Michelin-starred Addison unveils culinary evolution to California gastronomy

William Bradley, chef/director at Addison restaurant.
William Bradley, chef/director at Addison restaurant, San Diego’s only Michelin-starred restaurant.
(Courtesy of Lauren di Matteo)

This year, Chef/Director William Bradley’s menus have gradually moved away from heavier, French-focused cuisine


For 13 of its 14 years, Addison restaurant identified itself as a contemporary French restaurant. But San Diego’s only Michelin-starred restaurant has been undergoing a quiet but significant evolution in 2020.

In February, founding Chef/Director William Bradley unveiled Addison’s newly decorated dining room, bar and lobby. Heavy maroon draperies and Old World-style paintings were replaced with sheer window coverings that let in more sunlight and lighter-toned paints. In the months since, Bradley has also transitioned the restaurant’s menu away from heavier French dishes to lighter, more localized fare he describes as California gastronomy.

Endive with beet root and blackberry at Addison restaurant.
Endive with beet root and blackberry, one of the courses on the prix-fixe menu at Addison, San Diego’s only Michelin-starred restaurant.
(Courtesy of Dylan + Jeni)

Instead of decadent French gougère pastries to start the meal, Addison diners might now get a cup of hibiscus tea, a welcoming warmup since all of the restaurant’s seating has been outdoors since it reopened in August. One of the dishes on the current 10-course prix-fixe menu is a boule of fresh-baked California sourdough bread. And the parting gift from the kitchen now, instead of, say, a bag of French macarons, is a jar of house-made cherry and toasted coconut granola.

Although French cooking techniques still guide the way food is prepared at Addison, heavy French sauces and preparations have been replaced with lighter, brighter, more acid-forward dishes.

“We’ll never stray from the French roots of our techniques, but we want people leaving here feeling very satisfied but not stuffed,” he said. “Food is medicine and we need to feel healthy about what we eat.”

Bradley, 45, said the new California gastronomy focus reflects how his tastes and cooking have evolved since he opened Addison in 2006.

“Why not cook more Californian if I am from California?” said Bradley, who lives in Carmel Valley with his family. “That’s the beauty of living where we’re at. It’s really helping us in creating our own voice. I’m always working hard to be different and I feel now that at my age I’m moving to embrace the California gastronomy. I feel very confident at this time. It’s an evolution of me as a cook.”

sourdough bread at Addison restaurant
A California-inspired sourdough boule is one of the courses on the new menu at Addison, San Diego’s only Michelin-starred restaurant.
(Courtesy of Lauren di Matteo)

Some of the California-grown ingredients Bradley has been working with this year are artichokes, persimmons, pumpkins, yuzu, grapefruit and passion fruit. He has also been influenced by regional Mexican cuisine, like in his current charred chorizo-stuffed mussels. And his new toasted rice custard dessert is his playful take on the horchata he grew up drinking in his hometown of Chula Vista.

“Those flavor profiles are really enriched in my mind,” he said. “I grew up with a lot of friends from Hispanic backgrounds and remember eating their parents’ food and their grandparents’ food. Now, looking back on it, it had a big impact on my palate for things that are warm and cold and crisp and light and very diverse.”

Although the pandemic has impacted Addison this year, Bradley said that since reopening outdoors, business has been steady, with most tables filled most nights. The restaurant always had a large semi-shaded scenic patio with 10 or more feet between tables, but outdoor heaters have been installed to get the restaurant comfortably through the winter months. And as for diners’ thoughts on the new menu focus?

“It’s been going very well,” he said. “People are really enjoying this next chapter and we’re going to continue to really showcase what this area is and how it continues to develop.”

Addison at 5200 Grand Del Mar Way, is open for dinner from 5:30 to 8 p.m. daily. A 10-course tasting menu is $275, a five-course tasting is $185. Wine pairings are extra. Visit addisondelmar.com.

— Pam Kragen is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune

A course of caviar at Addison, San Diego's only Michelin-starred restaurant.
(Courtesy of Dylan + Jeni)