The Top 20 Al Fresco Dining Spots in San Diego | Adventuress

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The Top 20 Al Fresco Dining Spots in San Diego

The Top 20 Al Fresco Dining Spots in San Diego

Feb 20, 2019

Whether you live in San Diego or plan to travel there, you’re sure to want to eat outdoors in this gorgeous city where the climate is friendly most of the year. Here are 20 of San Diego’s best al fresco dining spots to check out, from Imperial Beach to North County.

San Diego is known for a range of ethnic cuisines, but especially for Mexican and Asian food. You’ll also find a large selection of brewpubs and seafood eateries in “America’s Finest City.” There’s something for everybody here, including restaurants with extraordinary views and a fun atmosphere, as well as suggestions for taking your dining experience out onto the Pacific.

North County

San Diego County is huge so it’s often broken into segments by direction. Just up the coast off Interstate Highway 5, North County offers some of the best dining experiences in the metro area.

Hello Betty Fish House

Known for its pier and water sports, Oceanside is also home to Hello Betty Fish House, consistently ranked one of San Diego’s best restaurants. You’ll find everything from authentic Mexican-style fish tacos to raw oysters there, and the rooftop lounge affords a beautiful ocean view, great for catching the sunset.

Fish 101

In nearby Encinitas, a local favorite is Fish 101, which serves, you guessed it, seafood. Enjoy tasty fish dishes in their cozy spot in the hip surfing neighborhood of Leucadia. Enjoy a table on the patio out back and be sure to try the crispy calamari served with slices of grilled lemon.


You can’t go to North County without a trip to Del Mar, home of the famous racetrack founded by Bing Crosby and other Hollywood legends. While you’re there, check out Zel’s, a sweet bistro featuring American cuisine and pizza, which you can enjoy at one of their sidewalk tables.

Mille Fleurs

For a more sophisticated al fresco dining experience, try Mille Fleurs in Rancho Santa Fe, home to some of the poshest addresses in the county, fragrant citrus groves, and miles of horse farms. Mille Fleurs serves lunch, dinner, and happy hour appetizers on its sun dappled patio and specializes in light French food. Reservations are suggested, and “elevated business casual” dress with no beach or sports attire is required.

Coffee, Please

Pannikin Coffee & Tea

San Diego has thousands of amazing java joints, but one of the most picturesque is Pannikin Coffee & Tea in Encinitas. Housed in what used to be a North County railway station, this local favorite serves up your caffeine with an array of scrumptious baked goods. Enjoy the sea air when you sit on the front patio or lounge in one of the Adirondack chairs scattered around the lawn.

Influx Cafe Little Italy 

Influx Cafe Little Italy is the perfect place to get coffee when you’re downtown. With indoor and outdoor seating, Influx serves light meals, like sandwiches and salads, along with its enormous menu of coffee and tea drinks.

In the City

George’s at the Cove

The city of San Diego proper has enough restaurants to keep you busy for a lifetime, but there are some real standouts when it comes to al fresco dining. Ask a local, and the first place they’ll probably suggest is the award-winning George’s at the Cove in La Jolla. George’s is really three restaurants: elegant California Modern on the ground floor, Level 2 for cocktails and casual meals, and Ocean Terrace, which offers outdoor seating year round with spectacular ocean views.

The Med

Just around the bend, La Jolla is also home to the beautiful and historic Valencia Hotel, known as the “Pink Lady.” A wonderful way to enjoy this luxurious landmark that combines Spanish and old Hollywood architecture is to grab a table at The Med, the hotel’s Mediterranean restaurant, known for its sumptuous Sunday brunch buffet and exemplary service.

Mr. A’s

Another establishment popular with San Diegans and visitors alike is Mr. A’s, with its choice of skyline and harbor views 12 stories up. Make a reservation to ensure you get a seat outdoors; it’s the perfect place to catch a breeze and savor brunch in warm weather.

Kettner Exchange

How does “progressive American” cuisine served al fresco in Little Italy sound? Head over to Kettner Exchange, where you can sample a creative menu on one of their two floors of indoor/outdoor dining or in their rooftop lounge cabanas for a more intimate atmosphere. Voted the Best Restaurant of 2017 by San Diego Magazine, Kettner Exchange boasts a chef who has captained some of the most prestigious kitchens in America.

Mitch’s Seafood

If you’ve never been to San Diego before, you don’t want to miss the views from Point Loma, home to the Cabrillo National Monument. Mitch’s Seafood lets you eat right on the pier and focuses on sustainable seafood, including local lobster and mussels. Wash down your fresh fish with a craft beer or California wine for the perfect West Coast meal.


Nothing says you’re in San Diego more than hanging out at Mission Beach. To cap off your day in this laid-back neighborhood with its boardwalk and water sports, head to Cannonball, which claims the “largest oceanfront rooftop” in the city. Known for its Asian fusion food and colorful happy hour drinks, you’ll be so close to the beach you can practically spike a volleyball from your table.

al fresco dining

Kid Friendly

Farmer & The Seahorse

One of the beauties of al fresco dining is that it can be the ideal way to eat out with kids if you pick the right venue. San Diego is brimming with kid-friendly spots, and one of the best is Farmer & The Seahorse in the Torrey Pines area, which showcases an inventive menu sourced from regional produce vendors and fisheries. Kids can run around on the lawn, play board games, and work off some energy on the bocce court while their folks enjoy the breakfast, brunch, lunch, and happy hour menus.

Viewpoint Brewing Co.

Another kid-friendly restaurant worth checking out is the Viewpoint Brewing Co. in Del Mar. Overlooking the San Dieguito Lagoon, Viewpoint houses a 7,000-square-foot brewery that supplies 20 different taps at the bar. The outdoor area features spacious seating, firepits, and a grassy area with Skee-Ball machines.

Bring the Pooch

Pier Cafe

San Diego has over 500 dog-friendly restaurants so you’ll have no problem bringing your pooch with you to eat. A top spot for dog lovers to enjoy outdoor dining is Pier Cafe, which has served homey lunches and dinners, along with tantalizing desserts, for nearly 40 years. On stilts above the water, you’ll know you’re really dining oceanside, and well-behaved pets are welcome to join you on the deck.

Sun Deck Grill

A San Diego must-see is the Hotel Del Coronado, an instantly recognizable Victorian institution on Coronado Island, connected by bridge to the southern end of the city. The hotel provides numerous dining opportunities, but for beachy fun, try the Sun Deck Grill, which serves food all day and cocktails until sunset. Pampered pets are served “yappatizers,” which are gourmet dog treats, from four to five on Sundays, also known as “Yappy Hour.”

Points South

Sea 180 Coastal Tavern

Practically at the Mexican border, Imperial Beach is yet another locale with stunning views of the ocean and multiple outdoor dining selections. Go for a horseback ride on the beach and then head to Sea 180 Coastal Tavern at the Pier South Resort. Snag a table on the Pier View Terrace or a comfy couch at the Alta Mar Rooftop and enjoy both traditional American and tasty Mexican entrees.


If you’re just in the mood for an ice cream cone in “I.B.,” as Imperial Beach is known to locals, Cow-A-Bunga is the place. You can sit out front and watch the world go by while you chill to their decadent treats and R&B tunes.

Beach and Beyond


If you’re a beach lover, sitting at a table may not get your toes quite close enough to the sand. You can always take a picnic to any one of San Diego’s many lovely parks or beaches and cater your own al fresco dining experience. For group get-togethers, Crown Point Park has picnic tables, toddler play areas, basketball courts, and a boat launch. Silver Strand State Beach on Coronado Island looks like it’s out of a classic California postcard and is ideal for swimming and grilling.

Charter a Private Boat

Want to get even closer to the water? San Diego is THE place to charter a private boat, whether it’s a luxury catamaran for you and your friends or a romantic yacht for your wedding.

For the ultimate in dining in style, contact Adventuress Luxury Catamaran for your next excursion. From corporate hospitality events to sunset cruises, Adventuress has just the right charter for you, and we work with top caterers in the San Diego area to create al fresco dining at sea you’ll remember for a lifetime!