In San Diego, an excellent seafood dinner can come in many forms. Maybe it’s an artfully prepared fresh catch, sashimi, or a sublime plate of crispy fish tacos. (Fortunately, they all pair beautifully with San Diego’s craft beer.)
Sitting along 70 miles of coastline, San Diego County is a natural for fresh fish: ahi tuna, yellowtail, spot prawns, and Pacific rockfish thrive in these waters. Combine that with San Diego’s buzzing culinary scene, which provides plenty of talent for preparing and enhancing those catches.
San Diego seafood restaurants tend to offer changing menus, based on the season’s freshest catch. You might pick your fish from a refrigerated case, then have it cooked to order and served as a traditional plate with sides. Or perhaps you’d prefer tacos, a sandwich, or a bowl? Here are some of San Diego’s best seafood restaurants—ranging from chic, chef-driven spots to lovable neighborhood joints where you can watch the sun set over the Pacific.
Fish 101, Leucadia
Tacos, burritos, and bowls provide the foundation for grilled or beer-battered fish and shrimp at this spot along coastal U.S. Highway 101. Pair your meal with one of the local beers, such as Burgeon Beer Co. from Carlsbad or Helia Brewing Co. from Vista. Fish 101 has a second location, too, a short drive down the coast in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.
Herb & Sea, Encinitas
Try chef Brian Malarkey’s take on oysters Rockefeller—accented with bone marrow, kale, and gruyere—at this sleek restaurant and raw bar two blocks from the beach in Encinitas. The menu of fresh catches is complemented by pastas, pizzas, and indulgent desserts, including a butterscotch budino with lavender cream.
Brigantine, Del Mar
This small, family-owned chain has a reputation for fresh local seafood and some of the best fish tacos in the county. Locations include Point Loma, Coronado, and Imperial Beach; the scenic Del Mar outpost, though, is sandwiched between a dog beach and the Del Mar Racetrack.
El Pescador Fish Market, La Jolla
Choose your fish or seafood from the refrigerated cases at this La Jolla market and restaurant, then have it grilled or fried for tacos, a sandwich, or a burrito. Or keep it simple and ask for two can’t-miss options: the sea bass sandwich or shrimp tacos. Join the locals and surfers on the patio.
The Fishery, Pacific Beach
Fresh, seasonal, and sustainable seafood are the cornerstones of this modern, airy restaurant in Pacific Beach. Entrees include diver scallops, Pacific swordfish, and local spot prawns. Pro tip: Start your meal with the seafood tower sampler comprised of oysters, shrimp, ahi poke, and seabass ceviche.
Soichi Sushi, University Heights
This Michelin-starred restaurant prides itself on both a farm-to-table and sea-to-table menu. Choose from its omakase options with three to eight courses, or traditional menu items such as nigiri or rolls featuring tuna, halibut, kanpachi, and scallops. Finish the meal with a scoop of homemade ice cream, in flavors including green tea or roasted white sesame.
Blue Water Seafood, Mission Hills
Aside from salads, French fries, and a few kids-menu items, everything on offer here is wild and organic fish or shellfish—even the burgers are salmon. Decide if you want a sandwich, salad, or plate, then peruse the menu of catches (say, wahoo, mahi-mahi, or red snapper). Lastly, pick a marinade, such as teriyaki, chipotle, or bourbon butter. Go to the original Mission Hills location, near Hillcrest, or try the seaside location in Ocean Beach.
This market and restaurant in Point Loma, a few minutes from downtown, covers the culinary range with delicious crab sandwiches, sushi, fried-fish platters, and oysters or clams on the half shell. Keep an eye out for fishing boats as you dine and sip a local beer. Bonus: The market is just steps away from Eppig Brewing’s Waterfront Biergarten.
Sushi Tadokoro, Old Town
Most people associate Mexican food with San Diego’s festive Old Town, but this sushi restaurant has staked a serious claim here, having earned a Michelin star in 2021. Enjoy an omakase meal that could include fresh local catches or imports such as Japanese king mackerel or oysters from British Columbia. Seating is limited, so be sure to make a reservation.
Ironside Fish & Oyster, Little Italy
During the 1920s, San Diego’s Little Italy was a hotbed for the then-thriving tuna industry. Today, it’s a culinary hotbed. Enjoy kanpachi, California black cod, and other local catches at this restaurant in a rehabbed warehouse, helmed by chef Danielle Van Steen. Try the caviar with sourdough waffles or octopus la plancha with chorizo, olives, and sherry.
This restaurant at the Hotel Del Coronado showcases its raw bar, mounted on ice right in the middle of the dining room. Enjoy your sustainably-fished catch—say, urchin, rock crab, or Baja striped seabass—flash-fried or cooked over the restaurant’s woodfire grill. Serẽa is helmed by chef JoJo Ruiz, twice recognized as a James Beard Certified Smart Catch Leader. (Sample more of his talents at Lionfish, located at the downtown hotel Pendry San Diego.)
TJ Oyster, Bonita
The “TJ” in the name of this casual South Bay favorite refers to Tijuana, as it draws its inspiration from the cuisine of Baja California, just a few miles to the south. Beyond the acclaimed fish tacos, try the oyster tacos, ceviche-topped tostadas, or spicy smoked-tuna fries. Go to the original two locations in Bonita, or the third location in Chula Vista.
Plan your visit: A seafood lunch or dinner not only offers a classic San Diego experience, but also a nice opportunity to check out different parts of the county, such as Little Italy, La Jolla, Encinitas, and Coronado. It also makes a great finish to a day after hiking in San Diego, exploring Balboa Park, or playing on San Diego’s best beaches.