Mouthwatering Moments of 2017 in San Diego’s Dining Scene

From juicy burgers, heaping bowls of authentic Japanese ramen and tacos with a purpose, to delicious doughnuts and gourmet ice cream, San Diego’s dining scene cooked up some mighty tasty tales in 2017.

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Shake Shack/Facebook
After a year of yearning by burger fanatics, it finally happened: Shake Shack made its way to San Diego. In October, the wildly popular burger chain opened its first-ever San Diego location at Westfield UTC Mall. The crinkle-cut fries and hand-spun shakes followed – as did the long lines. Then, came a Christmas miracle. On Dec. 21, Shake Shack opened a second restaurant restaurant in Mission Valley. Both San Diego locations offer the Shack’s classic menu, plus some locally-inspired extras like craft beer and custard desserts featuring ingredients whipped up by San Diego bakeries. Judging by the enthusiasm surrounding these openings this year, Shake Shack and San Diego are going to get along just fine.
Lindsey Marie Photography
University of San Diego graduate Laura Johnson shook things up in San Diego’s distilling scene this year, opening You & Yours Distilling Co. in downtown’s East Village this past March. The cool, chic tasting room on G Street is among the country’s few female-led distilleries and the first in Southern California. Nine months later, Johnson’s beloved “baby” is churning out craft gins and vodkas and is filled with patrons enjoying carefully mixed cocktails. The distillery even offers tours of the stills in its backroom, so patrons can see the process from start to finish. Cheers to continued success for this trailblazing business.
Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles/Facebook
Sorry to rub salt in the wound but this foodie news cut deep. In 2016, Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles purchased a lot on National Avenue in Barrio Logan where it planned to build its first-ever San Diego restaurant. Construction began and things seemed to be moving along until this past March, when the company announced an abrupt halt to those soul food dreams. We wept. Eater San Diego reported the company had decided to shift its focus to its ongoing business ventures in Los Angeles – at least for now. But, not all hope is lost. A source close to the company told Eater Roscoe’s ownership “is still committed to opening a restaurant in San Diego” – whenever that may be. We're looking at you for a miracle, 2018.
Eater San Diego
Of all of the foodie cities in the United States, Japanese ramen king Menya Ultra Ramen decided to land on Kearny Mesa as the restaurant ventured west to open its first ever restaurant in America. The U.S. version of the eatery – which specializes in pork tonkotsu ramen – opened in March on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard to rave reviews. It’s owner and chef has developed his own signature type of noodle made with special flour from Japan and is making fresh noodles daily for the San Diego location. In July, the restaurant piqued the interest of food luminary Andrew Zimmern, as he visited San Diego to film an episode of his TV show, “The Zimmern List.” One of his dining destinations was Menya Ultra Ramen. The owner of Menya plans to open additional locations in San Diego before expanding across the U.S. The second location is set to debut in Mira Mesa by mid-2018, with an expanded menu.
Madeline Barr
San Diego’s Cohn Restaurant Group changed it up this year when it opened Tacos Libertad, San Diego’s first and only charity-driven, not-for-profit restaurant. Each month, the Hillcrest taco shop donates 100 percent of proceeds from sales – after covering its operating expenses – to a local charity. No matter the monthly earnings, owners David and Lesley Cohn guarantee a minimum of $3,000 will be donated to the charity of the month. In September, following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, the restaurant directed its efforts at helping victims of the hurricane with a campaign called ”Tacos for Texas.” The eatery donated proceeds from the month of September to the San Diego-based organization, International Relief Teams, which helps families survive and recover after a disaster. The organization sent thousands in food aid to Victoria, Texas, to feed families staying in shelters in the aftermath of Harvey.
Monica Garske
In September, 18 months after the opening of Liberty Public Market at Liberty Station, we went back to the foodie marketplace to see what was cookin’. Today, well into its groove, LPM is home to more than 30 vendors including a couple of full-service restaurants and beer and cocktail bars in a communal indoor dining area known as Mess Hall. Interesting eats are found at every corner with local merchants offering everything from seafood and freshly-butchered meats to homemade empanadas, bread, pastries, wine, coffee and more. The focus at the marketplace remains on fresh, sustainable, locally-sourced goods including year-round produce sourced from regional farms. On any given day, the marketplace is filled with curious shoppers expanding their palates and supporting local business owners. We can't wait to see what's in store for this gem in 2018.
Salt & Straw
If this sweet news actually made you scream with glee, you weren’t alone. In August, Portland favorite, Salt & Straw Ice Cream, announced plans to open a scoop shop in San Diego’s Little Italy area. The day after Christmas, it happened. The company’s first-ever San Diego location is right below the PrepKitchen restaurant. Salt & Straw is known for its handcrafted, small-batch scoops in cool, gourmet flavors such as Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons, Honey Lavender and Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache. The recipes are made with all-natural cream from Scott Brothers Dairy in Southern California, churned in five to 10-gallon batches. The Little Italy location offers a few flavors inspired by San Diego artisans, including an ice cream collaboration with local craft brewer, Belching Beaver Brewery.
Tim Otto Photography
San Diego favorite, Nomad Donuts, hit a sweet spot over the summer, opening a new shop in North Park. The location on University Avenue offers Nomad’s globally-influenced treats – and then some. The new location boasts beloved daily doughnut menus, plus wood-fired bagels, breakfast and midday sandwiches, and a selection of “Chef’s Counter” goodies that include sweet and savory baked good hand-picked by executive pastry chef and co-owner, Kristianna Zabala. Nomad Donuts rose to cult status in San Diego for its rotating menu of fresh, made-from-scratch doughnuts in both classic and unusual flavor combinations, from maple and chocolate to Charred Blueberry Cream Cheese, Strawberry Basil, and Pear-Jam Chai Tea. True fans know to place their orders online ahead of time because the shop is known to sell out daily.
Dunkin' Donuts
A few years ago, Dunkin’ Donuts announced plans to open its first traditional restaurants in California, including 14 locations in San Diego County. The company has made good, debuting locations in National City and, this fall, in downtown San Diego. The shop on Broadway serves its signature sweet treats and coffee, and is operated by Burton Restaurants, LLC, a business owned by a group of disabled U.S. military veterans. The group also owns and runs five other Dunkin' Donuts restaurants in San Diego County: Camp Pendleton, MCAS Miramar, Balboa Naval Hospital, the shop at Embassy Suites on Pacific Highway in downtown San Diego and National City's 24-hour drive-thru location on East Plaza Boulevard.
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