It's hard to imagine a seaside dining experience more complete than the one at Dolphins Restaurant, Bar & Banquet. Sailboat masts bob in the harbor just beyond floor-to-ceiling windows, a red canoe hangs from the ceiling to complement nautical flags on the walls, and at the entrance visitors are greeted by a bronze sculpture depicting a human pyramid of dolphins. And that's before you get a look at the menu. Classic seafood dishes such as lobster tails and grilled teriyaki mahi mahi fill plates during dinner service but also during weddings, when tables are draped in white cloth, decorated with floral arrangements, and cleared of all single people. The restaurant also offers a weekly Sunday brunch, with more than 50 items to choose from.
At the sushi bar, chefs wrap colorful seafood and vegetable combinations into 25 largely simple rolls, including the Chef's Marina, which contains tempura rock shrimp and avocado, and the Tijuana, which pairs spicy tuna with roasted jalapenos. In the evening, a tree-studded patio glows with light from several fire-pits, and occasionally the whole restaurant fills with music from live bands, mariachi bands, and DJs.
Step back in time to the 1950s and meet friends for a special dinner at Lou & Mickey’s. Designed as a post-World War II supper club, the dining room features green, leather upholstery insets on the walls, dark wood archways and an opulent tile floor, imported from Italy. Time has a way of standing still at Lou & Mickey’s, where the attached cocktail lounge sports a solid, zinc bar – rare for its temperature controlling properties– that is never too cold or too hot, a comfortable feature for the Convention Center neighborhood where days can turn from a chilly, marine layer to blazing sunshine in a few short hours. The menu honors that mid-American past with contemporary updates to its steakhouse and seafood specialties, without losing sight of the heritage that has kept it going. A large patio waits outside but hardly competes with the elegant dining room.
Fresh, sustainable seafood and California-inspired sushi are the focus at this waterfront restaurant in the San Diego Bay. A spacious, breeze-kissed patio overlooking the marina is great for enjoying sunset cocktails and appetizers like meaty Dungeness crab cakes or shiitake chicken spring rolls, while the inside dining room is characterized by soft music and moody lighting. Many entrÌ©es, including the Maine lobster paella and Pacific ahi tuna, are gluten-free, while vegetarians are accommodated with the roasted beet salad and Buddha roll stuffed with roasted bell peppers, asparagus, cucumber and yamagobo, and topped with avocado and kabayaki sauce. Parties looking for a unique, hands-on experience can book a private dining experience at the Chef‰Ûªs Table, where chef de cuisine Laura De Martin tailors a menu specially suited to guests‰Ûª tastes.
Locals and guests of the Humphreys Half Moon Inn & Suites flock to Humphreys on Shelter Island not just for chef Paul Murphy‰Ûªs winning global-meets-California cuisine, or its dreamy waterfront setting in the marina, but also for its jazz, blues and rock live music acts, popular Champagne brunch, great wine list and stylish, contemporary, yet kid-friendly, environment. Diners dig into calamari, swordfish or braised short ribs in a breezy, creamy setting with soothing views of stylish yachts seen through floor-to-ceiling windows. Wee ones are more than welcome with kids menus, booster seats and coloring books. Humphreys can get quite lively in the evening, when diners sup in the candle-lit setting and sip on cocktails from the full bar. They even have a separate outdoor concert venue that seats 1400.
Can’t make it down to Baja, Mexico as often as you’d like? You can recreate the experience right in San Diego at Mariscos El Pulpo, where practically the only thing missing is the sea. Inside, the color blue fills the vision from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, while Mexican seafood fills the menu. The namesake dish is pulpo, or octopus in Spanish, and it’s featured in a variety of preparations – grilled, spiced or sautéed. The beer flows cold and there’s a daily happy hour that runs until closing, making it more than just an in-and-out eatery. In fact, Mariscos El Pulpo may well be one of the only traditional Mexican seafood spots in all of downtown, which means savvy Gaslamp visitors can swing through for authentic and fresh flavors, with a bottle of beer on the side to kick off the evening.
Stretching out across the waterfront of the San Diego Bay, the fun-loving interior Buster's Beach House & Longboard Bar embodies the old-school sentiments of luaus and hula girls, California-style. Whether you're visiting for happy hour to catch a game or during dinner with the family, the chefs put together a menu of treats that features highlights of macadamia-nut encrusted chicken and famous two-foot-long "longboard pizzas." With three private event spaces, Buster's party planners can book shindigs for up to 350 people complete with a luau-style buffet, cocktail service, or seated plate service. A rotation of entertainers also includes acoustic artists and musicians shredding on double-necked ukuleles on select nights.