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Best Of 2009 — Guest Favorites
When searching out the best of San Diego, who better to turn to than those who speak to us on the nightly news or are known leaders in the arts, travel, and leisure industries? Here are some favorites of four local notables who make San Diego living their business.
Tina Mickelson, PGA Golf Professional
Best Local Dentist: Dr. Wendell Cox. I had a bad experience in a dentist office as a young child and it made me very afraid of going to the dentist. Dr. Cox understands where I am coming from and is very patient and understanding. He is gentle, takes his time to ensure there is no pain, and does not make me feel silly when those twinges of fear still come up. And whenever I ask for that extra Novocain, just in case, he never makes fun of me or acts like I am putting him out. The comfort of his patients, both physically and emotionally, is his main goal.
Best Alternative Health Practitioner: Aquilino Soriano of AcuSport Health Center. Aquilino is a miracle worker. Acupuncture helps so many ailments without having to resort to medication. Aquilino’s experience and genuine care for his patients is unmatched. I have referred many friends to him and I always get a phone call after the appointment telling me how amazing he is. My health has never been better.
Best Aesthetician: Melanie Vasseur of Vasseur Day Spa. Melanie is passionate about good skin and putting forth your “best face” possible. She is also a chemist and makes her own products, which enables her to come up with concoctions that are best for your particular skin. Her facials and skin care products are the best I have ever tried. If I don’t use them regularly I can really see a difference.
Best Store for Children’s Apparel: Childish Couture. I love this store! I buy clothes for all my friends’ kids here. I wish they had my size. The styles are amazing.
Best Golf Course: The Santaluz Club. I love this course because it is challenging for every level of player. And with such a variety of tee boxes, it makes it a different golf course every time you play it. I never get tired of it.
Best Store for Women’s Apparel: Bloomingdales and Nordstrom. You can never go wrong with either of these!
Best Sports Bar: Dussini (the bar upstairs). Their pool tables are the best, the food is great (I recommend the sliders), and there are plenty of TVs so you never miss a play. It has a very lounge-y feel to it.
Best Local TV Personality: Kimberly Hunt and Carol LeBeau
Their delivery of the news is calm, professional, and they feel like they are right in your family room, talking to you like you are part of the conversation. They make an amazing team.
Best Furniture: Jerome’s Furniture Warehouse. They have the best furniture at the best prices. How can you beat that? I don’t go anywhere else.
Best Real Estate Agent/Company: Pete Middleton (Peter Middleton & Associates) and Donna Wilson-Schempp (Downtown Real Estate Consultants). Both Donna and Pete are truly interested in helping you make the best choice possible. When looking at homes, you feel like you are bringing a good friend along instead of your realtor. I never ever felt pressured or rushed, no matter how many homes we looked at.
Best Philanthropist/Volunteer: Mary Beth Kellee. I have never known anyone who has worked on more fundraising events than Mary Beth. Just the few charities and events she is involved with that are on the top of my head are: San Diego Center for Children, Jenna Druck Foundation, Water for Sudan, and Steve Finley’s Fire Event. The list really goes on and on.
Best Local Hotel: Hotel Del Coronado. You can just feel the history. It also feels very clean, homey, and comfortable.
Favorite Local Tourist Attraction: Balboa Park. Exhibits are constantly changing and there is always something new when we go. And you can’t beat The Prado for a mojito after a day in the park!
Kimberly Hunt, 10News Anchor/Reporter
Favorite Restaurant: Mille Fleurs. I love it! The food is elegant and delicious, but the restaurant still has a warm atmosphere. The patio is charming and the piano bar is fun. It’s all the best of France and you still feel at home. C’est delicieux!
Best Local Hotel: The Grand Del Mar. Wow! A world class luxury resort hotel right here in San Diego County. It’s palatial and romantic. Conde Nast Traveler rated it number one in the nation with a perfect 100 for service. Addison restaurant is the first and only 5 diamond and 5 star restaurant in San Diego County. You’ll have to see it to believe it.
Favorite Local Tourist Attraction: Balboa Park. Do we realize it’s the largest urban, cultural park in the United States? The buildings’ architecture rivals European monuments. The park is peaceful and thought provoking. I always enjoy a walk through the museums and gardens, or a trip to one of the theatres.
Best General Medical Practitioner: Dr. Charles Graham. An old fashioned doctor who greets you with warmth and understanding, sees you for almost anything, and gets you in while you’re still actually sick. He preserves the finest traditions of his calling, and still finds joy in healing those who seek his help. Thanks Doc!
Best Private School: The Bishop’s School. There are many reasons why this prep school is one of the best in the nation (per The Wall Street Journal). The quality of education is superb from the top down. Head of school, Michael Teitelman, has brought together incredible faculty and curriculum with a nurturing environment and beautiful campus. Students thrive!
Best Sommelier: Jesse Rodriguez, wine director of The Grand Del Mar. One of only a few hundred advanced sommeliers in the U.S., Jesse came to San Diego from the French Laundry in the Napa Valley. His 35,000-bottle wine cellar is jaw dropping.
Best Philanthropist/Volunteer: Chris Crane/Opportunity International. Chris is the CEO of Opportunity International, the largest nonprofit microfinance agency in the U.S. He devotes himself to relieving poverty around the world, without accepting a salary. God bless him!
Local Well-Known You’d Like to Have Lunch With: Karen Cohn. I’ve never formally met Karen Cohn, and let’s face it, she’s got it all. She and her husband are very active in the community and very generous philanthropically. I respect that. But, truth is — she has always reminded me of one of my favorite female stars, Grace Kelly!
Jung-Ho Pak, Artistic Director, San Diego Chamber Orchestra
Best Children’s Activity Center Or Museum: The New Children’s Museum. This is a great story of an organization that has had vision and the ability to evolve to meet an ever-changing generation. Like a good children’s museum, you can do everything you can’t do at a traditional museum — touch, explore, and create.
Best Local TV Personality: Dave Scott. Dave is the unique blend of an elegant and gentle personality coupled with great knowledge of meteorology. He’s like your favorite uncle who is also dapper and as enthusiastic as a kid. He’s also a heck of a fine singer and jazz trombonist.
Favorite Restaurant: Croce’s. Often overlooked because it’s a tourist favorite and in the heart of the Gaslamp district, I’m always impressed with their attention to detail. Though known as a tireless volunteer and “mover and shaker” in the business community, Ingrid Croce has creatively conceived a menu that is not your typical California cuisine.
Best Casual Dining: Todai. The long lines attest to this extravagant seafood buffet, which includes sushi, several hot dishes, and a large dessert area. There are lots of imitators, but because of their large space and staff, they can offer more variety and a higher quality.
Best Breakfast: Denny’s. Aside from the Super Bowl advertising stunt, Denny’s is still a favorite hang of mine. Because I travel all over the place, having a meeting place that’s open 24/7, as well as an honest breakfast, makes this an indispensable diner. The hash browns are always perfectly done and the staff is always professional.
Best Quick Bite: Rubio’s. What can I say that all of San Diego doesn’t know already? I really appreciate the low fat choices like grilled fish, however it’s the salsas that really ring my bell. Before anyone could pronounce chipotle, their hot salsa had the smoky flavor that kept me coming back for more. They’ve given “fast food” a good name.
Best Take-Out: Saffron. This award-winning and celebrity-lauded Thai restaurant has helped the masses get excited about this wonderful cuisine. Not featuring just your usual Pad Thai, their soups and roasted chicken are the hallmarks of their fame. They have other surprises, but it’s the prices that will surely please.
Best Formal Wear: A Better Deal Tuxedo (La Jolla Shores). This little hole in the wall hidden in La Jolla Shores has captured my heart with their mom and pops ambiance. Believe me, as a classical musician, I’ve seen lots of formal wear shops, and this one definitely has character and a picturesque locale.
Thomas Voss, President, Grand Manchester Resorts
Best Casual Dining: Café Chloe.
Best Breakfast: Hash House A Go Go, unique, fresh, and edgy.
Best Wine List: Addison, one of the world’s best wine selections complimenting a wonderful dining experience.
Best New Boutique: Hermes.
Favorite Foreign Vacation Destination: Paris.
Best Dermatologist: Dr. Aleksandr Itkin at Scripps.
Best Florist: Kathy Wright.
Best Private School: Del Mar Pines, a prep school for high academics and a solid history of advanced teaching.
Best Local TV Personality: Kimberly Hunt, a solid media professional. I like how she delivers news.
Local Well-Known You’d Like To Have Lunch With: Phil Mickelson. One of the greatest in golf and he is from our city.
More Best Of 2009: