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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's Best Restaurants 2019

Chef Angelo Sosa, Death by Tequila

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's Best Restaurants 2019

Best New Restaurant (Critic’s Pick): Fort Oak

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


San Diego's Best Restaurants 2019

Best Tasting Room (Critic’s and Readers’ Pick): Carruth Cellars

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

Specific Dishes

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2019

Best Burger (Readers’ Pick): Royale

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

Specific Cuisine

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2019

Best Korean (Reader’s Pick): Chiko

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


San Diego's Best Restaurants 2019

Best New Brewery (Critic’s and Readers’ Pick): Gravity Heights

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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