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Dining Pros Name Top Restaurant Standbys of 2016

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As is tradition at Eater, we close out the year by surveying local food writers and our own staff on various restaurant-related topics, and we'll be publishing their responses throughout the week. Readers, please feel free to share your thoughts below.

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Michelle Dederko, PACIFIC Magazine: The Crack Shack was there for me this year on good days and bad, on lazy days, on cheat days and on very, painfully hungover days. Crack Shack never disappointed. I might be in a relationship with The Crack Shack?

Troy Johnson, San Diego Magazine: Little Lion. It’s a little hiccup of a bistro. A toppled-over phone booth serving simple, clean food using the best damn ingredients possible. That superfood bowl realigns my abused chakras. It’ll charm your pants off. The staff knows everyone by name. The Coulon sisters who own it are third generation San Diego foodies. Plus, one of them works at the Casbah and she’s a punk. It’s the Café Chloe of O.B.

Michele Parente, San Diego Union-Tribune: Liberty Public Market. Not a restaurant, but a dining game changer for San Diego. LPM instantly became a gathering place, a tourist destination and an eater’s delight. I brought every out-of-town visitor there and shopped for steaks, fish, flowers, sausages, empanadas, croissants, bread, olive oil, cheese and more, for every party I threw. It adds a dimension to San Diego that was lacking and its success will (hopefully) spur other projects like it around the county.

Keri Bridgwater, Eater: The Lion’s Share. My favorite spot in San Diego. Great drinks, great food and great service, every time. Reminds me of being in London. For a sushi it’s Kokoro Restaurant or Tadokoro if I’m in the area.

Darlene Horn, Zagat: ​In-N-Out.

Frank Sabatini, Jr., San Diego Community News Network: Pete’s Seafood and Sandwich in North Park has me under a spell with their loaded and authentic Maine lobster rolls. I’ve also made repeat visits to Duke’s La Jolla, where decent food is rivaled by the ocean view.

Michael Gardiner, San Diego CityBeat: For the second time in a row I have to name a place serving Shaanxi cuisine. Last year it was Xian Kitchen and their superlative biang biang noodles. This year it is Shan Xi Magic Kitchen with biang biangs that are even better. After being more than ready to write my review of the place after two trips I went there three more times “just to be sure.”

Josh Kopelman, DiningOut: Wrench & Rodent

Candice Woo, Eater: It boggles the mind that there are still people who haven’t been to Wa Dining Okan. It opened all the way back in 2008 and remains one of my go-to spots for seasonal small plates made with organic, locally-grown produce from Nijiya Market next door. This Japanese gem is also conveniently adjacent to Sage French Cake, where I bought no less than eight birthday cakes (get the chocolate mousse-layered Elby) this year.

Erin Jackson, Thrillist: If we're talking traditional restaurants, it's still Prepkitchen, mainly because of a few core menu items I will never get tired of (like the beet salad and chilaquiles). But to be honest, I ate a ridiculous amount of meals at Smashburger in 2016. Say what you will about fast food chains, but their grilled chicken sandwich, sweet potato fries, and chocolate Oreo shake are all top of their class.

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