San Diego

San Diego's Best New Restaurants of 2019

From Central Texas barbecue to adorably twee French cuisine.

Sam Wells
Sam Wells
Sam Wells

San Diego’s culinary scene has never been as flashy as Los Angeles’ or as hyped as New York City’s. But over the past few years, America’s Finest City has gone through somewhat of a foodie renaissance, complete with its first Michelin star and plenty of star-power chefs drawing attention to the burgeoning talent cultivated in California’s second-largest city. 2019 was no exception, with plenty of Instagram-worthy eateries sparking buzz as much for their decor as the dishes. From the carnal carne of Central Texas barbecue to adorably twee French cuisine, here are our favorite new restaurants that opened in San Diego this year.

Louisiana Purchase

North Park
A taste of the Big Easy in San Diego’s hippest ‘hood

It’s no accident that Louisiana Purchase found its home on the corner of Louisiana Street. From the cocktails to the crawfish, this French Quarter-inspired restaurant is known for thoughtful details that seem to effortlessly meld together for a glimpse into New Orleans’ famous hospitality. Chef Quinnton Austin (a New Orleans transplant) has put together a menu with twists on Cajun classics that include a savory alligator andouille cheesecake, crawfish etouffee served with cornbread, and the obligatory shrimp po’ boy. Small plates range from $8 to $26, while entrees hover around $20 (with the exception of the pricier-but-worth-it ribeye). Brunch is just as sumptuous, but take a walk on the wild side and skip the mimosa in favor of the frozen Irish coffee, an homage to legendary NOLA bar Erin Rose. 

Cynthia Fisher
Cynthia Fisher
Cynthia Fisher

Il Dandy

Banker’s Hill
California meets Calabria and takes the culinary game to the next level

Il Dandy opened in May 2019 to high expectations, thanks to the Michelin star that father-and-son team Antonio and Luca Abbruzzino earned at Ristorante Abbruzzino, their original restaurant in southern Italy. That hype hasn’t slowed down, especially after the Abbruzzinos launched the even more exclusive six-seat “restaurant in a restaurant” concept, Arama. The reservation-only experience starts at $180 and goes up from there, but based on how hard it is to nab a table in either dining room, the buzz is well-deserved. Il Dandy’s pizza is an obvious choice for dinner (featuring sourdough starter that’s over a century old), but the fresh, local seafood dishes here best exemplify the “Calabrifornia” fusion concept that brings together the best of both worlds.

Jim Sullivan
Jim Sullivan
Jim Sullivan

Fort Oak

Mission Hills
High-end hashery adds yet another notch to San Diego’s elevated dining scene

This eye-catching eatery commands attention from its corner location in the upscale but relatively sleepy Mission Hills neighborhood. The former Ford dealership-turned-restaurant concept (run by the masterminds behind Trust in nearby Hillcrest) focuses on wood-fired fare in elegant surroundings, thanks to GTC Design’s fresh approach to design. Multiple seating areas allow diners to curate their surroundings, while the robust dinner and brunch menus showcase Executive Chef/Owner Brad Wise’s mastery of meat and seafood. Carnivores and pescatarians can expect soaring flavors with innovative presentation, but those looking to avoid animal consumption should seek sustenance elsewhere. Between the Wagyu steak ($44) and the 45-day dry aged ribeye ($115), plates come at a premium price, but you’ll still want to save room in your wallet for dessert and a digestif.

Sam Wells
Sam Wells
Sam Wells

Jeune et Jolie

Carlsbad
A charming North County gem that’s light, bright, and good to the last bite
Restaurants by the sea can often be heavy on price while light on service or quality, but French-inspired Jeune et Jolie (translated to “young and beautiful”) has found a balance between all three. Gone are the heavy French dishes of bygone days; instead, executive chef Andrew Bachelier features plenty of local bounty and seasonal ingredients in plates like coquille au vin jaune (scallops with sunchokes and abalone mushroom in a yellow wine sauce), and brunch dishes like a classic croque madame. Pink velvet booths lit by mid-century modern light fixtures give the entire place a Wes Anderson vibe — young and beautiful, indeed.

Courtesy of Grand Ole BBQ
Courtesy of Grand Ole BBQ
Courtesy of Grand Ole BBQ

Grand Ole BBQ

El Cajon
Finally, San Diego has barbecue worth bragging about

Our city suffered through decades of underwhelming barbecue before Grand Ole BBQ y Asado opened in North Park in 2015. After temporarily shuttering the popular spot for renovations, however, owner and pitmaster Andy Harris managed to seduce barbecue buffs 25 miles east to a sprawling saloon that features the best recipes from his Central Texas repertoire. The 15,000 square foot indoor/outdoor venue features an army of smoking pits, rotisseries, and a full-service kitchen slinging out meaty favorites like brisket, white beans with bacon, and the ever-indulgent beef short ribs served “El Borracho” (on a nest of corn pudding, then smothered with chorizo queso and a crunchy Frito and serrano pepper relish). Make sure to get one of the hot links, which are custom-made exclusively for GOBBQ by the local butchery inside Valley Farm Market.

Morning Glory SD
Morning Glory SD
Morning Glory SD

Morning Glory

Little Italy
Psychedelic menu graphics meet over-the-top brunch dishes in a flamboyant setting 

Don’t look for subtlety at Morning Glory; the space is part fever dream, part kaleidoscopic adventure, with massive geometric flower lamps that hover over the dining room’s pink pastel banquettes. The $15 soufflé pancakes alone are worth getting out of bed for, but skimping on the cocktails would be doing yourself a disservice. Everything has a twist: Irish Coffee features coconut butter and vanilla cream, while the Bloody Mary opts for celery foam and garlic bitters in lieu of the traditional garnishes. This isn’t the place to play it safe — try the shakshuka, fried rice, or other non-Continental dishes to give your palate a nice wake-up call. 

Gravity Heights
Gravity Heights
Gravity Heights

Gravity Heights

Sorrento Valley
Beer and pizza gets a surprisingly refreshing makeover in a sea of industrial parks

Brewmaster Skip Virgilio (of AleSmith Brewing Company fame) took an extended hiatus from beer, only to re-emerge triumphant at Gravity Heights: a sprawling brewpub set among a sea of corporate offices and busy freeways. The space acts as an oasis, drawing in workers, locals, families, and craft beer fans from every corner of San Diego, all enticed by a huge portfolio of house-made brews and wood-fired pizzas from the kitchen helmed by chef-partner Ryan Johnston. There are an abundance of requisite beer varieties like hazy IPAs and Belgian styles, but the one-offs and collaborations with other local breweries are always a safe bet for something new. San Diego didn’t necessarily need more craft beer in 2019, but from the looks of the busy patio at Gravity Heights, nobody’s complaining about it, either.Sign up here for our daily San Diego email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Beth Demmon is a San Diego-based food + drink writer who loves craft beer and motorcycles (not necessarily enjoyed together). View her work on bethdemmon.com.

San Diego

How to Celebrate Women’s History Month in San Diego

Check out female-led dance programs, pop up markets, beer dinners, and more events this March.

Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona

Women have played a huge part shaping San Diego into the city it is today. In celebration of Women’s History Month, there are a variety of events across the city that commemorate women’s contributions to our community and culture. Home to the Women’s Museum of California, which hosts events throughout the year, be sure to check out all the ways to support and honor women this month. From art exhibits to dance performances, pop-up markets and yoga, check out the best events to celebrate Women’s History Month in San Diego:

Photo courtesy of The San Diego Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of The San Diego Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of The San Diego Museum of Art

Discover works from overlooked women artists

Ongoing through November 7, 2023
Balboa Park
The San Diego Museum of Art currently has 20 modern and contemporary works of art on display from women who unjustly didn’t receive the same amount of fame as their male contemporaries. The museum’s Modern Women exhibit is your chance to see work from artists like Elaine de Kooning and Lee Krasner, who were overshadowed by artist husbands Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock but whose work has long deserved its own moment in the spotlight. The collection showcases pieces that range from acrylic paintings to photography, inviting us into an untapped artistic sphere.
Cost: $20

Practice Sun Salutations while supporting a good cause

Saturday, March 4, 10 am to 11 am
Pacific Beach
Make a difference in the lives of teen girls of colour while taking a yoga class at Kate Sessions Park. Organized by local nonprofit One Love Movement, all donations for the event go towards college scholarships for girls of the DETOUR F.A.N.C.Y. Expo & Leadership Academy, a mentorship program that promotes equity and inclusion in higher education for girls of colour. All while enjoying stunning views of Mission Bay.
Cost: Donation-based

Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona

Shop local women-owned businesses

Sunday, March 5, 1 pm to 5 pm
Middletown
What better way to celebrate the women in your community than by supporting their local businesses? The Women’s History Month Market, located in the FEMX Quarters venue, is a pop up market you don’t want to miss. The market will feature over 35 vendors from women artisans and you’ll find uniquely crafted sunglasses, jewellery, clothing, and more. The family-friendly (and pet-friendly) event will also include food and music.
Cost: Free

Drink beer crafted by female brewers on International Women’s Day

Wednesday, March 8, 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm
Escondido
Women were the original brewers of ale, after all, so it only makes sense to honour our past and present beer connoisseurs with dinner and brews. Located at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Stone International Women’s Day Beer Dinner features three courses, each paired with a tasty beer specially brewed by a team of women at Stone Brewery. The event is part of a larger global celebration for International Women’s Day, where brewers all over the world brew a speciality beer that supports The Pink Boots Society, a non profit that empowers women and non-binary people in the beer industry through scholarships and education. Grab your tickets while you can! 21+
Cost: $50-$70

Attend an exhibition celebrating female and non-binary artists

Saturday, March 11, 5:00 pm
Barrio Logan
Head over to the entertainment and community venue Corazon del Barrio and show your support to female and non-binary artists, whose art and music will be featured in the Diosa Art Show. Around 40 artists are on the bill at this all-ages event.
Cost: Free

Drink some pints for the pups

Saturday, March 11, 12 pm to 4 pm
Carmel Mountain
If you need another excuse to down some brews, Second Chance Beer Company is hosting its first ever Ladies & Pups Market for Women’s History Month. The brewery, which holds various events throughout the year, donates a percentage of its sales to animal rescue organizations in California and Arizona. The dog-friendly market will include pop ups from women-owned businesses such as Bold Bouquet, Wet Nose Pottery, and No, You Sit! Treats. For the occasion, Second Chance will serve Fistful of Gummies – Berry Edition, a rendition of their fruited sour beer created in collaboration with Pink Boots Society, an organization that supports women and non-binary individuals in the beer industry.
Cost: Free

Photo courtesy of Women's Museum of California
Photo courtesy of Women’s Museum of California
Photo courtesy of Women’s Museum of California

Attend a ceremony at the Women’s Museum of California

Saturday, March 18, 11 am to 1 pm
Rolando
Perhaps San Diego’s largest Women’s History Month event, the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame recognizes local women for their achievements in the community. The annual event, which takes place at Joan B. Kroc Theatre, is a project of the Women’s Museum of California, a museum dedicated to educating the public about women’s contributions through history with exhibits, programs, and events. Over 100 women have been inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame since the program was founded in 2001, and this year’s class includes notable women like activist Norma Chávez-Peterson and Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas. The event includes a VIP brunch followed by the Induction Ceremony. Be sure to purchase tickets early to secure your spot.
Cost: $20-$150

Join a community of local women and get inspired

Monday, March 20, 5 pm to 7:30 pm
Miramar
The Women’s Speaker Series at Alesmith Brewing Company is a monthly community gathering where local women come together to support one another in achieving professional and personal goals. The event includes a social hour followed by a selected speaker. For this month, the Women’s Speaker Series features career coach and small business owner Laura Bashore, who will share her insight on how you can advance your career or business. Make sure to reserve your spot before attending!
Cost: Free

Come hear about the roles San Diego women played during World War II

Tuesday, March 21, 1 pm to 3 pm
Mission Valley
In the early 20th century, many women were not allowed or expected to be the breadwinners for their households, but things suddenly changed with the United States’ entry into World War II. Here’s your chance to learn about the real experiences of women who lived through WWll and how they navigated through it all. Presented by Oasis San Diego, head over to Mission Valley Library to attend this in-person event.
Cost: Free

Photo by Carly Topazio l Courtesy of The Rosin Box Project
Photo by Carly Topazio l Courtesy of The Rosin Box Project
Photo by Carly Topazio l Courtesy of The Rosin Box Project

Attend a ballet program choreographed entirely by women

Thursday, March 23 – Saturday, March 25 & Monday, March 27, 7:30 pm
Liberty Station
Experience not one but three world premiere ballet performances at The Rosin Box Project, a contemporary ballet company that works to redefine the concept of dance and how it’s experienced for both artists and audiences. To coincide with Women’s History Month, TRBP is kicking off its 2023 season with Empower, a female-led ballet program choreographed by TRBO Residents Lauren Flower, Bethany Green, and Carly Topazio. The program, which takes place at Light Box Theater, offers a fresh take on dance by pushing the boundaries of traditional ballet. Your ticket includes a post-show reception.
Cost: $45

Hear music by a little-known female early 20th-century composer

Friday, March 24, 6:30 pm to 7:45 pm
Balboa Park
While you may not be familiar with composer Alice Barnett Stevenson, she played an integral part in San Diego’s music scene during the early 1900s. Stevenson was an active member of various music organizations at the time, and she composed art songs for voice and piano and performed at schools all over the country. Her home became a hub for local recitals from visiting musicians, and was also where the San Diego Symphony was founded. This month, you can hear her compositions performed live for the first time in nearly 100 years at the San Diego History Center. Selected works by Stevenson will be performed by musical scholar Katina Mitchell and pianist Yewon Lee. Be sure to reserve tickets ahead of time.
Cost: $25-$40

Listen to Black San Diego women discuss important community issues

Saturday, March 25, 12 pm to 4 pm
Valencia Park
In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Friends of Malcolm X Library are hosting Ain’t I a Woman, an event featuring Black women who will be speaking about their professions and discussing the challenges faced within the workplace and the community while offering suggestions on how to further enhance and embrace equality. The event includes a Q&A panel discussion, door prizes, free raffles, as well as music, poetry, and dance. Seating is limited so be sure to reserve your spot early.
Cost: Free event. Lunch purchase is $15.

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Michelle Harris is an Editorial Assistant at Thrillist. Over the years her writing has also appeared in Atlas Obscura, Mental Floss, and Audubon Magazine. When she’s not busy typing, she enjoys hiking, road trips, and cooking vegan food.

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