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May 1, 2012 11:30 AM

San Diego - Great weather, but where is the outside dining?

I am constantly searching for a restaurant to enjoy the sun and weather we pay for here in America’s Finest City. I have dreams of a large SUNNY grassy area that may have a view or some sort of garden, something that includes the color green and is outside… A place where parking is free/easy and the vibe is relaxed and not touristy…Time and time again, I find a small collection of wobbly tables facing the parking lot, golf course (lol) or tucked in the back facing a brick wall.

Stone World Bistro, Bernardo Winery, Hacienda de Vega and a few others in La Jolla (damn that parking) are fine but am I missing something…? Is that all the green space restaurants we have in a city of over three million people?

Where are the outdoor patios, gardens or seating areas in San Diego?

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  1. Piatti's
    Crab Catcher
    LJ Shores resto
    Island Prime at Harbor Island
    Fish Market Downtown back patio
    Brigantine Del Mar
    Kitchen 1540
    Flavor Del Mar
    JRDN at Tower 23
    Rooftop bars at Marriott Gaslamp, Andaz and Hotel Solamar

    Agree for America's Finest City we should have a plethora of outside dining resto's.
    Good call on Hacienda de of my 'sacred cow' faves.

    1. La Villa in little italy has an outdoor patio which seems like it would be nice once summer comes. This summer will be their first summer.

      I think there has to be some kind of law against open air restaurants, patio dinning and outdoor drinking in san diego.

      San Diego is literally the only place I have encountered across the globe with nice weather that doesn't embrace it from a restaurant, bar and nightclub perspective. It is almost bizarre.

      1. Amaya at the Grand Del Mar
        Argyle at Aviara. Yeah there is a golf course, but nice lagoon views.
        AR Valentine has a small patio. golf and ocean views.
        Casa Bandini. nice garden patio. a little tight seating though.
        Cosmopolitan reworked the old Bandini space and has a nice patio with foliage that is now starting to grow in.

        1. May want to hit a farmers market or Little Italy, pick up some tasty bites a stick of fresh bread, fresh fruit and something to drink, head for a picnic area on harbor on one of our beach areas.

          1. "Where are the outdoor patios, gardens or seating areas in San Diego?"

            They're out there, just not where the average tourist would probably want them, which would be at the beach. The coast is too expensive, and not enough available/zoned places to put new places with space for a patio and outdoor seating. As for the rest of the county, consider that San Diego is essentially a massive suburb with a very small downtown. And like most places in California, you have to drive 20 minutes to get anywhere, which means that any places either have to join an existing strip mall or try and go it alone in isolation in an area where people probably wouldn't frequent enough to sustain your business.

            As for the beachfront....between the stretches of houses which have blocked off so much of the coast, the state-owned beaches and parks, and the enormous military bases, there really isn't that much available area to get developed on those beaches that we're supposedly known for. The downtown area on the water is surrounded by a convention center, naval shipyard, harbor terminals, and an airport. Not exactly Waikiki, with your feet in the sand. Also, keep in mind that the coastal geography of San Diego isn't the same as say, Florida. We have bluffs and cliffs for large stretches on the coastline. For much of the beachfront where the coastal communities are, there are already freeways and busy streets and the real estate is long carved up, so expansion is limited. Some areas are getting so rundown that it's not even worth bothering (Imperial Beach, Oceanside), and for many of the others, the locals have a heavy say in how much the coast can get built up (Del Mar, Carlsbad, Encinitas), which makes new developments unlikely.

            Also, the coast is actually overcast for a good part of the year with the marine layer. We San Diegans call 65 degree weather "cold", so naturally people would prefer to sit indoors a lot of the time. They can get enough sunshine in their backyards, or driving around town in their car. It's just not the same for us who have grown up here as it would be for someone who comes from back east where every breath of cool wind and every ray of sunshine is "magical". We are spoiled by our weather and geography, but not enough to want to exploit it any more than we have.

            For inland, there are plenty of nice places, and small cafes, patios, etc. It's just not what people think of when they think San Diego. They assume that all of San Diego is one big beach walk, with the waves crashing right up onto the Gas Lamp. There's even a travel commercial on TV running right now where someone mentions that they're taking surf lessons in San Diego, and the picture pulls back to show a picture of downtown surrounded by beaches. Funny.

            4 Replies
            1. re: cookieshoes

              There are a few on the beach dining options up on the north coast. I will make the suggestion to keep it simple and don't set your expectations too high and you can have an enjoyable time on the beach. Lunch seems to be a better bet than dinner at most of these places. Yes and you can flame away.
              Posideon in Del Mar only when they pull that heavy plastic tarp away.
              Sbicca while not on the beach, the patio has nice ocean views and 15th street isn't, as busy as 101
              Beach house in Cardiff, the best ocean view of the bunch, but the food, nice staff though.
              Pacific Coast Grill hasn't opened up yet but the view will be good, and the food at their old location was decent.
              Vigilucchi's off of Tamarck. Nice view but looking across 101. the food is about the same as the other restaurants in the chain.

              1. re: cookieshoes

                I see your point, however it is just simply a matter of opening some big windows and knocking down some walls to get some fresh air going, isn't it?

                Think Underbelly. That place is now open air.

                It is a revolutionary revelation in san diego, however, anywhere else in the world it is standard.

                Just make some big windows and open them.

                Or skip putting up the walls.

                Outdoor, open air dining for all.

                Problem solved.

                1. re: cookieshoes

                  "There's even a travel commercial on TV running right now where someone mentions that they're taking surf lessons in San Diego, and the picture pulls back to show a picture of downtown surrounded by beaches. Funny."

                  I just saw that. It is a hotwire commercial.

                  Yeah, you are right, the waves are breaking right in front of downtown.

                  Oh well, maybe it will bring in some more tourism business.