San Diego’s Best Restaurants
Posted on January 31, 2018
Blessed with culinary talent and abundant fresh local ingredients, San Diego’s restaurants deliver dining options to please every palate. Here, readers and our editorial team pick favorites to fall in love with and standbys worth returning to time and again. By Jackie Bryant, Brandon Hernández, Andrea Naversen, and Mia S. Park | Photography by Vincent Knakal
For the Readers’ Choice: San Diego’s Best Restaurants list, click here.
Longtime restaurateur Sami Ladeki has partnered with Peruvian celebrity chef Emmanuel Piqueras on Pisco, specializing in rotisserie chicken, a ceviche bar, and signature cocktails. The restaurants, on the former sites of Sammy’s Wood Fired Pizza, have been refreshed with artwork by Sami’s wife, Sharon, and brightly colored parasols on the ceiling. piscorotisserie.com A.N.
BORN & RAISED
Consortium Holdings spent years converting an old camera shop into a posh steak house that comes across like a love letter to the high-roller restaurants of yesteryear. A grand chandelier, leather banquettes, and gold tones make for a majestic feel driven home by vintage luxe fare, including caviar, escargot, butter-poached crab claws, and a bevy of steaks and chops. 1909 India St., Little Italy, 619.202.4577, bornandraisedsteak.com B.H.
A Chicagoan teaching San Diegans about authentic Mexican cuisine sounds preposterous, but star chef Rick Bayless does just that from the upscale environs of this University City restaurant, which offers dishes steeped in traditions ranging from Baja to Oaxaca Tamales, empanadas, chile rellenos, street corn,
salsas, and more show off culinary culture via delicious simplicity. 4340 La Jolla Village Dr., San Diego, 858.291.8360, redorestaurant.com B.H.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that San Diego has access to one of the best fish stocks in the world. Himitsu, which opened in La Jolla last October, pays tribute to that. Chef Mitsu Aihara is a Sushi Ota protégé who delivers Japanese tradition with SoCal and Baja flavors. 1030-G Torrey Pines Rd., La Jolla, 858.263.4463,
FARM TO TABLE
WRENCH & RODENT
Credited with helping to make Oceanside a destination dining spot, Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub owner and chef Davin Waite, who is obsessive about sourcing, crafts his one-of-a-kind sushi creations using farm-fresh produce and sustainable fish from local producers. 1815 S. Coast Hwy, Oceanside, 760.271.0531, seabasstropub.com J.B.
Pizza and farm-to-table Italian food is the word at downtown restaurant Biga. Tae Dickey is the chef at the helm, and word on the street is you can catch him roaming local farmers’ markets every day of the week searching for the latest and greatest in local produce. 950 6th Ave., Suite C, San Diego, 619.794.0444, bigasandiego.com J.B.
Young chef William Eick is cooking well beyond his years, crafting beautiful and delicious finer dining plates for a steal at his Oceanside restaurant. Befitting a restaurant that heavily relies on local farmers, the menu changes regularly, but know that the burger is always a good bet. 608 Mission Ave, Oceanside, 760.291.1040, 608oceanside.com J.B.
A FRESH TAKE
Though always an attractive haven for those in search of luxury fine dining, the Grande Colonial refreshed its white linen restaurant, replacing earth tones with an oceanic color scheme, contemporary light fixtures, and local art, while adding vibrant bursts of fiery orange to the equation. 910 Prospect St., La Jolla, 858.964.5400, nine-ten.com B.H.
TABLE FOOD + DRINK
Restaurateurs Richard and Terumi Mazzera have rebranded the former Cesar in Rancho Santa Fe’s Del Rayo Village. At Table, Chef Jon Hearnsberger serves modern American cuisine with an ever-changing regional menu that includes buttermilk fried chicken, petrale sole, soups, salads, and a daily sandwich. “Terumi Tuesdays” feature specialties from the Japanese-born Terumi. 16089 San Dieguito Rd., RSF, 858.771.1313, tablefooddrink.com A.N.
During its 2013 renovation, The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe moved its restaurant to the front of the hotel to overlook its grand lawns. But in recent years, the team learned that clientele preferred more privacy, describing the space as too open and not “ranchy” enough. Morada’s new look, with inviting blue hues and leather and wood accents, pays homage to the Ranch’s equestrian heritage. 5951 Linea Del Cielo, RSF, 858.381.8269, theinnatrsf.org M.P.
SIP & SHARE
Located in the hip Pendry San Diego downtown, Lionfish is a social gathering place that serves sustainable seafood and prime meats, appetizers for sharing, and hand-crafted cocktails prepared by expert mixologists in the restaurant’s bustling bar. 435 Fifth Ave., San Diego, 619.738.7200, lionfishsd.com M.P.
DOLCE PANE E VINO
Offering a cozy neighborhood spot to unwind for cocktails and fine wines, Dolce’s “Merriment Hour,” which is actually three hours of festivities from 3-6pm Mondays through Saturdays, features specials for sipping, as well as small dishes for sharing including Kobe Beef Sliders, Proscuitto Wrapped Melon, and Margherita Flatbread. 16081 San Dieguito Rd., Suite G1 A-B, Rancho Santa Fe, 858.832.1518, dolcepaneevino.com M.P.
In a town some call the yoga capital of the world, the aptly named EVE (Encinitas Vegan Experience) offers nourishment for body and soul. Tasty vegan cuisine, cold-pressed juices, and local kombucha are served in an intimate space that also hosts film screenings, workshops, and yoga classes. 575 S. Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, 760.230.2560, eveencinitas.com M.P.
3 CHEERS FOR BEERS
Urge Gastropub & Common House/Mason Ale Works specializes in local beer, elevated comfort food, and fun and games care of sprawling environs outfitted with multiple dining rooms, an in-house brewery, a six-lane bowling alley with a Big Lebowski-inspired White Russian bar, and an outdoor patio equipped with a bevy of big-kid games. 255 Redel Rd., San Marcos, 760.798.8822, sm.urgegastropub.com B.H.
BEST BREWING COMPANY
From hoppy West Coast IPAs to thirst-quenching lagers, Belgian-inspired ales to barrel-aged sours and booze-tinged stouts, there’s nothing Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey, a 12-year veteran and reliable sanctuary for suds aficionados, doesn’t do justice. Start with something funky (Carnevale saison, Ghosts in the Forest sour blonde) then ramp up to something aggressively hoppy (Mongo IPA, Hop-15 IPA). 155 Mata Way, #104, San Marcos, lostabbey.com B.H.
BEST NEW BREWERY
A newcomer to San Diego’s vaunted suds scene, Eppig Brewing, a family-run operation in North Park (whose roots trace back to 19th-century Brooklyn), is already one of the county’s best lager producers for its Natural Bridge offerings, which include a hoppy pilsner, Baltic porter, and German-style festbier. Those Old World offerings are complemented by modern IPAs and fruited sour ales. 3052 El Cajon Blvd., Ste. C, San Diego,619.501.1840, eppigbrewing.com B.H.
Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins, who helped open Bracero and has cooked on Top Chef, is joining owner Johan Engman in opening a much-anticipated
modern Mexican restaurant in Point Loma’s Liberty Station this year. Her cooking is expected to span Mexico’s many regional varieties. 2885 Perry Rd., San Diego, eljardinrestaurantbar.com J.B.
Drew Bent is at the helm of the upcoming upscale taco joint Lola 55, which is due to open in March in
the East Village’s IDEA1, a new mixed-use community. Bent says he fell in love with Mexican food while growing up, and he earned his chops cooking at the Noma Tulum pop up. 895 Park Blvd., San Diego, lola55catering.com J.B.
JAVIER’S FINEST FOODS OF MEXICO
Debuting in Laguna Beach in 1995, Javier’s now has restaurants in Irvine, Newport Beach, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Los Cabos, Mexico. The authentic Mexican fine dining concept set to debut at Westfield UTC is already creating a buzz. Fresh ceviches, rich molés, mariscos, margaritas, and more are on their way, eventually. 4545 La Jolla Village Dr., San Diego, javiers-cantina.com B.H.
There’s something magical about the vibrant produce at The Vegetable Shop at Chino Farm. Open to the public, the family farm (photographed here), is the go-to source for chefs and restaurants. Famous for their sweet corn and strawberries, the Chinos also grow myriad other vegetables and fruits year-round. 6123 Calzada Del Bosque, RSF, 858.756.3184, chinofamilyfarm.com