This week I’m sharing a list of what Tyler and I believe are the best restaurants in San Diego.
The reason I’m calling them “date night” spots is because these places are, for the most part, more on the expensive side and certainly more on the special occasion side–not really the type of joint that we’d ask for two high chairs and order chicken tenders for the kids while we shovel our food to try to make it home before bedtime (although those places certainly exist, and we love them).
This list is for ADULTS only–at least in my household. Tyler and I try to go out, just the two of us, once a month or so for a romantic date. He swaps out his Vuori shorts for jeans, I wear liquid eyeliner, it’s my favorite thing.
We’ve been slowly working our way through the best restaurants in San Diego, and this list includes all of our favorites so far. There’s a Michelin-starred sushi spot, several Italian places (duh), and a steakhouse that I’d order my last meal on earth from.
Cucina Urbana holds such a special place in my heart, and Tyler and I have been on several dates here (a few even before we moved down to San Diego). I’d call this Bankers Hill establishment “modern Italian,” and they offer contemporary twists on all of your favorite Italian dishes. I love the squash blossom appetizers, the pizzas, and my favorite pasta here is the bucatini.
Cucina Urbana also has a very intense wine shop and offering, so be prepared to make some DECISIONS (can’t go wrong with the montepulciano, in my opinion).
Their sister restaurant, Cucina Enoteca in Del Mar, has a really similar menu and a huge outdoor seating area.
Tyler and I had been trying for years to get a reservation at Born and Raised in Little Italy but always lacked the foresight to get one on a night that worked for us to get out of the house. I finally got my act together and grabbed one a couple of months before his 30th birthday in November. OMG you guys, this place is insane. It’s kind of like Ruth’s Chris where you order a steak and then choose a couple of sides to split, but Born and Raised is just a whole new level.
The decor is STUNNING, and each dish is just fabulous. We ordered the “tableside” caesar which was a blast. And the mac and cheese–don’t even get me started. The drinks are amazing here too. We had the best night ever.
My recommendation is to request a booth on the upstairs patio. Between the city views and the airplanes flying overhead, you can’t beat it. They have heaters, so this was perfect even on a chilly November night.
There’s a reason so many people say this is one of the best restaurants in San Diego–put this on your bucket list ASAP.
Last summer, during all of our house reno madness, Tyler and I texted our babysitter super last minute and asked her to come stay with the girls after bedtime. We had a complicated Ikea errand to run and wanted to do it together, so we went and tackled that first. Then, like the free little birds we were, we decided to grab some dinner before we went home. I was, predictably, craving sushi, so we both pulled out our phones and tried to find somewhere good nearby.
I stumbled upon Soichi in University Heights on my Google Maps and was taken aback by its almost-perfect rating, so I called and asked if they happened to have a table. The hostess told me that we had gotten lucky–normally they book out months (!!) in advance but someone had just called to cancel a few minutes prior, so to come on in. We raced over and walked in (hate to admit this but I was wearing the shortest Levi’s shorts that a 28-year-old can conceivably pull off…and a hoodie). They sat us in our own little private bamboo booth, and I knew right away this wasn’t going to be a typical sushi night.
You guys, this place is heaven on earth. We decided to not do the omakase (chef’s choice) menu because it was outside the budget for that particular evening, but we each got a nigiri box. Just incredible. Everything was perfect. And then a few months later, Soichi was awarded a Michelin star!! I definitely want to go back to do the full omakase experience, but I feel so lucky that we randomly got to eat there that night last August. If you are looking for an authentic, memorable Japanese sushi experience, look no further!
Tyler took me to Kettner Exchange in Little Italy last year on my birthday, and it was SUCH a memorable meal. This “progressive American” restaurant has the most unique and innovative menu, so naturally we ordered nearly everything on it. Their menu is basically just one giant list of shared plates, so how could we not?! We loved the spicy tuna crispy rice and the lamb szechuan noodles, among many others, lol.
Kettner is also a really fun place to get a drink, although be warned that they do enforce a dress code after 9pm (Tyler’s Vuori shorts got us in trouble last time we were out in Little Italy with our friends, eye roll).
This is one of our favorite places in San Diego–well priced (and amazing) pasta that’s perfect for takeout OR dine-in. They have the cutest little spot in South Park, lots of brick and wine and cozy lighting, you know the vibe. Tyler and I have been diligently working on our way through the menu, but we can’t stop ordering the carbonara, the orecchiette, and the pesto lasagna, all dishes that bring me straight back to Italy.
A San Diego institution, Buona Forchetta has the most exquisite pizzas (two of our faves are the Regina margherita and the Juna), and their pasta game is unrivaled (I love the Buona Forchetta sauce but they are all honestly to-die-for).
We’ve been to a few different locations, but I suggest the Coronado “garage” location for an extra romantic evening by the coast–I love a beach walk before dinner. And whatever you do, don’t forget to ask for the chili oil–we unapologetically drench our pizza in it without fail.
Piatti, a dreamy Italian restaurant in La Jolla shores, makes this bread-dipping sauce that is truly unlike anything I’ve ever had. In fact, I’ve spent the last three years trying to recreate it at home, and I just can’t quite get a full grasp on it. It’s insane. We always ask for extra. We love the pizzas and the pastas here, but the real draw is the sauce, ok.
Duke’s is where you go when you need a vacation and you need a vacation ASAP. It’s right on the water in La Jolla, so it just immediately feels like Hawaii as soon as they set a mai tai in front of your face. It’s borderline magic. We love everything here , but the most important thing is the hula pie. Definitely request an outside table, and get ready to relax in some island vibes for the evening.
I will keep this list of the best restaurants in San Diego updated as we find more favorites, and please let me know if I need to add anything to our list to try out!!
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