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Dec 7, 2010 11:25 AM

San Diego's Best Restaurants Zagat

Best food

1.Market Restaurant/Bar

2.Sushi Ota

3.Hane Sushi

4.Wine Vault/Bistro


Other interesting pieces from the article:

"It's official: San Diego diners this year have cut back on their meals out and are spending less than their counterparts in Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to a Zagat survey released today."

"At the time of the 2008 guide,San Diego diners were paying more for a meal than in Los Angeles ($33.29) and Chicago ($33.75)."

"Diners delivered relatively harsh criticism of the more than 500 restaurants covered in the closely watched guide, lending credence to San Diego's longstanding reputation as an also ran in the culinary world."

"San Diego diners may be eating out less and spending less these days, but the past year’s openings provide new blood for the local scene," said Tim Zagat, co-founder of theZagat Survey. "As the industry emerges from the recession, this year’s newcomers are not only exciting, but affordable as well.”

- The silver lining of the down economy is that San Diego dining I think has actually improved.

No longer are we trying to copy excessive, high priced Las Vegas and West Hollywood style (and doing a poor job at that).

The economy has necessitated restaurateurs into delivering a product that is good and affordable, which fits the "style" of San Diego way better.

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  1. Most popular

    1.George’s Ocean Terr.
    2.Sushi Ota
    4.Market Restaurant/Bar
    5.Donovan’s Steak

    On #3, I just shake my head. I'm not exactly sure how the Zagat surveys work, but I'm guessing that people submit their votes, and to submit a vote for a regional fast food chain (no matter how much you like it) is odd.

    2 Replies
    1. re: RB Hound

      iirc I actually voted in this year's poll. The way it worked was that you submit your score on their 30 point scale and provide feedback for restaurants in the area. You can submit as many ratings as you want for the restaurants on the list, and they also asked you to provide comments.

      The restaurants were organized in somewhat of a north county vs downtown vs "other" category, but not every restaurant happened to coincide with the area you would have thought (i.e. some del mar restaurants were in the downtown section). For places like In-N-Out and Donovan's, I'm guessing that they aggregated all the ratings from all the locations within this.

      No idea on how they come up with the final score, but just explaining how I voted.

      1. re: karaethon

        Thanks for letting us know. I haven't seen a Zagat survey in at least 10 years.

    2. I generally ignore Zagat as they are a bit snobby in their ways.

      7 Replies
      1. re: cstr

        Funny, I think our own little CH community is a bit snobby - but I value the opinions (and most of the arguments). I take Zagat as seriously as local reader polls or "People's Choice" awards. It is simply a popularity contest where anyone can vote. Results reflect the taste of the general public which give us results like "Best Italian": Olive Garden.

          1. re: foodiechick

            The type of restaurant customers that would submit a vote in the Zagat poll are quite a bit different than the customers that submit a vote in a Union-Tribune poll.

            If you had a poll that was somewhat representative of the entire population of San Diego County, I would not be surprised at all to see In-N-Out show up in a favorite restaurant list. But in a group of people voting in a Zagat poll? That's just odd, especially considering that none of the other choices seemed that out of whack (though you certainly may disagree with them).

            It almost seems like this was a poll of east coast business travellers to San Diego. "Yep, gotta my In-N-Out every time I go to west coast!"

              1. re: Fake Name

                If the fancy-schmancy glasses fit...

                1. re: foodiechick

                  Fancy-schmancy? I'm willing to bet that Fakey voted for "Super Sergio's" in the Favorite Restaurants category. At least it isn't a chain... :)

                  1. re: RB Hound

                    And it's all in the car! WOW!!!

          2. "No longer are we trying to copy excessive, high priced Las Vegas and West Hollywood style (and doing a poor job at that)."

            I know you have written such claims quite often but we eat very often in LA and Las Vegas (including many "excessive, high priced" ones) and I haven't seen a single restaurant in SD over the last 5-7 years which tried to copy it. We would love to have such restaurants in SD as it would definitely add some variations to the restaurant scene (which improved over the last years somehow in the "bistro-style" restaurants and to a small number in some ethnic restaurants but not much more). Can you name a few of the restaurants which copied the LA/LV style in SD and which restaurants they tried to copy ?

            4 Replies
            1. re: honkman


              Osetra copied Aureole Restaurant (Wine tower with angels, food, decor) it was just such a poor blantant rip-off you might not have noticed. This is the obvious one.

              A case could be made for many gaslamp restaurants that are hanging by a thread or are long gone that were built in 2002 -2008 (I don't feel like racking my brain right now to put together a thesus on this.) Any of the restaurants from the phony/corporate "boutique hotels" in san diego come to mind immediately Ivy (now Andaz), The W, Hard Rock, Tower 23, Se Hotel (formerly Setai hotel) etc etc etc.

              "We would love to have such restaurants in SD as it would definitely add some variations to the restaurant scene"

              I agree 100%. I don't mind those styles of restaurants, in fact, I wish we had more. But you have to pull them off correctly (ie quality food, legitimate chefs, not media created "hype machine" chefs, later dining hours, easing up on the smoking laws, servers that have a clue etc)

              1. re: stevewag23

                You had me until:

                "easing up on the smoking laws"

                The world is changing for the better worldwide. My last trip to France was delightful compared to earlier trips. Italy as well. And none of the restaurants seemed to be affected in the slightest.

                Not sure why any gourmand would enjoy smelling smoke instead of food.

                1. re: stevewag23

                  I wouldn't describe Osetra as a copy of Aureole (beside the wine angels) the food was completely different. I also don't think boutique hotels, which exists everywhere not only SD, LA and LV, are a sign of copying something. For example the Andaz is quite nice and very different to the one in LA. Again I don't see that SD is/has been copying so much from LA or LV.

                  "...easing up on the smoking laws..." - I hope that will never happen and here I prefer that we copy LA (and LV where smoking inside higher end restaurant is not allowed)where smelling cigaret smoke would be a sign of a lousy restaurant.

                  1. re: honkman

                    "I wouldn't describe Osetra as a copy of Aureole (beside the wine angels) the food was completely different."

                    My point exactly. They are completely different. Aureole is decent, Osetra is laughable.

              2. 2012 out:


                Sushi Ota
                Hane Sushi
                Wine Vault
                Primavera Ristorante
                Bud's Louisiana Cafe
                WineSellar & Brasserie

                11 Replies
                1. re: FireFlyFiftyFive

                  How did they select them ? Blind monkey with dart board ?

                  1. re: honkman

                    I like Bud's (was just there on saturday) but it shouldn't be on any list.

                    1. re: honkman

                      Clearly. The dart is mounted on the wall, and the monkey throws the board at it.

                      1. re: Fake Name

                        You'd need some sort of ape to throw a board; don't think a monkey could lift it. Chimp, gorilla, orangutan - could be any of those.

                        On ratings - I think Zagat solicits votes and comments, and then has some sort of magical editor compile them into a list. It might be useful to know more than that, but alas, it is not for us mere mortals to know.

                        1. re: RB Hound

                          All interesting comments. So say you all ruled Zagat for a day. What are your top 10 SD?

                          1. re: keena

                            Finding the best of all restaurants is impossible as most of them can't really be compared - how to do you compare Addison with a Pho place ? You might be able to compare perhaps restaurants with the same background, e.g. best French, Vietnamese, Italian etc. and even there it is often impossible to clearly define whete a restaurant belongs. Why are these rankings necessary, can't people just describe their experiences

                            1. re: honkman

                              Zagat is not an arbitrary ranking. The ranks are based on the average of the submitted reviews from members. So in essence this top 10 is based on people's experiences. Their system imo is much more reliable than yelp's. You can get people's experiences on yelp. A solid 80% or so of those experiences being garbage but you can see in the posts certain truths about a location if everyone complains about the same thing.

                              This is a pretty solid list of what I would consider most of the best places in SD. There is maybe a place or two I would take off in favor of other places or move a spot up or down in the rankings but overall it is fairly close to the mark for me.

                              1. re: mjill

                                This stuff is hard to measure, and is subject to so many factors other than food and service quality.

                                It's my belief lists like these (and SD Mag, etcs "best of") are more accurately called *most popular restaurants* rather than "best of".

                                No doubt, there are great places here, Wine Vault and Addison are two of my faves. But how a list like this could leave off Super Sergios is beyond me.

                                Zagat is an older Yelp- it's the AAA of restaurants.

                                Super Sergio's
                                4125 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

                                1. re: Fake Name

                                  great line, fakey. "Zagat is an older Yelp-- the AAA of restaurants." And I'd add, anybody who'd choose a place to eat based on Zagat's won't know the dif, specially if they'd come to San Diego and go eat jambalaya.

                                  1. re: Fake Name

                                    Thanks for crafting a more thoughtfully worded response than the one I started and stopped.

                                    Obviously there are good restaurants on that list, if a bit staid.

                                    Zagat's reliable to me when traveling insofar as I know a place w/ good Zagat marks won't have inedible food. But it's a poor determinant for memorable dining experiences.

                                    1. re: Josh

                                      On the other hand, if more tourists frequented those places more than the places they *are* frequenting, it would not be a bad thing. Well, not bad unless you were trying to get seats there on a busy night.

                    2. To be fair- it's a little like asking Zagat for the best fruit. Someone is going to say apple, someone will say orange.