If you have been to San Diego, chances are you have spent a day or two in La Jolla, a stunning beach city with outstanding views, sunsets, and sea lions. This city also is filled to the brim with incredibly tasty and diverse food selections. But don’t waste your time on a mediocre meal at any old La Jolla restaurant.
Your Guide to the Best La Jolla Restaurants
Whether you are on a quick vacation or are a local searching for the best restaurants in La Jolla, we are confident that our La Jolla restaurants guide will satisfy every craving. So read on to discover mouthwatering meals worth your time in this cute-as-can-be seaside town!
11. Duke’s La Jolla
Kicking off our guide is a Hawaiian treasure with a fantastic menu and happy Aloha spirit. Duke’s is inspired by Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic surfing legend. The restaurant honors his iconic presence throughout the world by serving up tasty Hawaiian dishes. The back patio is breathtaking, overlooking La Jolla Cove, perfect for sea lion watching or taking in a magical sunset. The cuisine is fresh and memorable, especially when paired with the tropical tunes in the background. When you’re soaking in this beautiful La Jolla restaurant, you have to try the sautéed macnut and herb-crusted fresh fish. This entree is unbelievably flavorful and crisped to perfection. A pro-tip: be sure to call ahead for a reservation because the patio fills up quickly!
10. Richard Walker’s Pancake House
Next on our guide to the best restaurants in La Jolla is a local-favorite breakfast house that has been a Southern California staple since 2006. The Walker Family chose their classic rabbit logo to represent feelings of comfort and family, which is precisely how you feel when enjoying this La Jolla restaurant. Judging by the name of the restaurant, you’re obviously here for the gourmet pancakes, which are guaranteed to blow you away. The apple pancake with a thick, buttery, spongey base, complete with Granny Smith apples in a cinnamon glaze. It is 100% a necessity when ordering here. If you’re not into apples, their German pancakes are another great option—a more simple (but equally as tasty) breakfast classic.
9. Lupi Italian Restaurant
Picture this—warm ciabatta bread made in house daily served with fresh parmesan cheese and a dipping sauce of olive oil, pesto, and homemade marinara sauce. Are you drooling yet? This complimentary appetizer is reason enough to visit Lupi Italian Restaurant. Located on the south end of La Jolla in charming Bird Rock, Lupi has been around for 30 years and continues to impress with their refreshingly authentic handmade cuisine. Their menu offers everything from seafood pasta to large pizzas, lasagna, and gnocchi. You simply have to try the Tortelloni Verdi al Porcini to taste the most divine, creamy mushroom sauce you could ever imagine. Save some of your bread to soak up the leftover sauce from this dish!
8. Caroline’s Seaside Cafe
If you are looking for a go-to savory brunch spot with an oceanside patio, look no further. Caroline’s Seaside Cafe is one of the best La Jolla restaurants with a one-of-a-kind location, a relaxing vibe, and a perfect motto: “Simple, Fresh, and Natural.” Their menu is large and satisfying for any palate, including options like eggs, pancakes, tuna melts, and salads. There will most likely be a line out the door and you can’t choose your seat until you order, but it is worth the wait! The vegetable scramble is to die for and will leave you dreaming about the creamy, buttery, fluffy eggs for weeks. Be sure to get the potatoes on the side. For a more dense option, the Cove Burger knocks it out of the park. Chipotle Aioli, Onion Marmalade, local tomatoes, and more create a burger that you’ll want to devour in seconds. And an extra bonus: the Cafe offers a 30% discount for UCSD students with a valid student ID! We love local restaurant heroes!
7. Parakeet Cafe
Now, if you are looking for an elevated slice of avocado toast, look no further than Parakeet Cafe. From a fresh menu selection to the vibrant parakeet wallpaper, this inviting cafe is one you do not want to miss. It is built on the important philosophy that food always tastes better with high-quality ingredients you can trust. They source their products from local organic farms, and we promise you will taste the difference! We recommend the harvest avocado toast featuring tomatoes, pickled onions, basil, and balsamic vinaigrette. Their Raw Kale Salad and Parakeet Bowl are other popular dishes. Another bonus is that you’ll find their sister restaurant next door, Parakeet Juicery, which has some the best smoothies, juices, and açaí bowls in La Jolla. Finish your meal with the protein bowl from the Juicery, and your taste buds will thank you.
6. George’s at the Cove
George’s at the Cove is among the most picturesque La Jolla restaurants with its stellar ocean view. This three-level restaurant is the perfect combination of elegant and welcoming, and the food certainly does not disappoint. Their plates are eye-catching masterpieces, creative in both presentation and flavor. There are many noteworthy menu items here, such as the mussels with fries, corn seafood chowder, and lobster. Our favorite has to be the hanger steak. The creamed spinach and crispy onions alongside the perfectly crafted 8oz steak make this dish both unique and tasty. Because it is one of the best restaurants in La Jolla, it does get crowded, especially on the weekends. Be sure to visit their website beforehand and make a reservation for a quicker dining experience.
If you’re familiar with our other San Diego guides, you’ll recognize Puesto. Located in the heart of downtown La Jolla, the Puesto family of first-generation Mexican-Americans are continually inspired to create unique and tasteful tacos that satisfy everyone that comes through their doors. It is one of the most popular and best restaurants in La Jolla, known for their homemade blue corn tortillas, exquisite guac, and bold taco combinations. Filet mignon, chicken al castor, and baja fish are our favorite tacos, but their bowls, salads, and burritos are a great option as well.
4. El Pescador Fish Market
Locals and tourists alike are always in search of the best fish in this scenic ocean city. Let us direct you, fish lovers, to El Pescador, a fish market that has been impressing since 1974. In true fish market fashion, diners can purchase high-quality, fresh catches to-go and prepare the seafood at home. But we highly recommend taking a seat at their endearing back patio and enjoying their delicious catches in house, fresh off the grill. El Pescador is best known for their burritos and sandwiches, which we definitely recommend. Order the sea bass sandwich”borrego” style, which includes a toasted torta roll, cabbage, tomato, green onion, vinaigrette, and salt and pepper. This sandwich will have you dreaming about it for days.
3. Cheese Shop
The Cheese Shop is another excellent family-owned La Jolla classic that has been serving the town since 1972. This local favorite originally specialized in fine, imported cheese (hence the restaurant’s beloved name), but eventually grew and transitioned into what it is today, one of the more satisfyingly delicious La Jolla restaurants, best known for their top-notch sandwiches and their ever-addicting flourless, butterless, almond oatmeal cookies! They take pride in their home cooking, including various soups, hot sandwiches, and plenty of sides. You can’t go wrong with their popular turkey, jack cheese, and avocado sandwich on sourdough bread. It is perfect in every way. Make sure to add a side of macaroni salad and as many oatmeal cookies as you can. The restaurant closes at 4 p.m., so plan on stopping by for lunch or an early dinner.
2. Taco Stand
We couldn’t discuss the best restaurants in La Jolla without raving (once again) about The Taco Stand. This well-known crowd pleaser is authentic, affordable, and will leave you wishing you had ordered one more taco. Don’t be deterred by a line out the door, but visiting in the late afternoon is your best bet for a smaller line. If you are a breakfast burrito fan, go to Taco Stand from 9-12pm for their breakfast burritos, preferably the bacon and egg. It will blow you away! Another must-try, whether it’s in burrito form or as a taco, is their al pastor. It has a perfect kick from the pork, freshness from the cilantro, and sweetness from the pineapple—an ever-satisfying combination. Finish your meal with some warm made-to-order churros, accompanied by sweet and condensed milk for dipping, and we’re sure you’ll be quickly figuring out a time to go back.
1. Turmeric Thai Garden
Enjoy the gorgeous views of the ocean as you drive up the La Jolla hillside to the tastiest treasure on our guide to the best restaurants in La Jolla: Turmeric Thai Garden. This quaint, homey restaurant is a bit hidden (located behind the big Market and Deli sign), but don’t let that discourage you from enjoying some of the best Thai food in all of San Diego. Friendly staff, gorgeous plants and lights on the patio, and fresh Thai food. What more could you want? Their most beloved dishes are the drunken noodles and the panang beef curry, both of which have powerful, delicious flavor profiles.