Dining al fresco has taken over the San Diego restaurant scene, some would say it’s in the DNA and I wouldn’t argue it. From water views, rooftops, and makeshift patios to people-watching, I’ve rounded up America’s finest city’s best outdoor dining spots. Let’s face it restaurant patios are the place to be, COVID or not.
These restaurants are following COVID19 guidelines and precautions to keep your health and wellness a top priority!
Where to Dine Outdoors in San Diego
I first saw this place on Instagram and I immediately needed to go…The Henry in Coronado blends Gatsby-era elegance and ocean side relaxation very well to give you a comfy and cozy vibe. They have a giant outdoor patio complete with a fireplace for the cooler crisp nights and a bar that wraps around to the inside.
The back wall is a window right into the kitchen so you can see first hand how the Chefs are creating the wonderful dishes you are about to enjoy. While I’ve only been for brunch, their dinner menu does look good as well.
I would highly recommend making a reservation or coming with enough time for upwards of a 30-45 minute wait because it’s a hot spot in Coronado. They have a little cafe with coffees and pastries you can snack on while you wait.
What to order? Really, where to start! They have such a diverse menu from your classic breakfast entrees like avocado toast and their “2 egg breakfast” which is your American grand slam to a more elevated selection like an egg white turkey omelet or Rancheros Breakfast Bowl. No matter what you’re craving – sweet, savory, breakfast, or lunch options, they’ve got you covered.
I went with two other girls (which was perfect because we got to try so many options) and we opted to start with Parmesan truffle fries and chips & guac. Then we started on main entrees – the quinoa breakfast bowl (also comes in a burrito), egg white turkey omelet, and rancheros breakfast bowl. I can safely say we needed to be rolled out of the restaurant – but everything was so good and so fresh, we couldn’t stop ordering…or eating!
Have you ever had amazing vegan food that you would have never been able to tell that it’s vegan? That’s exactly what The Plot in Oceanside does, their mission is to feed you badass food, with plants. Run by the husband-and-wife powerhouse, they are proudly plant-based, vegan, cruelty-free, and zero-waste.
They make their own plant-based proteins in house…from crab to Reuben to chicken to meatloaf and more. And their produce sourced from area farms, as well as San Diego’s Specialty Produce. It’s truly incredible when you think about it, then you eat it, and I will bet you will think “Yep this food IS badass.”
It gets better – they are dog friendly…yes Gatsby went, and he approves. We went for date night + fur baby and sat in their huge expansive outdoor space with picnic-style seating. This was before we went plant-based so neither of us knew what to expect! We went all in…
The menu embraces everything from sushi to Mexican to classic American dishes – all made with their “meat” that they make in house. We started with the sushi roll what the vegan (because how could you not) which has cräb, avo & cucumber inside and topped with wtf sauce and we also got the elote which is Mexican street corn with que phaux fresco, yum yum, cilantro. For entrees, we got the meatless loaf which is entil & wild rice loaf, mushroom & beet demi with navy beans & charred chard, and the cräbby (un) mac which has cräb, plot cheezy sauce, charred brocc, angel hair pasta.
I am not kidding when I say I am dreaaaming of this food now and will be forever.
Who doesn’t love a good Italian restaurant? I know I do! Cardellino Restaurant located in Mission Hills, San Diego is a modern Italian eatery with a relaxed happy hour environment to really embrace the good life, la dolce vita. Are you interested yet?
They have an extensive menu with pasta ranging from acio e Pepe to spaghetti alla carbonara to Mezze Rigatoni cooked with truffle – not to mention their pizzas with your classic Margherita or pepperoni to a more diverse fungi and Bianca e Verde.
But let’s talk about signature dishes other than the beloved pizza and pasta…like the drool-worthy grilled colorado lamb chop with salsa verde, lemon.
All of which are on their happy hour menu which you can snag Monday – from
From their pizzas and pasta to their lovely Italian feel patio, you’ll be oozing pasta/pizza sauce with wines out of your veins…in the best way possible.
With its picture-postcard views of the San Diego Bay, Garibaldi rooftop has its menu, with shareables and pairables. Known as an Italian style speakeasy that’s located in the Intercontinental Hotel, it’s best to keep this on the DL. You will see an orange moped and check-in by whispering a password into a diving helmet located somewhere in the hotel’s lobby and will be guided to a winding hallway that leads to Garibaldi’s outdoor bar. Drink-wise it’s all fun, including their Aperol spritz to keep with the orange theme. But a lot of the cocktails come in a unique glass, like a tiki man or a mermaid tail.
Food-wise you have everything from Cheese plates, tuna Crudo, grilled artichoke, to pork belly, there’s something for everyone with any craving. The Garibaldi fish an icon in San Diego as it’s seen spotted off the shores in La Jolla but to take the meaning of the speakeasy even further, the food is created by the Italian founding father Giuseppe Garibaldi.
Serẽa at Hotel del Coronado
You’ve heard of farm to table but what about sea to table? Serẽa at the Hotel del Coronado has got you covered with their beachy, laid-back, and “coastal chic” vibes, and unbeatable seafood. Chef JoJo Ruiz created a menu centered around the raw bar and seasonal ingredients for Serẽa to be one with the water.
The dishes range from fresh whole catch fish (their signature dish) to sea urchins, and oysters all with a Mediterranean spin. Though they are known for their fish, I wouldn’t pass up a lobster roll and oysters any day of the week. Don’t forget to add a glass of wine or cocktail to your order.
ARLO San Diego
San Diego’s newest restaurant is ARLO San Diego, located in Mission Valley with an expansive outdoor patio that’s surrounded by swaying palm trees and string lights – there’s an unbeatable ambiance. ARLO is an “elevated” restaurant that brings delicious food without the stuffy, fine dining vibe.
Led by Chef Josh Mozaukes, the menu is centered around flavors without borders bringing together dishes that will make you not only drool but also plated to perfection. They have a signature wood-fired oven to cook flatbreads (the Fungi is my personal favorite) but also doubles as a use for other dishes, including their S’mores cheesecake. Though all dishes are created as equal and perfect for sharing, the Thai Carrot pasta and sea scallops get me every time. Okay and maybe the pork too. Hurry make sure you try these dishes before the menu changes for the season with fall-inspired dishes.
Al Fresco Dining in San Diego
If you know of any other restaurant recommendations, please comment here or send me a message on Instagram and I’ll go check it out! I am always looking for new and noteworthy restaurants around San Diego, CA.
From ocean views, rooftops, and garden patios to simple sidewalk people-watching there is something for everyone in San Diego’s outdoor dining scene. Everywhere you go will create a quintessential dining experience.
~ XOXO, the undercover food critic, Amanda // Blonde out of Water