Top Dining Spots in San Diego Before Your Cruise Departure


San Diego has one of the most underrated food scenes in the United States, especially when it comes to casual fine dining. Chefs in San Diego don’t take themselves too seriously, although they definitely take their food seriously, sourcing produce from beloved local farms like Chino Farm and sustainably caught seafood from local fishermen.

If your cruise departs from San Diego, or is making a stop in San Diego, there are lots of great places to dine within walking distance from the Port of San Diego Cruise Ship Terminal. Meals on the boat may be included in your fare, but it’s worth exploring the city for all kinds of delicious discoveries. Here are some of the best places to dine for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Little Italy and downtown that are a comfortable walk from your cruise ship.

Where to Dine in San Diego: Breakfast

Morning Glory – This irreverent, maximalist all-day breakfast spot by San Diego’s hottest restaurant group, Consortium Holdings, has a line out the door most mornings when they open at 8 am and infamously doesn’t take reservations. It’s worth the wait though, whether you’re in the mood for a boozy breakfast (the coffee cocktails are excellent) or familiar comfort food. The eclectic menu bounces around the globe, from Georgian khachapuri to Mexican quesabirria (a cross between a taco and quesadilla) and impossibly fluffy Japanese soufflé pancakes. On weekends keep your eyes out for roaming breakfast dim sum served by a bodega queen.

Rikka Fika – For a light breakfast and some of the best coffee in San Diego, check out this coffee shop and micro-bakery. The cheerful sun-dappled cafe offers pour-over and espresso drinks featuring a rotating selection of beans from specialty coffee roasters around the world. There’s always some medley of housemade miso caramel canelé, savory morning rolls, cream scones and burnt sugar waffles in the pastry case to pair with your drinks, along with frequent surprise goodies from local purveyors. Try the honey cream top cold brew or an iced ceremonial matcha latte to cool off on a hot summer day.

Where to Dine in San Diego: Weekend Brunch

Books & Records – This cool new cocktail bar and restaurant in a spiffed up industrial space serves weekend brunch with live jazz music or a DJ spinning cumbia and soul inspired tunes. The menu is playfully split into “EP” appetizers and “LP” main courses with smoked salmon latkes, yuzu ricotta pancakes and banana bread French toast bites just a few crowd favorites. There are lots of innovative coffee beverages to choose from too, both with and without alcohol.

Where to Dine in San Diego: Lunch

Puesto – This family-owned Mexican mini-chain has a location at the Headquarters at Seaport, a former police station transformed into a shopping and entertainment district a short walk from the cruise terminal. Guacamole, ceviche and nearly a dozen different types of tacos on fresh pressed corn tortillas make this a popular lunch hangout. To drink, choose between housemade horchata or fruity margaritas – mango, guava, coconut and watermelon. Puesto has an especially impressive selection of tequila and mezcal, focusing on small artisan producers that are hard to find elsewhere. Try a flight of private batch mezcal or tequila if you’re interested in learning more about agave spirits.

Parakeet Cafe – The Little Italy location of this health-conscious cafe builds a colorful menu around organic local produce. Beet-cured smoked salmon on labneh slathered toast, heaping salads decorated with a rainbow of edible flowers and fresh pressed juices and wellness lattes with turmeric, blue spirulina and adaptogenic mushrooms are just a few highlights. This is a great option for anyone with dietary restrictions; the Thai vegan bowl is killer and there are plenty of vegan and gluten-free pastries too.

Vistal Bar + Restaurant – This waterfront California-Baja restaurant is located on the third floor of the InterContinental San Diego. The patio offers al fresco dining with sweeping bay views, so you can even keep an eye on your ship. Partnering with sustainability stalwarts, Chula Seafood and Positively Groundfish, the menu champions local sourced sustainable seafood, including less common species like Vermillion rockfish ceviche and sheephead zarandeado with roasted poblano polenta.

Where to Dine in San Diego: Dinner

Sushi Maru – This intimate new sushi counter offers the best omakase in San Diego to just 10 guests at a time, the pinnacle of chef Tsuyoshi Maruyama’s decades-long career. The restaurant’s minimalist décor may seem austere, but amiable chef Maru will make newbies and connoisseurs alike feel right at home. It’s a joy to watch his nimble hands precisely slice fish and deftly mold each piece of nigiri before placing it in front of you, and there are several cooked dishes interspersed in the parade of sushi for a total of 20 courses. Sushi Maru has two seatings each night, and the first begins at 5:30 pm so you can be back on the ship by 8 pm.

Animae – This Asian-inspired steakhouse is led by executive chef Tara Monsod, featuring a selection of melt-in-your-mouth Japanese A5 wagyu and creative dishes that pay homage to Monsod’s Filipino heritage like spicy tuna kinilaw (similar to ceviche) and hearty short rib kare kare stew. Save room for ube profiteroles and coffee calamansi mousse with coconut sponge cake for dessert.

Kingfisher – This fashionable Vietnamese restaurant and cocktail bar is just a short Uber ride away in the Golden Hill neighborhood. Everything from blood orange dressed hamachi crudo and wild mushroom congee to tamarind glazed crispy chicken wings and whole fried bass with rice noodles is meant to be shared, so it’s a great pick for a family-style early dinner.


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