From South Park to Banker’s Hill and Del Mar, San Diego neighborhoods are distinct in community culture. The resident lifestyles, the art galleries, the clubs that line the street – or notably don’t – and the restaurants that stand the test of time; the many elements that create a neighborhood inevitably define that neighborhood’s culture. And when you choose to live in a certain community, it can be assumed that you have made your choice to belong in that community’s culture for a reason.
If you live just off 30th Street in North Park, you are associated with the thriving urban art district of San Diego. Rancho Santa Fe locals enjoy a luxury lifestyle full of fine dining and upscale shopping. And if you opt for downtown living, you may be a club-goer who is always on the look out for the newest hotspot. When it comes to dining out in San Diego, your community restaurants are known to best fit your personality and lifestyle. From Market in Del Mar to Cucina Urbana in Banker’s Hill, Alchemy in South Park, and Bencotto Italian Kitchen in Little Italy, San Diego neighborhood restaurants have created a faithful following of tight-knit locals. While destination dinners are perfect for special occasions, there is something so comforting about staying close to home while dining out.
Discover ten of our favorite San Diego neighborhood restaurants.
Market Restaurant and Bar in Del Mar
Celebrated San Diego Chef Carl Schroeder has created quite the cult-like following at his signature restaurant, Market. Located near the Polo Fields, Market has become a repeated neighborhood restaurant for happy hour and fine dining among the Del Mar and neighboring Rancho Santa Fe communities. Carl Schroeder’s fresh sushi, dinner and dessert menus are known to change daily, but the impeccable service always remains the same. A few popular dinner menu items include Korean Barbeque Glazed Game Hen with forest mushroom rice, garlic spinach, soy glaze, and cumin roasted carrots; and Pan Roasted King Salon & Maine Lobster Ravioli with tomato-basil broth, Bloomsdale spinach sauté, and local corn. For more details, call 858.523.0007 or visit Market in Del Mar.
Alchemy in South Park
Restaurant, bar and art gallery, Alchemy radiates with the positive energy of the surrounding South Park community. Alchemy is a highly sustainable, locally owned and operated restaurant that is one of the most sophisticated neighborhood hot spots in San Diego. Boasting competitive pricing, rotating local artwork, and a host of charity school programs, Alchemy is loved by locals for the unique atmosphere and delicious culture fare. Some of our favorite items, designed by Chef Ricardo Heredia, include Piquillo Rellenos – Berkshire pulled pork season with barbeque sauce and stuffed in a Spanish pepper; Chicken & Dumplings – confit Jidori chicken leg and thigh with baby carrots, pearl onions, and baby celery accompanied by buttermilk dumplings; and The Burger – Estancia Farms grass fed beef, a slice of Mahon cheese, house cured pickles, red leaf lettuce, tomatoes, and onions with Parmesan frites. For more details, call 866.513.3224 or visit Alchemy in South Park. (pictured below)
Whisknladle in La Jolla
When a down economy hit one of our most elite neighborhoods, Whisknladle was one restaurant that never skipped a beat. This La Jolla favorite, run by owner Arturo Kassel and chef Ryan Johnston, is a true neighborhood restaurant that specializes in gourmet comfort food that is tasty, honest and fresh. Whisknladle purchases all of its ingredients from local organic farms and growers like Chino Farms and La Milpa. Chef Johnston also bakes, churns, smokes, ages, cures and pickles everything in-house. Popular dinner items include the Lobster Risotto with saffron, cherry tomato, and mascarpone; Stuffed Roasted Jidori Chicken with espelette, almonds, sweet peppers, and olive oil mashed potatoes; and WNL Niman Ranch Burger with artisan cheese, house cured bacon, caramelized bacon, and fried egg. For more details, call 858.551.7575 or visit Whisknladle in La Jolla.
Cucina Urbana in Banker’s Hill
It only took a month for Banker’s Hills residents (and everyone else in town) to fall head over heels for Cucina Urbana. Located in the former Laural space on Fifth Avenue, Cucina Urbana is a California inspired Italian Kitchen and Bistro that boasts a warm and cozy ambiance, community tables, and an in-house wine shop. The restaurant’s interior evokes a modern kitchen combined with the history and comfort of an old rustic country farmhouse. A touch of home, splash of bohemia and many objects new and old attract the eye. The menu ranges from traditional Bruschetta to the new-age Carlsbad Mussels with chorizo and tomato and basil. Other menu items include Linguine and Clams with garlic, mint, Fresno chile, and bottarga; the linguine is another Italian classic with a touch of Californian taste. For more details, call 619.239.2222 or visit Cucina Urbana in Banker’s Hill. (pictured main)
Urban Solace in North Park
The comfort and artistic flair of North Park is captured in the fun atmosphere and culinary culture of Urban Solace. Originally created out of a desire to bring an exciting neighborhood restaurant concept to San Diego, Urban Solace’s straight-forward dining and service experience keeps a steady flow of local patrons always coming back for more. Executive Chef, Matt Gordon, and General Manager, Scott Watkins offer a original selection of American comfort-style dishes in a high-energy venue with street-side patio seating and a relaxing dining room. Popular menu items range from “Not Your Momma’s Meatloaf” with ground lamb, bacon, figs, pine nuts, and feta, served with fig jus and sweet potato mash; to Cinnamon Brined Duroc Pork Chop with pickled greens, root vegetable gratin, and natural jus. For more details, call 619.295.6464 or visit Urban Solace in North Park.
Searsucker in Gaslamp Quarter
San Diego’s favorite celebrity chef, Brian Malarkey of “Top Chef 3 Miami” fame and former Oceanaire Executive Chef teamed up with local nightlife guru James Brennan of Stingaree to create the Gaslamp Quarter’s first official neighborhood restaurant and bar: Searsucker. Inside the new American classic on Fifth & Market, modern and industrial edge is softened by an overflow of comfy couches, Oriental rugs, textured animal patterns, and understated graphics that simply read “EAT” in black and white. If you want to remain on land, check out the Ranch portion of the menu that boasts such stand-out dishes as Loin Filet Mignon with lobster butter; Hanger with porcini and truffles; Cheek with goat cheese dumplings; and Ribeye Tomahawk with cognac and horseradish. Don’t forget to visit the Farm and taste the Pork Butt with grilled peach and bacon butter or “Benny and the Birds” with apricot gastrique. For more details please call 619.233.7327 or visit Searsucker in San Diego. (pictured above)
R Gang Eatery in Hillcrest
Top Cheffer Rich Sweeney’s restaurant was an instant favorite among Hillcrest locals. With the intention to make food and fun, refueled, R Gang Eatery is casual and cool and decidedly the perfect Hillcrest restaurant. The menu is anything but ordinary, as Rich Sweeney – formerly Executive Chef at Confidential and Season 5 contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef” – serves only the best for his local patrons. Dinner favorites range from Not-So-Short-Ribs – slow braised bone-in beef short ribs with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, honey glazed carrots, goat cheese demi-glace, and fried onion strings; to Pork Chop & Apple Sauce – thick-cut boneless pork loin chop served with mashed potatoes, rosemary green beans, and citrus-red apple sauce. For more details please call 619.677.2845 or visit R Gang Eatery in Hillcrest.
Delicias in Rancho Santa Fe
A cherished restaurant for Rancho Santa Fe locals, Delicias is a garden in itself, overflowing with fragrant flowers, providing a romantic environment for feasting on fresh, delicious fare. Sit in the elegant dining room or outside in the plush garden patio, and enjoy such favorites as the Laughing Bird Shrimp Scampi with hand cut pasta, sea scallops, oven dried tomatoes, white wine, and lemon; Italian Grass Fed Piedmontese Porterhouse Steak served with potato puree, Chino Farms vegetables, and house made steak sauce; or Earth and Ocean – charred short rib, port poached cherries, king crab, béarnaise, and grilled apricot. For more details, call 858.756.8000 or visit Delicias in Rancho Santa Fe.
Bencotto Italian Kitchen in Little Italy
In spring of 2010, Little Italy’s famous India Street began cooking a whole new flavor. Bencotto is an ultra-modern restaurant that introduced local foodies to the finer side of authentic Italian dining while maintaining a casual vibe and low price point. Your first look inside Bencotto communicates floor to ceiling windows, urban-chic cement walls, exposed pipes, and contemporary art work. Bencotto serves hand-made “home style” dishes in an environment that reflects who they are: a young generation of Italians who celebrate their culinary heritage, presenting it in a modern, relaxed, and inviting kitchen-style restaurant. For your entrée, check out the Tagliata Alla Senape Con Rucola & Pomodorini – sliced grilled beef steak, marinated in mustard, cooked rare, served with arugula and cherry tomatoes; Crespella Ai Porri – baked crepes stuffed with leeks and parmesan cheese; and Lasagna Alla Bolognese – with meat and tomato sauce. For more details, call 619.450.4786 or visit Bencotto in San Diego. (pictured above)
Cowboy Star Restaurant and Butcher Shop in East Village
Cowboy Star is like a time warp into an upscale version of the Old West, remodeled and made over to suit our modern, aesthetic East Village needs. Yet, the bar still beckons with a welcoming “home on the range” feel that makes one at ease while slipping into large comfy booths under the wan low-lights of the lounge area. Cowboy Star captures the romance of the Old West, featuring contemporary American cuisine with a Western flair. Executive Chef Victor Jimenez uses all prime meats and offers a variety of items that you won’t typically find at other restaurants. The Bison Burger and the Bison-Ribeye are both popular items, not to mention the Buttermilk Sweetbreads. For more details, call 619.450.5880 or visit Cowboy Star in San Diego.
OK, now it’s time to party. Check out the Top Ten San Diego Neighborhood Bars!
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