Spiny Lobster Season Is Upon Us! Here Are The Top San Diego Spots To Sample The California Delicacy

October 3, 2020

San Diego's spiny lobster season is upon us! This means the local delicacy will be available all over America's Finest City in the coming weeks. Here are our top picks for where to get spiny lobster around San Diego County.

Every year from the Saturday before the first Wednesday in October to the Wednesday immediately after March 15, recreational lobster diving is permitted in San Diego County to those with a California Department of Fish & Wildlife Spiny Lobster Report Card and California recreational fishing license. Unlike its well-known East Coast brethren, known colloquially as Maine lobster, California and Baja's spiny lobster lack large front claws and have tail meat known to be firm, sweet, delicate and mild. Being commercial fishermen cannot begin catching lobster until Wednesday, October 7, most restaurants will not start serving them until that day. Here we run down the top spots around San Diego to get a taste of the California delicacy. 

Mitch's Seafood, Point Loma - This is one of our favorite eateries in San Diego and we make it a point each year to visit for their spiny lobster special (pictured above), as they get their catch directly from the fisherman at the adjacent docks and it is as fresh as it comes. Diners can get a half or full lobster "Puerto Nuevo style" - fried "a la plancha" and served with tortillas, slaw, rice, beans and elote-seasoned corn. It's absolutely delicious! Mitch's will also be serving a Lobsterman’s Stew - their fisherman’s stew with a 1/2 lobster added.

Puerto Nuevo Style Lobster from 
The Fish Market Downtown
Top Of The Market
, Downtown / The Fish Market, Del Mar & Downtown
These sister concepts will be serving spiny lobster all season long in a variety of ways. The Fish Market always does the much-loved Puerto Nuevo style preparation and also offers spiny lobster as an add on in some of their dishes, including the much loved cioppino. Top of the Market usually does something a bit more upscale and unique, so we can be sure Chef Loomis has something interesting up his sleeve for this year. 

The Fishery, Pacific Beach - This PB seafood destination will be preparing spiny lobster in a multitude of ways, starting with a weekly Wednesday surf & turf special, as well as lobster a la plancha, Puerto Nuevo style lobster, and a spiny lobster BLT for lunch. Chef Mikey Reidy is a lifelong seafood connoisseur and buys his product straight from the source, so expect top freshness and frequent special recipes. 

Trattoria Cori Pastificio, North ParkOne-time World Pasta Champion Chef Accursio Lota will give the local spiny lobster an Italian twist with by adding it to his house made bigoli pasta dish, featuring unripe lemon zest, chive and Grillo wine reduction. The pasta shop and eatery is also in the process of updating its menu to feature more local fall season ingredients. 
Ironside Fish & Oyster, Little Italy - Consortium Holdings Corporate Chef & Partner Jason McLeod has a longtime relationship with the fisherman at Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, so he will be first in line for the freshest spiny lobsters. We aren't sure what the specials will be but be sure they will be delicious!

Ortega's spiny lobster dish
Ortega's Mexican Bistro
, Hillcrest
- The Ortega family is one of the founders of Puerto Nuevo's lobster community in nearby Baja Norte, so they have generations of prowess in preparing spiny lobster. Head to this Hillcrest mainstay and enjoy Baja-style lobster prepared the family way complimented by fresh guacamole made tableside while sipping a satisfying margarita. 

Solare Ristorante, Point Loma - This Liberty Station Italian destination will be serving 2 different dishes with local spiny lobster. The fettuccine con aragosta will feature Solare’s house made fettuccine pasta sautéed with San Diego spiny lobster, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil. There is also a delicious Aragosta alla Griglia, including a whole grilled spiny lobster served with basil butter, fingerling potatoes, roasted vegetables, and Campari infusion.    

Cowboy Star, East Village - Chef Victor Jiminez will be featuring the local spiny lobster atop his house favorite mac and cheese, as well as offering lobster rolls on the bar menu. He is also testing recipes for lobster a l’Americaine with a luscious tomato-wine sauce, as well as working on other specials and surf & turf options.

Coastal Cantina's lobster dish
Photo by @cinfullyfoodie
Coastal Cantina, Gaslamp
- Downtown San Diego's newest Mexican restaurant is doing Baja proud, serving a Puerto Nuevo inspired lobster dish with pan-fried spiny lobster sided by beans, vegetables and drawn butter. 

Antica Trattoria, La Mesa - This Italian restaurant is a hidden gem in San Diego and they will be featuring spiny lobster unlike any other. Expect a delicious handmade pappardelle prepared with spiny lobster, black mussels and clams in a spicy San Marzano tomato sauce complimented by a touch of cream for added richness. There may be a couple other dishes and specials featuring spiny lobster as the season unfolds. 

Stake Chophouse & Bar, Coronado - This high-end steakhouse is doing a limited availability special with local lobsters. The first incarnation of the dish features spiny lobster grilled over Japanese charcoal and served on a julienne vegetable salad and with lemon, butter and wasabi.

Catalina Offshore Products, Morena District - If you want to cook your own spiny lobster at home throughout the season, look no further than Catalina Offshore Products - a retail and wholesale seafood market that has been supplying San Diego's top restaurants for more than four decades. 

Point Loma Seafoods, Point Loma - The fine folks at Point Loma Seafoods have been selling seafood to San Diegans since 1963! They will have a tank full of local spiny lobsters as they are available throughout the season and may also be adding lobster dishes to the dine-in menu. 

Driscolls Wharf, Point Loma - The fisherman are kicking off the launch of commercial spiny lobster season on Wednesday, October 7, starting at 4pm with a special dockside event open to the public. Local fishmonger Tommy Gomes will be on site helping the local lobstermen offload the season's first catch, while answering questions and guiding the public on how to best prepare the regional delicacy. Driscolls Wharf will continue selling lobster to the public as they are available. 

California Spiny Lobster Festival
 - Downtown San Diego's Tuna Harbor Dockside Market is hosting a special Sunday edition on October 11 where several local lobstermen will be selling live local spiny lobster at off-the-boat prices. While most California spiny lobsters are normally exported, this year’s food system challenges due to COVID-19 combined with local need have inspired San Diego's lobstermen to make this delicious seasonal specialty available to more San Diegans. Local chefs Phillip Esteban and Marcus Twilegar of Craft Meals will also be on hand serving up some amazing spiny lobster dishes. Don't miss this free-to-attend inaugural event. Tuna Harbor Dockside Market fishermen will continue to sell lobster as available during their Saturday morning open hours throughout the season. 

San Diego Spiny Lobster Season runs from October 3 (October 7 commercially) until March 17, 2021. Many places sell out of their allotment early and the local supply frequently does not last through the end of the season, so be sure to call places ahead of visiting to ensure they have spiny lobster on the menu. If there are any spots we are missing for spiny lobster, please email us at [email protected]. Enjoy!