The Required: San Diego

The Required: San Diego

A definitive guide to San Diego's tried and trues, as chosen by over 5000+ of the nation's top chefs, sommeliers, bartenders, & other food and beverage pros.

August 6, 2020
The Required: San Diego

The Required: San Diego

A definitive guide to San Diego's tried and trues, as chosen by over 5000+ of the nation's top chefs, sommeliers, bartenders, & other food and beverage pros.

August 6, 2020

Hello, San Diego. Welcome to The Required club.

The Required is our expert version of a "best list," comprised of the stand-out restaurants that have garnered the all-time most recommendations from our expert community. That's 5000+ all-star chefs, sommeliers, bartenders, and more–no black box of food editor committees or user surveys, just plain, crave-able cred.

Read on to plan your next trip—or just to be sure you've checked all the boxes on your home turf. 

Juniper & Ivy

The Story: Creative ingenuity so often hinges on the willingness to take big risks while ignoring or thriving on any shade being thrown at you by your peers, as Chef Richard Blais well knows. His creative ingenuity and adventurous spirit have earned him much deserved celebrity. With his New American eatery: Juniper & Ivy in Little Italy, Chef Blais makes this list for the second time. 

What to Eat: Of course, the menu is subject to the whimsy of the Chef and the best of the season’s local produce, meat, and seafood. Here you’ll find small bites that are inspired takes on Stoner Food classics: like the Pepperoni Bagel with Tomato Jam and Housemade Mozzarella, and the Peanut Macaron with Chicken Liver Mousse and Concord Grape Jelly. Various Seafood Crudo and Uni Linguine Carbonara are Blais’ way of throwing a big ol’ kiss to San Diego’s eating culture. Steak, Market Catch, and at least one Vegetarian dish with seasonal trimmings can always be found for the main event.  

What to Drink: Either go nuts with selections from their cocktail program that manages to capture the multi-cultural mash-up of flavors which make this port city so damned fun to be in, or take calculated risks with their wine list, which has everything from “Tried and True” varietals, to “Rare, Well-Aged Unicorns.” 

The Vibe: A neighborhood bistro and bar where you can go as formal or as kicked back (within reason) as you like. Let the highly passionate and knowledgeable service staff, direct you to what’s best at the moment. 

When to Go: Open nightly for dinner service from 5 p.m-10 p.m., either make reservations for sit down dinner or get there early to belly up to the bar.

Juniper & Ivy
Hot Spot
Harborview, San Diego
$$$, Happy Hour, Outdoor Seating, Modern, Full Bar, American, Bar
3 Recommendations

The Kebab Shop

The Story: A family run business since 2008, various locations of The Kebab Shop can be found dotted around San Diego. They were actually the ones who introduced San Diegans to the "Döner-Kebab.” Known for their high-quality ingredients, generous portions, and exceptionally kind service, this is one of those small local chains you wish would go national.

What to Eat: Pick your protein (falafel, carved lamb + beef, carved chicken), pick your delivery method (wrap, box, or plate), pick your sauces (garlic yogurt, creamy cilantro, or spicy chili), and get eating.

What to Drink: Fountain drinks or local brews. 

The Vibe: A clean, casual eatery with counter service.  

When to Go: Kids 12 and under eat free with the purchase of an adult meal on Saturdays and Sundays, so expect larger crowds during those days. The Kebab Shop is a great spot if you are looking for something relatively healthy, inexpensive and quick to eat. 

The Kebab Shop
Hot Spot
Rancho Bernardo, San Diego
$, Outdoor Seating, Falafel, Mediterranean
2 Recommendations

Shino Sushi + Kappo

The Story: Owner and Chef Robert Nakamura, who studied closely under Chef Yukita Ota of Sushi Ota, has branched out with Shino Sushi + Kappo. The focus here is on showcasing pristine selections of seafood, proving that sometimes it is the simplest things that in proper combination prove to be the most sublime. 

What to Eat: Try to make reservations for the bar or just take your chances when you arrive, as our Experts say dining Omakase is the way to go here. They also say the Matsutake Miso soup is a must-try. 

What to Drink: Choice Sake or light-bodied beers. 

The Vibe: A straight-ahead, elegant yet no-frills sushi joint, tucked in a little pocket between Little Italy and Downtown.  

When to Go: Reservations are 100% recommended on the weekends as they only run dinner service. You may have greater luck with a spontaneous drop in lunch on a weekday, just try and get there a bit before they open at 11:30, as lines have been known to form.

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