On the busiest street in Central La Jolla sits George’s at the Cove, a three-story eatery offering some of the best food San Diego has to offer.
La Jolla is known for attracting a more wealthy clientele due in part to its views of the sparkling ocean and the impeccable beaches that line the neighborhood. George’s is pushing nearly 40 years of operation, which helps maintain its presence among all the nearby competition.
Forward-thinking mixed with innovative dishes have garnered George’s at the Cove many an award on both a local and national level. Named one of the top 100 al fresco dining experiences in America and considered by some to be San Diego’s most popular restaurant, there’s a reason George’s attracts tourists and brings back locals time and again.
George’s at the Cove has delivered fine fresh food since 1984. It’s currently owned by George Hauer alongside Chef Trey Foshee.
Reflecting on their opening, Hauer wrote, “In 1984, the food and wine culture in San Diego was in its infancy, and our culinary point of view was elementary, to put it mildly.”
Part of Hauer’s inspiration for George’s at the Cove came after visiting Spago in Los Angeles, which had recently opened under Wolfgang Puck. Hauer was impressed by Puck’s revolutionary approach to mix local products with casually sophisticated food.
Hauer met with Chef Foshee in 1999 after celebrating the restaurant’s 15-year mark. Foshee, who was working at Robert Redford’s Sundance property at the time, had also just received a Top Ten Chef award from Food & Wine Magazine. After some push and pull with Redford, Hauer was ultimately able to bring Foshee onto his team, where he has served ever since and is now a 25% shareholder in the company.
Shortly after celebrating their 20th anniversary, the restaurant underwent a $3.7 million renovation with a “California Modern” concept after signing a 20-year lease. Hauer’s philosophy is to continue providing for their guests’ needs but in a more characteristic, Californian way.
George’s at the Cove became part of the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) in 2001 after receiving a call from the company. Hauer and his partners had already jostled with ideas to help minimize their negative effects on the environment. The GRA’s model provides all sectors of the restaurant industry, which represent 10% of the U.S. economy, with the ability to become more environmentally sustainable.
The program insists that restaurants take at least five steps each year to reduce their negative impacts. Some steps include simply recycling, while others encourage major moves like eliminating imported bottled water in lieu of something more local.
Additionally, most of the paper used at George’s is recycled, including the take-out containers. The bulk of their lighting is also low-voltage, their coffee is free-trade organic, and they use water-efficient sprays in their dishwashing. Sustainable seafood has also remained an important philosophy at George’s at the Cove. When choosing fish, they always choose local species like white sea bass, black cod, and yellowtail. They were also among the first to include white sea bass and yellowtail on a high-end menu.
With three levels to choose from, George’s at the Cove offers an experience for everybody. As for us, we sat up top on the Ocean Terrace. We chose a rare windy day in San Diego, which nipped at our noses a little, but the view was spectacular, and the meal was well worth it.
We split a 2022 Massey Dacta Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region in New Zealand to pair with our meal. Starting off, we went for the House Special, a butternut squash soup and a grilled cheese with caramelized onions for dipping. The soup especially brought some much-welcomed warmth to the chill day, and the grilled cheese was gooey, buttery, and delicious.
We also shared the Mussels Marinieres with melted leeks, crème fraîche, and grilled sourdough. The crème fraîche was a definite highlight, and if I could have ordered a whole roll of bread to lap up all of the sauce, I would have. As it was, this delightfully tasty appetizer satisfied our cravings with some healthy-sized mussels and the sauce that brought it all together.
On the entrée side of things, we decided to try out the yellowfin tacos, especially considering George’s relationship to local seafood. The tacos came with cabbage, mango-habanero salsa, mint crema, and a side of tortilla chips to round it out. The tacos themselves come on a hard shell topped with cilantro. The mixture within the tacos was amazing, and the yellowfin was cooked to perfection.
We also went for the Heirloom Grain Bowl accompanied with carrots, delicata squash, broccoli, bolted cauliflower, and Romesco sauce on top of quinoa. I’m a sucker for any type of squash, and the grain bowl as a whole hit the spot. The light use of olive oil added a lot of flavor, and the Romesco sauce was a nice touch. The sauce was placed on the side and didn’t overbear any of the other flavors in the dish.
Although we didn’t save room for dessert, I might have to make a special trip back to try out the Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake. This, served with brandied toffee sauce, cinnamon streusel, and salted vanilla ice cream, sounds like the perfect finish to any meal, if you ask me.
George’s at the Cove opens daily at 11 am at 1250 Prospect Street in La Jolla. While they stay open “until close,” they usually close shop around 10 pm Sunday - Thursday and 10:30 pm Fridays and Saturdays. Happy hour is on weeknights from 2-6 pm. Reservations are recommended, especially during peak hours. George’s also offers private parties on the ocean terrace. There are some nearby parking structures and a few valet options, but you may end up having to park a few blocks away and walking from there.
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