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Industry Experts on the Top Restaurant Standbys of 2014

What were the top go-to restaurants?

Común Kitchen and Tavern
Común Kitchen and Tavern
Photo: Mike Newton

As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. This year, we asked the group eight questions running the gamut from meal of the year to top restaurant newcomers. All will be answered by the time we turn off the lights at the end of the 2014. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Readers, please do add your survey answers in the comments.

Q: What were your top standbys of 2014?

Omar Passons, eat.drink.give.go.: Carnitas Snack Shack and Juniper & Ivy. I'd give nods also to Waypoint Public, though that might be seen as more of a bar, and Común Kitchen & Tavern, where I had several really solid meals.

Caron Golden, San Diego Foodstuff: The Red Door always is a treat. They’re so creative and what can beat dishes made with produce from the owner’s own little farm? Great Maple for when I need BIG food. Sheerwater at the Del is where I like to go for family celebrations because we can enjoy a beautiful meal by the ocean. Urban Solace/Sea & Smoke—summers are all about watermelon and feta salad. Okay, and biscuits. And I have my triple threat of favorite Chinese restaurants on Convoy: China Max, Spicy City, and Dumpling Inn. I’m looking forward to Dumpling Inn’s expansionnext door.

Frank Sabatini Jr., restaurant critic, San Diego Community News Network, and contributing writer, Pacific San Diego Magazine: Hanna’s Gourmet in Normal Heights remains a gem for well-executed dishes that touch down in a different country each week. OB Noodle House slings trustworthy steak pho and sizzling fish. And I’ve become good friends with the schnitzels and bacon-sauteed pierogis at Romeo & Julieta Wine Café in Talmadge.

Erin Jackson, city editor, DiningOut San Diego: The Original Sab E Lee (in Linda Vista) has been so consistently awesome over my 30+ visits this year that it gets top billing. I also probably devoured my weight in chicken makhani at Punjabi Tandoor. Prepkitchen is still my go-to for brunch (try the porchetta and grits) and I'm pretty much married to the mini cheeseburger at Hodad's at this point.

Marcie Rothman, FoodBuzzSD: The 3rd Corner, Supannee House of Thai and Juniper and Ivy

Michael Gardiner, restaurant critic, San Diego CityBeat: Recently, we’ve found an outrageously good family run Guadalajara-style birria joint on the "wrong" side of the cuota in Rosarito called Birrieria Bernal. The place prides itself on its birria de chivo (goat stew) -- which is outrageously good -- but its menudo rojo (tripe in a mild, dried red chile soup) may be even better. That said, the place I probably ate most in 2014 was Roadem Korean BBQ in Kearny Mesa. Inexpensive and good quality Korean BBQ, it’s almost too good a deal to even consider not eating there often.

Michele Parente, dining and lifestyle reporter, Union-Tribune: Great Maple for the sweet donuts and sweeter service, Bottega Americano for the down-home pasta and big-city vibe, Kitchen 4140 for the superlative everything. The three are my version of culinary cocooning.

Barbarella Fokos, contributor, San Diego Reader: Solare Ristorante, particularly for Sicilian chef Accursio Lotà’s inventive, constantly changing menu. Accursio is one of the few chefs I know who can rock the sweets as well as the savories — some of his desserts are his own invention, others are his grandmother’s original recipes. Of course, the easy parking at Liberty Station is an additional draw when I want to head out for fine food without a hassle. The 3rd Corner in Ocean Beach for lunch, a glass of sparkling rosé, and then shopping on site for a case of wine to replace the last one we drank at home. I always order the same exact thing: cup of wild mushroom soup and house salad with grilled chicken. The Lion Share has been my go-to joint for meetings over cocktails and exotic fare when I want to appear extra cool. In 2014, if you stumbled into any of these establishments, you likely would have found me there: Starlite, Craft & Commerce, Yakitori Yakyudori, and Tofu House.

Darlene Horn, city editor, Zagat San Diego: For me, they're usually fast and filling places like The Kebab Shop, Raki Raki and the corner shop Mexican taco joint.

Troy Johnson, restaurant critic, San Diego Magazine: Cafe Chloe. Turned 10 this year. Anyone who asks for a good spot to eat downtown, this is still where I send ‘em. It’s just how you do a French bistro. Style, soul, quality. It fills the sexy hole in me. Amarin Thai: Drunken noodles with duck is my food prozac. Underbelly: It’s like being a latchkey 1970s kid all over again, only this ramen is much better. Wa Dining Okan: Feels like a small, family temple built in honor of the bento box. Favorite lunch on Convoy.

Amy T. Granite, food writer, DiscoverSD: I’m always embarrassed when people ask me "what are your favorite restaurants right now?" because more often than not, I draw a blank, which is loony considering that I report on local food at least three times a week. I think this lameness to think on my feet stems from the fact that my "standbys" include what I eat for pleasure, and hey, eating like a mid-twenties bachelor isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. That being said, I’m not sure if a café inside a liquor store qualifies as a restaurant, but Alaskan Seafood Connection inside Corner Liquor on Adams Avenue has been a regular hit in my world. You cannot beat $6.99 for a huge portion of fish and chips—are they the best in town, no, but they’re delicious and cheap, my M.O. pretty much. The New England clam chowder is also surprisingly good. My other picks include Gaglione Brothers for a cheese steak with whiz; the Turf Club for steak (and whiskey); and salads from Big Front Door when I’m in need of some dietary rehab.