Michael Gardiner, San Diego CityBeat: Bracero Cocina de Raiz. Frankly, it’s my restaurant of the year. Bracero is an uncompromising, audacious play. It does not speak down to us. It does not play it safe. With Bracero, Javier Plascencia dared the San Diego dining public instead of begging it. And based on the evidence to date, restaurant goers have responded positively. At a time so many other restaurant bets have gone the other direction there may be some lessons to be learned at Bracero.
Erin Jackson, Thrillist: Everyone's going to say Bracero and The Crack Shack, but I think casual restaurants operated by owners who are equally passionate about great food but might lack the budget for slick decor and a comprehensive PR campaign, like Grand Ole BBQ y Asado, Ike's Place, and Salud, deserve as much attention.
Barbarella Fokos, San Diego Reader: I only recently discovered it, but they’ve been open for just over a year, so does that count? Because La Bonne Table is my new favorite place.
Amy T. Granite, Discover SD: Bracero was a big one because it introduced legit, creative Mexican cuisine to Little Italy—a neighborhood that, prior to Craft & Commerce in 2010, was predominantly occupied by mediocre Italian restaurants. Javier Plascencia’s new digs are marvelous, as is his food, and Christian Siglin’s killer mescal cocktails. Heck, it looks like even the Italians are envious of the concept, to the point of opening a taqueria and bar of their very own just a few blocks away. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but probably not.
Another impressive newcomer was Jinya Ramen Bar in Pacific Beach. And don’t let the beach location fool ya, haters—this mini chain, based out of Tokyo, is cranking out 12 rad versions of ramen like the "premium tonkotsu white," thick and rich with the addition of pork and chicken "oil;" the spicy chicken ramen is also divine. I’ve walked out of this joint with animal fat stained clothing on more than one occasion, though never without a "pass me a cigarette" smitten grin across my face.
Frank Sabatini, Jr., San Diego Community News Network: Bracero, Coasterra, Breakfast Republic and The Brew Project started out red hot and remain so. I also like what Rustic Root has brought to the Gaslamp Quarter, with its elk chops, timeless cocktails and rooftop patio overlooking Fifth Avenue.
Darlene Horn, Zagat: Definitely The Crack Shack and Bracero Cocina; both ruled the headlines.
Michele Parente, San Diego Union-Tribune: The one-word wonders: Bracero, Coasterra and Catania. They were big and brash, and alas, sometimes a little boring.