Celebrity Chef Brian Malarkey Shares His Ultimate San Diego Dining Guide

San Diego is widely recognized for its pristine beaches, year-round sunshine, and cool, carefree vibes. While these characteristics are all fairly self-evident, the SoCal city is also home to an eclectic restaurant scene. From Little Italy to the diverse public markets, there are a plethora of worthy dining options in SD.

Brian Malarkey, a San Diego-based chef and the founder of the newly launched line of cooking oils, Chefs Life, is an expert on all things San Diego dining. The creator of several of San Diego’s most renowned restaurants, Malarkey’s latest ventures include Animae, the highly acclaimed Herb & Wood, and the chic coastal dining destination Herb & Sea.

When he’s not in San Diego, Malarkey serves as a judge on Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games. He’s also appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars LA, was a finalist on Top Chef Season 3, and was the winning mentor on ABC’s The Taste. It’s safe to say he knows a thing or two about the whole food game, so we asked him for his top San Diego dining recommendations below. (All italic words are quoted)


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Cesarina (@cesarinapasta)

Cesarina in Point Loma is one of my favorite restaurants and by far my favorite Italian restaurant in San Diego. I absolutely adore the husband and wife duo that owns Cesarina, Cesarina Mezzoni and Niccolò Angius. Cesarina Mezzoni is an incredible pastry chef and makes the best fresh pasta. My favorite menu item is the cacio e pepe because it’s perfect and it displays the simplicity of authentic Italian food. Most of the Italian restaurants in San Diego have been so Americanized, but after one bite of anything from Cesarina you’ll feel like you’re really in Italy.

Supannee House of Thai

Best San Diego Restaurants
Via Supannee House of Thai

Supannee is my local Thai restaurant and it’s absolutely perfect. In every dish, they use just the right amount of spice and sauce, and the flavors are amazing. My favorite menu item is the nam kao tod appetizer, it’s a gingery, flavor-packed, rice-and-pork dish with cabbage and other vegetables. I also always get the classic Thai fried rice.

This place is a staple, it keeps Point Loma alive, and it’s definitely a go-to-once-a-week kind of place. The owner, Supannee House, also sources all of her produce locally from farms and utilizes local fishermen for her seafood, so all the food and ingredients are super fresh.

Rare Society

I’ve always been a fan of Rare Society, Chef Brad Wise, and his entire team. They are all amazing and they make great concepts. Brad is one of the greatest chefs and restaurateurs in San Diego history, and Rare Society took it to a whole new level for me. It’s an over-the-top steak house that’s gorgeous in design and has incredible service and staff. The grilled lobster was some of the best, if not the best lobster I’ve had in my life, and I eat a lot of lobster! I can’t say enough good things about this place.

Pho Point Loma & Grill

San Diego Restaurants
Via Pho Point Loma & Grill

Pho Point Loma & Grill is one of my favorite places to grab lunch, especially as I’ve been going through a big Pho phase. I order a bowl of pho, the #1, and add a ton of bean sprouts. The pho is clean, bright, and has the perfect crunch with the added sprouts, it’s a nutritious and healthy pick-me-up. I also never leave without getting an order of the shrimp fried rice to go, to eat as my dinner later. If you are looking for something fast, efficient, and affordable, go to Pho Point Loma & Grill.

Din Tai Fung

I know Din Tai Fung is a chain, and it’s in a mall, but I’m not lying when I say my kids and I can eat our body weight in dumplings there. There is nothing on that menu that is not amazing, everything is to die for, from the spicy shrimp wontons to the simple green beans. I go crazy for them! Din Tai Fung is just about the only place I’m willing to stand in a line to get into.


San Diego Restaurants
Via Azucar

Azúcar in Ocean Beach is the greatest Cuban pastry and sandwich shop ever – well worth the wait. I always go for the classic Cubano sandwich with slowly roasted Cuban pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard, but you can’t go wrong with any of their sandwiches. Whenever my kids have a birthday, or we’re celebrating a special occasion, we go to Azúcar. It never fails to amaze me how much flavor, and how many different flavor combinations and products can come from just a tiny little kitchen from an amazing little team.

Liberty Public Market

I have three kids with very distinct palates, so there’s nothing better than just letting them loose in Liberty Public Market and letting them choose what they want. There are so many good options! You’ll find me at White Rice, which is amazing Filipino food from the incredible Chef Phillip Esteban.

My kids, Miles and Sailor love Pasta Design. They get the classic angel hair pasta with meatballs, and Hunter loves to get a burger from RAD Burger across the way. Liberty Public Market also has a great outdoor patio with a selection of beer and wine, which is fun for adults and kids because they can run around in the grass and have fun.