The name Del Frisco’s is well known throughout the East Coast and Midwest, but less so in America’s Finest City. The Texas-based establishment featuring Texas-sized steaks, sea fare, and sides has only been part of the San Diego scene for a year, but it’s already making a name for itself among downtown diners. As impressive as the quality and flavor of its beef, chops, and seafood by Executive Chef Brian Christman is the manner in which the restaurant, nestled into the ground floor of the InterContinental San Diego, was designed to perfectly suit its bayfront locale. Unlike most steakhouses, the interior is bright with poppy and turquoise accents. As pleasant and inviting as the dining room is, guests are not relegated to its four walls. It also features an extensive, shaded patio offering views of locals and tourists traversing the downtown harbor.
That al fresco option makes for a good setting to enjoy selections from a cocktail list that skews fruity and refreshing with the Pamplemousse Spritz (prosecco with lime, Sipsmith gin, and Aperol), The Plum Rosé (sparkling rosé with vodka, Amaro, and plum preserves), and the obligatory Double Eagle Margarita. That said, the show-stopping smoked Sazerac is a must for fans of that timeless cocktail, which gets its octane from rye and Cognac. The latter is a choose-your-own-adventure affair with three versions (VS, VSOP, XO) offered at different price points. Poured tableside into a woodsy smoke-anointed snifter, it’s a savory tipple that’s a cinch with starters of charred octopus or a thick slab of peppery, bourbon-molasses-glazed Nueske’s bacon.
That Sazerac (or the Earl Grey take on an Old Fashioned) also tastes right at home beside any of Del Frisco’s’ vast steak options, but even more conventional is a hearty red. Particularly well-suited is the restaurant’s private-label Double Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon. Bright red fruit quickly gives way to dark berries and a dusty earthiness that syncs with a rich truffle butter that can be added to any steak, be it wet-aged, 14- or 45-day dry-aged, or Japanese, Australian, or American wagyu (a tasting of all three is offered).
The 45-day New York strip is a shining example of dry-aging’s transformative powers. A would-be beefy, grassy steak bursts with a tangy zing akin to gorgonzola cheese underpinned by a shiitake-like umami. Those trademark flavors are amplified by a salty, crunchy exterior that makes each bite a study in just how decadent a protein can be. Those looking for a more restrained but equally tasty entrée would do well to order one of Del Frisco’s wet-aged bone-in steaks or reel in salty-sweet glazed Chilean sea bass over crab-studded fried rice with a black bean garlic sauce.
As with any steakhouse, there’s a side hustle, and Del Frisco’s is strong. Creamed spinach is rich yet still tastes like a vegetable, while a gratin of macaroni and cheese reaches heavenly status with elbow pasta hobnobbing with lobster knuckles and whole claws. They are well-seasoned beauties.
It is advised that one box up enough of their meal to enjoy at least a few spoonsful of banana bread pudding with caramel sauce, pineapple upside-down cake with rum sauce and mascarpone cream, or the patron and staff favorite butter cake. The latter’s interior is like a soft sugar cookie, with a crispy, golden-browned exterior dressed with caramel sauce and house-made butter pecan ice cream. It’s one of the many assets that will leave you remembering the name Del Frisco’s far beyond your visit. 619.272.5060, delfriscos.com/steakhouse/sandiego
Culinary Innovation: 3
Food Quality: 5
Wine List: 5
Craft Cocktail Program: 3