America’s southwesternmost metropolis, a gateway to Mexico and the Pacific, San Diego is as scenic as they come. In any major urban area, one cannot avoid encountering a heterogeneous pastiche of dining options; in a city like San Diego, however, where between any two blinks appears a postcard view, the restaurants become inextricably linked to the kind of outdoor atmosphere they offer as well as the quality of their dishes. Of course, navigating a vast landscape of options can be overpowering and laden with confusion, so here, for the benefit of anyone looking to eat in the San Diego sun, is a collection of a few top spots to dine outdoors in the city proper.
Island Prime/C Level: Essentially two restaurants in one, Island Prime & C Level is actually supported by wooden stilts above Harbor Island and the water. The view from the terrace seating of San Diego, Coronado and the water is thankfully unobstructed, and there’s no skimping on the seafood-focused menu, either.
Café Chloe: “Where East Village meets Paris chic” is the way Café Chloe describes itself, and there’s no doubt that, though set squarely in downtown San Diego and many thousands of miles from France, the feel in the street seating area is extraordinarily reminiscent of a bistro near the Eiffel Tower. Everything matches the pleasant ambience, including the wonderful, French-inspired food.
Busalacchi’s A Modo Mio: When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, it’s probably happening at Busalacchi’s. This Italian restaurant, actually named for its creator and head chef, offers an unbelievably nice patio dining area outside of its unbelievably nice indoor dining room. Though you’re on downtown’s 5th street, you’d swear you’re lounging by a Tuscan villa, or at least some place more Italian than Southern California.
Bleu Boheme: Owner/chef Ken Irvine’s stated intention with Bleu Boheme is for it to be “a place of well-being and happiness,” and it certainly has a place on the map of happy outdoor dining spots in San Diego. With a pan-French, Bohemian vibe, the café offers street tables in front of a façade so artfully conceived that you’ll feel like you instantaneously jumped into a Cezanne just sitting down for brunch.
Tom Ham’s Lighthouse: Tom Ham’s Lighthouse probably beats out the others on our list in terms of most imaginative eating areas. If you can believe it, at the recently renovated and reopened surf-and-turf establishment, patrons can eat on an outdoor dining deck with a functional, maintained lighthouse attached to it. The view, as is usually the point in lighthouses, is panoramic, and the décor is nautical and charming to match.