San Diego punches well above its weight when it comes to restaurants and chefs with heavy-hitting credentials. A Top Chef winner? Yep, we have one. Master French Chef? That, too. James Beard honors and nominations? Too many to count. Here are but a few of the proudest sons, daughters, and kitchens of San Diego.
Addison Del Mar
French flavors and techniques prevail among the white tablecloths at this establishment, the sole Five-Star and Five Diamond restaurant in Southern California. Foie gras, duck, and escargot grace the summer menu crafted by Chef William Bradley, a four-time James Beard Award nominee. Bradley is also among a very small group (160 chefs on five continents) to hold the title of Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef, and the 2014 winner of the Robb Report’s Culinary Masters Competition. Despite the many plaudits, Bradley is known as the kind of chef beloved by chefs, not just the media.
Herb & Wood
This multi-level warehouse space defies a single descriptor. Suffice it to say that its wood-fired pizza, pasta, salads, craft cocktails, and entire menu of “toasts” are a resounding hit. What else would you expect from the brainchild of Chef Brian Malarkey (also of Seersucker, Herringbone, Farmer & The Seahorse)? Malarkey has done more than create some of San Diego’s most beloved eateries. He’s also helped put San Diego’s food scene on the international map and, in appearances on Top Chef (he was a finalist in 2007) and ABC's The Taste (as a co-host beside Anthony Bourdain), he is perhaps our most visible culinary ambassador.
Juniper and Ivy
Molecular gastronomy has become less trendy than in years past, except where it’s so delicious as to remain timeless. At Juniper and Ivy, it takes the form of pistachio miso lamb belly, buttermilk biscuits with smoked salt, plantain cream pie, and other tongue-twisting palate pleasers. Chef Richard Blais, the only person here to have bragging rights as a Top Chef winner, is also a James Beard Award-nominated cookbook author, and one of the best we have.
Market Restaurant + Bar
Chef Carl Schroeder’s fine dining handiwork here has been recognized numerous times over by Zagat and Eater, who place Market among the best eateries in Southern California. On the menu: Cabernet-braised short ribs, apricot-braised game hen, and seared local blue fin tuna, to name a few classics. Schroeder is a three-time nominee of James Beard’s “Best Chef” award, and has earned a nomination for perhaps the loftiest food honor in America (also from James Beard), Best Chef of the Pacific.
Point Loma (Liberty Station)
Fresh, simple, and handmade is the name of the game at this Italian treasure that pays very close attention to seasonal produce (which is easier when you grow many of your own vegetables, as they do). Solare is one of just 13 restaurants worldwide that have earned the prestigious Tre Gamberi award—similar to the Michelin Star system—by Gambero Rosso.
The new Il Dandy holds the distinction of having California's first native Italian Michelin-rated father and son duo as collaborators. The Calabrian-born father and son team, Antonio and Luca Abbruzzino, showcase their contemporary approach to cuisine that is rooted in their home city. The menu features light dishes, including fresh-from-the-sea delicacies, risotto made-to-order and tableside tastings of cold-pressed olive oils, as well as a thoughtfully curated cocktail program and homemade limoncello and grappa, all served in decor that is reminiscent of the Calabrian coast.
Point Loma (Liberty Station)
Chef Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins—who placed sixth on Top Chef: Mexico and appeared on season 15 of Top Chef: Colorado—taps into her Mexican roots at this newly-opened venture. She sources many of her ingredients from Mexico, including scallops, hand-crafted mole, and dried shrimp, and is not afraid to use ant resin and other uncommon elements on her menu—which she is known to change at a moment’s notice depending on her whims.
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