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Editor’s Note: Between Us Bread and Salt

Executive editor Mateo Hoke gives us preview of the 2024 Best Restaurants issue
San Diego bakery Prager Brothers Artisan Breads
Courtesy of Prager Brother's Bread

Sweet cherry bloody Mary, this issue is delicious. I’m about to roll it up, dip it in garlic butter, and bite it like a lobster tail.

You’ll find our list of the Best Restaurants of 2024, featuring picks from food critic Troy Johnson and your reader faves, which are based on more than 41,000 nominations (a new record). Sprinkled throughout, you’ll meet some of the top people behind San Diego’s vibrant dining scene, explore trends shaping SD’s food culture, and probably feel some belly lust for sushi, pasta, burgers, pizza, tacos, and countless other provisions. Loosen your pants now—it’s a feast.

See the Best Restaurants 2024 Winners List

And there’s so much more. This is a holy text.

We bring you a beautiful profile from author, scientist, and cook Madhushree Gosh on the family ties behind one of her favorite restaurants, Punjabi Tandoor. On page 112, we’re celebrating 100 years of Tijuana’s Caesar salad, and we’re bar-hopping and mirror-selfieing through some of the city’s sexiest bathrooms.

Thirsty? We’re playing a game of cocktail telephone, in which we ask bartenders to tip their hats toward their favorite drinks around town. We bring you a hand-painted guide to legendary glassware. We’re having fun over here, and this issue gets prettier by the page.

On the cover, you’ll find Oceanside’s Jordan Howlett—a viral video come to life—who broke bread with me and let me in on what it took for him to rise to the 25-million-follower echelons of social media stardom. Since his videos are typically casual affairs shot in the bathroom and kitchen of the home he shares with his parents and older brother, we asked to style him to the nines to offer our readers a look most of his fans have never seen before. There are more photos in the feature. Check it out.

We’re excited to share this spread. This issue is our ode to the people who keep our city fed and quenched, day after day. The ones putting their livelihoods on the line to open new spots, and the ones sweating in the kitchens and behind the bars, warming our plates and chilling our glasses. These visionaries and craftspeople are the fluid in the engine of San Diego—they keep us fueled and running smooth, and, for that, we can’t help but sing their praises. Shoutout to them and the restaurants they call home.

Personally, restaurants have shaped the course of my life. I spent 20 years bartending while working to build my writing career. For me, the two were complementary. A good bartender knows how to talk to anybody— they can find reciprocity in the smallest of minds. And the same goes for reporters. I’ve been very fortunate. My bartending jobs helped propel my reporting career by paying my rent and allowing me the freedom to travel, research stories,and write books.

A decade ago, while researching in Palestine, I was introduced to the Arabic phrase “beynatna khubz wah milah,” or “between us bread and salt.” It’s a nod to the deep tradition of hospitality in the region, meaning that once you have a meal with someone, you’re connected to them. Sharing food bonds us with each other. That’s why we eat with our favorite people on our favorite days and why we cheers our glasses before we drink. In doing so, we acknowledge that when we share meals, good things happen.

So here’s to breaking bread, and here’s to the folks who bake it.

By Mateo Hoke

Mateo Hoke is San Diego Magazine’s executive editor. His books include Six by Ten: Stories from Solitary, and Palestine Speaks: Narratives of Life Under Occupation.

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