Incredible ocean vistas, a glittering skyline, and sailboats slicing through the water offshore -- it's the classic backdrop for a memorable meal. So where can you find the best views?
Downtown, the Fish Market and its pricier cousin Top of the Market overlook San Diego Bay, and the management even provides binoculars for getting a good look at aircraft carriers and other vessels. With its over-the-water setting on Harbor Island, near the airport, Island Prime is another visual overachiever (with plenty of outdoor seating). Mai tais and Tikis come along with the bay perspective at 1950s holdover Bali Hai on Shelter Island, 2230 Shelter Island Dr. (tel. 619/222-1181; www.balihairestaurant.com). Across the harbor in Coronado, Il Fornaio, 1333 First St. (tel. 619/437-4911; www.ilfornaio.com); Peohe's, 1201 First St. (tel. 619/437-4474; www.peohes.com); and Candelas offer gorgeous views of the San Diego skyline; tony Mistral, at Loews Coronado Bay Resort, provides a unique north-facing look across the bay.
In Ocean Beach, Nick's at the Pier, 5083 Santa Monica Ave. (tel. 619/222-7437; www.nicksatthepier.com), sits on a second-floor perch right across the street from the beach; in Pacific Beach, the Green Flash is just 5 feet from the sand (although the year-round parade of bodies may prove a distraction from the ocean). In La Jolla, the Sky Room and George's at the Cove offer sweeping, elevated views of the coast, but Brockton Villa actually offers the La Jolla Cove perspective as advertised on every postcard stand in town. If you want to get up-close-and-personal with the oceanic scene, head to the Marine Room. Located right on La Jolla Shores beach, the restaurant's windows utilize SeaWorld technology to withstand the seasonal tides that crash into the glass. Somewhat inland, but 11 stories up atop the Hotel La Jolla, is Clay's La Jolla.
Uptown, Bertrand at Mister A's sits on the 12th floor at Fifth and Laurel, and the panorama here encompasses Balboa Park (as well as the living rooms of some ritzy condo towers) to the east, downtown to the south, and San Diego Harbor and Point Loma to the west. The vistas here are unsurpassed.