Home » Affordable Dining » An Out-of-towners Guide to San Diego Restaurant Etiquette

An Out-of-towners Guide to San Diego Restaurant Etiquette



San Diego has a reputation not unlike the rest of California — casual and laid back. However, that’s not to say San Diego doesn’t have its own restaurant etiquette. Knowing a bit about the local way of doing things will ensure that you have an excellent stay during your time in San Diego and that you get to enjoy all of the vibrant and diverse cuisine that this city has to offer.


Just as you want to call ahead to book your cheap hotel in Downtown San Diego, you should do the same when it comes to making Gaslamp Quarter dinner reservations. San Diego is home to plenty of fine-dining experiences and it can be helpful to make a reservation if you plan to eat out at any popular restaurants during your stay. Calling 3-5 days ahead of time to make a reservation is usually sufficient to snag a table at a mid-level restaurant, but some establishments may require several weeks’ notice. When in doubt, call ahead as early as possible and ask as every restaurant has its own way of doing business.


Unlike some Midwestern cities, where a 15% tip of the total bill might be considered a signifier of good service, people in San Diego tend to tip 20% for standard-to-good service — higher for a really excellent experience. Servers in the States usually only make minimum wage for their services and therefore rely on tips to make up most of their income. Plan accordingly and bring a printable tip card, which can be found online, if doing math at dinner isn’t your forte.

Tipping is also an important part of going to bars. San Diego is home to many microbreweries and has been nicknamed the “Craft Beer Capital of America.” While you’re in San Diego you may find yourself sampling a locally-made IPA or a pint of stout — remember that bartenders also expect to be tipped. One dollar per drink is usually sufficient to communicate that you’re an appreciative customer but if the bar is busy and you want fast service, $3 a pop will usually ensure that the bartender gets to you first.


Many bayside and Gaslamp Quarter restaurants use a system of valet parking, so be prepared to let the valet handle your car upon arriving. You can leave the keys in the ignition as the valet approaches the car. Let him know of any quirks your car may have, grab anything you don’t want to leave in plain sight, and let the valet take care of the rest. When it comes time to get your car back, you can present your ticket to the valet and he’ll bring the car around. Make sure to keep some cash on hand so that you can tip the valet around $2-5 for the safe keeping of your vehicle.


San Diego’s close proximity to the ocean means that you can find high-quality, inexpensive seafood options all throughout the city. For an extra special experience, consider making a reservation at one of San Diego’s many Oceanside seafood establishments. You can get a prime view of the San Elijo Lagoon or Coronado Bay while enjoying fresh food, great wine, and a beautiful sunset. Our San Diego tip? Always ask for the catch of the day.

San Diego, California is home to a wide array of delicious and unique dining experiences. With a little knowledge about the local way of doing things, you’ll be able to take advantage of the city’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean and its diverse ethnic options, giving you a never-ending list of great dining possibilities during your stay.

Start off by finding affordable hotels near Seaport Village, where you can shop around at the new Headquarters at Seaport District and experience restaurants like Puesto. For an affordable hotel close to San Diego’s top dining destinations, book your vacation stay at Pacific Inn located near downtown San Diego and the San Diego Bay. Call 1-800-571-2933 to speak with a reservations specialist about our available discounts.

Advance Booking

14 Days - 12% Off

7 Days - 10% Off

3 Days - 8% Off

Zoo & Seaworld Discount

15% OFF

With any purchase of
Zoo or Seaworld tickets

Weekday Discount

10% OFF

Stay any day
Sunday - Thursday

Other Discounts

10% OFF

AAA, Military, AARP
Other Package


Call: 619-232-6391
For Rates and Reservations