Everyone needs to eat, and San Diego offers plenty of terrific options. Highlighted here are mostly restaurants in and near the Gaslamp Quarter, convenient to the San Diego Convention Center and most ALA hotels, with a few farther-flung possibilities.
The Gaslamp Quarter, bounded by 4th and 6th Avenues, Broadway, and Harbor Drive, is a historic downtown neighborhood that San Diegans have known by many names over the years, including Rabbitville, Flea Town, New Town San Diego, Davis’s Folly, Stingaree, Chinatown, and S.O.B. (South of Broadway), according to the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation. Today, it is a major entertainment and dining district, with options ranging from good food to-go up to fancy restaurants. Some locations host live music. Reservations are always a good idea at Gaslamp restaurants.
In this guide, links on restaurant names go to those restaurants’ web sites. Links on street addresses go to a Google Map that gives directions to the restaurant from the convention center.
Build-your-own, New Haven-style thin-crust brick oven pizzas nightly until 2 a.m. The building, which was converted from a 1912 warehouse, has high ceilings and an urban vibe. Takeout and delivery orders are available. $. L, D daily. 410 10th Ave. (between J St. & Island Ave.) 619-531-8869.
Italian, Milanese, slow food. Don’t miss the cheese bar, which offers more than 25 selections. The bar menu is less expensive and offers selections, such as beef carpaccio. Décor is chic, with high ceilings and cool lighting. $$ (bar menu)—$$$ (dinner menu). D daily. 425 Island Ave. (4th Ave. & Island Ave.) 619-239-2423.
Broken Yolk Cafe
Big breakfasts and lunches, including 20 different omelets, burgers, grilled sandwiches, salads, and soups. Online ordering for pickup is available. $. B, L daily. 355 6th Ave. (between K St. & J St.) 619-338-9655.
Featured on the Food Network, this funky café gets busy—the Peanut Butter and Banana Stuffed French Toast is one of Bobby Flay’s favorites. The “Wakey Wakey Eggs and Bakey” is one of their classic specialties, with eggs, choice of breakfast meat, potatoes, and toast. $. B, L daily (closes at 1:45 p.m). 222 Island Ave. (between 2nd Ave. & 3rd Ave.) 619-236-9902.
Upscale Mexican food in Mexico City style. The estructura de aguacate, a Haas avocado stuffed with lime-marinated scallops, is a favorite. Candelas also offers a separate bar with a dance floor and a DJ on the weekends spinning house/dance mix music. Call for to-go orders, which are sometimes discounted. $$—$$$. B, L, D daily. 416 3rd Ave. (at J St.) 619-702-4455.
Fine western fare includes large portions of antibiotic- and hormone-free steak. As you might expect, the focus is on meat and seafood—sorry vegetarians. Inside the restaurant, enjoy leather booths, a fireplace, and western landscape photography. $$$$. L Tues.—Fri., D Tues.—Sat. 640 10th Ave. (Market St. and 10th Ave.) 619-450-5880.
The Mission – SOMA
A Chino-Latino breakfast and lunch café, and one of my favorite comfort-food spots. The crispy rosemary potatoes are delicious and the grilled rosemary bread is tasty. SOMA stands for South of Market; The Mission also has locations in Mission Beach and North Park. $. B, L daily. 1250 J St. (between 12th Ave. and 13th St.) 619-232-7662.
Thai cuisine; try the drunken noodles dish or the several vegetarian selections. The décor is beautiful, with a stone wall water cascade. Outdoor seating is also available. $$. L, D. 327 4th Ave. (between J St. and K St.) 619-501-8424.
Downstairs from the Stingaree nightclub, the restaurant serves California coastal cuisine, including crab risotto and a dessert of angel food French toast. $$$. D Tues.–Sat. 454 6th Ave. (between Island Ave. and J St.) 619-544-9500.
Pretty and Paris chic. Try the popular cheese plate with grilled bread, the steak and frites with port-shallot butter, and the bittersweet chocolate pot de crème for dessert. $$—$$$. B, L, D daily. 721 9th Ave. #1 (between G St. and F St.) 619-232-3242.
Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar
Fans may know that Ingrid Croce opened this restaurant as a tribute to her husband Jim. The dining is upscale, from the baked brie to the maple-glazed, pistachio-dusted spiral half-rack of lamb. There’s also live music nightly and at brunch on weekends. $$$$. D daily, brunch Sat.–Sun. 802 5th Ave. (between E St. and F St.) 619-233-4355.
Great burgers, great fries, and great shakes. Beach décor, so bring your surfer ’tude, dude. There is always a line. (The Gaslamp Quarter location is scheduled to open January 1. If it’s delayed, stop by the original in nearby Ocean Beach.) $. L, D daily. 10th St. and Broadway, or 5010 Newport Ave., Ocean Beach. 619-224-4623.
Hub Market and Deli
The deli portion of “The Hub,” as it is called by locals, offers great sandwiches and some breakfast fare at a reasonable price. If you’re in a hurry, call in your order ahead to pick it up. Includes a grocery market. $. B, L, D daily. 748 6th Ave. (near F St.). 619-239-1918.
Calling itself a “mexperience,” this is a noisy, pregame, happy hour kind of bar and restaurant. Mexican-influenced favorites here include the carne asada fries and the T.J. Dawgs—bacon-wrapped turkey dogs with tomato, jalapeño, and onion. $. L, D daily, brunch Sun. 560 4th Ave. (between Island Ave. and Market St.) 619-696-3466.
This casual, urban, cool microbrewery offers an eclectic selection, from jalapeño mac-n-cheese to a black bean burger with crispy leeks. $$. L, D daily. 777 G St. (at 8th Ave.) 619-446-0002.
Rei Do Gado
This Brazilian steakhouse is known for the churrasco barbeque meats served directly at the table, including several cuts of steak, pork, lamb, and chicken. It is also known for its salad bar, with more than 40 salads and side dishes. $$$$. L, D daily. 939 4th Ave. (between E St. & Broadway). 619-702-8464.
Royal India serves many tandoori and curry dishes, including chicken tikka masala, as well as a number of vegetarian curry dishes in a lovely, casual environment. I recommend the lunch buffet to sample many entrees.
$—$$. L, D daily. 329 Market St. (Between 3rd Ave. and 4th Ave.) 619-269-9999.
Sushi Deli 2
There is always a wait at this popular place that offers good sushi and other meals (including miso soup, California rolls, and soba and udon noodles). The dinner menu includes chicken, beef, salmon, and tofu platters. $. L Mon.–Fri., D daily. 135 Broadway (between 1st Ave. and Front St.) 619-233-3072.
Montreal’s at Tivoli Bar and Grill
Dating to 1885, Tivoli is the Gaslamp Quarter’s oldest bar, and pictures of cowboys, Wyatt Earp, and past owners still adorn the walls. Today, it’s an inexpensive, casual sports bar with food by Montreal’s offering a Canadian spin on burgers, fries, hot dogs, garden burgers, and fish and chips. $. L, D daily. 505 6th Ave. (at Island Ave.) 619-232-6754.
These options are outside the Gaslamp Quarter, but still relatively convenient, being a fairly short cab or trolley ride away. Can’t find what you need in the Gaslamp Quarter? Again, reservations are a good idea for most restaurants.
Anthony’s Fish Grotto
Stop in for a seafood lunch or dinner on the waterfront along the embarcadero near the tall ships and the Maritime Museum. $$$. L, D daily. 1360 North Harbor Dr. (Near Ash St., about 1 mile northwest of convention center.) 619-232-5103.
The Fish Market
Come here for views of the San Diego bay, a good sushi bar, and crispy fish tacos. For fine dining, head upstairs to the Top of the Market for a menu that includes lobster tail and filet mignon, with a fantastic view of the Coronado Bridge too. $$ (Fish Market), $$$$ (Top of the Market). L, D daily. 750 N Harbor Dr. (near G St.) 619-232-3474.
Sally’s Seafood on the Water
Try the lobster pot pie, crab cakes, and the crème brûlée as you enjoy indoor dining or patio seating. $$$. B, L, D daily. 1 Market Pl. (at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.) 619-358-6740.
Tom Ham’s Lighthouse Restaurant
About a four-mile cab ride from the convention center, this restaurant offers steaks, seafood, salads, and sides. Come here for the waterfront view from this lighthouse location, and stay for a slice of lighthouse famous mudpie. $$. L, D daily; brunch Sun. 2150 Harbor Island Dr. 619-291-9110.
Bertrand at Mr. A’s
Elegant and dressy, reservations are a must for this Bankers Hill restaurant. Bertrand offers fine dining, from roasted rack of lamb to lobster to many vegetarian dishes, with spectacular views of San Diego Bay, Balboa Park, Point Loma, and Coronado. $$$$. L Mon.–Fri., D daily. 2250 5th Ave., 12th Floor (about 1.5 miles north of convention center.) 619-239-1377.
This fun and trendy California-inspired Italian kitchen and wine bar has a country kitchen and rustic farmhouse ambiance. Try the foraged mushroom pizza with Talleggio cheese, braised leeks, and truffle oil. Seating options include a communal table, bar seating, and individual tables. $$. L Tues.–Fri., D daily. 505 Laurel St. (at 5th Ave., about 2 miles north of convention center.) 619-239-2222.
The menu at this Old Town spot includes all standard Mexican restaurant fare, with delicious fish tacos and terrific homemade tortillas. It’s a popular place and often busy despite large indoor and outdoor dining areas. This is a festive atmosphere for groups, with a live mariachi band nightly. $$. 4105 Taylor St. (Blue Line trolley to Old Town stop.) 619-295-5111.
Average price per person including appetizer, entrée, and dessert.
$: Under $25
$$$$: Over $45
LINDA SALEM is is assistant head of reference at San Diego State University’s Love Library.