7 Best Places to Eat in Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego
Gaslamp Quarter is worth the visit if you’re in San Diego. This historic district is packed with diverse nightlife and a fantastic selection of places to eat. There are entertainment options ranging from theaters, comedy, and music, and the architecture is rich in history. We’ve rounded up our favorite places to eat in the district to help you narrow the list on your next trip.
If you are looking for the absolute best restaurants in San Diego, look no further than our recommendations below.
Cafe 21 Gaslamp
If you’re looking for something fresh and different, Cafe 21 is the creative vision of a husband-and-wife culinary team committed to cooking fresh, from-scratch meals that feature locally sourced, natural ingredients. From wild-caught seafood to grass-fed beef and free-range chickens, their innovative culinary creations are first-class.
Cafe 21 offers an eclectic menu with a little something for everyone. They even cater to a variety of dietary needs like gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan diets.
The restaurant was founded in 2006 with its original location in University Heights. Looking to expand access to their excellent cuisine, the restaurant opened a second location in Gaslamp, adding live music and catering services to their dining experience.
Some signature dishes we recommend checking out at Cafe 21 include vegan French toast, overnight oats, and tiramisu pancakes. Cafe 21 also offers an extensive drink menu that includes wine and spirits, teas and coffees, and juices and sodas. The restaurant is also home to live music and events throughout the year.
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If you’re in the district and find yourself with a taste for fresh seafood, Lionfish modern coastal cuisine is a must-have. The menu focuses on fresh-caught seafood and seasonal ingredients. The culinary selections are the artistry of San Diego local chef Jojo Ruiz. Lionfish opened its doors in 2017.
Some dishes we recommend trying at Lionfish include the Sashimi Salad, Big-Eye Tuna Pizza, and Wagyu Beef Tataki.
You can count on this place to put a fresh twist on any dish. A selection of unique dishes with flawless presentation and a trendy atmosphere seals the deal on this Gaslamp staple. Whether you stop in for happy hour and sit down for a full-plate brunch, Lionfish is a great way to enjoy pacific fresh catches.
For carnivores looking to satisfy their steak and whiskey habits, the Gaslamp district offers something a little different. Huntress Steakhouse bills itself as an adventurous and energetic modern take on steak.
Enjoy the finest cuts of steak and the largest selection of Japanese whiskey on the west coast while enjoying a lively, contemporary atmosphere.
Huntress delivers on a spectacular dining experience that serves as the perfect highlight for your trip to Gaslamp or an anniversary dinner. Every detail from the atmosphere to the presentation will delight your senses.
From melt-in-your-mouth wagyu to a tomato soup with layers of flavor, Huntress offers more than meets the eye. They also offer gluten-free and dairy-free menus for those with food sensitivities.
While Huntress is definitely meat-focused, vegetarians can still enjoy themselves here. Some veggie-friendly dishes to check out include the Heirloom Beet Salad, Parmesan Truffle Steak Fries, and Blue Cheese-Topped Wild Mushrooms.
Sparks Gallery is the perfect setting for mid-sized events set in the Gaslamp district. By day, we’re home to a wonderfully curated collection of local art, and by night we’re the perfect intimate venue for private gatherings. Learn more today.
Another great seafood option in the district is Water Grill. Its convenient location and well-appointed decor give this restaurant an elegant ambiance. The restaurant features two floors and the perfect outdoor patio to enjoy San Diego weather.
Consider starting your meal off with an old-fashioned from the bar and farmed savory clams with chorizo. Or, indulge in the Monterey Bay spot prawns with a side of Mexican street corn. If you’re a fan of fresh oysters, the Water Grill offers a surprising variety. The quality of the food here is top-notch.
Water Grill also offers private dining events where you can choose from a buffet or pre-fixed menu. Water Grill also has locations in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Orange County, Las Vegas, and Denver.
Try a steakhouse that blends a chic take on steak with a little bit of gentlemen’s luxury. An elevated dining room provides an upscale dining experience, and fine touches like soft leather fabrics and intimate lighting allow guests to enjoy the Gaslamp the way it is intended.
While steak is the main attraction, you’ll find fresh fish and signature items like truffle fries at STK San Diego. For some, it’s a little spendy averaging $100 per person. But the impeccable service and luxurious detail only enhance the premium surf and turf dining options and classic drinks made with a new take.
STK also has a meat market that comes with the opportunity to join their Cut of the Month Club. You can choose between 3, 6, and 12-month subscription plans, and each month, you’ll receive signature steak rubs, cooking instructions, access to STK chef recipes and cooking demonstrations, and credits that can go toward the STK restaurant.
Related: Custom Murals by Sparks Gallery in Gaslamp Quarter
For a meal that feels like you’re enjoying a piece of history, Grant Grill fits the bill. This iconic Gaslamp eatery was founded in 1951 and has stood the test of time among downtown San Diego digs.
Grant Grill starts the morning off with an indulgent stack of buttermilk pancakes, then moves onto a bit of seasonal variety with a lunch lineup that includes sandwiches, salads, and lighter fares. The entire menu, from brunch to late-night cocktail plates, is crafted seasonally to take advantage of the best and freshest ingredients that San Diego has to offer.
Grant Grill also offers private dining and curated events, which include everything from live music to seasonal tasting menus to cask ale nights.
Grant Grill has been as much a part of San Diego history as the Gaslamp district itself. Best known for their mock turtle soup and the ‘Grant Grill Invasion’ for women’s rights. When you dine at the grill, you feel like you are making history in the moment.
For diners looking to take a sharp left from the typical lineup of steak, salads, and seafood, the Gaslamp district is home to a new-style Japanese cuisine experience. Nobu is the offering of a world-renowned Japanese Chef Nobu. You’re not likely to find better Black Cod Miso or Yellowtail Sashimi anywhere else.
Nobu also offers a Tanoshi Hour, where you can get discount cocktails and order from a selection of delicious tapas such as edamame, wagyu tacos, and shishito peppers.
Nobu is full of style that complements its innovative Japanese dishes. A black onyx sushi bar and whimsical fish basket pendant lights strike the perfect balance between classy sophistication and a hint of fun.
Fogo de Chão
While Fogo de Chão may be a chain, it still holds up as one of the best places to eat in the Gaslamp Quarter. Fogo de Chão is a full-service Brazilian steakhouse that serves food rodizio style. Rodizio is an all-you-can-eat restaurant style where courses are served right off of the cooking pit.
This serving style will make it feel like you’re eating in a restaurant right in the heart of Brazil. At Fogo de Chão, you’ll be served a variety of barbecue meats right off the skewer by roving waiters.
Fogo de Chão is a meat lover’s paradise, offering everything from chicken to lamb to pork to steak. While the restaurant isn’t as well-known for its side dishes, they serve as the perfect complement to your meat entree. Some of the restaurant’s famous side dishes include garlic mashed potatoes, farofa (a yucca flour sauteed with bacon), caramelized bananas, and polenta.
And, make sure to save room for dessert, as Fogo de Chão offers everything from molten chocolate cake to creme brulee to New York-style cheesecake to passion fruit mousse. Because of the open serving style, this is a great place to book for a birthday or with a large group of friends.
If you’re looking for some delicious family-style Italian food. Osteria Panevino is the place to go. The restaurant offers a weekly rotating menu, a happy hour menu, and, a fan favorite, a group dining menu. They also have a traditional dinner menu that offers classic Italian dishes such as Margarita pizza, bruschetta, and gnocchi.
Additionally, the restaurant offers some delicious side dishes, such as truffle fries, roasted fingerling potatoes, and broccoli originati. Even if you’re not very hungry, Osteria Panevino is still a great place to pop in for a cocktail or glass of wine. They have an extensive Italian wine list, and they also offer wines from Argentina, France, and of course, California. Signature cocktails include the Caribbean Kiss, the Italian Sunset, and the Blueberry Lemontini.
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The Takeaway on the Best Places to Eat in Gaslamp, San Diego
The Gaslamp district in San Diego is full of rich history and lively entertainment. It draws the crowds, and for a good reason. It also attracts just the right kind of restaurants. You’ll have no shortage of options when you visit the district; in fact, it will be hard to pick just one. Our top picks focus on the restaurants that offer pure culinary artistry and fresh eats, ranging from the best ingredients to dishes that are new and different.
Sparks Gallery is home to local contemporary artwork and showcases Southern California creative talent. We are located in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter. Contact us about your next private event.