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.
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.
The word lighthouse conjures images of stormy seas and a beacon leading ships to safety. Tom Ham’s Lighthouse largely fits that motif, leading diners onto a comfy dining deck with views of San Diego’s stellar sunsets and downtown skyline. Tom came to San Diego in the 1950s with a love of California history that still echoes today, thanks to his collection of nautical memorabilia that still hangs throughout the newly remodeled space, which was once a functioning lighthouse, warning sailors of the dangerous bay waters ahead. Despite the dusty history, the dining atmosphere is very much still alive inside, with white tablecloths serving as a backdrop for fresh seafood entrées and fortifying brunch staples.
Since 1970, diners have flocked to World Famous to savor fresh coastal cuisine in a charming space with rustic wooden walls, wooden tables, and views of Pacific Beach's pale sand and glittering ocean. Chef Chris Bates crafts new specials each day depending on what looks best at the market, often centering dishes around mahi-mahi, Pacific red snapper, and other fish that leap directly from the sea into his pots and pans. He and his team also carve prime rib onto baguettes, grill hand-cut steaks, and steam lobster tails to serve with drawn butter. Bartenders mix bloody marys and peppered-vodka oyster shooters, pour wines, and craft dessert cocktails to enhance the flavorful meals.