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Palate Pleasers at San Diego's Top Restaurants

Oct 15th 2010 3:15PM / by Nanette Wiser

Quintessential San Diego fare is no longer tacos and beer. Gastropubs, boutique brews, ballistic Bloody Mary concoctions, artisanal cheeses and meats, farm-driven cuisine, experimental dishes fusing global flavors, eclectic Mexican dishes, off-the-wall desserts (beer-infused cupcakes) and innovative ninja chefs tempt the city's sophisticated taste buds. These three dining destinations are doing it best right now:

Craft & Commerce: This eatery isn't afraid of wild flavor pairings. You'll be hooked when you taste Chef Craig Jimenez's (Guild, Firefly) applewood smoked bacon cracker jacks with marcona almonds; broiled oysters with seaweed tempura and green pepper mayonnaise; and soft-cooked duck egg, citrus and avocado salad. Jimenez smokes his own brisket and grinds meats for his burger dripping with confit onion and white cheddar. If you'd rather go traditional you won't compromise the flavor explosion. The fried chicken and fingerling potatoes are spiced perfectly. The cocktail menu (outfitted by Death & Co.'s Phil Ward) features beer and champagne cocktails off the beaten path. Try Negro Modelo with house made sangria, lime, cayenne pepper and salt; or the Dickey Farms with a heady mix of bourbon, peach brandy, cinnamon bark, lemon and champagne.
675 W. Beech St; 619-269-2202

Searsucker: Bravo's celebrity chef and resident fireball Brian Malarkey is Da Vinci with the dishes celebrating sustainable cuisine. His mission? Real food, good booze, great atmosphere. "The same kind of cooking I'd do at home," he says. The menu at Searsucker mirrors Marlarkey's whimsical humor, divided into categories such as Bites, Smalls, Greens, Ocean, Ranch and Farm. Enjoy lemon and oregano rotisserie chicken; pork butt with grilled peaches and bacon butter; Baja scallops with foie gras and figs; his "fricking good" crab cakes; and Angry-style whole fish seasoned with garlic, chilies and basil. A Godzilla-sized bar features unique cocktails made with local ingredients, such as the rummy Treaty of Paris (tobacco cologne and cherry reduction) or the Peter Rabbit Pimm's #1 (bruised basil, pressed lemon and pickled carrot). On the weekends, a light late-night menu and live music keeps the lounge twisting and the 60+ high-top seats and couches boasting downtown's prettiest people.
611 Fifth Ave., Downtown; 619-233-7327

The Linkery: Farm to fork is the catch of the day at this hippy dippy gastropub. Pay homage to Alice Waters as the chefs whip up what they picked that day from their farmers (primarily organic) and artisans, or made themselves (recent finds: sauerkraut, bread, hand-spun ice cream). If you're lucky, The Linkery will be serving my two favorites: the grass-fed beef rib-eye with summer squash gratin and blue cheese butter; or the Asian BBQ beef shank. Other knock-outs are the portabello tacos, rhubarb pie, eggplant dip, homemade spaghetti with pesto and fried squash blossoms stuffed with queso fresco and smoked Pacific oysters from Sol Azul. Choose from 40 boutique wines to accompany your feast.
3794 30th St., North Park; 619-255-8778

Favorite Hotels
The Pearl Hotel
Hotel del Coronado
1906 Lodge on Coronado
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Andaz San Diego
Paradies Point Spa & Resort
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The Se San Diego
Porto Vista Hotel & Suites
The Grand Del Mar
Temecula Creek Inn

Everywhere Else
Anna Maria Beach Cottages
Epic Hotel Miami
Los Cabos Resort
Crystal River, Florida
Sanibel Beach Resort, Florida
Sonoma Mission Inn

Upcoming Events
San Diego Beer Week
The Old Globe Theater
Newport Jazz Festival
Clearwater Jazz Festiva