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. Chef William Bradley, a four-time James Beard Award nominee, offers a five- or 10-course tasting menu (with optional add-ons and wine pairings) that has recently included specialties from A5 Wagyu beef to barbecued pigeon. Bradley is 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 egg yolk ravioli with goat gouda, a cast-iron quinoa bowl with pepita salsa verde, a banana split yodel and other 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: 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—by Gambero Rosso.
Award-winning tacos? Where else but in San Diego! It is one of just six restaurants in San Diego that currently boast the Bib Gourmand designation from the prestigious Michelin guide, Lola 55 exemplifies the unique regional cuisine in San Diego known as Cali-Baja. In 2019, it was one of just 8 restaurants in San Diego to receive Bib Gourmand status from the prestigious Michelin guide, a designation that's awarded to restaurants where diners can have an exceptional culinary experience at a reasonable price.
Urban Kitchen Group
The chefs behind the innovative dishes at CUCINA urbana, CUCINA sorella, CUCINA enoteca Del Mar — part of the Urban Kitchen Group — are masters at infusing Italian fare with California vibes. CUCINA urbana and CUCINA sorella are designated as Bib Gourmand restaurants in the current Michelin Guide California, recognized for their diversity of cuisine and fantastic culinary offerings. The latest additions to the Urban Kitchen Group portfolio are Craft Café and Artifact, both at the newly renovated and reopened Mingei Museum in Balboa Park.
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