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San Diego's Best Restaurants
Best Steakhouse (Tie): Donovan’s Steak & Chop House & Argyle Steakhouse
Best identified by its classic atmosphere and stocked with USDA Prime steaks, Donovan’s delivers a flavor phenomenon of Midwestern corn-fed beef straight from the Chicago stockyards; flash seared at 1,600 degrees for tender, silky, and buttery sensations all in one bite. (858/450-6666, www.donovanssteakhouse.com)
Nothing beats savoring a 32-ounce Porterhouse for two, Dungeness Crab Croquettes, or sumptuous Tataki Kurobuta Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin while taking in Argyle’s spectacular view of the 18th green at the Four Seasons Resort Aviara. Don’t miss the à la carte Sunday brunch, a local favorite. (760/603-6800, www.fourseasons.com)
Best Burger: Burger Lounge
Not your ordinary boring burger, dig in to a burger consisting of the finest quality grass-fed beef directly from the grower paired with fresh-cut French fries, house-made onion rings, and home-style baked buns. Satisfy your sweet tooth with the famous Red Velvet, Hostess-style cupcake. (858/456-0196, www.burgerlounge.com)
Best Seafood: The Oceanaire Seafood Room
Executive chef and operating partner Sean P. Langlais showcases the finest quality sustainable seafood flown in daily from around the world. Creative specialties include Stuffed Chesapeake Bay Style Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, Dover Sole, and Drunken Local Swordfish. (619/858-2277, www.theoceanaire.com)
Best American Food: Kitchen 1540
Executive chef Paul McCabe takes cooking to a whole new level at L’Auberge Del Mar’s sleek, dramatic restaurant, utilizing techniques that he has learned throughout his career. McCabe matches his own unique style with traditional values, focusing on organic and sustainable ingredients. (858/793-6460, www.laubergedelmar.com)
Best Italian Food: Vivace
Experience authentic regional Italian cuisine boasting organic ingredients, house-made pastas, and the well-known Risotto Alla Osso Bucco. Sip and savor some of Italy’s greatest wines as well as some hidden gems from lesser-known regions of the country. (760/603-6800, www.fourseasons.com)
Best Pizza (Tie): Pizza Port & Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza
If pizza is your passion, then head to Pizza Port, where each pie is created with great artistry; oozing with mozzarella and a spicy tomato base with a whole bunch of other amazing ingredients. (858/481-7332, www.pizzaport.com)
Get the full pizza experience at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza with a variety of gourmet pizzas, especially the best-selling barbecued chicken pizza with gouda and red onion or a spiced ground Kobe beef pizza with pepper jack cheese and tahini sauce. (858/456-5222, www.sammyspizza.com)
Best French Food (Tie): Mille Fleurs & Tapenade
Mille Fleurs’ executive chef Martin Woesle makes daily trips to Chino Farms to select the choicest fruits and vegetables for the finest cuisine possible. From Medallions of Rabbit Loin to Apple Leaf Farm Duck Two Ways, Woesle creates the ultimate dining experience. (858/756-3085, www.millefleurs.com)
No need to fly to Paris when you can get the best French cuisine close to home at Tapenade. Chef Jean Michel Diot uses his imagination and talents to create classic dishes including traditional Burgundy Escargots and Coq au vin de Bourgogne. (858/551-7500, www.tapenaderestaurant.com)
Best Mexican Food: Fidel’s Little Mexico
Step back in time at Fidel’s in Solana Beach. With a celebratory atmosphere, colorful decor, and authentic Mexican cuisine, Fidel’s keeps the locals coming back for more with its generous portions, reasonable prices, and friendly wait staff. (858/755-5292)
Best Asian Food: P.F. Chang’s
This delightful restaurant offers authentic renditions of Chinese cuisine. Favorites include Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps, tender wok-braised Spare Ribs, and Crab Wontons filled with creamy rock crab meat served with a side of spicy plum sauce. (www.pfchangs.com)
Best Sushi (Tie): Harney Sushi & Sushi Ota
Get a fresh spin on your sushi and sashimi favorites at Harney Sushi in a lively and hip atmosphere. Don’t miss Tatter Todd’s — morsels of halibut wrapped around rice balls, baked until golden and topped with eel sauce or the Yum Yums for dessert. (www.harneysushi.com)
Sushi Ota is a repeat readers’ favorite. See for yourself why the locals are buzzing about this hidden gem. The lines may be long but it’s worth the wait for what many rightfully say is the best sushi and sashimi in San Diego. Look for daily specials. (858/270-5670)
Best Tapas: Café Sevilla
Spanish tapas are out-of-this-world delicious at this romantic and stylish restaurant. The multifaceted menu pairs unexpected and unusual flavors, colors, and textures for a truly authentic Spanish experience. (619/233-5979, www.cafesevilla.com)
Best Mediterranean: Mama’s Café & Bakery
Visit Mama’s today and experience delicious breads and pies baked in the sajj, and ancient oven that is still used today throughout much of the Mediterranean to cook nearly everything. My favorite is the spinach pie. (619/688-0717, www.mamasbakery.net)
Best Vegetarian Food: Sipz Fusion Cafe
The 100 percent vegetarian menu at this cozy eatery allows you to choose from Italian, Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisine. Where else can you get Sicilian Summer Lasagna, Thai Curry Soy Chicken, or Japanese Fire Noodles all under one roof? (858/279-3747, www.sipz.com)
Best Breakfast (Tie): Hash House A Go Go & The Broken Yolk Café
If you want a unique breakfast you’ve come to the right place. From meatloaf and mashed potatoes to Andy’s Sage Fried Chicken with maple reduction, Hash House A Go Go’s food is delicious and its portions are more than you can handle — but do it anyway! (619/298-4646. www.hashhouseagogo.com)
At The Broken Yolk Café, savor your most important meal of the day at this dynamite eatery featuring a huge selection of delicious fare including the Pizza Omelet, Betty’s Southern Biscuits and Gravy, or the Broken Yolk Café Special (for the iron man or woman). (www.thebrokenyolkcafe.com)
Best Bakery: Bread & Cie
Fresh baked bread with the perfect crust is one of life’s pleasures. At Bread & Cie, meticulous preparation using premium ingredients and age-old artisan bread-making techniques offer one-of-a-kind tastes and textures. (619/683-9322, www.breadandciecatering.com)
Best Dessert: Extraordinary Desserts
Get the maximum pastry experience at this legendary dessert shop where the menu changes daily. Trained in Paris, owner Karen Krasne does it up in style and flavor with her homemade cookies, cakes, pies, custards, ice creams, and more. (www.extraordinarydesserts.com)
Best Catering: Waters Fine Catering
From the artistic food presentations to the efficient staff, spoil yourself with a catered event from the best of the best where sustainability, no growth hormones or antibiotics, handcrafted, organic, artisan, and farmstead are Waters’ watchwords. (858/509-9400, www.waterscatering.com)
Best Gluten-Free Options (Tie): Pizza Fusion & Urban Solace
A last minute addition to the ballot per a reader’s suggestion, gluten-free options are on a number of people’s minds — and plates. In addition to gluten-free pizza, Pizza Fusion also offers gluten-free beer and brownies. (619/278-0057, www.pizzafusion.com)
At Urban Solace, founder partner/executive chef Matt Gordon’s gluten-free offerings include Braised Beef Cheeks, Creamy Tomato-Fennel Soup, Pan-Roasted Black Mussels, and more. (619/295-6464, www.urbansolace.net)
Best Fast Food: In-N-Out
“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” In-N-Out’s burgers, fries, and drinks are still the same basic menu customers have enjoyed since 1948. Everything is still made fresh to order — there are no microwaves or freezers. French fries are made from hand-diced, fresh, whole potatoes. And the shakes are made from real ice cream. (www.in-n-out.com)
Best Wine (Tie): Wine Steals & Nine-Ten
With a variety of wines to choose from, great food, and an open invitation to socialize, Wine Steals will make a wine lover out of you. Create your own wine flight and experience a new By The Glass menu each week. (www.winestealssd.com)
Offering over 18 pages of varietals from around the world and a specially trained staff, you’re sure to find a wine that suits your palate at Nine-Ten. Stop in and see why Wine Spectator recognized Nine-Ten with an Award of Excellence. (858/964-5400, www.nine-ten.com)
Best Beer: Stone Brewing Co.
A local legend in the brewing industry, choose from seven year-round beers, as well as several specialty and limited releases. Everything is hand crafted in Escondido, where you can tour the facility or have a bite to eat in the bistro and gardens. (760/294-7866, www.stonebrew.com)
Best Cocktails: Bleu Bar
Situated in the center of the beautiful L’Auberge Del Mar, take pleasure in every sip of your own special concoction inside the patio-enclosed foyer, or near the outside waterfall with the spectacular Pacific as your backdrop. (800/245-9757, www.laubergedelmar.com)
Best Casual Bar: Bistro West
Have some fun mingling with friends while enjoying reasonably priced nibbles as well as well drinks, martini-style cocktails, beer, and wine. Popular menu items include Thai Chicken Pizza, Stone Ale-Battered Onion rings, Asian-Style BBQ Spareribs, and the Bistro West Slider Trio. (760/930-8008, www.bistrowest.com)
Best Happy Hour (Tie): Ivy Hotel & Suite & Tender
Chic doesn’t have to be expensive at Ivy’s Happier Hour, where specialty cocktails include those made with Grey Goose, Bacardi, and Cazadores, and food specials from the Quarter Kitchen include the Signature Caviar Tacos, Japanese Kobe On The “Rocks,” and Steamed Mussels SoCal Style. (619/814-1000, www.ivyhotel.com)
From specialty cocktails with entertaining names such as (G)in-tegrity, Passion, and Grace to Wagyu Beef Sliders or customizing your own shellfish platter from the raw bar, socializing in Suite & Tender’s luxurious atmosphere is nothing short of classic. (619/515-3003, www.suiteandtender.com)
Best View (Tie): George’s At The Cove & Bertrand At Mister A’s
If you’re looking for great food with a view your search is over. Create memories that last a lifetime at George’s by taking in fabulous ocean vistas of the La Jolla cove from three unique restaurants in one spacious space. (858/454-4244, www.georgesatthecove.com)
At Bertrand At Mister A’s, the eyes are equally satiated with views of downtown, San Diego Bay, Balboa Park, Coronado, Point Loma, and even the world famous San Diego Zoo. The outdoor terrace with its wraparound balcony also allows for ample airplane watching. (619/239-1377, www.bertrandatmisteras.com)
Most Romantic (Tie): George’s At The Cove & Mille Fleurs
Need a little help impressing your date? Whether it is George’s California Modern, George’s Bar, or the Ocean Terrace, your special someone is sure to be smitten with the astonishing atmosphere and dazzling dining venues. (858/454-4244, www.georgesatthecove.com)
In search of the perfect place to propose on bended knee? Nestled in the heart of Rancho Santa Fe, Mille Fleurs, a cozy and well-appointed eatery, boasts a truly beautiful and quintessential romantic atmosphere matched with marvelously refined French cuisine. (858/756-3085, www.millefleurs.com)
Best Seafood: Truluck’s
Delectable menu items include Spicy Crab and Artichoke Soup, Texas Striped Bass Pontchartrain, and the Florida Stone Crab Claw Platter, to name but a few. In addition, choose from over 100 wines by the sampling, glass, and bottle at this classy, upscale restaurant. (858/453-2583, www.trulucks.com)
Best American Food: Americana
We can’t get enough of restaurateur Randy Gruber’s tasty cuisine. Menu favorites include the Roman Breakfast, Beer Battered Onion Rings, prosciutto sandwich, tomato soup with a dollop of goat cheese, Spicy Bloody Mary, and more. (858/794-6838, www.americanarestaurant.com)
Best Asian Food: Del Mar Rendezvous
Family owned and operated, Del Mar Rendezvous serves contemporary fare that fuses traditional Chinese cooking with modern presentation and the best flavors Asia has to offer. Highlights include the Pungent Crispy Chicken, Peking Duck, myriad savory soups, and more. (858/755-2669, www.delmarrendezvous.com)
Best Tapas: Roppongi Restaurant & Sushi Bar
Recent visits to Roppongi have landed us at the sushi bar where we’ve enjoyed the freshest uni and hamachi around, but we still managed to also delight in executive chef Stephen Window’s tantalizing tapas like the sizzling the Hot Rock. (858/551-5252, www.roppongiusa.com)
Best Catering: Pamplemousse Grille
More often than not, if it’s a chic party or benefit gala you’re headed to, the cuisine will be masterfully prepared by Pamplemousse Grille’s Jeffrey Strauss. Lobster Ravioli, Sauteed Day Boat Scallops, Braised Short Rib Osso Bucco Style, Crispy Half Duck, Lamb Stew — the list of tantalizing offerings goes on and on. (858/792-9090, www.pgrille.com)
Best Classic Cocktail Lounge: The Whaling Bar
For more than a half century, the Whaling Bar & Grill at La Valencia Hotel has been regarded as a premier pub and meeting place for locals and tourists alike. The old-world seaside pub’s house specialty drink is The Whaler, a top-secret creamy concoction. (858/551-3761, www.lavalencia.com)
Best European Bistro: Barbarella
A beloved La Jolla neighborhood eatery, Barbara Beltaire’s Barbarella has been delighting patrons for years with its quaint décor and friendly atmosphere. Try the Barbarella Fruit Crepe, Grilled Vegetable Panini, or the Fettuccini Bolognese. (858/454-7373, www.barbarellarestaurant.com)