Sunny San Diego calls for leisurely lunches to enjoy the bounty from local small farms and coastal catch. Whether you are craving casual tacos and craft beer, smoked rotisserie meats or surf and turf treasures, San Diego hosts a medley of exciting eateries in unique settings. You can grab a casual sandwich in the company of paragliders, dine at the edge of the famed Torrey Pines Golf Course, play cornhole while nibbling on fried chicken in Little Italy, or savor sushi by the sea. San Diego’s colorful cuisine awaits!
Feature photo: Courtesy of Pacific Coast Grill
Cliff Hanger Café
This no-frills café serves up easy tasty bites like quesadillas, burgers and chicken Caesar wraps, but its incredible setting makes it a winning destination. Set at the glider port on the cliffs of La Jolla, overlooking the sea, the scene here holds a parade of visuals — paragliders taking off, colorful chutes catching the wind, ocean wildlife and birds of prey in falconry lessons. Enjoy a bowl of turkey chili or spinach salad with feta and green apple, and then head down the cliff pathways to Black’s beach for a swim. Open 11:30am to 4pm daily. flytorrey.com
Top Chef All-Stars winner Richard Blais does fried chicken right at his walk-up in Little Italy. Appropriately, a giant chicken welcomes diners to this open-air eatery that also has lawn games and a full-service bar for craft cocktails. The menu is packed with chicken in every incarnation from whole birds and nuggets to a medley of creative sandwiches. Classic slaw, fries, biscuits with miso maple butter and Mexican poutine — shack fries, pollo asado, jalapeño cheese wiz, and cilantro — round out this hearty menu. The upbeat vibe makes Crack Shack feel like a happening day party. Fear not the long line as it moves quickly. Daily 9am to 10pm. crackshack.com
Set in the lovely craftsman-styled Lodge at the edge of the famed Torrey Pines Golf Course, The Grill calls for an al fresco lunch with verdant views and ocean breeze. Enjoy their classic Drugstore burger with an old-fashioned root beer while watching the golfers tee off and adventurous paragliders catch the upwells of wind along the cliff. Try the bacon wrapped meatloaf sandwich or savor the smoky flavors from the restaurant’s custom-built wood-burning rotisserie in the crispy chicken sandwich or oak roasted salmon spring salad. Daily lunch from 11am to 5pm. lodgetorreypines.com
Set atop George’s at the Cove, Ocean Terrace is a gorgeous rooftop perch for panoramic sea view and coastal dining in the heart of La Jolla. The casual bistro menu is stacked with salads, sandwiches, pasta, and seafood. Order up a margarita and then try the salmon tartare with jalapeño potato chips. You’ll find chopped salad with kale and crispy garbanzos, local rockfish tacos, sweet potato gnocchi, grass fed burgers and veggie paella. The million-dollar view will take your breath away. Lunch 11am to 2:30pm. georgesatthecove.com
Pacific Coast Grill
Beachfront in Cardiff, PCG, as locals refer to it, offers up stellar views and surf-and-turf cuisine. Start with a blackberry margarita or Aperol Spritz on the dog-friendly patio, inches from the sand, and drink in the coastal beauty — soaring pelicans, frolicking dolphins and surfers hanging ten. Share crispy calamari, yellowtail tartar or oysters with passion fruit mignonette. For larger bites, opt for the braised short rib street tacos or mahi mahi sandwich with avo and onion-jalapeno ponzu. PCG also offers an expansive gluten-free and vegetarian menu, along with an elevated kid’s menu with a mini filet mignon and lobster for small fry with savvy taste. Lunch 11am to 3pm. pacificcoastgrill.com
Pop Pie Co. University Heights
At this casual eatery meets artisanal bakery, pie connoisseurs will appreciate the variety of sweet and savory minis paired with coffee or craft beer. Their “Eat Pie, Be Happy” theme carries over into the bright and airy ambiance. With influences from Australia, England and Asia, the menu features classic chicken, steak and ale, and veggie curry pies, along with quiche, sausage rolls and breakfast pies. Sweet-wise, there’s key lime, salted caramel apple and coconut custard pie. Delish! Daily 8 am to 9pm. poppieco.com
Shootz Fish + Beer
Pro Hawaiian surfer Cheyne Magnussen partnered with sushi expert Davin Waite to create Shootz, which is pidgin for “Okay, cool.” This Oceanside walk-up, set in the groovy Tremont Collective features a Maui-meets-Baja menu of sustainable fish, fresh poke, fish tacos, and Today’s Grind (daily fresh menu items). Local AleSmith Brewing co-created a line of Shootz beers to pair with the casual yet delish fare. We love the San Miguel taco with Ensenada-style shrimp, cabbage slaw and sprinkles of cotija along with the super fresh spicy poke. Their gluten-free vegan taco bursts with flavor and crunch from its chamoy celery root. pineapple, cilantro, onion, habanero salsa and vegan crema. Open daily noon to 7pm. shootzfishxbeer.com
More Local Favorites in San Diego
Who’s writing these?
Meet our always-hungry team of foodies who compiled this list.
Please let us know if we’ve missed your favorite email@example.com.