Best of San Diego 2011
103 places to see, sip, taste & love in our city
Posted Monday, July 25, 2011, 12:16AM
Best Beach Yoga
⇢ SD Beach Yoga
Three hip instructors offer sunset classes in Mission Bay Park and ask for a suggested donation of only $5 (for a different local nonprofit every month). Can you say namas … beach day? sdbeachyoga.com
Best Place to Practice for a Triathlon
⇢ Glorietta Bay, Coronado
In this safe little bay, the buoy has handles for tired swimmers to hang on (vs. the disgusting buoy you have to hug in Mission Bay). There’s a flat, two-lane bike path away from traffic, and you can run around the bay.
Best Skate Park for Kids with Overprotective Moms
⇢ Carmel Valley Skate Park
While municipal skate parks often go unsupervised, this one is next to a police station. No troublemakers—just kids exercising, and plenty of benches to watch from. sandiego.gov
Best Cycling Porn
⇢ Bike21 Blog
A dad, treehugger, geek, runner, and part-time bike commuter has two first names, and they rhyme. Juan Roman blogs about bike-commuting and posts caress-me hipstamatic pics of the most beautiful parts of his bike. Roadster people will get it. bike21.blogspot.com
Best High School Sports Program
La Costa Canyon
Sixteen league titles and four CIF championships last year. Done and done. lc.sduhsd.net
Best Stairs Workout
⇢ The Steps at the Convention Center
Tone your backside faster than you can say “Convention Center,” and the bay breeze will cool you as you climb. 111 W. Harbor Dr.
* POLL Best Annual Sporting Event?
Tie! 27% said Over the Line; 27% said
Best Discount Program
⇢ SD Bike Commuter
Ten percent off your bill at hot spots along the 30th St. corridor like Blind Lady Ale House and The Daily Scoop when you ride your bike. Hey, North County, how about a similar program along 101? sdbikecommuter.com
Dude: You Guys Need to Try These
Best Manly Tech Product of the Year
⇢ Munitio 9mm bullet replica teknine earbuds/hands-free communication
Homegrown tech artist Munitio's dangerously stylish buds are stocked with gold plated plugs for flawless conduction. Kevlar-wrapped cables ensure childish tug-o-wars will have a clear winner. While you’ll still resemble a schizophrenic conversing mid-stride with bullets in your ears, even the mouthiest of 13-year-olds wouldn’t dare mock you. And, if he does, you certainly won’t hear him. munitio.com
Best Lady-Acceptable Guy Hangout
This throwback haven has a soundproofed bar and dining room as well as a “Recording Studio” where guys can follow their genetic destiny by challenging other booths to old-school video games; the room also houses the Karaoke stage. Try singing with the band at their new brunch with a “build your own Bloody bar.” Send your lady over to the soundproofed side and keep your fingers crossed the craftsmanship’s solid when you get owned at Dig Dug.
Best Guy Getaway
⇢ Shark Diver
For the adventurer with decent sea legs, Shark Divers leads the manliest of all expeditions. Isla Guadalupe, off the coast of Baja, is counted among the top three Great White viewing spots in the world, with average visibility over 100 feet. A 20-minute cruise away, you’ll be treated to unlimited beer and wine accompanied by worthy eats. Once on site you’ll team up with 4 to 5 air-supplied divers and descend into their 50-square-foot cages. // Kyle Hall
Best of Balboa Park
Balboa Park bloggers Heather Hart and Maren Dougherty lived in museums and performing arts spaces to show that they could “rough it” in the park for 26 days and never get bored. With more than 70,000 preserved reptiles behind the walls of the San Diego Natural History Museum, 6,000 photographs in the Museum of Photographic Arts’ vault, and 100,000 archeological objects underneath the Museum of Man, they found some stuff to do. Here is their best of Balboa Park:
Best times to go to the Prado:
Tuesday and Wednesday nights, 8-10 p.m. Live music, inexpensive happy hour drinks, and it’s not too hard to get a table.
Best sport to learn: Lawn bowling. This game is tricky because the bowls are asymmetrical. Stop by and ask for a lesson sometime—the experienced bowlers are super-friendly.
Best deals: Try The Old Globe’s $20 under 30 program (people under 30 years of age can score tickets to Shakespeare plays and other performances for just one Andrew Jackson). For a dining steal, Tobey’s 19th Hole is a casual restaurant that overlooks the Balboa Park Golf Course. With $5 burgers and $2 beers, it’s one of the best values in the park.
Best view that everyone forgets: Skyward!
Heads up: You’ll see tar covering an Automotive Museum window (leftover from World War II) and naked ladies on the architecture of the Casa del Prado, the building that houses the Museum of Photographic Arts.
Best films: Our favorites were Hubble at the Fleet and Ultimate Wave Tahiti 3D at the Natural History Museum.
Best secret wedding spot: The St. Francis Chapel at the San Diego Museum of Man is largely unknown because it’s only open for private events. The gorgeous, ornate chapel (built to add a religious note to the 1915 Exposition) seats up to 100 people.
FOOD & DRINK
Best Kid-Friendly Bar
⇢ Coronado Brewing Company
Wide-enough aisles fit strollers, making it easy to grab a bite and a pint. There’s no play area (Station Tavern still reigns supreme on that one) but the ferry landing lawns are a block away. 170 Orange Ave., coronadobrewingcompany.com
Best Place for a Mommy Time-Out
⇢ Java Mama
Use the free Wi-Fi while your under-fives romp in the supervised play area. Java Mama also offers parenting workshops and classes on infant massage and more. 9880 Hibert St., Scripps Ranch, javamama.com
Best Urban Grocery
⇢ Pancho Villa’s
Corn tortillas are made fresh with just corn, water, and lime. The produce is super cheap and good, but plan to use it within days. Grab the queso fresco, salsa, and pan dulce. 3100 E. 8th St., National City, 619-479-2777
* POLL Best Outdoor Theater?
43% said Moonlight Ampitheater in Vista
Best Menu Makeover
New chef, new menu, same off-the-beaten-path perch in peaceful Santa Luz. We’re ready for the rest of San Diego to discover this gem. 14701 Via Bettona, cavaillonrestaurant.com
Best Roving Pizza Joint
⇢ Berkeley Pizza
We love their par baked pies on sale at the Little Italy Mercato every Saturday, and we’re excited for their cafe to open later this summer.
Best Restaurant That’s Not Yet On Your Regular Rotation
⇢ Pizzeria Bruno
It’s won every award and serious foodies love it—yet we often find few customers at this little slice of Napolitano in Hillcrest. Yes, the parking’s tough and the strip of Park Blvd. sketchy, but make it happen, people. Mangia! pizzeriabrunosd.com
Best Hidden French Macaroon Spot
⇢ Big Joy Family’s Bakery & Café
Up to nine kinds of French macaroons are offered weekly at this Kearny Mesa patisserie. Baked on Thursdays, different flavors rotate and join the usuals like the pistachio and sea salt caramel. Just remember the French macaroon golden rule: they’re best at their most fresh. 4176 Convoy St., bigjoyfamily.com
Best Noodle Bars
Bun from Phuong Trang Restaurant (Vietnamese) Pronounced “boong” (as though asking a question) Bun from this Kearny Mesa fixture is a packed, broth-less bowl of fresh vegetables and cooled rice vermicelli noodles topped with your choice of char-grilled or stir-fried meat. To mix in the vegetables from the bottom of the bowl, loosen the noodle nest with a drizzle of the savory and slightly sweet sauce, nuoc cham, your server places on the table. 4170 Convoy St., phuongtrangrestaurant.com
Bibim Noodles from Do Re Mi House (Korean) Traditionally known as bibim guksu, this 4-person helping of thin wheat somyeon noodles, chopped cabbage, and zucchini slivers is best ordered spicy. Listed #45 on the menu, it comes with 11 side dishes, which can all be replenished for free. 8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., 858-565-2085
Cold Ramen from Yakyudori Yakitori and Ramen (Japanese) Whereas bun and bibim guksu are served year round, cold ramen is available from June through September only. Listed as Hiyashi Chuka at this Convoy Street beacon, the plate of chilled egg noodles can be dressed in either of two sauces: original/shoyu or sesame. The shoyu dressing is lighter and more refreshing. Once served, sit forward and slurp—it’s appropriate etiquette! 4898 Convoy St., 858-268-2888
// Christine Pasalo
Best Wheel of Fortune
⇢ Risotto in Parmigiano Reggiano at Bencotto
Chef Fabrizio lovingly serves a special version of his creamy risotto from a carved-out wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano, scraping in flecks and flecks (and more flecks) of the nutty, buttery cheese with every stir and scoop. For special occasions and private parties only, call in advance to reserve this tableside treat. 750 W. Fir St., lovebencotto.com
Best Cake Pops
⇢ Tailored Sweets
Part cake, part truffle, part lollipop, and totes delicious. We love the peanut butter and the red velvet! No storefront; tailorursweets.com
Best Joined Forces in Food
⇢ Campine Crew
Perhaps Antonio Friscia will finally get the serious consideration he deserves (though we've been fans of his flavor-packed menus for years), now that he's teamed up with celebri-chef Brian Malarkey and lauded slow food toque Andrew Spurgin. Book 'em for private caterings if you've got the budget. campinecatering.com
* POLL Best Side of the Plane to Sit While Flying Into San Diego?
65% of you said, “left” (Coronado Bridge, downtown lights, and boats in the bay)
Best Private Dining Spot
⇢ Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant
Tucked up in the back of the restaurant and yet still in stumbling proximity to the well-edited beer and wine bar, we can understand why BHB’s premium big-group table is booked so far advance for private parties. Intimate rehearsal dinner? 40th birthday? Big promotion (but not big enough to pick up an Island Prime-sized tab)? This is your spot. 2202 Fourth Ave., bankershillsd.com
⇢ Cosmopolitan Restaurant
Churros are good. Fresh churros with chocolate dip are much better. 2660 Calhoun St, Old Town, 619-297-1874, oldtowncosmopolitan.com
Best Special Sauce
⇢ Red Miso BBQ Sauce, EMPIREHOUSE
Chef Larry Malone’s wife never liked BBQ sauce, so he made one using Akadashi Hatcho (a dark red miso paste she uses in udon dishes). It worked. Customers ask for sides of the sauce to add to the Combo Burger or tater tots. 127 University Ave., empirehousesd.com
Best Beach Drive For wide-open surf and sand, there’s nothing like the Silver Strand. Loop around the Tijuana Estuary, a very natural area right in the middle of millions of people. Head up through Imperial Beach and lunch on the pier at the Tin Fish. The onto the Strand. The first site is the big salt pile in National City. It looks really strange across the bay. Watch for the rails-to-trails path and for the spots where drivers can see both the bay and the breakers. weekenddriver.com
Best Twisting Paved Road Drive Southern California is known for orange groves and Missions... but where are they? Start at I-15 and Gopher Canyon/Old Castle Road, then wind through western Valley Center, around ranchettes and horse country. On Pala Road, take the right to the historic mission, then continue on to the casino. Best Easy Dirt Road Drive For all the non-SUV drivers! Head east from Escondido, through Valley Center (try the detour through Lake Wohlford) and make a right on SR-76. Turn at the Hideout Saloon and Steakhouse (stop in; the food’s good and the Harley folk are fun) and up the hill to Mesa Grande. Then hang a right at Black Canyon Road—it’s mostly dirt, but maintained. A beautiful experience through what Southern California was before the houses. Look for Black Canyon Falls, which might still be flowing, a short hike from the road.
// Jack Brandais
Best Bounty Buddy
⇢ Crop Swapper
Plum tree’s overflowing, and no way you’re into jam jarring? Find a fellow cropper to swap with at one of several seasonal events around town. cropswapper.blogspot.com
⇢ Maria Maria
Who says nachos can’t be pretty? These are near artful, with made-fresh chips fanned out to perfection and dappled with healthy black beans and jalapeños. Chefs show just enough restraint with the melted cheese to make the finished product feel fancy. 1370 Frazee Rd., Mission Valley, mariamariarestaurants.com
Best Server with Style
⇢ Nate Houston, Bertrand at Mister A’s
An alum of Roppongi, Donovan’s, and Crescent Heights, Nate's rockin’ the service at Bertrand. The affable San Diego native—and father of two who’s also in college—takes pride in his work, makes us laugh, and understands service as an art form. 2550 Fifth Ave., Banker’s Hill, bertrandatmisteras.com
Best Place to Drink, Listen, & Learn
⇢ Family Night Tuesdays at El Dorado Cocktail Lounge
Margaritas are related to Sidecars? Bone up on cocktail knowledge every Tuesday when the regular menu is supplemented with three drinks from a featured cocktail family. A band like Zapf Dingbats performs or a DJ spins classic 45s. 1030 Broadway, eldoradobar.com
⇢ Ki's Restaurant at the Beach
It's so good, we almost considered moving to North County at first taste, so we didn't have to drive all the way to Cardiff to get it again. 2591 Highway 101, kisrestaurant.com. Also available at Seaside Market.
Best Oyster Platter
⇢ Sea Rocket Bistro
Cold, locally sourced and served simply with only the essentials like horseradish, mignonette, or housemade pepper sauce. Order them on a Wednesday night this summer, when they show classic movies like The Goonies or Dr. Strangelove. 3382 30th Street, North Park, searocketbistro.com
Best Food Neighborhood Comeback
New restaurants are offering everything from custom-built burritos (Freebirds World Burrito), wood-smoked BBQ (Brazen BBQ), and street food (EmpireHouse Urban Palate). Rich Sweeney’s R-Gang Eatery is holding steady after its first year on Fifth Ave., and early reviews of Joey Jr.’s reign at the new Busalacchi’s A Modo Mio are molto bene. Before the end of the year, Snooze will be open for breakfast, offering red velvet pancakes and huevos rancheros in a Jetsons-style dining room. San Diego’s most colorful neib is officially hungry again!
Best New Gastropub in Oceanside
⇢ Flying Pig Pub & Kitchen
Owner/sommelier Roddy Browning (formerly of Market) and young gun chef Mario Moser (formerly under Jason Knibb at Nine-Ten) have created a hodgepodge of art, mismatched linens and glassware in this down-home gastropub that celebrates the pig. Molasses-braised pork belly, bacon studded mac ‘n’ cheese, and an ice cream sundae with a candied pork belly on top—yum! 626 S. Tremont St., flyingpigpubkitchen.com
Best Chef to Watch
⇢ Eric Bauer
Bouncing from Four Seasons Aviara to downtown’s Anthology, Bauer’s finally found his sweet spot at The Restaurant in the enchanting Rancho Valencia Resort. Try Hiramasa sashimi with green apple shiso or tender Alaskan halibut jazzed with morels, favas, and bacon. Watch out, Will Bradley—there’s a new white coat on the block. 5921 Valencia Cir., RSF, 858-756-1123, ranchovalencia.com
Best Bread Of The Month Club
⇢ Dudley’s Bakery
Dudley Pratt has been serving loaves at the famous bakery since 1963. Now his tradition carries on online with the Bread of the Month Club. 30218 Highway 78, Santa Ysabel, 760-765-0488, dudleysbakery.com
Best Statement Menu Item
⇢ Manhole pancakes at Potato Shack Cafe
If you fail to consume the “Man Hole Cover Size Pancakes” in full, at least you had before you a good conversation piece. Order them with chocolate chips or blueberries. 120 West I St., Encinitas, potatoshackcafe.com
Best Smoked Spirit
⇢ Meet the Green Fairy, L’Auberge Lobby Lounge
GM LaFontaine presents a snifter of absinthe with a splash of root beer, then sets it aflame. Savor it slowly for visions of sugarplums dancing overhead. 1540 Camino Del Mar, laubergedelmar.com
Best Pre-Game Padres Pit Stops
⇢ Knotty Barrel Wash down some upscale pub grub with a custom-designed beer flight. 844 Market Street, knottybarrel.com
⇢ Bub’s at the Ballpark Just about every seat in this all-out sports bar has a view of a huge TV. 715 J Street, bubssandiego.com
⇢ Mission Brewery If you're loyal to the PETCO dogs, just stop by the hometown brewery for a beer on your way to the gates. 1441 L St., missionbrewery.com
⇢ Dragon’s Den Sake and sushi make for a much happier tummy than beer and nachos. 315 10th Avenue, thedragonsdensd.com
Best Dinner Party Invite
⇢ The Lerachs’ Annual A Berry Good Night
The evening commences with foraging for organic berries in Michelle’s spectacular garden overlooking Black’s Beach. Then it’s dinner under the stars for 130 lucky guests at their jaw-dropping Rancho La Jolla estate. Chefs prepare a 13-course, farm-to-table extravaganza. After savoring ravioli plump with quail eggs, ricotta, porcinis, and truffles, you grab your silverware and switch seats and find yourself engaged in convos with a funny fishmonger, expert radish grower, and a Snake Oil mixologist. Chic! Invite only.
Best Mochas, Martinis, & Mancandy
The cute coffee shop and cupcakery is all grown up now and serving top shelf cocktail concoctions along with their signature PB&J cupcakes. Snag a table at brunch before their weekly Sunday church event and you’ll be ogling hordes of hotties over some pretty righteous red velvet pancakes. 3766 Fifth Ave., Hillcrest, babycakessandiego.com
Best New Bar from Scot Blair
⇢ Monkey Paw
Dive bars are great, but dive bars with good food and beer-brewing are better. Thanks to the man who brought us the venerable Hamilton’s and Small Bar, the East Village gets a new brewpub soon. And we no longer have to feign interest in the grungy filth of the old Jewel Box! 805 16th St.
Best Reason to Go to Bird Rock
It might just be the only reason, other than snooping open house tours. Live music three nights a week (plus the Blues Brunch) makes it worth the drive from your own ‘hood. 5662 La Jolla Blvd., beaumontseatery.com
Best Local Take on The Fried Chicken Trend
⇢ Small Bar’s Chicken and Waffles
Another nod to Blair, here, for this throwback bite. Just. Plain. Good.
Best Carne Asada Fries Alternative
⇢ Alchemy’s Poutine
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, South Park’s resident favorite serves up its version of Quebec’s signature snack food, a gravied French-fry dish called poutine. Alchemy’s take is a strata of shoestring fries, savory chunks of Herbes de Provence sausage, roasted mushrooms, a light sausage gravy, a slice of Mahon cheese, and a sunny side egg. alchemysandiego.com
Best New Bagels
⇢ Brooklyn Bagel & Bialy
Finally, a decent bagel place downtown. The owners are New Yorkers, and yes, they boil ‘em up right. 1000 Island Ave., East Village, ordermybagel.com
Best Cocktail Activity Pairing
⇢ 4 C’s: Croquet, Cocktails, Cheese, and Charcuterie at Rancho Valencia
Break out your whites for a fun outdoor event that covers all of the essential food groups: booze, cheese, and meat. 5921 Valencia Cir., Rancho Santa Fe, ranchovalencia.com
⇢ Café Sevilla
The $2.7 million reno on the three-level space includes a tapas bar, exhibition kitchen, and an underground club. Salsa’s back, baby! 353 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp, cafesevilla.com
Best Spirit of the Moment
This smoky liquor brings comfort into focus, reminiscent of fire pits and barbeques. A cousin to tequila, try mescal combined with Cointreau and muddled fresh kiwi in The Tractor Room’s Sweet Vida; mixed with fresh lime juice and sweet vermouth in El Take it Easy’s Agua Caliente; or sample it straight with a pour of Maria Blanco at Cantina Mayahuel.
Best Macrobiotic Village
⇢ Casa de Luz
The Austin-based vegan restaurant and cooking school opens its first California location in North Park, and they’ve already partnered with UCSD’s Center of Integrative Medicine on a schedule of nutrition and lifestyle classes. 2920 University Ave., casadeluz.org
Best Spontaneous Wine Pairing with Multi-Course Dinner
⇢ Flavor Del Mar
Server Chris Perkins knocks it out of the park with interesting wines like a white Slovakian Tokaji paired with snap pea and grilled spring onion ravioli on celery root purée. 1555 Camino del Mar, flavordelmar.com
Best Bites: Asian Food
Best Yakitori: Yakitori Yakyudori What’s not to like about food on sticks, especially when cooked with traditional charcoal from Japan? From chicken wings to creamy livers to asparagus wrapped in smoky bacon, this is the ultimate bar food, and a perfect match with cold sake and beer. 3739 6th Ave., Hillcrest, yakyudori.us
Best Bahn Mi: Cali Baguette Express Their Vietnamese sandwich might be the freshest and most flavorful $3 lunch around. The shop (three locations) bakes its own bread; fillings range from savory barbecued pork and chicken to a combo of cold cuts and pâté. calibaguette.com
Best Spicy Chinese: Ba Ren Szechuan If you can stand the heat, try some fiery Szechuan cuisine, which combines the searing punch of dried and fresh chili peppers with tongue-numbing Szechuan peppercorns. 4957 Diane Ave., Clairemont, 858-279-2520 Best Korean BBQ: Dae Jang Keum What sets them apart from other D.I.Y. Korean BBQ spots? Their tabletop grills use real charcoal, not gas. The quality of the pre-marinated meat, from short ribs to beef tongue, is good, as is the variety of panchan (side dishes). You might come out with your clothes smelling like a Fourth of July fire-pit, but you’ll be full and happy. 7905 Engineer Rd., Kearny Mesa, daejangkeumkoreanbbq.menutoeat.com
Best Dim Sum: China Max Their daily dim sum lunch isn’t served in the traditional wheeled-cart-style. Instead, you get a sheet of color photos and a menu card to check selections. This way, dishes are cooked to order and they arrive fresh and hot. 4698 Convoy St., Kearny Mesa, chinamaxsandiego.com
// Candice Woo
Best Class for Future Rocket Scientists
⇢ High Tech High Media Arts
Engineering is the cool class here—seniors build underwater robots, motorized skateboards, and remote control airplanes. Teacher Haley Kim encourages the Point Loma students to design whatever floats their boat (or robot), since the charter school is all about nurturing innate interests. hightechhigh.org
Best New Reason to Love Little Italy
⇢ Little Italy North
The revival of the once industrial area from Grape to Laurel Street has us singing like Sinatra. Take stock: Bottlecraft Beer Shop & Tasting Room, fresh work at Subtext Gallery, new 98 Bottles bar, and Kettner Nights neighborhood walkabout. During the day, visit galleries, such as Meyer Fine Art, antique shops, and design stores. littleitalysd.com
Best Place to Nurture Your Well-Loved Shoes
⇢ Chito’s Shoe Repair
Owners Chris and his wife Jenny Martinez have followed in the well-heeled footsteps of Chito Martinez, who sold them this little company where perfectionism is the tried-and-true business plan. 2911 University Ave., North Park, 619-298-2506
Best 11th Floor Office View
⇢ Jim Fitzpatrick, San Diego Magazine
Sitting high on the southwest corner of the Chase Building on Broadway, Mr. Fitz has views for days.
Best Post-Dog Beach Pit Stop
⇢Bull's Smokin' BBQ
Every pup who pulls up to the patio gets a plush bed, personal water bowl, and a beef rib. Humans order the pulled-pork fries. 1127 West Morena Blvd., Linda Vista.
Best Valet Guy
⇢ Jody at Fashion Valley Mall
Every shopping trip should begin and end with Jody. On the lower level near Cheesecake Factory, Jody is virtually never not there, and never not in an amazing mood. Alacrity, a good memory, and he happily puts your bags in your car halfway through your spree.
Best Gal Pal We Wish We Had
⇢NBC San Diego's Jodi Kodesh
Refreshingly real, Kodesh's cheerful tweets, traffic reports, and on-air Facebook fan shout-outs show she doesn't take herself too seriously, but has no interest in nitwit newscaster antics, either. Let's get coffee, Jodi! Find her @nbcjodi on Twitter.
Best View from the Road
Sure, you have to get up about 4a.m. to make it in time for sunrise, but the northward drive along Country Route S1, also known as sunrise highway, from the 94 towards I-8 takes your breath away.
Best Place to Stop Talking About Losing Ten Pounds and Actually Do It
⇢One Life with Dr. Haynes
Private, luxurious, and discreet, this former Scripps family physician who has struggled with his own weight issues knows the kind of weight loss center we need when we’re serious about shedding pounds. 107 Cedros Ave, Solana Beach, onelifediet.com
Best First Date Bars
Kim Primerano, matchmaker and owner of Love Happens Here tells you where to go for guaranteed romance.
Wine Steals/Proper Gastro Pub Sit upstairs for an awesome view of PETCO Park and catch a game on the big screen. 795 J St., East Village, winestealssd.com
Ocean Terrace at George’s at the Cove A memorable night starts with a sunset, amazing specialty cocktails, and ultra modern décor. 1250 Prospect St. La Jolla, georgesatthecove.com
Starlite Dining and Cocktails A funky, romantic environment, and great happy hour specials. 3175 India St., Little Italy, starlitesandiego.com
Vin de Syrah The Alice in Wonderland-inspired décor provides an oddly romantic environment, and if you’re in need of something to talk about, they have a magician walking around on Saturday nights. 901 5th Ave., Gaslamp Quarter, syrahwineparlor.com
Anthology Great live jazz, amazing food, and a super trendy atmosphere create the perfect combo for love. 1337 India Street, Little Italy, anthologysd.com
ART & DESIGN
Best Hybrid Sports-Art Idea
⇢ Recycled Beer Can Surfboard
With surfboard shaper Gary Seagraves from La Jolla, artist Rich Morrison of Clairemont Mesa recently constructed the first beer can surfboard out of 72 recycled, uncrushed beer cans encased in fiberglass and resin. Genius.
Best Restaurant Stylist
⇢ Michael Soriano
He’s behind the interiors at Craft + Commerce, Sessions Public, Analog, and Syrah. He never met reclaimed wood-mixed-with-metal-and-Edison lights that he didn’t love, and we love him for it. Thanks for giving our city a style, Mike!
Best Creative Residence
⇢ SD Space4Art
Since we first published photos of the live/work art space last summer, the collective has grown to a full fledged arts community, with sculpture classes, gallery shows, movie nights, art labs, and more. Check out the space during Art San Diego this September. sdspace4art.org
Best Stationery Designer
⇢ Brightly Designed
Handcrafting each creation from her home studio in Poway, designer Courtney Scowby makes unique pieces for all occasions. Wedding and design bloggers are all abuzz. brightlydesigned.com
* POLL Best After-Hours Art Event?
72% of you said Culture and Cocktails at San Diego Museum of Art
Best Interior Designers
⇢ M. Megan Bryan studio
Most notably for: Cliff House, Beach House, Nokia corporate headquarters, and CityMark sales center. meganbryan.com
⇢ Jules Wilson ID Most notably for: Casa Oliver and Lofts at 677 Seventh. We expect to see her stamp on more pretty things in 2012. juleswilson-id.com
FASHION & SPA
⇢ Happy Buddha Foot Reflexology Spa
Dip your feet into a warm bath of Chinese herbs and receive a divine head, face, neck, and arm massage. Then 20 minutes of reflexology per foot sends you into bliss. And: 30 bucks for 60 minutes? Seriously. 4619 Convoy St., Kearny Mesa, hbreflexologyspa.com
Best Pampered Pedicures
⇢ Rancho Bernardo Inn
Who doesn’t love a little foot pampering? Toss in some booze and a coupla friends and you've got one indulgent happy hour. 17550 Bernardo Oaks Dr., ranchobernardoinn.com
Best Place to Pretend You're on Real Housewives
In this new blowouts-only salon, every hairstyle on the menu is $35. The blowdry lasts 30-45 minutes and they entertain you with chick flicks while you wait. (But the comp wine and champers are on hold for now, so BYO-Pinot Grigio. Hello, "dry" bar? Come on, ABC.) 12857 El Camino Real, Carmel Valley, 858-771-0820, thedrybar.com
Best New Way to Dress Uniquely
⇢ ONE of a TEE
This designer sells only one edition of each shirt style in any given city. Guess what? No one has claimed the SD tee. oneofatee.com
Best Spa to Get Buffed in the Buff
⇢ Aqua Day Spa
A bikini-clad Korean masseuse brushes and rubs you down—just about everywhere—for the Purification Body Scrub and oil massage, in which your exfoliated skin is lubed with olive oil and sprinkled with milk, while your face is patted with freshly-grated cucumber and your scalp shampooed. 4637 Convoy St., Kearny Mesa, aquadayspasandiego.com
Best Place to Find a Cool Hostess Gift
Find everything from scarves to original art by artist/designer (and Pigment owner) Amy Paul, as well as exclusive build-it-yourself terrariums by Tend Living. 3827 30th St., North Park, shoppigment.com
Best Local Fashion Accessory Brand
⇢ R A E N Optics
Cool, hipster musicians from bands like Delta Spirit and The Fling have embraced this indie co. that calls Encinitas home. raenoptics.com
Best Local Milliner
With very few milliners in the country, San Diego is lucky to have its own. Brixton has now moved into a huge facility in Oceanside, turning out fabulous hats and apparel for both men and women. 760-477-5965, brixton.com
Best Local Brand for Women’s Clothes
⇢ Kendall K.
Kendall Zundel creates sophisticated silhouettes, chooses fantastic colors...and the price point is just right (try a beautiful metallic ruffle front blouse for $78). kendallk.com
Best Boutique for High Fashion
⇢ Laura Gambucci
Their biggest sellers are the edgy designers Barbara Bui and Sharon Wauchob (both out of Paris), and the more femme line Alberta Ferretti Philosophy. They also stock duds from the hotshot Yigal Azrouel. 7629 Girard Avenue, La Jolla, 858-551-0214