Sugar Scribe

Our annual Best Restaurants issue is a longstanding San Diego Magazine tradition, where readers cast their vote for their favorite neighborhood establishments alongside our food critic, Troy Johnson, who shares his list of the taco shops, ramen joints, new restaurants, and more that left a lasting impression on him over the past year. We start planning this feature months in advance of the publication date, and it has taken on new meaning this year and last. Our local restaurants have been in survival mode for the past 18 months, and championing a few hundred of them for San Diegans to support is one way that we can help.

On page 70, you’ll find nearly 250 restaurants, bars, and cafés in almost 80 categories that Troy and our readers wanted to shout out. For 2021, we included some new categories and cuisines—per readers’ request—such as Best Caribbean and Best Birria, and we brought back categories that we weren’t able to feature last year, like Best Caterer and Best Restaurant at Petco Park. For the accompanying photography, we favored some communal and festive dishes that weren’t as accessible last year—opulent seafood towers and entrées prepared tableside, along with steak, brunch, and even khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread), which isn’t quite the same when served in a takeout box.

In a story just for our print subscribers on page 85, Troy shares the five dishes that he will miss the most from restaurants that have closed. (One is from Souplantation!) It’s not lost on us that hundreds of restaurants in San Diego have closed since last spring—this is a small token of our appreciation for some of those that were dear to us.

Along with Best Restaurants, we’re excited that another tradition, our Fall Arts Preview, is back this year. Live performances were on hold in 2020, and arts organizations throughout the city also had to weather this storm of unpredictability. But the curtain for local theaters, museums, galleries, and music venues has risen again. Inside, you’ll find interviews with Rob Sidner, director and CEO of the Mingei Museum, about the icon’s $55 million makeover and grand reopening this month after a three-year closure; a preview of the new Institute of Contemporary Art, San Diego, which is making art more accessible with its new campuses in Encinitas and Balboa Park; and interviews with fashion designer Dame Zandra Rhodes and The Old Globe’s new associate producer Lamar Perry, who is on a quest to make the theater industry an inclusive space for everyone.

We’ve also compiled a calendar full of the plays, musicals, and live dance performances you’ll want to buy tickets for this season.

We hope that the return of these two beloved features guides you to a memorable meal or night out that leaves you feeling inspired. A round of applause (and a toast!) to the chefs, restaurateurs, and cultural institutions that make America’s Finest City live up to that name.

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