As we close out the year in Eater, we reflect on how 2021 began, with California’s stay-at-home order lifting and San Diego restaurants finally able to restart outdoor dining. March 2021 marked the return of indoor dining at a limited capacity and by June, California was heading towards a full reopening. With 2022 approaching, the local restaurant industry is still dealing with the difficult state of dining during this ongoing pandemic and slowly settling into a new normal.
But despite all the challenges, the most read stories from Eater San Diego in 2021 reflect a year of achievements and hope on the horizon, from national recognition of local establishments to promising new restaurants, bars, and food halls that have managed to thrive and much-anticipated openings to look forward to in 2022. Here now are the top ten stories that got San Diegans talking this year.
Finally opening in June 2021 after a two-year delay, Callie brought warm hospitality and a confident menu to the East Village. The solo restaurant debut for native San Diego chef Travis Swikard, returning home after a decade cooking in New York City, was awarded Bib Gourmand status by the Michelin guide and named Eater San Diego’s best new restaurant.
A thrilling new addition to the National City food scene, this 9,000-square-foot public market and food hall launched in October with a compelling mix of new. and established food tenants. Bringing a diverse set of dining options to the neighborhood, Market on 8th’s food stalls range from a ramen spots run by chef Phiilip Esteban, Eater San Diego’s changemaker of the year, to shops offering Thai, Indonesian, Filipino, and Mexican cuisine.
This fall, in advance of the publication of the statewide Michelin Guide California, the tire company announced the restaurants given Bib Gourmand status. Deemed as “good quality, good value restaurants” where a diner can order two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less, the local establishments recognized include Callie, Cesarina, Ciccia Osteria, Dija Mara, and Morning Glory.
One of the bigger bar reveals of the year, Wolfie’s Carousel opened on Kettner Street in August with an impressive centerpiece, a 24-seat circular cocktail bar that slowly rotates every 14 minutes. Inspired by Paris as well as the French Quarter in New Orleans, the glittery bar and restaurant serves classic cocktails and a menu of bistro favorites.
Scheduled to debut in Spring 2022 is the highly-anticipated collaboration between chef Andrew Bachelier (Jeune et Jolie, Cucina Enoteca) and pro skate legend Tony Hawk. Chick N’ Hawk, their 1,500-square-foot restaurant in coastal Encinitas along the 101, will serve a casual menu based on seasonal ingredients that ranges from raw bar dishes to chicken sandwiches and promises to have serious cocktails.
The locally-beloved seafood expert has already filmed the second season of The Fishmonger, his series on the Outdoor Channel that highlights chefs and the fishing community in San Diego and beyond. A former commercial fishermen who worked at Catalina Offshore Products for 15 years, Gomes is opening TunaVille Market and Grocers, a wholesaler and direct-to-consumer markeplacet at Driscoll’s Wharf in Point Loma, in partnership with Mitch Conniff of Mitch’s Seafood. It’s currently schedule to open in February 2022.
August 2021 brought the welcome news that a years-long project in the making to bring the legendary Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘N Waffles to San Diego was finally moving forward again. The soul food specialists, with several popular locations in Southern California, are in construction on a 4,000-square-foot restaurant on National Avenue in Barrio Logan that is aiming for completion sometime next year.
Ringing in at 26,700-square-feet, the Sky Deck at the Del Mar Highlands Town Center rolled open in June, spanning two levels and nine restaurants as well as a cocktail bar called Understory and a beer garden with local brewers. With dedicated seating for each tenant, the collective offers everything from pizza and pastries to ramen, Greek street food, Thai cuisine, and more.
Revealed as part of a comprehensive revamp of Neighborhood and Noble Experiment, its existing East Village spots, Young Blood by CH Projects burst onto the cocktail scene in April. Behind its hidden entrance lies a escapist dreamland of drinks, where ticket-holders are guided through a highly-curated, three-course cocktail experience.
After pausing publication in 2020, the Michelin Guide returned this year to hand out stars in its 2021 all-California edition. Compared to 2019, when Addison was the only San Diego restaurant recognized, four local establishments were given Michelin star status in September. Addison was bumped up to two stars while Jeune et Jolie, Soichi Sushi, and Sushi Tadokoro were each awarded one star.