The Most Romantic Restaurants in San Diego
Take date night to the next level with these romantic restaurants in San Diego.
With just-right lighting, the perfect wine selection, and intoxicating kitchen aromas, there’s a reason why dining out can conjure some serious romance. And there’s variance in how we find such vibes, whether with tablecloths and a tuxedoed waitstaff, a favorite bottle at a candlelit bistro, or watching the sunset at the harbor. Thankfully, whatever your romantic culinary fantasy, San Diego’s restaurants can satisfy it. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, consult our list below to book it at some of the dreamiest spots in town, from the Michelin-starred to the neighborhood mainstay.
This Point Loma trattoria exudes cozy-cool vibes and big-time flavor throughout its menu, thanks to chef Cesarina Mezzoni’s prowess for all-in Italian cooking. Pasta is the highlight here, and Mezzoni and team make it daily in-house, inviting guests to build their own by choosing any of the noodles and from-scratch sauces (including several vegan options, like eggless pasta and plant-based sauces). The ambiance here is as memorable as the food, with a glass-paneled “pastificio” and its shelves of preserved fruits and vegetables, green leather booths, and Thonet-inspired bistro seating. The patio is just as dreamy, reading as a quaint Italian garden, complete with lush greenery, hanging plants, and Lady and the Tramp vibes.
Jeune et Jolie
Those craving a French getaway without the price tag and PTO will do well with a trip to this Michelin-starred restaurant, where chef Eric Bost serves a menu rooted in French nouvelle cuisine that reflects the region’s seasons. Diners select their preferred plates for a four-course menu—in the company of a date, opt for different picks so as to enjoy it all (take, for example, the scallops with butternut squash and toasted pepitas, or the Miel, a dessert highlighting several variations of local honey). Though the food is next-level, the design is just as destination-worthy: Crushed velvet banquettes, pink marble tabletops, and pastel blue greens welcome diners, along with a horseshoe-shaped bar and its absinthe tower centerpiece. Do take advantage of the sprawling patio and its St. Tropez vibes, made possible by terrazzo tabletops, verdant greenery, and an ace score of French tunes.
The Marine Room
Opened in 1941, this La Jolla restaurant has become a fine dining institution for its oceanside views and high-caliber menus. Chef Mike Minor helms the kitchen, emphasizing sustainable seafood, responsible sourcing, and seasonality across the board, regularly rotating out menu items to reflect the region’s best finds. Book in the main dining room for a classic experience, with pristine plates like Baja California swordfish or Pacifico seabass, or snag seats in the recently reimagined lounge for a medley of globally inspired small plates, such as jamón Ibérico toast, Moroccan lamb lollipops, and Japanese A5 nigiri. Regardless of where you reserve, you can look forward to the unbeatable oceanfront sunset views.
Hearth cooking and handmade pasta take center stage at this La Jolla restaurant, which was born out of a family’s love for Italian cuisine and hospitality. Locals line up for elevated classics from chef Chad Huff, be it the pear and almond burrata, wagyu carpaccio, or decadent truffle tagliatelle (hand-rolled with Piedmont truffles)—and don’t miss dessert. Mascarpone panna cotta with devil’s food ganache and coffee streusel come together for the Coffee & Cream, a natural accompaniment to the team’s proprietary-blend espresso. With lattes-in-hand, it’s easy to linger a while here—a 10-foot brick and tiled Italian hearth, seersucker banquettes, and vintage art prints all channel Amalfi-inspired living, as does an expansive, sun-drenched patio that’s perfect for warmer months.
Slip through the iconic hexagonal entry 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, making it just dim enough to cover a covert 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 toward 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. For those who had a first date or harbor fond memories here, experience the last Valentine's Day with its original look. Come mid-March, design firm Bells & Whistles will revamp the venue.
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 highlighting 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.
Charles + Dinorah
For an effortlessly cool first date or an intimate tête-à-tête, book a table around Charles + Dinorah’s lovely oyster-shaped pool to enjoy some mid-century modern ambiance. Dynamic cocktails like the Woodland Nymph (with vodka, grapefruit, sage, and ginger) or a choice from the compact beer list will be a smooth start to the evening and pair nicely with the team’s California contemporary cuisine, featuring favorites like scallop gnocchi and Korean BBQ chicken.
Slip into one of the opulent banquettes in Brian Malarkey’s latest venture, Animae. Under the helm of acclaimed executive chef Tara Monsod, the restaurant boasts a pronounced, Southeast Asian-focused menu, plus a Wagyu steak program. Sip a Devil Fruit (coconut infused mezcal, dragon fruit, pineapple, winter melon, egg white) alongside savory dishes like the Caviar Shrimp Toast or Lechon Kawali before indulging in favorites like the Kare Kare Short Ribs with long bean and eggplant. Cap it all off with any of the desserts from pastry chef Laura Warren, namely the Maja Kalabasa (kabocha custard with coconut, honey tuile, and toasted rice ice cream).
Callie, executive chef Travis Swikard’s premier East Village restaurant, opened more than a year ago and is still one of San Diego’s hottest tables. Shareable dips and spreads, house-made pastas, grilled seafood, and their best-selling Aleppo chicken 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.
Floor-to-ceiling glass, an expansive patio, and dazzling city views make Coasterra perfect for a romantic date night. Chef Deborah Scott’s upscale takes on traditional Latin dishes make fine use of her proximity to fresh seafood. Case in point is the Ahi Tuna Tostada, Crispy Masa Calamari, or Mexican Paella for two (with shrimp, squid, clams, and mussels). Margaritas are the obvious beverage of choice here, and there are a dozen variations to choose from, including tableside pitchers for the extra thirsty.
When you’re looking to pull out all the stops, do it at Addison, San Diego’s only three-star Michelin restaurant (and one of just 14 three-Michelin destinations in the nation). Soaring ceilings and impressive hillside views set the stage for chef William Bradley’s nine-course menu, a culinary journey driven by Southern California seasonality. The most luxurious ingredients appear in dishes so meticulously planned and 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. Specific dietary requests can be accommodated with at least 48-hour notice.
The view at Mr. A's is the first thing you’ll notice, and it’s breathtaking both day and night. In daylight, sit outside and watch the jets descend to the runway at San Diego International Airport, and come evening, thousands of sparkling city lights dazzle almost as much as the food. Executive chef Stephane Voitzwinkler artfully blends American, French, and Mediterranean influences into dishes like duck with chickpeas and mint or sea bass with Languedoc Cognac sauce. Make reservations well in advance to nab a coveted window seat, and note that there is a dress code.
Warm, candlelit, and unassuming, Bleu Bohème fosters intimacy with shareables, such as moules frites prepared seven different ways, charcuterie and fromage boards, and nearly 30 wines served au pichet. Homey classics dominate the entree list, further elevated by carefully crafted sides; Coquilles St. Jacques, luxurious on its own, includes large, dry-packed sea scallops flanked by saffron lobster risotto, Portuguese linguiça, English peas, and fennel, while Confit de Canard perches a glazed Hudson Valley Muscovy duck leg confit on creamy goat cheese polenta, baby kale, olive relish, and green sauce. Ask about their secret cocktail menu, which features rotating craft cocktails and other specially priced wines and beers.
Solare Ristorante Italiano
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 with a single table and a dedicated team to pamper 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 bound to find a standout dinner pairing.