Hi friends! Wow, I am impressed that you made it this far. Thank you for reading my articles, I really appreciate it! It’s time for the final stretch of elegant dining. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure how to name this list. Fancy dining? Upscale dining? Fine dining? Elegant dining? I don’t even know. I went with fancy because that made the most sense to me, haha. Anyways, let’s go!
Waverly is the newest concept from the SDCM restaurant group, which also runs Kettner Exchange and Grass Skirt. According to their website, Waverly is ‘an all-day cafe serving Progressive American cuisine with a European influence’ located in Cardiff. The first thing you notice about Waverly is that the interior is absolutely stunning. Waverly gives off a laid back, old school Miami vibe with pinks and greens (you’ll have to look at photos to see what I mean!). During the evening, as the sun is setting, the last rays of light shine straight into the restaurant, bathing it in golden light. It is the perfect place to get dinner or a few drinks. I only tried a few things from the Waverly menu, but what I did get was very impressed by. We started with a kale salad with parmesan, golden raisins, almonds and apple. I’m used to only eating kale salads because I HAVE to (as an adult you gotta have some green in your diet) but this is a salad I would eat all day every day. For our main course we got the 40oz Meyers ranch bone-in ribeye, which they ask to allow 60 minutes to prepare! There’s not a lot of steaks I like in San Diego, but this one was absolutely divine. Cooked the perfect medium rare, paired with the perfect steak sauce. It literally melted in my mouth and had that heavenly ultra beefy flavor. Moving on to the dessert, they have the potentially best Italian dessert on earth, the budino (sorry tiramisu!) A budino is a rich and creamy pudding like dish with butterscotch/caramel sauce. It is a dessert straight out of a dream. You have to try it! And Waverly is the perfect place to start. I will note that I was not a fan of any of Waverly’s drinks. My boyfriend wasn’t either. Take that as you will!
9. Kettner Exchange
Another gem from SDCM restaurants. Kettner Exchange is practically an institution in Little Italy, and every San Diegan has either been or has heard of them. Just like Waverly, Kettner has a lux interior- this one however gives off a very sexy, woodsy vibe, with the dinner atmosphere being dark and moody. I personally love their open air rooftop, which has semi private cabanas reserved for larger parties and a gorgeous outdoor bar. Kettner serves similar dishes as Waverly as there is one chef for both establishments. You’ll find luscious dishes such as Thai roasted pork shoulder, niman ranch pork chop, tempura Chilean seabass and royal red shrimp garlic noodles. Many of the dishes have Asian influences- however, I would not expect these dishes to be authentic, as they cater to an American palette. They are nevertheless still delicious. They rotate their menu regularly and on my last visit I quite enjoyed their octopus, their kama and their pork chop.
Another gorgeous restaurant with Asian inspired cuisine! This restaurant is headed by Chef Malarkey, who also runs Herb and Wood and Herb and Sea. The interior is decked out in a luxurious green and seems like a place straight out of crazy rich Asians. I absolutely adore Animae, and the only reason they’re not much higher up on this list is because they phased out all my favorite dishes. I guess I’ll have to stop by and retry them to make sure they’re up to par ;). But seriously, when I found out they got rid of the pork chop, I died a little on the inside. It was a showstopper that I was planning on coming back and getting for my birthday, which sadly also didn’t happen because of COVID. Regardless, Animae is very well regarded in the foodie community. Some of their dishes have been misses for me- mainly their raw fish dishes, such as their Hamachi. The flavors didn’t quite go together. I will also say their food can run very salty, so that’s something to watch out for. The only dish that I absolutely loved that is still on the menu is their tom yum mushrooms. Divine I tell you! All other dishes that I loved have been phased out. Hopefully they will make a return after everything goes back to normal! Their desserts are also not your typical desserts, and are not for the faint of heart, as you will find interesting pairings such as curry and ice cream, or quinoa and chocolate.
11. Craft and Commerce
Another Little Italy gem! I’m very fond of Craft and Commerce for a few reasons. One is their half inside half outside set up, with their outdoor tables containing fireplaces in the middle of the table (see below). Doesn’t it just look so cozy and inviting? The second is their bomb happy hour, with amazing drinks and apps! The great thing about C&C is that you can get dressed up and feel like you’re doing fine dining while spending less than $50 for two people. It’s a perfect date night without breaking the bank! And your significant other will be impressed with how gorgeous this establishment is. Their #1 hit cocktail Lay Lady Lay is only $8 during happy hour, and it’s one of my top favorite drinks in all of San Diego. It got me hooked on framboise, which is fermented raspberry beer! Don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like beer whatsoever, just carbonated alcoholic raspberry juice. This drink is light and refreshing. As for the food, you MUST get the C&C slider. IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE. If I find out you went to Craft and Commerce and didn’t get it, I will hunt you down. It is hands down one of the best burgers in San Diego. And I will fight you over it! Whenever we go to C&C, I usually eat these until I feel sick and can’t eat anymore. Downed with the Lay Lady Lay of course! While their dinner items are good, they’re not really my favorite, so I personally only recommend their happy hour items.
Don’t forget to check out my Instagram page, foodventurewithanna, for more delicious bites. Check out my youtube worldventurewithanna if you’re into mukbangs or you need something to laugh at!