A visit to San Diego would not be complete without a stop in the Gaslamp Quarter. This neighborhood is generally considered 4th, 5th & 6th Ave between Harbor and Broadway in downtown San Diego. The Gaslamp Quarter was originally called New Town in 1869 when it hosted the first port in San Diego. Many brothels and bars were established to cater to the sailors and merchants whose ships landed in the newly dug-out harbor. For a long time, most of this area was considered sketchy, and well-heeled individuals wouldn’t be seen south of Broadway. With the construction of the Horton Plaza shopping mall in 1985 and the added effort to renew the neighborhood for tourism, more locals and visitors felt comfortable making the Gaslamp their go-to spot for dining and drinking.
These days the Gaslamp Quarter food selection is filled with a range of restaurants from longstanding hole-in-the-wall pizza joints to brand new restaurant concepts with some big names in the back kitchen. Whether you’re looking for fine dining, or something a little more casual, here are some awesome places to eat next time you are in the neighborhood and want to try some Gaslamp restaurants.
The Gaslamp is such a convenient place for brunch. It’s right off the trolley line and if you are visiting from out of town, it’s likely you are staying in a hotel nearby. Werewolf is a great place to start your day. The brunch menu includes traditional breakfast staples such as biscuits and gravy, mixed with obvious San Diego picks like breakfast burritos. You might choose something a lot different like a Korean bulgogi hash to wake you up in the morning. With brunch running till 2pm, you should have plenty of time to enjoy yourself.
Of course, Mexican food should be on your list of foods to eat, pretty much anywhere in San Diego. El Pulpo wants to bring Baja, Mexico to you with their traditional Ensenada-style food. Enjoy their namesake “pulpo” (octopus) prepared a variety of ways such as in ceviche, sauteed with mojo de ajo or grilled for your tacos. The non-octopus seafood options are numerous and they even have a few steak dishes. You can enjoy a cold beer with your fish tacos and don’t forget to take advantage of their late-running Happy Hour.
You’ll find Meze located at 6th Ave near Petco Park. It’s a great place to catch dinner and a show. Order the shrimp and ouzo saganaki and watch it set on fire tableside. Then stay late to enjoy the weekend belly dancing show. With an array of seating options, you’ll be sure to find a table perfect for your group, big or small. Besides delicious Greek fusion cuisine, Meze has some tasty cocktails. These days we are loving the Athens Mule. They also have a house salsa/hot sauce that is so good you might even order a jar to take home.
Step into Double Standard for dinner and select your meal from an ever-changing menu featuring ingredients sourced from sustainable farms in the area. A cornucopia of vegetable based appetizers starts you off, while for a second round you can choose from handmade pastas, locally sourced proteins and pizzas made with California cheeses. Chef Chris Gentile is an anomaly in the industry, becoming the Executive Chef at Double Standard by 24. While trained in 5-star traditional establishments, his youth brings a progressive spin to this New American/Italian spot.
Searsucker holds a prime spot right in the middle of the Gaslamp Quarter at the corner of 5th and Market. Considered “New American Classic”, Top Chef Brian Malarkey made a winner of a restaurant that now has multiple locations nationwide . This social dining restaurant is a great place for a fun date night or a big gathering of friends (just make sure to make a reservation). Try the duck-fat fries, a craft cocktails and of course that New American staple, brussels sprouts.
If you are looking for a more exotic take on dinner dining experience, you can’t go wrong stepping into Bandar for Persian food. You’ll find Bandar on the north end of the Gaslamp Quarter near Broadway on 4th Ave. Bandar has a wide selection for any food preference from steaks and chicken to seafood and vegetarian options. Their lamb dishes are a real winner and of course there is a varied selection of mixed rice to eat on along with your protein. This is also a great place to stop if you are in need of halal meats or gluten-free fare.
Of course, now that you have eaten and walked around for a bit, it’s time for dessert. You should congratulate yourself on your excellent meal choice by heading into Le Parfait Paris for a sweet treat. While this French patisserie has an excellent selection of macarons (try the lavender) you will also find a generous selection of french pastries such as eclairs, fruit tarts and cakes. San Diego is a fan, Le Parfait Paris has four storefront/vendor spots in San Diego with two more opening soon.
If you are interested in learning more about the sordid history of the Gaslamp Quarter you might like to attend our guided tour of the neighborhood. The Brothels, Bites and Booze tour runs up to 6 times weekly. This tour is also available privately for groups of 10+ people.
Street parking in the Gaslamp Quarter can be iffy but there are a lot of parking garages and paid lots in the area. Most of these are clearly marked. Ridesharing services are very active in the area, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting a ride back at the end of the night.0