and adored by those in the know.

El ZarapeSan Diego best Mexican Restaurant is El Zarape
4642 Park Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 692-1652

Their claim to fame is the scallop burrito, which is good, but I cannot survive without their low-fat veggie burrito. It’s my post Weight Watchers weigh-in reward that doesn’t make me feel quite so guilty.

That’s not something you can say for your average taco shop burrito. In fact, there is nothing about this taco shop that is average. They have a green salsa that is utterly addictive, and an impressive vegetarian menu. I would love for everyone to give it a try, but please, let me get my order in first.

Yogurt ExpressFrozen Yogurt in San Diego, this is the hidden gem, Yogurt Express
6195 Lake Murray Blvd.
La Mesa, CA 91942
(619) 462-4248

This place has been open FOREVER. And why? Because they have great tasting yogurt and it is ridiculously cheap. You pull your favorite flavors and toppings, take your cup to the register, then they weigh it and charge you. At $0.29 an ounce, a medium size yogurt with full toppings comes to around $3. Yeah, you can’t beat that anywhere in the city. A total hidden gem.

 Karen Ellis has lived her whole life in San Diego and loves the city.


 Have six places in your city that people should know about? Submit your Quick Picks to editor@firsttoknow.com and we may use them for the column.

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