The Best Restaurants and Things to Do and See in Del Mar, California
“Where the turf meets the surf down at old Del Mar. Take a plane. Take a train. Take a car. There is a smile on every face, and a winner in each race. Where the turf meets the surf at Del Mar.” – Bing Crosby
As the famous Bing Crosby song eludes, when people around the country and around the globe think about Del Mar, California, they think about the Del Mar Thoroughbred Horse Racing Track . Until the introduction of the “Bing Crosby Season” in the Fall last year, the horse race season only lasted a short 40 days a year. That leaves 325 days of other stuff. I think that is why many athletes and retired athletes, and wealthy individuals live in Del Mar, California and love it. Except for those 40 days, and the preceding month of the San Diego County Fair at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Del Mar is a pretty sleepy town. There are well-off people that choose to live in various beach areas in Southern California, like Malibu, Santa Monica, and Manhattan Beach, which are all in LA county. Their residences that are in the entertainment industry, which is hardly low key, heavily influence all of those neighborhoods. Newport Beach, in Orange County, is also really nice, but in my experience is it a bit more of a yacht community, and a bit more superficial than Del Mar, California.
As a part of the “ranch and coast” community, since we live in Rancho Santa Fe, Del Mar is one of our main hang-out spots. One of the coolest things about Del Mar is that it is really a walking village community, with lots of shops, restaurants, parks, and the beach. I love that! I have only been to one other place that rivals it, and that is Manhattan Beach in the South Bay area of LA. But Del Mar, California is far more low-key, with no entertainment industry influence. It is characterized by its charm, and desire to keep things the same…or at least make it a hard process to make changes.
A few of the best of del mar outdoor spots include Del Mar City Beach and Dog Beach where my dogs can run around without leashes, and my teenage daughter plays beach volleyball. I also really like Seagrove Park that is in the village and overlooks the ocean, and Powerhouse Park, which is really just a grassy park on the beach.
My favorite places to have a drink in Del Mar, California are En Fuego Cantina and Grill, Jimmy O’s, where you can also watch a football game, and Jake’s Del Mar, which is right on the beach. In the Del Mar Plaza there is a really good outdoor bar with great views called Enoteca Del Fernaio. And, of course, we can’t leave-out L’Auberge Hotel and Spa, which is a wonderful resort and spa.
For dining in the village, we really like the Americana Restaurant for breakfast, which is right on the corner of 15th and Camino Del Mar. It has great outdoor seating to enjoy the beautiful weather. We also really enjoy Sbicca, PrepKitchen (which also has locations in La Jolla and Little Italy in downtown San Diego), and Zel’s. Each have a really good menu and an outdoor patio.
We really like hanging out at Del Mar Plaza.
It is usually a great place to park with limited street parking and very zealous parking meter maids. If you eat or shop at any of the places in the Plaza, they will validate your parking, which is really nice. For Dining at the Plaza we like Il Fernaio even though it is a chain, it has really great food and wonderful views and outdoor seating.
There are also some really cute places for shopping in Del Mar, California, and a few of our favorites in the Plaza are:
When I think about Del Mar, I generally think about the village, but there are some other great restaurants in “Del Mar” that are some of my favorite places in San Diego for fine dining:
• Market Restaurant and Bar This place is quite possibly my favorite restaurant in San Diego.
• Pamplemousse Grille This is a great restaurant with terrific food, but a little pricy. They also cater events, and their famous chef, Jeffery Strauss, usually does the catering himself.
• Cucina Enoteca We really like this place. It offers retail wine that you can buy there and just pay corkage. Their prices are reasonable, and they have community dining options, which is fun socially. I do prefer their sister restaurant called Cucina Urbana, which is in Banker’s Hill near downtown San Diego. It is more hip, but a bit of a trek from North County.
• Red Tracton’s Steakhouse I think this is the best place for prime rib. It has an old school funky atmosphere that is hard to describe. Suffice it to say, the people watching is spectacular. Some people prefer Bully’s in the Del Mar village, which is also really good. But Tracton’s atmosphere wins-out in my book.
We also enjoy The Brigantine on a weekend day or on Taco Tuesdays. It has really great views of the Del Mar racetrack. During the Christmas holiday season, the race track does a Christmas theme, and it looks spectacular from the back deck of “the Brig”.
And if that isn’t enough, you can always go to the Del Mar Farmers Market or take a Hot Air Balloon Ride. Del Mar, California is really an incredible place, and we just love it! Please let me know your thoughts. What do you like and where do you disagree? We want to hear from you!