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San Diego's Best Restaurants 2017

The top tacos, chicken wings, seafood, burgers, kid-friendly eateries, breweries, and more



Published:

Poki One N Half | Photography by Sam Wells

A Word From Food Editor Troy Johnson

It’s an interesting time for restaurateurs. By interesting, I mean scary as hell. The minimum wage hike is the biggest obstacle they’ve faced in decades. We’re going to see fewer paid server jobs, more service charges, more closed shops. That’s the grim, depressing news. But there’s good news in this, too, and that is: most restaurateurs aren’t getting out. They got into this for passion, not millions. Five out of five economists would say you’ve got a brain injury for wanting to get into restaurants.

And yet people do. Because they’re driven by a true, innate, vaguely insane desire to make special places in the city they love. Our Best Restaurants issue is a celebration of San Diego’s special places. It’s also a collaboration with 4,980 of our readers who voted for winners in 63 categories—everything from Best Italian to Best New Brewery. And because we listened to those hungry, opinionated foodies who wanted to see more, we introduced new categories like Best Chicken Wings. It’s not the only list. And it’s not perfect. We simply sat at a couple hundred tables this year, took it all in, scarfed, sniffed, drank, and talked. And here, 234 Critic’s Picks, Reader’s Picks, and Runners-Up later, are the ones that floored us the most. Hope you enjoy.

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Overall

Best New Restaurant (Critic's Pick): Trust

Best of the Best Fancy

Critic’s Pick: George’s California Modern
Readers’ Pick: Mister A’s
Runner-up: George’s California Modern

 

Best of the Best Casual

Critic’s Pick: Kettner Exchange
Readers’ Pick: Whisknladle
Runner-up: The Crack Shack

 

Best New Restaurant

Critic’s Pick: Trust
Readers’ Pick: RoVino Rotisserie + Wine
Runner-up: Herb & Wood

 

Best Chef

Critic’s Pick: William Bradley (Addison)
Readers’ Pick: Accursio Lota (Solare)
Runner-up: Brian Malarkey (Searsucker, Herb & Wood, and more)

 

Best Service

Critic’s Pick: The Hake
Readers’ Pick: Mister A’s
Runner-up: Cucina Urbana

 

Best Late Night

Critic’s Pick: Soda & Swine
Readers’ Pick: Brian’s 24
Runner-up: Starlite

 

Best Happy Hour

Critic’s Pick: Mister A’s
Readers’ Pick: The Patio on Lamont
Runner-up: Monello

 

Best Bar Menu

Critic’s Pick: Starlite
Readers’ Pick: Nason’s Beer Hall at Pendry Hotel
Runner-up: Brigantine

 

Best Hotel Restaurant

Critic’s Pick: Nine-Ten Restaurant and Bar
Readers’ Pick: Lionfish at Pendry Hotel
Runner-up: Nine-Ten Restaurant and Bar

 

Best Neighborhood Restaurant

Critic’s Pick: Urban Solace
Readers’ Pick: The Godfather
Runner-up: Prepkitchen

 

Best Cheese Selection

Critic’s Pick: BiCE
Readers’ Pick: Venissimo Cheese
Runner-up: The Patio on Goldfinch

 

Best Cheap Eats

Critic’s Pick: The Crack Shack
Readers’ Pick: Bao Beach
Runner-up: Carnitas’ Snack Shack

Best Food Truck

Critic’s Pick: Mariscos German Beyer
Readers’ Pick: Super Q
Runner-up: Mastiff Sausage Company

 

Best Desserts

Critic’s Pick: Extraordinary Desserts
Readers’ Pick: Le Parfait Paris
Runner-up: Extraordinary Desserts

 

Best Baja Restaurant

Critic’s Pick: Corazón de Tierra
Readers’ Pick: Deckman’s en el Mogor
Runner-up: Finca Altozano

 

Best Buffet

Critic’s Pick: Sufi Mediterranean
Readers’ Pick: Barona Resort & Casino
Runner-up: Valley View Casino

 

Best Indulgent Eats

Critic’s Pick: Carnitas’ Snack Shack
Readers’ Pick: Saska’s
Runner-up: Extraordinary Desserts

 

Best Takeout/Fast Service

Critic’s Pick: The Kebab Shop
Readers’ Pick: The Kebab Shop
Runner-up: Pop Pie Co.

 

Best Taco Shop

Critic’s Pick: Puesto
Readers’ Pick: The Taco Stand
Runner-up: Puesto

 

Best Caterer

Critic’s Pick: Miho
Readers’ Pick: Waters Fine Foods & Catering
Runner-up: The French Gourmet

 

Best Healthy

Critic’s Pick: Tender Greens
Readers’ Pick: Tender Greens and Harvest by The Patio (tie)
Runner-up: Café Gratitude

 

Best Gluten- Free Menu

Critic’s Pick: Civico 1845
Readers’ Pick: Café Gratitude
Runner-up: Harvest by The Patio

 

Best Food & Drink Event

Critic’s Pick: Celebrate the Craft
Readers’ Pick: Celebrate the Craft
Runner-up: Oysterfest

 

Best Bakery

Critic’s Pick: Prager Brothers Artisan Breads
Readers’ Pick: Sugar and Scribe
Runner-up: Bread & Cie

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Atmosphere

Best Design (Critic's Pick): Herb & Wood

Best Design

Critic’s Pick: Herb & Wood
Readers’ Pick: Madison
Runner-up: Herb & Wood

 

Best View (Urban)

Critic’s Pick: Mister A’s
Readers’ Pick: Mister A’s
Runner-up: Top of the Hyatt

 

Best View (Water)

Critic’s Pick: The Marine Room
Readers’ Pick: Coasterra
Runner-up: George’s California Modern

 

Best Restaurant for Big Groups

Critic’s Pick: Phuong Trang
Readers’ Pick: Taegukgi Korean BBQ House & Patio Cafe
Runner-up: Cafe Coyote

 

Best Place to Watch the Game

Critic’s Pick: Wonderland
Readers’ Pick: Kaminski’s BBQ & Sports Lounge
Runner-up: Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Company

 

Best Date Spot

Critic’s Pick: Cafe Chloe
Readers’ Pick: Catania
Runner-up: Lionfish at Pendry Hotel

Best Diner

Critic’s Pick: Corvette Diner
Readers’ Pick: Studio Diner
Runner-up: Corvette Diner

 

Best Outdoor Patio

Critic’s Pick: Jaynes Gastropub
Readers’ Pick: George’s Ocean Terrace
Runner-up: Fireside by The Patio

 

Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant

Critic’s Pick: Officine Buona Forchetta
Readers’ Pick: Waypoint Public
Runner-up: Corvette Diner

 

Best Pet-Friendly Restaurant

Critic’s Pick: The Patio on Lamont
Readers’ Pick: The Patio on Lamont
Runner-up: Kaminski’s BBQ & Sports Lounge

 

Best Special Occasion Restaurant

Critic’s Pick: Juniper and Ivy
Readers’ Pick: Mister A’s
Runner-up: George’s California Modern

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Specific Dishes

Best Chicken Wings (Reader's Pick): Dirty Birds

Best Taco

Critic’s Pick: Las Cuatro Milpas
Readers’ Pick: Puesto
Runner-up: Tacos el Gordo

 

Best Fish Taco

Critic’s Pick: Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill
Readers’ Pick: Rubio’s
Runner-up: Oscars Mexican Seafood

 

Best Chips and Salsa

Critic’s Pick: Cantina Mayahuel
Readers’ Pick: Miguel’s Cocina
Runner-up: Puesto

 

Best Burrito

Critic’s Pick: Lucha Libre
Readers’ Pick: Lucha Libre
Runner-up: Lolita’s

 

Best Fries

Critic’s Pick: Searsucker
Readers’ Pick: Bao Beach
Runner-up: The Crack Shack

 

Best Salad

Critic’s Pick: Tender Greens
Readers’ Pick: Harvest by The Patio
Runner-up: Tender Greens

 

Best Sushi

Critic’s Pick: Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub
Readers’ Pick: Sushi Ota
Runner-up: Harney Sushi

 

Best Poke

Critic’s Pick: The Poke Craft
Readers’ Pick: Poki One N Half
Runner-up: Bao Beach

Best Pho

Critic’s Pick: Pho Lucky
Readers’ Pick: OB Noodle House
Runner-up: Mignon Pho + Grill

 

Best Ramen

Critic’s Pick: Rakiraki Ramen
Readers’ Pick: Tajima
Runner-up: Underbelly

 

Best Chicken Wings

Critic’s Pick: Iron Pig Alehouse
Readers’ Pick: Dirty Birds
Runner-up: Epic Wings N’ Things

 

Best Burger

Critic’s Pick: Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant
Readers’ Pick: Burger Lounge
Runner-up: Rocky’s Crown Pub

 

Best Sandwich

Critic’s Pick: The Lodge at Torrey Pines
Readers’ Pick: Board & Brew
Runner-up: Rubicon Deli

 

Best Pizza

Critic’s Pick: Buona Forchetta
Readers’ Pick: Buona Forchetta
Runner-up: Bronx Pizza

 

Best Ice Cream

Critic’s Pick: Pappalecco
Readers’ Pick: Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt
Runner-up: Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream

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Specific Cuisines

Best Russian (Critic's Pick and Reader's Pick): Pomegranate

Best Italian

Critic’s Pick: Bencotto
Readers’ Pick: Buona Forchetta
Runner-up: Bencotto

 

Best French

Critic’s Pick: Ponsaty’s
Readers’ Pick: Bleu Bohème
Runner-up: The French Gourmet

 

Best Mexican

Critic’s Pick: Super Cocina
Readers’ Pick: Puesto
Runner-up: Cafe Coyote

 

Best Russian

Critic’s Pick: Pomegranate
Readers’ Pick: Pomegranate
Runner-up: Pushkin

 

Best Ethiopian

Critic’s Pick: Muzita Abyssinian Bistro
Readers’ Pick: Muzita Abyssinian Bistro
Runner-up: Awash Ethiopian Restaurant

 

Best Spanish

Critic’s Pick: Cueva Bar
Readers’ Pick: Cafe Sevilla
Runner-up: Costa Brava

 

Best Middle Eastern

Critic’s Pick: Mama’s Bakery & Lebanese Deli
Readers’ Pick: The Kebab Shop
Runner-up: Aladdin

 

Best Peruvian

Critic’s Pick: Q’ero
Readers’ Pick: Q’ero
Runner-up: Panca Peruvian Cuisine & Rotisserie and Cafe Secret (tie)

 

Best Greek

Critic’s Pick: Taste of Athens
Readers’ Pick: Cafe Athena
Runner-up: Athens Market Taverna

 

Best Indian

Critic’s Pick: Village Indian Cuisine
Readers’ Pick: Bombay Exotic Cuisine of India
Runner-up: Royal India

 

Best Filipino

Critic’s Pick: Tita’s Kitchenette
Readers’ Pick: Tita’s Kitchenette
Runner-up: Tidal

 

Best Vietnamese

Critic’s Pick: Que Huong
Readers’ Pick: Le Bambou
Runner-up: Mignon Pho + Grill

Best Chinese

Critic’s Pick: Dumpling Inn
Readers’ Pick: Dumpling Inn
Runner-up: Chin’s Szechwan

 

Best Thai

Critic’s Pick: The Original Sab-E-Lee
Readers’ Pick: Supannee House of Thai
Runner-up: Bahn Thai

 

Best Japanese

Critic’s Pick: Wa Dining Okan
Readers’ Pick: Sushi Ota
Runner-up: The Land & Water Company and Café Japengo (tie)

 

Best Korean

Critic’s Pick: Buga Korean BBQ
Readers’ Pick: Taegukgi Korean BBQ House & Patio Cafe
Runner-up: Tofu House

 

Best Asian Fusion

Critic’s Pick: Rakiraki Ramen
Readers’ Pick: Bao Beach
Runner-up: Café Japengo

 

Best Seafood

Critic’s Pick: Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar
Readers’ Pick: Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar
Runner-up: Truluck’s

 

Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Critic’s Pick: Kindred
Readers’ Pick: Café Gratitude and Harvest by The Patio (tie)
Runner-up: Kindred

 

Best Breakfast

Critic’s Pick: Searsucker
Readers’ Pick: Breakfast Republic
Runner-up: Snooze A.M. Eatery

 

Best Southern Food

Critic’s Pick: Urban Solace
Readers’ Pick: Bud’s Louisiana Café
Runner-up: Texas Roadhouse

 

Best Barbecue

Critic’s Pick: Grande Ole BBQ y Asado
Readers’ Pick: Phil’s BBQ
Runner-up: Kaminski’s BBQ & Sports Lounge

 

Best Steak House

Critic’s Pick: Cowboy Star
Readers’ Pick: Cowboy Star
Runner-up: Ruth’s Chris

 

Best South American Steak House

Critic’s Pick: Rei do Gado
Readers’ Pick: Fogo de Chão
Runner-up: Rei do Gado

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Drinks

Best Cocktails (Reader's Pick): Madison

Best Wine List

Critic’s Pick: Addison
Readers’ Pick: Solare Ristorante Italiano
Runner-up: Village Vino

 

Best Wine Bar

Critic’s Pick: Wet Stone Wine Bar & Cafe
Readers’ Pick: Village Vino
Runner-up: RoVino Rotisserie + Wine Shack

 

Best Beer Selection

Critic’s Pick: Hamilton’s Tavern
Readers’ Pick: Hamilton’s Tavern
Runner-up: Bottlecraft

 

Best Craft Beer

Critic’s Pick: Alpine Beer Company
Readers’ Pick: Ballast Point Brewing Company
Runner-up: Modern Times Beer

 

Best Brewpub

Critic’s Pick: Stone Brewing
Readers’ Pick: Karl Strauss Brewing Company
Runner-up: Ballast Point Brewing Company

 

Best New Brewery

Critic’s Pick: Pariah Brewing Company
Readers’ Pick: Eppig Brewing
Runner-up: North Park Beer Co.

Best Coffee

Critic’s Pick: Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
Readers’ Pick: James Coffee Co.
Runner-up: Dark Horse Coffee Roasters

 

Best Bloody Mary

Critic’s Pick: Great Maple
Readers’ Pick: Saska’s
Runner-up: Small Bar

 

Best Dive Bar

Critic’s Pick: The Aero Club
Readers’ Pick: Waterfront Bar & Grill
Runner-up: The Aero Club

 

Best Cocktails

Critic’s Pick: False Idol
Readers’ Pick: Madison
Runner-up: Polite Provisions

 

Best Margarita

Critic’s Pick: La Puerta
Readers’ Pick: Puesto
Runner-up: Cafe Coyote

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