Eight San Diego Restaurants Make Michelin Guide ‘Bib Gourmand’ List

The octopus dish at Kettner Exchange in Little Italy features perfectly cooked tentacles
with flavorful mixture of vegetables.
Lauren J. Mapp

Restaurants across San Diego County were honored this week when Michelin released the names of eight local spots among the 88 Bib Gourmand listings added to the new statewide guide for California.

“Our inspectors were very impressed by the diversity of cuisine and culinary trends that they have seen across the Bib Gourmand selection in California,” said Gwendal Poullennec, Michelin Guides international director. “It’s great to see that many of these restaurants take advantage of the fantastic local produce available throughout the state.”

The list, announced on Tuesday, includes Campfire, Cucina Sorella, Cucina Urbana, El Jardin, Juniper & Ivy, Kettner Exchange, Lola 55 and Solare.

National and regional praise is not new for many of these local favorites.

Chef Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins and her restaurant El Jardin were recently featured in two articles from The New York Times. Similarly, Lola 55 was mentioned by Forbes as a reason to visit San Diego because it’s the “best new place” to get tacos.

Two of the chosen restaurants are from the Urban Kitchen Group — Cucina Sorella and Cucina Urbana.

Founder Tracy Borkum said she attributes the brand’s success to listening to guests over the years.  In doing so, Urban Kitchen Group is able to adhere to its values of creating “the perfect dining ‘trifetca’” of “exceptional food and superior service in imaginatively designed environments.”

“A restaurant is a living, breathing thing,” Borkum said.“It’s important to stay aware, and to not fear change; that’s how you stay in business.”

Many of the restaurant representatives expressed a sense of gratitude not only to be chosen for the guide, but to the loyal guests who have supported them over the years.

“We just come out every day to support (the community) and to be passionate about what we’re doing — we want to show everybody that,” said Matthew King, Campfire’s general manager. “It’s just the most honored feeling we’ve ever had.”

Michelin launched the Bib Gourmand category in 1997 to honor affordable restaurants. Those chosen “are more widely accessible for diners, whatever their budget or craving.”

Bib Gourmand meals — including two courses and a glass of wine or dessert — often fall under $40. But several of the San Diego choices don’t fall within this price range.

2019 Michelin California Guide a First for a U.S. State

Michelin Guide California will be the first published for an American state or region in the program’s 120-year history. Michelin has previously rated the San Francisco and wine country food scenes, but restaurants in Southern California are making a Michelin list for the first time this year.

“I think from the perception of a lot of people in the country, we’re just a place for fish tacos, but obviously the food scene here has grown up and I think Michelin recognizes that,” said Michael Rosen, Juniper & Ivy CEO.

The publication of the guide follows a $600,000 investment to Michelin from Visit California, the state’s tourism board.

“California and Michelin are a perfect pairing, joining forces to show the world the innovation and breadth of the Golden State’s culinary landscape,” said Caroline Beteta, Visit California president & CEO. “The diversity and abundance of dining opportunities here, including an unparalleled array of ethnic dining, women chefs and limitless agricultural bounty, sets California apart from any other destination in the world.”

Michelin will announce the full list of restaurants in the guide June 3 in Huntington Beach. Monday’s announcement will also divulge the restaurants receiving the prestigious Michelin star-ratings.

Michelin — a French tire company — has published some form of its guide since the 1800s. What started as a way to help grow the early car industry by encouraging drivers to explore new areas of France later grew into the prestigious, international system as it exists today.

This story was first published in Times of San Diego on May 29, 2019. To see the article in its original form with photos, visit the link here.


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