San Marcos is a small but charming city located in North County, less than an hour north of San Diego City.
The city strikes the perfect balance between man-made attractions and natural treasures, perfect for every kind of traveler.
Aptly named the Valley of Discovery, you’ll discover more than just scenic parks, picturesque gardens, and other attractions here.
San Marcos also boasts restaurants and establishments with multinational cuisines that will make you feel as if you’ve explored the world through its food.
That said, here are the 15 best restaurants in San Marcos, California, that you should try on your visit.
Fish House Vera Cruz
Fish House Vera Cruz takes pride in its title as having the Best Seafood in San Diego County, serving delectable seafood dishes for over 30 years.
Its menu includes an impressive array of appetizers, cocktails, soups, pasta, and entrees using fresh seafood as the main ingredient.
Unlike regular gas-fired grilled food, all seafood at the restaurant is mesquite-grilled, cooking their meals perfectly on the outside while maintaining any flavors on the inside.
In addition to its food, Fish House Vera Cruz is also known for its unique interiors featuring adobe brick walls, salvaged Douglas Fir wood beams from Oregon, and fish tanks scattered around the establishment.
Their rustic atmosphere and seafood-based meals make Fish House a must-try on your visit to San Marcos.
Mama Kat's Restaurant
Mama Kat’s Restaurant has been a favorite among locals and tourists for its cozy environment serving American comfort food.
The restaurant mainly serves breakfast favorites, making it an ideal place to have brunch and start your day before exploring San Marcos or its neighboring areas.
Enjoy delicious buttermilk pancakes, waffles, French toast, Eggs Benedict, hot cereal, breakfast burritos, or create your own specialty omelet served with hash brown, fries, or fruits.
Aside from their breakfast meals, you can also try their muffins, cinnamon rolls, scones, and other freshly baked goods.
If you're looking for a sweet afternoon snack, have a slice of their cream or fruit-based pie paired with coffee or cold-pressed juice.
With all these options, Mama Kat's Restaurant is one of San Marcos’ best and most well-loved restaurants.
For a taste of old-world charm, head to The Bellows, an upscale restaurant proudly serving farm-to-fork dishes using organic and fresh ingredients.
Located along Village Drive and S. Twin Oaks Valley Road, it is near the city’s residential area while remaining accessible from California State University San Marcos (CSUSM).
The restaurant's location makes it a popular hangout spot for dinner and drinks at the end of a busy workday.
At The Bellows, start with a light yet fulfilling appetizer of an aged cheese platter, salami board, hummus plate, or salad, then try a slice of wood-fired Ancient Roman-style pizza.
For the main dish, try their chicken parmesan, Lebanese spice-roasted chicken, or short rib pot roast paired with a glass of wine.
Love Boat Sushi
Craving Japanese food? Look no further and visit Love Boat Sushi, located at Grand Plaza.
Since it’s located within a mall, it is a convenient and popular dining option for mall-goers seeking to satisfy their sushi or tempura cravings.
The Japanese joint serves a variety of fresh sushi, sashimi, tempura, specialty rolls, and salads.
If you want something heavier, try their noodles or entrees like chicken katsu, spicy sesame chicken, salmon teriyaki, or BBQ ribs, all served with a generous serving of rice, miso soup, salad, and gyoza.
If you’re torn between two entrees, you can combine them to get the best of both worlds.
Complete your Japanese dining experience at Love Boat Sushi and order sake or an ice-cold beer to go with your meal.
Lutchi and Mary
Authentic Filipino restaurants are uncommon in San Marcos, which is why Lutchi and Mary is a must-try in the area.
Family-owned and operated, the restaurant brings the comforting and hearty flavors of the Philippines to the West Coast.
They also serve all-day silog meals, a traditional Filipino breakfast consisting of protein, garlic fried rice, fried egg, and pickled vegetables.
In addition, Lutchi and Mary also serves Filipino classics like beef pares, chicken adobo, pork lechon kawali, pork liempo, and the famous shrimp sinigang.
End your meal on a sweet note and order a serving of leche flan, banana turon, halo-halo, or drinks like sago gulaman and buko pandan.
Old California Mining Company
The Old California Mining Company is a casual steakhouse offering classic American fare in a Gold Rush-themed restaurant.
Its wooden interiors, stone walls, and leather couches will make you feel like you were in a log cabin along the Sierra Nevada during the 1850s.
To complement its theme, Old California Mining Company’s meal offerings include stuffed potato skins, turkey creole, country-fried steak, bourbon-apple chicken, and more.
For the main dish, sink your teeth into a plate of juicy baby back ribs, top sirloin, whisky peppercorn ribeye, or rustic pecan-apple pork chop served with two different side dishes.
Health-conscious eaters can also try their half-pound burgers and sandwiches served with fries or a bowl of vegetarian pasta.
Amalfi Cucina Italiana
Overlooking the scenic Lake San Marcos, Amalfi Cucina Italiana is a must-try restaurant when visiting the city.
Proudly serving art and history in a dish, the restaurant whips up the best Neapolitan-style pizzas, salads, and pasta using freshly caught seafood and locally grown herbs and other ingredients.
Its floor-to-ceiling windows and airy atmosphere allows you to enjoy the food while admiring the view of the lake.
At Amalfi Cucina Italiana, create your own pasta dish by combining your choice of pasta and sauce, or savor a delicious slice of wood-fired pizza.
Complete your meal with a refreshing cocktail or a glass from their impressive wine list.
After having your fill of the best Italian dishes, head downstairs to Amalfi Marina Bar and have a glass of cold beer or its popular Amalfi Spritz while admiring the lakeside views.
Chinese food is a staple in almost every city, as the dishes are flavorful, hearty, and healthy.
In San Marcos, Panda Garden is arguably the best Chinese restaurant, feeding satisfied customers for almost 25 years.
The restaurant is a popular choice for its convenience, delicious food, and excellent service in Palomar Plaza Shopping Center.
Some of their popular dishes include spicy honey shrimp, pepper fry chicken wings, kung pao chicken, Mongolian beef, and chow ma mein noodles.
Whether you’re looking for a warm bowl of soup, tasty noodles, pork, beef, seafood, or chicken-based dishes, Panda Garden has it for you.
Best of all, they also have plenty of options for vegetable-based dishes for those with special dietary requirements.
Cocina del Charro
For the best Mexican dishes, head to Cocina del Charro, a family-run restaurant that has been around for around 40 years.
The Mexican joint is a favorite for its relaxing yet welcoming ambiance, perfect for indoor or alfresco dining, and its array of dishes that can satisfy any palate.
Begin with appetizers like quesadillas, nachos, or ceviche tostadas, then order fajitas, burritos, carne asada, or steak ranchero, served with rice and beans or a salad.
Want to try different dishes?
Create your own combo and choose between a variety of dishes like tacos, tamales, burritos, and enchiladas.
Cocina del Charro also offers a full-service bar where you can enjoy a bottle of beer or its signature margaritas.
My Yard Live Beer Co.
My Yard Live in San Marcos combines live music, comfort food, and the relaxing vibe of your backyard.
The brewpub is where the young and young at heart come to play, with a wooden playground where kids can hang out and an outdoor events stage where live music shows, trivia nights, and karaoke nights are held.
In addition, the establishment aims to foster a tightly knit community, offering fun activities for all ages, quality food, and live entertainment.
As for its food, My Yard Live offers classic comfort food like fish and chips, chicken wings, mac and cheese, cheeseburgers, and more.
Those with a sweet tooth will also love the desserts, ranging from a moist carrot cake and churro basket to a classic MYL House Sundae.
The Old Spaghetti Factory
The Old Spaghetti Factory is a classic choice for affordable yet satisfying Italian favorites like pasta and soup.
Its old-fashioned yet sophisticated setting is perfect for small gatherings or an intimate dinner date, featuring warm-toned walls, dark wooden furniture, antique lighting fixtures, and stained glass windows.
The restaurant also has an old trolley car where guests can eat and enjoy this unique dining experience.
Every entree on the menu includes a serving of baked bread, soup, or salad, and a scoop of vanilla or their signature spumoni ice cream, letting you enjoy three meals in one.
If you have special dietary requirements, The Old Spaghetti Factory offers gluten-friendly versions of its pasta and side dishes.
For your dose of authentic Japanese food, visit Umami Japanese, located a stone’s throw away from CSUSM.
This pet-friendly restaurant combines traditional Japanese flavors with California’s more modern culinary innovations, serving aesthetically pleasing yet delicious food.
Their menu boasts an assortment of fresh sushi, specialty rolls, tempura rolls, ramen, and bento meals.
Want to try as much sushi as you want?
Their Platinum Plate consists of the chef’s choice of sashimi, served on a large platter with colorful flowers, perfect for your social media feed.
You can also try their vegetarian rolls and gluten-free rolls.
For dessert, enjoy a cup of matcha ice cream, mochi ice cream, or their unique tempura ice cream.
Muay Thai Kitchen
When we think of Muay Thai, we remember the combat sport that originated in Thailand.
However, Muay Thai is also the name of one of the best Thai restaurants in San Marcos.
Located in Plaza San Marcos, Muay Thai Kitchen offers authentic Thai cuisine using ingredients and produce from Thailand.
From curries, stir-fry, noodles, and soup, your favorite Thai food is part of their menu.
Enjoy the best Thai spring rolls, cream cheese wonton, and chicken satay, or a warm bowl of tom yum, tom kha, or wonton soup.
Known for their curry varieties, you can also try their yellow, green, or red curry.
Muay Thai Kitchen also offers lunch specials, where customers can choose between a main course paired with soup and salad.
Buona Forchetta San Marcos
Buona Forchetta San Marcos is an authentic Neapolitan pizzeria and Italian restaurant located in North City.
The restaurant’s posh yet approachable environment and mouthwatering cuisine make it a favorite among corporate workers, families, and students at CSUSM.
At Buona Forchetta San Marcos, feast on a variety of antipasti, salads, specialty pasta dishes, and classics like amatriciana and bolognese pasta.
For the main dish, take a bite of their Neapolitan-style pizza, available in gluten-free and vegetarian options to suit different customers.
To complete your upscale Italian meal, have a glass of wine, beer, or Italian soda, or try their homemade desserts.
Las Brisas Mexican Cuisine San Marcos
Las Brisas Mexican Cuisine is the best place to go if you’re craving authentic Mexican food.
Its colorful and fun atmosphere is reminiscent of the beachside restaurants along the Mexican coast, making you feel as if you’re away from the city.
Choose between different Mexican staples like carne asada, salsa, tacos, carnitas, and burrito, their bestseller.
To complement your meal, try their signature cocktails or handcrafted margaritas.
If you’re looking for a laid-back afternoon hangout spot, Las Brisas Mexican Cuisine San Marcos has happy hour deals, where you can enjoy Mexican drinks and snacks.
True to its nickname as the Valley of Discovery, San Marcos offers plenty of dining options for every traveler.
Whether you’re looking for a posh Italian restaurant, a casual dining spot for the whole family, or a home-style restaurant serving American comfort food, you can find them in this city.
If you want to try different cuisines on your trip, visit and try the best restaurants in San Marcos, CA.