Top Down: Best Outdoor Dining Restaurant in San Diego

A great spot to enjoy outdoor dining in San Diego

Casa Sol y Mar Mexican Restaurant

Outdoor dining, or al fresco dining, is a very geographically specific luxury. If not for San Diego's temperate climate and paradisiacal summer months, al fresco dining would seem as foreign as surfing does to Russians, leaving us with an almost environmental responsibility to bask in the season. With the benefit of guaranteed warm weather, more and more Californians are beginning to take dinner outside, enjoying the many flavors of the summer season while in the midst of it. 

Put on a bib as I guide you to the best patio dining experience San Diego has to offer. 

Casa Sol y Mar Mexican Restaurant in Del Mar

Del Mar Highlands Town Center, 12865 El Camino Real, San Diego, CA 92130

(858) 792-4100

The restaurant, which opened in 2013, is a culturally eccentric space, designed and decorated with gold, crimson, and orange toned walls and a plethora of Mexican folk art. Owned by Diane Powers and her Bazaar Del Mundo Restaurant group, Casa Sol y Mar bares a striking resemblance to Powers’ other locations, maintaining a characteristic look of Americanized Mexicana and offering a similar selection of plates. On the colorful patio of Casa Sol y Mar’s restaurant during my al fresco experience, I assessed Powers’ restaurant philosophy, trying to decide if “great value, memorable flavors, abundant menu, and authentic environment” had all been present thus far; I decided Powers had precisely executed her philosophic standards, but then, I may have been positively influenced by the mouthful of delicious carnitas.

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With an extensive outdoor bar, turquoise-tiled fountain and the twinkling stream of overhead lights, the al fresco dining environment of Casa Sol y Mar is delightful. The decor continues outside of the restaurant, and the careful choice of tables, chairs, and other decorative items are obvious indications of Powers’ interior design past. For being beside the main road, the patio is pleasantly tranquil and the lull of low–volumed Mexican music adds a cultural flare to the table. My first dish of the night was my favorite, incorporating carnitas, refried beans on a tostada, guacamole, and a Mexican coleslaw, which came together to become Carnitas A La Michoacan. Served beautifully on a brightly colored plate and with a variety of eye–catching garnishes, my eyes widened and my stomach growled before the plate had even touched the table. The most delicious component of this plate, though, were the juicy, perfectly cooked carnitas, which I continued to intermittently eat throughout my many dishes at Casa Sol y Mar. 

As head chef of the restaurant, Tony Carreto, continued serving and explaining tasty dishes like Carne Asada and Shrimp, Seafood Ensalada Sol y Mar and Mango Chicken Chipotle, I noticed a true passion in his eyes for the food he’s been cooking for over three years. Hailing from Acapulco, Mexico, Carreto explained how he’d joined the restaurant in 2012, helping to prepare for the grand opening. Of the many questions I asked Carreto during my al fresco experience, I was most eager to discover how this man could cook such delicious carnitas. Sorry, everyone– I promised I’d keep it a secret. 

Casa Sol y Mar is just one option among many in the San Diego area that offers a great al fresco dining experience, so it’s easy to spend less time indoors and more time outdoors this summer. If you're in the mood for Mexican, give Casa Sol y Mar’s diverse menu a try.