15 Romantic Eateries Recommended by Downtown San Diego Insiders

Alluring eateries for Valentine's Day, or hot spots for you and your beloved any day of the week

Valentine’s Day is February 14. You may still have time to book a great table at a hip and happening restaurant.

Or, you know what, celebrate your paramour with a great nosh on another day.

Here’s a motto to live by: “If you love someone, book that romantic table after the Hallmark holiday. If they love you, they’ll share a dessert any day.”

Guided in part by that homespun advice, here are a handful of recommendations for romantic restaurants, picked by insiders featured in the San Diego Sun’s “Living In The City” questionnaire.

These urban experts know firsthand the best places to light a fire—be it in your heart or under a pizza in a wood-fired brick oven.


Mais, oui: La Bonne Table.

“When I first met my wife, Alicia, she was living on Bankers Hill,” The Columbia District’s Whitney Treadwell says. “She talked about this classic French restaurant at the corner of Pennsylvania and Fifth Avenue. We went and I was hooked. La Bonne Table is our favorite place for date night. It’s family run and has a friendly staff. The owner, Renaud, cooks. His wife greets guests. It’s a traditional and intimate setting—about a dozen tables on the first floor of a residence. Order a French 75 cocktail, try the Cote de Porc Forestiere (pork chop) with potato gratin, and finish with Crepes Suzette. Tres magnifique!”

[Cover photo: Whitney and Alicia.]


Craig and Myrna’s first date was at Davanti Enoteca. It led to wedding bells.

Craig took me to Davanti Enoteca in Little Italy on our first date,” Marina District’s Myrna Marston says. “We both lived in Little Italy, so it was a nice walk down India Street. I could hardly eat—because it was our first date. But we shared an arugula insalata and risotto riccio di mare (18-month-aged carnaroli rice, rock shrimp, sea urchin, pecorino and other wonderful stuff). Davanti is lively and romantic (read: dimly lit, always good). It must have worked. That first date was four years ago. We got married this past December.”


Lovely Lumi, on a Gaslamp Quarter rooftop.

“Upon reflection, my idea of ‘romantic’ isn’t the Hallmark vision of roses and fairy tales, but my restaurant pick is Lumi,” East Village resident Emily Mason says. It’s on a rooftop in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter. [Huntress steakhouse is on the ground floor below Lumi.] The sushi and pizzas are by world-class chef Akira Back. Lumi’s open-air ambiance is warmed by rooftop fire pits. My boyfriend, Joe, and I, sat in the nook of the restaurant enjoying the sky, fine wine and each other.”


Danny and Alina enjoy San Diego’s version of the Love Boat.

“The Hornblower Valentine’s Premier Dinner Cruise is a very romantic experience,” says Danny Rolls, a Marina District resident. “Alina and I stood on the deck of the boat while we cruised through the San Diego Harbor. We saw incredible views of the city while we sipped champagne. The dinner was terrific. Afterward we dancing and just enjoyed each other’s company.”


Cowboy Star knocks the socks off Kaushal Patel.

This rustic-design eatery is an eclectic mix of fine dining that pairs contemporary American cuisine with a Western flair. “My pick for most romantic restaurant is Cowboy Star,” East Village’s Kaushal Patel says. “It’s perfect to just grab wine and dessert at the bar. That bar will knock your socks off—and they have the best bread pudding I’ve ever had!”


Love is also in the air at these downtown San Diego heartthrob eateries recommended by the San Diego Sun. Here are short takes, listed alphabetically:

The bar at Animae.


Marina District steakhouse with Asian culinary influences. Specializing in Japanese Wagyu. Sophisticated and eclectic.


Side-by-side brother/sister eateries in Little Italy. Bencotto (which translates to “perfectly cooked”) is urban chic. Monello is more timeless, less trendy, serving Milanese pastas and dishes.


Greek for “Most Beautiful” Callie is the new kid on the block in East Village. Chef Travis Swikard quickly earned the Michelin Bib Gourmand award. Book in advance for reservations.


This enormous and sexy eatery on Harbor Island offers inspiring views of downtown San Diego. Try the paella for two on a special Valentine’s Day menu.


Chef Deborah Scott’s Harbor Island dual-sided enclave is the perfect spot for staring: Into your date’s eyes. Out across San Diego Bay. Down onto a plate of sesame-seared yellowfin tuna.

Cheers to city views from Island Prime/C Level.


Both sensual and sexy, this spot in Little Italy North is also a recipient of the Michelin Bib Gourmand award. The menu: A love letter to discerning foodies.


A two-level, indoor-outdoor architectural beauty, this Little Italy North space is an aphrodisiac that’ll spark romance from appetizer to desert.


The Pendry Hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter dishes out upscale elegance at Lionfish, a two-story monument to hip and healthy fresh-catch fish and other seasonal offerings.

MR. A’s

New management, but still the same top quality American cuisine and prime rooftop views of the downtown skyline.


Meticulously prepared food and cocktails prepared in this Marina District outpost are both eclectic and exotic. SDSun


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