San Diego's 22 Most Exciting Restaurant & Bar Openings Of 2022

December 13, 2022

It's been a big year of bar & restaurant openings around San Diego County, so we have listed off our top 22 new spots of 2022. 

There have been dozens of new restaurants, bars, and brewpubs unveiled around San Diego in 2022, but we've narrowed it down to the 22 most exciting new establishments to launch this year. Also be sure to check out our expansive list of more than 70 impending openings we're excited for in the new year. 

22. Ben & Esther's - The Portland-based Ben & Esther's vegan Jewish deli, bakery and bagel shop chain opened its first San Diego location on the first day of 2022. The eatery offers a menu of New York style bagels with cream "cheese", deli sandwiches, knishes, matzo ball soups, lox made from carrots, whitefish made from hearts of palm, and a variety of pastries & sweets. A second San Diego branch also opened in Oceanside.

21. Moe's - Replacing the historic Saska's Steakhouse, which closed in 2020 after nearly seven decades in business, Moe's is the product of OMG Hospitality Group, a San Diego-based restaurant collective founded in 2008 by CEO Eric Leitstein. OMG operates such San Diego bars and restaurants as Pacific Beach Alehouse, Backyard Kitchen & Tap, Waterbar, Sandbar, Encinitas Fish Shop, Pacific Beach Fish Shop, and Union Kitchen & Tap locations in downtown San Diego and Encinitas. OMG originally planned to resuscitate the Saska's brand but ended up renaming the concept after Leitstein's grandfather.

20.  Ambrogio by Acquerello - The team behind San Diego's Ambrogio15 restaurants repurposed its former Semola space in La Jolla to become Ambrogio by Acquerello, a tasting menu-exclusive fine-dining destination helmed by a Michelin-starred Italian chef. The new restaurant is led by Executive Chef Silvio Salmoiraghi, who was mentored by the late Milanese Chef Gualtiero Marchesi, known as the founder of modern Italian food. Ambrogio by Acquerello serves a $149, seven-course tasting menu and a vegetarian-vegan tasting menu offered for $99. There is also a curated selection of natural, organic and biodynamic wines

19. Carbón - After four years in development, the team behind San Diego's hit Italian restaurant group Buona Forchetta finally unveiled Carbón, a Texas-style BBQ house and beer bar located in South Park. With a menu executed daily by Executive Chef Hanis Cavin, who previously founded the Carnitas Snack Shack brand and opened Pioneer BBQ before leaving San Diego for Spokane, WA for a brief period, Carbón offers a variety of smoked meat platters, burgers and sandwiches. 

18. White Rice Bodega - San Diego native chef Phillip Esteban opened a new location of his White Rice Filipino restaurant on the base floor of the brand new Orchid apartment building on Adams Avenue in Normal Heights. Designed like a Filipino "sari-sari," or neighborhood convenience store, the small eatery offers a menu of traditional and modernized Filipino dishes available from a walk-up window. Dishes include pinoy barbecue with grilled chicken skewers; pickled vegetables and a sous vide egg over garlic rice; lechon Kawali with crispy pork belly, a sous vide egg and seasonal vegetables over garlic rice; and Kinilaw, which is similar to ceviche, with local albacore tuna marinated in coconut milk, red onion, ginger, chili peppers and cilantro.

17. Sandpiper - The team behind San Diego's award-winning George's at the Cove replaced Galaxy Tacos in La Jolla Shores with Sandpiper Wood Fired Grill & Oysters, featuring fresh oysters and shareable plates made using the eatery's onsite wood-burning grill. There are even some Galaxy Taco dishes that made the cut, including the Baja fish taco and grilled octopus. Sandpiper's day to day operations are in the hands general manager Evan Vallee, a career veteran and Advanced Sommelier who has put together a carefully chosen wine and full bar program focused on classics.

16.  High-Pie - San Diego's historic 'Top Gun house' has been repurposed and is now High-Pie, a hand pie and coffee shop overlooking the beach in Oceanside. Fried hand pies can be plucked from the shop's "Willy-Wonka-esque" conveyer belt and filled with house-made mascarpone ice cream and dipped in a variety of sauces like Charlie’s Chocolate, Government Cheese, Lemon Curd and Sea Salt Caramel. The eatery also serves coffee creations and soft drinks including kombucha, cider, and New Orleans-style iced coffee with sweet milk.

15. Gold Finch - The founder of San Diego Italian food destination Cucina Urbana opened modern Jewish delicatessen Gold Finch on the ground floor of the new, $100 million Muse office campus in the Torrey Pines area of La Jolla. Serving breakfast and lunch, the restaurant offers traditional Jewish deli favorites like bagels, knish, pastrami & corned beef sandwiches, smoked white fish, potato latkes, matzo ball soup, and challah bread French toast. There are also more contemporary offerings like shakshuka with poached eggs in a green tomatillo sauce with spinach and za'atar; and chicken schnitzel with artichoke, tomato, arugula, and lemon caper vinaigrette.

14. Lavo - One of America's most prominent restaurant and nightlife collectives, New York City-based Tao Group Hospitality unveiled its LAVO Italian ristorante concept in San Diego's Gaslamp, replacing Brian Malarkey's longrunning Searsucker. The 235-seat restaurant offers a Southern Italy meets California all-day menu featuring an array of appetizers like the famous one pound wagyu meatball, as well as salads, wood-fired pizza, house-made pastas, raw bar items, and seafood & meat entrees. From the bar, there is a list of specialty cocktails, craft beer, and an expansive wine list.

13. Fairplay - More than 2 years in the making, the team behind Fernside in South Park launched a new modern sports bar concept dubbed Fairplay within the space that long housed Toronado in San Diego's North Park. The menu at Fairplay is centered around smoked meats and will be executed on the daily by Chef Amanda Jones. Smoked chicken wings and pulled pork and salmon will serve as staples, but expect other cuts as specials, as well as appetizers, salads, and sandwiches. From the bar, there is 20 taps of mostly craft beer as well as some classics from the "pre-craft" era served in bottles and cans. There is also a "Toronado Tap" to pay tribute to the previous bar's legacy, which will rotate some well preserved kegs that were handed down to Fairplay owners by Toronado in the transition.

12. Temaki Bar - Las Vegas-based Clique Hospitality (Lionfish at The Pendry, Serēa at Hotel Del Coronado) opened Japanese-inspired Temaki Bar Handrolls & Sake in the nearly 4,000 square-foot space that last housed EVE Vegan Eats in the heart of San Diego's North County community of Encinitas. An offshoot branch of its Tekka Bar Handrolls & Sake, which has its original outpost at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Temaki has a menu of sushi hand rolls prepared counter-side and made to order, filled with fresh seafood like blue crab, yellowtail, salmon and scallops, as well as other items from Executive Chef JoJo Ruiz. From the bar, there is an extensive sake list with options served in single-serving sake cups, as well as a mix of local and Japanese beer, and nitro matcha on tap.

11. Haidilao - China's largest hot pot chain Haidilao, which late Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold once described as "the Ferrari of Chinese hot pot restaurants," opened its first restaurant in San Diego inside Westfield UTC Mall in La Jolla. Haidilao offers a menu centered around Sichuan-style hot pots made with a selection of 8 rich broths and a lengthy list of dipping options including raw meats, fish, tofu, vegetables and noodles. The Haidilao Hot Pot restaurant also specializes in entertaining table-side service, which includes employees dancing with hand-made noodles stretched in up to 10-foot-long ribbons with sweeping motions around their bodies. Entertainers are required to undergo between four and six months of training before they are ready to perform the dance.

10. Marisi - From the team behind Puesto, Marisi Italian unveiled this past summer in the space that last housed Whisknladle for 12 years in San Diego's La Jolla. An ambigram of the owners' grandparents names, Isidoro and Marila, Marisi Italiano offers a seasonal-changing menu designed by Executive Chef Chad Huff, who previously worked at Providence in Hollywood, Felix Trattoria in Venice, and Broad Street Oyster Co. in Malibu. There is a strong focus on Italian hearth cooking, featuring handmade pasta and wood-fired entrees, as well as an ambitious bar program with an array of cocktails and fine wine.

9.  Coco Maya - San Diego's Grind & Prosper Hospitality (Miss B's Coconut Club, Louisiana Purchase) opened Caribbean-inspired restaurant and rooftop lounge Coco Maya in the completely updated unit that last housed PrepKitchen in Little Italy. Designed by GTC Design Studio, the second story restaurant now has a design influenced by Tulum, Mexico with an open-air ambiance and central bar sitting beneath a 30' skylight. There is also a new 900 square-foot rooftop deck and an eclectic food menu from former World Food Champion & Coco Maya Executive Chef Ricardo Heredia. Latin-fusion dishes are inspired by Mexico's Yucatan side of the Caribbean coast, with many items cooked on a coal-fire Josper oven. There is also a full bar menu centered around rum cocktails, as well as craft beers on draft and a curated wine list.

8. La Conde - Opened in the space that long housed Donovan's Steak & Chophouse in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter, La Conde is an upscale Latin American fusion restaurant that first opened in Los Angeles' Santa Monica. The restaurant offers an elegant ambiance with an extensive, high end menu featuring Latin-inspired sushi, USDA Prime & Wagyu steaks, unique tacos, a gold coated Wagyu burger, fresh seafood entrees, ceviches, aguachiles, crab legs, salads and desserts, as well as a full weekend brunch. From the bar, there is an ambitious cocktail list with visually appealing signature drinks, 'Mezcaltinis', margaritas, beer, and a substantial wine cellar.

7. Part Time Lover - This past spring, Consortium Holdings Hospitality Group (Born & Raised, Raised By Wolves) opened the doors to Part Time Lover, a Japanese-inspired listening bar and record store sited in the space that long housed Bar Pink in San Diego's North Park. The menu includes Japanese highball cocktails, coffee drinks and pastries, as well as full-album vinyl music played from a high-fidelity sound system. The interior ambiance at Part Time Lover offers a similar look and feel as the downstairs bar at Consortium's Little Italy steakhouse Born & Raised, with some Japanese-inspired flair and architecture cues taken from the late-great American architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright, including bar and table lamps actually custom made by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

6. Mothership - Opening last August in the space that previously housed Del Sur Mexican Cantina in San Diego's South Park, Mothership is a tropical space-themed, plant-based bar & restaurant from the owners of nearby Bar Kindred. Inspired as a take it and run offshoot of Kindred's weekly "Permanent Vacation" pop-up, Mothership has a rum-heavy cocktail list and a completely vegan menu from Kindred's longtime chef Dylan Craver. Dishes include shareable snacks like the Hong Kong noodle cake with Lakea broth, yellow curry tofu, grilled gai lan, roasted pineapple and toasted rice powder; and the Banana leaf tofu with Otak tofu, tomato saffron sambal, crispy shallot and lime.

5. The Red Fox Steakhouse & Piano Room - After a two year closure and relocating to a brand new building nearly directly across the street from its longtime space on the base of the Lafayette Hotel, San Diego's historic The Red Fox Steakhouse & Piano Bar finally reopened in North Park last spring. The space offers a nearly identical design as the original, featuring Bordeaux leather button-tufted booths, stained glass partitions, historic design accents, and a rebuild of the century-old wooden bar. The menu includes classic steakhouse staples, ranging from appetizers like jumbo shrimp cocktail and crab cakes, a variety of steak cuts, burgers, salads, sides, seafood specials, and desserts. There is also a full bar with cocktails, beer, and wine, and of course, a piano with frequent live performances.

4. Paradisaea - First time husband-and-wife restaurateurs put together a culinary power team to launch Paradisaea, a modern California bar & restaurant unveiled late last September in the iconic "Piano Building" in San Diego's Bird Rock. Former Eleven Madison Park executive pastry chef Mark Welker leads the kitchen and presents a menu of modern California fare ranging from pastas and burgers to local seafood, meat-driven entrees and vegetarian and vegan dishes. Expect items like the mushroom raviolo with ricotta, egg yolk and sherry sabayon; a beef tartare with crispy sunchokes, garlic togarashi, shiso, and ponzu; and the Wagyu nachos piled high with marinated zabuton wagyu asada, lime scented-tortilla chips, guacamole mousse, creme fraiche, pickled red onions, crispy cheese, chives, sliced avocados, black olives, jalapeños, tomatoes, cilantro, and cheddar-jack fondue. There is also a full bar with tropical-inspired cocktails, local beer and a curated wine list.

3. Kingfisher - Nearly three years in the making, the founders of San Diego's Crab Hut chain of Cajun seafood restaurants opened upscale Vietnames-French fusion eatery Kingfisher in Golden Hill. The menu of Southeast Asian fusion dishes executed by George's California Modern alum Chef Jonathan Bautista has received rave reviews, even being included as one of the "new discoveries" by California's Michelin Guide. The eatery has a seasonal menu featuring fresh seafood, local produce, and entrees combining Vietnamese and French influences, as well as an expansive menu of craft cocktails from beverage director David Tye, who previously worked at The Lion's Share, Prohibition and Sycamore Den.

2. Tacos El Gordo Gaslamp Quarter - More than 6 years in the making, the downtown San Diego location of Tacos El Gordo finally opened in the Gaslamp Quarter this past November. The fast-casual taco shop chain immediately had hungry patrons lining up around the block for a taste of its menu centered around street tacos made with various cuts of grilled carne asada and marinated pork adobada shaved off a vertical "trompo" roaster, as well as quesadillas, sopes, tostadas, and smothered fries.

1. Hells Kitchen - This past summer, Multi-Michelin-starred celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay grand opened his largest Hell's Kitchen restaurant to date inside Harrah’s Resort Southern California in Northern San Diego County. Inspired by Ramsay's long-running FOX culinary competition series of the same name, the restaurant has an open kitchen where guests can witness all the action and a menu of some of Gordon Ramsay's signature dishes, including his famed beef Wellington, pan seared scallops, and lobster risotto. The 332-seat restaurant space boasts several chef's tables, two private dining areas, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the casino, red and blue show kitchens, a private dining room and a contemporary bar serving a full cocktail list, beer and wine.

Honorable Mention: Little Thief / Papalito (North Park), Forchettabouddit (Encinitas), Happy Does (Gaslamp), Dutch Bros Coffee (Oceanside), Botanica (North Park), Harland Brewing (South Park), Ryes & Grind (Oceanside), Flower Pot Bakery & Cafe (La Jolla), The Seventh House (North Park), Zama (Gaslamp), Villa One Tequila (Gaslamp), The Luau (La Mesa), Tunaville Fish Market & Grocery (Point Loma), Whomp Burger & Brew  (Ocean Beach), Sweetgreen (Carlsbad), The Prestige (Gaslamp), Go Go Amigo (Liberty Station), Lady M Cake Boutique (Westfield UTC), Crudo Oyster Bar (Little Italy), The Friendly (Pacific Beach), Madi (Normal Heights), Duke's Old Fashioned Onion Burgers (La Mesa), Lee's Sandwiches (SDSU College Area), Draft Republic Brewing Company (San Marcos), Underbelly (UCSD), Tenkatori Karaage (Miramar), Taco Machin (Bonita), Karina’s Ceviche Bar 'N Tacos (Barrio Logan), Toasted Gastrobrunch + Sammy's Dinner (Oceanside), Baja Rick's Cantina (Gaslamp), The Food Box (Pacific Beach), Taste of Hong Kong (Kearny Mesa), La Divina Cocina & Cantina (Barrio Logan), The Gärten (Bay Park), Pizza Port (Imperial Beach), Whiskers & Wine (North Park), Mic Drop Comedy Club (Kearny Mesa), CinKuni (North Park, Tacotarian (North Park), Naegi (Oceanside), Novo Brazil (Imperial Beach), Steveston Pizza (Hillcrest), Golden Chopsticks II (Mira Mesa), Birdseye (La Jolla), Convoy Music Bar (Kearny Mesa), Huckleberry's (Escondido), Lost Abbey's The Church (East Village), Gnarly Girl Pizza (Uptown), Madam Bonnie's (Gaslamp), Wildwood Flour (Pacific Beach), The Islander (Coronado), The Hen House (Crown Point).