While it’s known for its gorgeous coastline, high-end shopping, and general glamour, La Jolla is also widely recognized for having some of the highest quality and most unique San Diego restaurants.
Whether you’re looking for seafood, elevated Japanese fusion, trendy cafes, unbeatable ocean views, or an all-out fine dining experience, there’s something here for you. This list of best restaurants in La Jolla will not let you down.
George’s at the Cove
La Jolla Village • California • $$ – $$$
George’s at the Cove is where many La Jollans take their out-of-town guests to showcase our seaside jewel. It’s located across from La Jolla Cove and each of its three levels has a different theme and menu. Ocean Terrace, on the top floor, has the best views and more casual dining (we love it for lunch with a view); Level2 is more of an upscale bar with outstanding craft cocktails and a happy hour; and on the bottom floor, California Modern offers a fine-dining menu including a chef’s tasting menu and the exclusive 12-14 course experience called TBL3 (reservations required as this privilege is for one table per night). Make a reservation, especially during peak season in the summer.
What to order: Top recommendations are the Fish Tacos, Black Bean Soup, Grilled Octopus and Sesame Crusted Tombo Ahi Tuna. For drinks, the Spicy Margarita is one of their more popular choices.
Address: 1250 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037
The Marine Room
La Jolla Shores • French/Seafood • $$$
The Marine Room has been a local institution and one of the best restaurants in La Jolla since opening in 1941 with a seasonal menu a recipient of multiple awards and accolades. The view is one of the best in La Jolla, since it’s at sea level, adjacent to the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club and built on the sand at La Jolla Shores beach. Waves literally crash against the windows at high tide, which they celebrate during their seasonal High Tide dinners and breakfasts. It’s elegant yet approachable (business casual dress is recommended) with a fantastic happy hour in the bar. The seasonal menu by Executive Chef Bernard Guillas and Chef de Cuisine Ron Oliver is a carefully crafted mix of French and California-style seafood influences.
What to order: Everything is undeniably delicious, but you won’t want to miss the Macadamia Blue Crab Cakes, the Red Walnut Crusted Faroe Islands Salmon, and of course, the Maine Lobster Tail (especially during Monday lobster night).
Address: 2000 Spindrift Dr, La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone number: 858-459-7222
La Jolla Village • Seafood • $$$
With its soft strung lights and 100-year-old olive trees, the dining experience at celebrity chef Brian Malarkey’s 1930s-warehouse-turned-coastal-lounge is pretty magical. The ambiance will draw you in, but the flavors are what will keep you coming back for more. The menu is where “farm fresh cuisine meets an emphasis on line-caught seafood and meats.” If you have time, make sure to stop by during happy hour in the bar as they have great cocktails, $1 oysters, and live music every night.
What to order: The Whole-Roasted Branzino Bass is always excellent, along with the Mushroom Taleggio Flatbread and Tempura-fried Squash Blossoms. At happy hour, gin lovers should try the Snake in the Grass while Tequila aficionados may enjoy the refreshing Grapefruit Paloma.
Address: 7837 Herschel Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
La Jolla Village • Coastal Italian • $$$
Located in the La Plaza shopping center at the corner of Girard Ave and Wall Street, Catania offers higher-end Italian in a relaxed atmosphere. Their menu offers everything from decadent dishes to crowd pleasers like their wood-fired pizzas. Fun fact: every Monday night is Meatball Monday, where they offer a spread of their specialty meatballs.
What to order: If you’re looking for pizza: the Margherita is simple but always delicious, and the Sicilian Pistachio is good when you want something a little more off the beaten path. If you’re feeling particularly indulgent, the Braised Lamb Gnocchi or Duck Sugo Orecchiette pasta dishes are for you.
Address: 7863 Girard Ave #301, La Jolla, CA 92037
La Jolla Village • Japanese • $$$
Himitsu offers highly authentic Japanese cuisine in the form of traditional nigiri sushi and tapas-like plates. Executive chef Mitsu Aihara has been crafting sushi for the last 16 years at the award-winning Sushi Ota, and only opened this restaurant after receiving a blessing from his mentor, so he’s serious about the quality of his food. The dishes rotate on a weekly basis depending on what seafood is the best and freshest on the market at the time.
What to order: The Himitsu Roll (Spicy Salmon and Crab, Scallop, Jalapeno, Cilantro Aioli, Lemon Zest) and the Sashimi Salad (Tuna, Albacore, Yellowtail, and Salmon with Mixed Greens and Seaweed with Ginger Dressing) are go-to’s. For the lighter palate, go for the Seared Maine Scallop.
Address: 1030 Torrey Pines Rd G, La Jolla, CA 92037
La Jolla Village • California • $$$
Whisknladle is what they call an “elevated comfort food” experience. Dishes are eclectic and artisanal, served in an easy-going bistro setting. The emphasis is on minimally-prepared, high-quality ingredients on the seasonal menu paired with craft cocktails and a well-curated wine list (they have always given us good pairing recommendations). If it’s nice out, take advantage of the covered patio but the dining room is open to the outside, too.
What to order: The Spanish Octopus, the Truffle Burger (with an egg on top), and the Charred Bone Marrow (served with Parsley, Capers, Lemon Zest & Pan de Mie, all come highly recommended). Also try the cucumber mimosa and the Cutting Board, one of the best cheese and charcuterie plates in town. Never pass up the salty-sweet Butterscotch Budino for dessert, if available.
Address: 1044 Wall St, La Jolla, CA 92037
La Jolla Village • California • $$$
Located in the Grande Colonial Hotel on (910) Prospect Street, NINE-TEN is definitely one of the best restaurants in La Jolla for a menu determined by what is in season while still keeping some guest favorites on the menu. It’s perfect for a night out, whether it’s a celebration or just date night. The veteran Executive Chef, Jason Knibb, has been at the helm for the past decade and trained under highly-respected names like Wolfgang Puck. Try his “Mercy of The Chef” dinner, a six-course tasting meal prepared just for your table. It’s also a perfect place for wine enthusiasts with an incredible cellar of eclectic, hard-to-find and value wines curated by Certified Sommelier and Director of Food and Beverage, Summer Haines, especially because Wednesday means that bottles of wine are half-priced. The hotel offers valet to all guests and visitors to the restaurant.
What to order: The Hamachi (Yellowtail) Sashimi makes for a great starter, and along with the Grilled Octopus. For entrees, try the Port Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs, Smoked Maple Leaf Duck Breast, Baja Striped Bass, or Jamaican Jerk Pork Belly, a nod to Chef Knibb’s Caribbean roots. Save room for dessert, because the Half Baked Chocolate Cake is one of the best desserts in La Jolla.
Address: 910 Prospect Stree, La Jolla, CA 92037
Torrey Pines • California • $$$
Located in the lovely California Craftsman-style boutique hotel, The Lodge at Torrey Pines, A.R. Valentien is named for the 20th-century California artist whose works are exhibited throughout the restaurant (and elsewhere in museums around San Diego). Seasonal menu items are mostly locally-sourced and diners can choose to sit inside or outside on the intimate patio overlooking the pool and golf course. It’s a great spot for date night though popular with families, too.
What to order: Definitely order the three-course local lunch, a seasonal prix fixe menu created with local ingredients. The rotating selection of farmhouse and artisanal cheeses and 28 Day Dry Aged Prime Rib Eye Steak. Executive Chef Jeff Jackson also offers a four-course tasting menu with optional wine pairings.
Address: 11480 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037
Prepkitchen La Jolla
La Jolla Village • California • $$
Prepkitchen has a homey vibe while serving up fresh, locally-sourced food. Focusing on farm-to-table, they offer smaller plates based on what’s seasonally available in addition to entrees and excellent desserts. The setting is casual but trendy, and the staff is very welcoming. You’ll feel like you’ve been invited over to a friend’s for dinner. This location has an extensive, pet-friendly patio should you choose to dine in. Or, counter order and take it to-go.
What to order: The Bacon-Wrapped Dates and Cutting Board are the most popular appetizers by far, and the Local Mussels and Fries are an excellent entrée choice.
Address: 7556 Fay Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037
Duke’s La Jolla
La Jolla Village • Hawaiian • $$
Inspired by the foods and spirit of Hawaii, Duke’s is a fun place to take the family. The Aloha vibes are only made better by the incredible ocean view from the patio. It’s a mix of traditional Hawaiian and contemporary Californian fare, so you’ll find quality no matter what you’re craving. And, they have the famous Hula Pie.
What to order: Besides the mouthwatering Kona Coffee-Crusted New York Strip and seemingly endless choices of sushi, you can always get a traditional Hawaiian Plate Lunch (ribs and chicken or the daily catch with steamed jasmine rice, macaroni salad, bok choy macadamia nut slaw). If you decide to visit the Barefoot Bar, make sure to grab one of their infamous Mai Tais served in a classic tiki-shaped glass.
Address: 1216 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037
La Jolla Village • Mexican Street Food • $$
This is a great choice for a casual lunch, family dinner or group outing. Puesto is an artisanal Mexican La Jolla restaurant that offers a little more of a full-service feeling. The colorful atmosphere keeps things fun and cosmopolitan, and the menu is a great combo of light starters and classic tacos. All the while, you can watch your food being made fresh through the open kitchen.
What to order: Start off with one of their unique guacamoles—the Nogada is a good one as long as there are no nut allergies. For tacos, there are basics like Al Pastor and Carnitas, and then more unique options like Maine Lobster, Chicken Verde or Zucchini and Cactus. Kids can get a combo of two mix-and-match tacos and an agua fresca (flavored water).
Address: 1026 Wall St, La Jolla, CA 92037
La Jolla Shores • Mexican • $$
For unique takes on traditional Baja-style dishes, try Galaxy Taco in La Jolla Shores. Founded by George’s at the Cove Executive Chef, Trey Foshee, Galaxy Taco takes your usual Mexican food up a notch. The environment is colorful, fun, and good for group outings. There is a kids menu for any younger ones who might be joining, too. The alcohol menu is packed full of both basic and unique creative cocktails, making it perfect for a laid-back happy hour. It’s only a short walk to the beach, so maybe a drink before catching the sunset?
What to order: There are plenty of yummy options like homemade Blue Corn Shrimp Quesadillas, Steamed Birria Clams, and for the adventurous, Lengua Tacos (beef tongue).
Address: 2259 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037
El Pescador Fish Market
La Jolla Village • Seafood • $$
El Pescador started as a small fish market in the 1970s and now has a full menu of prepared seafood. It’s known for having some of the freshest fish around, and beloved by natives and visitors alike. Whether you want a sandwich, a salad, a burrito, some tacos, or a full-on plate of food with sides, if it’s got fish in it, you can get it here. It’s a casual spot, but no hole-in-the-wall; this counter-order spot is clean, spacious, and polished. In addition to prepared food, they still have a functioning fish market if you want to cook something yourself later.
What to order: The Local Sea Bass Burro, Calamari Steak, and El Pescador Sandwich (Dungeness Crab, Medium Shrimp, Bay Shrimp, and Smoked Salmon) are some of the more noteworthy choices here.
Address: 634 Pearl St, La Jolla, CA 92037
La Jolla Shores • Italian • $$
Piatti is a charming Italian eatery in the heart of La Jolla Shores. In addition to lunch and dinner, you can join them for a full Italian-style breakfast. Everything on the mouthwatering menu is amazing, but the dipping sauce for the fresh bread is what you’ll be dreaming about for the next few nights. Top off the meal with one of their many artisan wines. If you want to sit inside, you can see your food being made in the exhibition-style kitchen with includes a woodfired pizza oven, but otherwise, there’s plenty of outdoor seating on the cute covered patio.
Address: 2182 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone number: 858-454-1589
Caroline’s Seaside Cafe
La Jolla Shores • California • $$
Caroline’s Seaside Cafe is the essence of California cuisine. The view is spectacular as the restaurant sits on a cliff above La Jolla Shores, near Scripps Pier. Both the breakfast and lunch menu are packed with healthy choices, and everything comes from sustainable and organic sources. On the weekdays, breakfast is available from 8:00 to 11:30 a.m. and brunch goes all day on the weekends (these are two different menus, so make sure that what you want is available that day). If you’re coming on a Saturday or Sunday, give yourself time to park and expect a line since it’s first-come, first-serve (no reservations are accepted).
What to order: The Tuscan Kale Salad and Veggie Pesto Wrap are perfect for when you need something light for lunch. For breakfast, dig into their Mediterranean Egg Scramble or plate of Giuseppe’s French Toast. They also bake their own bagels every morning, which you can top with your choice of cream cheese or jam.
Address: 8610 Kennel Way, La Jolla, CA 92037
La Jolla Village • American • $$
This sweet little La Jolla restaurant is highly popular with locals, especially for breakfast and lunch (it is open seasonally for dinner). Formerly a residential home, The Cottage even has a white picket fence around the dining patio, what used to be the front yard. The menu is decadent, and the servings are generous, so you might want to share (or not). Because it’s so well-loved around La Jolla, don’t be surprised by longer lines on the weekends but they usually set out coffee an snacks for those waiting on weekend mornings.
What to order: The top two orders are definitely the Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes and Stuffed Brioche French Toast. For lovers of savory, the Eggs Benedict will be your go-to.
Address: 7702 Fay Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037
La Jolla Village • California • $$
First built in 1894 as a seaside vacation bungalow, Brockton Villa has one of the best ocean views of La Jolla Cove you’ll find in the Village. The historical architecture makes it a cute and cozy brunch spot, and the menu is super indulgent. Grab a seat on the patio to get the full experience. It’s right next to the Cove, so it’s easy to take a stroll and get a closer look at the famous seals that like to lounge on the rocks. It’s a fabulous spot for weekend mimosas (served after 11:00 a.m.).
What to order: The House-Made Beer Brined Corned Beef Hash is a top order, and the Coast Toast, their take on french toast, is so popular it’s available at every meal (it’s been ordered over 700,000 times). For dinner, the Ginger-Chili Glazed Atlantic Salmon is a favorite.
Address: 1235 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037
CUSP Dining & Drinks
La Jolla Shores • California • $$
CUSP Dining & Drinks boasts a top floor location inside Hotel La Jolla and one of the best panoramic views of San Diego. Go for coastal cuisine with locally-sourced ingredients. They’re open for breakfast and offer happy hour at the bar (go early as happy hour is popular).
What to order: The flatbreads are particularly popular as are fish dishes including Chef’s Choice and ceviche. They’re also known for excellent craft cocktails.
Address: 7955 La Jolla Shores Dr, La Jolla, CA 92037
La Jolla Village • American • $
Tucked away on Silverado Street in Downtown La Jolla, this casual, small cafe is known for its Instagrammable atmosphere, food, and drinks. The drink menu is full of fun choices like the bright pink Beet Latte and Flat Black—a mini, jet-black latte made with activated charcoal, lavender, and honey. You can enjoy your treats in the colorful cafe itself or out on the front patio. Dogs are welcome outside, so bring along your four-legged friends. It’s owned by the folks at Juice Crafters, the juice bar right next door.
What to order: The pastries here are one-of-a-kind, particularly the Matcha Cinnamon Bun and Lavender Loaf. They also have plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, like their artisan toasts and bowls (top recommendations are the Vegan Protein Bowl and the Coconut Yogurt toast).
Address: 927 Silverado St, La Jolla, CA 92037
La Jolla Village • Mexican • $
If you’re looking for a solid taco or burrito, head to Taco Stand. It’s inspired by the taco stands of Tijuana and Baja Mexico and busy for a reason. It’s best to go on the early side to avoid peak lunch and dinner crowds. Tortillas are handmade while sauces and guacamole are prepared daily in-house. You can also order tacos protein style which means in lettuce instead of a tortilla.
What to order: They do have deliciously battered and grilled versions of San Diego’s famous dish, the fish taco. However, Camaron (spicy shrimp) tacos and carne asada fries are a favorite in addition to and vegetarian Nopal tacos. Those with sweet tooths should save room for fresh churros or refreshing paletas.
Address: 621 Pearl St, La Jolla, CA 92037
La Jolla Village • American • $
Although they claim to be “just a neighborhood burger joint,” Burger Lounge serves up more than your average fast food stop. Focusing on simplicity, their ingredients are locally-sourced, fair trade, organic, and small batch. Even though the food is simple, the menu is highly customizable. There are also plenty of options for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free diners. Can’t choose between classic french fries and their tempting onion rings? You’re in luck as you can go half-and-half.
What to order: The classic Lounge Burger is definitely the most popular option–but the Turkey Burger and Alaskan Cod Sandwich are always options for those who want a healthier choice. The quinoa burger is both vegan and vegetarian, and they have salads to choose from as well. If you’re gluten-free, ask for your burger as a lettuce wrap instead.
Address: 1101 Wall St, La Jolla, CA 92037
What is your favorite La Jolla restaurant?
Top photo credit: AR Valentien