Where to Eat, Drink and Sleep in San Diego

I must have really loved San Diego as this is now my third blog post about the place! I went not knowing what to expect from the food and drink there but came back about half a stone heavier. It was definitely worth it.

Here are a few of my food and drink highlights from San Diego, all of which were in Little Italy or the Gaslamp Quarter.

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Little Italy
The Waterfront Bar and Grill
It’s always fun to visit a city’s oldest bar and The Waterfront Bar and Grill in San Diego is no different. Although it’s a bit of a dive bar, this place has good music, cheap beer and a good atmosphere. What more could you want?

Carruth Cellars Wine Garden
Somewhere much classier (which we found totally by accident) is the Carruth Cellars Wine Garden. Described as an ‘Urban Winery, their wine secret wine garden is just perfect. I could have stayed there all evening tasting wines and nibbling on one of their cheese platters, but we had dinner reservations so sadly couldn’t stay.

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Carruth Cellars Wine Garden, San Diego

Kettner Exchange
This Little Italy restaurant describes its fare as ‘progressive American cuisine’ so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. The modern two story space feels more like a bar than a restaurant; a blend of wood, metal and concrete give it a slightly industrial feel.

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Octopus dish at Kettner Exchange, San Diego

I always have food envy when dining out, when the food arrives I often wish I’d ordered something someone else is having. I also like to try everything so the sharing plate based menu at Kettner Exchange was perfect for me.

Some of the unusual dishes worked better than others, but you could never accuse Kettner Exchange of being safe or boring! I rarely notice background music in restaurants but the soundtrack to our meal at Kettner Exchange was noticeably brilliant.

If this restaurant was in San Francisco, I’m sure it would be a) more expensive and b) very difficult to get a reservation for! I really rated it because of the unusual menu and great atmosphere.

Juniper & Ivy
Also located in Little Italy there is no hint of Italian on the menu at Juniper & Ivy, which describes itself as ‘refined American food with left coast edge’. Again, this description left me stumped as to what I could expect to eat.

We had booked Juniper & Ivy in advance for our anniversary knowing it was a little pricier than places we usually visit.

Just like Kettner Exchange, Juniper & Ivy occupies a large, modern space. We also found the menu easy to share, choosing two starters to share and a main course each.


My only criticism is that some of the food was a little too rich and could have been lighter. I felt that with some of the dishes they were trying to be too clever and over-complicating things, the tuna Wellington I had was an example of this. Overall, we had an unforgettable meal and left feeling full and happy.

Juniper & Ivy remembered our anniversary and gave us a complimentary dessert wine and piece of cake at the end of our meal which I appreciated and thought was a lovely gesture.

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Banana Split at Juniper & Ivy San Diego

Gaslamp Quarter
Despite me saying in my San Diego blog post I found the Gaslamp Quarter underwhelming, we ended up eating here a few times as our hotel was close by.

Mariscos El Pulpo
We were told we must get fish tacos when is San Diego, so after dumping our bags at our hotel when we arrived around lunchtime on Saturday, we headed straight out to Mariscos El Pulpo (a recommendation from our Lyft driver) to sample some.

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Fish Tacos at Mariscos El Pulpo Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego

This was a filling and delicious lunch, but honestly, fish tacos are fish tacos and they didn’t taste any different to those I’ve had anywhere else!

Full Moon
Sticking with the Gaslamp Quarter on Saturday night, our aim was to go to Bang Bang Sushi  (which turns into a bar/club after service) but instead ended up at Full Moon Sushi. 

The restaurant is quite dark so the photographs, unfortunately, don’t do it justice! We loved the unbelievably fresh sushi and the fast, friendly service. This meal was a great start to our trip and more reasonably priced than Bang Bang Sushi.

We also sampled a beer flight in the Gaslamp Quarter, sitting at the bar at The Hopping Pig to do so. The Hopping Pig has a great beer selection and the food looked pretty good too!

The US Grant
We were celebrating a special occasion (our 2 year wedding anniversary) so we decided to treat ourselves to a nice hotel; the US Grant. This was partly due to it being part of the Starwood Preferred program but we also liked the location close to the Gaslamp Quarter on the edge of Downtown.

The hotel was wonderful, with lovely helpful staff and beautiful decor throughout. The only downside is that it doesn’t have a pool, but guests can use the pool at the nearby Westin.

Travel + Leisure have the US Grant on their list of their 4 favorite hotels in San Diego, along with the Omni, La Valencia and the Pendry. I would certainly stay there again, but it would need to be a special occasion!

Although it might look from this post that we did nothing but stuff our faces in San Diego, we worked up our appetites by visiting the San Diego Zoo Safari Park as well as other tourist areas and attractions. You can read about these in my other San Diego blog posts!


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