Michele Parente, San Diego Union-Tribune: Juniper & Ivy, for showing off San Diego at its best and to repay Richard Blais for shining the national and "Top Chef" spotlight on us with such class. Cucina Urbana, because after all these years, I still can’t get enough of those squash blossoms or that budino. The Wine Vault & Bistro has the most ridiculously reasonable, creative wine pairing menus that always cause me to drool when the lineup arrives in my inbox. I’d eat there every week if I could. True Food Kitchen is my go-to business lunch spot. Yes, it’s next door the office (though not for long), but there’s no better kale salad in town. Yes, it’s almost 2016 and I’m still eating kale salad.
Michael Gardiner, San Diego CityBeat: The place I kept going back to this year was Xi'an Kitchen on Convoy. And that was really down to one dish: the biang biang noodles. It’s an amazingly simple, and perfect dish: hand-pulled noodles -- named for the sound made by the noodle dough as it’s "thwacked" on a chopping block as they make it in the back -- served with ground chili oil in a little pool of soy-based broth. They are totally addictive.
Barbarella Fokos, San Diego Reader: After moving to Kensington in March, I found my regulars shifted a bit this year; some stayed the same, and others joined the list. Most frequented in 2015 would be: Izakaya Masa, S&M Sausage and Meat, Cantina Mayahuel, Bleu Boheme, and Yakitori Yakyudori.
Frank Sabatini, Jr., San Diego Community News Network: Mostly low-hype places: Saiko Sushi in North Park for the paradise roll, Mr. Spicy in Mission Gorge for the classic Chinese dry pots, and Nati’s Mexican Restaurant, a dated joint in OB that cured my sacriligous urge for ground beef burritos on a few occasions.
Erin Jackson, Thrillist: This year, I fell hard for the croissants at Cafe de L'Opera while maintaining a dedicated commitment to Hodad's (where I ingested no less than 45 mini cheeseburgers and enough steak fries to fill a kiddie pool). I also made multiple visits to longtime favorites Prepkitchen, Urban Solace, Rubicon Deli and Sicilian Thing along with newer spots like Quad Alehouse (bring back the roast chicken!).
Darlene Horn, Zagat: For me, it was anything close to home with quick counter service. I count The Kebab Shop, Roberto's and In-N-Out in my weekly rotation.
Amy T. Granite, Discover SD: Salud in Barrio Logan rolled out the tastiest tacos of the year in my opinion, during a time when fancy or inventive versions are costing $5 or more and not always delivering the wow-factor one would expect from that kind of price tag. If you haven’t been, the tacos here aren’t called fancy or presented as such, by any means—yet, I find myself using them as a litmus test any time I eat an expensive version elsewhere: Was it worth it? Or should I have just gone to Salud? The tacos all have this San Diego-style comfort food thing going on, in that you can taste the love in every bite: hand-formed tortillas are simply divine; the charred elote shaved off the cobb is downright addictive; chips, salsa and guac are all bomb; and the churros sundae with fresh fried confections melting into vanilla ice cream, with caramel and tajin lining the frosty glass mug, is not to be missed. Like, ever.
When I wasn’t stuffing my face at Salud in 2015, I frequented The Balboa for its towering Centennial Burger; Tsuruhashi Japanese BBQ for table top grilling tasty morsels like Kobe beef while downing frosty beers; Homestyle Hawaiian’s Linda Vista location for the best Kalua pork I’ve had on the mainland; Chaba Thai Kitchen for rejuvenating khao soi egg noodle soup; and Artisan Bento for dietary rehab that doesn’t suck, when my body needs a break from all of the above.