20 Best Restaurants in Encinitas (A Local’s Guide)

The Best Restaurants in Encinitas

Encinitas, a charming coastal city in Southern California, is not only known for its stunning beaches and laid-back vibes but also for its thriving culinary scene. After living in Encinitas for over 10 years and trying all that this beach town has to offer, I figured it was time to finally put together this restaurant guide.

Whether you’re a local looking for your next favorite spot or a visitor exploring the area, we’ve covered the 20 best restaurants in Encinitas!

Overview of Encinitas

Location

Encinitas is situated along the Pacific Ocean, approximately 25 miles north of downtown San Diego. It’s part of the larger San Diego metropolitan area, offering easy access to urban amenities while retaining its own distinct character.

The city is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, Cardiff-by-the-Sea to the north, Solana Beach to the south, and the Olivenhain area to the east.

Encinitas downtown sign

Unique Characteristics

Beachside Beauty: Encinitas boasts some of the most picturesque beaches in Southern California, including Moonlight Beach and Swami’s Beach. These beaches are ideal for sunbathing, surfing, and enjoying breathtaking sunsets.

Surfer’s Paradise: Encinitas has a rich surfing heritage and is renowned for its consistent waves. Surfers from all over the world visit spots like Swami’s Beach to ride the waves and experience the local surf culture.

Quaint Downtown: Encinitas has a charming downtown area with a laid-back atmosphere. Its streets are lined with unique shops, art galleries, and cafes, making it a fun place to stroll and explore.

Cultural Diversity: Encinitas is known for its inclusive and diverse community. It embraces different cultures and hosts various cultural festivals and events throughout the year, such as the Encinitas Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration.

Reputation as a Culinary Hotspot

Encinitas has gained a well-deserved reputation as a culinary hotspot for several reasons:

Fresh Seafood: Its coastal location ensures a steady supply of fresh seafood. Many restaurants in Encinitas take full advantage of this, serving delectable seafood dishes.

Farm-to-Table: The city’s commitment to sustainability and local sourcing is reflected in its farm-to-table dining options. Many restaurants prioritize using locally grown, organic ingredients.

Diverse Cuisine: Encinitas offers a diverse range of culinary experiences, from Mexican and Italian to Asian and Mediterranean cuisine. There’s something to satisfy every palate.

Casual to Upscale: Whether you’re looking for a casual beachside cafe or an upscale dining experience, Encinitas has it all. It caters to a wide range of tastes and budgets.

Foodie Events: The city hosts various food festivals and events, like the Taste of Encinitas, where locals and visitors can sample the best of what its restaurant scene has to offer.

surfer girl crossing sign near beach in Encinitas

Criteria for Selection

The criteria for selecting the best restaurants in Encinitas are based on several key factors. These factors include the quality and uniqueness of the cuisine offered, the ambiance and atmosphere of the restaurant, the level of service provided by the staff, and the overall dining experience. 

Each of the following Encinitas restaurants are evaluated based on these criteria to ensure that they deliver exceptional food, a welcoming environment, great service, and an overall memorable dining experience. These factors collectively contribute to the ranking and selection of the top restaurants in Encinitas, CA.

As an Encinitas local, I have personally been to every one of these restaurants numerous times and have taken into consideration the top local spots as well as tourist favorites.

Best Restaurants in Encinitas

1. Herb & Sea

Herb & Sea (Chef Brian Malarkey’s companion restaurant to the popular Herb & Wood in Little Italy) is a culinary gem renowned for its fresh and innovative seafood-focused menu. This restaurant offers the best experience for a special night out, combining beautiful ambiance with top-notch service. 

Upon entering, you’ll be greeted by an inviting atmosphere that effortlessly marries the relaxed coastal vibe with refined elegance. The decor, adorned with coastal colors and tasteful nautical touches, sets the stage for a memorable dining experience.

herb and sea encinitas restaurant interior seating

Herb & Sea’s commitment to excellence shines through its seafood offerings, featuring meticulously selected ingredients, from succulent lobster to delicate scallops. The ever-evolving menu, including a variety of pizzas and pastas, is marked by inventive flavor combinations and captivating presentations to ensure each visit is a unique culinary journey.

With an extensive wine list and expert sommeliers to guide your selections, Herb & Sea promises an unforgettable evening celebrating the finest in seafood and hospitality.

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Fennel Sausage Pizza
  • Roasted Oysters & Bone Marrow
  • Spicy Baja Shrimp

Address: 131 W D St Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 704-8300

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2. The Roxy Encinitas

Established in 1978 as The Roxy Restaurant & Ice Cream, this is a cherished neighborhood eatery celebrated for its inventive take on comfort food classics. This beloved spot is a favorite with locals.

The Roxy Encinitas resembles the look and feel of a classic 1920’s speakeasy, and the menu is designed to create a sense of community with internationally influenced share plates.

the roxy encinitas restaurant interior

In addition to their food, they also serve classic cocktails and offer live music almost every day, so it’s a great place to spend the evening if you’re in the mood to dance. Happy hour is offered on Tuesday to Sunday from 3 to 6pm and brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 3pm.

I recommend making a reservation if you’re planning to dine here on a weekend!

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Falafel Burger
  • Roxy Burger
  • Blistered Shishitos
  • Pork Belly Adobo

Address: 517 S Coast Hwy 101 Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 230-2899

3. Trattoria I Trulli

Trattoria I Trulli offers a journey through the heart of Italian cuisine. This beloved fine dining Italian Restaurant is renowned for its great atmosphere and dedication to crafting dishes with a genuine Italian spirit.

This restaurant’s pride lies in its commitment to time-honored culinary traditions, evident in every dish they serve. From the delightful homemade pasta, lovingly crafted with precision, to the meat and fresh fish dishes, their menu reflects the culinary heritage of Italy.

I bring every out-of-town visitor here for the Lobster Ravioli and it has never disappointed. It’s the perfect spot to take a date as well!

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Lobster Ravioli
  • Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli
  • Rigatoni Bolognese

Address: 830 S Coast Hwy 101 Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 943-6800

Read more: Where to Stay in San Diego: Best Neighborhoods & Hotels

4. CHIKO

For devotees of Asian fusion cuisine, CHIKO reigns as the quintessential dining destination. This innovative eatery expertly melds the diverse and delectable flavors of Chinese and Korean culinary traditions, resulting in an exceptional and unique menu.

CHIKO’s culinary prowess shines through its inventive dishes, each a harmonious union of two distinct cuisines. From delectable dumplings that pay homage to Chinese dim sum to Korean-inspired creations infused with bold spices and flavors, CHIKO offers a one-of-a-kind experience that elevates Asian fusion to new heights. 

The location, right on Coast Hwy 101, provides mostly outdoor seating and a self-service type of experience where you pay and order with a QR code.

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Smashed Salmon
  • Orange-ish Chicken
  • Crispy Chicken Spring Rolls
  • Soy Glazed Brisket

Address: 101 N Coast Hwy 101 Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 230-1076

5. Potato Shack Cafe

For those craving a hearty breakfast or brunch, Potato Shack Cafe is the ultimate spot. Renowned for their tantalizing potato-centric creations and abundant portions, this charming cafe holds a special place in the hearts of locals and visitors alike.

From crispy hash browns to loaded potato skillets, the cafe’s generous portions ensure you will leave satisfied. They are open for breakfast and lunch and offer both indoor and outdoor seating. For over 40 years, this place has been a bit of a local’s secret that offers reasonable prices, delicious food, and a relaxed atmosphere.

I can’t get enough of the eggs benedict here. It’s not the healthiest option on this list of restaurants, but there’s something about their hollandaise sauce. It keeps me coming back again and again. If any of my friends want to go to breakfast, I almost always choose this spot.

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Patty Melt
  • Huevos Rancheros
  • Eggs Benedict

Address: 120 W I St Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 436-1282

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to California’s Pacific Coast Hwy

6. Harumama Noodles + Buns + Beer

Harumama Noodles + Buns + Beer is a culinary treasure trove specializing in the art of Asian fusion cuisine. Their expertise shines, particularly in the realm of noodle bowls and delectable steamed buns that are nothing short of a culinary masterpiece.

The restaurant’s offerings capture the imagination of food enthusiasts and Instagram aficionados alike. Each dish is not only a taste sensation but also a feast for the eyes, meticulously crafted to be as visually stunning as it is delicious.

As a self-proclaimed ramen connoisseur, this is one of my favorite places to get ramen in San Diego!

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Bao Buns
  • Flying Pig Ramen
  • Fat Duck Ramen

Address: 1460 Encinitas Blvd Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 704-8858

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7. Buona Forchetta

Buona Forchetta transports you straight to the heart of Naples with its authentic Neapolitan-style thin-crust pizzas. At the core of their culinary philosophy is a wood-fired oven that yields pizzas with a perfect blend of crispiness and chewiness in their crusts.

Their specialty pizzas are a work of art, featuring hand-selected, fresh, and flavorful toppings that pay homage to the rich Italian tradition of pizza-making. Their menu also features homemade pastas, salads, wine and beer. I’ve tried their gluten and gluten-free pizza options and I couldn’t tell the difference between the two!

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Beet Salad
  • Margherita Pizza
  • Cacio E Pepe

Address: 250 N Coast Hwy 101 Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 704-8070

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8. Union Kitchen and Tap

Union Kitchen and Tap, a gastropub in the heart of Encinitas, redefines American classics with a contemporary twist. Their diverse menu is a celebration of modern culinary creativity, transforming traditional favorites into gastronomic delights.

While Union Kitchen and Tap’s menu is a culinary adventure in itself, it’s also a haven for craft beer aficionados. The restaurant’s well-curated selection of craft beers, carefully paired with their dishes, elevates the dining experience.

This establishment caters to those seeking a relaxed yet vibrant atmosphere, making it a beloved choice for both casual outings and special occasions. 

union kitchen and tap food encinitas, ca

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Union Burger
  • Watermelon Salad
  • Roasted Beet Salad
  • Pork Belly

Address: 1108 S Coast Hwy Ste 101 Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 230-2337

9. La Especial Norte

If you’re in the mood for an authentic Mexican dining experience, look no further than La Especial Norte. This restaurant is a local favorite, known for its mouthwatering Mexican cuisine served in a laid-back and welcoming atmosphere. 

Their big menu boasts a variety of dishes, but you absolutely can’t leave without trying their chicken soup! It’s known to cure anything from a cold to heartbreak. Okay, I just made up that last part, but it’s definitely comfort food for the soul.

La Especial Norte takes pride in using the finest ingredients, and it truly shows in the flavors they create. Whether you’re a longtime Mexican food enthusiast or new to the cuisine, this gem in Encinitas is sure to satisfy your cravings and leave you planning your next visit.

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Chicken Soup
  • Tortilla Soup
  • Carnitas
  • Fish Tacos

Address: 664 N Coast Hwy 101 Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 942-1040

Read more: 2 Days in San Diego: A Local’s Guide

10. Le Papagayo

Le Papagayo is a vibrant and eclectic restaurant that beautifully showcases a unique fusion of Mediterranean and Latin American cuisine along with nightly live music. 

Le Papagayo in Encinitas, California

Considered one of the most popular Encinitas restaurants, they offer both indoor and outdoor seating with an art gallery style decor. Parking is limited, but you can find free parking across the street near the train tracks.

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Lobster Bisque
  • Sea Bass
  • Eggs Benedict

Address: 1002 N Coast Hwy 101 Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 944-8252

11. Plumeria Vegetarian

Plumeria stands out as a go-to spot for those seeking flavorful and creative plant-based dishes. Plumeria’s extensive menu is a testament to their commitment to offering diverse and satisfying vegetarian and vegan options. From aromatic curries bursting with spices to vibrant stir-fries teeming with fresh vegetables, every dish at Plumeria is a masterpiece in plant-based cuisine. 

I’ve taken vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians to this restaurant and everyone raves about it. Whether you are a vegetarian or you just want to explore meatless alternatives, Plumeria Vegetarian is the perfect destination to savor delicious, guilt-free meals that will transport you to Asia. This place is a true gem!

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Panang Curry
  • Satay Chicken
  • Cashew Nut Dish

Address: 527 S Coast Hwy 101 Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 487-1488

12. The Taco Stand

If you don’t mind long lines and you love fresh tacos, this place is definitely worth a visit! 

When it comes to satisfying your taco cravings in town, The Taco Stand is the perfect spot. Inspired by the street food taco stands of Tijuana, this authentic taqueria offers a diverse range of options with fresh, homemade corn tortillas and the freshest ingredients.

I love love love the Al Pastor tacos here. It’s become my go-to favorite taco when I visit. Also, don’t leave without trying their freshly prepared Rosarito-style churros!

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Fish Tacos
  • Spicy Shrimp Tacos
  • Al Pastor Tacos

Address: 642 S Coast Hwy 101 Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 230-2061

13. Lobster West

This seafood haven is a must-visit destination for those who crave the sweet, succulent taste of lobster. The star of the show at Lobster West is undoubtedly their iconic lobster rolls, a local favorite that has gained fame far beyond the shores of Encinitas.

What sets Lobster West apart is its unwavering commitment to quality. They source their fresh seafood directly from the lobster-rich waters of Maine, guaranteeing top-notch taste and texture. Each bite of their lobster rolls is a delightful journey to the East Coast, where the lobsters are renowned for their exquisite flavor.

Beyond the rolls, Lobster West offers a diverse menu of seafood delights, from crab rolls to clam chowder, all made with the same dedication to excellence.

Whether you’re a seasoned seafood connoisseur or a first-time lobster enthusiast, a visit to Lobster West promises an unforgettable dining experience that captures the essence of coastal indulgence.

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Lobster Roll
  • Lobster Bisque

Address: 765 S Coast Hwy Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 634-1684

14. Encinitas Fish Shop

A beloved spot for both residents and tourists in Southern California, Fish Shop has a distinctive menu with an array of fresh seafood options.

Craft your very own taco, sandwich, salad, or plate by handpicking your choice of fish, sides, and marinade. Make sure to try their signature Fish Shop classics, like the renowned TKO taco – featuring grilled mahi-mahi marinated in our special Fish Shop seasoning, adorned with our luscious tropical mango salsa. 

Alternatively, savor Coconut Shrimp, enveloped in a homemade shredded coconut batter and expertly deep-fried to a glorious, golden crispness. I also recommend coming here for happy hour if you love cheap oysters!

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Lobster Tacos
  • Coconut Shrimp
  • TKO Taco

Address: 1010 S Coast Hwy 101 Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 436-4665

15. GOODONYA Organic Eatery

GOODONYA Organic Eatery has one of the planet’s most extensive organic menus. Their commitment to amazing food quality and being 100% non-GMO is a remarkable feat, setting them apart in the restaurant industry. Fewer than 0.00001% of restaurants can make this claim!

They also exclusively good oils like 100% grass-fed/organic butter and tallow — eliminating soy and canola — and source 100% organic produce, spices, nuts, seeds, legumes, meat, cheese, milks, dressings, sauces, and even garnishes. This restaurant serves local, organic, REAL food that you can feel good about eating.

goodonya encinitas best restaurants

They are open for breakfast and lunch and offer both indoor and outdoor seating, right on Coast Hwy 101.

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Thai Salad
  • Breakfast Burrito
  • Pesto Chicken Sandwich

Address: 1051 S Coast Hwy 101 Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (858) 264-8550

16. Nectarine Grove

Nectarine Grove is a cozy cafe that takes pride in offering a menu filled with organic, gluten-free, and locally sourced ingredients. Whether you’re seeking breakfast or lunch, this charming eatery has menu options ranging from tasty egg dishes and healthy smoothies to tacos and pizza. And their dessert case has the best gluten-free sweets!

Their dedication to sourcing quality, organic ingredients makes this one of my favorite places in Encinitas. Nectarine Grove not only nourishes your body but also your spirit, providing a warm and welcoming environment to enjoy good food with care and integrity. I highly recommend coming early and trying one of their delicious breakfast options. I love sitting in their outdoor patio when the sun is out — and it usually is in San Diego!

nectarine grove restaurant in encinitas, ca

Something to note here: everything on the menu is gluten-free, so it makes ordering really easy if you don’t eat gluten. One of the things I really miss when I can’t eat gluten is eggs benedict and their eggs benedict here is delicious. The hollandaise is amazing and the english muffin tastes a little like a biscuit. It’s also big enough to share, which is good for a price tag of $18.

Best Dishes to Try:

  • BBQ Chicken Pizza
  • Veggie Pesto Scramble
  • El Torito Taco
  • Eggs Benedict
  • Cinnamon Roll

Address: 948 N Coast Hwy 101 Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 944-4525

17. The 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro

Wine enthusiasts will find a true haven at The 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro. This establishment offers a delightful fusion of wine culture and culinary excellence with friendly and knowledgeable staff. 

From succulent filet mignon to the freshest seafood, each dish is carefully crafted to complement the diverse wine offerings. Whether you’re a seasoned sommelier or just discovering the world of wine, The 3rd Corner provides a memorable dining experience that harmoniously marries the art of winemaking with exquisite cuisine.

You can view their menu here.

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Short Ribs
  • Baked Brie
  • Seafood Risotto

Address: 897 S Coast Hwy Ste F-104 Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 942-2104

18. Honey’s Bistro & Bakery

For those seeking a charming breakfast or brunch spot, Honey’s Bistro & Bakery is the perfect choice. Their commitment to freshness is evident in their ever-fresh bakery items and mouth watering omelets and pancakes. 

Whether you’re in the mood for sweet or savory, Honey’s menu has something to please every palate. The warm and inviting atmosphere, combined with their dedication to culinary excellence, makes it a favorite among both locals and visitors. They are open for breakfast and lunch (until 2pm) with both indoor and outdoor seating available.

Honey’s is another great spot for eggs benedict. I love the lobster benedict here and you can order it as gluten-free. It comes on a piece of toast that tasted better than a regular english muffin!

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Lobster Benedict
  • Stuffed French Toast
  • Chilaquiles

Address: 632 S Coast Hwy 101 Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 942-5433

19. The Crack Shack

The Crack Shack reimagines the classic comfort of chicken dishes with a playful and creative twist. This popular spot is renowned for its inventive take on poultry. 

From mouth watering fried chicken sandwiches to delectable chicken oysters, their innovative approach to comfort food has earned it a special place in the hearts of food enthusiasts. If you’re looking for a fun and flavorful dining experience that pushes the boundaries of chicken cuisine, The Crack Shack is a must-visit destination in Encinitas.

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Chicken Sandwich
  • Mexican Poutine
  • Senor Croque

Address: 407 Encinitas Blvd Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 230-2968

20. Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria

Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria is a beloved establishment known for serving some of Encinitas’ finest wood-fired pizzas. The wood-fired oven imparts a unique smoky flavor and crispy crust to each pie, elevating the pizza experience to new heights. 

Whether you prefer classic combinations or inventive creations, Blue Ribbon has it all. From Cheesy Garlic Bread Pizza to Truffle Shuffle, their signature pizzas are popular for a reason. Their menu also features a variety of unique appetizers and salads, like Truffle Honey Drizzled Ricotta Bruschetta and Pear & Prosciutto Salad. They also offer Gluten-Free pizza crust!

Best Dishes to Try:

  • Signature Pizza
  • Truffle Honey Drizzled Ricotta Bruschetta
  • Inferno Pizza

Address: 897 S Coast Hwy 101 Ste F102 Encinitas, CA 92024

Phone Number: (760) 634-7671

With such a diverse range of dining options in Encinitas, you can embark on a culinary journey that explores flavors from around the world. Whether you’re in the mood for seafood, Mexican, Italian, Asian fusion, or classic American comfort food, these 20 restaurants have something for everyone.

Leucadia Donut Shoppe

I couldn’t conclude this list without including a true local favorite. This family-owned business has been serving donuts in Encinitas since 1988! Make sure to try their fresh apple fritter.

leucadia donut shoppe encinitas best restaurants

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