Wolfie’s Carousel Bar

Browse this year’s list by category:

Overall Specific Cuisines | Specific Dishes | Ambience Drinks

The Next Level

Ever walk into a restaurant or bar and get that feeling that it’s exactly the place you need at that exact moment in time? That’s how I feel when I look at the cover of this year’s “Best Restaurants” issue. We’ve tempered our joy for a while now. But nothing is tepid or restrained about Wolfie’s Carousel Bar. Nothing is cautious about a slowly turning carousel that includes a fully stocked bar and ice cubes engraved with pole ponies. It makes me want to stay awhile in the awe of a room that’s actively trying to enchant me; to curate a light buzz, cavort with strangers, loosen the propers.

The comeback has not been swift. Starts and stops. It sometimes feels as if we’re rebuilding Maslow’s pyramid of human needs. And now we’re at the third level: love and belonging. Core to that is connecting, being part of a group, forming relationships. Humanity doesn’t peak without its gatherings.

And—all deference to places of worship and sports teams—restaurants and bars are the gravitational force that pulls us together on the day-to-day. I’ve been naming San Diego Magazine’s critic’s picks for 13 years now, and this year they lean to the spaces that facilitate the gatherings. For “Best Restaurant: Fancy,” Callie chef Travis Swikard has built a beachhead for San Diego farmers and ranchers, fishers, foragers, and foodmakers. I believe the San Diego native and former right-hand of legendary French chef Daniel Boulud will have the city’s next Michelin star. For “Best of the Best: Casual,” it’s hard to explain how much Monarch transformed Del Mar.

Best Restaurants 2022 - Ube pandesal

Ube pandesal at White Rice

They took one of San Diego’s most prized and frustrating spaces (the location is dreamy, the original design a nightmare) and blew it wide open. I’m not sure they possess a single wall or window. And now it’s a teeming epicenter, a whole community reforming on its rooftop.

In North Park, a vital gathering spot has regained footing at Awash—where the strong Ethiopian community near El Cajon Boulevard can get berbere and injera and other hard-to-find ingredients for cooking the country’s famed dishes. My “Best New Restaurant,” Matsu, is what happens when a chef puts his life savings into honoring his lifelong fascination with Japanese cuisine and culture.

There are a couple hundred ways San Diego shines in this list. A city without Cross Street’s fried chicken sandwich is no place to raise a child. A city without Menya Ultra’s ramen slurps with less vigor and joy in its heart. A city without White Rice’s ube pandesal is less delicious and less purple.

As I always say, this list isn’t about dominating or apexing. For my part, I’m merely pointing at places that really captured me this year. We cover food and drink culture extensively every day at digital SDM. Every day, we poke our heads into new kitchens. But this issue, especially, lets us spend a couple months making restaurants and bars the absolute center of our universe. I urge you to make your own list. Go gather.

Callie - crudo

Yellowtail in Israeli sauce at Callie



Best of the Best (Fancy)

Critic’s Pick: Callie 

Readers’ Pick: Callie

Runner-Up: Animae 

Best of the Best (Casual)

Critic’s Pick: Monarch Ocean Pub 

Readers’ Pick: The Kebab Shop 

Runner-Up: Cori Pastificio 

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Wormwood

New Restaurant

Critic’s Pick: Matsu 

Readers’ Pick: Wormwood 

Runner-Up: Seneca Trattoria 

Best Chef 

Critic’s Pick: Travis Swikard  

Readers’ Pick: Travis Swikard  

Runner-Up: Brad Wise 


Critic’s Pick: Solare  

Readers’ Pick: Solare 

Runner-Up: Animae 

San Diego's Best Restaurants - Nine Ten

Pan Roasted Local Halibut with wild mushrooms, green garlic puree, spring vegetables, and shaved radish at Nine-Ten

Hotel Restaurant

Critic’s Pick: Addison 

Readers’ Pick: (TIE) Vaga & Nine-Ten  

Runner-Up: A.R. Valentien 


Critic’s Pick: Indulge

Readers’ Pick: The Wild Thyme 

Runner-Up: Bekker’s Catering 

Best Baja Restaurant 

Critic’s Pick: Deckman’s  

Readers’ Pick: Oryx Capital  

Runner-Up: Deckman’s

Cheap Eats 

Critic’s Pick: City Tacos  

Readers’ Pick: The Kebab Shop  

Runner-Up: The Taco Stand 

San Diego's Best Restaurants - Cafe Gratitude

Cafe Gratitude

Healthy Eats 

Critic’s Pick: Café Gratitude  

Readers’ Pick: Parakeet Café  

Runner-Up: Pacifica Del Mar 


Critic’s Pick: Kindred 

Readers’ Pick: The Plot 

Runner-Up: Kindred 

Farmers’ Market Vendor

Critic’s Pick: Maya’s Cookies 

Readers’ Pick: Casa Ocho 

Runner-Up: Milonga Empanadas 


Critic’s Pick: Provisional Kitchen 

Readers’ Pick: Sunny Side Kitchen 

Runner-Up: Parakeet Café 

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Cardellino

Sticky buns at Cardellino


Critic’s Pick: Morning Glory 

Readers’ Pick: Cardellino  

Runner-Up: Morning Glory 


Critic’s Pick: Wayfarer 

Readers’ Pick: Izola 

Runner-Up: Le Parfait Paris 


Critic’s Pick Serea 

Readers’ Pick: Pacifica Del Mar  

Runner-Up: Ironside 


Critic’s Pick: Rare Society 

Readers’ Pick: Rare Society 

Runner-Up: Cowboy Star 


Critic’s Pick: Le Parfait Paris 

Readers’ Pick: Le Parfait Paris 

Runner-Up: Extraordinary Desserts 


Critic’s Pick: Grand Ole BBQ

Readers’ Pick: Grand Ole BBQ  

Runner-Up: Phil’s BBQ 

Specific Cuisines

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Animae


Asian Fusion

Critic’s Pick: Animae  

Readers’ Pick: Animae 

Runner-Up: Glass Box 


Critic’s Pick: Caribbean Taste  

Readers’ Pick: Miss B’s Coconut Club  

Runner-Up: Island Spice 


Critic’s Pick: Dumpling Inn & Shanghai Saloon 

Readers’ Pick: Zen Modern Asian Bistro 

Runner-Up: Dumpling Inn & Shanghai Saloon 


Critic’s Pick: Awash  

Readers’ Pick: Muzita Abyssinian Bistro  

Runner-Up: Awash


Critic’s Pick: White Rice 

Readers’ Pick: White Rice 

Runner-Up: Starfish 

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Et Voila

Et Voila


Critic’s Pick: Jeune et Jolie 

Readers’ Pick: Et Voilà  

Runner-Up: Parc Bistro-Brasserie 


Critic’s Pick: Mezé  

Readers’ Pick: Olympic Cafe  

Runner-Up: Mezé


Critic’s Pick: Himalayan Cuisine 

Readers’ Pick: Himalayan Cuisine

Runner-Up: Taste of the Himalayas 


Critic’s Pick: Catania 

Readers’ Pick: Solare  

Runner-Up: Amalfi Cucina Italiana 


Critic’s Pick: Matsu  

Readers’ Pick: Soichi 

Runner-Up: Matsu 


Critic’s Pick: Woomiok  

Readers’ Pick: Chiko 

Runner-Up: Manna Heaven BBQ 


Critic’s Pick: Callie

Readers’ Pick: Callie 

Runner-Up: Aladdin


Critic’s Pick: Valle  

Readers’ Pick: Puesto 

Runner-Up: Romesco Mexiterranean Bistro 

Middle Eastern

Critic’s Pick: Tahini  

Readers’ Pick: Shawarma Guys  

Runner-Up: Sahara Taste of the Middle East 


Critic’s Pick: Panca

Readers’ Pick: Panca  

Runner-Up: Q’ero 


Critic’s Pick: Flying Pig  

Readers’ Pick: Bud’s Louisiana Café  

Runner-Up: Louisiana Purchase 


Critic’s Pick: Cafe Sevilla  

Readers’ Pick: Cafe Sevilla

Runner-Up: Costa Brava 


Critic’s Pick: The Original Sab-E-Lee  

Readers’ Pick: Bahn Thai  

Runner-Up: Supannee House of Thai 

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Kingfisher

Beef tartare at Kingfisher


Critic’s Pick: Kingfisher  

Readers’ Pick: Shank & Bône  

Runner-Up: Kingfisher 

Specific Dishes

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Devil's Dozen


Critic’s Pick: Devil’s Dozen  

Readers’ Pick: Broad Street Dough  

Runner-Up: Devil’s Dozen 

Ice Cream/Gelato 

Critic’s Pick: An’s Dry Cleaning  

Readers’ Pick: Wynston’s  

Runner-Up: Stella Jean’s 


Critic’s Pick: Shank & Bône  

Readers’ Pick: OB Noodle House  

Runner-Up: Phuong Trang 

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Menya Ultra


Critic’s Pick: Menya Ultra

Readers’ Pick: Menya Ultra  

Runner-Up: Tajima 

Chicken Wings

Critic’s Pick: OB Noodle House  

Readers’ Pick: Dirty Birds  

Runner-Up: Epic Wings 

Fried Chicken Sandwich 

Critic’s Pick: Cross Street  

Readers’ Pick: The Crack Shack  

Runner-Up: Popeye’s 


Critic’s Pick: The Taco Stand  

Readers’ Pick: The Taco Stand 

Runner-Up: Lolita’s 

Chips & Salsa 

Critic’s Pick: La Puerta 

Readers’ Pick: La Puerta  

Runner-Up: Miguel’s Cocina 

Best Restaurants 2022 - Mr. Birria

Mr. Birria


Critic’s Pick: Cocina de Barrio  

Readers’ Pick: Tuétano Taquería  

Runner-Up: Mr. Birria 


Critic’s Pick: Ali’s Chicken & Waffles  

Readers’ Pick: The Kebab Shop  

Runner-Up: Barrio Dogg 


Critic’s Pick: It’s Raw 

Readers’ Pick: PB Poke House 

Runner-Up: Poki One N Half

Best Restaurants 2022 - Wrench and Rodent

Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub


Critic’s Pick: Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub  

Readers’ Pick: Sushi Ota  

Runner-Up: Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub  

Fish Taco

Critic’s Pick: Lola 55  

Readers’ Pick: Pacifica Del Mar  

Runner-Up: Rubio’s 

San Diego's Best Restaurants - City Tacos

Zucchini taco at City Tacos


Critic’s Pick: Puesto  

Readers’ Pick: Puesto

Runner-Up: City Tacos 


Critic’s Pick: The Wise Ox

Readers’ Pick: RoVino the Foodery  

Runner-Up: The Wise Ox 


Critic’s Pick: Buona Forchetta 

Readers’ Pick: Amalfi 

Runner-Up: Sisters 


Critic’s Pick: Starlite 

Readers’ Pick: The Friendly

Runner-Up: Rocky’s Crown Pub 


Best Restaurants 2022 - Madison



Critic’s Pick: Wolfie’s Carousel Bar 

Readers’ Pick: Madison 

Runner-Up: Animae 

Date Spot

Critic’s Pick: Little Lion Café

Readers’ Pick: Madison 

Runner-Up: Understory 

Patio Dining

Critic’s Pick: The Grill at The Lodge at Torrey Pines 

Readers’ Pick: Gravity Heights 

Runner-Up: Trattoria Don Pietro  

Dog Friendly

Critic’s Pick: The Dog Society 

Readers’ Pick: Pacifica Breeze Café  

Runner-Up: Sisters Pizza 

Kid Friendly

Critic’s Pick: Corvette Diner 

Readers’ Pick: Corvette Diner

Runner-Up: Flap Your Jacks 

Best Restaurants 2022 - Herb and Wood

Herb & Wood

Best for Big Groups

Critic’s Pick: Herb & Wood

Readers’ Pick: Herb & Wood  

Runner-Up: Little Italy Food Hall 

Restaurant at Petco Park

Critic’s Pick: Grand Ole BBQ 

Readers’ Pick: Barrio Dogg  

Runner-Up: Puesto 

Best View (Water)

Critic’s Pick: Vaga 

Readers’ Pick: Coasterra  

Runner-Up: George’s at the Cove 

Best View (Urban)

Critic’s Pick: Mister A’s 

Readers’ Pick: Mister A’s  

Runner-Up: The Nolen 


Dive Bar

Critic’s Pick: The Leucadian Bar  

Readers’ Pick: Waterfront  

Runner-Up: Aero Club 

Bloody Mary

Critic’s Pick: Hash House A Go Go 

Readers’ Pick: Great Maple  

Runner-Up: Miss B’s Coconut Club 


Critic’s Pick: Cantina Mayahuel  

Readers’ Pick: Casa de Pico  

Runner-Up: Cantina Mayahuel 

Wine Bar

Critic’s Pick: The Rose

Readers’ Pick: Gianni Buonomo  

Runner-Up: Charlie & Echo 


Critic’s Pick: Stone Brewing Liberty Station

Readers’ Pick: Gravity Heights 

Runner-Up: Stone Brewing 

Best Cider*

Readers’ Pick: Bivouac Ciderworks 


Critic’s Pick: Cafe Virtuoso 

Readers’ Pick: Por Vida Café & Galería  

Runner-Up: Heartwork Coffee 

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2022 - Raised by Wolves

Raised by Wolves


Critic’s Pick: Raised by Wolves  

Readers’ Pick: Understory  

Runner-Up: Polite Provisions 


Critic’s Pick: Skrewball 

Readers’ Pick: Pacific Coast Spirits  

Runner-Up: You & Yours 


Critic’s Pick: Mujeres Brew House  

Readers’ Pick: Hopnonymous  

Runner-Up: AleSmith 

New Brewery 

Critic’s Pick: Embolden  

Readers’ Pick: South O  

Runner-Up: Rouleur 

Best Restaurants 2022 - Carruth

Carruth Cellars


Critic’s Pick: Carruth Cellars  

Readers’ Pick: Gianni Buonomo  

Runner-Up: Charlie & Echo 

Wine List

Critic’s Pick: Solare 

Readers’ Pick: Solare 

Runner-Up: Cafe Sevilla 

Juice Bar

Critic’s Pick: Parakeet Juicery  

Readers’ Pick: Parakeet Juicery 

Runner-Up: Choice Juicery 

*Bivouac won the readers’ poll for Best Brewpub… but they’re a cidery. So we’re giving them a shout-out with their own category.