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San Diego, the next food city

Juniper & Ivy | Photo by Luis Garcia

By Troy Johnson

Old habits die hard. The old habit of the national food media is treating California like it has only two cities worthy of serious conversation (Los Angeles and San Francisco). Six years ago, they were right. San Diego had world-class restaurants, but they were sparse. Places like George’s at the Cove or A.R. Valentien were single claps, but the city couldn’t gather any applause.

Now, however, the national media is starting to look a little out of touch. This is not a screed against old-guard bias. I’m not pandering for a pat on San Diego’s back. This is just my assurance to locals who’ve asked, “Why isn’t Great San Diego Restaurant X featured more on the national stage?”

The short answer: It’s them, not us.

San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the U.S., but it ranks closer to 30th as a media market. National media are mostly based in L.A. and New York. Backyards are easier to cover than commuter lawns. San Diegans just need to know this media bias is real and not judge the quality of our restaurant scene on a system with a blind spot.

I’ve now had the opportunity to eat my way through a lot of the country’s biggest food cities—New York, Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, Austin, L.A., New Orleans, etc.—and San Diego has charms that equal and surpass each one. Our Mexican food, for example. Our seafood, too. You’d be hard-pressed to find better crudo anywhere in the U.S. And the way our chefs cook with fresh vegetables is far above most of the old-guard cities. In a city that boasts the most small farms in America, “farm to table” in San Diego means down the street.

The June issue is dedicated to San Diego’s restaurant scene. It’s not perfect. But it’s pretty great. This is my seventh year of professional food writing in San Diego. I’ve eaten at anywhere between three and 12 restaurants every week. I’ve taken notes and photos of every meal. For this issue, I flipped through them all and relived the most inspiring moments. With each category, there are usually 10 possible winners. The “winners” are restaurants I feel pushed their own limits, embodied the now, contributed to the conversation about what makes San Diego such a great place to eat.

Make your own list. I hope mine inspires you.

San Diego’s Best Restaurants 2015 »

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San Diego, the next food city

Juniper & Ivy | Photo by Luis Garcia

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