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A Tasting Menu as Dynamic as Southern California

Chef William Bradley earned three Michelin stars by crafting an inventive menu that reflects San Diego’s diasporic history.



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PEOPLE IN THE restaurant industry kept telling Chef William Bradley and his team at Addison that they were destined to get three Michelin stars. When the accolades were announced in 2019, however, the San Diego fine-dining restaurant received one — a high honor, to be sure, but shy of what they had hoped for.

“That was the best thing that could have ever happened,” Bradley told me one overcast morning from the grand, columned porch just outside the restaurant. “It lit a fire in this place that you can never burn out.”

Bradley grew up in San Diego and got his first job there at an Italian spot doing prep work. He fell in love with the quirks and rhythms of kitchen life and spent his formative years cooking at award-winning restaurants such as Mary Elaine’s in Scottsdale, Arizona, before returning home to open Addison in 2006. At Addison, he focused on French techniques and a traditional menu, but more than a decade later, that single star had him rethinking his approach. He pivoted and applied that same obsession with craft to the diverse cuisines surrounding him in the sunny, laid-back city — Thai, Japanese, Mexican, and more.


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The evening prior to our interview, I had seen the new fruits of his labor over nine courses. Of course, there were the waitstaff’s balletic movements, placing dishes with a coordinated flourish. There’s the space itself, a dramatic take on Mediterranean-meets-Spanish Revival styles (the restaurant is named after Addison Mizner, the architect who popularized that amalgamated design movement in the United States). The pace is slow — my meal lasted the better part of four hours — a reminder that in a hurried world, the ultimate luxury is time.

And then there’s the food. Take the opening gambit: a six-part “Prelude” that includes a chicken-liver churro, with a dash of bitter dark chocolate to balance its richness, and a delicate little pile of salty Iberian ham atop a crisped potato — tasty and confident, a way for Bradley to let guests know they’re in good hands.

By looking closer to home, Bradley has, ironically, been able to widen his purview. He and his team have toyed with dishes and flavors that reflect the diasporic history of Southern California — and indeed the wider United States. The results are delicious, of course, but taste alone does not win accolades of this caliber. The food is inventive, unexpected, and made with the sort of controlled passion that great chefs are known for.

The meal veers from a supple, velvety Japanese-inspired egg custard topped with briny sea urchin to the warming, tangy brightness of the classic Thai soup tom kha goong, served with fried fowl nuggets covered in a mahogany-brown crust. A spring salad of poached asparagus and pickled ramps is an ode to the seasons and a reverential nod to the farm-to-table ethos of California legend Alice Waters. An architectural pile of curling salt-and-pepper chips served with a creamy dip of burned onion and dill is Bradley winking at us, subverting our expectations of what constitutes fine dining. He’s become best known for a gooey delight — rice and eggs topped with caviar. It’s decadent and unctuous and worthy of the laurels. With each course is a thoughtful wine pairing that acts as a beautiful counterbalance, a sort of dance with the food. I had the nonalcoholic pairing, which featured zesty, fruity fermented cuvées from Jörg Geiger and housemade mocktails that were taken just as seriously as the harder options.


Bradley smiles, recalling one diner who walked away slightly bewildered after his first meal at Addison — he didn’t understand the cornucopia of California’s culinary offerings. “There are so many different ways to cook and eat here,” Bradley says. When the diner returned, having spent more time roving the state, his reaction was different. “He was like, ‘I get it now!’”

As you leave, you are given the menu, which is not available beforehand (Bradley says it helps diners have a purer, more open experience), and a small glass jar of granola. It’s a delightful little coda, crunchy and sweet with tart, dried fruit. For Bradley, it’s the secret “final course,” and a reminder of where you are. “As much as people do granola in New York,” — no doubt a reference to Eleven Madison Park, which also sends diners home with the stuff — “granola is from California,” Bradley says with a smirk. “So, yeah, we’re reclaiming it.”

The Michelin star program was paused in 2020 because, well, you know. But Addison’s revamped menu earned it two stars in 2021, and then came the triumphant third star in 2022. It’s the first time this honor has been given to a restaurant in Southern California. He’s humble about it all — certainly awe-struck at the honor — but adds that he’ll be able to relax if Addison earns another three-star ranking in 2023.

“If I can do it, anyone can do it,” he says, grinning. “But I’ll tell you what: I’ve given it my all every day.”

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Our Contributors

Max Berlinger Writer

Max Berlinger is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for GQ, the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg Pursuits, Men’s Health, and many other publications. He covers the intersection of fashion, lifestyle, culture, and technology.

Ye Rin Mok Photographer

Ye Rin Mok is a lifestyle and interiors photographer based in Los Angeles, California. Her works spans architecture, portraits, and beyond. In Korean, Ye Rin translates to “around art.”


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