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. 

The Lion's Share

The Story: Located in San Diego’s Marina District, The Lion’s Share has received critical and popular accolades for serving some of the finest bar food in the U.S., without taking themselves too seriously. A carnivore’s wonderland, their menu is built around exotic meats. 

What to Eat: Our Experts recommend the Bison Carpaccio, Camel Tacos, or the Elk Loin with Wild Boar Bacon. While not a first choice for vegetarians, the appetizer portion of The Lion’s Share’s menu is decidedly veggie forward. 

What to Drink: Go for one of their seasonal cocktails, or house riffs on classics like the Sazerac and Gimlet. 

The Vibe: With a trophy antelope head mounted behind the bar, chandeliers, and walls hung with portraits of anthropomorphized animals in painted in classical European styles, the vibe is one part craft cocktail lounge, one part absurdist British Colonial hunting lodge. 

When to Go: If you can swing their Happy Hour from 4-6pm Monday through Friday do it! They knock $3 off specialty cocktails and 20% of appetizers. The Lion’s Share seems like a fun place to get down to serious business with colleagues or to simply take your chances and go stag. 

The Lion's Share
Spot
Marina, San Diego
$, Wine Bar, Modern, American, Bar, Cocktail
5 Recommendations

Sushi Ota

The Story: Sushi Chef Yukita Ota was born in Kumamoto Kyushu, Japan and worked in Kobe, Tokyo, and Osaka before visiting San Diego in 1982. Legend has it that Chef Ota became so enamored with the exceptional flavor of San Diego’s local sea urchin (Uni) that he decided to stay in this port city, and opened Sushi Ota in 1990. In the thirty years since it has since become a legend amongst locals and a destination spot for sushi aficionados. 

What to Eat: If you can grab a spot at the counter ask for Omakase (chef’s choice) where you will be served local Uni, the freshest cuts of sashimi, and special rolls. 

What to Drink: Cold Sake. 

The Vibe: San Diego, perhaps more than any other U.S. city we’ve been to, houses some of its finest culinary gems in jewelry boxes that to the naked eye appear to be nondescript strip malls. Listed as “choice sushi in an unassuming setting,” that’s precisely what you’ll get at Sushi Ota, and what has our Experts and locals coming back time and again. 

When To Go: Whether it’s lunch or dinner you’re after, there is always a line to be seated, so get there early or make reservations via their website.

Sushi Ota
Spot
Pacific Beach, San Diego
$$$, Happy Hour, Sushi, Japanese, Reservations
4 Recommendations

Crack Shack

The Story: An open love letter to both the fried chicken and the over-easy egg, partners Michael Rose, Jon Sloan and Celebrity Chef Richard Blais (Top Chef), this is Crack Shack’s flagship location in Little Italy.  Their focus: fried chicken sandwiches and egg dishes sourced from freewheeling, organically fed, antibiotic-free Jidori birds.  

What to Eat: the Coop Deville Sandwich– Fried Chicken, Pickled Fresno Chiles, Lime Mayo, and Napa Cabbage on Brioche gets high marks from our Experts. Or go for The Hangover as a way to prevent or cure the affliction for which it was named: Fried Egg, Honey Butter Dipped Fried Breast or Thigh (choice of), Giant Biscuit and Red Eye Aioli. Get a side of their Border Slaw– Papaya, Mango, Jicama, Coconut, Chili and Pineapple or their Chicken Schmaltz Fried French Fries. 

What to Drink: Specialty cocktails or local brews on tap. 

The Vibe: A corrugated aluminum counter service “shack” with an open patio, ample picnic bench seating, and a bitchin’ bocce ball court. This is a great place to chill with your friends, both human and canine, when leisure and comfort are the tallest order of the day. Yes, there are outdoor space heaters for those rare San Diego nights when it dips into the chilly 60s. 

When to Go: Open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, this is the spot to pre or post game while enjoying the neighborhood. Their Happy Hour runs Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. and knocks a generous $3 off cocktails and $2 off pints.

Crack Shack
Spot
Harborview, San Diego
$$, Happy Hour, Outdoor Seating, Full Bar, Fried Chicken
4 Recommendations
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