Food & Drink

The Best Patios for Eating and Drinking Outside in San Diego

Soak up the sun.

Coasterra patio
Photo courtesy of Coasterra

Given San Diego’s perennial inclusion on “Best Weather” lists, we’ve got nearly endless choices for superb al fresco dining, from sunrise breakfast burritos overlooking the 18th hole in Balboa Park to sunset fish tacos on the Embarcadero. Patio dining is hardwired into the culinary landscape of San Diego and with SD County moving into the red tier of COVID-19 restrictions, it’s more important than ever to the survival of our local restaurant industry. 

Red tier restrictions open up restaurants and bars to indoor dining at 25% capacity or 100 guests, whichever is fewer, as well as continuing patio and takeout services. Breweries, wineries, and distilleries that don’t serve food can now operate with restrictions: reserved table seating only, a 90 minute per table time limit and an 8 pm curfew, but bars that don’t serve food will remain closed. Mask wearing when not at your table, social distancing, and limited table sizes all remain in place. 

Now that warmer weather is here, we’re all ready to go out and have a great time at our favorite spots again, but with so many gorgeous patios and delectable beverages to choose from, how do you decide where to celebrate? Luckily, we’ve been busy doing the (delicious) research for you—here is our list of the best patios to eat and drink at in San Diego:

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

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: Reservations for Brigantine Seafood and Oyster Bar can be made via OpenTable, and patio tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

Coasterra Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Coasterra

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 banana butter cake with Skrewball peanut butter caramel. Join them for happy hour when select appetizers and drinks are just $7. 
How to order: Call (619) 814-1300 for reservations, or make them online via OpenTable.

Serẽa Coastal Cuisine
Photo by Arlene Ibarra

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 order: Reservations can be made via OpenTable.

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 lobster roll sliders, horseradish crusted salmon, grilled pork prime rib, 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 order: Make reservations for patio dining on OpenTable.

 

International Smoke
Photo courtesy of International Smoke

International Smoke

Carmel Valley

Powerhouse duo Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry are behind International Smoke’s woodfired cuisine concept, inspired by their extensive travels. Lightly grilled oysters, Jamaican jerk chicken cutlets, and five-spice fried chicken capture flavors from around the world, while cocktails are infused with smoky and/or warmly spiced elements. Snug banquettes and optimal use of tall planters enclose the expansive heated patio, making it the perfect happy hour stop. 
How to order: Make a reservation for patio dining via SevenRooms.

 

Farmer & The Seahorse

Farmer & The Seahorse

Sorrento Valley

Expansive lawns dotted with picnic tables and shady decks beckon you to sip mimosas and Marys, sangrias, sangritas, and micheladas, plus libations like a Whiskey Seahorse or Mezcal Frenchy. Favorite menu items include three different toasts—avocado, truffled mushroom, or beet-cured salmon—plus chilaquiles, hefty grass-fed burgers, and lobster rolls. 
How to order: Reservations for patio dining can be made via Resy.

 

Brockton Villa
Photo courtesy of Brockton Villa

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. 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. 
How to order: Reservations for patio dining can be made via OpenTable.

 

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 so strong, it needs six exclamation points on the menu to drive the message home. If you want something a little less intense, try a drink from the "mild to medium potency" list. Either way, you’ll need something substantial to eat, like the cheeseburger with truffle black pepper mayo or some beef skewers.
How to order: Reservations can be made online via OpenTable or by calling (858) 380-5195. Stop in or call the restaurant for takeout.  

 

This charming house-turned-restaurant looks like it was designed by Little Red Riding Hood after puffing on some 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 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 order: Reservations can be made online via OpenTable or by calling (619) 546-0444. 

 

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 order: Patio tables are on a first-come first-served 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 Scorpion Bowl IPA. 
How to order: Reservations for Escondido or Liberty Station can be made via OpenTable

 

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 newly added courtyard provides more outdoor lounge seating on the ground level. The inspired craft cocktails are best enjoyed with some shared small plates, like petit tuna tart or pig mac bao.
How to order: Reservations can be made online via Tock

 

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, try their signature Puesto Perfect Margarita with fresh lime and organic agave syrup, or a malt-forward Mexican-style lager, brewed at the Mission Valley cerveceria. Hit them up on Taco Tuesdays for $2.50 off all tacos and $5 Puesto drafts.
How to order: Check their website 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 burgers and loaded fries can be had at Burgers and Bites and Seahorse Coffee keeps you fueled with coffee and tea drinks, smoothies, specialty drinks, and an array of pastries, bowls, and paninis. Unfortunately, the dog run is temporarily closed due to COVID-19.
How to order: Walk-ins are welcome.

 

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.
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