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San Diego’s Best Restaurants 2022

It's here. SDM's annual list of the city's top restaurants—critic's and readers' picks. Your pocket guide to San Diego's food scene.
Photo Credit: James Tran

By Troy Johnson

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Wolfie's

Wolfie’s Carousel Bar

Photo Credit: James Tran

Browse this year’s list by category:

Overall Specific Cuisines | Specific Dishes | Ambience Drinks


The Next Level

Ever walk into a restaurant or bar and get that feeling that it’s exactly the place you need at that exact moment in time? That’s how I feel when I look at the cover of this year’s “Best Restaurants” issue. We’ve tempered our joy for a while now. But nothing is tepid or restrained about Wolfie’s Carousel Bar. Nothing is cautious about a slowly turning carousel that includes a fully stocked bar and ice cubes engraved with pole ponies. It makes me want to stay awhile in the awe of a room that’s actively trying to enchant me; to curate a light buzz, cavort with strangers, loosen the propers.

The comeback has not been swift. Starts and stops. It sometimes feels as if we’re rebuilding Maslow’s pyramid of human needs. And now we’re at the third level: love and belonging. Core to that is connecting, being part of a group, forming relationships. Humanity doesn’t peak without its gatherings.

And—all deference to places of worship and sports teams—restaurants and bars are the gravitational force that pulls us together on the day-to-day. I’ve been naming San Diego Magazine’s critic’s picks for 13 years now, and this year they lean to the spaces that facilitate the gatherings. For “Best Restaurant: Fancy,” Callie chef Travis Swikard has built a beachhead for San Diego farmers and ranchers, fishers, foragers, and foodmakers. I believe the San Diego native and former right-hand of legendary French chef Daniel Boulud will have the city’s next Michelin star. For “Best of the Best: Casual,” it’s hard to explain how much Monarch transformed Del Mar.

Best Restaurants 2022 - Ube pandesal

Ube pandesal at White Rice

James Tran

They took one of San Diego’s most prized and frustrating spaces (the location is dreamy, the original design a nightmare) and blew it wide open. I’m not sure they possess a single wall or window. And now it’s a teeming epicenter, a whole community reforming on its rooftop.

In North Park, a vital gathering spot has regained footing at Awash—where the strong Ethiopian community near El Cajon Boulevard can get berbere and injera and other hard-to-find ingredients for cooking the country’s famed dishes. My “Best New Restaurant,” Matsu, is what happens when a chef puts his life savings into honoring his lifelong fascination with Japanese cuisine and culture.

There are a couple hundred ways San Diego shines in this list. A city without Cross Street’s fried chicken sandwich is no place to raise a child. A city without Menya Ultra’s ramen slurps with less vigor and joy in its heart. A city without White Rice’s ube pandesal is less delicious and less purple.

As I always say, this list isn’t about dominating or apexing. For my part, I’m merely pointing at places that really captured me this year. We cover food and drink culture extensively every day at digital SDM. Every day, we poke our heads into new kitchens. But this issue, especially, lets us spend a couple months making restaurants and bars the absolute center of our universe. I urge you to make your own list. Go gather.


Callie - crudo

Yellowtail in Israeli sauce at Callie

James Tran

Overall

Best of the Best (Fancy)

Critic’s Pick: Callie

Readers’ Pick: Callie

Runner-Up: Animae

Best of the Best (Casual)

Critic’s Pick: Monarch Ocean Pub

Readers’ Pick: The Kebab Shop

Runner-Up: Cori Pastificio

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Wormwood

San Diego’s Best Restaurants 2022 – Wormwood

New Restaurant

Critic’s Pick: Matsu

Readers’ Pick: Wormwood

Runner-Up: Seneca Trattoria

Best Chef 

Critic’s Pick: Travis Swikard

Readers’ Pick: Travis Swikard

Runner-Up: Brad Wise

Service 

Critic’s Pick: Solare

Readers’ Pick: Solare

Runner-Up: Animae

San Diego's Best Restaurants - Nine Ten

Pan Roasted Local Halibut with wild mushrooms, green garlic puree, spring vegetables, and shaved radish at Nine-Ten

Hotel Restaurant

Critic’s Pick: Addison

Readers’ Pick: (TIE) Vaga & Nine-Ten

Runner-Up: A.R. Valentien

Caterer 

Critic’s Pick: Indulge

Readers’ Pick: The Wild Thyme

Runner-Up: Bekker’s Catering

Best Baja Restaurant 

Critic’s Pick: Deckman’s

Readers’ Pick: Oryx Capital

Runner-Up: Deckman’s

Cheap Eats 

Critic’s Pick: City Tacos

Readers’ Pick: The Kebab Shop

Runner-Up: The Taco Stand

San Diego's Best Restaurants - Cafe Gratitude

Cafe Gratitude

Talia Dinwiddie

Healthy Eats 

Critic’s Pick: Café Gratitude

Readers’ Pick: Parakeet Café

Runner-Up: Pacifica Del Mar

Vegetarian/Vegan 

Critic’s Pick: Kindred

Readers’ Pick: The Plot

Runner-Up: Kindred

Farmers’ Market Vendor

Critic’s Pick: Maya’s Cookies

Readers’ Pick: Casa Ocho

Runner-Up: Milonga Empanadas

Breakfast 

Critic’s Pick: Provisional Kitchen

Readers’ Pick: Sunny Side Kitchen

Runner-Up: Parakeet Café

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Cardellino

Sticky buns at Cardellino

Kimberly Motos

Brunch

Critic’s Pick: Morning Glory

Readers’ Pick: Cardellino

Runner-Up: Morning Glory

Bakery

Critic’s Pick: Wayfarer

Readers’ Pick: Izola

Runner-Up: Le Parfait Paris

Seafood

Critic’s Pick Serea

Readers’ Pick: Pacifica Del Mar

Runner-Up: Ironside

Steakhouse

Critic’s Pick: Rare Society

Readers’ Pick: Rare Society

Runner-Up: Cowboy Star

Desserts

Critic’s Pick: Le Parfait Paris

Readers’ Pick: Le Parfait Paris

Runner-Up: Extraordinary Desserts

Barbecue

Critic’s Pick: Grand Ole BBQ

Readers’ Pick: Grand Ole BBQ

Runner-Up: Phil’s BBQ

Specific Cuisines

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Animae

Animae

James Tran

Asian Fusion

Critic’s Pick: Animae

Readers’ Pick: Animae

Runner-Up: Glass Box

Caribbean 

Critic’s Pick: Caribbean Taste

Readers’ Pick: Miss B’s Coconut Club

Runner-Up: Island Spice

Chinese

Critic’s Pick: Dumpling Inn & Shanghai Saloon

Readers’ Pick: Zen Modern Asian Bistro

Runner-Up: Dumpling Inn & Shanghai Saloon

Ethiopian 

Critic’s Pick: Awash

Readers’ Pick: Muzita Abyssinian Bistro

Runner-Up: Awash

Filipino

Critic’s Pick: White Rice

Readers’ Pick: White Rice

Runner-Up: Starfish

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Et Voila

Et Voila

James Tran

French

Critic’s Pick: Jeune et Jolie

Readers’ Pick: Et Voilà

Runner-Up: Parc Bistro-Brasserie

Greek

Critic’s Pick: Mezé

Readers’ Pick: Olympic Cafe

Runner-Up: Mezé

Indian

Critic’s Pick: Himalayan Cuisine

Readers’ Pick: Himalayan Cuisine

Runner-Up: Taste of the Himalayas

Italian

Critic’s Pick: Catania

Readers’ Pick: Solare

Runner-Up: Amalfi Cucina Italiana

Japanese

Critic’s Pick: Matsu

Readers’ Pick: Soichi

Runner-Up: Matsu

Korean 

Critic’s Pick: Woomiok

Readers’ Pick: Chiko

Runner-Up: Manna Heaven BBQ

Mediterranean

Critic’s Pick: Callie

Readers’ Pick: Callie

Runner-Up: Aladdin

Mexican

Critic’s Pick: Valle

Readers’ Pick: Puesto

Runner-Up: Romesco Mexiterranean Bistro

Middle Eastern

Critic’s Pick: Tahini

Readers’ Pick: Shawarma Guys

Runner-Up: Sahara Taste of the Middle East

Peruvian

Critic’s Pick: Panca

Readers’ Pick: Panca

Runner-Up: Q’ero

Southern

Critic’s Pick: Flying Pig

Readers’ Pick: Bud’s Louisiana Café

Runner-Up: Louisiana Purchase

Spanish

Critic’s Pick: Cafe Sevilla

Readers’ Pick: Cafe Sevilla

Runner-Up: Costa Brava

Thai

Critic’s Pick: The Original Sab-E-Lee

Readers’ Pick: Bahn Thai

Runner-Up: Supannee House of Thai

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Kingfisher

Beef tartare at Kingfisher

Kimberly Motos

Vietnamese

Critic’s Pick: Kingfisher

Readers’ Pick: Shank & Bône

Runner-Up: Kingfisher

Specific Dishes

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Devil's Dozen

San Diego’s Best Restaurants 2022 – Devil’s Dozen

Donuts 

Critic’s Pick: Devil’s Dozen

Readers’ Pick: Broad Street Dough

Runner-Up: Devil’s Dozen

Ice Cream/Gelato 

Critic’s Pick: An’s Dry Cleaning

Readers’ Pick: Wynston’s

Runner-Up: Stella Jean’s

Pho

Critic’s Pick: Shank & Bône

Readers’ Pick: OB Noodle House

Runner-Up: Phuong Trang

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Menya Ultra

San Diego’s Best Restaurants 2022 – Menya Ultra

James Tran

Ramen

Critic’s Pick: Menya Ultra

Readers’ Pick: Menya Ultra

Runner-Up: Tajima

Chicken Wings

Critic’s Pick: OB Noodle House

Readers’ Pick: Dirty Birds

Runner-Up: Epic Wings

Fried Chicken Sandwich 

Critic’s Pick: Cross Street

Readers’ Pick: The Crack Shack

Runner-Up: Popeye’s

Burrito

Critic’s Pick: The Taco Stand

Readers’ Pick: The Taco Stand

Runner-Up: Lolita’s

Chips & Salsa 

Critic’s Pick: La Puerta

Readers’ Pick: La Puerta

Runner-Up: Miguel’s Cocina

Best Restaurants 2022 - Mr. Birria

Mr. Birria

James Tran

Birria

Critic’s Pick: Cocina de Barrio

Readers’ Pick: Tuétano Taquería

Runner-Up: Mr. Birria

Fries

Critic’s Pick: Ali’s Chicken & Waffles

Readers’ Pick: The Kebab Shop

Runner-Up: Barrio Dogg

Poke

Critic’s Pick: It’s Raw

Readers’ Pick: PB Poke House 

Runner-Up: Poki One N Half

Best Restaurants 2022 - Wrench and Rodent

Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub

Kristina Wunsch

Sushi

Critic’s Pick: Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub

Readers’ Pick: Sushi Ota

Runner-Up: Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub

Fish Taco

Critic’s Pick: Lola 55

Readers’ Pick: Pacifica Del Mar

Runner-Up: Rubio’s

San Diego's Best Restaurants - City Tacos

Zucchini taco at City Tacos

Taco

Critic’s Pick: Puesto

Readers’ Pick: Puesto

Runner-Up: City Tacos

Sandwich

Critic’s Pick: The Wise Ox

Readers’ Pick: RoVino the Foodery

Runner-Up: The Wise Ox

Pizza

Critic’s Pick: Buona Forchetta

Readers’ Pick: Amalfi

Runner-Up: Sisters

Burger

Critic’s Pick: Starlite

Readers’ Pick: The Friendly

Runner-Up: Rocky’s Crown Pub

Ambience

Best Restaurants 2022 - Madison

Madison

Andy McRory

Best

Critic’s Pick: Wolfie’s Carousel Bar

Readers’ Pick: Madison

Runner-Up: Animae

Date Spot

Critic’s Pick: Little Lion Café

Readers’ Pick: Madison

Runner-Up: Understory

Patio Dining

Critic’s Pick: The Grill at The Lodge at Torrey Pines

Readers’ Pick: Gravity Heights

Runner-Up: Trattoria Don Pietro

Dog Friendly

Critic’s Pick: The Dog Society

Readers’ Pick: Pacifica Breeze Café

Runner-Up: Sisters Pizza

Kid Friendly

Critic’s Pick: Corvette Diner

Readers’ Pick: Corvette Diner

Runner-Up: Flap Your Jacks

Best Restaurants 2022 - Herb and Wood

Herb & Wood

Dustin Bailey

Best for Big Groups

Critic’s Pick: Herb & Wood

Readers’ Pick: Herb & Wood

Runner-Up: Little Italy Food Hall

Restaurant at Petco Park

Critic’s Pick: Grand Ole BBQ

Readers’ Pick: Barrio Dogg

Runner-Up: Puesto

Best View (Water)

Critic’s Pick: Vaga

Readers’ Pick: Coasterra

Runner-Up: George’s at the Cove

Best View (Urban)

Critic’s Pick: Mister A’s

Readers’ Pick: Mister A’s

Runner-Up: The Nolen

Drinks

Dive Bar

Critic’s Pick: The Leucadian Bar

Readers’ Pick: Waterfront

Runner-Up: Aero Club

Bloody Mary

Critic’s Pick: Hash House A Go Go

Readers’ Pick: Great Maple

Runner-Up: Miss B’s Coconut Club

Margarita

Critic’s Pick: Cantina Mayahuel

Readers’ Pick: Casa de Pico

Runner-Up: Cantina Mayahuel

Wine Bar

Critic’s Pick: The Rose

Readers’ Pick: Gianni Buonomo

Runner-Up: Charlie & Echo

Brewpub

Critic’s Pick: Stone Brewing Liberty Station

Readers’ Pick: Gravity Heights

Runner-Up: Stone Brewing

Best Cider*

Readers’ Pick: Bivouac Ciderworks

Coffee

Critic’s Pick: Cafe Virtuoso

Readers’ Pick: Por Vida Café & Galería

Runner-Up: Heartwork Coffee

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Raised by Wolves

Raised by Wolves

Shannon Patrick

Cocktails 

Critic’s Pick: Raised by Wolves

Readers’ Pick: Understory

Runner-Up: Polite Provisions

Distillery 

Critic’s Pick: Skrewball

Readers’ Pick: Pacific Coast Spirits

Runner-Up: You & Yours

Brewery 

Critic’s Pick: Mujeres Brew House

Readers’ Pick: Hopnonymous

Runner-Up: AleSmith

New Brewery 

Critic’s Pick: Embolden

Readers’ Pick: South O

Runner-Up: Rouleur

Best Restaurants 2022 - Carruth

Carruth Cellars

Winery

Critic’s Pick: Carruth Cellars

Readers’ Pick: Gianni Buonomo

Runner-Up: Charlie & Echo

Wine List

Critic’s Pick: Solare

Readers’ Pick: Solare

Runner-Up: Cafe Sevilla

Juice Bar

Critic’s Pick: Parakeet Juicery

Readers’ Pick: Parakeet Juicery

Runner-Up: Choice Juicery

*Bivouac won the readers’ poll for Best Brewpub… but they’re a cidery. So we’re giving them a shout-out with their own category.

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