The 14 Sexiest Restaurants in San Diego for a Romantic Date Night

Bookmark this list for the next time you want to impress that special someone.

Few things spark passion quite like a wonderful meal with someone you care about. Maybe that means white tablecloths and a tuxedoed waitstaff, sipping wine in a candlelit bistro, or watching the sunset on a skydeck—whatever your romantic culinary fantasy, San Diego’s restaurants can satisfy it. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, you’ll want to consult our handy guide to the dreamiest spots to woo your beloved (or soon-to-be beloved), from charming and cozy to over-the-top opulent:

Starlite

Middletown

Slip through the iconic hexagonal entry and into one of the luxurious black leather banquettes at Starlite, Middletown’s retro-cool hot spot. The twinkling starburst over the rectangular bar and strategically lit stacked stone walls cast flattering light over everything—it’s just dim enough to cover a stolen kiss or two. Their signature mules, either classic or made Kentucky Colonel-style with Buffalo Trace Bourbon and cherry vanilla bitters are popular choices from the solid cocktail menu that leans towards the strong and spirit forward. The menu leans hard into modern comfort food like mac and cheese, a juicy burger and crispy shoestring fries, or lush roasted bone marrow, plus updated fare such as Chickpea Battered Greens, Buffalo Fried Cauliflower and Seeded Peanut “Meat” Tostadas.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online via Yelp. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Serẽa

Coronado Island

Enjoy world class sea-to-table fare in Serēa’s airy, sophisticated dining room—the cleverly raised floor in the main dining area means that everyone gets a great view of gorgeous sunsets whether you’re seated inside or on the multi-level outdoor patio. This is the place to splurge on that expensive seafood tower, served icy cold or lightly wood roasted and beautifully composed by chef Jojo Ruiz, a James Beard Smart Catch Leader recipient for his commitment to sustainable seafood practices. Pair your meal with a selection from their eclectic wine cellar or a luscious hand-crafted cocktail.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations

Tidal

Mission Bay

Tidal takes full advantage of its gorgeous indoor/outdoor space, set in the former private beach house of Hollywood producer Jack Skirball. Chef Andrew Reyes, who took Chef of the Fest and Best Seafood Dish honors at the 2018 San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival, seamlessly blends Latin American, coastal Californian, and Pacific Rim influences with foods from his native Guam. Relax and enjoy the incredible 180-degree views from the patio while you feast on his daily themed menus, from Taste of Aloha to Pit Boss BBQ, all accompanied by a perfectly pink sunset.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations

VAGA

Encinitas

Perched high on a bluff at Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas, VAGA Restaurant and Bar provides stunning views, from its dramatic open kitchen to expansive ocean sunsets. The menu fuses diverse cultures by using local ingredients from Chino Farms and Cyclops Farms and infusing them with heirloom flavors captured during her extensive travels. The bar program features rotating signature cocktails, local microbrews, and a dynamic wine list that highlights natural wines with grapes from low-intervention/biodynamic vineyards. There’s an argument to be made for brunch as well, the menu is simpler and shorter, but the views are just as spectacular.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online via SevenRooms. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

AVANT

Rancho Bernardo

It’s worth showing up early just to stroll the lush property and watch the sun sink below the hills in the distance. Chef de cuisine Christopher Gentile incorporates fruits, vegetables, and greens from the expansive on-property orchard and garden into his sophisticated yet unpretentious menu, newly updated for winter with highlights that include Smoked Sturgeon with Osetra Caviar, West Coast Oysters, Matsutake Mushrooms, 21-day Aged Duck Breast and Elk Tenderloin. Handcrafted libations by mixologist Jason Sorge invoke the season, like Funky Negroni, Summer Thyme, and a Nitro Espresso Martini. Sommelier Joe Baumgardner can guide you towards the best bottle or by-the-glass wine pairing from their award-winning wine list.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations

For an effortlessly cool first date or an intimate tête-à-tête, book a table around Charles + Dinorah’s sweet kidney-shaped pool for mid-century modern ambiance. Dynamic cocktails like the beautiful Rosemary Negroni Sour, or a choice from the compact beer list, will get your evening off to a smooth start, then choose from chef Jared Flores’ California contemporary cuisine, with favorites like Pan-Seared Salmon, complete with earthy curried kabocha mash and broccolini, or eggplant tikka, coconut crema, and fresh herbs.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations

Animae

Downtown

Slip into one of the opulent banquettes in Brian Malarkey’s latest venture, Animae. Under the helm of acclaimed executive chef Tara Monsod, Animae’s menu has a lighter, more Southeast Asian-focused menu. Sip a Blood Moon Rising (pink peppercorn gin, gentian amaro, blood orange, lemon egg white) alongside savory Caviar Shrimp Toast or Tuna Crispy Rice. Then explore the sake menu while you indulge in A5 Wagyu, Shanghai Crab Noodles with snap peas, garlic chili butter, and cilantro, or Kare Kare Short Ribs with long beans and eggplant.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations

Arlo

Mission Valley

Hotel Circle usually doesn’t pop into your mind when you think of romance, but the multi-million dollar renovation of the Town and Country Hotel includes ARLO, its stunning new restaurant, helmed by executive chef Josh Mouzakes. Mouzakes, whose 20-year career includes training at The French Laundry and four years as chef de cuisine for fine dining and executive banquet chef at the Hotel del Coronado, has created a menu that features shareable plates like Charcuterie de Mer and California Paella, wood-fired flatbreads and larger entrees such as a Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin and Maple Leaf Farms Duck. The small but thoughtful wine list is surprisingly affordable, with most bottles in the $35-$50 range.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations

Callie

East Village

Callie, executive chef Travis Swikard’s years-in-the-making labor of love, has finally opened in the East Village. Shareable dips and spreads, house-made pastas, and grilled seafood are standouts, but save room for dessert, too, especially the Meyer Lemon Pavlova, decorated with rose meringue kisses and honey-whipped labneh and topped with pistachio halva. For the easiest date night ever, choose their Mediterranean Feast, a curated five-course, family-style meal that covers you from dips to dessert, with an optional wine pairing.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online via Tock. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Coasterra Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Cohn Restaurant Group

Floor-to-ceiling glass, an expansive patio, and dazzling city views day or night make Coasterra perfect for a romantic date night (or morning-after brunch). Chef Deborah Scott’s upscale takes on traditional Latin dishes make fine use of her proximity to fresh seafood, and shine in her Mexican Paella for two that includes a full quiver of shrimp, squid, clams, mussels, Mexican chorizo, and bomba rice steamed in aromatic saffron lobster broth. Margaritas are the obvious beverage of choice here; there’s a dozen unique versions to choose from, including tableside pitchers for the extra thirsty.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations
Addison
Addison Restaurant

Addison

Del Mar

When you have to pull out all the stops, do it at Addison, San Diego’s only two-star Michelin restaurant. Stunning dark wood coffered ceilings, plush textiles, tufted banquettes, and arching panicles of orchids provide stately surroundings without feeling stuffy. Chef William Bradley creates a nine-course prixe fixe tasting menus that showcase California gastronomy. The most luxurious ingredients are used in dishes so meticulously planned and perfectly plated that you won’t want to defile them with a fork. Service is choreographed to be attentive without being intrusive, and the fun of seeing multiple white tablecloths whisked away and replaced with freshly steamed ones never gets old. Certain dietary requests can be accommodated with at least 48 hours notice.
How to book: Reservations are required and can be made online.

Mister A's

Bankers Hill

The view at Mr. A's is the first thing you’ll notice, and it’s breathtaking both day and night. During the day you can sit outside and watch the jets descend to the runway at San Diego International Airport, and by night, thousands of sparkling city lights dazzle almost as much as the food. Culinary director Stephane Voitzwinkler artfully blends American, French, and Alsatian influences into dishes like Red Top Berkshire Pork Belly with coffee and maple brown butter, or Plancha-Grilled Spanish Octopus with nduja aioli, pommes nouvelles, and shishitos. Mains straddle between the classics—think rosy pink duck breast and dry-aged ribeye—and modern takes on white sea bass and Georges Bay scallops. Make reservations well in advance to nab a coveted window seat, and note that there is a dress code.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations

Kensington
Warm, candlelit, and unassuming, Bleu Boheme fosters intimacy with shareables like moules-frites prepared seven different ways, charcuterie and fromage boards, and nearly 30 wines served au pichet. Homey classics dominate the entree list, elevated even further by carefully crafted sides; Coquille St. Jacque, luxurious on its own, includes large, dry-packed sea scallops flanked by saffron lobster risotto, linguisa, asparagus, fennel, and basil pistou sauce, while Confit de Canard perches a glazed Hudson Valley Muscovy duck leg confit on creamy goat cheese polenta, tangy mustard greens, olive relish, and green sauce.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online or calling 619-255-4167. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations

Solare’s outdoor patios, inviting lounge, and spacious dining room offer multiple cozy backdrops to enjoy executive chef Filippo Piccini’s fresh pasta, made in-house daily, as well as pizza, antipasti, and traditional entrees with a Tuscan bent. Set the stage for romance by booking the stunning chef’s private tasting room, a center-stage, wine-filled nook that holds but a single table, while the excellent staff pampers you with specialties like Agnello Scottadito or Guancia al Barolo Beef Cheeks. And with over 2,000 wines in the cellar and more than 25 available by the glass, you’re assured of finding the ideal pairing to go with your dinner.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations
Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting various vegetables and beverages, reading cookbooks and traveling around Mexico. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.