Indigo Grill

1536 India Street, San Diego CA 92101
$$$ California Top 10 Recommended New Editor's Pick Special Offer Gift Certificates

Nestled on cozy India Street in picturesque Little Italy, Indigo Grill has been a gem of
San Diego’s culinary scene for years. While many diners may be familiar with one of the
Cohn Family’s finest restaurants, they haven’t seen anything like the recent
transformation that has elevated the grill to the next plateau of dining experiences. Head
Chef Deborah Scott, one of the finest chefs in all of San Diego, finally has a spectacular
venue in which to showcase her phenomenal dishes that combine old world charm with
modern culinary flare. Close to the Gaslamp, Convention Center, Seaport Village, and the
train station, the Indigo Grill is a must-stop dining destination for anyone craving a
unique take on Latin and Mexican cuisine. Despite the many changes to Indigo Grill’s
interior, exterior, and menu, fans of the restaurant can still count on the same warm,
inviting environment they’ve enjoyed for years at this Little Italy mainstay. If the average
selection of San Diego’s Mexican fare has you searching for something more
adventurous, look no further than Indigo Grill.

The Heart of Oaxaca in the Heart of Little Italy

Review by

Nestled on cozy India Street in Little Italy, Indigo Grill has been a gem of San Diego’s culinary scene for years. While many diners may be familiar with one of the Cohn Family’s finest restaurants, they haven’t seen anything like the recent transformation that has elevated the eatery to the next plateau of dining experiences on the eave of its 10th anniversary. San Diego icon and Head Chef Deborah Scott finally has a fitting space in which to showcase her phenomenal dishes that combine old world charm with modern culinary flare. Even with her recent creations like Vintana or the Chop Soo-ey food truck, Scott still dedicates much of her time to keep one of her very first San Diego restaurants the very best it can be. Despite the many changes to Indigo Grill’s interior, exterior, and latin-inspired menu, fans of the restaurant can still count on the same warm, inviting environment they’ve enjoyed for years at this Little Italy mainstay.

Indigo Grill’s recent renovation is noticeable from the moment I approach the restaurant. In addition to the vibrant neon sign outside the building, the patio has been extended out onto the sidewalk to include a spacious fire pit and small tables made from recycled oil drums. It is separated from the old patio by two large, ancient doors that looked like they once sat at the entrance of a hacienda or chapel. As I enter through the front doors just west of the sign, the light of dusk filters onto statues carved into a wall reminiscent of a Mayan temple. Vibrant reds and blues cover the walls, blending with earthy stone and aged wrought iron décor that lends an aurora of an authentic Latin kitchen. An enormous blue, vibrantly decorated stage curtain that once hung in some great hall now adorns the bar area and spacious stone oven, even stretching up to the ceiling. As dusk turns to night, hanging lamps cobbled together from scrap metal shine demure light from antique bulbs that barely reach the large wooden beams that crisscross the ceiling. Beneath those beams lies gorgeous sconce from a time long past. There are so many classic touches of old world décor and repurposed fixtures, I notice that even the air vents have been adorned with latticed, steel grates found in turn of the century buildings.

Aaron O’Marra, who is no stranger to the Cohn Family brand, manages the new Indigo Grill. He was previously the head chef at the Dakota Grill on 5th Avenue before relocating to Los Angeles to manage his own restaurant. It was while working there that he learned Indigo Grill’s manager had left just a month before the restaurant’s grand reopening. He was recommended for the position for the position by a very special Cohn Group employee – his wife – and was urged by the Cohns to take the helm. His knowledge of fine and fun dining, as well as the Cohn’s passion for family-inspired restaurants, made him an impeccable choice to manage this enchanting grill.

As I walk through the restaurant, I notice how many new seating options are available. In addition to traditional bar seating illuminated by sheer vintage silk screens and adorned with an antique sliding door, diners were also strewn about the adjacent bar overlooking the aromatic kitchen. Near the front of the restaurant there is communal seating at high, narrow tables made from recycled conveyor belts; perfect for enjoying Indigo Grill’s signature cocktails and small dishes. Unlike other restaurants that only offer happy hour a few days a week during obscure hours, guests of Indigo Grill can enjoy special offers from 5pm to 6pm every day in the picturesque bar area. In addition to great deals on some of the grill’s most popular Latin-inspired cocktails like the Tomas Colina and Piña Envy, the happy hour menu also features appetizers like Chef Deborah’s Pipian Crusted Brie and Baby Kale & Quinoa.

While there are no private rooms in the restaurant, there are many tables that can provide a more private dining experience for larger parties. Tucked into a cozy enclave, the “white table” provides seating for medium parties in the light of an elegant, mounted chandelier. On the opposite side of the restaurant against a warm red wall, a plush couch lined with soft pillows allows diners to cozy up to friends or family. A large, family-sized table sits on a sunken floor by the slatted windows, providing a touch of privacy, a breeze, and a view of the brilliantly lit street. Any of these tables are available by request when making your reservations.

Even if you’re out for an impromptu rendezvous with friends, there are plenty of atmospheric seating options that require no prior notice. Outside, the patio is now covered with corrugated tin, lit by hanging lamps with long cords insulated with reused fire hoses. The many windows that now surround the patio are reminiscent of a greenhouse wall, allowing light to into the dining area. A newly poured fire pit is lined with couches, making it a sublime spot for date night.

I choose the more traditional seating option: a heavy wooden table with wrought iron chairs with plush leather cushions. I’m adjacent to the patio, separated by a rounded wooden door paned with tiny windows that allowed light to filter through. My waitress arrives with a smile and suggests a signature cocktail. I select the Oaxaca Old Fashioned; a refreshing take on an Old Fashioned that replaces bourbon with smoky tequila and mescal and adds sweet agave nectar. Indigo Grill’s cocktail menu features many traditional drinks made unique by mixing in a dash of Latin flair. In addition to signature cocktails, the drink menu boasts a wide selection of superb wines. Sparkling wines and California whites are well represented, but the collection of Spanish and South American reds is certainly the most impressive.

The most interesting change to the menu at Indigo Grill is not the dishes themselves, but the types of dishes. Keeping in line with the restaurant’s commitment to intimate, communal dining, the menu is now largely composed of smaller dishes meant to be shared with friends and family. Even the many new, tantalizing entrees come in such large portions that you can’t help but share with everyone at the table. As I scan the menu, I have to remind myself to start at the beginning.

There are many tempting starters to choose from: the many kinds of ceviche sound refreshing, and the Pozole Rojo at the table next to me looks hearty. However, for my first dish I choose something that I’ve heard recommended by word of mouth: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. Served in a wide brimmed white bowl, it is topped with roasted corn salsa, a sprinkling of pepitas, and swirls of cilantro pesto and crème fraiche. I immediately taste the corn salsa, its sweetness complementing the robust butternut squash and the dash of creme. The pepitas add to the robust flavor, and their delightful crunch contrasts the creamy texture of the soup nicely. The cilantro pesto is a masterful touch, adding just the right amount of spice to the creamy concoction. It is the ideal dish to whet my appetite.

With the warmth of the soup still lingering, the next tapa arrives. Many of the seafood appetizers like Oven Roasted Mussels & Clams and the Ahi Tostada are prepared simply, letting the quality of the seafood speak volumes. The Salt & Pepper Shrimp is no exception, and is among the most flavorful and savory shrimp that I’ve ever tasted. Coated in a light, yet crunchy layer of panko breadcrumbs, the salt and pepper in which it is seasoned accentuates the rich flavor of the fresh shrimp. While there is a slight crisp with each bite, the coating melts in my mouth in no time at all. It is served with cups of two truly unique condiments: lime fish sauce and jalapeno “tartar sauce”. While the lime fish sauce provides a tang of citrus to the salty shrimp, the creamy tartar sauce plays well with the richness of the panko crust. On the recommendation of my waitress, I try to the two sauces together. Lime, tartar sauce, jalapeno, salt and pepper make my mouth water as their bold flavors envelop my mouth in rich collusion. It is surely a dish that should not be passed over.

My appetite now fully engaged, larger and larger dishes began to arrive. An order of tacos arrived next, where diners are allowed to choose any three mouthwatering selections. I’m drawn to the Carnitas, Crispy Jalapeno Chicken, and the Tempura Mahi Mahi Cheek. All three are served on golden corn tortillas with black beans topped with cotija cheese and a stripe of crème fraîche, shredded lettuce, and spicy pickled vegetables like you’d find in most taco shops. The tacos are also placed in a slotted taco holders, keeping them upright and preventing the contents from spilling out. The carnitas are incredibly tender, its saltiness contrasted by the subtle sweetness of pickled onions and charred orange braise. Knowing that fresh corn tortillas and well-cooked carnitas already complement each other, this taco is kept relatively simple. The Crispy Jalapeno Chicken is encrusted with panko breadcrumbs; but unlike the shrimp, it is pan-cooked with a bit of sugar that creates a slightly thicker crust and seals in the flavor of the chicken. It is topped with a chili aioli, blending classic American fair with spicy Latin flavor in true Southern California fashion. Though not the most traditional item on the men, the inventiveness of the Crispy Jalapeno Chicken taco delivers real flavor. If you think Mahi Mahi is already one of the most flavorful and succulent fish in the ocean, you need to try the cheek. The most tender part of the fish, Indigo Grill surrounds it in a light tempura that accentuates the almost buttery natural flavor. I think about how any other breading than tempura would likely overwhelm the flavor of the fish, or make it too greasy. With a drizzle of the jalapeno tartar sauce and a touch of lime, the Tempura Mahi Mahi Cheek taco is one of the finest fish tacos in the city.

The next dish to arrive is the Pork Belly Flatbread, served on a rustic wooden cutting board. While other flatbreads like the Potatoes & Peppers and the Serrano Ham looked amazing, it was the promise of tender pork belly that enticed me into ordering this flavorful dish. The flatbread itself is visually stunning with its many colorful ingredients, including succulent pork belly smothered in dark hoisin sauce, bright yellow pineapple, vibrant red onion slivers, smoked gouda toasted slightly brown, lush green peanut-jalapeno slaw, and brilliant red slivers of Fresno pepper. Even cutting into this dish is a treat as it flakes beautifully under my knife with a small, satisfying crunch. At first bite, the many flavors blend as harmoniously to the palate as they do to the eye. Sweet hoisin finds a counterpart in juicy pineapple; salty pork belly, garlic olive oil, and sea salt melt in my mouth; peanut-jalapeno slaw and moderate portions of Fresno pepper add both a bold kick and touch of sweetness that completes a flavor trifecta. One might expect so many competing flavors to overwhelm the taste buds, but the complicated tastes of each ingredient instead achieve true chemistry together.

After many fantastic small and medium sized dishes, it is time for the main course. Much like the dishes that populate it, the Grande Platos section is by far the biggest section of the menu. My eyes desperately scan mouthwatering Braised Pork Shank, savory Mushroom Papardelle Pasta, and flavorful Alderwood Plank Salmon in a cucumber-dill moleto, but one dish stands out on name alone: Skirts on Fire. Served on a large plate fit for two, the marinated skirt steak is flanked by a kiwi and tangerine medley, arugula salad with a cilantro dressing and carrot shavings, and two triangles of chili acuzar glazed quesadilla. The fruit medley serves as a respite from the other spicy components of the dish, as does the crisp and mild flavor of the salad with cilantro dressing. The quesadilla is a curious one; unlike many you’re likely to find in San Diego. While it’s drizzled in a fair amount of smoky chili sauce, it’s pan fried in a sugary glaze that complements the sweetness of the cheese within. The chef recommends ordering the skirt steak cooked medium, leaving the meat tender and juicy on the inside and grilled to perfection on the outside. It is served in strips still drizzled in a spicy and roasted chili sauce, adding a demure piquancy that lingers just a second or two. I can still taste a hint of tangy, salty soy sauce used in the marinade, and the flavors of this simply seasoned dish play wonderfully on my palette. The meat is cooked so well it practically melts in my mouth, and the next bite can’t come soon enough. Even sharing the dish, it quickly fills me to my brim.

The sun has set and the streetlights awakened by the time I finish my meal. I’m so full, I’m glad for the support the thick wooden arms of my seat provide as I rise. The restaurant is much more crowded than when I arrived, locals strewn about as they enjoy one last drink and appetizer before they walk home. After thanking the manager, waitress, and hostess for their stupendous hospitality, I linger in the cool night air and the glow of the Indigo Grill’s beckoning sign as I reflect on the many delicious ingredients and flavors I’ve encountered on my stay here. I immediately reach one conclusion that seems fairly obvious to any of the diners: I wouldn’t change a thing for a very long time.

Copyright ©


Business Info

  • Address: 1536 India Street, San Diego CA 92101
  • Cross Street: Cedar Street
  • Location: Downtown | Little Italy
  • Cuisine: California |
  • Cost: | Moderate
  • Category: Fine Dining
  • Star Rating:
  • Reservations: Recommended
  • Dress Code: Casual
  • Meals Served: Dinner |
  • Parking: Street | Valet Parking |
  • Payment Options: VISA | Amex | MasterCard | Discover |
  • Corkage Fee: 20.00 | Per Bottle
  • Staff: Deborah Scott | Executive Chef
  • Phone: (619) 234-6802
  • Features: Full Bar, Sunday Brunch, Famous Chef, Organic Ingredients, Outdoor Seating, Smoking Area, Takeout Available, Wheelchair Access, Happy Hours, Personal Wines Allowed, Healthy Options,
  • Occasion: Child Friendly, Dining Alone, Business Dining, Meet for a Drink, People Watching, Special Occasion, Trendy / Hip,


Indigo Grill - Indigo Grill
Indigo Grill - Chef Deborah's Pipian Crusted Brie Indigo Grill - Indigo Grill Indigo Grill - Skirts on Fire Indigo Grill - Indigo Grill

Business Hours

Reservations Available
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.


Frequently Asked Questions
Indigo Grill is about one mile from the San Diego Convention Center. It’s about a 6 minute drive, or would take about 25 minutes to walk.
Yes, you are welcome to dine with your dog on the patio.
Yes, Chef Deborah Scott is both the Executive Chef and Partner of Indigo Grill.
<QuerySet [{'id': 4303, 'name': 'Dinner', 'description': '5-Close ', 'fixprice': False, 'menuprice': None, 'displayorder': 2}, {'id': 3447, 'name': 'Gluten Free Menu', 'description': 'Completely Gluten Free. This is a sample menu only. Prices and availability may be subject to change.', 'fixprice': False, 'menuprice': Decimal('0.00'), 'displayorder': 5}]>


Customer Reviews & Ratings

4.5 out of 5 stars based on 1 votes