Part 1: “I’ve Never Had More Delicious Fries, Anywhere”

In October, I floated the idea of starting a new restaurant award, encouraging readers who obsess over the local food scene to volunteer as judges. While the timing has yet to feel right, restaurants could certainly use the attention—and I imagine that I’m not the only one hungry for something new. So I asked the 15 volunteers to recommend the dishes that they swear are worth going out of the way for. Here’s part 1 (and the tips are anonymous because some of these folks are in the business).

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Aperitivo’s porchetta bruschetta is the most flavorful porchetta I’ve ever had.

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Saucy Indian dishes are excellent for delivery, and Apna‘s butter chicken is better than many we had in India. We order two so there’s no fighting over the last scoop of sauce.

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While Bagel Boiz bagels are very good, my heart—or more accurately, my stomach—belongs to the caramelized onion bialy. Slice it in half; pile on the cream cheese, tomato, and Maldon salt; and tell no one to bother you for at least five minutes.

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With all the amazing sophisticated food at Bell’s in Los Alamos, I’m sure it annoys them to be singled out for their French fries. But I’ve never had more delicious fries, anywhere.

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If you think all breakfast burritos are the same, try Better Burrito’s, available via delivery and at certain cafés (Old Town Coffee, Dart Coffee Co.). The bacon stays crispy, the potatoes don’t come off as filler, and the veggie version—starring a chile relleno—is no second banana. Best of all might be the tomatillo salsa served on the side.

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Having grown up on the Gulf Coast, I’ve been disappointed in the availability of memorable seafood dishes here. Bettina pizza gets all the well-deserved love but my favorite dish is the restaurant’s shrimp scampi over California beans—it’s full of flavor, and yet the shrimp is never overpowered.

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The perfectly made croque monsieur at Bree’osh in Montecito takes me back to the beautiful cafés of Paris.

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Ca’Dario’s pollo nel coccio is heaven in a pot. The porcini mushrooms make the sauce so flavorful, the chicken falls off the bones, and the grilled polenta tops the dish off in the perfect way.

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Galbi “Choi’s Dish” from Choi’s Market in Goleta is quite the deal: a small radish soup, banchan, and a rather generous portion of meat and a bowl of rice.

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My favorite dish at Corazon Cocina in the Public Market is the mercado quesadilla, which consists of seared panela cheese, oaxaca cheese, farmers’ market vegetables, tomato confit, almond árbol salsa, lime mayo crema, salsa cruda, and a homemade blue corn tortilla.

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Now go try something new! And if you have your own suggestions, feel free to add them in the comments. (Photos, clockwise from top left: Bell’s, Bettina, Corazon Cocina, Bagel Boiz, Bree’osh, Aperitivo.) P.S. Sign up for the Siteline email newsletter for the freshest food news in town.

Comment:

2 Comments

Christopher G

I love this. Awards are so arbitrary, but hidden secrets are for everyone!

But in future years, we’ll need the Siteline editor(s) to verify that these are all 3.5/4.0 awesome 👌

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Erik Torkells

Well, if you insist…. For what it’s worth, I can vouch for seven of these, and two of the others are on my to-try list.

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