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, take a look at my picks for the best San Diego restaurants for families.

Corvette Diner ~ 15 Best San Diego Attractions for Kids

Waitresses serving up shakes and burgers at Corvette Diner (Photo credit: Corvette Diner)

Corvette Diner

If dancing waiters serving up thick milkshakes and tempting diner fare sounds like your family’s jam, you’ll love Corvette Diner at Liberty Station near downtown. It features themed dining areas representing the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Burgers are the specialty here. If 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.

Just one of the many delicious and beautiful salads at Urban Plates in Del Mar ~ San Diego Attractions, Restaurants and Hotels for Families

Just one of the many delicious and beautiful salads at Urban Plates in Del Mar (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Urban Plates

Besides friends and the beach, the thing I miss most about living in San Diego is my favorite lunch spot in all the land: Urban Plates. (They’re open for dinner, too.) Every member of the family will find something they like at this fresh-made cafeteria style cafe. Choose from healthy and delicious 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 dessert! Their chocolate flourless cake is the bomb and there are plenty of other cakes and cookies to tempt your sweet tooth.

Choose from three San Diego County locations: Del Mar, Carlsbad and La Jolla.

Fish Market Del Mar ~ San Diego with Kids

Fish Market Del Mar is one of two San Diego locations (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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. Kids will enjoy watching chefs cooking up 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 its 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.

Pizza Port pie at the beach ~ Best San Diego Attractions, Restaurants and Hotels for Families

Get your pie to go from Pizza Port and enjoy a tasty meal on the beach, just steps away in Solana Beach (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Pizza Port

Who doesn’t love pizza? Especially when that pizza is scrumptious and served up with a selection of tempting brews for the parents and video games for the 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, I’ve even ordered pizza to go for a delicious surf-front picnic.

Mexican Food

With so many incredible Mexican restaurants in San Diego, I couldn’t pick just one. 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.

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

Mexican restaurants abound in 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!

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)

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.

If you’re looking for a quick, reliable bite to eat, stop in to 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 kiddos.

Mmm...strawberry pancakes from Richard Walker's Pancake House in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter

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

Richard Walker’s Pancake House – Tastiest Pancake Breakfast

Besides my mama’s pancakes, Richard Walker’s Pancake House 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 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.

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

Tijuana Style Eggs Benedict at MaryJane’s puts a Mexican flair on an American classic breakfast dish (Photo credit: Hard Rock Hotel San Diego)

MaryJane’s Diner – Best Boozy Breakfast

Sometimes mom and dad want a bloody Mary or mimosa with breakfast. You’re on vacation so 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!

Chilled Seafood Platter and a wonderful view at Top of the Market, one of the best restaurants in San Diego Gaslamp

Chilled Seafood Platter and a wonderful view at Top of the Market (Photo credit: Top of the Market)

The Fish Market/Top of the Market – Best Restaurant with a View

Take in the view of the San Diego Bay while dining at The Fish Market. My family’s favorites here include the Ginger Lime Prawns appetizer, their homemade Danish blue cheese salad dressing (I get it atop the Caesar), their au gratin potatoes side dish, and any of the fresh fish selections served Cajun-style. Kids are welcomed at The Fish Market and can choose from items like panko fish or shrimp, teriyaki chicken, pizza and more.

For a fine dining date night, climb the stairs to dine at sister property, Top of the Market.

Bite into a grassfed organic burger at the Burger Lounge, one of the best San Diego Gaslamp restaurants

Bite into a grassfed organic burger at the Burger Lounge (Photo credit: Burger Lounge Instagram)

Burger Lounge – Best Burger in San Diego

Rejoice, for the best burger in all the land can be found in San Diego! Burger Lounge‘s signature sandwich is made from organic, grass-fed (never-frozen) beef. You can also choose a turkey burger, salmon burger or veggie burger (made from organic quinoa, brown rice, garbanzo beans, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, onion, garlic, panko, parsley, chipotle, Monterey jack cheese). The burgers are topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, homemade Thousand Island dressing, grilled or raw onions and served between two buttery buns.

Meanwhile, my picky children adore their chicken skewers off the kids’ menu. The fries are to die for, but the salad with roasted corn, jicama, and other veggies is also delicious if you’re looking for something lighter.

Wash it all down with something tasty. Choose from house-made lemonades (Lavender-Mint or Hibiscus), batch craft sodas, local craft beer and premium wines.

Datiles Rellenos are a tasty blend of sweet and savory at Cafe Sevilla ~ Best Restaurants in San Diego Gaslamp

Datiles Rellenos are a tasty blend of sweet and savory at Cafe Sevilla (Photo credit: Cafe Sevilla)

Café Sevilla – Best Tapas and Flamenco

Get a taste of Spain in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter at Café Sevilla. Choose from an array of tapas like Datiles Relleno (Medjool dates, Cabrales bleu cheese and applewood bacon) and Champiñones al Ajillo (mushrooms with garlic, chile arbol and white wine). Best of all is their flat iron Castellano Steak, made with crumbled Valdeón blue cheese and Rioja red wine. If you’re a paella fan, you’ll delight in six options of this rice dish, including a vegetarian option. Choose a tasting menu for a delightful sampling of Café Sevillas specialties. For an extra special treat, make reservations for their Art of Flamenco Dinner Show, which takes place every Saturday night.

Oceanaire Seafood Room surf and turf in San Diego Gaslamp

Splurge in surf and turf with filet mignon and one of the Oceanaire Seafood Room’s impressive crab cakes (Photo credit: Oceanaire Seafood Room Facebook page)

The Oceanaire Seafood Room – Best Date Night Restaurant

Living along the Pacific Ocean, San Diegans are big fans of fresh fish and seafood. My go-to restaurant of choice for a celebratory meal downtown is The Oceanaire Seafood Room. It feels like you’re stepping aboard a luxury ocean liner from years past when you enter this swanky dining room.

When dining with a big group, start with the Chilled Shellfish Platter — an array of fresh crab legs, jumbo shrimp, and other ocean goodies served atop crushed ice in an impressive display. Absolutely not to be missed is the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake appetizer. Words. Cannot. Describe. 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!

If you want to bring the kids, come for happy hour Monday through Friday from 5 to 6 pm. Take advantage of surprisingly good prices on appetizers like Jumbo Cocktail Shrimp, Filet Mignon Sliders, Blackened Fish Tacos and a Fresh Oyster Trio. Of course, Mom and Dad will enjoy drink specials on select beers, wines and cocktails, too.

Gelatos galore at Chocolat Cremerie in the San Diego Gaslamp District

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

Chocolat Cremerie – Most Authentic Gelato

Step into what feels like a true Italian gelateria at Chocolat Cremerie in the heart of 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!

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)

Ghirardelli’s Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop – Best Ice Cream Parlor

Ghirardelli’s old fashioned soda fountain offers shakes, malts, cones, and sundaes galore. My favorite is the 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.

Save Money on Your San Diego Vacation

Want to save money on your San Diego vacation? Of course you do! Use discount code TravelMamas to get $10 off any two-night or longer Southern California package (hotel and two ticket minimum) when you book through Get Away Today. Also find San Diego deals including attraction ticket discounts!

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.

If you’re combining your trip to San Diego with a visit to Disneyland, it’s well worth investing in a Southern California CityPass. You’ll save $156.99+ per person!

It 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.

Learn More about San Diego

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

Best San Diego Gaslamp Restaurants

Remember these San Diego Restaurants for Families

To remember these San Diego restaurants for a future visit, be sure to save the image above to Pinterest!

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!

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