San Diego’s got so many tried and true food spots that getting people to try something new can be tough. We get it, why try a new place when your favorite restaurant is fantastic no matter how many times you go? A lot of restaurants have fans so loyal it’s almost like a cult following.
The good spots stay on top for a reason. No one’s going to knock you for returning to Sushi Ota or Werewolf over and over again. They’re great restaurants with quality food. But there are restaurants in San Diego making some waves that deserve your attention in 2019. It’s time to add some new places into the regular rotation. Here is a diverse list of five amazing restaurants to try this year.
Cloak & Petal
Getting attention in the San Diego seafood restaurant niche is a challenge, to say the least. The old guard has been around for years and they do what it takes to stay out front. The stakes are even higher when it comes to sushi. Cloak & Petal pulled it off when it opened in Little Italy in 2017. They offer diners high-end Japanese food served on more than 30 different small plates accompanied by great cocktails. Nothing’s basic about the food at Cloak & Petal.
The menu features wagyu zabuton with the option to add uni for a little bit extra. The surf and turf Pâté is made of ankimo, a Japanese dish made with monkfish liver and foie gras, and there’s a fabulous mix of sushi, nigiri, and sashimi choices. Cloak & Petal is the brainchild of Tajima Ramen’s Isamu Morikizono and Cesar Vallin of Prospect Bar.
Lola 55 opened its doors last summer after their owners, Chef Drew Bent and his partner Frank Vizcarra, completed two years developing their concept. The restaurant, located in East Village, centers around woodfire-cooked tacos. They use a Santa Maria wood grill to add a unique flavor to food made with the best possible ingredients.
They’re not afraid to push the envelope a little with Mexican food. Chef Bent, who studied under Criollo’s Chef Luis and Chef Ricardo Arellano, mixes modern cooking concepts with traditional techniques to serve their customer’s high-end tacos at a great price point. The filet mignon taco is a hit, and they hit the mark on the Baja fish taco.
Lola 55 also boasts a full bar with inventive cocktails that go perfectly with the small taco plates. Even though it’s been open only a short while, Lola’s already got a spot among San Diego’s best taco joints.
Bull and Bourbon
If you’re looking for a new go-to San Diego steakhouse, check out Bull and Bourbon steakhouse in the newly renovated Sycuan Casino. Investors spent $226 million on the casino expansion, and they didn’t pinch any pennies when it came to the restaurant. Executive Chef Aldo Negrete runs an experienced kitchen staff that is aging their hand-cut steaks on site. Negrete previously worked as chef de cuisine at Lionfish. The wood-burning grill gives their steaks great flavor guaranteed to make mouths water. The menu will include a variety of cuts of meat, as well as a gourmet miso burger and stuffed Maine lobster. Bull and Bourbon also features a raw bar, as well as gourmet sushi rolls.
If you’re not up for a large cut of steak, check out the small bites that go great with a bourbon on the rocks. True to the second part of its name, Bull and Bourbon boasts a selection of more than 70 bourbons at the bar to go with some of their signature cocktails.
A passion project of two couples that met as children in Rome decades ago has finally reached the big stage. Maestoso is named after Chef Marco Maestoso and has been his partner and friends’ dream since 2013 when they started running Casa Maestoso, a popular New York dinner club. The 16-seat Sunday night affair caught fire among the Upper East Side crowd, winning them mentions in the Times and the Journal.
After a short return to Rome in 2015, they embarked on a pop-up tour that eventually landed them in San Diego. Maestoso launched in March 2019, featuring twists on traditional gourmet pizzas and other famous Roman dishes like gnocchi and Pecorino fondue. Chef Marco makes six fresh pasta every day and there are no waiters in the restaurant. The entire staff consists of chefs who rotate from back of the house to front, serving diners dim-sum style with selections off of a cart they push through the aisles.
Since it opened its doors in Little Italy, Nolita Hall has perfectly embodied the San Diego vibe. It’s an open concept, laid back restaurant with great food. Nolita hits on all the ambiance marks, trendy furniture, wood and metal finishes, and open-door dining. Nolita’s owner Doug Hamm says his inspiration came from European drinking emporiums and looks to cater to the local community.
Hamm hopes that Nolita Hall will be a gathering spot where people come to great a drink to watch a game or spend time eating with friends. The food’s great too. Designer cocktails, pizzas, and salads are a must-try. There’s a wide selection of craft beer to wash down the delicious homemade cookies and ice cream. The large skylight and shuffleboards create an environment people don’t’ want to leave as they chow down on gourmet bites.
Bold chefs continue to push the envelope in the San Diego dining scene. Look for these five places to keep making their mark in the city throughout 2019 and beyond by creating and serving great food. One of the best things about San Diego is that its beautiful weather and quality of life are a huge draw to world-class chefs and restaurateurs.
This is where they want to be. If you’re looking for somewhere new, these five restaurants are a great place to start. The city continues to change each year, and these places are helping improve it. Break out of your routine this year and check out what’s new.