Carlsbad may be 35 miles north of Downtown San Diego but this seaside community has a lot more to offer than LEGOLAND California and lively beaches— it’s also a great place to grab something to eat. From popular German-style delis to upscale steakhouses, Carlsbad is a dining destination worth a taste.
Campfire lives up to its name at this family-friendly restaurant. Besides encompassing upscale woodfired fare such as char-grilled oysters, whole roasted fish and grilled ribeye for two, the restaurant embraces the outdoorsy vibe. Vintage picnic baskets spread throughout the space keep in line with the name and outdoor fire pits to keep the chill at bay are just a few touches that will keep you coming back for more.
Insider tip: Kids will have plenty of room to play in the restaurant’s 12-foot teepee.
- 2725 State St.
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Blue Ocean Robata
Fresh seafood combined with Asian-inspired meals are what makes this Carlsbad restaurant a popular spot in the community. Standouts on the menu include the Blue Ocean omakase box with a carefully curated selection of sashimi, black cod skewers cooked over imported Binchotan charcoal, and caramelized eggplant.
Insider tip: Feeling like poke instead? Visit Pokewan next door, its sibling restaurant offering custom bowls and Korean desserts.
- 2958 Madison St.
This institution specializes in two perfect pairings: pizza and beer, and, with several locations throughout San Diego including Carlsbad, you know it’s popular with the locals. Pizza options range from custom-made creations to gourmet pies like the BBQ bacon cheeseburger, plus salads and other munchies to round out the menu. As for beer, there are more than 50 rotating brews on tap to quench your thirst. Try the Monterey Pizza paired with a Shark Bite Red ale.
Insider tip: Bring a bit of Pizza Port home with you with a selection of canned beers for sale.
- 571 Carlsbad Village Dr.
Tip Top Meats & European Deli
Part delicatessen, part butcher, this Carlsbad spot draws in regulars from around the county for its extensive all-day menu. Whether you’re craving a pork loin cutlet sandwich, European-style continental breakfast with all the trimmings or a specialty soup of the day, this place will conquer your hunger.
Insider tip: Be prepared to wait. Lines are almost always out the door come lunch or dinner.
- 6118 Paseo Del Norte
Cicciotti’s Trattoria & Seafood
Dig into authentic Italian cuisine in the heart of Carlsbad Village. An offshoot of the popular Cardiff location, this spot delivers more of the same fantastic fare plus a dog-friendly patio. Pasta dishes like linguine ai due golfi (shrimp and crab in white wine sauce) may steal the spotlight but save room for woodfired pizzas.
Insider tip: Head into the restaurant Friday and Saturday nights for live music.
- 595 Grand Ave.
West Steak & Seafood Restaurant
Dry-aged steaks and hearty meat entrees are a big draw at this steakhouse but the restaurant’s detail to service will make your meal one to remember. The restaurant’s commitment to farm-to-table shines in the veggie side dishes (seasonal ingredients are harvested from its private farm nearby), and seafood dishes like the Chilean sea bass are just as delicious as the meats.
Insider tip: Daily happy hour 4:30-6:30 PM
- 4980 Avenida Encinas
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The Green Tavern & Museum
A family-friendly mini-museum dedicated to the American Revolution and continental cuisine meet at this two-story venue located right off Interstate-5. Dishes like New England chowder, Maryland crab cakes and Connecticut lobster rolls remind diners of the space’s New England leanings while other items like sesame seared ahi tuna salad and fish tacos bring a contemporary edge to the menu.
Insider tip: Admission to the museum is free.
- 6115 Paseo Del Norte
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Darlene Horn is a San Diego-based freelance writer and designer who has contributed to Zagat San Diego, BizBash, Mission Publishing Group, Nescafe, and Active.com. You can find her documenting her favorite food spots on Instagram as @DarleneEats.