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2004 Critic's Picks


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STATE OF THE PLATE EVEN IF IT’S, just the beginning, San Diego’s restaurants finally have arrived. Thanks to the combination of chef talent and more sophisticated palates, the culinary bar has been raised. “We’re just developing,” says chef Trey Foshee of George’s at the Cove in La Jolla. “There are a lot more talented chefs doing good food now.”

No longer do “foodies” have to travel to a handful of restaurants—or another city—to sate their culinary cravings. Neighborhoods throughout the region are bursting with locally and regionally influenced creative cuisine: Sbicca in Del Mar, Region and Terra in Hillcrest, Parallel 33 in Mission Hills, Gringo’s in Pacific Beach, Thee Bungalow and Third Corner in Ocean Beach, Meritage and Savory in Encinitas, Tapenade in La Jolla and, of course, the forefathers of it all, Mille Fleurs in Rancho Santa Fe and George’s at the Cove.

And that’s just a little amuse-bouche for what the future holds.


Best of the Best (Money No Object)
Mille Fleurs

Best of the Best (Moderate)
Cheesecake Factory

Best Cheap Eats
Cotija

Best New Restaurant
Savory

Best Chef
Ken Irvine of Chez Loma French Bistro

Best Service
Rainwater’s on Kettner

Best Dining with a View
Bertrand at Mr. A’s

Best Late-Night Dining
Gaslamp Strip Club

Best Hotel Dining
Arterra

Most Extensive Wine List
WineSellar & Brasserie

Best Neighborhood Eatery
Parallel 33

Best Dining with Kids
Corvette Diner

Most Romantic
Top of the Cove (table 6)

Most Decadent Desserts
Extraordinary Desserts

Best Microbrewery
Karl Strauss

Best Pizza
Venetian

Best Local Burger Joint
Hamburger Mary’s

Best American
George’s at the Cove

Best French
Tapenade

Best Spanish/Tapas
Sevilla

Best Italian
Trattoria Acqua

Best Indian
Bombay and Monsoon

Best Chinese
Jasmine

Best Sushi Bar/Japanese
Taka

Best Thai
Celadon

Best Asian Fusion
Roppongi

Best Mexican
Casa de Pico

Best Greek
Yanni’s Bistro

Best Middle Eastern
Star of India

Best German
Kaiserhof

Best Vietnamese
None chosen

Best Vegetarian
Ranchos Cocina

Best Barbecue
Big Jim’s Old South Bar-B-Q

Best Steakhouse
Fleming’s

Best Seafood
Star of the Sea

Best Breakfast
Hob Nob Hill

Best Sunday Brunch
Humphrey’s by the Bay

Best Business Lunch
Top of the Market/Fish Market

Best Bagels
Point Loma Bagels

Best Del
D.Z. Akin’s

Best Takeout
City Wok

Best Outdoor Dining
George’s Ocean Terrace

Best Caterer
French Gourmet

Extraordinary Desserts
Karen Krasne

BEST RESTAURANTS
2004 Critic’s Picks

STATE OF THE PLATE IN THE LAST YEAR, the chefs got better and the servers worse. The improved professionalism of the back of the house brought high expectations for the future. The decline in the front inspired the fear that guests may soon be expected to eat with their hands—given that servers in some of the best establishments (no names, but there are some shockers) are incapable of placing the necessary silverware on the table.

The brighter side, however, is that so many young American chefs are absolutely eager to do the demanding, day-in, day-out jobs European counterparts are trained to expect. Their devotion to imaginative use of the best-quality ingredients also bodes well. Once we get past the seared-ahi stage, San Diego could start getting the national attention it has too long (and recently, too unfairly) been denied.


Best of the Best (Money No Object)
Pamplemousse Grille

Best of the Best (Moderate)
Café Cerise

Best Cheap Eats
Dumpling Inn

Best New Restaurant
Region

Best Chef
Gavin Kaysen of El Bizcocho

Best Service
Le Fontainebleau

Best Dining with a View
Marine Room

Best Late-Night Dining
Rainwater’s on Kettner

Best Hotel Dining
The Lodge at Torrey Pines

Most Extensive Wine List
WineSellar & Brasserie

Best Neighborhood Eatery
Po Pazzo

Best Dining with Kids
Ghirardelli Soda Fountain

Most Romantic
Top of the Cove

Most Decadent Desserts
Just Fabulous

Best Microbrewery
None chosen

Best Pizza
Via Italia

Best Local Burger Joint
Mr. Peabody’s

Best American
George’s at the Cove

Best French
Tapenade

Best Spanish/Tapas
Sevilla

Best Italian
Buon Appetito

Best Indian
Monsoon

Best Chinese
Pearl Chinese Cuisine

Best Sushi Bar/Japanese
RA Sushi

Best Thai
Rama

Best Asian Fusion
Roppongi

Best Mexican
Hacienda de Vega

Best Greek
Athens Market

Best Middle Eastern
Bandar

Best German
Kaiserhof

Best Vietnamese
Phuong Trang

Best Vegetarian
None chosen

Best Barbecue
Randy Jones at Petco Park

Best Steakhouse
Donovan’s

Best Seafood
Star of the Sea

Best Breakfast
A.R. Valentien

Best Sunday Brunch
Loews Coronado Bay Resort

Best Business Lunch
Dobson’s

Best Bagels
None chosen

Best Del
D.Z. Akin’s

Best Takeout
La Pizzeria Arrivederci

Best Outdoor Dining
Prince of Wales

Best Caterer
Sheraton Harbor Island Hotel
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