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A Downtown San Diego Food Tour

The downtown dining scene is filled with charming cafés, trendy cocktail bars, and polished restaurants with big-name chefs. Here’s a rundown of where to eat and drink in style.


The Taco Stand


The Taco Stand recently opened a downtown location, serving up burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and a salsa station.
645 B Street, Downtown

Part market, part café, Herb & Eatery sells produce, prepared foods, and pastries along with coffee from Bird Rock Coffee Roasters.
2210 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy

Juniper and Ivy’s Richard Blais goes fast-casual at The Crack Shack. Order from the counter and enjoy fried chicken sandwiches and deviled eggs in the outdoor space.
2266 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy


The Nolen

Chic Cocktails

Fifth & Rose at the new Pendry Hotel is a swanky, intimate drinking den with none of the typical hotel bar stuffiness.
550 J Street, Gaslamp

After an extensive revamp, Craft & Commerce debuted a new look this fall. Snag a seat at the bar for libations with ingredients like chai-infused vermouth.
675 West Beech Street, Little Italy

Pair your cocktail with skyline views at The Nolen, a rooftop bar perched above Courtyard San Diego Gaslamp/Convention Center.
453 Sixth Avenue, Gaslamp


Healthy Bites

In addition to smoothies and juices, Sol Cal Cafe also has a hearty menu of quinoa bowls, poke, wraps, and avocado toast.
910 J Street, East Village

The bright, airy interiors of Café Gratitude complement its clean, plant-based menu of tempeh sandwiches, kelp noodle pasta, and vegan desserts.
1980 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy

Each juice at Nékter has three pounds of fruits and vegetables. They also serve smoothies, acai bowls, and chia seed parfaits.
969 Market Street, Downtown


Date Spots

Cafe Chloe is a longtime favorite, but for a new French-inspired option try the macarons, eclairs, and quiches at Le Parfait Paris.
555 G Street, Gaslamp

Le Parfait Paris

Tajima is decked in gilded wallpaper and dishes out affordable ramen. Though most options are chicken- and pork-centric, there’s also a vegan option.
901 E Street, East Village

Herb & Wood’s decor is rich and romantic—velvet banquettes and fireplaces on the patio—with a menu of grilled veggies, pizza, pasta, and beautiful desserts.
2210 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy


Special Occasion

Bottega Americano serves pizza, pasta, and cheese boards, prepared in open food stations. The bustling space isn’t the quietest of dinner venues, but it feels like a party.
1195 Island Avenue, East Village

The second-floor rooftop at Rustic Root means craft cocktails, burgers, and barbecue fries with a view of the Gaslamp.
535 Fifth Avenue, Gaslamp

Water Grill

LA icon Water Grill opened a Gaslamp outpost two years ago, and with it came opulent interiors and excellent seafood. Try the New England–style clam chowder.
615 J Street, Gaslamp


If you used to eat at Croce’s...

The downtown restaurant scene—once revitalized by classics like Fio’s, Croce’s, Grant Grill, and Rainwater’s—went through some bloodletting after the recession. We lost three of four of those spots; only Grant is still going strong.

Big-night carnivores who loved Rainwater’s now land at Cowboy Star, a plucky independent steakhouse with creative bourbon expressions. The locals who gathered at trailblazer Croce’s for live music now start communion earlier at Cafe 21 for their mimosas and potato pancakes.

The Pendry Hotel is the hot newcomer, a boutique pedigree under the Montage umbrella with signature restaurant Lionfish. After a few stops and starts, The Headquarters has come alive with Puesto’s modern tacos and Latin spirits.

Biggest news is the exit of Anthony’s on Harbor Drive after 60 years, now scheduled to be replaced by another local icon, The Brigantine Group. Slated for 2018, the multiplex will have Brigantine and their Mexican concept, Miguel’s, plus a new pier, viewing deck, and fast-casual joint called Ketch Grill & Taps.

With another massive overhaul of the quaint-yet-outdated Seaport Village coming soon, the southwest corner of downtown will look and eat a lot differently in a couple years.

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