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San Diego's Best Restaurants 2019

Nearly 7,500 of our hungriest readers voted in our annual poll—and the results are served. Dig into the 290 critic's and readers' picks. Bon appetit!


San Diego best restaurants 2019Chef Angelo Sosa, Death by Tequila | Photo: Anne Watson

From the Critic Troy Johnson


Welcome to the Spotlight

We’re next.

For decades, the national food media hunkered in the safe zones. Namely, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Those cities, our anthills of art and commerce, provided enough world-class dishes, cocktails, and rags-to-Michelin stories to fill the pages and posts. Sure, food media would make the occasional jaunt to exotic locales—“Tulum is the New Lima!”—but they treated secondary US markets as less-exciting siblings. Too familiar to be discovered, too not–New York to justify the travel budget.

To get recognition for their tireless work, most top-tier chefs lived and worked in the “major three.”

And now those years are over. Regional and social media have filled the holes, illuminated the cracks. Meccas were made of Austin, Portland, Charleston, Oakland, and Houston. Thanks to apps like Instagram and pubs like San Diego Magazine being online and globally readable, chefs have realized the circus isn’t the only place with a spotlight.

That’s why Richard Blais lives here, and why he was able to lure Anthony Wells from Per Se to Juniper and Ivy. That’s why Michelin-starred brothers recently moved from Italy to open Il Dandy in Bankers Hill. And why Top Chef runner-up and Jean-Georges vet Angelo Sosa chose Encinitas for his Death by Tequila. Why chefs like Trey Foshee, Jason Knibb, Claudette Zepeda- Wilkins, Carl Schroeder, and William Bradley are now resurfacing in national headlines.

The titans of media have noticed, and are adjusting. The New York Times recently allocated a food critic for our region (two San Diego restaurants have made the pages). Local chefs are trading rumors about the whereabouts of Michelin Guide critics, who are in town and looking for places to hang their stars.

The spotlight is circling our city. The best thing is that its fringes will illuminate our indies. The gems run on very little budget by locals who are passionate about food, drink, and the art of hospitality. Blue Water Seafood. Las Cuatro Milpas. Fort Oak. Grand Ole BBQ. Izakaya Masa. Dark Horse Roasters. Le Parfait Paris. Maestoso. Kindred. Special places created in the shadows, serving hustle and grit. You’ll see all of these names in my critic’s picks for our annual Best Restaurants feature.

As someone who’s covered San Diego’s restaurant scene for 12 years, I cheer the international media’s arrival. Welcome to a city with the highest number of small farms in the US, where the growing seasons are obscenely long and the produce infinitely better. Welcome to a city where the restaurants finally do those farms justice. A city that once deserved your omission, and now equally deserves your attention.



San Diego best restaurants 2019Best New Restaurant (Critic's Pick): Fort Oak | Photo: Anne Watson

Best of the Best Fancy

Critic’s Pick: Juniper and Ivy
Readers’ Pick: Juniper and Ivy
Runner-up: Born & Raised


Best of the Best Casual

Critic’s Pick: Grand Ole BBQ y Asado, (Flinn Springs)
Readers’ Pick: The Crack Shack
Runner-up: Whisknladle


Best New Restaurant

Critic’s Pick: Fort Oak
Readers’ Pick: Death by Tequila
Runner-up: Jeune et Jolie


Best Chef

Critic’s Pick: Carl Schroeder (Market)
Readers’ Pick: Ryan Johnston (Catania)
Runner-up: Brad Wise (Trust, Fort Oak)


Best Service

Critic’s Pick: Trust
Readers’ Pick: RoVino
Runner-up: Solare Ristorante


Best Hotel Restaurant

Critic’s Pick: Nine-Ten
Readers’ Pick: Nine-Ten
Runner-up: Lionfish


Best Restaurant in Baja

Critic’s Pick: Animalón
Readers’ Pick: Oryx Capital
Runner-up: Deckman’s en el Mogor


Best Happy Hour

Critic’s Pick: Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant
Readers’ Pick: Herringbone
Runner-up: Bub’s at the Ballpark


Best Bar Menu

Critic’s Pick: Tiger!Tiger!
Readers’ Pick: Starlite
Runner-up: Death by Tequila


Best Late-Night Menu

Critic’s Pick: Starlite
Readers’ Pick: Starlite
Runner-up: Royale


Best Indulgent Eats

Critic’s Pick: The Crack Shack
Readers’ Pick: The Crack Shack
Runner-up: Extraordinary Desserts and Pop Pie Co. (tie)


Best Cheap Eats

Critic’s Pick: The Porchetta Shack
Readers’ Pick: The Kebab Shop
Runner-up: The Crack Shack


Best Caterer

Critic’s Pick: Wild Thyme
Readers’ Pick: Kitchens for Good
Runner-up: Miho Catering


Best Buffet

Critic’s Pick: Provisional Kitchen
Readers’ Pick: Barona Casino
Runner-up: Viejas Casino

Best Healthy Eats

Critic’s Pick: Tahini
Readers’ Pick: Everbowl
Runner-up: Café Gratitude


Best Gluten-Free Menu

Critic’s Pick: Civico 1845
Readers’ Pick: True Food Kitchen
Runner-up: Frost Me Gourmet


Best Vegetarian

Critic’s Pick: Kindred
Readers’ Pick: Royal India
Runner-up: Café Gratitude


Best Bakery

Critic’s Pick: Panchita’s
Readers’ Pick: Edelweiss
Runner-up: Wayfarer


Best Breakfast/ Brunch

Critic’s Pick: Herb & Eatery
Readers’ Pick: Breakfast Republic
Runner-up: Snooze, an A.M. Eatery


Best Taco Shop

Critic’s Pick: Lola 55
Readers’ Pick: Lucha Libre
Runner-up: The Taco Stand


Best Barbecue

Critic’s Pick: Grand Ole BBQ y Asado
Readers’ Pick: Phil’s BBQ
Runner-up: Grand Ole BBQ y Asado


Best Steakhouse

Critic’s Pick: Cowboy Star
Readers’ Pick: Cowboy Star
Runner-up: Born & Raised


Best Seafood

Critic’s Pick: Blue Water Seafood
Readers’ Pick: Truluck’s
Runner-up: Ironside


Best Desserts

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


Best Cheese Program

Critic’s Pick: Venissimo
Readers’ Pick: Venissimo
Runner-up: The Patio Group


Best Farmers’ Market Food Vendor

Critic’s Pick: Prager Brothers Artisan Breads
Readers’ Pick: Bitchin’ Sauce
Runner-up: Gihon Ethiopian Kitchen


Best Restaurant Merch

Critic’s Pick: Urban Kitchen Group
Readers’ Pick: Gravity Heights
Runner-up: El Chingon


Best Restaurant Instagram Feed

Critic’s Pick: Soda & Swine
Readers’ Pick: S3 Coffee Bar
Runner-up: Cucina Urbana

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San Diego best restaurants 2019Best Tasting Room (Critic's and Readers' Pick): Carruth Cellars | Photo: Anne Watson

Best Design

Critic’s Pick: Realm of the 52 Remedies
Readers’ Pick: Born & Raised
Runner-up: Herringbone


Best View (Urban)

Critic’s Pick: Mister A’s
Readers’ Pick: Mister A’s
Runner-up: The Nolen


Best View (Water)

Critic’s Pick: Cusp
Readers’ Pick: Coasterra
Runner-up: George’s at the Cove


Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant

Critic’s Pick: Station Tavern & Burgers
Readers’ Pick: Corvette Diner
Runner-up: Waypoint Public


Best Pet-Friendly Restaurant

Critic’s Pick: Queenstown Public
Readers’ Pick: Queenstown Public
Runner-up: The Patio Group


Best Special Occasion

Critic’s Pick: George’s California Modern
Readers’ Pick: Royal Banquet
Runner-up: Truluck’s


Best Outdoor Patio

Critic’s Pick: Jaynes Gastropub
Readers’ Pick: Rustic Root
Runner-up: George’s at the Cove

Best Tasting Room

Critic’s Pick: Carruth Cellars
Readers’ Pick: Carruth Cellars
Runner-up: Ballast Point


Best Date Spot

Critic’s Pick: Alexander’s
Readers’ Pick: Catania
Runner-up: Jeune et Jolie


Best Diner

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


Best Place to Watch the Game

Critic’s Pick: Barleymash
Readers’ Pick: Barleymash
Runner-up: Nolita Hall


Best Restaurant for Big Groups

Critic’s Pick: Stone World Bistro & Gardens
Readers’ Pick: Mezé Greek Fusion
Runner-up: Campfire


Best Restaurant at Petco Park

Critic’s Pick: Seaside Market
Readers’ Pick: Phil’s BBQ
Runner-up: Hodad’s


Best Business Lunch

Critic’s Pick: Grant Grill
Readers’ Pick: Searsucker
Runner-up: Mister A’s

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Specific Dishes

San Diego best restaurants 2019Best Burger (Readers' Pick): Royale | Photo: Anne Watson

Best Burger

Critic’s Pick: Rocky’s Crown Pub
Readers’ Pick: Royale
Runner-up: Rocky’s Crown Pub


Best Veggie Burger

Critic’s Pick: Peace Pies
Readers’ Pick: Royale
Runner-up: Burger Lounge


Best Salad

Critic’s Pick: Whisknladle
Readers’ Pick: Urban Plates
Runner-up: Tender Greens


Best Sandwich

Critic’s Pick: The Grill at Torrey Pines
Readers’ Pick: Board & Brew
Runner-up: Mona Lisa


Best Taco

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


Best Fish Taco

Critic’s Pick: Galaxy Taco
Readers’ Pick: Rubio’s
Runner-up: Brigantine


Best Chips and Salsa

Critic’s Pick: Chuy’s Taco Shop
Readers’ Pick: Puesto
Runner-up: Miguel’s Cocina


Best Chilaquiles

Critic’s Pick: Super Cocina
Readers’ Pick: Whisknladle
Runner-up: Cocina 35


Best Burrito

Critic’s Pick: Las Cuatro Milpas
Readers’ Pick: Lucha Libre
Runner-up: El Chingon


Best Fries

Critic’s Pick: The Taco Stand
Readers’ Pick: The Kebab Shop
Runner-up: The Crack Shack

Best Mac ’n’ Cheese

Critic’s Pick: Mister A’s
Readers’ Pick: Mezé Greek Fusion
Runner-up: Barleymash


Best Pizza

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


Best Chicken Wings

Critic’s Pick: OB Noodle House
Readers’ Pick: Epic Wings N Things
Runner-up: Dirty Birds


Best Sushi

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


Best Dumplings

Critic’s Pick: Facing East
Readers’ Pick: Dumpling Inn
Runner-up: Din Tai Fung


Best Ramen

Critic’s Pick: Izakaya Masa
Readers’ Pick: Tajima
Runner-up: Underbelly


Best Pho

Critic’s Pick: Pho Hoa
Readers’ Pick: Pho Ca Dao
Runner-up: Phuong Trang


Best Donut

Critic’s Pick: Donut Touch
Readers’ Pick: Donut Bar
Runner-up: VG Donut & Bakery


Best Ice Cream

Critic’s Pick: Stella Jean’s
Readers’ Pick: Salt & Straw
Runner-up: An’s Dry Cleaning

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Specific Cuisines

San Diego best restaurants 2019Best Korean (Reader's Pick): Chiko | Photo: Anne Watson

Best Italian

Critic’s Pick: Maestoso
Readers’ Pick: Solare Ristorante
Runner-up: RoVino


Best French

Critic’s Pick: Addison
Readers’ Pick: Jeune et Jolie
Runner-up: The French Gourmet


Best Mexican

Critic’s Pick: El Jardín
Readers’ Pick: Death by Tequila
Runner-up: Las Cuatro Milpas


Best Greek

Critic’s Pick: Mezé Greek Fusion
Readers’ Pick: Mezé Greek Fusion
Runner-up: Luna Grill


Best Spanish

Critic’s Pick: Costa Brava
Readers’ Pick: Costa Brava
Runner-up: Café Sevilla


Best Chinese

Critic’s Pick: Minh Ky
Readers’ Pick: Mandarin Wok
Runner-up: Chin’s Szechwan


Best Japanese

Critic’s Pick: Yakyudori
Readers’ Pick: Kokoro
Runner-up: Umami Japanese


Best Thai

Critic’s Pick: Plumeria
Readers’ Pick: Bahn Thai
Runner-up: Lotus Thai


Best Asian Fusion

Critic’s Pick: Dija Mara
Readers’ Pick: Chiko
Runner-up: Monkey King

Best Vietnamese

Critic’s Pick: Phuong Trang
Readers’ Pick: Phuong Trang
Runner-up: Shank & Bone


Best Korean

Critic’s Pick: Buga Korean BBQ
Readers’ Pick: Chiko
Runner-up: Manna Korean BBQ


Best Filipino

Critic’s Pick: Fredcel Lumpias
Readers’ Pick: Tita’s Kitchenette
Runner-up: Manila Sunset


Best Peruvian

Critic’s Pick: Panca
Readers’ Pick: Café Secret
Runner-up: Panca


Best Southern

Critic’s Pick: The Flying Pig
Readers’ Pick: Bud’s Louisiana Cafe
Runner-up: StreetCar Merchants


Best Indian

Critic’s Pick: Masala Street
Readers’ Pick: Royal India
Runner-up: Taste of the Himalayas


Best Ethiopian

Critic’s Pick: Muzita
Readers’ Pick: Muzita
Runner-up: Awash


Best Russian

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


Best Middle Eastern

Critic’s Pick: The Kebab Shop
Readers’ Pick: The Kebab Shop
Runner-up: Bandar

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San Diego best restaurants 2019Best New Brewery (Critic's and Readers' Pick): Gravity Heights | Photo: Anne Watson

Best Wine List

Critic’s Pick: Addison
Readers’ Pick: Solare Ristorante
Runner-up: RoVino


Best Winery

Critic’s Pick: Gianni Buonomo Vintners
Readers’ Pick: Gianni Buonomo Vintners
Runner-up: Carruth Cellars


Best Wine Bar

Critic’s Pick: Wet Stone
Readers’ Pick: Gianni Buonomo Vintners
Runner-up: RoVino


Best New Brewery

Critic’s Pick: Gravity Heights
Readers’ Pick: Gravity Heights
Runner-up: Kairoa


Best Brewery

Critic’s Pick: Alesmith
Readers’ Pick: Stone Brewing Co.
Runner-up: Modern Times


Best Brewpub

Critic’s Pick: Blind Lady Ale House
Readers’ Pick: Gravity Heights
Runner-up: Waypoint Public


Best Distillery

Critic’s Pick: You & Yours
Readers’ Pick: You & Yours
Runner-up: Cutwater Spirits


Best Cocktails

Critic’s Pick: Polite Provisions
Readers’ Pick: Royale
Runner-up: Polite Provisions


Best Mocktails

Critic’s Pick: False Idol
Readers’ Pick: Campfire
Runner-up: Jeune et Jolie

Best Margarita

Critic’s Pick: Cantina Mayahuel
Readers’ Pick: Puesto
Runner-up: Death by Tequila


Best Bloody Mary

Critic’s Pick: The Med (La Valencia)
Readers’ Pick: Farmer’s Table
Runner-up: Small Bar


Best Bottomless Mimosa

Critic’s Pick: Cafe 21
Readers’ Pick: Searsucker
Runner-up: The Duck Dive


Best Coffee

Critic’s Pick: Dark Horse
Readers’ Pick: S3 Coffee Bar
Runner-up: Dark Horse


Best Juice Bar

Critic’s Pick: Northside Shack
Readers’ Pick: Nekter
Runner-up: Choice Juicery


Best Kombucha

Critic’s Pick: Boochcraft
Readers’ Pick: Mighty Booch and JuneShine (tie)
Runner-up: Powerhaus Pizza


Best Matcha

Critic’s Pick: Deja Brew
Readers’ Pick: Holy Matcha
Runner-up: S3 Coffee Bar


Best Dive Bar

Critic’s Pick: Aero Club
Readers’ Pick: Waterfront
Runner-up: High Dive

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