Dishes served at The Compass, one of the best Carlsbad Restaurants

23 Best Carlsbad Restaurants in 2023 (By a Local)

As a Carlsbad local, I have the lay of the land when it comes to the best Carlsbad restaurants. Between iconic eateries and new spots on the scene, I’ve dined at eateries ranging from vegan to French, Mexican, American, Italian, and beyond.

In this guide, I’ll dish out the very best places to eat as you explore all of Carlsbad’s activities. Whether you’re on a quest for the best outdoor patio with live music in California or an elegant dining experience, I’ve got you covered in this guide. Let’s dig in!

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23 Best Carlsbad Restaurants

Shorehouse Kitchen

🍽️ American | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 720 3300

View at the entrance of Shorehouse Kitchen
View of Shorehouse’s back patio entrance

Shorehouse Kitchen in Carlsbad Village is one of the best brunch spots in North County San Diego. Fluffy pancakes, egg benedict, and fruitful French toast are just some of the amazing breakfast items loyal customers come here for. 

Shorehouse sits in a convenient location in the heart of downtown Carlsbad and has a lovely outdoor patio for large groups and/or dogs. 

👉 Pro Tip: Shorehouse Kitchen fills up fast for weekend brunch. Go early before the crowd or bring your morning beverage with you to enjoyably wait out the long line. 

Windmill Food Hall

🍽️ International Market | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 214 9127

View of the Windmill Food Hall from the inside
Inside the rows of vendors at Windmill Food Hall

Calling all picky eaters! The Windmill Food Hall is a Carlsbad restaurant that offers something tasty for everyone. There are over 10 individual food vendors inside the hall that offer a variety of cuisines. You’ll also find a bar with craft cocktails and a patio with music and games. 

I recommend the draft espresso martini, sushi rolls, and Thai pad see ew.

Jeune et Jolie

🍽️ French | ($$$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 637 5266

A bowl of scallop appetizer served in Jeune et Jolie
Upclose intricacy of the plated design at Jeune et Jolie
View while eating inside Jeune et Jolie
My mom and I enjoyed the à la carte scallop appetizer on a bed of sea foam paired with a glass of full-bodied red wine

Jeune et Jolie is one of the fanciest restaurants in all of Carlsbad. Located on State Street in Carlsbad Village, this elegant Michelin Star restaurant serves up modern French artistry. 

The a la carte portions are very small plates, so I recommend booking one of their seasonal set-price menus for a better deal. This exquisite establishment is a true romantic dining experience for your taste buds. 

👉 Don’t Miss: Jeune et Jolie is close to the Buena Vista Audubon Society, one of Oceanside’s main attractions.

Nick’s On State

🍽️ American | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 696 3593

Jess Levy with her family at the Nick’s On State
My family and I enjoying a holiday at Nick’s

Nick’s Restaurant on State Street is a fairly new restaurant in the heart of Carlsbad Village, one of the best places to stay in Carlsbad. Prior to their opening in Carlsbad, I loved going to their San Clemente location – so I was super excited to see them open a location closer to my home. 

Overall, Nick’s is a consistently great upscale American eatery that’s perfect for the whole family. For an order recommendation, I have to say that their San Francisco Cioppino and prime rib dip are fantastic dishes.

The Deck at 264

🍽️ Italian Fusion | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 720 3737

A colorful hummus tapa served in The Deck at 264
Enjoying the most vibrant hummus tapa
Cocktails and oysters served in The Deck at 264
Me and my friends dining on The Deck’s fresh oysters and turmeric cocktails

The Deck at 264 is an Italian Fusion restaurant that’s perfect for couples or groups of friends. The Deck has extremely creative cocktails and the most mouthwatering dessert board, plus oysters, paella, and other colorful tapas you won’t find anywhere else. 

However, it has to be noted that The Deck at 264 has a completely separate chef and menu from its counterpart downstairs, 264 Fresco. For the best of both worlds, opt for just a drink and appetizer or dessert to enjoy the view and ambiance on the deck, and head down for dinner at the restaurant downstairs. 

Cafe Topes

🍽️ American Cafe | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 434 8673

The author, Jess Levy with her dog having breakfast at the Cafe Topes
My pup and I having breakfast at Cafe Topes

Cafe Topes is one of the best brunch spots in Carlsbad for coffee and a well-made breakfast. Their delicious food includes slices of local seasoned meat that cooks to perfection in their egg benedicts and breakfast steak dishes. In particular, I recommend that you order their “Cardiff Crack” eggs benedict, a local obsession for the best-seasoned meat.

Cafe Topes has ample seating including inside dining and two outdoor patios. They also have delicious lattes and fresh pastries. 

Tip Top Meats

🍽️ German Delicatessen | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 438 2620

View inside the Tip Top Meats in Carslbad
Shopping inside Tip Top Meats before I meet a friend for a quick bite.

Eat or shop at Tip Top Meats to experience Carlsbad’s premier local butcher and German restaurant all-in-one. Tip Top Meats has reasonable prices and quality meats like savory veal. My friends and family always know when my recipes include chicken from here, as they can taste the difference!

Tip Top Meats has been a long-standing family business in Carlsbad for over 50 years. When you eat here, know you’re supporting a staple in town. 

The Compass

🍽️ American Fusion | ($$) | Website | 📍Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 434 1900

Dishes served at The Compass, one of the Carlsbad Restaurants in California
Two of my favorite dishes here are the bacon-wrapped dates and salmon entree.

The Compass is located on the top floor of the Carlsbad Village Faire Shops and is a great spot for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Their executive chef uses farm-to-table local ingredients and their weekend brunch mimosas, bloody marys, and breakfast sliders make it an excellent choice on any given day of the week, no reservations needed. 

They also have one of the best San Diego doggie menus, so be sure to bring your dog!

👉 Pro Tip: Try all the flavors of Carlsbad and book a local food tour!


🍽️ Japanese | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 672 5111

View of lanterns inside GONZO! in Carlsbad
The interior of Gonzo is electric and reminds me of my travels to Japan

Gonzo is an eclectically designed ramen eatery in the heart of Carlsbad Village. Their ingredients are gourmet and their menu is simple. The black garlic tonkatsu broth is a highlight, along with their consistent service and helpful staff. 

Most notably, Gonzo! was voted #20 on Yelp’s top 100 U.S. restaurants for 2023! 

Naked Cafe

🍽️ Global Fusion Cafe | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 720 7866

Clear blue sky over the Naked Cafe
Love hanging out in the courtyard before brunching at Naked Cafe

Nake Cafe is a fantastic local chain for a healthy egg white pesto breakfast scramble, specialty latte, and kona coffee french press. Although their indoor seating is limited, they do have plenty of charming outdoor seating located in a convenient square in Carlsbad Village. 

This eatery is extremely kid friendly with a whole area for them to play too.

Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi Bar

🍽️ Japanese | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 434 4959

Sushi and a glass of wine served in Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi Bar
The sushi lunch special at the bar is the best spot in the house

One of the best restaurants in Carlsbad is Blue Ocean Robata Sushi Bar. This is a nicer option than your average sushi bar with chic interiors, extremely high-quality fish, and thoughtful chefs. 

Make sure to order their secret specialty, Hawaiian Walu nigiri! And if you’re looking to cut costs, try out their weekly happy hour menu and eggplant dip. 

Shoots Fish & Beer

🍽️ Seafood | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 696 3524

The Shoots Fish & Beer under the clear blue sky in Carlsbad
Shootz Fish & Beer is on a quaint new corner of Carlsbad Village

Shoots Fish & Beer is a part of the newest Cottages on Roosevelt Collective. It opened in August 2023 as a second location after its spot in Oceanside.

While it’s a tad pricey for the portions, they do offer top-quality ingredients inside their poke bowls, creative fish tacos, and craft beers. Overall, it’s a very coastal culture atmosphere here.  

Bluewater Grill

🍽️ Seafood | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 + 1 760 730 3474

View from the inside of Bluewater Grill
Admiring Bluewater Grill’s fresh fish market counter

Along with some iconic La Jolla restaurants, Bluewater Grill serves some of the freshest seafood entrees in San Diego. This Carlsbad restaurant even displays its market specials right in front. 

I highly recommend their red clam chowder and lobster roll. Dinner can get really crowded so I recommend booking a reservation or dining outside on their casual patio. 

Paon Restaurant & Bar

🍽️ French | ($$$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 729 7377

View from the open-air dining in Paon Restuarant & Bar
Step down into an open-air underground-style dining experience

Paon Restaurant & Bar is one of the most romantic restaurants in Carlsbad. Dine under the large trees and string lights covering the sultry sunken patio and sip on elegant French wines. 

You can’t go wrong with their lamb chops and beef bourguignon. For a tad more casual experience, head around the corner to their wine-tasting room – you can order off the menu or just have a glass of wine.

Park 101

🍽️ BBQ | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 619 723 0438

The author's dog on a couch in Park 101
My pup lounging on Park 101’s couch-style seating in the front

Park 101 in Carlsbad Village is perfect for fancy craft beer, cocktails, BBQ, burritos, lobster, trivia, and games. Park 101 is a two-level outdoor restaurant with a roof deck. This is a great place to watch a sports game or just hang out with friends. 

The Coyote Bar & Grill

🍽️ American Mexican Fusion | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 729 4695

People enjoying their meal at The Coyote Bar & Grill
Jam-packed day on Coyote’s patio dining during the Village Street Faire

The Coyote Bar & Grill in Carlsbad Village is a lively spot for music and dancing, and especially people-watching. They have delicious Mexican food for dinner, as well as frozen margaritas, vibrant salads, shoestring onion rings, and yummy breakfast. 

They offer both indoor and outdoor dining, depending on what type of mood you’re in for conversing or watching the band. 

Same Same

🍽️ Global Fusion | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 994 0699

View of the interior in Same Same
Discover Same Same’s plant-centric atmosphere

One of the newest spots in Carlsbad for speakeasy-esque craft cocktails and trendy food is Same Same. This establishment is located on the top floor of the Village Faire Center, next to the Compass and above Coyotes. 

Make sure to try their Korean wings and unique take on gnocchi. Also, their creative cocktails tell a story, even the receipt inside a book. Come here for casual drinks or stay the night for one of their late-night DJ sets. 

Pronto’s Gourmet Market

🍽️ Italian | ($) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 434 2644

Products displayed at the Pronto’s Gourmet Market
Boar’s Head sandwiches, fresh focaccia, and more at Pronto’s Gourmet Market

Pronto’s Gourmet Market serves casual Italian dining in the heart of Carlsbad Village. Unlike typical Italian restaurants, Pronto’s is part deli, part grocery. They make a fabulous sub sandwich, their service is fast, and they have great prices. I especially like their soups and sauces for take-home meals. 

Chin’s Szechwan

🍽️ Chinese | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 729 0348

View from the inside of Chin’s Szechwan
Chin’s simplistic indoor dining is timeless

Chin’s Szechwan has a few locations in North County, but the newest is in Carlsbad CA. Chin’s serves Sichuan and Mandarin-style Chinese cuisine. 

I’m all about the plum here. Plum wine and plum tree beef! The foil chicken is a hit too. 

The Plot Express

🍽️ Vegan | ($$) | Website | 📍Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 707 7785

Clear blue sky over the outdoor patio in The Plot Express
The Plot Express shares a nice outdoor patio

The Plot Express is one of the newest eateries in Carlsbad Village located in the Cottages on Roosevelt. This is the express version of the popular sit-down Plot Restaurant in Oceanside and features just their wraps, salads, and bowls. 

The Plot Express is perfect for plant-based and healthy clean eats, plus a cheerful outdoor ambiance.

Draft Republic

🍽️ American | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 448 4627

View of chairs and tables inside the Draft Republic
Over 30 choices of drinks at Draft Republic’s pour-it-yourself wall

Located right on State Street in Carlsbad Village, Draft Republic is a spacious restaurant with an interactive wall of local San Diego craft beers, wines, and ciders. Sign up for a wristband and tap your way to taste-testing any drink in the place. 

They also have delicious charcuterie boards, salads, and other American comfort food. This beer republic is great for watching a game too.

Casa De Bandini

🍽️ Mexican | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 760 634 3443

A woman smiling at the counter in Casa De Bandini
The made-to-order tortillas are unbeatable at Casa De Bandini

Casa De Bandini at The Forum’s outdoor mall is better than the most popular Mexican food spots in town. Not only is the quality of food here top-notch, but they also have made-to-order homemade tortillas. 

You can’t go wrong with margaritas and fajitas and the festive ambiance of live Mariachi bands. 

Bologna Gourmet

🍽️ Italian | ($$) | Website | 📍 Google Maps | 📞 +1 442 232 0528

View of the entrance to Bologna Gourmet
Bologna Gourmet is nestled inside a hidden shopping center and has an additional decorated parklet for more seating outside

Located off El Camino and Faraday Ave, Bologna Gourmet brings authentic Italian flavors to the city. Make sure to try their chicken parmesan and pinsa (flatbread-like pizza). The space is very small and intimate with additional outside seating in a charming parklet with decor. 

FAQs About Restaurants in Carlsbad

What are the most romantic Carlsbad restaurants?

The most romantic Carlsbad restaurants are Jeune et Jolie, Paon Restaurant & Bar, Bologna Gourmet, and The Deck at 264.

What are fine dining restaurants in Carlsbad?

Fine dining restaurants in Carlsbad cover a range of seafood, European, and upscale American. The highlights include The Deck at 264, Bluewater Grill, Jeune et Jolie, Bologna Gourmet, and Nick’s on State.

What are the best dog-friendly restaurants in Carlsbad?

The best dog-friendly restaurants in Carlsbad are Park 101, Shorehouse Kitchen, The Compass, Naked Cafe, and Cafe Topes.

What are the best restaurants in Carlsbad for families?

The best restaurants in Carlsbad for families include Shorehouse Kitchen, Casa de Bandini, Naked Cafe, and the Windmill Food Hall.


Thanks for reading my guide to the best Carlsbad restaurants! Up next, check out this awesome guide to great San Diego beaches – it’s the perfect resource for savoring, shopping, and soaking up the sun!

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