Why San Diego’s Burgeoning Food Scene Deserves Your Attention

A local food writer singles out the city’s best dining experiences.

With the introduction of a California-wide Michelin guide, Golden State cities that are NOT Los Angeles and San Francisco will undoubtedly receive some overdue attention. That’s not to say that smaller markets like San Diego aren’t already generating buzz on the food scene. Just ask San Diego Magazine food critic Troy Johnson.

“That’s why Richard Blais lives here, and why he was able to lure Anthony Wells from Per Se to Juniper and Ivy. That’s why Michelin-starred brothers recently moved from Italy to open Il Dandy in Bankers Hill. And why Top Chef runner-up and Jean-Georges vet Angelo Sosa chose Encinitas for his Death by Tequila. Why chefs like Trey Foshee, Jason Knibb, Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins, Carl Schroeder, and William Bradley are now resurfacing in national headlines.”

Johnson notes that San Diego hosts the highest number of small farms in the U.S., and the city’s restaurants “do those farms justice” with their creative offerings. He also points out that the New York Times recently assigned a food critic to the region, and two local restaurants have already received editorial coverage.

So which San Diego restaurants rise to the top according to Johnson and the locals who dine there? Here are some recommendations straight from the man who covered the area for the last 12 years.

Best New Restaurant

Critic’s Pick: Fort Oak

Readers’ Pick: Death by Tequila
Runner-up: Jeune et Jolie

Best Happy Hour

Critic’s Pick: Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant

Readers’ Pick: Herringbone
Runner-up: Bub’s at the Ballpark

Best View (Urban)

Critic’s Pick: Mister A’s

Readers’ Pick: Mister A’s
Runner-up: The Nolen

Best Dumplings

Critic’s Pick: Facing East

Readers’ Pick: Dumpling Inn
Runner-up: Din Tai Fung

Best Italian

Critic’s Pick: Maestoso

Readers’ Pick: Solare Ristorante
Runner-up: RoVino

Best Wine List

Critic’s Pick: Addison

Readers’ Pick: Solare Ristorante
Runner-up: RoVino

Best Brewery

Critic’s Pick: Alesmith

Readers’ Pick: Stone Brewing Co.
Runner-up: Modern Times

Get Johnson’s full list here.