- Best Splurge: Addison, 5200 Grand Del Mar Way (tel. 858/314-1900), is San Diego County's one and only AAA 5 Diamond restaurant. This sumptuous dining destination is grandly European, offering daily tasting menus of modern French cuisine and featuring a jaw-dropping wine list that's more like a wine book.
- Best View: Many restaurants overlook the ocean, but only from Brockton Villa, a restored beach bungalow dating from 1894, can you see sublime La Jolla Cove. Not only is Bertrand at Mister A's one of the city's finest restaurants, it has an unparalleled cityscape view.
- Best Value: The word "huge" barely begins to describe the portions at Filippi's Pizza Grotto, where a salad for one is enough for three, and an order of lasagna must weigh a pound. There's a kids' menu as well. Filippi's has locations all over, including Pacific Beach, Mission Valley, and Escondido.
- Best Restaurant in a Strip Mall: Blanca may be located in a strip mall blocks away from an ocean view, but this Solana Beach restaurant flies its foodie flag high. It's one of the best upscale establishments in the county.
- Best Seafood: Matt Rimel, owner of Zenbu, loved fishing so much he bought a commercial fishing boat. Then he opened a restaurant so he could do something with the catch. Zenbu is also an excellent spot for sushi.
- Best Contemporary American Cuisine: With Market Restaurant + Bar the category should be best contemporary San Diego cuisine. Native son Carl Schroeder scours local farms and ranches for the best possible products, prints his menu daily, and serves regional cuisine in a comfortably elegant setting.
- Best Mexican Cuisine: Rather than the typical "combination plate" fare, El Agave Tequileria offers memorable recipes from Veracruz, Chiapas, Puebla, and Mexico City -- along with a massive selection of boutique and artisan tequilas and mezcals. Candelas, which has two locations (including a view-enhanced bayside perch in Coronado), adds a dash of European sophistication to its menu.
- Best Modern French: At the Marine Room, executive chef Bernard Guillas' creative, modern French cuisine provides ample evidence of how far the city's invigorated dining scene has come.
- Best Supper Club: Supper clubs have proliferated in San Diego, but none have matched the panache and sophistication of Anthology. It's hard to say what takes center stage here -- the excellent Mediterranean-style fare or the live music performed by an eclectic lineup of international artists.
- Best Pizza: You just might mistake San Diego for New York at Bronx Pizza. Don't even think about asking for a salad -- this tiny pizzeria makes nothing but thin-crust pizzas and calzones.
- Best Desserts: You'll forget your diet at Extraordinary Desserts -- heck, it's so good you might forget your name. Proprietor Karen Krasne has a Certificat de Patisserie from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and makes everything fresh daily for her two cafes.
- Best Late-Night Dining: When nothing will satisfy your dance-weary bones like a 3am helping of chicken and waffles, Brian's 24 Restaurant Bar & Grill has you covered. This is the Gaslamp Quarter's only 24/7 restaurant, and it's surprisingly nice.
- Best Value Fine Dining: Cucina Urbana proves fine dining doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. At this visually playful Italian restaurant, no entree is more than $20 and bottles of wine are sold at retail prices.
- Best Multi-Faceted Dining Experience: George's at the Cove is a longtime favorite in La Jolla that offers three distinct spaces, all overseen by one powerhouse chef. It goes from bistro-casual to special-occasion fancy, and features sublime ocean views.
- Best Fast Food: A fish taco may sound strange to the uninitiated, but once you taste one, you'll know why locals line up for them.