When recommending restaurants, who wields more power of credible influence than restaurateurs, managers and chefs? In 2008, we began our so-called Food Chain, wherein we ask industry folks to tell us where they like to eat. We started with Nine-Ten in La Jolla and followed the chain to The Linkery, Starlite, Albie's, Oceanaire, Café Chloe, Buon Appetito, Pappalecco, Osteria Panevino, Farm House Café, Jaynes Gastropub, Crescent Heights (RIP), Yu Me Ya, El Agave, Costa Brava, Mamma Mia and Blazin Grill. So, this year, we begin with Blazin Grill's recommendation. Our hope is that this feature turns you on to your next favorite local eatery.
Chris Swiec, owner of Chronic Smoothies Blazin Grill, says: "Le Papagayo in Leucadia has to be one of my favorite spots to eat in North County. My wife and I have been going there for years now (we actually had our first date there) and enjoy the lively atmosphere and great food. We always order several of their appetizers to share. Our favorites include the Mahi Mahi tacos, which never fail to impress, the macadamia-nut-crusted calamari and the mussels. They play live music every night, and you get a welcoming and friendly vibe when you're there. The bartenders make awesome drinks too—we always get the margaritas. You will almost always find the owner there, who always makes time to say hello and greet us." Le Papagayo, 1002 N. Coast Hwy. 101, Leucadia, lepapagayoleucadia.com
Francois Patanchon, owner of Le Papagayo, says: "One of my Favorite restaurants is Whisknladle in La Jolla. The decoration of this restaurant is very well done. They have a huge, warm outside patio, and more important than anything: You can watch the kitchen working from the dining area, which is always a proof of quality and high standards. And quality it is: They're using local ingredients like the Carlsbad Mussels or vegetables locally grown. Their menu is very creative, with tapas-style appetizers like the chorizo fritters, the cutting board (artisancured meats and cheeses) or the flatbreads. If you're a little more adventurous, try the sweetbread—it's also a blast. The drinks are also very creative and different from what you can have everywhere else. The sangrias are very tasty, and some cocktails are unique (Julian Cocktail for example). Even the water is flavored with cucumber. Highly recommended!" Whisknladle, 1044 Wall St., La Jolla, whisknladle.com
David Balanson, chief operating office for Whisknladle, says: "After living in Japan for a year, it's hard to find good Japanese street food anywhere in the States. However, after living in San Diego, I came across this little gem of a place: Yakitori Yakyudori in Hillcrest. It's Japanese street food done the right way. This little hole in the wall has all the traditional bites that you would see while walking through the streets of Tokyo and Yokohama. The staff is friendly, they have a great variety of beers and drinks and it's the perfect place for just meeting great friends and enjoying a variety of Japanese specialties. Their sister restaurant on Convoy Street under the same name does fresh Ramen, too, which is so hard to find. Japanese comfort food done right." Yakitori Yakyudori, 3739 Sixth Ave., Hillcrest, yakyudori.us
Miki Kubodera, manager at Yakitori Yakyudori, says: "Since I work at a restaurant five days a week, my husband and I usually go out on one of my days off. Hane Sushi in Bankers Hill is always on our "Where should we go tonight?" list. You can enjoy not only traditional-style sushi, but also the new fusion-style sushi. They always amaze us with their creative use of fresh seafood and vegetables of the season. You can also expect great friendly service from them. This is a great place for both a light night out with a couple drinks and bites and a very special occasion." Hane Sushi, 2760 Fifth Ave., Bankers Hill, 619-260-1411
The Smoking Goat
Roger Nakamura, owner of Hane Sushi, says: "Being a chef and owner of a restaurant, I don't have many chances to eat at other restaurants. Hane Sushi is closed on Mondays, so I do have some time at night to try new restaurants, but most of the ones I want to go to are closed. My fiancée and her friends have tried The Smoking Goat, and they said it was great. She said it was my kind of food, and everything they tried was delicious. The restaurant is small but cozy. The menu is small, simple and changes frequently. She tells me the food is rustic and that I would love it. She told me about their house-cut french fries that are fried in duck fat and then finished with truffle oil. How good does that sound? When I get a night off other than Mondays, I will definitely be there." The Smoking Goat, 3408 30th St., North Park, thesmokinggoatrestaurant.com