Romantic Restaurants in San Diego
While a platter of fish tacos or your favorite surf ‘n turf burrito will certainly hit the spot most days, sometimes you're looking for something a little more special for date night.
Choose from one of these romantic restaurants in San Diego and indulge in not only delicious food, but details that make these eateries more than the usual night out. From beautiful views to romantic lighting, these are the best date night restaurants San Diego has to offer.
Balboa Park is an excellent date night location alone, but if you’re looking to upgrade the experience in between your museum-hopping and people-watching, The Prado is a great way to do just that.
There are several dining areas for you to be seated in once you’re there, but the outdoor terrace or courtyard are your best bet for twinkling lights and running water fountains that will make you feel like you’re living in a fairytale. Their dinner menu includes some seasonal ingredients, but you’ll usually find fan favorites like their crab dip and red wine braised short ribs on the menu no matter when you visit. Leave time for an evening stroll through the park after, as it’s truly a special experience once the lights come on at night.
Kensington’s Bleu Boheme will take you and your date straight to Paris with their selection of moules frites—they have seven different types to choose from!—and charcuterie boards. The prices are high for this part of town, but it’s all about sharing here if you want the best experience. Choose your favorite mussels combination, a few options off of their petits plats menu and a glass or two of wine and you’ll have yourself quite the fancy evening.
The ambiance here is a little old-fashioned compared to the more modern restaurants you’ll see elsewhere on this list, but that’s part of the charm at the French eatery. It’s meant to transport you to a traditional French bistro, something it accomplishes quite well. Come for happy hour every day from 5-6pm for discounts on wine and appetizers.
It may not feel like you’re setting yourself up for one of the most romantic restaurants in San Diego when you’re putting in the driving directions for ARLO. You’ll be headed to Mission Valley for this one. Better yet, you’re going to Hotel Circle. Once you’re there, though, any doubts will fade away as you indulge in a fine dining experience brought to you by a chef that has trained under the best.
The executive chef, Josh Mouzakes, comes to ARLO with a pedigree that includes time at The French Laundry, one of the most exclusive restaurants in the country. Everything here is shareable, from the lamb meatballs to the flatbreads to a seafood charcuterie that’s unlike anything being served in San Diego.
This is definitely special occasion dining, but don’t assume you’ll be priced out of the wine list here. Choose from a selection of reds, whites and sparkling wines that are on the lower end of what you’d expect for bottles. You won’t feel bad about indulging.
The dramatic views of the San Diego Bay at Coasterra certainly make this one feel very special. The patio is huge, ensuring a great seat with access to bayfront panoramas no matter where you end up being seated.
The food is solidly Mexican, with fine dining touches that elevate the late night nachos you may be used to. Prices are still quite reasonable, though, for one of the most romantic restaurants in San Diego. Alongside the stellar margarita menu, you’ll want to try any of the seafood offerings here, as that’s what Coasterra is best known for. Try the ceviche or Mexican bay scallop appetizers to start, and any of the entrees featuring the white Mexican shrimp. This is coastal Mexican cuisine at its very best.
BO-beau kitchen + garden
BO-beau kitchen + garden in La Mesa describes itself as bohemian chic, making this one a great pick if you’re looking for something a bit more casual but still quite delicious on date night. The food is French with a California twist, so expect white tablecloths with your boeuf bourguignon and crispy Brussels sprouts, and seasonal ingredients that make it feel more local.
If you’re in Ocean Beach, the BO-beau kitchen + bar there is also very date-friendly. It’s modeled after a small French cottage, so expect bistro classics like roasted chicken, escargots and charcuterie boards with the chef’s favorite cured meats and pates. The best seats will be on the outdoor patio at this one. They’ll have the overhead heaters raging on the chillier nights so you’re comfortable while you’re dining.
Solare Ristorante near Liberty Station does Italian fine dining as well as, perhaps even better than, any of the popular Italian eateries in Little Italy. Fresh pasta made daily, an extensive wine cellar and the most tender beef cheeks you’ll taste this side of Tuscany will give you and your date serious Italian villa vibes, which is certainly about as romantic as it gets.
The large patio here is fantastic, but it’s the inside that’s even more impressive. If you’re celebrating something special, ask about the private chef’s tasting room. You’ll be both close to all of the action here with access to a VIP dining experience, complete with the best wine pairing recommendations from that impressive cellar, and enjoying your meal in a private space.
Whether you spring for that intimate experience or dine in the main dining room, though, Solare will be a special date night experience regardless.
Duke’s La Jolla
Transport yourself to the Hawaiian islands with a visit to Duke’s La Jolla, often near the top of the most romantic restaurants in La Jolla. The eatery isn’t the fanciest in La Jolla by any means, but that’s part of its appeal as a date night spot. The views are spectacular and the food is always solid, especially if you’re kicking things off with their poke tacos.
If the name is familiar, there could be several reasons for that. Duke’s is named after native Hawaiian, Duke Kahanamoku, considered by many to be the father of modern surfing. If you’re a fan of surfing or just watching the surfers around San Diego, a visit here is a no-brainer.
Travelers who love visiting Hawaii may recognize the name from one of their trips there, too. There are several Duke’s locations in the Hawaiian islands, all boasting scenic views and fabulous happy hours.
VAGA Restaurant & Bar
VAGA Restaurant & Bar in Encinitas is high-drama in the best way. The views are extraordinary, especially if you set up your date night right in time for some of San Diego’s best sunsets. The menu is just as good, with a blend of seasonal local ingredients and more exotic bites that speak to the wanderlust of Executive Chef Claudette Zepeda.
She wants to take you on an adventure through food, which can mean a fusion of different styles meant to delight and keep guests guessing. Try plates like brisket buns, Baja sea bass and a sticky toffee pudding if you’ve hopefully saved room for dessert. The wines offered are all natural from environmentally-friendly, green vineyards that will make you feel good about sipping a glass or two.
Visiting Starlite will make you feel like quite the cool couple as soon as you walk through those hexagonal doors. Tucked away in between Mission Hills and Bankers Hill, what you see when you stroll in may not be expected: a swanky interior, including a bar area with a retractable roof.
The menu is seasonal and changes a little bit daily, but expect things like grilled octopus, roasted bone marrow and jidori chicken, all presented with locally-sourced ingredients. They also have a signature ice cream sandwich on the menu if you and your date saved room for dessert.
You don’t need to appreciate San Diego’s stellar golf scene to appreciate the food scene happening at A.R. Valentien, the signature restaurant operating out of the Lodge at Torrey Pines. The ambiance is classy and traditional, a fireplace adding a glow to the room and a large patio overlooking the 18th hole.
The menu here changes somewhat depending on the season, but it's focused on highlighting the best of San Diego’s regional cuisine. It may not sound like much, but start with their sweet corn soup if it’s on the menu. It’s creamy and indulgent, and will set the tone for the rest of your meal at this bucket list restaurant.
Are you feeling the love with this list? Go ahead and make a reservation already and experience some of the best romantic restaurants in San Diego on your next date night. Yes, you’ll likely need to make a reservation. It’s always best to plan ahead for the best date night experience.Written by Agnes Groonwald for Knockaround.