25 Best Restaurants in Encinitas, CA

This article was written by local contributor Jacob Hamilton & edited by the Travel Lens team.

Best Restaurants in Encinitas, CA

Encinitas, a stunning coastal city in Southern California, has always been a gem in my heart.

Over the years, I've had the privilege of exploring its vibrant dining scene, which offers an incredible variety of flavors and experiences that reflect the city's unique charm.

Every time I step out to try a new restaurant or return to a beloved favorite, I'm reminded of how lucky I am to call this place home.

So, whether you're a fellow resident or just visiting our picturesque town, allow me to share with you some of the best restaurants in Encinitas, California, that are definitely worth trying out.

Trust me, your taste buds will thank you!

Alice's Italian Gourmet

Just the other day, I had the pleasure of visiting Alice's Italian Gourmet with my friends.

We decided to dine in their lovely covered patio area, which added to the overall charming ambiance.

I had heard great things about their lasagna, so I went ahead and ordered it.

I must say that the quality of the food was outstanding.

The lasagna was cooked to perfection, and I could taste the extra care and effort they put into creating the flavorful sauce - it seemed like they roasted the tomatoes before incorporating them into the dish.

My friends ordered pasta dishes as well, and we all agreed that their marinara sauce had a rich, roasted tomato flavor, elevating the taste of our meals.

The portions were generous, and we couldn't resist trying their delicious garlic bread and tiramisu for dessert.

Alice’s Italian Gourmet · 252 N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Italian restaurant

Buona Forchetta - Encinitas

I've been a frequent visitor to Buona Forchetta in Encinitas.

The authentic Italian cuisine and the atmosphere of the place keep me coming back for more.

Whenever I go there, I notice how most of the employees seem to have Italian accents, which adds to the charm of the restaurant.

The bread on their pizzas and calzones is always fantastic, and they use just the right amount of oil to make everything taste amazing.

It's also interesting to learn from them about the various Italian-American fusion dishes they serve, like fried pizza and breakfast pizza.

One of my favorite visits was when I came with my family on a Sunday afternoon.

We were seated in a large back room, which was perfect for us and our kids.

We started with calamari, which was pretty good, but the real star of the meal was my choice from the specials menu: carbonara ravioli with butter and sage sauce.

It was absolutely delicious, and even my kids enjoyed it!

I'm not usually a pizza person, but Buona Forchetta has changed my mind with their perfectly crafted pies.

The crust is just right - not too heavy or doughy - and the toppings are always fresh and full of flavor.

We tried a Margherita with sausage and pepperoni, as well as a Sergio, which was a delightful surprise.

Buona Forchetta - Encinitas · 250 N Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Italian restaurant

Poki Poki - Encinitas

I can confidently say that Poki Poki has become one of my go-to lunch spots.

One thing that stands out for me is their spicy poke bowls.

I requested it to be extra spicy, and they certainly delivered – it was the spiciest poke I've ever had but also one of the most delicious!

If spicy isn't your thing, don't worry, their menu has a variety of options, and their salmon is incredibly buttery and savory.

One fun fact: former 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia is a regular at Poki Poki!

And it's not surprising, given the quality of their food.

Poki Poki - Encinitas · 1042 N El Camino Real G, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Asian fusion restaurant

Plumeria Vegetarian Encinitas

I have to say, finding amazing vegetarian Thai food in Encinitas was a pleasant surprise!

Every time I visit Plumeria Vegetarian, I am consistently blown away by the quality of the dishes they serve. Some of my favorites include the 'chicken' skewers, tangerine chicken, and pumpkin curry.

The rice is always cooked to perfection, and the curry is fragrant with just the right amount of spice.

Not only are the dishes delicious, but they also use organic, non-GMO ingredients.

The tofu they use is locally sourced, which adds to the freshness of the meals.

I also love their veggie chicken that has a genuine fried chicken quality to it.

Another dish that stands out to me is the house fried rice with drunken noodles.

I remember ordering it with my partner, who opted for the vegan fried rice with the 3 beans.

We even tried the fresh rolls, which were so tasty! The portion sizes are quite generous, and we usually have leftovers for another meal.

One of the best parts about Plumeria Vegetarian is the unique and delicious flavors in every dish.

The freshness of the ingredients is evident, making it an absolute must-visit for any vegetarian or Thai food enthusiast.

Plus, they have a branch in Downtown San Diego too, which is convenient for those in that area.

Plumeria Vegetarian Encinitas · 527 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Vegetarian restaurant

Fish 101 Leucadia

I absolutely love visiting Fish 101 Leucadia whenever I get the chance.

This husband and wife chef duo really knows how to prepare sustainably-caught local fish in Californian cuisine style.

The last time I went there, I was surprised to see it was super empty on a Friday night, but the old-school vibes and picnic table seating with a covered patio and heat lamps made it a cozy experience.

I tried a few items on the menu, including a grilled salmon plate, a poke bowl, and grilled salmon tacos.

The food came out quickly, and the service was very friendly.

I especially enjoyed the Brussels sprouts and broccolini sides.

The salmon and poke were good, just lacking a bit of flavor, and comparing portion sizes to other places.

As a bonus, they were playing 80s jams the entire time, which was a refreshing change-up.

On another visit, I tried the grilled Mahi, fish and chips, and Baja shrimp burrito, all of which were spot on.

Not to mention, the clam chowder, oysters, and broccolini are some of my all-time favorites.

They also have a decent selection of beer and wine, which is always a plus.

Fish 101 Leucadia · 1468 N Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Seafood restaurant

The 101 Diner

I absolutely love starting my weekend mornings with a delicious breakfast at The 101 Diner.

This old-fashioned American breakfast and lunch joint has a nostalgic surf decor and even offers a handful of sidewalk tables for outdoor dining.

Last Sunday, I went there for lunch and had to wait for about 5 minutes to get a table, but it was totally worth it.

I ordered the Louisiana Sausage Benedict, and my partner went for the blueberry banana pancakes combo.

To top it all off, we shared a mouthwatering raspberry shake.

Everything was simply scrumptious!

What I love about this place is the authentic diner feel it has, making it perfect for a cozy Sunday morning breakfast.

It's a seat-yourself-style restaurant, and I've always been impressed by their excellent service.

The 101 Diner · 552 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Diner

Encinitas Fish Shop

One of my favorite spots to grab a meal in Encinitas is the Encinitas Fish Shop.

I love the laid-back atmosphere and the sports bar vibe, which makes it a perfect spot to hang out with friends, especially on weekends.

When you visit, you can expect a casual dining experience, where you just take a seat, glance at the menu, and then go to the counter to order your seafood feast.

The selection of fish is impressive, and I always appreciate the fact that I can see the fresh fish on display.

The last time I was there, I tried the blackened red snapper, which was absolutely amazing.

The fish was fresh, flavorful, and cooked to perfection.

I also enjoyed the fish taco, which was crunchy and had a generously-sized piece of fish inside.

For sides, I had a tasty clam chowder served in a bread bowl, and my partner enjoyed the coleslaw and macaroni salad.

We also shared a plate of onion rings, which were good but not great.

What really stood out about the Fish Shop, though, was the wide variety of menu options and the attention to detail in preparing the dishes.

I especially loved the teriyaki salmon paired with crispy calamari and a side of broccoli.

Encinitas Fish Shop · 1010 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Seafood restaurant

Everest Himalayan Cuisine

I have to admit I'm a bit of a foodie, and I can confidently say that Everest Himalayan Cuisine is one of my favorite spots in town.

Located on the bustling Downtown 101 Highway California, it's a cozy Vietnamese joint that offers an extensive menu of delectable banh mi, noodle & rice dishes, soups, and so much more.

You can check them out here: Everest Himalayan Cuisine.

The moment I stepped into the restaurant, I was greeted with the warmest smiles and the most incredible aromas.

I knew I was in for a treat.

I decided to try their Chicken Tikka Masala, which was recommended by many online reviews.

And let me tell you, it was an explosion of flavors in my mouth – from the soft, aromatic Basmati rice to the perfectly balanced sauce and the tender, juicy chicken.

One of my friends opted for the Chicken Tikka, and they were equally amazed by the flavor combinations and the quality of the ingredients.

Another thing I love about this place is the variety on their menu.

With so many entrees and dishes to choose from, I know I'll be back to try more of their delicious offerings.

Everest Himalayan Cuisine, Encinitas, Downtown 101 Highway CA · 745 S Coast Hwy 101 #103J, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Indian restaurant

Maurizio's Trattoria Italiana

One of my favorite spots for Italian dining in the neighborhood has to be Maurizio's Trattoria Italiana.

I've been to several Italian restaurants in the area, but this gem has become my go-to place whenever I crave authentic Italian flavors.

I have dined at Maurizio's on multiple occasions, and each time, the experience has been nothing short of spectacular.

The moment you walk in, you can feel the relaxed yet elegant atmosphere, perfect for unwinding after a long day.

What I appreciate the most is their dog-friendly patio, allowing me to bring my furry friend along for dinner, making the evening even more enjoyable.

The magic truly lies in their kitchen, where they consistently create high-quality, authentic Italian dishes.

From appetizers to desserts, I have not found a single dish to complain about.

The burrata on prosciutto drizzled with extra virgin olive oil is a divine way to start your meal.

If you're in the mood for pasta, their spaghetti carbonara is a must-try.

I cannot talk about Maurizio's without mentioning their tiramisu.

It is, without a doubt, the best I've ever had.

Rich yet not overly sweet, it strikes the perfect balance that many other tiramisus fail to achieve.

My daughter and I often stop by Maurizio's to take a break from shopping.

She adores their Aperol spritz, and we both appreciate the consistently great food and service.

Maurizio’s Trattoria Italiana · 505 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Italian restaurant

Health-Conscious Foodies

I must say, discovering Nectarine Grove has been one of the most pleasant surprises during my many years of living in this neighborhood.

As someone who prioritizes healthy eating options, this cozy café has become my go-to spot for paleo, gluten-free, and vegan dishes.

The menu offers a great variety of options, and their sweets are simply divine.

From their cinnamon roll to protein plate, grove salad, and waffles, each dish is prepared with care and attention to detail.

I have to mention their chicken and waffles; they are truly unmatched in this area.

When I feel like indulging, I can't resist trying their delicious baked goods. And the pizzas - oh, the pizzas!

Although they don't have a traditional crust, they still taste fantastic.

One of the best parts of my visit to Nectarine Grove is always enjoying a nice double shot of espresso on their sunny patio.

I find it incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating.

Nectarine Grove · 948 N Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Restaurant

Trattoria I Trulli

One of my favorite places to dine in the neighborhood is Trattoria I Trulli.

I first discovered this gem thanks to Google reviews, and it has never disappointed me since.

Their meatballs are incredibly flavorful and melt in your mouth, while the ravioli and rigatoni pizzocoto never fail to impress.

The pasta dishes are always cooked to perfection, and the portions are just right for me to enjoy without feeling overwhelmed.

For dessert, I cannot recommend the mousse chocolate cake enough.

It's moist, light, and the perfect way to end a fantastic meal.

Trattoria I Trulli Restaurant · 830 S Coast Hwy 101 A, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Italian restaurant

Captain Keno's Restaurant

Let me tell you, Captain Keno's Restaurant has been a staple in Encinitas for as long as I can remember.

I've been coming here since I was a baby, and even now, nearly 28 years later, I never miss a chance to visit this timeless treasure whenever I'm in town.

Their generous plates of traditional American fare and cocktails, all served in the most welcoming atmosphere, make this no-frills institution a must-visit.

Don't believe me?

Check out their website and see for yourself!

One of the things that keep me coming back to Captain Keno's is their unbeatable prices.

I'm talking about $5.99 Keno Burgers with fries, $2.49 bowls of clam chowder with bread, $5.79 Keno Specials, $3.25 happy hour drinks, and even a surprise piece of birthday cake when it's your special day.

And the best part?

These prices have remained impressively affordable for over three decades.

Captain Keno’s Restaurant · 158 N Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Bar & grill

GOODONYA Organic Eatery

I've always been a fan of organic, non-GMO food, so when I heard about GOODONYA Organic Eatery,

I knew I had to try it out.

The modern, sleek venue offers a variety of delicious options like pizzas, rice bowls, and other cafe eats.

As a person who values the importance of organic eating, I was quite excited to visit.

On my visit, I tried the turkey sandwich, and although it was a bit pricey at $18, it tasted fresh and homemade.

I also appreciated that they sell bone broth, which is something I love.

The food quality was truly amazing. I particularly enjoyed the veggie bowl, kid's pancakes and eggs, and the veggie scramble.

Their cashew/herb spread and pumpkin tea latte were also fantastic.

GOODONYA Organic Eatery · 1051 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Restaurant

Himalayas in Encinitas

I've had the pleasure of dining at a lot of great local restaurants, and Himalayan Kitchen is no exception!

This cozy spot offers a mix of Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan cuisine, and the art adorning the walls truly enhances the homey atmosphere.

One of my favorite things about Himalayan Kitchen Encinitas is its generous portion sizes.

I often find myself walking away with leftovers that are just as delicious the next day.

Whether I'm craving some spicy curry or tender goat meat, the dishes at Himalayan Kitchen never disappoint.

Their lunch specials are my go-to whenever I want a flavorful and satisfying midday meal.

Also, garlic naan and momo are must-tries for anyone who loves authentic Indian and Nepalese flavors.

What truly sets this restaurant apart, however, is not just the delicious food but also the friendly and attentive service.

I always feel welcome and well taken care of whenever I dine here.

Plus, the ample parking in the back of the restaurant makes it super convenient for a quick lunch or a leisurely dinner.

Himalayan Kitchen Encinitas · 1337 Encinitas Blvd, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Indian restaurant

Lobster West

I can say without a doubt that Lobster West in Encinitas has some of the best seafood sandwiches around.

I've been to this cozy establishment quite a few times, and I can't get enough of their delicious lobster rolls.

They offer a variety of styles, but my personal favorite is the Connecticut style, which comes warm and buttery, unlike the Maine style, which is served chilled with mayo.

Their menu also features other mouthwatering options like crab and shrimp rolls and combo plates if you want to sample everything.

Visiting their website gives you a glimpse of what they have to offer, and I can attest to the freshness of their ingredients.

The lobster bisque is another must-try!

Lobster West · 765 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Restaurant

The Crack Shack - Encinitas

The Crack Shack - Encinitas has become one of my go-to spots for delicious chicken and egg dishes.

Their outdoor seating is stylish and inviting, and the full bar adds a nice touch to the overall atmosphere.

The bocce court is a fun extra, perfect for unwinding after a long week with friends or family.

My personal favorite is the chef's special chicken sandwich, but my partner swears by the downward dog.

Both dishes are packed with flavor and never fail to leave us feeling satisfied and well-fed.

One of the things that set The Crack Shack apart is the consistency in the quality of their food.

Each time I visit, I know I can expect fresh, hot, and flavorful dishes.

The fries are actually quite good, and the variety of sauce options is a nice touch.

I highly recommend trying the pineapple mustard - it's unique and adds a fun twist to the meal.

The Crack Shack - Encinitas · 407 Encinitas Blvd, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Chicken restaurant

Luna Grill Encinitas

I recently visited Luna Grill Encinitas after a heavy morning workout, and I must say, I absolutely loved their food!

The dishes were light, fresh, and flavorful, and some even had a spicy kick.

From kebabs and salads to their signature plates, Luna Grill offers a variety of Mediterranean eats in a relaxed, counter-serve setting.

I decided to try their Chicken & Gyro Meat signature plate, which included basmati rice, house salad, and a few small wedges of pita with tzatziki.

Although the price was a bit on the higher side, the portions of meat and salad were quite satisfying.

The only disappointment was the tiny wedges of pita, as I would have preferred a full-sized round piece, considering the overall price of the meal.

However, the food quality and taste made up for it. I can surely say that Luna Grill offers a much better overall experience than other Mediterranean chains I've tried.

Next time, I'm planning to try their wraps, which looked tantalizing and perfect for a picnic, tailgate, or road trip.

Luna Grill Encinitas · 1464 Encinitas Blvd, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Mediterranean restaurant

Le Papagayo

Living close to Le Papagayo, I've had the pleasure of dining there multiple times, and it never disappoints.

Le Papagayo is a cozy, upscale restaurant that offers an incredible fusion of Mediterranean and Latin flavors.

One of my most memorable experiences at Le Papagayo was when we showed up two hours early for our reservation, and even though the restaurant was packed, they managed to accommodate us.

On her recommendation, I tried the scallops, which were cooked to perfection.

My partner had the prime rib and couldn't get enough of it.

We also enjoyed the ribs and mussels.

To top it all off, the drinks were delicious as well.

Le Papagayo also offers a fantastic breakfast menu, which is hands down the best in the area.

The portion sizes are generous, and the quality of the food definitely justifies the slightly higher prices.

Aside from the incredible food, I love the laid-back beachy vibe of Le Papagayo.

The restaurant has a cute bar and a dog-friendly patio, making it the perfect place to relax with friends and family.

Le Papagayo · 1002 N Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Mexican restaurant

Valentina Restaurant

I had been hearing great things about Valentina Restaurant from my friends, so I finally decided to give it a try.

My experience at Valentina was nothing short of amazing.

I had a chance to taste their delicious pasta, which was cooked to perfection.

My friend ordered a salad with tuna, and we shared some fries as an appetizer.

The customer service was top-notch, making us feel very welcome and well taken care of.

The ambiance of the restaurant was chic and cozy, perfect for casual dining.

Valentina Restaurant · 810 N Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · Restaurant

Union Kitchen and Tap

One of my favorite spots to unwind after a long day is Union Kitchen and Tap.

As soon as you walk in, you are greeted by a modern-yet-rustic setting that instantly puts you in the mood for a good time.

What sets Union Kitchen and Tap apart is their rotating menu of craft beers.

Pairing these amazing beers with their New American small plates is a match made in heaven.

I particularly love the Vegan-specific section on their menu, which makes it easy to find healthy and tasty options without the need for substitutions.

The outdoor seating area is perfect for enjoying the beautiful Southern California weather, and it's pet-friendly, which is a huge plus for me as a dog owner.

Union Kitchen and Tap · 1108 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★★ · American restaurant

La Especial Norte

One of my favorite places to grab some authentic Mexican food in town is La Especial Norte.

A staple in the community since 1977, this restaurant's colorful dining room is always a welcoming sight.

Their menu offers a variety of traditional recipes, and I can't get enough of their amazing Mole and Swiss Enchiladas.

The beef enchiladas and crispy tacos are also a hit with my friends and family.

What sets La Especial Norte apart from other Mexican restaurants is their Mango Margaritas.

They're expertly crafted, not too sweet or sour, and pack a serious punch.

In fact, their margaritas are some of the best I've ever had, and the generous pours make the experience even better.

The restaurant gets quite busy, but they have a bar and outside patio seating to accommodate guests.

The prices are very reasonable, especially given the high quality of the food and drinks.

La Especial Norte · 664 N Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★☆ · Mexican restaurant

The Bier Garden

One of my favorite spots in town is The Bier Garden, located in a beautiful historic space.

As a beer enthusiast, I appreciate their vast selection of local brews, and their elevated pub grub never disappoints.

I've tried their fried fish tacos, and they were so delicious!

The brussels sprouts and pretzel bites are quite flavorful too. My kids are fans of their chicken strips and seasoned fries.

I remember celebrating my birthday here, and the service was truly exceptional.

Although the place gets quite busy, especially on Sundays, I find it to be worth the wait.

The Bier Garden · 641 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★☆ · Restaurant

Borrelli's Pizza & Italian Food

One of my absolute favorite places to eat is Borrelli's Pizza & Italian Food.

I've been dining here since my childhood, and now I continue the tradition by bringing my son along.

The restaurant has such a casual and homey atmosphere that it feels like a second home to us.

Every time we visit, we're treated to consistently excellent food, making it hard to choose just one dish as our favorite!

My son is a big fan of their fettuccine alfredo with chicken, while I often find myself torn between spaghetti with meat sauce or marinara.

The raviolis are also incredible and a must-try for any pasta lover.

And it's not just the pasta dishes that are amazing – on our last visit, we ordered some takeout pizza to share, and it was simply divine.

Despite being a local favorite, I've noticed that the restaurant hasn't been as busy lately.

Even on a Saturday evening, it was surprisingly empty.

But don't let that discourage you – the food is still fantastic, whether you're indulging in their specialty pizzas, pasta dishes, or Italian sandwiches.

The only thing I wish they'd improve a bit is the interior ambiance, but honestly, it's a minor issue compared to the delicious food they serve.

Borrelli’s Pizza & Italian Food · 285 N El Camino Real Suite106, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★☆ · Italian restaurant

The Craftsman Tavern

I recently had the pleasure of dining at The Craftsman Tavern with a group of friends.

As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by the rustic, stylish atmosphere that the restaurant is known for.

The cozy bar and patio were inviting, and we could tell that the farm-to-fork New American comfort food was going to be a treat.

She had several tables to attend to but still managed to make us feel like we were her top priority.

I decided to try the salmon, and while it was a bit overcooked, the dish was still enjoyable.

My friend ordered the skirt steak, and I couldn't help but feel a little envious as it was cooked to perfection, and the portion was huge!

One of the highlights of our visit to The Craftsman Tavern was the "crack addicting" truffle popcorn.

It was a must-try, and we couldn't get enough of it.

In terms of drinks, we did find the menu to be a bit on the expensive side, but that didn't deter us from trying a few of their delicious cocktails.

Next time, I'll definitely be ordering the skirt steak!

The Craftsman Tavern · 267 N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★☆ · New American restaurant

Q'ero Restaurant

One of my favorite spots to dine in Encinitas is Q'ero Restaurant, a cozy and intimate space that specializes in traditional South American and Peruvian delicacies.

I've been going here for years, and the food never disappoints.

The atmosphere is always warm and inviting, perfect for a relaxing evening out with friends or family.

I recently visited Q'ero on a Sunday evening around 3 pm without a reservation, and luckily, I was able to snag a table outside.

We started our meal with a delicious Peruvian ceviche accompanied by their special sauce, beans, and cheese empanadas.

I also ordered a Chicha drink to try, which was a delightful and refreshing beverage.

The service was fast and efficient, making our dining experience even more enjoyable.

One thing that keeps me coming back to Q'ero is their out-of-this-world tres leches cake.

It is hands down the best tres leches cake I've ever had, and I've tried quite a few.

I also ordered some alfajores for a later treat, which were equally scrumptious.

Q’ero Restaurant · 564 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, United States
★★★★☆ · Restaurant

Final Thoughts

Encinitas truly has a diverse and delectable dining scene that I have had the pleasure of enjoying over the years.

From mouthwatering Italian dishes at Buona Forchetta and Maurizio's Trattoria Italiana to the unique flavors of Everest Himalayan Cuisine and Himalayan Kitchen, there is something for everyone's taste buds in this coastal town.

So next time you find yourself craving a memorable meal in a beautiful setting, look no further than the wonderful restaurants in Encinitas.

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