This is Highly Recommend, a column dedicated to our very opinionated editors’ favorite things to eat, drink, and buy.
I used to only associate San Diego with strip malls and a zoo. After my most recent trip though, I realized that was ignorant. That’s because San Diego is home to the place where I had one of my favorite meals of this year: at El Jardín.
I can’t think of a single thing I disliked about my experience at the hyper-regional Mexican restaurant, overseen by the bold, endlessly energetic chef Claudette Zepeda Wilkins. We sat in a large outdoor patio with heat lamps. Half an hour into the meal, a server saw that I was still chilly and brought out a big, colorful blanket. My friends and I drank a bottle of red from Bichi winery in Tecate that tasted like funk and cranberries. And the food! Fideos secos that are the most addictive plate of garlic noodles you’ve ever had. Tlacoyos with cheese fondue, hoja santa, and broccoli that taste like inhaling a garden. Even the guacamole—a cliché at many Mexican restaurants—was crafted with care: fruity, smoky, and slightly spicy all at once. And best of all? The basket of warm tortillas was constantly being replenished. Even by California standards, this Mexican food was unforgettable.
Perhaps the only thing I dislike about this restaurant is that I live in New York...and there aren’t enough direct flights to San Diego.
Go there: El Jardín
Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit