On the Menu: World Famous is a Pacific Beach classic

Seared salmon at World Famous.
(Nicole May)

Situated on the bustling Pacific Beach boardwalk for over 50 years, World Famous is an old-timey eatery that has become the favorite fixture of college students, young families, seniors, singles and seasonal tourists.

Every seat in the house boasts a panoramic view of the peaceful Pacific Ocean, but it’s also the mash-up of fine ingredients and homemade dishes, along with a warm, welcoming ambiance that pulls in the crowds even during the pandemic.

Dieter May, owner of World Famous for the past 26 years, was only 6 when his family transplanted their roots from Salzburg, Austria to San Diego, embracing the Mediterranean clime.

Want to visit?

World Famous

• Address: 711 Pacific Beach Dr., Pacific Beach

• Phone: 858-272-3100

• Website:

• Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 8 and to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

• Good to know: Brunch is available from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., while the lunch menu is 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Reservations are accepted and catering is available.

His daughter, Nicole May, brings an effervescence and energy to the diner, while carrying on the family business as general manager of the restaurant.

“It’s iconic yet trendy,” Nicole May said. “We treat everyone as if they are coming into our own home. It is important to make customers feel welcome and comfortable, and provide excellent and approachable food.”

One of the dining areas at World Famous in Pacific Beach.
(Nicole May)

Purveyors make deliveries every day for the freshest possible ingredients, including a treasure trove of locally-sourced fish (except the mouth-watering Maine lobster, of course).

Alas, “with COVID still looming it is difficult to depend on the regular supplies, so the restaurant is constantly rotating the menu,” she said.

Lobster bisque at World Famous.
(Nicole May)

This includes some hearty yet elegant dishes inspired by Northern and Southern California flavors with a robust European twist. To warm the cockles of your heart, start with a bowl of lobster bisque, or San Francisco-style cioppino, a zesty tomato-based Sicilian seafood stew with a mother lode of mussels, clams, Maine lobster, local fish and andouille sausage.

Pescatarians can also indulge in light comfort foods like a potato-wrapped Northern halibut filet, or a harpoon combination of roasted salmon, seared sea scallops, and scampi shrimp with a crispy Arborio rice cake.

Those who prefer meat can sink their teeth into a sea salt and herb-crusted roasted prime rib, or braised Angus short ribs with whipped potatoes and asparagus spears.

Steak and lobster Benedict at World Famous.
(Nicole May)

Or customers can simply sip a glass of house wine on the beach patio with jaw-dropping views of the ocean, or cozy up in a plush leather booth indoors with rich warm wood accents throughout.

For a change-up, try the weekend brunch offerings, especially the popular surf and turf Benedict of lobster, steak and eggs drizzled with hollandaise, which pairs well with the eatery’s zesty award-winning Bloody Mary. Up to the lips, over the gums, those Mary’s are a house secret recipe garnished with a sassy tomolive (a pickled olive) that earned “The Best Bloody Mary” in the Reader’s Choice Award.

The award-winning Bloody Mary at World Famous.
(Nicole May)

There have been even more accolades.

World Famous was featured in the Los Angeles Times food section, which gave kudos to the lobster bisque. World Famous also won “The Old Town Salsa Competition” for its Salsa Roja, and was honored with “Best Lobster Taco” in downtown’s Taco Fest.

Recipe from World Famous

World Famous Bread Pudding

This bread pudding can be a brunch treat or comforting dessert, especially when topped with a generous dollop of vanilla bean ice cream.

Serves: 6-8

Prep time: 45 minutes


2 C. milk

2 T. (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/3 C. sugar

Pinch of salt

1/2 loaf of challah bread - cut in pyramids

2 eggs

3/4 C. frozen blueberries - these must be frozen to release moisture

1 C. pecans for garnish

5 strawberries for garnish


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a saucepan over low heat, warm the milk, butter, sugar, vanilla and salt just until butter is melted, then let cool.

3. Butter a 4- to 6-cup baking dish and fill it with challah bread pyramids.

4. Whisk eggs into the cooled milk mixture and include the frozen blueberries (or substitute for raisins to make it your own) then drizzle generously over the bread.

5. Bake for 35 minutes or until the milk mixture is set but still a bit runny. Allow edges of bread to brown.

6. Top with strawberry garnish and caramelized pecans (see recipe below).

Caramelized pecans


2 C. raw pecans, sliced in half

1/2 C. real maple syrup

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

1/4 C. American whiskey


1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and move with a spatula frequently until pecans are evenly coated.

2. Once gentle bubbles appear reduce heat to medium/low and stir mixture occasionally.

3. Keep stirring until the liquid has evaporated and sugar has crystallized.

4. Pour pecans on a flat surface with parchment paper to cool. Use a spatula to break the clumps and spread pecans evenly.

Recipes courtesy of Chef Sean Hartigan