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Dining in San Diego

This beachside city has arrived as a top culinary destination, where you can find everything from Mexican street eats to mind-bending 10-course meals

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San Diego’s weather is famously consistent, delivering a 70-some-degree and sunny forecast most days of the year. Its food, on the other hand, provides plenty of variety. In recent years, the restaurant scene in this seaside city has flourished. While you can still delight in its signature delights—we’re looking at you, fish tacos and craft beer—Top Chef alums and Michelin-starred restaurants have ushered in a golden age.

In San Diego’s buzzy downtown neighborhoods, fabulous restaurants are always close at hand. In Little Italy, try pasta tossed table-side in a cheese wheel at Monello, or marvel at Juniper & Ivy’s two-story wine wall. For a little star power from celebrity chef Brian Malarkey, dine on rustic dishes at Herb & Wood or posh Asian-fusion cuisine at Animae. Closer to Balboa Park, you’ll find Rare Society, a modern take on a classic steakhouse, as well as farm-to-table Trust (order the agnolotti, bathing in truffles). On date night, you can’t go wrong with Mister A’s—a Bankers Hill institution that stays perennially hip thanks to a classic menu and unbeatable skyline views.

Make your way north of San Diego proper and you’ll discover a string of delightful beach towns with restaurants to match. In La Jolla, soak in a sweeping ocean vista at the bucket list–worthy George’s at the Cove. Sample the adventurous cuisine (think gorgonzola soufflé) at Market Restaurant + Bar in Del Mar or dig into a tomahawk steak at Vaga in Encinitas—both restaurants are helmed by James Beard nominees. Campfire in Carlsbad serves wood-fired food in a cozy setting, while Dija Mara delivers Balinese fusion in Oceanside.

Critics have taken note of San Diego’s culinary innovations. The area now boasts multiple restaurants with Michelin stars, the ultimate emblem of gustatory excellence. At two-star Addison, situated within the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, try the 10-course tasting menu featuring photo-worthy bites from Chef William Bradley. For the omakase-obsessed, there’s Sushi Tadokoro and Soichi—both serving traditional Japanese-style sushi amid beautifully stark decor. In Carlsbad, Jeune et Jolie is a pink marble fantasy of a French bistro with a California twist.

You’ll discover a concentration of exceptional and unfussy Asian restaurants on Kearny Mesa’s Convoy Street. Slurp down award-winning ramen at Menya Ultra or Tajima Convoy. Slice into crispy-skinned roast duck at Eastern Dynasty and beautifully blistered salt-cured mackerel at Wa Dining Okan. For a family-friendly culinary adventure, try the stuff-yourself-silly, interactive meal at Mikami Bar & Revolving Sushi.

As California’s largest border city, San Diego is also known for exceptional Mexican food. Sample birria tacos at San Ysidro hotspot Tuetano Taqueria (don’t skip the bone marrow side). Or see why Barrio Logan’s Las Cuatro Milpas and its handmade tortillas have remained San Diego mainstays for 75 years. You can enjoy a San Diego favorite, the classic fish taco, all over town, but be sure to put Oscars Mexican Seafood (multiple locations) and Mariscos German Food Truck on your list.

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