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San Diego's James Beard Nominees Are...

William Bradley gets fourth nod; Bracero and Polite Provisions also on list


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Bracero Cocina de Raiz nominated for Best New Restaurant in America. | Photo by Paul Body

The James Beard Awards are the Oscars for restaurants, it's often said. And it's a huge, huge deal. A Beard win can cement a chef or restaurant or bar's status in the American lexicon of food for a very long time. No San Diego chef has ever won a Beard Award. I won't say this is the year, because I said that last year and, welp. But it's great to see San Diego (and Baja's) emerging food scene get three nominations. And here they are....

WILLIAM BRADLEY, ADDISON, “BEST CHEF: WEST”

A dinner at Addison at the Grand Del Mar is a nightly ritual for visiting princes and IPO jackpotters, and a special occasion spot for the rest of us. Any serious gourmand in San Diego has to try Bradley’s cuisine at least once. It's world-class in every way. He is an immaculate, obsessive manipulator of food. His “hot dishes” are served at the temperature of your mouth. The service is like choreographed swimming. I’ve been lucky to dine at a few Michelin-starred restaurants across the U.S. But I have had the best two meals of my life at Addison, and it wasn’t close. This is the fourth time Bradley has been nominated; the fact that he hasn’t become the first San Diego chef to win a Beard Award is almost criminal. The restaurant is also nominated for "Outstanding Wine Program," as their Library of Congress-sized collection includes some of the rarest in the world. Addison has long been considered a sommelier farm in San Diego, where the best and the brightest in the wine world work. I wouldn’t be surprised if the hostess is a certified somm.

BRACERO COCINA DE RAIZ, “BEST NEW RESTAURANT”

The best new restaurant in America. Yes, here in San Diego. California cuisine—that hell-yes mix of all of California, meaning the U.S. state and Baja, California, Mexico—is just about the most talked about food on the planet right now. And anyone in America looking to try it should start at Bracero Cocina de Raiz. You know what Mexican chefs do very well? Big, bold flavors. Smoke, citrus, herbs, chile peppers, spices, heat. It’s not a gentle or polite cuisine. It’s not shy. And the culture braises meat better than anyone. They can turn a “less desirable” cut of meat into salivary gland catnip. Every bite precipitates flavor. And if you’re looking for some of the best seafood in the U.S., it comes from Baja. “Whereas California has cities with centralized runoff that pours all of our bad stuff into the ocean, Baja doesn’t—so the water is pristine,” says one of the city’s best fishmongers, Tommy Gomes of Catalina Offshore (speaking of, buy tickets for his Collaboration Kitchen Dinner here). Chef Javier Plascencia has been the focal point of this cross-border cuisine since the start, and Bracero is his showpiece with chef de cuisine Claudette Wilkins. A stunning restaurant in San Diego’s culinary mecca, Little Italy. Try the birria, or the carnitas tacos with chicharrones, or the phenomenal shrimp and bone marrow sopes. At the bar, ask Christian Siglin to introduce you to the alt-Mex spirits, like mezcal, sotol, raicilla or bacanora.

POLITE PROVISIONS, “OUTSTANDING BAR PROGRAM.”

Next month, we have our big cocktails feature in SD Mag. As one bartender told me, “There’s Consortium Holdings, and then there’s the rest of us.” Consortium (Craft & Commerce, Noble Experiment, Fairweather, Rare Form, Ironside, Polite Provisions, etc.) has just done it right. They’ve brought in some of the country’s best craft cocktail minds to educate their staffs. They start trends and they end them. And Polite Provisions is their stunning neighborhood hangout in Normal Heights, with cocktails on tap and one of the country’s best booze alchemists, Erick Castro, orchestrating.  

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