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Gold Medallion Awards (SD)

Since my post last night about two of the winners of the Gold Medallion Awards fired up a slowing thread, I thought it would be interesting to show all of last night's winners. So here are this years winners of the San Diego Chapter of the California Restaurant Association.

Chef of the year: Hanis Cavin of Kensington Grill
Restauranteur of of the year: Phil Pace of Phil's BBQ
Best American: Market
Best Asian: Taste of Thai
Best Bakery/Cafe: Bred & Cie
Best BBQ: Phil's BBQ
Best Breakfast: Cafe 222
Best Brewery: Karl Strauss
Best Burger: Waterfront Bar & Grill
Best Casino Restaurant: Barona Valley Ranch
Best Catering: Urban Kitchen
Best Continental/French (Casual): Cafe Chloe
Best French (Fine Dining): Mille Fleur
Best Ethnic: Indigo Grill
Best Family/Casual Chain: Cheesecake Factory
Best Fine Dining Chain: Ruths Chris
Best Fusion: Red Pear Kitchen
Best Hotel Restaurant (casual): The Grill at the Lodge
Best Hotel Restaurant (fine dining): JRDN at Tower 23
Best Italian (casual): The Venetian
Best Italian (fine dining): Trattoria Acqua
Best featuring live music: Humphreys
Best Mexican (casual): El Indio
Best Mexican (fine dining): Cafe Coyote
Best New American: Prado
Best Neighborhood Restaurant: Kensington Grill
Best New Restaurant (casual): Alchemy
Best New Restaurant (fine dining): Cowboy Star
Best Pacific Rim: Kemo Sabe
Best Pizza: Sammy's
Best Pub/Bar: Bitter End
Best Quick Service: In-N-Out
Best Seafood (casual): The Brigantine
Best Seafood (fine dining): Oceanaire
Best Sports Bar: Moondoggie's
Best Steakhouse (casual): Bully's East
Best Steakhouse (fine dining): Donovans
Best Sunday Brunch: Tom Ham's Lighthouse
Best Nightclub/Restaurant/Lounge: Stingaree
Best Sushi: Sushi Bar Blue
Best Wine Bar: Wine Vault & Bistro
2009 U/T Reader's Choice: Bali Hai

Obviously, I have some of my own opinions, but I would like to read yours! Discuss amongst yourselves.

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  1. Best Brunch Tom Ham's Lighthouse?!?!???? Serious credibility issues here.

    Bali Hai??? Didn't they run $5 specials all last year...

    Interesting that there seems to be very little acknowledgment of the trend and restaurants developing along the 30th St. corridor, which are some of the more interesting places in town right now. But, I'm guessing, most of these places probably aren't members of the SD chapter of the CRA.

    3 Replies
    1. re: DiningDiva

      Tom Ham's for best brunch...WTF?
      That place blows..it has the restaurant picture in the dictionary under 'places that blow'

      Bali Hai albeit has the best damn mai tais ever..and they have a dock so we can pull the boat up to drink and sail but come on people..who the hell are these judges..Monkeys?

      1. re: DiningDiva

        They lost me after Indigo Grill for best ethnic

        1. re: DiningDiva

          Not sure who dining diva is but when is the last time you were at Tom Hams brunch? Its great!

        2. I can honestly say I disagree with all of those except:

          Restauranteur of of the year: Phil Pace of Phil's BBQ (he does run a tight ship)
          Best Seafood (fine dining): Oceanaire
          Best Continental/French (Casual): Cafe Chloe

          These ones are beyond a joke:

          Best Mexican (casual): El Indio
          Best Neighborhood Restaurant: Kensington Grill
          Best Pacific Rim: Kemo Sabe
          Best Seafood (casual): The Brigantine
          Best Nightclub/Restaurant/Lounge: Stingaree
          Best Sushi: Sushi Bar Blue
          Best Italian (casual): The Venetian
          Best Italian (fine dining): Trattoria Acqua
          Best Family/Casual Chain: Cheesecake Factory

          This is the biggest joke of all:

          Best Ethnic: Indigo Grill

          I really think "lists" like these hold back San Diego dining. (A thought that was attacked on another thread with irrational arguments. Although many people agreed as well).

          San Diego really needs a "critical"/educated voice in the media if it wants to be a serious food town.

          Does Chowhound give out Awards?

          3 Replies
          1. re: stevewag23

            Oh, Stevie, you were not attacked, but the irony of your claim is not lost. Typing as someone who obviously has never been outside San Diego, right?

            I think the list is clearly the result of what we used to call a Circle J*** . Ummm- maybe not appropriate here; let's give it a culinary link and call it a Mutual "Mastication" society.

            No, Stevie-doo, this is not just a San Diego thing- they have these MM clubs all over the world, with the express interest in enhancing the business climate for restaurants.

            It's just business, because it's clearly not about the quality or unique nature of the food.

            1. re: Fake Name

              "this is not just a San Diego thing"

              I am of the belief that just because something is good for Oklahoma City, it is not good for San Diego.

            2. re: stevewag23

              Is this the result when you vote for yourself in the cuisine category and you're the only one in that category?

            3. Would have been easier to mention the one restaurant., in SDRSA's opinion, that didn't make it.

              1. SD Chapter of The California Restaurant Association's Nepotism at it's finest. Parts of this laughable list (yes some deserve to be there) has NOTHING to do with what is the best of San Diego, more like the benign leading the blind and bland.

                Top Five Comedic Winners (Mobilize the Cohn vote) with crap like being voted for "The Best" this how will SD ever get on the culinary map...?

                #1. Best Ethnic: Indigo Grill (Fried Brie, circa 1980)
                #2. Best New American: Prado (Flat, no depth of flavor)
                #3. Best Pacific Rim: Kemo Sabe (Is BIG really better, no, just more of a lot!)
                #4. 2009 U/T Reader's Choice: Bali Hai (someone please help me!)
                #5. Best Sunday Brunch: Tom Ham's Lighthouse (maybe the Cohn's own this too now?)

                Best Quick Service, who the F cares?

                Real Winners That Deserve To Be On The List (Now why the belong to The Restaurant Association is beyond me?)
                Café Chloe
                Cowboy Star
                The Grill at The Lodge
                Mille Fleur

                Where's the outrage?

                2 Replies
                1. re: Torrontes

                  If I get this wrong I'm sorry

                  I believe Deborah Scott won some award is SD recently it may have been tied into this one (can't find the post) so that would explain to me why so many of her/ thier (cohn group) Restaurant's are on the list. This is not s slight but Indigo grill is not an Ethnic Restaurant a Fusion Restaurant maybe.

                  Also the Sushi choice is odd haven't heard of it and it shouldn't it be Kato or Ota

                  but then again these lists are like those in the magazines like top ten action movies or greatset bands and they are so off base.

                  Remember Jethro Tull beat Metallica for best Heavy Metal artist at the Grammys
                  (and I love Jethro Tull but wrong choice)

                  I'm Happy CowboyStar is there :)

                  1. re: chris2269

                    Think they're a little biased to their members or what, first graders could have picked better places.

                2. WHO is in the SD chapter of the CRA?? Their list looks like SD Magazine's annual "best restaurants" list where they say PF Changs is the "best Chinese."

                  Best Thai: definitely NOT Taste of Thai. Very Americanized. Sab e Lee kicks their booty all the way down Via de la Valle
                  Best Sushi: never heard of Sushi Bar Blue, but Kaito has been the best I've had in SD
                  Mille Fleur's food feels stuck in the 1980's, for what it's worth.

                  Sammy's has good pizza, although I don't know if I'd consider it the "best."
                  I do indulge in Cheescake Factory from time to time (ok, everyone pelt me w/ rotten tomatoes now!) but not sure if I'd put it on a "best of" list, mostly b/c it's a chain

                  I think the ones that I'd agree w/ are:
                  In-n-Out (not sure if it's for service, but what they do, they do well)
                  Cafe Chloe

                  Haven't been to Wine Vault and Bistro or Cowboy Star, so I can't honestly have an opinion either ways on these...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: daantaat

                    FWIW Cheesecake Factory's award was for best family/casual chain. It is very strange that's even a category though.

                    1. re: DougOLis

                      I guess waiting in line for large quantities of mediocre food could be a family activity.

                      I do have to admit that my wife and I find their cheesecake to be pretty good (though that might be a food item that is difficult to goof up). It's nice that their carry out line at the front counter is usually quite short.

                  2. The California Restaurant Association is a trade organization whose mission is to promote its members and their interests...nothing more nor less.

                    From their website:

                    "The mission of the California Restaurant Association (CRA) is to be the definitive voice of the California food service industry and to protect and promote its success."

                    Anyone that expects such a trade organization to provide anything beyond purely self-interested promotion is simply deluded. That's what they do. Awards like these are nothing more than marketing. They do not reflect the actual opinions, experiences, or preferences of the customers. In my opinion they carry no weight whatsoever.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: nileg

                      yeah, we seem to all know it's a joke but the problem is there's probably some (quite a few) people out there who don't know that and will take it seriously.

                      1. re: DougOLis


                        Which in turn affects the restaurant market in San Diego.

                        1. re: stevewag23

                          Google "CRA Gold Medallion" "San Diego" "2009" and you come up with all of 22 hits, almost half of which are from a PR release crowing about Sammy's Woodfired Pizza offering gluten-free pizza.

                    2. Wow, what a strange list. And what a strange trade group. I checked the website and apparently the membership is a secret. So I will have to assume Karl Strauss is the only brewery member and Waterfront is the only member that cooks hamburgers - can't think of any other explanation for those awards.

                      1. This list is a total joke. Especially these:

                        Best Asian: Taste of Thai
                        Best Brewery: Karl Strauss
                        Best Ethnic: Indigo Grill
                        Best Mexican (casual): El Indio
                        Best Mexican (fine dining): Cafe Coyote
                        Best Pizza: Sammy's
                        Best Pub/Bar: Bitter End

                        Absolutely laughable. Have they eaten food?

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: Josh

                          Or course not. It's just business.

                          The other side of the list-making is the San Diego Magazine poll. Just as flawed, it ask readers what they think. Which is merely a popularity contest, not a measure of the quality of the cuisine or the service. That's why El Indio often "Best Mexican"- it's actually "the Only Mexican Food I've ever really eaten, and the lines are so long is Must be the Best".

                          On the other hand, maybe it's us, the Chowhounds, who are wrong:

                          I completely agree with the SDCRA's choices from a *pure business* POV. El Indio is probably the best mexican restaurant in town from that perspective. Low overhead, cheap ingredients, HUGE volume of customers. The profits must be fantastic, and as a business owner and entrepreneur, I can respect that, just like the Cohn's.

                          In which case, some semantic and punctuation changes are demanded. Here's a suggestion using appropriate punctuation:

                          Best "Brewery": Karl Strauss
                          Best "Ethnic": Indigo Grill
                          Best "Mexican" (casual): El Indio

                          Best profit in "Brewery": Karl Strauss
                          Best marketing in "Ethnic": Indigo Grill
                          Best volume in "Mexican" (casual): El Indio

                          Because El Indio is no more mexican food than the "Pirates of the Caribbean" is an actual boat ride through a 18th century pirate siege, and Indigo Grill is like a trip to the blurred cultures of "It's a Small World".

                          It's an interesting culinary world, after all.

                                1. re: Fake Name

                                  To be fair to Karl Strauss, they have really improved dramatically in the past two years. Their standard offerings aren't so great, but some of their specialty beers are amazingly good. I wouldn't say they're the best, but I don't know that there's one brewery in town I could single out as best anyway.

                                  1. re: Josh

                                    Best Breweries:
                                    The Stone Brewery and The Lost Abbey in North County (not including food here!)

                                    1. re: gotukola

                                      Alesmith belongs with these two, easily.

                                      1. re: RB Hound

                                        Don't forget Alpine...and Green Flash...and Port...and Pizza Port...and Ballast Point. You could make a case for any of them. They each have beers I love, beers I like, beers I'm "meh" about, and few that I dislike.

                                2. re: Josh

                                  Sadly, people who visit or who are just looking for a place to dine may be influenced by this 'Gold Medallian Award' stuff without knowing it's members only who get 'Best' whatever cuisine.

                                  1. re: cstr

                                    That's true, but I believe in a business' right to promote themselves and call themselves whatever they want. If they want to form a mutual admiration society to promote each other, that's their prerogative.

                                    The problem is not with the businesses, but with the people who go there and rave about mediocrity. But that wouldn't be a snobby attitude, now would it?

                                3. Does anyone know of a local awards list that might be a little more in line with, or at least in the ballpark of, what local CH'ers would choose?

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: juantanamera

                                    Why don't we have our own awards?
                                    Let's take that joke of a list and place our own Chow worthy restaurants..

                                    Set it up juantanamera...I'll play!

                                    1. re: Beach Chick

                                      OK, go to the 'Best of SD' thread and vote away.

                                    2. re: juantanamera

                                      Actually, no. Most of the "real" reviewers are gone, and not by choice. People with a discriminating palate are no longer employed by the local media. We're currently in a Yelp world, and it will take a few years before publications wise up. There are exceptions- I thing City Beat does a pretty good job of sniffing our decent places.

                                      And we CH'ers will just argue.

                                      I do think there are some universal choices here. Everybody loves Mariscos German and Super Cocina. Cafe Chloe, is always a fav, Addison is well-rated. El Cuervo, Kaito. Urban Solace. But other than that, we are a group that are thrilled to disagree.

                                    3. What a total load of crap. The Cheesecake Factory is proof that Satan exists, I can't believe it won a goddamn award for anything more than best sawdust.

                                      DD is right, the 30th Street crew got seriously shafted. Oh well, whatever, mediocrity lives on. I'll be throwing back a wine spritzer at the Harbor House to drown my sorrows.