Best San Diego Restaurants for Families

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As a travel writer, former San Diego resident, and self-proclaimed foodie, I am often asked for restaurant recommendations in America’s Finest City. For delicious eats and fun places to take the kids, read my picks for the best San Diego restaurants for families.

Corvette Diner at Liberty Station in San Diego with kids (Photo credit: Corvette Diner)

Corvette Diner at Liberty Station (Photo credit: Corvette Diner)

1. Corvette Diner

If dancing servers doling out thick milkshakes and tempting diner fare sounds like your family’s jam, you’ll love Corvette Diner at Liberty Station near downtown. This restaurant features themed dining areas representing the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Burgers are the specialty here. When you’re feeling adventurous, go for the Rory Burger, topped with peanut butter, bacon, lettuce and mayo. Choose from shake flavors like Butter “Hop” Scotch and Peppermint Twist. As though that weren’t enough, kids will go gaga for the Gamers Garage, where they can play video games galore for a chance to win prizes.

Fish Market in Del Mar, San Diego County

Fish Market in Del Mar (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. The Fish Market

Of course, you’ll want to eat some fresh seafood during your San Diego vacation. The Fish Market is the perfect choice for fish-loving families. Children enjoy watching chefs cooking entrees on a flaming grill from behind a wall of glass. (Look, don’t touch!) An interactive children’s menu will keep the kiddies entertained with mazes, puzzles and coloring pages. Kids can order charbroiled fish and rice, panko-crusted fish, fried shrimp with fries, or land-based choices. Picky eaters will be pleased with pasta or pizza offerings, too. Dine at The Fish Market along the waterfront near the Maritime Museum, or choose the Del Mar/Solana Beach location.

Plates, salads and sandwiches at Urban Plates in San Diego

Plates, salads and sandwiches at Urban Plates (Photo from the Urban Plates Facebook page)

3. Urban Plates

It can be difficult to find delicious AND healthy food when traveling. Not so at Urban Plates! This chain has expanded beyond San Diego, but it all started here. Every member of the family will find something to enjoy at this fresh-made cafeteria-style cafe. Choose from salads, sandwiches, pizzas and plates. You’ll flip for their sides like roasted Brussels sprouts with turkey bacon, or homemade macaroni and cheese. Save room for desserts, like their mango tart or (gluten-free) chocolate flourless cake. Choose from three San Diego County locations: Del Mar, Carlsbad and La Jolla.

Strawberry pancakes from Richard Walker's Pancake House in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter

Strawberry pancakes from Richard Walker’s Pancake House in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter (Photo credit: Richard Walker’s Pancake House Instagram)

4. Richard Walker’s Pancake House

Besides my mama’s pancakes, Richard Walker’s Pancake House in San Diego’s Gaslamp District makes the best flapjacks I’ve ever had. And let me tell you, my mama makes one heckuva pancake! If you’re looking for thick, garbage can lid-sized cakes — go somewhere else. These cakes are thin and light with an ever-so-slight golden crispiness. The omelettes, waffles, and crepes are also quite good. For a carbo-licious delight, get the massive Apple Pancake with Granny Smith apples and cinnamon glaze. Beware: on weekends there is always a wait.

Pizza Port pepperoni pie on the beach in Del Mar in San Diego County

Pizza Port pepperoni pie on the beach in Solana Beach (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. Pizza Port

Who doesn’t love pizza? Especially when that pizza is scrumptious and served with a selection of tempting brews for parents and video games for kids! Stand in line at Pizza Port to order your pie. Then pull up a stool and make friends with your neighbors. Located a block from the beach in North County’s Solana Beach, you can order your pizza to go for a delicious oceanfront picnic.

An array of Burger Lounge offerings

An array of Burger Lounge offerings (Photo from Burger Lounge Facebook page)

6. Burger Lounge

Burger lovers rejoice, for San Diego is home to nine Burger Lounge locations! Their signature sandwich is made from organic, grass-fed, never-frozen beef. You can also choose a turkey burger, salmon burger, crispy chicken sandwich, Alaskan cod sandwich, or a surprisingly delicious quinoa veggie burger. Burgers are topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, homemade Thousand Island dressing, grilled or raw onions and then served between two buttery buns. Sensitive eaters can opt for a gluten-free bun instead. Kids menus are available, too. Wash it all down with something tasty like a house-made lemonade, batch craft soda, local craft beer, premium wine or creamy milkshake.

Mmm...Strawberry Hot Fudge Sundae at Ghirardelli San Diego Gaslamp

Mmm…Strawberry Hot Fudge Sundae at Ghirardelli San Diego Gaslamp (Photo credit: Ghirardelli Facebook page)

7. Ghirardelli’s Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop

Ghirardelli’s old fashioned soda fountain in the Gaslamp offers shakes, malts, cones, and sundaes galore. My favorite is the salty yet sweet Butterscotch Hot Fudge Sundae. Dark chocolate lovers, however, will revel in three sundaes: Midnight Reverie, Mint Bliss, and Espresso Escape. For a fun, messy treat for a group, dive into The Earthquake. It boasts eight scoops of ice cream, eight toppings, bananas, whipped cream, chopped almonds, chocolate chips, and cherries. Peruse the Ghirardelli chocolate shop afterwards to purchase a sweet souvenir of your visit to San Diego.

Tijuana Style Eggs Benedict at MaryJane's puts a Mexican flair on an American classic breakfast dish

Tijuana Style Eggs Benedict at MaryJane’s Diner (Photo credit: Hard Rock Hotel San Diego)

8. MaryJane’s Diner

Sometimes mom and dad want a bloody Mary or mimosa with breakfast. While on vacation, indulge in a greasy, calorie-laden breakfast with a cocktail at MaryJane’s Diner in the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego. Even their omelets seem imbued with some sort of magic potion (cream, I suspect). Whatever you do, get one of their fluffy buttery biscuits. And the hash browns. Oh…the hash browns!

Grand Shellfish Tower at Oceanaire Seafood Room in San Diego Gaslamp

Grand Shellfish Tower at Oceanaire Seafood Room in San Diego Gaslamp (Photo from Oceanaire Seafood Room’s Facebook page)

9. The Oceanaire Seafood Room

For a celebratory upscale meal in San Diego’s Gaslamp District, you won’t be disappointed at The Oceanaire Seafood Room. Great for a date night, the dining room feels like you’re stepping aboard a luxury ocean liner from years past. Start with the Grand Shellfish Tower — an array of fresh crab legs, jumbo shrimp, and other ocean goodies served atop crushed ice in an impressive display. Also absolutely not to be missed is the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake appetizer. In fact, you’ll have a hard time picking something that’s not incredibly delicious from the daily fresh fish offerings here. For dessert, share the old-school Baked Alaska with your dinner mates. A flaming dessert always makes a meal feel so divine, dahling!

Oceanaire welcomes kids and offers a children’s menu, complete with crayons. If you’re nervous about bringing young ones to such a swanky restaurant, however, plan to come for happy hour Monday through Friday from 5 to 6 pm. That’s when families can take advantage of surprisingly good prices on appetizers and drink specials before the dinner rush.

Gelatos galore at Chocolat Cremerie in the San Diego Gaslamp District

Gelatos galore at Chocolat Cremerie (Photo credit: Chocolat Cremerie)

10. Chocolat

Step into what feels like a true Italian gelateria at Chocolat Cremerie in the heart of the the Gaslamp. Choose from flavors like Basil Lemon, Chocolate Pear, and Gianduia Chocolate (with hazelnut and almond paste). Wear your stretchy pants — there are also tarts, crepes, and brulées to be had!

Cafe Coyote is a favorite among all of the Mexican restaurants in Old Town San Diego

Cafe Coyote is a favorite among all of the Mexican restaurants in Old Town San Diego (Photo credit: Cafe Coyote)

11. Mexican Food

San Diego borders Mexico and therefore serves some of the best Mexican cuisine in the U.S. With so many incredible Mexican dining options in San Diego, I couldn’t pick just one. Your tummy will be happy at any of these south-of-the-border San Diego restaurants for families.

Roberto’s Very Mexican Food

For greasy but delicious Mexican grub after a day at the beach or hiking at Torrey Pines Natural State Reserve, grab a table on the outdoor patio at Roberto’s Very Mexican Food.

Casa Sol y Mar

If you’re staying in North County, then choose Casa Sol y Mar in Del Mar. The kids will love the roaming mariachi band that plays in the evenings.

Cafe Coyote

Mexican restaurants abound in San Diego’s Old Town but my family’s favorite is Cafe Coyote. Children enjoy watching señoras in traditional dress making flour tortillas by hand on the restaurant’s patio. Bonus: diners can park for free in their own underground parking garage, a rarity in Old Town.

Jose’s Courtroom

For San Diego’s best fajitas, head to Jose’s Courtroom in La Jolla Cove. This place has an upscale dive bar feel. You just have to eat there to see what I mean.

Rubio’s

If you’re looking for a quick, reliable bite to eat, stop into one of the many Rubio’s locations for fish tacos, quesadillas and other Mexican eats. Yes, it’s a chain. But Rubio’s originated in San Diego and some locations even offer fish tanks to entertain the kids.

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Those considering a fall visit are in luck! October is Kids Free San Diego Month, with over 100 deals just for kids. Take a look at which attractions, hotels and restaurants are offering freebies to families.

It’s well worth investing in a Southern California CityPass. You can save a bunch when you bundle your attractions with a CityPass.

It always makes good sense to check Groupon for discounts on activities and restaurants in your destination, and San Diego is no exception. Take a look at Groupon San Diego deals now.

La Jolla Shores Beach in San Diego County

Explore more of San Diego (Photo courtesy of SanDiego.org)

Learn More about San Diego

If you’re planning a Southern California vacation, then be sure to take a look at the 15 best San Diego attractions and read my tips for visiting the San Diego Zoo.

Best San Diego Restaurants for Families

Keep this List of San Diego Restaurants for Families

To remember these kid-friendly San Diego restaurants for a future visit, simply save the image above to Pinterest. I hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Do you have any additional San Diego restaurants for families to recommend or questions about where to eat in this SoCal city? Let us know in the comments below!

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. My vote goes to Anthony’s Fishette. The fresh air and view of the harbor probably have a large influence on my choice.

  2. Sherpa Reviews says

    Great selection of places to visit. The Oceanaire Seafood Room is a favorite of ours with its great decor and fabulously fresh cuisine. Their jumbo lump crab cake is to die for – a mound of crustacean-themed goodness served with a decadent creamy mayonnaise. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Sherpa Reviews – Aww, man! Now you’ve got ME craving those Oceanaire crabcakes. They are ridonculously good, aren’t they?!

  3. Well, NOW I’m starving. I’m bookmarking this for my next trip to San Diego. I think I’ll be out there again fairly soon, and alllll of these places are going to be stops for me.

  4. Catherine Sargent says

    These all look amazing places to eat. If I am ever in the area I will be visiting Chocolat Cremerie and Ghirardelli’s Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Oh you must, Catherine! Then you can compare & decide which has better ice cream! (Uh-oh…now I’m craving ice cream!)

  5. Melissa Chapman says

    I love that array of great restaurants and the food looks so good in all I would have to make a decision which to start with. The dessert offerings and breakfast places were also among the best I have seen.

  6. Danielle Smith says

    These all look like great choices of places to eat. Wonderful decorations and a great view are what I look for.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      For great decor, you’ll love the Oceanaire Seafood Room & for incredible views – Fish Market & Top of the Market are fab. Hope you like seafood! 🙂

  7. Bill Sweeney says

    You wrote a great recommendation on some great places in San Diego! This will be a great resource, should we ever decide to go there.

  8. Makeba Giles says

    Having several recommendations/reviews of food places is a blessing. It gives us, the reader, so options on where to go for a meal, if we’re in the area. Great review!

  9. If I ever get back out to San Diego, I’ll have to add these restaurants to our must-eat places. It’s always good to get a perspective of cuisine from a foodie!

  10. Thanks for this, I am going to bookmark this post. We were here a few years ago and did not know where to eat, and found the area a little touristy. And I love San Diego and hope to be back and check out your recommendations!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      The Gaslamp definitely has its fare share of tourists, but locals love to hang out & eat there, too! I hope you enjoy some of these restaurant picks on your next visit, Mitch!

  11. Carol Cassara says

    Everything sounds and looks delicious! I love it when a foodie shares their own list of places to try and which food to look for! It’s definitely one of the things that I look forward to when visiting a place!

  12. Haven’t actually been to San Diego but definitely on my to visit list! Thanks for sharing this! This is gonna help me in preparing my itinerary 😀

  13. Great list! I have never been to San Diego before, but plan to some time in 2020. I will for sure keep this list handy for when I go. Thanks!

  14. Great list! The descriptions of the Burger Lounge and Ghiradelli’s are making my mouth water! I’ll have to check them out the next time I’m in SD!

  15. Wow! So many options and they all look good! I’ve been to San Diego once and I only ate at the hotel haha. Lame! It was for a conference so I couldn’t really leave, but still not as cool as trying all these different places!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Next time you visit San Diego, I hope you have an opportunity to get out and taste some of the city’s delicious food!

  16. All of these places look great! That diner looks especially fun!

  17. Kelly Martin says

    These San Diego restaurants all sound amazing! I’d love to try all of them when I visit.

  18. Annemarie LeBlanc says

    The Oceanaire Seafood Room is the best one for me. I love seafood and would love to sample their cuisine. I’d go to Chocolat for dessert. OMG, these San Diego restaurants is paradise for any foodie!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Oceanaire is probably my favorite restaurant in the world! Love the decor, the food, the service…everything!

  19. Ntensibe Edgar Michael says

    Nnnniiiiccceeeeee….I think I will do The Fish Market restaurant! I live and love fish.

  20. Joanna Clute says

    San Diego is such a beautiful city. The people and the culture there are definitely worth the visit.

  21. WanderlustBeautyDreams says

    These restaurants sound amazing. I would love to check these out whenever I’m in San Diego!

  22. So many great places. I can’t focus now after seeing the gelato. Oh my mercy goodness gee!!

  23. Emman Damian says

    The Fish Market seems like a great option for me. I hope to visit it when I come to San Diego. Sounds like a great place.

  24. littlemisadvencha says

    i love the pizza stop and ice cream shop. I’m always on the game when it comes to foods tripping. ❤️

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