Where to Dine Outdoors in San Diego Right Now

From oceanfront hot spots to lively rooftops and patios, these are the best restaurants for soaking up the San Diego sun.

Valle
Photo courtesy of Valle

We’re so spoiled here in San Diego. It’s a given that we can sip mimosas while we people-watch along the Embarcadero, slurp oysters with our toes in the sand, or chomp into a juicy burger in a shaded urban courtyard without giving the weather much thought. Outdoor dining is hardwired into San Diego’s culinary landscape, and was likely an important factor in the survival of our local restaurant industry during the worst months of COVID-19.

From breakfast burritos overlooking the 18th hole in Balboa Park to mai tais at the edge of the glittering skyline, we’ve got nearly endless choices for superb al fresco dining, and now that warmer weather is here, we’re all ready to go out and explore the latest outdoor hotspots. Here’s our list of the best places to eat and drink outdoors in San Diego:

Go Go Amigo
Photo courtesy of Go Go Amigo

Go Go Amigo

Liberty Station
$$$$

Liberty Station’s newest hotspot, Go Go Amigo, takes advantage of its corner location to expand its outdoor seating options with a new deck and satellite bar. The agave-leaning cocktail menu features a variety of margaritas, palomas, micheladas, slushies and cervezas. The bill of fare features fusion Mexican favorites—standouts include an Ahogada Sandwich that requires extra napkins (as it should) and Al Pastor tacos, crammed with juicy marinated pork sliced off the spit when you order. Stop by on Taco Tuesday for $3 street tacos and half-price house margaritas.
How to book: Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations
Valle
Photo courtesy of Valle

Valle

Oceanside
$$$$

Oceanside’s restaurant renaissance continues with the opening of Valle, sister restaurant to chef Roberto Alcocer’s outstanding Malva Cocina de Baja California. Against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, Valle uses Southern California-sourced ingredients in dishes like Tartara, with Rosewood Ranches Wagyu, grain mustard, pickled golden thread mushroom, local fresh uni, and a marbled rye tuile, and Coliflor, with charcoal-grilled and marinated cauliflower, garam masala, garlic chips, and sage. Take advantage of the array of Valle de Guadalupe wines available by the glass or bottle, or a lively agave-based cocktail, including a trio of zero-alcohol options. A vegan menu is also available.
How to book: Reservations can be made online via SevenRooms. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Tobey's 19th Hole Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Tobey’s 19th Hole

You don’t have to play golf to appreciate this charming fourth-generation cafe that started out in 1934 as a hot dog stand. Early birds love the sunrise city views, but you’ll love the big diner-style breakfasts and old school lunch/dinner fare, paired with a cold beer or a bubbly mimosa any time of day. 
How to order: Patio tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Portside Pier
Photo courtesy of Portside Pier

Portside Pier

Downtown
$$$$

The Brigantine Restaurant Group’s beautiful new waterfront dining hub opened in July 2020, providing a much-needed open air, safely distanced venue that comes with free million dollar views of the bay. Housing Brigantine Seafood and Oyster Bar, Ketch Grill & Taps, Portside Coffee and Gelato and Miguel’s Cocina, a second level Ketch Brewing Tasting Deck and Topsail rooftop terrace lounge, Portside Pier is a destination for date night, a casual hang, or happy hour with your besties. 
How to order: Patio tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Available for Reservations
Coasterra
Photo courtesy of Coasterra

Coasterra

Harbor Island
$$$$

Coasterra is the place to sit back and sip a margarita or two while admiring our spectacular cityscape. The rest of the cocktail program ranges from fruity and floral to smoky and spicy and pairs perfectly with the modern Mexican menu that features a raw bar, several ceviches and aguachiles, seafood-centric entrees, and a killer Pumpkin Butter Cake with buttermilk ice cream and toasted pepitas. Join them for happy hour when select appetizers and drinks are just $8.
How to book: Call 619-814-1300 for reservations. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations
Serẽa
Photo by Arlene Ibarra

Serẽa

Coronado
$$$$

Enjoy world class sea-to-table cuisine on Serẽa’s airy, sophisticated patio, where the cleverly terraced levels ensures that everyone gets a great view of gorgeous sunsets. Splurge on local seafood, selected and beautifully composed by chef Jojo Ruiz, a James Beard Smart Catch Leader recipient in both 2019 and 2020 for his commitment to sustainable seafood practices. Pair your meal with a selection from the eclectic wine cellar or a luxurious hand-crafted cocktail.
How to book: Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations
The Presley
Photo courtesy of The Presley

The Presley

Liberty Station
$$$$

Liberty Station’s newest outdoor dining spot for all American noshes and boozy slushies, The Presley makes the most of its nearly 2,100 square feet of dedicated outdoor dining area with cozy nooks, whimsical swings, and lots of twinkling lights. Executive chef Todd Nash’s menu features classic American fare including cilantro-lime grilled Shrimp Lettuce Wraps, $17 Bacon and Shrimp Tacos, Horseradish Crusted Salmon, and a variety of flatbreads, sandwiches, and salads. The playful beverage menu incorporates twists on classic cocktails, including a Dole Whip Mimosa and Frozen Lava Flow.
How to book: Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations
Farmer & The Seahorse
Photo courtesy of Farmer & The Seahorse

Farmer & The Seahorse

Sorrento Valley
$$$$

Expansive lawns dotted with picnic tables and shady decks beckon you to sip mimosas and Bloody Marys, sangrias, sangritas, and micheladas, plus libations like a Cold Brew Old Fashioned or salted Watermelon Gimlet. Favorite menu items include four different toasts—avocado, truffled mushroom, wild blueberry and stracciatella, or beet-cured salmon—plus chilaquiles, hefty grass-fed burgers, and lobster rolls.
How to book: Reservations for patio dining can be made via Tock. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Brockton Villa
Photo courtesy of Brockton Villa

Brockton Villa

La Jolla
$$$$

With its sweeping vistas of La Jolla Cove from the deck, Brockton Villa is perfect when you have visitors who want to brunch with an ocean view. Do not pass on the award-winning Coast Toast, a fluffy, souffle-like French toast with lovely orange zest notes, now available in Bananas Foster and S’mores renditions. Other offerings include warmly spiced Cinnamon Roll Pancakes and the Buenos Dias Breakfast Burrito, a yummy concoction with carne asada, cheddar-steamed scrambled eggs, brown rice, and guacamole, all wrapped in a warm flour tortilla. Non-breakfast plates include tacos with a quartet of filling options, Cioppino, and satisfying sandwiches.
How to book: Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations
Station Tavern & Burgers
Photo by Sara Norris for Thrillist

The covered outdoor patio at South Park’s Station Tavern is a great bet for a classic cocktail, local beer, or wine in an award-winning casual setting complete with picnic table seating. Burgers are the star of the menu here, including house-made veggie burgers in mild chickpea or spicy black bean versions. Open 7 days a week.  
How to order: Patio tables are available on a first-come first-served basis.

Bali Hai Restaurant

Shelter Island
$$$$

For over 50 years, locals have been heading to this island paradise for sweet and potent Tiki drinks served with a jaw-dropping view of the Downtown skyline from the elevated patio tables. The restaurant’s most famous cocktail is a signature Bali Hai Mai Tai, which is juice-free and so strong, you’re limited to two per visit. If you want something a little less intense, try a drink from "The Classics" list or a frozen tropical refresher. Either way, you’ll need something substantial to eat, like the Cheeseburger with truffle black pepper mayo or some Beef Skewers.
How to book: Reservations can be made by calling 858-380-5195. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations

Queenstown Public House

Little Italy
$$$$

This charming house-turned-restaurant looks like it was designed by Little Red Riding Hood after puffing on some primo Cali bud (example: there are sheep grazing on the ceiling of the dining room, for some reason). The semi-covered side patio and umbrella-covered yard tables are perfect for a mid-afternoon Red House Sangria or a beer. If you choose to sit out a round, try the sun tea that’s brewed right on the porch. Brunch is served daily until 2 pm, and New Zealand-inspired dinners include Wellington Meatloaf and Parlor Pot Pie.
How to book: Reservations can be made by calling (619) 546-0444. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations

Fairweather

East Village
$$$$

Just because San Diegans live in Vacation Town, USA, doesn’t mean we don’t need a tropical island escape from time to time. With its beachy decor and lineup of drinks from sunny places, Fairweather comes pretty close. Views of Petco Park and the ability to order food from Rare Form (downstairs) are two notable pluses.
How to book: Patio tables are on a first-come basis.

Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens

Liberty Station and Escondido
$$$$

Both Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens locations have massive outdoor spaces filled with towering shade trees, winding stone paths, still ponds filled with koi, babbling brooks, waterfalls, and plenty of gargoyles to go with your FML Hazy DIPA. Off-set the brews with a food menu that includes highlights like a Stone Delicious IPA Bavarian Pretzel that’s served with Stone Delicious IPA mustard and beer cheese, as well as tacos, burgers, and sandwiches.
How to book: Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations

Kettner Exchange

Little Italy
$$$$

The stunning decor at this stylish, multi-level hotspot is enough to make it worthy of a visit. The rooftop is complete with a swinging daybed, bar and table seating, and semi-private cabanas, plus a courtyard provides more outdoor lounge seating on the ground level. The inspired craft cocktails are best enjoyed with shared small plates, like Baja Bluefin Tuna Belly Sashimi or Pig Mac Bao.
How to book: Reservations can be made online via Tock. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Puesto

Various locations
$$$$

Refreshing, tropical cocktails are the name of the game at Puesto, where you can lounge among fire pits on the large outdoor patio at the Marina District location, or snag a seat on the sidewalk patio for some people-watching at the La Jolla or Mission Valley locations. If you’re stuck on what to order, the Puesto Perfect Margarita with fresh lime and organic agave syrup, or a malt-forward Mexican-style lager, brewed at the Mission Valley cerveceria are solid choices. Hit them up on Taco Tuesdays for $2.50 off all tacos and $5 Puesto drafts.
How to book: Check their website for each location's hours and reservations. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations

Quartyard

East Village
$$$$

This all-in-one urban park in the East Village populated with repurposed shipping containers and long, communal tables has rotating art installations, free Wi-Fi, and a bar with 26 local brews on tap. Beer-friendly food, like tortas, burritos and empanadas can be had and Seahorse Coffee keeps you fueled with coffee and tea drinks, smoothies, specialty drinks, and an array of pastries, bowls, and paninis.
How to book: Seating is on a first-come basis.

Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.
Erin Jackson is a San Diego-based food writer and photographer who loves sharing her latest delicious discoveries. If you enjoy food and cat photos, by all means, follow her on Instagram.