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This North County Neighborhood Has All the Food That’s Fit to Chew

Written By: Sarah Hood
Photographed By: Bhadri Kubendran Best Restaurants Carmel Valley

Northern San Diego county contains many lovely but little-known neighborhoods, but few of these upscale areas are as underrated as Carmel Valley. This growing community sits just north of Route 56, and it’s slowly establishing itself as the ideal location to launch bars, cafés and restaurants. From tequila bars to ramen joints, Carmel Valley has many edible options for families and individuals alike, and we’ve hunted down the best eateries this neighborhood has to offer.

1 | Classy But Casual Best Restaurants Carmel Valley

Amici’s Ristobar

Don your best business casual outfit and step into Amici’s Ristobar, where fine dining has never felt more relaxing. Classic Italian dishes are this restaurant’s speciality, and there is no shortage of creamy pastas, oven-fresh pizzas and unique red wines on Executive Chef Rhoelle Gabriel’s menu. Another of her standout dishes is the Jidori Half Chicken Piccata, a crispy delight served with fingerling potatoes, broccolini and a briney Piccata sauce. According to Chef Rho, this dish is also gluten-free and “semi-boneless so you simply get to enjoy the dark meat as well as the white meat.” You’ll never want to eat plain, boring roast chicken again!

Amici’s Ristobar
5980 Village Way, #B106
San Diego, CA 92130
858.847.2740 

2 | Marvelously Mediterranean Best Restaurants Carmel Valley

Kabob Lounge Carmel Valley

Wood panels, large windows and a sunlit patio make the most of limited space in the small but welcoming Kabob Lounge. Here, you’ll find a smorgasbord of Mediterranean-style meals such as falafel and chicken shawarma, all served with homemade hummus. Executive Chef Omar Martinez recommends ordering the most popular dish on the menu: the Boneless Chicken Platter, served on top of Basmati white rice and a house salad with balsamic dressing and pita bread on the side. One bite of this tender, lemon-flavored meal will win your heart.

Kabob Lounge
11375 El Camino Real, Ste 170
San Diego, CA 92130
858.720.6600

3 | A Dinner Dream Come True Best Restaurants Carmel Valley

Royal India Del Mar

Taking its stylistic inspiration from Indian palaces, the Royal India Del Mar creates a lush, refined atmosphere like something out of a fairy-tale, complete with stone details and indoor water fixtures. Indulge your palate and dine on the Chicken Tikka Masala, a creamy but spicy delight in which the chicken is marinated in a ginger and garlic sauce for 13 hours and then roasted in a tandoori clay oven. As an alternative, Executive Chef Jag Cambo recommends Lamb Rogan Josh or, for a vegetarian option, an eggplant dish called the Bengan Bhartha.

Royal India Del Mar
3860 Valley Center Dr
San Diego, CA 92130
858.792.1111

4 | The Wow Factor

Wokou Ramen

Wokou Ramen may be tucked away inside a Carmel Valley shopping center, but don’t let that deter you from seeking out this hidden gem. The restaurant’s open concept kitchen allows customers to watch Executive Chef Joseph Liberman and his fellow cooks craft entrées such as the bright and refreshing Poke Kasai Tostado, or any number of rich ramen bowls. Chef Liberman himself recommends trying the Tonkotsu ramen, a bowl containing thin noodles, bamboo shoots, kikurage mushrooms and pork chasu. The resulting broth is “warming [and] full-bodied, with a bit of a bite from the green onions,” says Chef Liberman, and its flavor is best complemented by a simple light sake from the full bar.

Native Knowledge: The murals and East Asian imagery featured within Wokou’s walls are supposed to make customers feel as though they have stepped into Japan. You’ll even find a painting of a geisha in the women’s restroom and a samurai with a dragon in the men’s room!

Wokou Ramen
5965 Village Way
San Diego, CA 92130
858.779.2620

5 | Magnificently Mexican Best Restaurants Carmel Valley

Madero’s Tequila Bar

One of North County’s newest Mexican eateries, Madero’s bursts with a vibrant, modern energy courtesy of its tequila bar, which boasts over 75 different cocktails, tempered with an authentic Mexican dining experience. As you sip spicy Passion Fruit margaritas or Oaxacan Old Fashioneds, browse Executive Chef Cesar Reyes’ menu for such as the Surf ‘n’ Turf burrito, which is made with six-ounce Patagonia shrimp and other fresh ingredients. Topped with avocado, carne asada and chipotle crema, this mouthwatering creation is “crunchy, creamy and cooked to perfection,” says Chef Reyes.

Native Knowledge: On weekends, Madero’s stops serving food around 10 p.m. but keeps the bar open long past midnight to boost Carmel Valley’s emerging nightlife.

Madero’s Tequila Lounge
5965 Village Way, Ste E107
San Diego, CA 92130
858.353.1056

6 | Ready for a Remix

Breakfast Republic

Rise and shine and head on over to Breakfast Republic, a San Diego-based restaurant chain that offers unusual twists on traditional breakfast items. A prime example of their weird but wonderful breakfast fusions is the Shrimp and Grits platter, which breathes fresh life into this Southern staple by infusing it with gouda, chives and hot sauce. Pair this memorable combo with one of Breakfast Republic’s signature alcoholic drinks: the Jurassic Bloody Mary, in which the acidity of the tomato and lemon in the mixture is countered with bacon! Or you could take it easy and start out with an Oreo Cookie pancake.

Breakfast Republic
6025 Village Way, Ste F101
San Diego, CA 92130
858.461.0326

7 | Sushi for the Squad

Gami Sushi

Gather up the gals or guys and get those chopsticks ready—Gami Sushi is here to serve as much fresh fish as your stomachs can hold! Sushi samplers, sashimi platters and combos with hand rolls and miso soup are prominently featured on the menu, and both specialty fish and real crab can be easily incorporated into an order. Among Gami’s lineup of premium sushi rolls, the standout by far is the Rainbow Spider Roll, which contains soft shell crab, avocado and cucumber on the inner layer and four different types of fish on the outer, and is topped with pearl-like topico (a variety of fish eggs). One piece simply isn’t enough.

Gami Sushi
3870 Valley Centre Dr, #302
San Diego, CA 92130
858.792.5509

8 | Hot Stuff

Spices Thai Cafe

As its name implies, Spices Thai Cafe relies heavily on seasonings such as ginger, basil, garlic pepper and chili to create spicy Southeast Asian dishes. But don’t fret if you can’t take the heat: the restaurant is willing to make milder versions of these dishes and even ranks the food on a scale of one to 10 according to how hot it is. Regardless of your tolerance level, you should be able to handle universally delicious menu items like the Pattaya Pineapple dish. Stuffed with chicken, shrimp and cashews and served with white rice and a house sauce, this tangy, fruit-based dish will put some pep in your step without burning your tongue.

Spices Thai Cafe
3810 Valley Center Dr, Ste 903
San Diego, CA 92130
858.259.0889

9 | Past Time for Dinner

Villa Capri Ristorante

Give your taste buds a trip back in time to historic Italy via the sumptuous dishes of Villa Capri. As you peruse this refined restaurant’s dinner menu, you’ll discover authentic recreations of classic Italian dishes, such as Tuscan shrimp, eggplant parmigiana and ravioli caprese. For a lunch option, try the dumplings Sorrento style, with your choice of either pesto or tomato basil sauce. And don’t forget to browse the drinks menu for that perfect red or white wine to bring out the rich flavors on your plate.

Villa Capri Ristorante
3870 Valley Centre Dr
San Diego, CA 92130
858.720.8777