Introducing a new tradition for Eater San Diego, a closeout of the year in food with a survey of friends, food media, industry experts and bloggers. This year, we asked the group questions that ranged from their thoughts on Meal of the Year to Top Newcomers and we'll be posting their unedited responses throughout the week. Readers, feel free to play along and add your own answers to this year-end food survey in the comments.
Q: Name your top restaurant standbys of 2012 — the restaurants you returned to most.
Keli Dailey, restaurant and bar reporter, U-T San Diego: Owner Jay Porter likes to call this San Diego log house Baja's northernmost restaurant—
El Take It Easy is in North Park. Its resident chef, Max Bonacci, is cool enough to share his tiny kitchen with the biggest names in Baja California cuisine. And anytime I showed up for one of the multi-course Baja Chef Series dinners, I made sure to stick around until I was happily stuffed and sloppy on Vena Cava wines.
But everybody knows I detour down Via De La Valle for even soup at Market Restaurant.
Kirk K., mmm-yoso: I thought 2012 to be pretty slow with regards to the places I frequent most often; those ethnic, family owned restaurants that provide soulful, comfort food. The two that come to mind are:Antojitos Colombianos— Some of the best lengua I've ever had. Nyat Vy— Finally, a shop that makes a decent Banh Cuon.
Amy Granite, The Grubby Bitch columnist, San Diego CityBeat: El Paisa Mexican Grill (on 25th and Imperial)— I eat there at least once a week. It's the birthplace of my favorite off-menu item, the ½ carne asada ½ al pastor fries. It came about on one indecisive afternoon when I couldn't decide between al pastor tacos or just-grilled carne asada. Don't be misled when others try taking credit for it? it was a Grubby work of genius! Other than the killer fries and tacos at El Paisa, I've consistently returned to Yakitori Yakyudori (over the years), and also Neighborhood, TJ Oyster Bar, Poma's Italian Delicatessen, Underbelly, Lefty's Chicago Pizzeria and Smashburger (I love the crispy chicken and fried pickles!).
Jane Bills, Let There Be Bite: Solace and the Moonlight Lounge, Blue Ribbon Pizzeria, Sushi Ota, Yu Me Ya, Cafe Chloe, Thai Society.
Michele Parente, Features Editor, U-T San Diego: True Food Kitchen, Farm House Cafe, Gingham and Herringbone. My 2012 yin and yang: I was obsessed with – and couldn't get enough of – True Food's pristine, simple kale salad and Gingham's down-home, so-bad-it's-good southern comfort food.
Erin Jackson, San Diego contributor, Serious Eats: Sab-E-Lee (the original location), for my weekly dose of panang curry, Bronx Pizza for a whitestone with pepperoni, Rubicon Deli for turkey sandwiches on jalapeno cheese bread, Hodad's for punk rock and a sloppy cheeseburger.
Alice R., Alice Q. Foodie: Farm House Cafe — the 3 course $30 Thursday menu is fantastic, Tiger Tiger (for brunch), Jayne's Gastropub (love the happy hour), Prep Kitchen in Little Italy & Carnitas Snack Shack. Kebab Shop, Blue Water Grill and Rubicon Deli are favorite downtown-area lunch spots.
Roddy Gibbs, Rodzilla Reviews: Oscars Mexican Seafood — San Diego is known for fish tacos, and Oscar's are the best. I make sure to take everyone who visits me in SD, and I don't feel any trip to our great city is complete without a stop in. Urban Solace — Another place I always recommend. It's easy to support a Chef/Restaurateur like Matt Gordon and his wife Young-Mi. They are so active in the community, and truly care about what they're serving and where it comes from?and what they're serving is really, really good. Great taste, exciting ingredients but completely approachable, I'd call it contemporary comfort in a lively, casual atmosphere. Bonus points for the Ron Burgundy mural.? Georges at the Cove— I can't think of any restaurant that showcases the best of San Diego as well as Georges. Trey Foshee is another chef who is fully committed to using local, seasonal ingredients and he is using them to create some incredible dishes. The entire staff is obviously dedicated with some of the best service around, and let's not forget that amazing view of the cove.
Caron Golden, Local Bounty columnist, San Diego Magazine: Carnitas Snack Shack, Urban Solace, The Red Door, China Max, the little take away at Balboa International Market, Blueprint Cafe, Mama's Bakery & Deli (adore the fried eggplant wrap!), Dumpling Inn, Tender Greens, True Food Kitchen, Cafe Chloe, Erizo Cevicheria in Tijuana, Sundara
Marcie Rothman, FoodbuzzSD: Supannee House of Thai, Con Pane Rustic Breads & Cafe, Cafe Chloe.
Amy Finley, contributor, Riviera Magazine: I've got a bit of a French thing going on, so always, and in perpetuity, I'm a devotee of Cafe Chloe downtown. Katie Grebow's bistro dishes are always spot on, there's a wicked cheese plate, and might I venture that their espresso gets me to just that exact, perfect post-meal place of calm, satisfied jitteriness? But Davanti in Little Italy is fast becoming a favorite too, thanks to their cauliflower antipasti —
a grilled steak-like slab with fried chickpeas and a zesty green olive tapenade. Some days I'm feeling Audrey Hepburn, some days I'm Sophia Lauren.
Barbarella, Diary of a Diva columnist, San Diego Reader: Starlite (It's like my Cheers -- I'm such a regular, everyone there knows my name. Great cocktails and a seasonally inspired menu). Cucina Urbana (Warm, cozy, great food and a wonderful wine selection at retail prices). Tofu House (Let's hear it for Convoy Street! This is my favorite eatery on the Asian-food strip). Yu Me Ya (Udon noodles made fresh every day and one of the best sake selections in town). Tractor Room (The Blue Bulleit cocktail is a must try, and this is the place to go if you're looking for interesting meats). Emerald (My favorite weekend Dim Sum scene). BO-beau (Chef Kat doesn't mess around when it comes to unique flatbreads and crispy brussels sprouts). C-Level (For the feel and food as much as the view -- it's right on the water facing a vista that includes sailboats, the downtown skyline, and the Coronado bridge).
Bread & Cie (People are usually so distracted by the fresh-baked goodies in the case, they forget they make scrumdiddilyumptious breakfast sandwiches).
Josh Kopelman, publisher, Dining Out Magazine:Carnitas Snack Shack, Solace & The Moonlight Lounge, Grant Grill, Market
Candice Woo, editor, Eater San Diego: The Original Sab-E-Lee , for when I need to wake up my taste buds. Tender Greens, for when I want an affordable, straightforwardly delicious meal. The Lodge at Torrey Pines (the bar, AR Valentien, the patio, the Grill, the lawn for Celebrate the Craft) for when I'm celebrating a special occasion or the seasonal bounty of San Diego. Tiger!Tiger! for a thoughtful list of the best craft beer in SD, and food to match.