With its year-round sunshine and sea views, San Diego does al fresco dining very well. Throw in all that fresh seafood, a booming gastronomy scene and some of the best craft beers in the region, and you can see why it’s a popular place to eat. The real problem isn’t finding a good rooftop restaurant, it’s choosing between them. For those looking to dine in the sky, we’re here to lend a helping hand. Here are seven of the best rooftop restaurants in San Diego.
Best Rooftop Restaurants in San Diego
1. Mister A’s
Boasting one of the most coveted views in San Diego, Mister A’s has become a bit of a local institution. Its prime location, in the heart of downtown on Banker’s Hill, offers brilliant views of the city skyline, all the way from the airport to the seaside. The menu is French-focussed, with a substantial wine menu to match. Expect dishes like gorgeous, garlicky black mussels Provençale and scallops in champagne butter. If you come for brunch it’s a little more laid back, with breakfast favourites like Eggs Benedict and southern staples like buttermilk-fried chicken and waffles. It’s still not a sneakers kind of destination though – unless they’re Pucci (and maybe not even then).
2. SKA Bar
For Asian flavours in the clouds (almost), locals hotfoot to Ska Bar. Up on the rooftop deck, you’ll find Asian-inspired cocktails, like the ‘Abnormal Heights’ made with cognac, cacao, Jagermeister, Thai tea, boba and cream, or the ‘Professor Oak’., made with nori-infused rye. It’s an exciting menu too, with four different bao buns to choose from, as well as drunken noodles, fried dumplings and papaya salads. It’s first-come-first-serve, operating until midnight from Sunday through to Wednesday and 2 am from Thursday to Saturday.
San Diego’s newest speakeasy is also now its largest. Opened in 2020 at the InterContinental Hotel, Garibaldi offers 120 seats, a patio bar and a full dining experience. The menu may be focussed on cocktails, but you’ll find frosty beers and good wine on there too. To get in, you’ll need to whisper your party’s name and password into the diving helmet, located in the hotel’s lobby. Inside, it’s all very nautical, inspired by the bright orange fish that’s frequenestly spotted along the coast. The food is strictly Italian, inspired by Sardinia and Sicily, offering obscure pasta shapes and authentic fish dishes. Don’t miss the Goat Cheese, Honey and Lavender Gelato. The views are excellent too.
4. Rustic Root
For good grub and craft cocktails in a laid-back atmosphere, Rustic Root is hard to beat. It serves up brilliant views over Sixth Avenue too. You’ll find all the classic cocktails here, as well as some creative concoctions like the ‘Impressing Churchill’, made with Buffalo Trace and ‘Thespians Request’, made with casa noble silver, curacao and cilantro coconut milk. The menu is refreshingly uncomplicated, divided into Meats, Birds, Seafood and Pasta. They’ve got scotch eggs too, so can do no wrong in our eyes.
Born and Raised is the other end of the spectrum – think tuxedoed staff, glamorous decor and jaw-dropping views of Little Italy. Elevated dining, in every sense of the word. The views are a big draw, but the food is the main reason for its popularity. Think dry-aged steak from the 40-square-foot glass-enclosed dry-aging room and butcher shop, pork chops with foraged mushrooms and fan-shaped loaf served with salty butter. It’s not cheap, and you’ll pay upwards of $48 for a Rib Eye steak, but the food definitely warrants the price.
Another Italian-inspired rooftop restaurant for the list, this time boasting views over La Jolla’s downtown rather than the seaside. The rooftop is receeded, which means you’ll get perfect views over the shoppers strolling the streets below. It serves up one of the best sunsets in town too, which sets behind the historic Grand Colonia Hotel in the distance. The menu is inspired by Italy’s coastline – think crispy octopus, crab and squid-ink mezzaluna pasta, and shrimp risotto. Fear not though, you’ll find wood-fired pizzas on the menu too. There’s an extensive cocktail, wine and beer list too.
Out in the North County, just one block off the bach, you’ll find Hello Betty Fish House. It offers one of the best views of Oceanside Pier in the area, as well as some of the best seafood. Up on the colourful rooftop bar, you can sit back and enjoy a frosty beer with ocean views, watching the surf and the sunset. The full menu is available up there too, including shrimp, ceviche, poke, and *those* epic calamari tacos.