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. And that extreme rarity, a restaurant with three Michelin stars? You better believe it. Here are but a few of the proudest sons, daughters and kitchens of San Diego.
Addison Del Mar
In 2022, the Michelin organization — which confers the world’s most-recognized and coveted dining honors — awarded an exceedingly rare third star to Addison at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar in San Diego’s Carmel Valley. The honor comes after Addison earned its first Michelin star in 2019 and its second in 2021. With that distinction, Addison becomes one of just seven restaurants in the state to boast three stars, and the only one in all of Southern California. Under the acclaimed Chef William Bradley, a four-time James Beard Award nominee, Addison specializes in California gastronomy. Bradley is among a very small group (160 chefs on five continents) to hold the title of Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef, and he was 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. But what else would you expect from a brainchild of Chef Brian Malarkey (also of Animae, Farmer & The Seahorse and Herb & Sea)? Malarkey has done more than create some of San Diego's most beloved eateries. He also has helped put San Diego's food scene on the international map and, with appearances on Bravo's "Top Chef" (he was a finalist in 2007) and ABC's "The Taste" (as a co-host beside the late Anthony Bourdain), he is perhaps our most visible culinary ambassador.
Chef Jonathan Bautista's Vietnamese-French restaurant has made a big splash both among San Diego diners and in the wider culinary world. The renowned Michelin Guide California tapped Kingfisher as one its "top new discoveries," and Bautista was named a 2023 semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Awards. Michelin's inspectors were wowed by Bautista's cooking as well as the surroundings at Kingfisher, which is named for a beautifully multihued bird.The Michelin guide observes that the restaurant "makes a splash in its stunning Golden Hill location, which offers no shortage of charm." And it praises the "mouth-watering menu of inspired Vietnamese cooking."
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: forest mushroom ravioli and broccolini roast, crispy chicken schnitzel and seared local bluefin tuna, to name a few favorites. 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 14 restaurants worldwide that have earned the prestigious Tre Gamberi award — similar to the Michelin Star system — from Gambero Rosso.
Award-winning tacos? Where else but in San Diego! Lola 55, which boasts a Bib Gourmand designation from the Michelin California Guide, exemplifies the cross-border regional cuisine that inspires so much great cooking in San Diego. The restaurant's taco-focused menu relies on locally sourced ingredients at affordable prices, and a full bar stocked with mezcals, tequilas and aqua frescas complements the chef's creations.
Urban Kitchen Group
Under the guidance of owner Tracy Borkum, Urban Kitchen group has become a San Diego powerhouse, known mainly for its mastery at infusing Italian fare with California vibes. Two of Borkum's restaurants — CUCINA urbana and CUCINA sorella — have earned the Michelin Guide California's coveted Bib Gourmand designation, recognizing exceptional cuisine at a good value. And Borkum and her team are just getting going: The most recent additions to the Urban Kitchen Group portfolio are Craft Café and Artifact, both at the newly renovated Mingei Museum in Balboa Park; the company's Urban Kitchen Food Pavilion, within the beautiful Rady Shell at Jacobs Park; and Gold Finch, a modern take on the traditional Jewish deli, located at The Muse at Torrey Pines.
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