Finding an ocean-view restaurant in San Diego isn’t difficult. There are dozens of eateries lining the cliffs and beaches from Imperial Beach to Oceanside. But to really want to impress a date this summer, tear out this cheat sheet of the locals’ guide to the best (and lower-priced) hidden-gem restaurants on San Diego’s coast, from south to north.
Katy’s Cafe: Imperial Beach
Katy Fallon’s casual breakfast/lunch cafe is so popular with I.B. residents, most of the menu items were named for the regulars, like Al’s Cali King breakfast sandwich, Hammerhead Mike’s double-meat bagel breakfast or the Darrell (turkey, egg and cheese on wheat toast). The vibe is casual and the prices low ($5-$7). From the ocean-facing patio, you can hear and smell the ocean, if not quite see the waves.
704 Seacoast Drive, Suite B, Imperial Beach. 619.863.5524 or
I.B. Street Tacos: Imperial Beach
It’s a bit of a cheat to call this taco shop ocean-facing. You’ll have to grab your $2 chile-rubbed adobado tacos to go and cross the street to get to the beach, but there’s a park right there where you can picnic and watch the sunset.
803 Seacoast Drive, Imperial Beach. 619.621.5814 or
Little Lion Café: Sunset Cliffs
From the third generation of San Diego’s premiere culinary family, the Coulons, this petite café and bar does things right. The menu ranges from light to heavy, American to French and Belgian. Whatever you order, be sure it comes with the famed Belgian Lion potatoes (from their grandparents now-shuttered Belgian Lion restaurant). It’s not on the beach, but as close as you can get in this residential area.
1424 Sunset Cliffs Blvd., Point Loma. 619.756.6921 or
Wonderland Ocean Pub & OB Surf Lodge:
Social Syndicate operates this two-story/two-concept restaurant complex near the water in Ocean Beach. On the ground floor, newly opened O.B. Surf Lodge is building a fast-growing brunch clientele, thanks to Louisana-raised chef Nick Brune’s Southern-inspired menu. Upstairs at Wonderland, lunch, dinner and drinks are served with a south-facing view of the O.B. Pier.
5083 Santa Monica Drive, Ocean Beach.
Right on the boardwalk near Belmont Park, this large restaurant and craft beer bar has a surprisingly eclectic and tasty menu at reasonable prices. It’s fun, if a little loud, and locals love it as much as the tourists.
3105 Ocean Front Walk, Mission Beach. 858.228.9305 or
If you want to know where everyone eats breakfast in P.B., it’s Kono’s. Located at the foot of Crystal Pier, the 26-year-old quick-service café is famous for its big, low-priced breakfasts, which are served until mid-afternoon. It’s good, simple food and lots of it. Be prepared for lines on weekend mornings.
704 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach. 858.483.1669 or
Brockton Villa: La Jolla
Nestled just above the surf at La Jolla Cove in a renovated 1894 beach house, this longtime family-run restaurant is justifiably famous for its soufflé-like brioche French toast (known as the Coast Toast). But it also serves a wonderful French-inspired menu for lunch and dinner (try the cioppino).
1235 Coast Blvd., La Jolla. 858.454.7393 or
Caroline’s Seaside Café:
La Jolla Shores
A favorite breakfast and lunch hangout for Scripps oceanographers and UC San Diego students, this little-known counter-service outdoor café is perched over the sand of La Jolla Shores with a gorgeous, unobstructed 180-degree ocean view. Parking can be a challenge and there are often lines on the weekends, but the lines move fast and the food comes out quickly.
8610 Kennel Way, La Jolla. 858.202-0569 or
Pacific Coast Grill: Cardiff
There are lots of great spots along the coast to dine in Cardiff, but two-story Pacific Coast Grill is literally on the sand. The food is New American/California fresh with house-ground burgers, an oyster bar and long-popular lobster tacos.
2526 S. Coast Highway 101, Cardiff. 760.479.0721 or
Bull Taco: Cardiff
This beachside taco stand at San Elijo State Beach has been a surfers hangout for years. The menu is tacos a la carte, burritos and hearty bowls with exotic proteins like elk and lobster bacons, octopus fajitas, ox tail and beef tongue.
2050 S. Coast Highway 101, Cardiff. 760.635.3595 or
Hello Betty Fish House: Oceanside
Fun and family-friendly, Hello Betty serves big burgers, fresh ceviche, hearty salads and killer cocktails, with a ground-floor dining room and second-floor patio deck overlooking the Oceanside Pier.
211 Mission Ave, Oceanside. 760.722.1008 or