August is my birthday month so I paid extra attention to where I made reservations. From a Michelin-starred restaurant, a Bib Gourmand regular, a newbie to the city, and a local favorite, I carefully curated a month of delicious dining as my way of celebrating. I’m thrilled with my discoveries, and even more elated with the San Diego food scene, which somehow just keeps on getting better and better. My list of where to eat keeps growing, along with my waistline.
Morning Glory (Little Italy)
This amusing breakfast joint takes the most important meal of the day to the next level. Long lines are a constant here, as they do not accept reservations. Our party of four arrived at
9:15 a.m. on a Thursday, and had to wait just fifteen minutes, so I assume arriving earlier will get you in sooner. The over-the-top decor makes Morning Glory a perfect candidate for Vegas. This place is fun, colorful, and thoughtful in executing strong branding that is woven into the furniture, plates, and everywhere else possible, giving it an especially cool edge, especially when a server in overalls serves your branded mug. Too many enticing options are on the well-designed menu so I suggest you order a bunch to share with your group.
pros: whimsical environment with an extensive breakfast menu
cons: reservations are not accepted
must order: lobster benny and chilaquiles
Sushi Tadokoro has been awarded a Michelin star for three consecutive years. The omakase experience provides an endless procession of more fresh seafood than you can ever imagine. For $165 per person, expect to eat non-stop global, and local, seafood for a duration of two hours. Every bite succeeds in its simplicity – just a hint of added ingredients are used to enhance the natural flavors of the fish.
pros: oysters, nigiri, Chilean sea bass, and homemade ice cream
cons: while some courses are dreamy, a couple are disappointing
must order: omakase
Mustangs & Burros (Estancia Hotel, La Jolla)
I’ve eaten at this Mexican restaurant at least six times. Tucked in the back of the hacienda-inspired Estancia Hotel, lies a colorful, outdoor dining area where making reservations is accessible, even for large groups. The service is always welcoming and friendly, and the staff will make your pooch feel like part of the family. They don’t have the best food per se but I do love dining al fresco here along with sipping their consistently balanced margaritas while our dog looks forward to devouring the beef tartare topped with a raw egg served in a bowl topped with a silver cloche.
pros: lovely courtyard setting with a roaring fireplace and specialized menu for dogs
cons: tortilla chips don’t taste homemade
must order: mezcal margaritas and fried cauliflower
Quixote (North Park in the Lafayette Hotel)
Located in the newly renovated, glitzy Lafayette Hotel, my new favorite spot in San Diego, this Mexican restaurant serves a creative menu influenced by the chef’s Oaxacan heritage. The CH Projects restaurant group is behind this eatery and created a beautifully dim space with dripping candle wax, stained glass windows, and everything gothic. The menu emphasizes sharing small plates and only offers three main dishes. Do not miss the crab corn donut topped with blue crab salad, caviar, and burnt chili – it is outstanding.
pros: gorgeous interior, can hop over to the bustling main lobby bar in the hotel afterwards for delicious drinks
cons: the food needs to be paced better, everything came out super quickly
must order: the crab corn donut
Born & Raised (Little Italy)
Like Quixote, the CH Projects is the mastermind behind this American steakhouse that serves an extensive menu of humanely raised beef, cut and perfectly prepared in a variety of ways along with the most decadent side dishes imaginable. The interior is opulent and glamorous with Italian marble and ornate wood flowing throughout the space while meals are served by servers in tuxedos. Excellent food, attentive service, great cocktails, and alluring design all blend together here harmoniously.
pros: succulent steaks served with several housemade sauces, stunning decor, delicious side dishes
cons: street parking is difficult, there is valet parking though
must order: any of their steaks, dirty hashbrowns, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese