Credit: James Tran

17 New Restaurants in San Diego That We’re Totally Obsessed With

From Wine Bars to Sushi Spots, These Newbies Are Worth Visiting

With its unique and ever-evolving culinary scene, San Diego is an epic foodie destination that has it all. Whether in the mood for fresh fish tacos and craft beer or inventive cocktails and tapas, you can find it in America’s Finest City. We’ve rounded up a list of 17 new San Diego restaurants that have recently popped up, and don’t worry—we’ve checked them out ahead of time to make sure they’re worth the trip. From fresh seafood and smashburgers to pasta, tapas and everything in between, these new restaurants in San Diego are sure to hit the spot.


The Whaling Bar

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Best New Restaurants San Diego
Credit: James Tran

La Jolla’s legendary “Pink Lady” is an integral part of San Diego’s rich history, and the La Valencia Hotel’s iconic Whaling Bar is a huge part of that. The list of notable regulars is a who’s who of the famous, including Hollywood glitterati of a bygone era like Gregory Peck and literati like Theodor Geisel (better known as Dr. Suess). The bar first opened in 1949, and thanks to a partnership with SDCM Restaurant Group, it has made a comeback after almost a decade. Step inside this refreshed venue, and you’ll find stunning details like tufted emerald booths, brassy pendant lights and a central bar with archways. The space also features its original nautical centerpiece called “the Whale’s Last Stand,” a 20-foot mural created by artist Wing Howard that was preserved in four pieces when the bar closed back in 2013.

There’s never a bad time to visit this iconic San Diego restaurant, but there is no better time than Martini Hour from 3-5 p.m. During these hours, guests can choose from a menu of five mini cocktails ($10 each) that range from margaritas to dirty martinis. There’s also a small bites menu, which features delicious dishes like duck meatballs, whipped buttermilk ricotta, za’atar fried chicken, and more. 

Local Insight: In the mood for a Sunday funday? Don’t miss out on The Whaling Bar’s Berries and Bubbles champagne special on Sundays from 3-5 p.m. Brunchers can enjoy half off all bottles of champagne with a side of frozen berries!

Location: La Jolla.


The Amalfi Llama 

Best New Restaurants San Diego
Credit: The Amalfi Llama

Imagine a cross between South America’s Patagonia and Europe’s Italy. It is true they’re in different hemispheres, but they happily come together at The Amalfi Llama’s Westfield UTC location in La Jolla. Featuring live fire cooking around an open parrilla grill, this new San Diego restaurant showcases the drama of cooking brought back to its most elemental: coals, embers and smoke. Try the short rib empanada and hot honey pizza, or go all-in on the black truffle pasta. While the Negroni di Amalfi may be the must-try cocktail at the restaurant, their Sunkissed Martini is also worth writing home about.

Location: La Jolla


Roman Wolves

Best New Restaurants San Diego
Credit: Roman Wolves

There is no shortage of Italian food in San Diego. Indeed, there are enough good options one could be forgiven for asking whether we really needed one more. Restaurateur Nino Cusimano and Chef Enrico de Santis answered that question with Roman Wolves. More specifically, they answered it with Pinse: Roman-style folded pizza crust. The restaurant offers two versions: the Pinsa La Mortazza, featuring mortadella, ricotta and pistachio, and the Pinsa Caprese, with marinara, tomato, burrata basil and arugula, on the other hand. The Roman Empress cocktail, featuring Empress gin, a splash of agave, lemon zest, a whisk of egg white, and a crown of prosecco, is their standout beverage.

Location: Little Italy


Friends of Friends + Wavy

It’s a cafe! It’s a restaurant! It’s a vinyl listening bar! It’s coffee, beer, burgers and tunes. It’s three concepts and two names sharing a single entrance and under a single roof. As if that were not enough of a remit, the concept also has a business incubation side in which they seek to help home coffee roasters and microroasters scale up their businesses. Well-known and respected local chef Phillip Esteban is in charge of the culinary side of the community space, which is modeled after a diner. The OG smashburger is the headliner but may soon be eclipsed by the Bao Burger, which wraps that smash burger in a bao bun.

Location: National City


Cacio e Pepe Trattoria Romana

Best New Restaurants San Diego
Credit: Jamie Dickerson

When a restaurant is named after a dish, it is surely a good idea to order that dish. So, Cacio e Pepespaghetti with black pepper, parmesan cheese, pecorino romano cheese and absolutely no other ingredientsis, not surprisingly, the best thing to order at this new San Diego restaurant in North Park. Their Carciofi Alla Giudiaartichokes (in this case, baby artichokes) fried in the once-upon-a-time Jewish styleis also a must-try. While red wine is never a bad choice to accompany Italian cuisine, the limoncello martini is worth sipping on when visiting this charming streetside trattoria.

Location: North Park


Tanner’s Prime Burgers

Credit: Tanner’s Prime Burgers

Oceanside’s restaurant scene has become perhaps the single most vibrant in all of San Diego County. Between Michelin-recognized outposts, cool hotspots and up-and-coming restaurants, the county’s northernmost city has become the place to eat, drink and be merry. Tanner’s Prime Burgers is the latest to join the scene and is a joint project between culinary veteran Brandon Rogers and cattleman supreme Eric Brandt of Imperial Valley’s Brandt Beef. With such quality ingredients and pedigree, the result could hardly be less than delicious. Try the ⅓-pound. Single Tanner’s Prime Burger with all-natural Brandt Beef smashed with Cowboy BEEF Bacon, caramelized onions, American cheese, Tanner’s sauce, lettuce, thinly sliced sweet onions and juicy tomato. And be sure to order a side of Dirty Tallow Fries!

Location: Oceanside



The latest project from Sam the Cooking Guy (aka “Sam Zien”) and Michelin-star restaurant veteran and former “Chopped” champion Gavin Mills is Basta! The restaurant seeks to offer Italian cuisine and fun in roughly equal measure. It’s definitely not like the food anyone’s Italian mother ever made. Instead, as Zien describes it, the food is “playful.” Think cavatelli with Santa Barbara uni (sea urchin), rigatoni with vodka and bone marrow garlic bread. You’ll want to start strong, though, with The Dirtiest Martini, which features vodka, vermouth, olive juice, and a choice of 3 olives, blue cheese, or pimento.

Location: Little Italy


Borrego Rooftop Kitchen + Cocktails

Credit: Kambria Fischer Photography

There are few ways to appreciate the urbanity of San Diego than by taking it all in from Borrego Rooftop Kitchen + Cocktails’ rooftop deck. This ninth-floor hotspot at Hotel Indigo features a stunning desert-inspired design with views of the skyline and Petco Park. Order the Espresso de Olla cocktail made with local vodka, Arabica and Robusta espresso liqueur, Mexican fernet, spiced chocolate and orange peel. Then, try the tomato-citrus marinated cochinita sliders with pickled red onions or the hibiscus-cured kanpachi with green herb aioli, tequila, lime, jalapeños and microgreens.

Location: Gaslamp Quarter


Dalbam Moon Night Korean Kitchen

Credit: Dalbam Moon Night Korean Kitchen

“Dalbam” translates from Korean to English as “moon night,” a fitting name for this Convoy District late-night spot. Its doors don’t open until 5 or 6 p.m. (depending on the day) and close at 1 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday and midnight on Sunday. Owner Sun Park comes from a family deeply involved in the district’s Korean eateries, with his father owning Grandma Tofu and Korean BBQ and his extended family owning another six restaurants. Try Dalbam’s Kimchi Jjigae (a rich, spicy Korean stew) or the bossam (Korean marinated pork belly), along with a regular supply of banchan (side dishes).

Location: Convoy District


Sushi Maru

Best New Restaurants San Diego
Credit: Maru Team, Andrew

For decades, San Diego has had a stellar sushi scene. From the early days when Kiyoto Matsumoto was slinging sushi in Hillcrest (then later in the nascent Gaslamp Quarter) to, more recently, Sushi Tadokoro earning a Michelin star, it seems there’s always been a variety of worthy places to indulge in Japanese cuisine. And now, there’s another sushi star thanks to Taka Sushi’s former head chef, Chef Tsuyoshi Maruyama (aka Maru), who recently opened Sushi Maru. The restaurant is reservation-only, with a 20-course omakase experience for $180 per person. Highlights include bluefin tuna, locally sourced sea urchin, rosy seabass and rum panna cotta for dessert. Sushi Maru offers sake, shochu, champagne and non-alcoholic beverages to wash it all down.

Location: Downtown San Diego



Credit: Hideaway Pacific Beach

A brand new addition to the Pacific Beach scene is Hideaway. This new beach-themed bar and restaurant is perfectly attuned to the laid-back PB lifestyle. Hideaway is a tribute to San Diego’s surf, skate and music culture while also standing as a shoutout to a simpler time. The look and feel of the decor is not entirely unlike what might happen if your grandmother were a surf and skate memorabilia collector. For food, think aguachile halibut sashimi, a half-pound burger, Italian meatballs and wood-fired pizza. For drinks, hit the full-service bar specializing in shareable—and massive—“Social Bowls” as well as local brews.

Location: Pacific Beach


Cellar Hand

Credit: Courtesy of Kimberly Motos

Cellar Hand, a fresh entrant to the Hillcrest scene, is a Mediterranean-style restaurant helmed by Chef Logan Kendall. It arrived courtesy of the owners of Pali Wine Company and offers sustainable cuisine they call hyper-local: fish, meats and produce. The restaurant further minimizes food waste through practices like fermentation and composting. The menu features shellfish like Kumiai oysters and Baja scallop crudo, and they also serve fermented and wood-fired pita in a dipping program with the likes of whipped tahina, labneh and Chino Farms tomato and fennel matbucha. The Thompson Heritage chicken liver pate and Heritage Berkshire pork are two standout mains on the menu.

Location: Hillcrest


Merenda (coming summer 2024)

The next great addition to the burgeoning Oceanside culinary scene will be Merenda Wine Bar, which is slated to open this summer. Merenda brands itself as a “wine shop with housemade snacks and more.” The wine bar is owned by Aaron Crossland and Lauren Crossland-Marr, the latter of whom has a doctorate in food anthropology. Perhaps that is why, in addition to its wine, Merenda will offer a charcuterie program featuring salumi and artisanal cheeses. Tapas and Southern European-style small plates will also grace the menu. Visitors will even soon be able to enjoy wine tastings and wine education classes. 

Location: Oceanside


Vincenzo Cucina and Lounge

Vincenzo offers something a bit different from the plethora of Italian spots in San Diego’s Little Italy. Specifically, this new San Diego restaurant features a cheese wheel bar! Enter the space and find yourself surrounded by a carefully curated selection of at least six wheels from all over Italy. Take your pick of the cheeses on offer and pair it with your choice of pasta shapes. The show of your dish being made before you is only the start; the dish itself is the finish. Wash it down with an Aperol spritz from Vincenzo’s Aperol spritz bar!

Location: Little Italy


31THIRTYONE (coming soon)

Chef Drew Deckman is a bona fide culinary legend, having earned Michelin stars both in Europe and in Baja California. He will soon be bringing his chops to North Park, offering daily oyster selections, 31THIRTYONE’s private label caviar service, an a la carte menu and two tasting menu experiences with optional beverage pairings. 31THIRTYONE will even feature a four-course market-driven menu, as well as a more exclusive chef’s counter experience seating up to 10 in front of the kitchen. While the opening date is still TBD, guests can look forward to kicking back on the rooftop deck, sipping on cocktails and snacking on a handful of tasty small plates.

Location: North Park


Wildflour Delicatessen (coming soon)

A deli, bakery and cocktail bar all wrapped into one, Wildflour Delicatessen, is Chef Phillip Esteban’s new seafood-centric eatery coming to Liberty Station. In many ways, Esteban’s venture is a quintessentially California take on the concept of the deli. Indeed, he’s dubbed it a “West Coast deli.” The focus is a seasonal menu with wide influences. It will feature handcrafted small and entrée-sized plates with locally sourced ingredients. All of these will be filtered through Esteban’s vast and star-studded experience.

Location: Liberty Station


Wine Girl (opening early 2025)

Credit: Wine Girl

Wine Girl, with locations in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Napa Valley, is set to open a Gaslamp Quarter location in early 2025. The girl-centric wine bar will feature rotating wines on tap, a reserve bottle and by-the-glass list as well as spritzers, local craft beers and other libations. Wine Girl’s food menu will, of course, be wine-friendly. It will include a variety of wood-fired pizzas, baby baguette nibbles and boards all set in a perfectly pink space.

Location: Gaslamp Quarter




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