San Diego the Cali-Baja scene

San Diego
San Diego

With a mild year-round climate, proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, rich agricultural resources and an unquestionable influence from its vicinity to México, it’s no wonder San Diego has become a nucleus of hot spots to dine, demonstrating it can offer more than sand and surf.

San Diego stands in the middle of two very powerful influences: the California fare distinguished for its devotion of using fresh local ingredients and pursuit of constantly renovating its cooking techniques, and Mexico’s Baja Med cuisine, a food revolution that began in Tijuana, Mexico and is gaining worldwide recognition for combining traditional Mexican ingredients with those of the Mediterranean.

Thanks to the daring chefs who have created a dining experience that speaks to locals, San Diego’s culinary landscape blends these two influences into a delicious Cali-Baja scene. In no particular order here are the top 5 restaurants serving up Cali-baja fresh seafood. If you haven’t check out the beer scence, check out my previous post – San Diego’s Craft Beer Culture.

Harbor House

Based in the bustling Seaport Village surrounded by sweeping views of San Diego’s Big Bay and Coronada Island, Harbor house has been serving fresh fish and shellfish since it opened in 1980. It has become the iconic seafood restaurant of Seaport Village.

Order the:

  • Coconut Fried Shrimp with a slightly sweet papaya salsa
  • Classic Maine Lobster Bisque: Caress your palate with the delicate flavors of lobster, shrimp, cream, cognac, and a “small shot” of sherry

Coasterra Restaurant

Offering Modern Mexican cuisine at its premiere bayfront dining located on Harbor Island in San Diego. The 28,000 sq. ft. restaurant, lounge, banquet facility & floating event center has sweeping views of San Diego Bay and the San Diego. For over 33 years the Cohn family have been serving up fresh cali-baja seafood.

Order the:

  • Mariscada: ahi tuna poke, ceviche mixto, oysters, mexican white shrimp, alaskan snow crab, mignonette, salsa roja, horseradish, lemon (gf)
  • Seafood Cazuela: black mussels, baja scallops, octopus, mexican white shrimp, spicy tomato broth, roasted poblanos, flour tortillas (gf*)

The Oceanaire

Voted as the best seafood restaurant in America, The Oceanaire utilizes not only San Diego’s fine seafood but also has the freshest seafood flown in daily from around the world. The staff will help take you through the menu as well as help you pair your meal with the perfect wine

Recommend to try:

  • Miso glazed Iceland Cod: Yuzu butter sauce, toasted sesame and sugar snap peas
  • Grilled wild Alaska Coho Salmon: Roasted summer squash, marble potato and chimichurri

Anthony’s Fish Grotto of La Mesa

Opened in La Mesa over 50 years ago, and has been serving up delicious seafood to locals and visitors alike since then. Located on a private, spring-fed lake, the restaurant offers stunning views as well as an extensive menu.

In addition to a daily selection of seafood fresh from the oceans, Anthony’s offers long-time favourites, like world-famous clam chowders and fish and chips using the secret recipes developed by founder Catherine “Mama” Ghio over 70 years ago. Continue the Anthony experience at home by picking up something special at their full retail market located at the restaurant. All family members are welcome including the furry ones as Anthony’s offers lake-side, dog-friendly dining.

Recommend to try:

  • Big Bay Combo: Grilled garlic butter shrimp, a crab cake, and a salmon fillet
  • Whole Rex Sole: Grill-broiled and brushed with lemon parsley butter, then de-boned at your table

Tidal Paradise Point

Craft and catch converge at Tidal, perched where land meets sea on the shores of Mission Bay. At the helm is Chef DJ Tangalin, curating a thoughtful selection of local seafood and craft beverages that, like the ever changing tides, shift seasonally at Mother Nature’s whim. Anchored by deep Mediterranean influences, Chef DJ presents modern, light adaptations of traditional seafood dishes such as olive oil poached halibut, ricotta gnudi and chicken confit. A carefully culled compilation of domestic cheeses are designed to bookend any meal.

Order the:

  • Maine Lobster Omelet: spinach + thyme-roasted tomato + melted leeks + rosemary red bliss potatoes
  • Crab Fried Rice: sweet crab + English peas + fried egg + citrus ponzu + garlic

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