San Diego's Top Ten Restaurants of 2011

Troy Johnson picks his best of the year

Bankers hill bar and restaurant


Its opulence is gaudy, its formality is intimidating, and I don’t own enough small, oil-rich countries to dine there regularly. But they’ve got 14,000 sommeliers. William Bradley’s French is so refined it’s like cotillion in your mouth. And the service is flawless ballet. Nine days out of 10, I’d rather be spilling short ribs and cask ale on my blue jeans. But I’m glad there’s an Icarus like Addison trying to fly closer and closer to the sun. It’s dining as neo-classical performance art.


Hippest place on Convoy. Pho that uses real rib-eye. Reclaimed wood. Cheeky names of dishes—in English. This is what happens when sons and daughters of Convoy grow up, get a sense of style, and think their parents’ restaurants are playing it too gringo-safe. Pass the skewered chicken hearts.


On my deathbed, I will think about all of the people I love. I will think about redemption and afterlife and the fate of my dog-eared soul. But, mostly, I’ll think about that burger.


Forty-foot windows in Hillcrest facing the rising sun for breakfast? It’s like god is beaming down on the joint saying, “Pineapple upside-down pancake? I shoulda thought of that. Amen, bro-hams.” 



“Gawd! Another media mention of Malarkey?! He’s not all that! He’s over-hyped. He doesn’t even spell his fabrics right!” Pipe down, sourpuss. The hyper, blue-eyed show-chef—along with Snake Oil Cocktails and funky designer Thomas Schoos—built the kind of joint that feels alive and smells like good food. It’s everything you want from a night-out in one room. Unless your night out involves “making it rain” or oontz-oontzing with a Drakkar Noir loyalist.


Interior design that mocks interior design. Art that rips on art. It’s like having a very good cocktail and roasted bone marrow in the Central Irony Agency. It inspires me to question capitalism as I pay the nice man for my designer Mezcal. Banksy would eat here.


The Cohn Group opens more restaurants than anyone else. As such, they hit and miss on a daily basis. A fondue restaurant Downtown as if Reagan’s still prez and Eddie Murphy’s still funny? Miss. Re-concepting an Ocean Beach classic (Thee Bungalow) into a moody, perfectly lit den of rustic Provencal romance? With killer Brussels sprouts and beef bourguignon? Home run. Bo-Beau renewed my interest in the Cohns.


Here’s Prepkitchen’s business plan:

LOUD, OPINIONATED FOODIE: “Man, San Diego sucks for lunch. It’s all chains. There’s no real-deal chef doing gourmet quick-food. I’m thinking of taking my flock of urban chickens and moving to Portland and

PREPKITCHEN: “Put a sock in it.” (Enter roasted Jidori chicken and pork belly sammy, stuffed into loudly complaining local’s mouth).

Plus, they’re spreading. After La Jolla came Del Mar. Next is Little Italy. Then?


Urban Solace chef-owner Matt Gordon always had the cooking chops. Now he’s got the food ethics to go with ’em. And that veggie faro at his new joint in Encinitas (Solace & The Moonlight Lounge)? Ancient-grain awesomeness.


Mistral is located in Loews. Which is located on some planet between Coronado and Tijuana (it’s out there, man). But it’s got a stunner of a view and Patrick Ponsaty is cooking some of the best French food on the West Coast, let alone San Diego.

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