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Pros Pick the Best Dining Neighborhoods of 2013


As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, food writers, reviewers and bloggers. This year, we asked the group eight questions, from Meal of the Year to Restaurant Breakups; so far, we've looked at top restaurant standbys, top newcomers and had the writers sum up the year in one word. All will be answered by the time we pop open the bubbly on New Year's Eve. Readers, please do add your own answers in the comments.

Q: What was the best dining neighborhood of 2013?

Caron Golden, San Diego Foodstuff blogger: Little Italy is bursting--how to choose between Bencotto and Monello, PrepKitchen and Davanti Enoteca. My friend Beatriz Ledezma just opened her Caxao Chocolates cafe. And soon we'll have Juniper & Ivy, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, Ironside Oyster. Insane!

Kristin Díaz de Sandi, Life & Food blog: This year was spent scouring the Southbay/Chula Vista, my neighborhood, for delicious eats. You can find mouthwatering birria, some of the best carne asada tacos on this side of the border, as well as authentic lamb barbecue, and salsa drenched torta ahogadas. Here are a few of my favorite spots, that I will continue to visit time and time again. Fernandez Restaurant, Tacos El Poblano, Pozolería Doña Maria, Tacos El Pescador, Aquí Es Texcoco, Tortas El Gallito, Mariscos El Paisa and Romesco.

Erin Jackson, San Diego city editor, DiningOut Magazine: Downtown, mostly because of The Headquarters. Hello, Pizzeria Mozza and Puesto! We'll be seeing a lot of each other.

Kirk K, mmm-yoso blogger: We spend most of our eating dollars in Kearny Mesa, so I'd have to say there.

Troy Johnson, dining critic, San Diego Magazine: Little Italy. The elder statesmen of red-sauce Italian have been kind enough not to whack the flood of talented newcomers.

Michael Gardiner, restaurant reviewer, San Diego CityBeat: The Convoy District. There are more gems per square mile in the Convoy than anywhere else…and not just jade.

Amy T. Granite, freelance writer, @saysgranite: I'm reluctant to choose between Downtown and Little Italy, so since Little Italy is considered a part of Downtown, I'm lumping the two together. Within that chunk of town, there's a veritable feast of options that continues to grow, from upscale to happy hour deals, Mexican fast food and everything in between. It's home to Cowboy Star—probably my favorite restaurant in San Diego because of chef Victor Jimenez's original take on steakhouse fare, its low-lit, classy ambience, stellar cocktails and second-to-none service. Between there, Neighborhood Ale House for a juicy burger sauced with béarnaise; Bar Basic's coal-fired pizza with mashed potatoes; sashimi at Taka Sushi; The Field for Irish-style fish-n-chips, and now Mario Batali and friend's much adored Pizzeria Mozza, it runs the gamut of good eats. In Little Italy, I dig Isola Pizza Bar for their incredible $5 happy hour menu, Bencotto for fresh pasta (namely squid ink), Underbelly's ramen and a Turkish take on loaded fries at the Kebab Shop. In terms of what's up and coming, I can't wait to burn one down and go on a munchie spree at Ironside Oyster—dubbed a "stoner seafood" concept by Consortium Holdings—once it opens in the coming months. How does any other neighborhood compete?

Marcie Rothman, FoodbuzzSD: South Park and Golden Hill:  the eclectic mix of breakfasts, coffees, Italian, Mexican including a cool corner market.

Michele Parente, features editor, U-T San Diego: Del Mar. The "neighborhood" might be a little sprawling, spanning Flower Hill, Del Mar Highlands and Del Mar proper, but the choices represent an embarrassment of dining riches – Cucina Enoteca, Sea & Smoke, the remodeled Market, Davanti Enoteca, Mia Francesca, Rimel's, Searsucker, Snooze, PrepKitchen, Pacifica del Mar, Kitchen 1540, etc, etc.

Ian Pike, food writer, San Diego Reader: Jamul, but I can't tell you why. It's a secret.