Now that the clocks have been turned back and daylight has been saved, it’s time to start exploiting the San Diego forecast. Grab a bite or a buzz at one of these unique and delectable trendy spots and enjoy the view.
Forewarning: Foodie reviews overpopulate the web. They can get super subjective and I can’t claim expertise. Instead, as a San Diego native, I put together a comprehensive list of bars/restaurants I deem fabulous based on the (chic and refreshing) ambiance. These unique spaces make you feel good when you walk in, regardless of what happens after that. After all, it’s all about the experience.
1. C Level $$
There is nowhere else you can dine over the water and view the majestic San Diego skyline for such a great price. Sitting next to its sister restaurant, Island Prime, C Level is a slice of the renowned Cohn Restaurant Group. If the photo and legacy doesn’t sell itself, the Executive Chef Deborah Scott has a fresh list of awards and accolades that you can check out on the website.
I suggest the Happy Hour, which is M-F 3:30-5:30pm. Get there pre-sunset to watch the city buildings light up the town while you dine.
My favorite: Healthy Skirts On Fire Salad (spicy skirt steak, edamame, blue cheese, avocado, arugula, cucumber, red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, pepitas, garlic croutons, herb vinaigrette)
View the menus here.
Photo cred: www.cohnrestaurants.com/islandprime
2. Banker’s Hill Bar and Restaurant $$
This gem is a local favorite. Banker’s Hill Bar and Restaurant’s laid-back atmosphere makes for an enjoyable dining experience or just an inspirational after-work craft cocktail. The décor offers an eclectic mix of industrial light fixtures, a breathing succulent wall, and high wood ceilings – a chic, contemporary take on a barn.
I took a gamble with the jalapeño-infused tequila cocktail, a specialty beverage that proved to be the perfect mix of zesty and refreshing. The best part was being able to sit at the outside bar and look up at the stars while I ate.
Happy Hour is M-F 4:30-6:30pm, with a short but quality list of options.
Photo cred: www.bankershillsd.com
3. The Patio $$
I consider this spot an extension of my backyard, hence the name of the restaurant. The vibe is a lovely mix of cozy and uplifting. The Patio is your home away from home; not only are they pet friendly, but they provide water, treats, and even discounts (during brunch) if you bring your pup.
My personal favorites are the savory flatbreads and the crab and ahi tuna tower. The open fireplace seating is first come first serve, and the best seat in the house. A few other highlights: no corkage fee on Tuesdays, an incredible staff, and live acoustic days.
Photo cred: www.bringfido.com
4. Bailiwick $$ – NOW CLOSED
Bailiwick, which translates to “an area of expertise,” is an enchanting space that is easily missed, tucked in between tall buildings within San Diego’s Gaslamp District. The atmosphere is a modern classic, where they boast their space as “an extension of your life.” You can brunch by morning and groove to live DJs post sunset.
I recommend indulging in their $5 Pack of Mules selection for Happy Hour, which runs from W-Sun 5-7pm. This is an authentic mule experience offering 8 flavors, complete with a copper cup.
Photo cred: www.jandcevents.com
5. Bang Bang $$
This highly anticipated establishment downtown is the ideal mix of pop culture – visually stimulating to say the least, thanks to the creative director Mauricio Couturier. Between the infamous Ryan Gosling bathroom shrine, the largest disco ball on the west coast, and the “over-the-top Japanese social house” décor, Bang Bang creates a memorable experience that offers 3 different rooms regularly populated by a tasteful crowd.
The sake index is extensive, the raw fish program is deliciously flawless, and the XL multi-straw punch bowl of liquor promises a collaboratively good time. The overall combination of Mauricio Couturier and Johnny Shockey’s second joint venture proves to be quite lively. Happy Hour runs daily from 5-7pm… don’t miss out.
View the menus via Facebook album.
Photo cred: www.eater.com
6. Lions Share $$
From the food to the beverages to the artwork, Lions Share feels like everything was created just for you, out of your own (bizarre) imagination. The vibe is tranquil and inviting for a great conversation – if you don’t start it, some of the paintings on the wall will. The lighting is the perfect level of darkness, which complements the wild scene.
Dare to try the antelope sliders? Do it. They are as awesome as the concept, and if nothing else, you can check it off your bucket list.
View the menu.
Photo cred: www.blog.discoversd.com
7. Snooze $$
Joining us from Colorado, I present the ultimate breakfast experience. My first thought that comes to mind when thinking of this unique breakfast spot is: groovy, baby. Painted with accents of orange, Snooze, the A.M. Eatery is a community-driven, creative, and diverse culture of its own. It doesn’t hurt that the food just melts in your mouth – all-natural, hand selected ingredients, and recipes made from scratch.
It’s hard to pick one item, but I salivate thinking about the Sandwich I Am: Udi’s soft pretzel roll filled with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese and a sausage patty, served with a side of smoked cheddar hollandaise & house hash browns.
Whatever you choose, Snooze always sets the scene for a fruitful day.
View the menu.
Photo cred: www.sandiegoreader.com
8. Vin de Syrah $$
This spirit and wine parlor is straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Inspired by New York’s “meatpacking district” of intricate urban lounges, Syrah uses its creative power to bring your daydreams to life. This is your go-to spot for a bottle of wine paired with a rich charcuterie plate.
You never know what you will get at this venue. From Wednesday tarot reading to exotic salsa classes to Saturday night’s wine tasting, you’re always in for an experience. Check out the upcoming events to plan your next visit.
View the full menu.
Photo cred: victorypaperdesigns.blogspot.com
9. Seven Grand $$
Seven Grand was designed for the free-spirited, indulgent whiskey society. This bar fits in perfectly with the North Park culture – a minimally lit joint that provides a back room for live music, pool tables for play, art pieces as craft cocktails, made complete with plaid carpentry and hanging deer head fixtures.
The crowd is as diverse and unique as the cocktail menu – all there for one reason: the love of whiskey. The lounge offers a calendar of events and a Happy Hour M-F 5-8pm.
Photo cred: www.sevengrandbars.com
10. 100 Wines Kitchen $$ – NOW CLOSED
A rustic, absolutely charming establishment that offers a wide range of mouth watering treats to rave about. 100 Wines Kitchen is another Cohn Restaurant Group creation that values passionate and knowledgeable service, giving birth to a whole new dining experience for San Diego. The impressive detail to character of this distinct space offers multiple areas, each with a different, promising adventure.
Located in Hillcrest, you can confidently choose brunch, happy hour or dinner and leave satisfied. Catch Happy Hour M-Sat 5-7pm or Sunday Brunch 10am-2pm.
View all the menus here.
Photo cred: www.cohnrestaurants.com/100wines/
11. Noble Experiment $$
I am going to keep this one brief because of the mysterious, exclusive nature of it. If you know, you know.
You know if you have the number to text in order to make the reservation. You know if you can find the hidden door in the back of the specified restaurant. You know if you have ever been to a speakeasy that you just have to know.
Talk to the right people for more information. And if you get there, order Dealers Choice.
Photo cred: www.consortiumholdings.com
12. Cat Eye Club $$ – NOW CLOSED
I prefer this lounge because it is relatively unknown, very Mad Men style. Cat Eye Club is a wonderful place to go if you want to dodge the rowdy downtown crowd and have the benefit of a cool, intimate vibe with an enjoyable cocktail from bartenders who know what they are doing.
Check out their Facebook for more information.
Photo cred: www.thrillist.com
13. Barrel Republic $$
The concept is gold: “freedom to pour.” Barrel Republic is the mecca of local and craft beer, recently opening its doors on Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach. How it works: Swap your card for a magnetic bracelet, choose a glass (there are suggested glasses for specific beer), then swipe your bracelet in front of the tap of your choice, and you’re charged per amount dispensed. Minimal service mixed with pure satisfaction… brilliant.
San Diego gave birth to various remarkable brews, Barrel Republic offers a vast selection of local and international favorites under one roof and at your own discretion. Plus, the ever-changing food trucks are pretty epic if you get hungry.
Photo cred: www.facebook.com/BarrelRepublic/
14. George’s Ocean Terrace $$
The lavish location, perched above the La Jolla Cove, takes the award in championing local seafood and all around superior service. Offering both fine dining and a more casual terrace and bar experience, they really capture a luxurious version of the Southern Californian lifestyle. There is a reason George’s By the Cove is a locals favorite and a top pick for visitors – voted “Most Popular Restaurant” by Zagat Survey. Dip in for Happy Hour at Georges Bar M-F 3:30-6:30pm.
Photo cred: blog.sandiego.org
15. Altitude Sky Lounge $$
Altitude made the list because of their impeccable real estate. Sitting on the peak of the Marriot, the 22nd-story rooftop lounge features a panorama of the city, the Coronado Bridge, Petco stadium, and the San Diego bay.
Happy Hour runs M-F 5-7pm, which is perfect timing for a stunning sunset. Check the Padres schedule so you can get the most bang for your buck.
Photo cred: www.sandiego.com
I have an extensive list of San Diego gems, stay tuned for Part II and/or submit a suggestion below!
$$ – Based on Yelp reviews
Looking for more of San Diego’s best? Check out our 5 Best “Work from Home” Spots in San Diego.