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

October 4, 2023

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. Since commercial fishermen cannot begin catching lobster until Wednesday, October 4, most restaurants will not start serving them until that day or after. Here we run down the top spots around San Diego to get a taste of the California delicacy.

Tuna Harbor Lobsterfest, Downtown - Downtown San Diego's Tuna Harbor Dockside Market is hosting its fourth annual Lobsterfest on Sunday, October 8, from 8am to 1pm, where several local lobstermen will be selling live local spiny lobster at off-the-boat prices. Local chefs will also be on hand serving up some amazing spiny lobster dishes and there will be live music and t-shirts being sold. Tuna Harbor Dockside Market fishermen will continue to sell lobster as available during their Saturday morning open hours throughout the season. 

Mitch's Seafood, Point Loma - This is one of our favorite eateries in San Diego and we make it a point to visit each year for their spiny lobster special (pictured above), as they receive 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, pico de gallo, 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.

Lobstober Lobster Fishing Tournament - San Diego's The Dinghy Doctor is hosting its annual Lobstober Lobster tournament from September 29 through October, 31, 2023. The event is open to everyone with no sign up necessary. Anyone is invited to bring in their biggest lobster catch to be weighed and photographed on Tuesday-Saturday from 8am to 5pm (on Sunday & Monday, catch can be brought to West Marine to be weighed). Awards for the biggest and best lobsters will take place on October 31 at noon. Remember, you’ll need a valid California state fishing license and Lobster report card when you’re out targeting Lobster. 
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. 

Tunaville Market & Grocery, Point Loma - San Diego seafood icon Tommy Gomes, host of Outdoor Channel's "The Fishmonger", will be selling the season's first lobster catch at his seafood market along Driscolls Wharf in Point Loma. 

Ironside Fish & Oyster, Little Italy - Consortium Holdings' popular seafood house will be featuring a spiny lobster special throughout the season. To start, Chef Danielle Van Steen will prepare the seasonal specialty grilled or a la plancha with miso butter and lemon.
Pali Wine Co.'s lobster dish
Pali Wine Co., Little Italy - Executive Chef Logan Kendall is cooking up fresh, spiny lobster sourced directly from Tommy Gomes of Tunaville Market. The first lobster special is a take on Lobster a la plancha with boursin butter, watercress, radish, aioli, pickled pear, and lemon oil. In addition to the Little Italy bi-level location, Pali Wine Company is working on the upcoming opening of its second San Diego tasting room & restaurant in the space that last housed Oscar Wilde's Irish Pub in Hillcrest.

The Fishery, Pacific Beach - This PB seafood destination will be preparing spiny lobster in a multitude of ways, starting with a 1/2 or full with XO garlic butter, lemon, and Wayfarer bread. But this will change next weekly and will include surf & turf specials, lobster a la plancha, Puerto Nuevo style lobster, and other frequently changing concoctions from Executive Chef Jonathan Bautista

Las Olas, Cardiff - This 40+ year-old Mexican restaurant embraces the lobster season by offering "Puerto Nuevo-style," which includes a whole spiny lobster cut in half, par broiled then seared on the flat griddle, and served with fresh chopped cilantro, guacamole, salsa fresca, melted butter, lime wedges, choice of two side dishes and warm tortillas. ⁠
Solare's spiny lobster pasta from 2021.
Solare Ristorante, Point Loma - This Liberty Station Italian destination will be serving different dishes with local spiny lobster throughout the season. Last year, they prepared fettuccine con aragosta, featuring 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. 

Callie, East Village - San Diego's East Village hotspot will feature spiny lobster specials to start the season. Expect a variety of preparations, including raw tartare, which Executive Chef Travis Swikard believes is the best way to taste the sweetness, to pasta preparations, to lobster bouillabaisse. Be sure to make reservations soon, as its hard to get a table. 
Matsu's spiny lobster with banana curry.
Matsu, Oceanside - North County's Michelin-star-chasing modern Japanese fine dining destination will be incorporating spiny lobster into its ever-evolving tasting menu. Expect dishes like local spiny lobster with banana curry and krill caramel. 

White Rice Bodega, Normal Heights & Bay Park - Chef Phillip Esteban's will be dishing out spiny lobster plates to start the season. His first special dish will be an Ulang Escabeche with a grilled half local spiny lobster fresh from the docks, sweet and sour XO sauce, pickled vegetables and red onion. 

Trattoria Cori Pastificio, North Park - One-time World Pasta Champion Chef Accursio Lota will give the local spiny lobster an Italian twist again this year. The pasta shop and eatery is also in the process of updating its menu to feature more local fall season ingredients.
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. 

El Pescador Fish Market, La Jolla - This decades-old seafood market and restaurant has a constant stock of local spiny lobster throughout the short season. Expect the area delicacy to be available for purchase live at the market, as well in various dishes through the eatery. 

Cowboy Star, East Village - Chef Victor Jimenez will be featuring local spiny lobster specials again this year. Last year, he featured the coveted protein atop his house favorite mac and cheese, as well as offered lobster rolls on the bar menu. This year, the restaurant will serve fresh caught, local spiny lobster with sauce Americaine, grilled mandarin, and lovage garnish.
Cowboy Star's Lobster special
King's Fish House, Mission Valley & Carlsbad - The "house that seafood built" will once again feature fresh spiny-tail lobster on their menu this season. This is the same company that owns Water Grill and Lou & Mickey's in downtown San Diego.  

Long Story Short, North Park - The husband-and-wife duo behind this North Park natural wine bar and restaurant are serving local spiny lobster with Chino Farms corn butter, Jimmy Nardello peppers, garlic and Karanchi chili crips. 
Long Story Short lobster dish
Stake Chophouse & Bar, Coronado - This high-end steakhouse is doing a limited availability special with local lobsters. Last year's incarnation of the dish included spiny lobster with mole spices grilled over Red kuro squash purée, cranberry bean sucotash, and brussels leaves.

Mister A's, Bankers Hill - The newly remodeled Mister A's will offer some form of spiny lobster special available to customers. Executive Chef Stephane Voitzwinkler is currently conceiving of French-inspired dishes for the local delicacy. 
The Red Door's spiny lobster risotto
The Red Door
, Mission Hills
 - Chef Luciano Cibelli’s neighborhood haunt will feature local spiny lobster in various Italian dishes over the season, including atop a beautiful bed of risotto to start. 

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.

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.  

San Diego Spiny Lobster Season runs from Friday, September 29 (October 5 commercially) until March 20, 2024. Most 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].