Top 7 San Diego Restaurants to Splurge On

juniper & ivy, san diego, restaurant
As a full time food blogger at Little Leopard Book, focused on recipe development, I’m always looking for my next great recipe inspiration. A lot of this inspiration comes while dining out. My recipes are frequently influenced by eating my way through the United States while traveling, but a lot of my recipe influence comes from dining out at home in San Diego.

One of the things I love most about eating around San Diego is the variety of options available. With everything from hole-in-the-wall taco shops, to fine dining with an ocean view, San Diego has a little bit of everything to offer.

While I thoroughly enjoy many of the casual restaurants in San Diego, I also love to splurge on unique dishes at some of San Diego’s higher end restaurants. With great ambiance, beautiful views, delicious cocktail lists, and most importantly scrumptious food, I’m definitely willing to splurge on these San Diego hot spots!

monello, san diego, california


Monello, opened in 2012, is the “little brother” restaurant of Bencotto, a Little Italy staple since 2009. Both restaurants share a kitchen and serve up fresh pasta that’s handmade daily on site. While I love both restaurants, I generally recommend Monello over Bencotto because only at Monello do they serve their Black Squid Ink Pasta with Lobster Sauce and Octopus, one of the best dishes I’ve ever had. In addition to their amazing pasta, the Italian husband & wife team who own the restaurant serve traditional Italian cheeses, appetizers and pizzas. I’ve yet to find an item on the menu that hasn’t blown me away with its incredible flavors.

Cowboy Star

Growing up in Oklahoma, I know a good steak when I see one, and so far Cowboy Star has been the best steak I’ve had since moving to San Diego in 2003. The restaurant vibe is classy without being stuffy, the appetizers change seasonally, but if the Lobster Risotto is on the menu, order it, immediately!

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Juniper & Ivy

When celebrity chef Richard Blais decided to open his first west coast restaurant in San Diego, California in 2014, there was a lot of hype around the new spot, Juniper & Ivy. I was very curious to check it out for myself to see if it lived up to the hype. It did. And it still continues to do so over a year later. The menu is changing every week, but let me paint a picture for you of the food you can expect at the restaurant, Pork Wrapped Rabbit in a Tom Kha Sauce. Yes, that is a dish I ate the last time I was here, and yes, it was amazing!

Kettner Exchange
Kettner Exchange

Kettner Exchange

Kettner Exchange is serving up Progressive American Cuisine, with everything from Big Eye Tuna Tacos to Fried Chicken to Miso Black Cod, you’ll enjoy an array of flavors at this trendy, new Little Italy hotspot. In addition to your appetite, be sure to come thirsty, Kettner Exchange has an amazing craft cocktail program that changes seasonally, but is always filled with cocktails packed with fresh ingredients.

Bottega Americano, san diego, california
Salumeria Board at Bottega Americano

Bottega Americano

Modern design meets classic style, and fresh Italian food gets a contemporary twist, at this hip East Village restaurant, bar, lounge and marketplace. The restaurant boasts five interactive food bars where you can experience first-hand the fresh pasta-making, salumeria board-creating and pizza oven-baking. I always start with a salumeria board filled with their delicious meats and cheeses, then move on to an item from their fresh crudo menu, then it’s on to pasta for the main course, the Pappardelle with Braised Lamb Sugo and Pecorino can not be beat!

mister a's, san diego, california
Mister A’s -Pork Belly and Sweet Potato Hash

Mister A’s

If you want to enjoy the best views in San Diego, you have to visit this timeless San Diego restaurant that’s been serving up delicious food alongside great views for 50 years. Their classic menu consists of items such as Lobster Bisque, Fresh Oysters, Beef Filet and Rack of Lamb. In addition to dinner, they now offer a brunch that is well worth splurging on! I would highly recommend ordering the Pork Belly and Sweet Potato Hash.

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Cucina Urbana

Neighboring the beautiful Balboa Park, this upscale Italian restaurant with rustic charm has been impressing San Diego foodies since 2009. Their Stuffed Fried Squash Blossoms and Burrata Prosciutto Caprese are a great way to get dinner started, follow it up with one of their many pasta or pizza selections for a delicious dining experience.

If you’re looking for more great San Diego, California dining options, from where to get the best tacos, cocktails, Thai food or happy hour, check out the San Diego Food & City Guide on my blog Little Leopard Book! This is a guest post by Whitney Bond. For additional insider tips follow @Nancydbrown on Twitter and @Whitney_Bond.

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