Although San Diego’s distinguished array of restaurants stands out for culinary flair and flavor alone, our stunning local scenery certainly doesn’t hurt the appeal of dining out.
When it comes down to it, there really isn’t a bad view in the whole city. From front row oceanfront restaurants in Cardiff and Pacific Beach to skyline-centric views at high-rise restaurants in the Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego’s diverse and picturesque landscape rewards us with a platter of portraits to admire at the dinner table. For tourists and locals alike, rhythmic ocean waves and vibrant city lights are typically the top choices. And if you’ve dined at Mister A’s in Banker’s Hill or Poseidon in Del Mar, can you blame them? However, as of late the menu of San Diego bay front restaurants has thoroughly impressed our palate. If the lines are too long at the beach, we encourage you to walk a few blocks over to the bay.
Did you know that San Diego boasts over 34 miles of waterfront parks, restaurants, art sculptures, hotels, and marinas located around the Big Bay? And that’s not even including Mission Bay Park, which is the largest man-made aquatic park in the entire country. From The Embarcadero to Shelter Island and Coronado, some of the best restaurants in San Diego reside just steps from the Bay. Start in Mission Bay at Red Marlin or Baleen, then head down to The Embarcadero to get a taste of Vela and Roy’s, or the nearby San Diego Pier Café in Seaport Village. The new Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern or classic Humphrey’s on the Bay are your go-to picks in Point Loma, and you can’t go wrong with a trip to Candela’s or Mistral in Coronado. And if you love the Bay so much, why not opt for a full-blown dinner cruise with Hornblower?
Discover our favorite San Diego restaurants around Big Bay and Mission Bay.
Mission Bay: Mission Bay Park is the largest man-made aquatic park in the country, consisting of 4,235 acres. The park offers a wide range of recreational activities including paths for walking and jogging, and playgrounds for children, and is one of San Diego's most popular locations to fly a kite, picnic or sail a model yacht. Fire rings make it possible to cook out and stay warm. Mission Bay Park also offers a variety of free opportunities to the public such as professional volleyball and Over-the-Line sporting events.
Red Marlin at Hyatt Regency Mission Bay
Red Marlin is a waterfront restaurant at the Hyatt Regency at Mission Bay that offers some of the most incredible bayside seating and views in all of San Diego. Red Marlin offers several dining options, including an open-air terrace, the perfect setting in which to enjoy a romantic meal on the water’s edge. The Chef’s Table, in the heart of the restaurant and situated adjacent to the Wine Wall, is the ideal place to see, be seen and indulge in the restaurant’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Red Marlin embraces an innovative concept: beautiful food, simply presented, with an emphasis on sustainable, organic ingredients, delivered with grand coastal resort style. Popular dinner starters include Ahi Poke with sesame dressing and wonton crisps; Beef Yakitori Skewers with Asian slaw and soy glaze; and Seared Tuna Tataki with seaweed salad, wasabi, soy and pickled ginger. Main course dishes range from Seared Sea Scallops with angel hair, corn, asparagus, cherry tomato and truffle oil; to Blackened Swordfish with baby potatoes and smoked vegetables; and Seafood Arrabiata with fresh fish, rigatoni, stewed tomatoes, zucchini and peppers. For more details and reservations please visit Red Marlin in Mission Bay. (pictured above)
BALEEN at Paradise Point Resort
True to its name, Baleen’s menu is heavily oceanic. Located in Mission Bay's Paradise Point Resort, the restaurant serves exceptional cuisine overlooking the setting sun and glittering, moonlit Mission Bay. If you opt for outdoor scenery, the bay-side patio is ringed with greenery and is a pleasing place to dine and enjoy the salt-tinged air. Although you may get carried away by the stunning scenery, Baleen doesn’t take itself too seriously; a whimsical monkey motif lends a lighthearted air to Baleen’s dining atmosphere. Baleen beginnings include Pan Seared Crab Cakes with cucumber and mango salad, screaming rooster aioli, daikon radish, tomato and ginger compote; and Rabbit Tortelloni and Wilted Baby Spinach with gem tomatoes and warm pancetta vinaigrette. Entrée options range from the Grilled Long Line Swordfish with plantain and smoked tuna hash, served with long beans and cilantro chimichurri; to Australian Lamb Rib Eye with caramelized shallot risotto, wood roasted mushrooms and mission fig shiraz sauce; and for the best of both words, the Filet Mignon and Australian Lobster Tail with potato two ways, asparagus, cabernet sauce and vanilla butter. It’s a sin to skip dessert at Baleen, and menu favorites include our favorite – the Warm Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup with five berry jam, vanilla tuile and strawberry gelato. For more details and reservations please visit BALEEN in Mission Bay.
More recommended Mission Bay restaurants include Attoll at Catamaran Resort and Mizu Sushi.
Shelter Island, Harbor Island & Point Loma: Shelter Island was created more than 50 years ago to accommodate the larger ships of U.S. Navy. The sand dredged up from the bay-deepening process was repurposed to form Shelter Island, the home of Polynesian-themed restaurants, hotels, venues, marinas and public art. The nearby Harbor Island is a pleasant, park-like waterfront getaway close to San Diego’s downtown, airport and cruise ship terminals. The island’s majestic Bay views span from the downtown skyline to military ships and the Point Loma peninsula.
Humphrey’s by the Bay on Shelter Island
Sailboats whirl past the windows at Humphrey’s by the Bay, one of the city’s favorite spots for dreamworthy view, romantic dining, and live music. The restaurant, like dozens of others, serves up California Coastal cuisine, but the seafood at Humphrey’s is so fresh it’s impossible to go wrong. Most visitors are drawn to the Sunday brunches, and seasonally, the summer concerts. World-class views and a new look of contemporary sophistication are further elevated by a generous menu of modern global cuisine. For dinner, begin with Ginger Honey Marinated Skirt Steak served over a cold rice salad with grapes, cashews, fried ginger and harissa dressing; Duck Confit Cake with black figs, mozzarella and harissa; or Proscuitto Wrapped Burrata with beets, arugula and muscat-grape reduction. Save room for such entrée dishes as the Aleppo Pepper Crusted King Salmon with goat cheese risotto and tarragon jus; Grilled Filet Mignon with corn has, horseradish-cracked black pepper crème-fraiche; and the Seafood Mediterranean Risotto with sautéed shrimp, scallop and sea bass, garlic tomato risotto, pecarino romano and lemon basil sauce. For more details and reservations please visit Humphrey’s by the Bay on Shelter Island. (pictured above)
Bali Hai on Shelter Island
Bali Hai Restaurant completed a $4 million transformation in spring 2010, and now boasts a contemporary redesign by Graham Downes and a reinvented Pacific Rim menu by Executive Chef Chris Powell, formerly of Rancho Valencia Resort. When opened in 1953, Bali Hai Restaurant was a paragon of mid-century American tiki culture, and the new Bali Hai offers a stylish, modern take on 21st century island lifestyle with incredible views of the Big Bay, twilight tropical breezes and the allure of Polynesian pleasures. Bali Hai appetizers range from Hawaiian Ahi Tartare with avocado, pinenuts and cracker bread; to Sea Scallops with ginger dashi broth, tarragon and lomi lomi salmon; and Coconut Shrimp with papaya salad and ginger lime dipping sauce. On the Mai Ke Kai menu, or From The Sea, favorites include the Maple Leaf Duck Breast with pearl onion, English peas, cherry tomato and baby carrots; Chicken of the Gods with crispy chicken and tangy orange and cream sauces; and 8 oz. Top Sirloin Steak “Loco Mocco” Style with oven dried mushrooms, green peppercorn demi glace and sauce gribeche. For more details and reservations please visit Bali Hai on Shelter Island.
Island Prime on Harbor Island
Island Prime isn’t the kind of restaurant that you simply stumble upon; it’s the kind of place that you seek, that you hear rumors about, that you promise you’ll try on your next payday. Located just south of the airport on Harbor Island, Island Prime boasts a spectacular view of the downtown skyline. From the restaurant’s waterfront locale, a larger-than-life postcard of the city of San Diego sparkles at you. C-Level, Island Prime’s outdoor restaurant, features the same remarkable skyline views with a noticeably more affordable price tag. In addition to seasonal specials, Chef Deborah Scott’s everyday menu features such new tasty starters as Seared Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Stack with blue crab salad, avocado, papaya-mango salsa, lotus chips and caviar; Escargot en Croute with minced garlic, gorgonzola, butter and puff pastry; and Maine Lobster Claws broiled in butter, garlic and flat leaf parsley. Specialty dishes include Everything Crusted Yellow Fin Tuna with oyster mushrooms, baby spinach, black Thai rice and citrus brown butter vinaigrette; and Hazelnut Crusted Diver Scallops with goat cheese and elephant risotto cakes, frangelico cream and grilled asparagus; as well as a selection of U.S.D.A. mid-western corn fed beef cuts with béarnaise, pancetta-peppercorn demi or wild mushroom demi sauces. For more details and reservations please visit Island Prime on Harbor Island. (pictured left)
Tom Ham’s Lighthouse on Harbor Island
The historic San Diego Tom Ham’s Lighthouse is an iconic restaurant and banquet venue settled on the edge of picturesque San Diego Bay. Tom Ham’s Lighthouse first opened for business in 1971. An actual functioning lighthouse, known as Beacon #9 on any USCG Nautical Map, was incorporated into the design, and today - the result is one of the best known architectural landmarks in San Diego. Besides the Lighthouse, Tom Ham's is also famous for its eye-catching vistas of the San Diego Bay, Coronado Bridge and San Diego skyline. From the unparalleled views across the San Diego Bay to the upscale American and seafood cuisine, every local and visitor should experience the beloved tradition that has remained alive across the generations. Try such dishes as the Lobster Taco Salad and Tom Ham’s Burger for lunch, and savor the Kobe Beef Meatloaf, Flat Iron Steak, and Prime Rib for dinner. For more details and reservations please visit Tom Ham’s Lighthouse on Harbor Island.
Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern in Point Loma
San Diego’s newest gastro-tavern, Jimmy's Famous American Tavern, is located on the harbor in Point Loma. Jimmy's?named after owner Jimmy Duval and his habit of calling any food he creates “famous”?features unfussy, nostalgic American fare inspired by Duval's Air Force Colonel father. Jimmy’s boasts an inviting indoor-outdoor vibe that combines an industrial feel with classic Americana elements, featuring the lounge with garage-style doors, the large central bar, in cozy booths or on the extensive outdoor patio, complete with a fire pit. Committed to serving locally raised, organic fare, the menu (overseen by Executive Chef James Nunn) features such dishes as Southern Cheddar & Pimento Dip with warm corn tortilla chips; the Zinfandel Braised Short Ribs with mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and horseradish cream; and the Southern Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and thyme cream gravy. On Sundays, Jimmy’s serves brunch with dishes including the “BUBBA,” with housemade buttermilk biscuit, fried chicken, bacon, cheddar, sausage gravy and tater tots. For more details and reservations please visit Jimmy’s in Point Loma.
Coronado: Not too long ago, the island was only accessible by water and all passengers to and from the Coronado passed through this ferry landing. Now a quick drive over the iconic Coronado Bridge transports you to “The Enchanted Island” of Coronado which is rich with art galleries, shops and restaurants. But Coronado isn’t all play. Important work takes place here too. Coronado is the birthplace of naval aviation and home to Naval Air Station North Island and the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado.
Candelas on the Bay in Coronado
Located on the water in Coronado, this elegant Mexican restaurant has both class and style. With a considerable wine selection including varietals from Spain, France, California and Latin America, the list is both extensive and eclectic. Be sure to try out the Huachinango Governador, a tasty grilled snapper duo sautéed with olive oil over a chopped tomato bed mix with capers, guero chile, onion, garlic and parsley. But if you’re in the mood for a hearty, flavorful meal then you won’t want to miss out on the Filete de Res Franco, a tender beef filet served with fresh vegetables in a spicy zucchini flower and white wine and cream sauce. If none of those tickle your fancy, then be sure to try the specialty of the house: Langosta Baeza, which is lobster cooked served with its shell including jalapeños, tequila, mushrooms and bacon. For more details and reservations please visit Candelas in Coronado. (pictured left and main)
Mistral at Loews Coronado Bay Resort
Sweeping views of Coronado Bay, Pacific sunsets and the dazzling San Diego skyline off in the distance stretch out far beyond Mistral's floor-to-ceiling windows, creating the perfect waterfront dining destination on The Enchanted Island. Mistral redefines modern French cuisine with an innovative dining experience that delivers a remarkable journey of flavor. Blending influences from Europe's Mediterranean coast, Master French Chef Marc Ehrler and fifth generation French Chef Patrick Ponsaty marry responsibly-grown ingredients with brilliant technique to create robust, intense flavors in every dish. Mistral's culinary approach is rooted in great respect for food and its preparation within the French culture. In a new step forward, Mistral transcends “farm to table” to establish its own innovative culinary style of “farm kitchen” cuisine. Begin with Steamed Santa Barbara Blue Prawns with black ruffle ricotta cheese cannelloni, artichoke, baby fennel and sauce vierge. For a small dish, enjoy the Lobster Risotto with poached Maine lobster, asparagus, green onion and saffron cappuccino; or Wild Mushroom Ravioli with seared diver scallop, truffle reduction and parmigiano reggiano cheese. Main course menu items include Citrus Steamed Alaskan Halibut with lemon verbena broth, black mussels, zucchini flower and Peruvian potato; or the Grilled Colorado Double Lamb Chop with eggplant caviar, braised shoulder Moussaka, artichoke and mint pesto beans; among many more top choice dishes. For more details and reservations please visit Mistral in Coronado. (pictured below)
More recommended Coronado restaurants include Peohe’s and Il Fornaio.
Embarcadero & Seaport Village: What’s not to love about the Embarcadero on San Diego’s Waterfront? The vast Embarcadero is home to a wide variety of restaurants , hotels and museums, all displayed against the beautiful San Diego Bay. A 14 acre waterfront shopping, dining and entertainment complex recreating a harbor setting of a century ago, Seaport Village boasts 54 one of a kind shops, 13 casual eateries and 4 fine dining restaurants.
Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion at San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina
Chef Roy Yamaguchi ‘s eighth restaurant in California – and second in San Diego – now resides within the Marriott Hotel and Marina on the water in the Embarcadero. The spacious and picturesque 17,500 square-foot restaurant overlooks the sparkling harbor yachts and has a seating capacity for approximately 420 patrons, with 140 of those being situated in an elegant private dining room. Yamaguchi’s restaurants have become well known throughout the world for exciting and innovative Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine made with freshest local ingredients, European sauces, bold Asian spices, with a focus on fresh seafood. The other trademark is Roy’s is the ‘aloha’ style of service – straight from the heart with a sense of caring and individuality. Among Roy’s signature culinary creations are Hibachi Grilled Atlantic Salmon; Szechwan Spiced BBQ Baby Back Pork Ribs; and Roy’s “Original” Blackened Island Ahi. A wide selection of artistically created desserts offered nightly includes the popular Chocolate Soufflé. For more details and reservations please visit Roy’s in San Diego.
Sally’s on the Water at Manchester Grand Hyatt
Perhaps it's the refreshing tropical flavoring of the fusion cuisine. Or the sheets of crystal clear glass that surround the room, offering a glimpse of one of the most breathtaking oceanfront views in downtown San Diego. Maybe it's the sushi. Whatever the reason, it’s hard not to love Sally’s on the Water, perched on the waterfront in the downtown Embarcadero. The spacious interior is dimly lit and ultra modern without losing a touch of character. Obsidian polish slithers across the finish of the slick black floor tiles and marble tables. Sunset on the harbor is best enjoyed on Sally’s spacious pet-friendly outdoor patio and lounge. Begin with Fanny Bay Oysters, Albacore Ceviche or Sally’s Signature Appetizer with blue crab cake, lobster bisque and chicken spring rolls. Seafood specialties include Lobster Pot Pie with Canadian lobster tails, vegetables, Portuguese sausage and Boursin cheese, covered in puff pastry; and Grilled Peppered Ahi with Boursin mashed potatoes, sautéed spinach and miso-mustard butter sauce. Sally’s also boasts a full menu of sashimi and sushi rolls, including the Margarita Roll with shrimp and asparagus on the inside, and rice, albacore, ponzu, lime and jalapeno on the outside. For more details and reservations please visit Sally’s in San Diego.
Vela at Hilton San Diego Bayfront
Vela was named after the Latin word for “sail” – and truly does provide a refined and exquisite journey for those in search of epicurean gratification. Inside, a gray and cream hued marble top bar brightened by six opaque, globular chandeliers invites patrons to enjoy a signature cocktail such as the Blood Orange martini – a blend of rum and vodka with fresh blood orange – before being escorted to the table. Created with coastal inspired elements in mind, diners at Vela can choose to sit beside the floor-to-ceiling windows against oceanic shades of subtle blue and beige, or against the backdrop of the Bay in the outdoor heated dining lounge. Vela features a unique wine list and a menu that truly thrives on the principle of "farm to fork," utilizing the freshest meats, daily caught fish, and locally grown and sustainable market produce. Chef Adam Bussell delights guests with modern interpretations of culinary traditions from the most desired destinations of the world. Begin with Baja Black Mussels or Roasted Beet and Citrus Salad. Enjoy your pick of many great entrees, including Pancetta Wrapped Berkshire Pork Loin, Herb Roasted Petaluma Chicken or Meyer Ranch Flat Iron Steak with grilled asparagus, marble potatoes, piquillo romesco and salsa verde. For more details and reservations please call 877.816.6998 or visit Vela in San Diego. (pictured above)
San Diego Pier Café in Seaport Village
The San Diego Pier Cafe, a San Diego landmark, established in Seaport Village since 1980 is a quaint New England-style full-service restaurant that literally floats above the water, ensuring every patron enjoys unparalleled views of the Bay. The menu is simple yet delicious, with such appetizers as Calamari, Hot Stuffed Mushrooms and Crab Cakes. For dinner, enjoy Sauteed Scallops, Fried Shrimp, New York Steak, Seafood Fettuccini or the award winning Salmon Coronado – grilled fresh salmon filet over avocado tomato salsa with white wine sauce and fresh basil, served with rice pilaf. For more details and reservations please visit San Diego Pier Café in San Diego.
More recommended Seaport Village restaurants include Edgewater Grill, Harbor House and Buster’s.
Insider Tip: If you love the Bay so much, why not eat on the water? Dining. Sightseeing. Cruising. Hornblower Cruises and Events combines the best of San Diego Bay for an unforgettable experience. The Hornblower is most well known for Dinner Cruises, Brunch Cruises, Harbor Cruises, and the signature Sights and Sips Sunset Happy Hour Cruises. Watch the San Diego skyline float by on your three-hour brunch or dinner cruise on the bay. Sip champagne and enjoy a three-course meal prepared fresh on board. Then dance to music, make a special request from the local DJ or watch the San Diego city lights and sights drift by from the outdoor decks. Visit with the Captain in the wheelhouse or enjoy coffee and dessert. The Hornblower is perfect for date night, girls night out, or a day adventure with the whole family. Discover the new way to dine in San Diego with Hornblower Cruises and Events. For more details please visit Hornblower in San Diego.
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