THANKS FOR SENDING IN THOUSANDS OF BALLOTS. The results of our Best Restaurants poll are on the following pages. Dig in. Along with your choices for everything from cheap eats to best of the best, we submit the picks from two local food critics. Have fun comparing the public voice with theirs—and ultimately, yours. Also on the table: Judi Strada shows how to look like an expert when entering the wonderful world of sushi. Tom Gable uncorks the best wines for under $20. And doggone it, David Nelson shows what’s hot in the culinary field at downtown’s new Petco Park. Enjoy these mouth-watering dishes. Dine

WHERE MEN BITE DOGS

Petco Park fits downtown like a ball in Khalil Greene’s glove——and the new Bark Park is a full plate of eclectic edibles

The Ultimate Dining Guide 2004

hot dog

FOOD FIGURES IN THE FUN at Major League Baseball’s newest temple to the Great American Pastime. Petco Park is a big bowl that brims with good times when the San Diego Padres are in top form. An outing can stretch the budget—since the cost of a basic, grilled frankfurter and regular-size soft drink is $7.25—but there’s a near-Pavlovian connection between baseball and certain foods. Many fans foretaste helmet sundaes and kettle corn while waiting to buy tickets. The early-season kinks that plagued the concession stands now seem largely to have been unsnarled. Prompt food service is more common—much of the time. Still, a patient man in a non-moving, four-person line at one night game observed, "The concession workers obviously are not paid by the number of people they serve."

Management is sensitive to the complaints. "Next to the product on the field and security, food is our most important consideration," says Padres president Dick Freeman. "A stadium is not an efficient way to run a restaurant. We’re open 81 days a year, and serve most of our food between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. This makes the prices higher, but we’re competitive with other entertainment venues."

Freeman also points out a recent sea-change in fans’ culinary expectations. "There used to be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that assumed everybody wanted a hot dog and a beer," he says. "Now we try to appeal to a diversity of tastes." This must explain why the Friar Franks concession stands sell a Smart Veggie Dog ($4), a protein-rich, vegetarian tube steak innocent of the sinful ingredients that make real hot dogs irresistible.

The Ultimate Dining Guide 2004

a plate of food

In the name of scientific research (and because this reporter refused), Petco Park director of food and beverage Doug Martin took a large bite of a Smart Dog, and made a truly interesting face. Martin, an executive of ballpark caterer WellBread/Sport- Service (divisions of giant, Buffalo-based Delaware North), says insiders regard the Friar Franks in Section 115 as one of Petco’s best concessions.

Friar Franks offers diversity in dogs. Besides the Smart Veggie Dog, there is a half-pound Wienerschnitzel "Big Dawg" that has won the hearts, appetites, praise and $6 of many fans. It’s good and filling, but Hebrew National makes the quintessential ball-yard dog, which sells for $5, and—within the parameters of the topic—is, quite simply, elegant. Juicy and well-flavored, it wants discreet amounts of mustard, relish and chopped onions to point up its virtues, and wants to be eaten hot, which may mean not waiting until you’re in your seat.

For some reason, Petco offers these choices only in the Friar Franks stands and the private clubs. Other stands retail a basic, grilled hot dog ($3.25) of middling appeal. It wouldn’t be fair to say that this dog barks, but it does not rival a Hebrew National frank.

Travel around Petco, and you find a good range of food. Highlights include Southern fried chicken prepared according to the recipe of Alicia Gwynn (wife of retired slugger Tony Gwynn), and Randy Jones’ pulled-pork sandwiches doused with good barbecue sauce. Both are sold along the promenade that links the Seventh and 10th avenue entrances.

The Ultimate Dining Guide 2004

fried chicken

La Comida stands specialize in Rubio’s fish tacos, and thick, heavily laden slices of Oggi’s pizza are available at the Padres Pizzeria in the Field Level Marketplace Grille and other locations. The overpriced ($5) pizza is okay, sort of, but wouldn’t fly at Shea Stadium. The food court–style Marketplace Café offers all the ballpark basics, from peanuts and Cracker Jack to ice cream and giant pretzels.

According to Martin, the outdoor deck of the Hall of Fame Bar & Grill is known as "the poor man’s suite," and a seat here is sweet. Located on Level 5 in the Western Metal Supply Company building, the ballpark bar cum beanery features display cases filled with memorabilia from Dave Winfield, Jerry Coleman, Buzzie Bavasi and others. The one-price ($9.50) menu offers such items as hand-carved roast beef sandwiches and a deluxe nacho plate piled high with beans and "taco meat" (remember, the caterer’s parent is based in upstate New York). "The real die-hard baseball fans hang out here," says Martin.

THE FANCIEST FARE IS RESERVED for Founders Club members, who pay up to $20,000 a year for choice to ultra-deluxe seating and amenities. On the Field Level and along Toyota Terrace are members-only venues such as the swanky Omni Hotel Premier Club, a great place for Sunday brunch, thanks to made-to-order waffle and omelet stations, salad bar, dessert table and a hot buffet with such items as grouper with mushroom-Chianti risotto. Tall-hatted, white-jacketed chefs cheerfully cook eggs and slice roast meats. There’s also inseat service—for fans who refuse to miss a pitch.

"We’ve been told this is the best club meal in professional baseball," says Padres vice president of operations Richard Andersen. On Toyota Terrace, the Wind & Sea Lounge has a great view and features sushi prepared by a chef who also makes what Chicagoans call "bait" at the Gaslamp Quarter’s Octopus Garden. Members pay plenty (some club memberships include food and drink), and an order of such "gourmet maki" as the Padres roll (six kinds of seafood, avocado and cucumber) costs $24. In the private Baja Bistro, the enjoyable Baja shrimp cocktail tops Sea of Cortéz shrimp in salsainspired sauce with a raft of crisp tortilla shreds ($11.95).

All 181 annual memberships in the Sony Dugout Club sold quickly, at prices of $17,500 to $20,000. The club provides privacy, valet parking, concierge service and seats located as close as 45 feet behind home plate. (Padres owner John Moores and wife, Becky, reportedly use the Dugout Club as their private box.)

Besides a comfortable bar and a small "Chef’s Table" room open to the kitchen, dining room windows overlook the batting cages used by the Padres, and create a remarkable intimacy with the players. The extensive food selections remain mindful of the location—hot dogs and popcorn always are on offer.

BEFORE AND AFTER GAMES, crowds pour through the Gaslamp Quarter and East Village like a rogue wave rolling over Mission Beach. These areas offer a zillion or so alternatives to dining or partying at the ballpark, from free (and you can’t beat that) to prices that seem more South Beach or Vegas than San Diego.

If you can’t wait to bite a dog, head to the southwest corner of 10th Avenue and Market Street before any game and look for the bright red umbrellas over a cart marked David’s Hotdogs. A smiling guy named David charges just $3.75 for a full meal (in ballpark terms) of a Hebrew National frank, bag of chips and can of soda.

Another pre-game bargain is in a much classier location—the bar at Morton’s of Chicago (285 J Street). Between 5 and 7 on weeknights, bartenders pass silver trays of juicy, grilled tenderloin sandwiches. You don’t actually have to buy something to get one, although it does seem more polite. Postgame hunger pangs can be cured by Morton’s memorable cocktail of four truly colossal shrimp—you wouldn’t want to meet one in a dark alley— and flavorful sauce ($18).

The Ultimate Dining Guide 2004

at the ballpark

Next to Petco in the towering Omni Hotel, McCormick & Schmick’s marks the Seattle-based chain’s second try in San Diego. Talented local chef Brian Johnston impresses with an extensive, printed-daily seafood menu that has offered ono with coconut rice ($17.95) and a plush "Pacific pan roast" of assorted shellfish ($21.85). The wait staff? They’re trying.

One block from the ballpark, on Seventh Avenue, Ventanas offers a clever décor inspired by windows, of all things, and a competent, creative Mexican menu that features crisp chicken in mango sauce ($14.65), a grilled New York steak with south-of-theborder garnishes ($33) and multi-ethnic sushi tacos ($13.95). The joint jumps after the game, but cool as it may be, $10 seems a lot for a cocktail.

Then again, the Side Bar at Sixth and Market is reservations-only after 8:30 on Friday and Saturday nights, when deejay-played music and a tres hip crowd are the attractions. According to a server, there is a two-bottle minimum at a table for a group of four or five, and the bottles cost $250 each.

This ain’t your father’s San Diego —buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack!

 
The Ultimate Dining Guide 2004

a plate of sashimi

SUSHI SAVVY

WALKING INTO A SUSHI BAR can be like stepping onto the red carpet. You don’t have to be a celebrity or spend a fortune to get special treatment. Just learn the ins and outs of how to get the best sushi bars have to offer.

In Sushi for Dummies, a book I co-authored with Tokyo native Mineko Takane Moreno, we demystify the sushi bar experience by breaking it into three parts: where to sit, how to order what you’d like and how to eat what’s ordered politely—with fingers or chopsticks. From the moment you sit down at the sushi counter until you pay the bill, the following insider tips will have you traveling the sticky rice road from one sushi bar adventure to another, receiving that special treatment. Each sushi bar is different, but the bare-bones experience in a good sushi bar should be similar no matter where you go—from more traditional establishments, like Sushi Ota in Pacific Beach or Taka in the Gaslamp Quarter downtown, to trendier, Americanized sushi bars, like Japengo in the Golden Triangle or Sushi on the Rock in Carlsbad and La Jolla.

Getting the Best Seats in the House

* Not all sushi bars take reservations, but if they do, ask for one of the prized posts at the sushi counter in front of the refrigerated glass case, where you can see the raw and cooked seafood offerings of the day.

* The very best seats at the counter are the five or six seats in front of the itamae, or head sushi chef. Sushi chefs’ clothing doesn’t necessarily reflect who’s the head honcho, but he or she will probably be standing behind the most impressive display of seafood in the cold case, in the most prominent place along the counter, giving orders to the other chefs. At the high temple to traditional sushi in our city, Sushi Ota, Yukito Ota stands in the elbow of his L-shaped sushi bar. So does Toshiyuki Tsutsumi at Toshi-san in La Jolla. Japengo’s James Holder stands in the front of his U-shaped counter, while Tsuyoshi Maruyama of Taka faces the front door.

* Some of the freshest, best sushi (and tastiest miso soup) I’ve had came not from a sushi bar but from the kitchen of tiny Japanese café Wakei, on a rustic stretch of old Highway 101 in Leucadia. Itamae Hirokazu Ninomiya comes out of the kitchen to discuss with you, as you would with a sushi chef at a counter, what you like.

* Sit at a table if you want to order off the restaurant’s standard menu. The sushi counter is designed for guests to order dish by dish, discussing what they’d prefer directly with the sushi chef. You can order the same sushi (vinegared rice dishes) and sashimi (raw slices of seafood) at a table. Ask the wait staff about prices if they’re not posted; it’s impolite to ask the sushi chef in front of other counter guests.

* Be aware that the sushi counter is for socializing while you eat, not for socializing over drinks after you’re through eating if others are waiting for a seat. The sushi chef is just that —a chef—waiting to create beautiful sushi for others.

The Ultimate Dining Guide 2004

a plate of sushi

Getting the Best Meal Possible

* Decoding a sushi bar menu can be a real challenge. The sushi chef is there to help, so tell him or her your likes and dislikes, and he or she will make recommendations. Or follow sushi tradition and ask, "What’s good today?" to find out what’s in season. If you’re feeling flush, ask for omakase, meaning chef’s choice.The chef will create special dishes just for you, composed of the very best— often most expensive—sushi and sashimi.

* A waiter will take your orders for drinks (and any side dishes that come out of the kitchen, like seaweed salads or soups). You don’t want the lingering taste of one sushi dish affecting the taste of another, so your drink should refresh as well as cleanse your palate. Sake with sashimi is a traditional opening to a sushi meal. Switch to beer, green tea, crisp white wines or even champagne when the sushi dishes start arriving. Or dive into the sakitinis and other spirited drinks that taste great with bolder, fusion-style sushi.

* A sushi meal is composed of many small dishes that add up to one satisfying meal. You may want as few as three or as many as six.

Minding Your Sushi Manners

* Split the disposable wooden chopsticks apart, but don’t rub them together. Doing so implies they’re cheap. If the chopsticks really do splinter, rub them together discreetly, but don’t make a performance out of it.

* Always lay your chopsticks down tightly together, preferably parallel with the edge of the counter in front of you. If no chopstick rest is provided, use the wrapper the chopsticks came in. Never cross your chopsticks, and don’t leave the chopsticks stuck in food—especially a bowl of rice. This is traditionally done only at a funeral.

* Dip the fish or other finger sushi topping into soy sauce or other dipping sauce, not the sushi rice ball. The rice ball gets too wet and falls apart, and the rice absorbs too much sauce, drowning out the delicate tastes of the sushi.

* Finger sushi started out 200 years ago as a street snack meant to be eaten with the fingers, so go ahead and use yours. Finger sushi is best enjoyed in one bite, but some-times they’re too big to do so. Ask the sushi chef to make them smaller if it’s a problem.

* Do eat sushi with your fingers, but chopsticks should be used to pick up sashimi because it is not considered finger food. You can ask for a fork, but give chopsticks a try first. The best, and most obvious, insider’s tip of all is to keep going back to your favorite sushi bar. Soon you could be receiving special items—such as true wasabi root to grate as you eat your sushi—usually reserved for the best customers.

Adapted from Sushi for Dummies by Judi Strada and Mineko Takane Moreno, Wiley Publishing, 2004.

Stops on the San Diego Sushi Road

Japengo 8960 University Center Lane Golden Triangle | 858-450-3355

Sushi on the Rock 7734 Girard Avenue La Jolla | 858-456-1138

1923 Calle Barcelona Carlsbad | 760-436-6261

Sushi Ota 4529 Mission Bay Drive Pacific Beach | 858-270-5670

Taka 555 Fifth Avenue Gaslamp Quarter | 619-338-0555

Toshi-san Restaurant 7614 Fay Avenue La Jolla | 858-456-4545

Wakei 1246 North Coast Highway 101 Encinitas | 760-635-3959

 
The Ultimate Dining Guide 2004

a bottle of white wine being poured into a glass

GRAPE EXPECTATIONS

The quest for quality wines under $20, featuring Kiwis, J. Garcia . . . and screw-tops?

THANKS TO THE LAW of supply and demand, bountiful harvests around the world and advances in winemaking technology, the retail shelves of your favorite wine merchant are packed with an unprecedented array of pleasures for the palate and pocketbook. It’s particularly evident in wines under $20. The timing is right for summer shopping. With grapes from the new harvest ready to arrive for fermentation, wine must move through the supply chain. Merchants need to make room on their retail shelves for wine waiting in distributors’ warehouses, which must find space for new vintages arriving from the wineries. The wineries have their own chain: grapes, fermentation tanks, barrels, bottles, cases and aging cellars.

Wineries, as the first link in the chain, are pressured to empty their gaining popularity. Clos du Bois has issued bottlings under the J. Garcia label, celebrating the artwork of the late Jerry Garcia, leader of the Grateful Dead. Dick Arrowood, who launched Chateau St. Jean and then began issuing wines under his name in 1988, offers a rich Cabernet Sauvignon under Grand Archer.

The competition is also heating up from countries where land, production and labor costs are lower, including Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. New entries from South Africa (Goiya and African Spirit labels) are under $10. During a recent visit to New Zealand, we tasted a spectacular array of under-$20 wines that were being queued for the U.S. market.

The Ultimate Dining Guide 2004

cheese

We also applaud the Kiwis for rallying wineries to advance the screw-top revolution. The screw-top advocates say the closure is clean, suffers no bottle variation or corky smell, maintains wine quality indefinitely and eliminates premature oxidation. More than half the winners at the recent Air New Zealand annual wine competition were in screw-tops—some in the $50 to $75 range. We like the convenience, plus no more crumbles in the wine from a cheap, disintegrating cork.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Sebastiani, 2000, Sonoma County, $17 (top score).

J. Garcia (Clos du Bois), Sonoma County, 2001, $15.

Grand Archer (Arrowood), 2001, Sonoma County, $14.

Rodney Strong, 2001, Sonoma County, $12.

Beringer, 2002, Founders Estate, $9.

Grove Street, 2001, Sonoma County, $8 (best value).

Pepi, 2002 (screw-top), California, $8.

Ravenswood, 2001, California, Vintner’s Blend, $7.

New Zealand: Craggy Range, Te Mata, Ngatarawa, Te Awa.

Pinot Noir

Sebastiani, 2002, Sonoma Coast, $16.

Chateau St. Jean, 2002, Sonoma County, $15 (top score).

Erath, 2002, Oregon, $14.

Ponzi, 2002, Tavola, Williamette Valley, Washington, $13.

Estancia, 2001, Monterey, $9.

Castle Rock, 2002, Russian River Valley, $8.

Rex Goliath, 2001, Central Coast, $5.49 (best value).

New Zealand: Martinborough, Margrain, Ata Rangi, Lawson’s, Chard Farm, Peregrine, Brancott.

Merlot

St. Clement, 2001, Napa Valley, $18 (top score).

Chateau Souverain, 2001, Alexander Valley, $18.

Sebastiani, 2001, Sonoma County, $17.

Chateau St. Michelle, 2001, Columbia Valley, Indian Wells, $16.

J. Garcia, 2001, Sonoma County, $15.

Hogue, 2001, Columbia Valley, Genesis, $15.

Dynamite, 2001, North Coast, $15.

Avila, 2001, Santa Barbara County, $10.

Pepi, 2002 (screw-top), California, $8 (best value).

Other Reds

Ca’ del Solo, 2002 (screw-top), Monterey, Sangiovese, $15.

Ca’ del Solo, 2002 (screw-top), Monterey, Barbera, $15 (top score).

Seghesio, 2002, Sonoma County, Zinfandel, $15.

Castle Rock, 2002, Russian River Valley, Zinfandel, $9.

Don Miguel Gascon, 2002, Mendoza, Argentina, Malbec, $8 (best value).

Sauvignon (Fumé) Blanc

Chateau St. Jean, 2001, Le Petite Etoile Vineyard, Russian River

Valley, $18 (top score).

Murphy-Goode, 2001, Alexander Valley Reserve, $15.

Chateau St. Jean, 2002, Sonoma County, $13.

St. Clement, 2002, Napa Valley, $12.

Beringer, 2002, Napa Valley, $12.

Pepi, 2003 (screw-top), California, $8.

New Zealand: Cloudy Bay, Isabel, Konrad & Company ($11, best value), Babich, Lawson’s, Matua, Brancott.

Chardonnay

St. Clement, 2001, Napa Valley, $16 (top score).

Burgess, 2001, Napa Valley, Triere Vineyard, $9 (best value) (2002, $15).

Benziger, 2001, Carneros, $14.

Cambria, 2002, Santa Maria Valley, Katherine’s Vineyard, $13.

Souverain, 2002, Sonoma County, $12.

Selby, 2000, Sonoma County, $12.

Villa Mount Eden, 2001, Santa Maria Valley, Bien Nacido

Vineyard, $11.

Franciscan, 2001, Napa Valley, Oakville Estate, $10.

St. Francis, 2002, Sonoma County, $9.

Angeline (Martin Ray), 2002, Russian River Valley, $8.

Estancia, 2001, Monterey County, $7.

Other Whites

Conundrum, 2002, Napa Valley White Wine (blend of

Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Viognier and Semillon), $18.

Chateau St. Jean, 2002, Sonoma County, Gewürztraminer, $12.

The wines listed above in order of price have been tasted over the past six months and rated 85 and higher using a 100- point scale. All wines are under $20 (prices may vary). The top score and best value are identified in each category.

A Few Merchants

Holiday Wine Cellar, 302 Mission Avenue, Escondido, 619-696-9463.

San Diego Wine Company, 5282 Eastgate Mall, San Diego, 858-535-1400.

Vintage Wines, 6904 Miramar Road, Suite 101, San Diego, 858-549-2112.

The Wine Bank, 363 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, 619-234-7487.

WineSellar & Brasserie, 9550 Waples, Suite 115, San Diego, 858-450-9557.

 

BEST RESTAURANTS
2004 READERS’ POLL

Best of the Best (Money No Object)

Marine Room Marine Room

Mille Fleurs

George’s at the Cove

Best of the Best (Moderate)

Trattoria Acqua

The Prado

George’s at the Cove (rooftop)

Best Cheap Eats

Rubio’s

Jack in the Box

Pat & Oscar’s

Best New Restaurant

RegionRegion

Savory

Sofia’s Italian Table

Best Service

George’s at the Cove

Marine Room

Tapenade

Best Chef

Deborah Scott (Indigo Grill) Deborah Scott (Indigo Grill)

Jean-Michel Diot (Tapenade)

Tie: Bernard Guillas (Marine Room) / Trey Foshee (George’s at the Cove)

Best Dining with a View

Marine Room

George’s at the Cove

Bertrand at Mr. A’s

Best Late-Night Dining

Saska’sSaska’s

Tie: Bully’s / Gaslamp Strip Club

Best Hotel Dining

Hotel del Coronado

La Valencia

Four Seasons Resort Aviara

Most Extensive Wine List

WineSellar & Brasserie

Top of the Cove

Thee Bungalow

Best Neighborhood Eatery

Kensington Grill

Parkhouse Eatery

Crest Café

Best Dining with Kids

Corvette Diner

Chuck E. Cheese

Dave & Buster’s

Most Romantic

Marine Room

Top of the Cove

George’s at the Cove

Most Decadent Desserts

Extraordinary Desserts

Cheesecake Factory

Just Fabulous

Best Microbrewery

Karl Strauss

Gordon Biersch

Rock Bottom

Best Pizza

Bronx Pizza

Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza

Filippi’s

Best Local Burger Joint

Rocky’s

Hodad’s

Hamburger Mary’s

Best American

George’s at the Cove

Sbicca

Dakota Grill

Best French

Mille Fleurs

Tapenade

The French Gourmet

Best Spanish/Tapas

SevillaSevilla

La Gran Tapa

Picasso

Best Italian

Trattoria Acqua

Piatti

Arrivederci

Best Indian

Bombay

Star of India

Ashoka the Great

Best Chinese

P.F. Chang’s

Jasmine

Emerald

Best Sushi Bar/Japanese

Japengo

Sushi Ota

Taka

Best Thai

Taste of Thai

Celadon

Spice Thai Café

Best Asian Fusion

Roppongi

Kemo Sabe

Japengo

Best Greek

Athens Market

Aesop’s Tables

Daphne’s

Best Middle Eastern

Bandar

Aladdin

Khyber Pass

Best German

Kaiserhof

Aladdin

Café Europa

Best Vietnamese

Le Bambou

Phong Trang

Pho Hoa Cali

Best Barbecue

Phil’sPhil’s

Kansas City Barbeque

BBQ Pit

Best Mexican

Fidel’s

Old Town Mexican Café

Casa de Bandini

Best Vegetarian

Jyoti-Bihanga

Tie: Galoka / Vegezone

Best Steakhouse

Donovan’s

Ruth’s Chris

Fleming’s

Best Seafood

The Fish MarketThe Fish Market

Blue Point Coastal Cuisine

Star of the Sea

Best Breakfast

Hash House a Go Go

Broken Yolk Cafée

Café 222

Best Sunday Brunch

Hotel del Coronado

Loews Coronado Bay Resort

The Westgate

Best Business Lunch

Dobson’s

Dakota Grill

Rainwater’s on Kettner

Best Bagels

Einstein Bros.

Bruegger’s

Big City

Best Deli

D.Z. Akin’s

Milton’s

The Cheese Shop

Best Takeout

Pick Up Stix

Saffron

Rubio’s

Best Outdoor Dining

The Prado

George’s at the Cove

Poseidon

Best Caterer

Waters

Festivities

The French Gourmet

 

BEST RESTAURANTS

2004 Critic’s Picks

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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