La Jolla has it going on. Magnificent Pacific Ocean views, a stunning coastline, beautiful beaches, and yes, really good restaurants.
It’s no wonder when Spanish explorers landed on the shores of La Jolla, they named it “The Jewel.” With 17 miles of stunning rugged and picturesque coastline curving into a myriad of natural coves backed by verdant hillsides, La Jolla is a natural treasure trove.
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The vibrant upscale bedroom community of San Diego has some amazing places to dine. How do we know? Because as locals, my husband and I along with friends and family frequent our favorite foodie venues often. Restaurants in La Jolla range from fast-food taco stand venues and laid-back casual to fine dining with everything in between to please all members of your dining party.
We’ll take you on our foodie quest that includes La Jolla restaurants that offer ocean views, to those we love in downtown, La Jolla Village, and gems located just on the outskirts of town. But one thing we promise. We’ll share some mouthwatering favorites you’ll find impossible to resist.
1235 Coast Blvd, San Diego, CA 92037
Phone: (858) 454-7393
This charming beach cottage with spectacular views of La Jolla Cove was built in 1894 as one of La Jolla’s first seaside weekend retreats. The restaurant also sports some of the most amazing ocean views along with stunning sunsets.
Brockton Villa is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, but it’s without a doubt best-known for its award-winning French toast that’s served classic style, Bananas Foster, S’Mores Coast Toast, Sweet and Savory and Very Berry Toast varieties.
If you’re here for lunch or dinner, start with a cup or bowl of Brockton Villa’s epic clam chowder.
7863 Girard Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: (858) 551-5015
Perched on a rooftop above Girard Avenue, this eatery serves an array of Italian-inspired coastal dishes offering guests the beauty of La Jolla with the flavors of Italy. These include homemade pastas, wood-fired pizzas, seafood, and an exciting cocktail menu served at both lunch and dinner hours.
We love sitting on its Mediterranean-style outdoor patio that offers spectacular sunset views. Our favorite antipasti is the Crispy Octopus with chickpeas, merguez lamb sausage, capers, and herbs. All wood-fired pizzas are amazing, especially the Wild Mushroom and the very unique Blueberry and Pancetta.
DUKE’S LA JOLLA
1216 Prospect, St., La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: (858) 454-5888
When our grandchildren come into town to visit, they always ask to dine at Duke’s. Though part of the T S Restaurant group with restaurants throughout Hawaii and California, each Hawaiian-inspired venue has its own unique menu.
A tribute to Hawaii and Southern California beach life, the restaurant is named after Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing. The signature cocktail is Duke’s Mai Tai, a luscious libation made with fresh Hawaiian juices with two types of rum. Mojitos, mules, margaritas, and locally-sourced lavender drinks are also popular.
Brunch, lunch, and dinner offer both indoor and outdoor seating. But when you make your reservation, be sure to request outdoor seating as views of the La Jolla Cove and Pacific are awe-inspiring. Crispy coconut shrimp is a great starter but my favorite main course is the Sautéed Macnut & Herb Crusted Fresh Fish.
Just make sure to save room for Duke’s iconic Kimo’s Original Hula Pie. It’s amazing and big enough to share (if you really want to!).
EL PESCADOR FISH MARKET
634 Pearl Street, La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: (858) 456-2526
By the name, visitors would guess this is a fish-counter-only establishment where you can purchase the freshest locally-sourced seafood, but you’ll find it’s much more.
El Pescador has been a favorite local fish market since 1974. Chalkboard menus list daily specials which can be ordered and taken “to go” or eaten inside or outside on the patio, served with beer or wine.
Local favorites include oysters on the half-shell, sashimi plates, seafood cocktails, fresh seafood sandwiches and salads, seafood burritos, and fresh char-grilled seafood like snapper, halibut, sea bass, swordfish, yellowtail, and more.
FARMER & THE SEAHORSE
10996 Torreyana Road, Ste 240, San Diego, CA 92121
Phone: (858) 260-5400
It’s not on the water, but award-winning Chef Brian Malarkey’s Farmer and the Seahorse, tucked away in the serene landscape of La Jolla’s Torrey Pines district, is a splendid choice. “We’re not a restaurant, we’re a lifestyle” is the perfect mantra for this amazing honest-to-goodness field-to-table eatery that takes the shared-plate experience to an entirely new level.
Inspired by the bounty of local farms and the abundant waters of the Pacific, a popular eatery is a great place to wine, dine and enjoy the creative rustic-chic décor whether you’re here for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. A vintage red tractor and an Airstream parked in the middle of the restaurant add to the fun atmosphere.
The eclectic eatery is renowned for having one of the best happy hours in La Jolla. Whether it’s grass-fed burgers, pork belly sliders, fish tacos, the freshest poke around or house-made pizzas, every inventive entrée here is superb.
GEORGE’S AT THE COVE
1250 Prospect St., La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: (858) 454-4244
We love the restaurant’s motto that “Life (and dinner) is to be enjoyed one sunset at time.” And they can proudly proclaim this since George’s offers stunning ocean views that delight guests for over 35 years, especially from its Level2bar and rooftop Ocean Terrace, offering upscale bar bites and limited entrees.
This is where we like to dine and enjoy some incredibly creative starters that include Crispy Shrimp with mojo aioli and Salmon Tartar with crispy rice, cucumber, radish, smashed avocado, and gochugaru dressing.
If you’re looking for a more substantial meal for lunch or dinner, the ground floor California Modern features a larger selection of water and land choices such as salmon, yellowtail, halibut, Jidori chicken, Kurobuta Pork Belly, and Prime Flat Iron steak.
ISOLA PIZZA BAR
7734 Girard Ave., La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: (858) 412-5566
After living in Italy for three years, we look for authentic Neapolitan pizza (or as close as we can get), and Isola Pizza Bar delivers food inspired by Chef Massimo Tenino’s “nonna.” With locations in both Little Italy and La Jolla, this pizza bar prides itself on its traditional Italian roots by providing mouthwatering wood-fired pizzas that really please the palate and almost make us feel as though we’re back in Bella Napoli. As a matter of fact, their wood-fired ovens are imported from Napoli.
Other menu items include antipasti, pasta, and second plates, but honestly, Isola’s pizza is what definitely brings patrons in for the first time and keeps them coming back for more.
1132 Prospect St., La Jolla, CA 92037
I remember the year we celebrated a wedding anniversary here by dining at the Mediterranean room followed by a stay at La Jolla’s iconic “Pink Lady,” the historic La Valencia Hotel.
Serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, the classy Mediterranean Room pays homage to the hotel’s Mediterranean architecture and décor and offers absolutely stunning views of the Pacific. It’s romantic, tastefully appointed, and a place you’d want to take your someone special.
The menu features Mediterranean tapas and main entrees, and though not extensive, it’s well thought-out with both land and sea offerings.
Don’t miss starting with a ‘Pink Lady’ cocktail. And if Coriander Sugared Persimmon Scallops are on the menu, I highly recommend this dish served with charred carrot puree, vadouvan carrots, caramelized persimmon, pepita dukka, and hot honey. Salt Water Prawns & Mussels are also amazing, served with arroz bonba, chorizo, baby fennel, piquillo pepper, and squid ink aioli.
But regardless of what you order, the views will take your breath away!
NINE-TEN RESTAURANT & BAR
910 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: (858) 964-5400
This is a white-table affair with an air of sophistication and casual elegance, but certainly not in any way a pretentious dining experience. Located inside La Jolla’s oldest original hotel, the Grand Colonial, the restaurant offers globally inspired and locally sourced dishes that absolutely tantalize the palate.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner entrees feature produce from local artisan farmers selected for seasonal menus, which can even change on a daily basis. Brunch is served on weekends. Guests will also enjoy hanging out at the NINE-TEN bar, a popular gathering place, and wine lovers will relish in its quality selections from an extensive wine cellar.
We have only dined here for lunch, but thoroughly enjoyed sharing some “socials” (starters) which included Jamaican Jerk Pork Belly and Hamachi Sashimi followed by a lovely Baby Beet & Citrus salad. The views, the entrees and the service made for a great experience.
7702 Fay Avenue, La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: (858) 454-8409
This charming Victorian-housed eatery has been serving breakfast, brunch and lunch to its loyal customers and visitors for over 25 years.
You’ll see lines waiting to get into The Cottage, especially on weekends. The eatery serves up some delectable traditional American and Southern California cuisine with both indoor and outdoor seating.
Diners will be especially grateful for the myriad of breakfast offerings that include healthy house granola and fruit bowls to griddle favorites of pancakes and French toast along with omelets, Benedicts and breakfast classics. If you’re into Kombucha, give their Local Roots Kombucha a try, made with Purple Haze 6% alcohol and Blood Orange Mimosa, 6% alcohol. It’s delightful.
Brioche French Toast is a cottage specialty topped with berries and bananas. But be prepared that it’s a large portion and large enough to share.
THE MARINE ROOM
2000 Spindrift Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037
For 80 years, The Marine Room in La Jolla Shores has been a premier fine dining destination. A true San Diego landmark, the restaurant is renowned for its culinary excellence, uncompromising service and stunning beachfront setting.
True to its name, seafood definitely reigns supreme here, but another reason diners come is to see the waves crashing against the large glass picture windows during high tide providing a dramatic show you’ll never forget.
The Marine Room is definitely the place to celebrate a family milestone, engagement or other special occasion. It does come with a pretty hefty price tag, but it’s well worth it. And honestly, it’s a badge of honor to say that you’ve wined and dined here.
The lounge menu offers cocktails and small plates but if you’re staying for dinner, you’ll love the coastal flavors of La Jolla reflected in its menu selections. Though menus can change with fresh seafood availability, we’re giving high fives to its Diver Scallops and Baja California Swordfish. Servers will also offer chef specials which can include such delights as Alaskan Halibut, Black Truffle Gnocchi, and Duck Confit. Even if you share, save some room as the dessert menu is heavenly.
PUESTO LA JOLLA
1026 Wall Street, La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: (858) 454-1260
Though this lovely eatery has two other locations (Puesto at the Headquarters) downtown and in Mission Valley, our favorite is definitely the La Jolla location, a setting with neon murals and colorful Mexican tiles.
Here you’ll find some of the best Mexican entrees with a decidedly California twist which has us drooling each time we visit. If you’re not sure what to order, ask your server for his or her recommendation which is what we did. If you really want to get a taste of what makes this La Jolla eatery so popular, try the tacos which is Puesto’s signature calling card.
The server recommended a trio of three but when we had trouble deciding, we added a fourth. Our taco delights included Chicken Al Pastor, Baja Fish, Tamarindo Shrimp, and Carnitas. We love the hand-pressed blue corn tortillas stuffed with lots of melted cheese and garlic-braised veggies. Make sure to order a house-made beer or margarita to accompany.
These are just some of our recommendations of our favorite La Jolla restaurants, though La Jolla has many restaurants to choose from. We’d love to hear about your favorites.
Noreen Kompanik wrote and photographed the article “12 Best La Jolla Restaurants in 2023 [Recommended by Locals]” for San Diego Explorer.