The 16 Most Romantic Restaurants in San Diego for a Date

Candles, music and wine will seduce you.

Persian mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, and poet Omar Khayyam once said, “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou”—while we can’t speak to the erotic powers of bread, it’s true that few things spark passion quite like a 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 in a beachside mansion; whatever your romantic culinary fantasy, San Diego can satisfy it. Whether you’re heading out on a first date, celebrating an anniversary, or going rogue on an impromptu date night, you’re bound to find a perfect evening at one of these 16 spots:

VAGA Restaurant and Bar

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. Executive Chef Claudette Zepeda’s 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. Beverage Manager Alexander Gregg’s 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.

Civico by The Park
Civico by The Park

Civico by the Park

Bankers Hill
High ceilings and exposed ductwork give Civico by the Park the feel of a luxurious penthouse loft, while Italian marble floors and tilework, along with well-placed artwork, add an unexpected elegance. The Michelin-starred father-and-son team at the helm, Antonio and Luca Abbruzzino, proudly display their culinary skills and Calabrian heritage with contemporary dishes that also pay homage to an amazing selection of local ingredients, including spot prawns and sea urchin. You could easily make a meal of the starters alone: Antipasto Calabria is a full platter of meats, cheeses, and accompaniments that’s more than enough for two, but there’s also plenty of pizza and pasta to indulge in, and, if you’re up for it, a short list of mains like Duroc pork chops and daily fish en papillote.  
How to book: Reservations can be made via OpenTable. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Ember & Rye

Carlsbad
Ember & Rye, Richard Blais’s new steakhouse at Park Hyatt Aviara Resort Golf Club & Spa in Carlsbad, boasts a sleek bar with an enormous bay window overlooking the meticulously groomed golf course, plus plenty of intimate seating indoors and on the breezy patio. Warm wood flooring, soothing cream and sage-gray walls, and soft, strategically placed lighting is both flattering and relaxing. The menu is anything but staid, with plenty of Chef Blais’s signature whimsical offerings like white chocolate dipped radishes and caviar service with fish-shaped blini, plus out of the box sides such as crispy fennel blossom with fennel pollen ranch dressing, and, yes, hefty aged steaks and fresh seafood. If pastry chef Christophe Rull’s apple pie is on the menu, trust us, you’ll want to get it; the softly spiced apples and flaky, buttery crust will have you fork-fighting for the last bite. 
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online via OpenTable. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Avant Restaurant
Avant Restaurant

AVANT

Rancho Bernardo
It’s worth showing up early just to stroll the lush property a bit before dinner 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 summer with highlights that include cured hiramasa, West Coast oysters, charcoal-roasted flowering broccolini, 21-day aged duck breast and hazelnut-fed pork. Handcrafted libations by mixologist Jason Sorge invoke the season, like Honey's Alibi, Summer Thyme, and Smoke Screen. 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 via OpenTable. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Charles + Dinorah

Point Loma
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 Mother of Pearl, or a choice from the compact beer list, will get your evening off to a smooth start, then choose from chef Peter Ziegler’s California contemporary cuisine, with favorites like mushroom gnocchi, complete with earthy maitake and beech mushrooms in brown butter and fried sage, or miso-glazed black cod with sauteed escarole and forbidden rice. Check them out on Wednesdays at 8 pm for Dive In Theatre, and see a free classic flick shown poolside.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online via OpenTable. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Animae
Animae

Animae

Downtown
Slip into one of the opulent banquettes in Brian Malarkey’s latest venture, Animae. Now under the helm of acclaimed executive chef Tara Monsod, Animae’s menu has a lighter, more Southeast Asian-focused menu. Sip a Murraya Sour (gin, fresh curry leaf, lime, egg white, and matcha) alongside savory caviar shrimp toast or som tam salad. 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 green beans and eggplant.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online via OpenTable. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

The Prado

Balboa Park
Stroll through the beautiful gardens, galleries, and museums of Balboa Park, San Diego’s crown jewel, before heading to The Prado for lunch or dinner. Located in the historic House of Hospitality, The Prado offers four main dining areas—each with its own distinctive decor and ambiance—including the outdoor terrace, a courtyard overlooking gardens and a fountain, a solarium, and a lounge. Spicy calamari fries are a favorite starter, while red wine-braised short ribs or pan-roasted sea bass are hearty and shareable entrees. And of course, you don’t want to miss their classic carrot cake for dessert. 
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online via OpenTable. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Arlo San Diego
Arlo San Diego

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 Black Lava Crêpe and chunky cowboy ribeye. 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 via OpenTable. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

International Smoke
International Smoke

International Smoke

Del Mar
Michelin award-winning chef Michael Mina and cookbook author/restaurateur Ayesha Curry are the powerhouse duo behind International Smoke’s wood-fired cuisine, along with new executive chef James Montajano, whose most recent stint was at Huntress in the Gaslamp Quarter. Plates like wood-fired shellfish, charbroiled miso Chilean sea bass, Korean smoked brisket, and three luxurious takes on mac and cheese capture aromas and flavors from around the world and present them in a fresh space that’s both kid-friendly and upscale. Cocktails are also infused with smoky and/or warmly spiced elements, especially the ultra-smooth International Smoke Old Fashioned (bacon-washed bourbon, smoked maple syrup, angostura cherry, vanilla). 
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online via SevenRooms. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Callie

East Village 
Callie, executive chef Travis Swikard’s years-in-the-making labor of love, opened this June in the East Village. Shareable dips and spreads, house-made pastas, and grilled seafood are standouts, but save room for dessert, too, especially the Eureka lemon curd, decorated with rose meringue kisses and honey-whipped labneh, topped with sesame halva floss. For the easiest date night ever, choose their Mediterranean Feast, a five course, curated 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
Courtesy of Cohn Restaurant Group

Coasterra 

Harbor Island
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 via OpenTable. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

addison restaurant
Addison Restaurant

Addison

Del Mar
If you have to pull out all the stops, do it at Addison; stunning dark wood coffered ceilings, plush textiles, tufted banquettes, and arching panicles of orchids provide stately surroundings without feeling stuffy. Chef William Bradley creates contemporary French 5- and 10-course prixe fixe tasting menus that change frequently, and no detail is left to chance -- 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, but you’ll get over that quickly. Service, of course, 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 or via Resy.

bertrand at mister a's
Mister A's Restaurant

Bertrand at Mr. 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, and by night, thousands of sparkling city lights dazzle almost as much as the food. Chef de cuisine 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, nduja aioli, pommes nouvelles, and shishitos . Mains straddle between the classics, think rosy pink duck breast and dry-aged ribeye, or modern takes on local swordfish and Georges Bay scallops. There’s also an argument to be made for brunch—each month executive pastry chef John Brockway creates a new menu’s worth of handmade pastries, breads, donuts, jam and biscotti, plus the occasional specialty popsicle that’s perfect for dunking into a glass of bubbly, just for fun. 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 via OpenTable. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

bleu boheme
Bleu Boheme

Bleu Boheme

Kensington
Warm, candlelit, and unassuming, Bleu Boheme fosters intimacy with 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 via OpenTable or calling 619.255.4167. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

solare ristorante
Solare

Solare Ristorante Italiano

Liberty Station
Solare’s outdoor patios, large, inviting lounge, and spacious dining room offer multiple comfortable 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 private chef’s 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 via OpenTable. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Wine Vault and Bistro

Middletown
If you’re not ready or able to celebrate your occasion with indoor dining, you can still enjoy one of San Diego’s best, most reasonably priced wine pairing dinners at Wine Vault and Bistro in the comfort of your own home. They offer their exceptional, ever-changing menu on a to-go basis, including up to six beautiful courses, dessert, optional wine pairings, bottled wines, barrel-aged Manhattans, and an upscale Lambo margarita every Friday and Saturday. 
How to book: Sign up for their newsletter to receive the weekly menu, then place your order for pickup on Friday or Saturday.

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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.