416 3rd Avenue, San Diego CA 92101

$50 - $75 Special Offer


Candelas is an unassuming restaurant on the outskirts of the Gaslamp Quarter in Downtown San Diego, only steps from the convention center and many popular hotels.  Seeing the bar through the front door, one might assume Candelas is a small cafe.  Even entering through the bar and lounge area, decorated with couches arranged around a small dance floor, one may not realize that this is a full restaurant.  However, once led by the host back to the adjoining dining room, the full beauty of the restaurant springs forth from the simple yet elegant décor.

The superb service began even as I approached the table; the host was waiting to pull out my chair and drape my napkin on my lap.  This service was indicative of the attention we’d receive the entire evening at Candelas.  The restaurant achieves a comprehensive, Old World level of service that is not often seen these days.  The intimate tables and booths are impeccably set; the combination of the white plates and tablecloths with the silver of the utensils and pewter charger plates creates an elegant feel.  Our table was located to the rear of the dining room near the Chef’s Table.  The Chef’s Table is an area surrounded by wooden wine racks and enclosed in a small metal gate, reminiscent of an old wine cask.  Candelas has three other lavish private and semi-private dining rooms that are not visible from the main dining room, with capacities that range from 15 to 80.  While the restaurant is certainly upscale, the mood was decidedly more laid back and casual on the night of my visit, presenting me with grace as a form of formality.

Ten years ago, Candelas was created with the intent of forming a restaurant to bring people together and promote a sense of intimacy between both customers and the surrounding community; and intimacy is one of the primary charms of this restaurant.  This area of the Gaslamp is farther away from the main section, allowing for a quieter and calmer atmosphere surrounding the restaurant. Also, Candelas is primarily surrounded by taller apartment buildings, meaning only a diffused light filters in through the store-front style windows. The windows allow enough light to see comfortably, but they also set a romantic mood even during the day.  As the sun began to set it became quite apparent where the restaurant received its name as the lights dimmed and dozens of red and white candles lit up the dining room.  It really provided a personal setting that made me feel like my table was the only one in the restaurant.  The candle light was supplemented by strings of lily-shaped lights intertwined across the ceiling, making it easier to see but still maintaining a romantic atmosphere.  To further the mood, candles were lit and placed in tiny holders on the gate surrounding the Chef’s Table, giving it the comfortable yet romantic feel of an ancient villa.

Almost immediately I was offered a selection of warm, fresh gourmet rolls; I opted to sample the Jalapeño Roll, which was sprinkled on top with fennel seeds.  It was served with a unique butter mixed with garlic, walnuts, anchovy paste, and tequila -- just to name a few of the ingredients.  Together they created a unique taste combination. The roll itself was peppery and spicy without tasting too hot, and the butter added a salty herb flavor that was delicious. 

After ordering, I asked the chef to recommend a glass of red wine for the meal, and he brought a flavorful 2005 L.A. Cetto Petite Sirah from Baja.  Candelas has an extremely large selection of both domestic and international wines; they have a fine array of fruity red wines from Latin and South America, as well as some fine California reds and whites.  In addition, they have a selection of the world’s finest champagne including Cristal and Dom Perignon.  This Mexican Syrah had a fruitiness to it and was a little heavy, the former balancing the spiciness and the latter the lightness of the seafood.

Before I could finish the entire roll, the appetizer arrived.  My two guests and I split every dish and the chef was gracious enough to divide them up onto three different plates, giving each the presentation it deserved.  For the appetizer we had the Estructura de Aguacate: a mix of chopped shrimp, crab, and squid atop a large avocado surrounded by a tortilla strip triangle.  It was very light and refreshing; the chilled seafood was mixed with lime, basil, and a mango vinaigrette, and was offset by parsley and tomatoes.  The avocado also added to the chilled, invigorating quality of the dish, as well as adding a bit of saltiness to the seafood.  Even split three ways, the amount of food was more than enough to whet my appetite, while being light enough not to fill me up.  As we finished with the appetizer the sun began to set and a soft purple glow began to drift in through the window.

After the appetizer came the Crema Fabiola, a Poblano chile cream soup.  In the center, surrounded by the soup, was a miniaturized island of mashed potato on top of which sat half of a lobster tail in its upturned shell, sprinkled with shredded sweet potato.  The soup itself was tasty; spicy but not hot due to the sweetness and thickness of the cream.  In the same way, the mashed potatoes complemented the spice of the soup nicely by adding texture and a slight salty taste to the dish.  These spicy and sweet elements came together when the grilled lobster was dipped in the soup, giving the lobster a bacon-like taste because of its crispiness and smokiness. 

Since Candelas is known both for its steak and seafood entrées, my guests and I decided that we’d like to sample one of each.  For the seafood dish we chose the Camarones Cabo de Puertas -- the dish is composed of jumbo prawns circled around the plate on top of sashimi-style tuna in a balsamic demi-glace. These components are anchored around a column of rice topped with a scooped ball of avocado.  The first thing that struck me when viewing this dish was the anchor of rice.  In order to form it, the white rice was mixed with a kind of queso fresco that made it not only stick together but also quite flavorful.  The rather large prawns were grilled expertly with the outside just slightly crispy.  The balsamic demi-glace was mixed with a tamarindo sauce that lent a tangy, sweet taste to the prawns; and when coupled with the saltiness of the rice, the sauce brought the whole dish together.

As a steak dish we ordered the Placer Poblano, a 10 oz. filet topped with julienned poblano chile; the steak was served on a bed of bean empanadas, over a sea of green tomatillo sauce.  Next to the steak sat a jalapeño stuffed with molten mozzarella cheese, its juxtaposition making the dish appear as a work of art.  The steak was cooked medium-rare and was slightly seared, causing the top of the steak to be crispy while keeping the inside tender and flavorful.  The julienned chile was full of the raw tanginess without being too spicy, adding much flavor to the steak when accompanied by the spicy pepper flavor of the tomatillo sauce.  The empanadas were also tasty in the tomatillo, the spiciness of the sauce counter-balancing the base flavors of corn and mashed black beans.  I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to try the mozzarella-stuffed jalapeño, but my dining companion did and found that it was welcoming with the melted cheese, yet still extremely hot!

The meal ended with a bang when the chef brought us Candelas’ specialty dessert, Crepas de Cajeta.  Cajeta is a traditional Mexican caramel syrup usually made from half cow-half goat milk, but Candelas uses all goat milk in its dish.  The creamy sauce sat atop a thin layer of crepes and was sprinkled with chopped walnuts.  The sauce was the most amazing caramel I had ever tasted -- I usually find it to be very thick, but in this case it was very creamy.  It tasted like the pure essence of caramel and was amazing with the sweetness of the crepes; and where normally thick caramel would stick in the stomach, this was light and left me wanting more.

As the meal came to an end, I noticed more and more people filling up the small square tables of the dining room, couples and small groups of adults enjoying personal conversation.  Night had come and the candle light danced on the wooden moldings and frames that decorated the walls.  The waiter made absolutely sure that we were completely satisfied before we left the table; and on the way out, I noticed a small group of patrons drinking at the bar and dancing to lounge music on the dance floor.  As I walked outside I noticed the transition between the soft candle light and the bright lights of the city, and hoped that I might visit this cozy restaurant again.

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  Business Info

  • Address: 416 3rd Avenue, San Diego CA 92101
  • Cross Street: J Street
  • Location: Downtown | Gaslamp Quarter
  • Cuisine: Mexican |
  • Cost: | Moderate
  • Category: Fine Dining
  • Star Rating:
  • Reservations: Not Available
  • Dress Code: Business Casual
  • Meals Served: Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner |
  • Parking: Street |
  • Payment Options: VISA | Amex | MasterCard | Discover | Diners Club |
  • Corkage Fee: 20.00 | Per each bottle
  • Phone: 619.702.4455
  • Features: Full Bar, Late Dining, Catering Services, Live Entertainment, Private Room, Takeout Available, Wheelchair Access, Happy Hours, Lounge / Bar, Chef’s Table,
  • Occasion: Romantic Dining, Dining Alone, Business Dining, Meet for a Drink, People Watching, Quiet Conversation, Special Occasion, Trendy / Hip,

  Business Hours

Reservations Available

Lunch - Main Dining Room 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.  
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.  
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.  
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 9 p.m. - 11 p.m.  
Bar - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 2 a.m.  
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.  
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.  
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.  
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 9 p.m. - 11 p.m.  
Bar - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 2 a.m.  
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.  
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.  
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.  
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 9 p.m. - 11 p.m.  
Bar - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 2 a.m.  
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.  
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.  
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.  
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 9 p.m. - 11 p.m.  
Bar - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 2 a.m.  
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.  
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.  
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.  
Bar - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 2 a.m.  
Breakfast - Main Dining Room 8 a.m. - 2 p.m.  
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.  
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.  
Bar - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 2 a.m.  
Breakfast - Main Dining Room 8 a.m. - 2 p.m.  
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.  
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.  
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 9 p.m. - 11 p.m.  
Bar - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 2 a.m.  


Frequently Asked Questions
There is street parking available, as well as a pay lot one block west of the restaurant
Yes, between 4-6pm nightly
8:30am on Saturdays and Sundays.


Early Bird Menu









Happy Hour Menu

Chef's Lounge Special

Dinner Menu






Customer Reviews & Ratings

Candelas - Mexican/French fusion... kinda cool!  

I like to try new things, or have something I wouldn't have ordered because I didn't know about it. With that said, I love it when you can ask the waiter to order for you...sounds lazy i know, but i love it, and Candelas came through big time. Our waiter (forgot his name) showed his passion for the food they served, and knocked it out of the park! Every course and drink pairing was excellent!

The best in San Diego  

My husband recently took me to Candela's to celebrate my birthday. Everything was superb. We started out with Margarita’s in the bar. Our server Tony was great and he steered us through the dinner menu and provided wonderful suggestions for our meal. The bread service was perfection, only to be matched by the bread service at Emeril Legasse’s French Quarter Restaurant - NOLA’s. Overall, we have found the “Fine Dining” restaurant choices in San Diego very disappointing, but since discovering Candela’s we look forward to many great meals to come. We will return to Candela’s and request Tony as our waiter every chance we get! The Caramel Crepes were to die for!

Great meal  

Candelas completely lived up to my expectations, which were high after reading the other glowing reviews on this site. The food was fantastic and the service was attentive but unobtrusive. The only thing I would change was the noise level at the restaurant, which was a little high in our part of the restaurant due to two large parties dining in our immediate proximity. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this restaurant to others.

Absolutely Amazing  

This is one of my favorite downtown restaurants. It isn't what you think of traditional Mexican, but much better. I have never had a bad dinner there. The steaks are always great and my boyfriend just loves the scallop appetizer. Aside from great food their servers are always wonderful and the decor is very romantic and nice. Definitely worth a trip to the Gaslamp.

We keep going Back  

I made the reservation for my wifes birthday and they gave us a table by the window. The meal was super and I always order the Black bean soup. Super again. The waiter was pleasent and attentive. The meal was excelent and they provided a desert for us which we shared. We eat downtown often and with this location we sometimes we forget about it But when we do go back we always say why it wasn't sooner

Excellent food keeps me coming back  

I've been drawn back time and time again to this quaint, stylish restaurant off the beaten path downtown. The Filete de Res is always tender and flavorful on a bed of zucchini flower sauce as well as the delicious salad with hearts of palm that they serve. The duck dish is also flavorful and moist. Desserts aren't as memorable but the service and endless supply of hot, cream cheese stuffed rolls make me yearn to come back for yet another wonderful dining experience. Alberto and Conrado always make you feel welcome...


4/5 just because of the prices. our dinner for two with appetizers, entrees, split dessert and 2 drinks was $180. It seemed like a lot even for downtown.

1st cow burned up and 2nd one mooed!!!  

I won't return! I actually had a wonderful waiter but the kitchen needs some help! My ribeye was overcooked and beyond repair ... it should not have been plated or servered!!! The replacement steak was rare ... still quivering, I opted to take it home and cook it myself!

Really Different  

From the warm red lighted interior to the beautiful smells coming from the kitchen, you enter a different world here. The rolls were a nice start to the meal. The cheese one got raves at our table as did the jalapeno. The salads were fresh and different. The black bean soup thick and nicely spiced. The entrees (all seafood) were plentiful and nicely prepared. There was an interesting wine list and it was well presented. A pleasurable meal all around.


The ambience & moood was nice. Even the Lounge was happening after dinner. The restaurant elegant,attentive staff & good food..Mexican with a bit of fusion..

I had the "Estructura de aguacate"(which is basically shrimp ceviche)very good though, for my dinner entree I had "Camarones Cabo de Puertas" (Jumbo Tequila Shrimp)very tasty & for dessert I had a delicious crepe..

The overall experience was great, The only thing is the portions are a bit small & pricey, So if you are going with a big appetite, this might not work for you..

The bread is one of the highlights, they give you several to choose from I would compare to Il Fornaio Italian Restaurant when it came to the bread. I would give Candela's 4.5 out of 5 stars !!

Great food/atmosphere  

Hosted a client dinner for 23 at the restaurant. We were seated in a semi-private area over three tables with room to move around among the group without squeezing between seats. Excellent setup. Food was outstanding as was the wine. Service was attentive but not intrusive. Would strongly recommend restaurant. Only negative: with larger groups you must choose from pre-selected menu options which is not uncommon. However, you are given no flexiblity in which entrees are available. Restaurant wouldn't substitute one entree for another which could be an issue for some. Otherwise, choices were excellent and prices fair and inclusive of appetizers, salad/soup, entree and dessert. Wine prices/selection were good.

Great intimate dinning  

The "estructura de aguacate" and the "fillete de res franco" we ordered , were prepared to perfection. The service was great, thanks to Hector! and the dimmed lighting was perfect for a romantic weekend night dinner. The Candelas merlot house wine was very good also. Definitely will be back.

Unique & delicious  

My husband and I loved this restaurant. The excellent food was a refreshing change from the norm and the service was impeccable. We both highly recommend this place!


HORRIBLE! HORRIBLE! HORRIBLE Service. Waiter was given money and asked for change. Never came back with the change ($75) and when asked about it, he said he gave it back to us! After dealing with the useless manager, we were finally given the change. Only to be followed out by the waiter and asked, "Did you find the money YOU lost?" Basically accusing us of lying and stealing from him! A friend dining with us said that she had a bad experience there too, but was giving it another shot with us, and realized it wasn't just her experience, it's that whole Restaurant! We will never return and never let friends or family waste their time there!

Worst Dining Experience Ever  

We were extremely disappointed by this dining experience. We have heard nothing but good things about Candelas, but not only will we never return, we will actively discourage our friends from going there. The hostess was rude, and she did not seat us until 20 minutes after our reservation time. The dining room was practically deserted, and it remained that way while we were there; there was no reason for us to wait. Other posters have raved about the seemingly endless supply of hot rolls. We received one room temperature roll apiece. The roll server did not even approach our table until about 30 minutes after we had ordered. We were similarly ingored by the waiter, who made no effort to refill our drinks (no free refills!) or sell my boyfriend another beer. My entree was supposed to come with mashed potatoes, but it did not. When I asked the waiter about it, he insisted that mashed potatoes were not included. I checked the menu as we left the restaurant, and the entree in question should have come with mashed potatoes. We essentially paid 38.50 for a petit filet with no sides. We could have gotten great food in larger quantities with exceptional service if we had gone to Oceanaire or Mister A's instead. The food at those restaurants is worth every penny; the food at Candelas is not worth even half of their exorbitant prices. Because we live downtown, we eat out quite frequently. Believe me, Candelas is a mistake we will not make twice.