San Diego’s Outdoor Museums: Architectural Art

See the architectural design of the Salk Institute in La Jolla

The best art isn’t always behind closed doors hanging on a gallery wall in. Sometimes the art IS the wall, and the door and roof for that matter. San Diego’s architectural history is not to be missed and is easily enjoyed during numerous walking tours throughout San Diego’s lovely summer weather. See some of the finest examples of early 20th century Arts and Crafts style in the Banker’s Hill neighborhood, or head up to La Jolla to see the awesome collaboration of science and space at the 1960’s masterpiece, the Salk Institute. And when you want to take a rest inside, make sure to stop by the Museum of Art (a building of Spanish Revival beauty itself) to see the genius of 18th century Roman architect and printmaker, Giambattista Piranesi.

Piranesi, Rome, and the Arts of Design

Piranesi's two-demensional renderings are brought to life at the San Diego Museum of Art.

Piranesi’s two-demensional renderings are brought to life at the San Diego Museum of Art.

The San Diego Museum of Art (SDMart) pays homage to one of Rome’s foremost artistic personalities of the 18th century, Giambattista Piranesi. As a printmaker, architect, antiquarian, art dealer, theorist, and designer, Piranesi’s genius spanned creative forms, which lead the SDMart to pair more than 300 original prints with modern-day interpretations, including the three-dimensional creation of some of Piranesi’s two-dimensional renderings. Those unfamiliar with Piranesi might say the works lie somewhere between the minds of M. C. Escher and Tim Burton for the common ability to meticulously bend reality and fantasy into something simultaneously believable and fantastical.

Where: San Diego Museum of Art – 1450 El Prado, San Diego, CA
When: through July 7, 2013
Cost: $12
> Find out more about  Piranesi, Rome, and the Arts of Design

Salk Institute Architecture Tour

See the architectural design of the Salk Institute in La Jolla

The beautiful marriage of science and architecture at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, San Diego.

The Salk Institute was established din the 1960s by Jonas Salk, M. D., the developer of the polio vaccine. He enlisted world-renowned architect Louis I. Kahn to develop spacious, unobstructed laboratory spaces that could be adapted to the ever-changing needs of science, and Kahn’s influence can be seen in the imaginative use of space and his high regard for natural light. In 1992 the Salk received a 25-Year Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and was featured in the AIA exhibit Structures of Our Time: 31 Buildings That Changed Modern Life.

Where: Salk Institute – 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037
When: Weekdays
Time: 12:00 to 1:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about a Salk Institute Architecture Tour

Urban Orchid Tour: San Diego Architectural Foundation

Vin de Syrah

Vin de Syrah, 2010 Interior Design Orchid Winner, hosts the Urban Orchid Tour reception. Photo courtesy of Vin de Syrah.

The San Diego Architectural Foundation offers geographically segmented, self-paced architectural walking tours around San Diego. First up for the summer is Urban Orchid Tour, on June 16-17, 2013, which will focus on – you guessed it – thoughtful and inspired designs in San Diego’s urban landscape. The tour also kicks off on June 14th with an evening reception at 2010 Interior Design Orchid Winner, Vin de Syrah, where you can mingle with other attendees while sipping on complimentary drink and hors d-oeuvres.

Cost: $30-$75
> Browse the Urban Orchid Tour Schedule

Bankers Hill Historic Walking Tour and Marston House Museum

Marston House

The Marston House Museum is a fine example of the California Arts and Crafts movement. Photo courtesy of

Summer hours begin the weekend of June 16 for Save Our Heritage Society’s range of early 20th century home tours in the Banker’s Hill region of San Diego. Visit the Marston House Museum, which stands as one of California’s finest examples of the Arts and Crafts movement, and then take a walking tour of the beautiful, 5-acre estate. Also available on every third Sunday of the month through Labor Day is the Bankers Hill Historic Walking Tour, which meanders through San Diego’s finest residential streets built in the late Victorian era and early 20th century with masterpieces from Irving Gill, William S. Hebbard, and Frank Mead, to name a few.

Cost: $10-$20
> Browse the SOHO Bankers Hill Historic Walking Tour and Marston House Museum Schedule

Do you have any favorite buildings in San Diego deserving of architectural praise?


San Diego Restaurant Week 2012 Extended!

Wine Vault & Bistro

Because you can never have too much of a good thing, San Diego Restaurant Week has been extended for an extra 6 days. If you missed it this week, you can still get great values on meals at more than 130 restaurants around the county from January 22 – 27, 2012.

With the great savings offered during Restaurant Week, now is the perfect time to get out and try something new. These cozy neighborhood joints will have you rubbing elbows with the locals while you savor a three-course dinner for $30 or less:

Wine Vault & Bistro

Wine Vault & Bistro

Wine Vault & Bistro

Dinner – $20
This charming spot in Mission Hills may be unassuming on the outside, but their menu is full of bold flavors. During Restaurant Week, you can start with beer-battered oysters, follow-up with a slow-roasted tri-tip steak and finish the evening with decadent dessert of milk chocolate ganache with brown butter ice cream. Of course, the meal wouldn’t be complete without wine pairings, which can be added to complement the menu for an additional cost.




Lunch – $15
Dinner – $30
A meal at this warm and cozy South Park favorite is like a trip around the world. Try Southern-inspired lemon-garlic shrimp and grits for an appetizer, a classic French coq au vin for the main course, and an unexpected twist on Filipino food with Vagabond’s banana lumpia for dessert.

Barrio Star

Barrio Star

Barrio Star

Dinner – $20
Fun and funky describe this Banker’s Hill restaurant. The hot pink color scheme will instantly put you in a good mood, and so will their delicious tacos. Whether you prefer the classics like carnitas with cotija cheese, onion and cilantro or the vegan-friendly soy chorizo option, Barrio Star’s Restaurant Week menu offers the comfort of Mexican cuisine served with a fresh perspective.


Countdown to Restaurant Week: Ring In the New

Explore Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant and More!

Who doesn’t want to try the hottest new restaurant in town?

There’s no better time to get out there and find your new favorites than during San Diego Restaurant Week.  Because with reduced prices for three-course menus you can afford to explore a little.

Here’s some new restaurants to worth checking out:

  • Barrio Star, Isabel Cruz’s newest spot in Banker’s Hill, serves up a fresh, creative take on traditional Mexican flavors.  You’ll love the festive atmosphere and Day of the Dead-influenced decor almost as much as you’ll love the Restaurant Week menu items like chicken tamales made fresh, in-house daily and served with black beans, rice, and corn salsa; local whitefish with cumin and cardamom rub paired with cilantro-lime sauce, coconut rice and roasted tomatoes; and spicy chile relleno with jumbo shrimp.   Priced at $20, this menu is a steal!
  • Banker’s HIll Bar & Restaurant, also located in Banker’s Hill (surprise, surprise!), is the newest venture from the team behind Del Mar’s much-lauded Market Restaurant and Bar.  Here, chef Carl Schroeder’s menu is still bursting with local flavors but focuses on hand-crafted comfort food and the vibe is neighborly but cool.  From the $30 Restaurant Week menu you can sample items like proscuitto deviled eggs with parmesan-white cheddar crisps, bacon and  arugula; coriander marinated rock fish ceviche with avocado, pico de gallo and BBQ spiced corn chips; or cast iron roasted King Salmon with artichokes, vegetable ragout, cauliflower gratin and lemon butter.
  • Brand new in Ocean Beach, Bo Beau Kitchen + Bar is the latest addition to the mighty Cohn Restaurant Group.  You’ll feel like you stepped right out of San Diego and into the South of France at this casual neighborhood bistro.  Savor the experience with a $30 Restaurant week menu featuring options like boeuf bourguignon with baby carrots, pancetta, mushrooms, pearl onions and fingerling potatoes; leek ‘fondue’ macaroni and cheese in a silky cheddar gratinee; and Atlantic salmon with arugula-pesto gremolata and seasonal vegetables.

What new restaurant are you excited to visit?

San Diego Restaurant Week starts in just two days…make your reservations today!


Countdown to Restaurant Week: Ladies’ Night

Try the Cotton Candy Cuban at Avenue 5.

Heads up ladies.  San Diego Restaurant Week is a fantastic excuse to gather up your best girlfriends, get all dressed up and have a girls’ night out.  After all, when a little “me time” is on the agenda, nothing is more fun than dishing it up with your girls over an incredible meal and, more importantly, a rocking dessert.

But, with so many Restaurant Week options, are you at a loss as to where to go?

Here are a few picks that will impress even your frenemies:

  • Avenue 5 Restaurant & Bar in Banker’s Hill serves up the most amazing cocktails.  These aren’t any old Cosmos.  Instead they incorporate molecular gastronomy techniques to make out of this world drinks that are sure to make your friends say ‘wow.’  Plus, their Restaurant Week menu is priced at $30 and includes options like wild mushroom risotto, anise-braised boneless beef short ribs and, for dessert, champagne sorbet, jasmine pot de crème or chocolate decadence with orange and berry compote.
  • Feel like dancing?  Put on your sexiest shoes and head to Stingaree where, after dinner, you and your girls are set to hit the club because this is also one downtown’s hottest nightlife venues.  But before you kick up your heels, sit down to the $40 Restaurant Week menu featuring items like pink lady apple and arugula salad or jidori chicken breast with cous cous and dates.  Then dig into desserts like red velvet cake with red hot ice cream or white chocolate crème caramel.  Don’t worry, you’ll burn off all the calories on the dance floor!
  • Located at the Hotel del Coronado, 1500 Ocean offers you and your girls the opportunity to channel Marilyn Monroe for a moment (she starred in Some Like It Hot shot on location at the Del) with a $40 Restaurant Week Menu that includes peppercorn tagliatelle with duck and pecorino or spice-crusted albacore with fennel-blood orange salad. For dessert, sample airy Tuscan donuts, the mysterious ‘Chocolate Indulgence’ or a sophisticated cheese plate with Rogue Blue Cheese, roasted grapes and honeycomb.

Where will you be stepping out?  And, more importantly, what are you wearing?

There’s only 5 days left until San Diego Restaurant Week, make your reservations today!


Countdown to Restaurant Week: Eye Candy

It's okay, go ahead and stare. Island Prime won't mind.

No two ways about it, San Diego is gorgeous.  With coastline for miles and natural beauty that just doesn’t quit, this town is good looking.  So, when San Diego Restaurant Week rolls around, you might as well opt for a restaurant where you can enjoy the view.

Here are a few that are pretty as a picture and have top-notch cuisine, too:

  • Nestled on Harbor Island, Island Prime looks across San Diego Bay toward the downtown skyline with a view is pretty all day long and particularly spectacular at night.  Feast your eyes on the view but don’t let it distract you from chef Deborah Scott’s amazing Restaurant Week menu items like butternut squash soup with toasted pepitas, cedar plank roasted salmon and filet mignon with sea salt mashed potatoes.  The menu is priced at $40 and the million dollar views are free.
  • Ride the elevator up to the 12th floor to Bertrand’s at Mister A’s for panoramic views of San Diego Bay, the downtown skyline and the lush green expanse of Balboa Park.  This is where the city’s movers and shakers have gathered for decades and now , during restaurant week, you can enjoy the same upscale fare only at a fraction of the cost.  The $40 Restaurant Week menu includes decadent options like Samanco Bay sea scallops, roasted leg of lamb Provencal and pan seared white seabass.
  • Getting to Mistral at Loews Coronado Bay Resort takes just minutes but you’ll feel a million miles away when you look across San Diego Bay at the Coronado Bridge and the glittering downtown skyline.  With floor to ceiling windows as the backdrop, enjoy a $40 Restaurant Week menu with options like yellow frisee and duck prosciutto salad, organic salmon with French green lentils, or Brant beef with creamy potatoes and haricot vert.

What’s your favorite restaurant with a view?

Only 6 days until San Diego Restaurant Week, make your reservations today!


Countdown to Restaurant Week: Mangia, Mangia!

Belly up to the cheese bar at BICE.

Italian cuisine, from pasta to prosciutto, ranks high on pretty much everyone’s list of favorite foods.  So, it’s no surprise there are a lot of Italian restaurants participating in San Diego Restaurant Week

You really can’t go wrong with any of the options but here’s a few of my favorites:

  • Cucina Urbana.  If you haven’t been yet, here’s your excuse to check out owner Tracy Borkman’s reinvention of the former uber-luxe Laurel in Banker’s Hill as a cozy, rustic yet modern Italian eatery.  Their Restaurant Week menu is priced at $30 and includes some delectable dishes like the ricotta gnudi in sage brown butter with Parmesan and amaretti; the short-rib pappardelle with cremini mushrooms; and, for dessert, a seasonal cheese plate, bittersweet chocolate cake or roasted pear crisp.  Plus, at Cucina Urbana the savings keep on rolling in.  You can buy any wine in their on-site shop at retail prices and drink it with your meal for just a $7 corkage fee. 
  • Downtown’s BICE is another relative newcomer to the scene and they put a chic, upscale spin on modern Italian dining.  The glamorous dining room makes the perfect backdrop for indulging in impeccably prepared versions of classic dishes and updated interpretations of classic antipasti, pasta and more.  Their Restaurant Week menu is priced at $40 with options like polenta and wild mushrooms; homemade Gorgonzola and pear stuffed ravioli; and braised pork tenderloin with pink peppercorn sauce.  Don’t forget to check out the mouthwatering spread of imported cheeses and cured meats carefully arrayed on the marble-topped cheese bar!
  • Take a seat at Acqua al 2 in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter and you might think you’ve been transported to Florence.  That’s because the restaurant is a tribute to the original Acqua al 2 located just steps from Florence’s bustling Piazza della Signoria.  Luckily, you don’t need a plane ticket to enjoy the creative Tuscan cuisine and warm, gracious hospitality.  During Restaurant Week, you don’t even need a fat wallet since their Restaurant Week menu is priced at $40.  Just keep your eye out for off-duty Padres players who have made Acqua al 2 their regular hangout.

Which Italian restaurant is tempting your tastebuds? 

San Diego Restaurant Week is only 13 days away, make your reservations today!


5 To Try New Restaurants

bandiniFrontMediumHungry?  Just a little?

Here’s five new eateries to whet your appetite:

  • Claire’s on Cedros, an eco-friendly bakery and café, opened in Solana Beach earlier this month as the first freestanding restaurant in the U.S. to receive Platinum LEED certification. The laid back, dog-friendly restaurant offers organic eats (natch) for breakfast and lunch. 
  • Also in August, The Red Door opened in Mission Hills with affordable New American comfort food for dinner daily, lunch on weekdays and brunch on weekends. Priced below $20, dinner entrees include cornmeal-crusted Cajun catfish with sweet potato-crab hash and a surf & “cheeky” turf with sea scallops, braised pork cheek, roasted garlic jus and crispy polenta.  Um, hello?  Yum. 
  • Here’s a double – Barona Resort & Casinoin San Diego’s East County opened two restaurants in July and both are great values (and good for those of us playing the penny slots).  Italian Cucina serves classic Italian dishes, pizzas, calzone and pasta all priced under $20 while Seafood Plaza offers grilled items, priced from $6.95 to $12.95, oysters at the raw bar and signature rolls at the sushi bar. 
  • In June, Cucina Urbana opened in Banker’s Hill adjacent to Balboa Park serving affordable Italian regional cuisine with a local farm-to-table ethos (no menu item tops $20). Crazy good starters include seasonal pickled vegetables, pate and other spreads served in mini mason jars and antipasti like amazing fried squash blossoms with ricotta, purple basil pesto and lemon aioli.  Innovative pastas and modern spins on classic Italian entrees round out the menu.  The restaurant is open daily for dinner. 
  • Also in June, a long-time San Diego favorite returned with the opening of Casa de Bandini in Carlsbad.  For more than 25 years, the restaurant was a fixture in Old Town and, once again, diners can enjoy the ambiance of Old Mexico with strolling mariachis, brightly colored umbrellas on a sunny outdoor patio, authentic regional cuisine and giant, frosty margaritas. Open daily for lunch and dinner.

Okay, I can’t stop at just five.  Just one more because, in San Diego you can never have too many great new restaurants.  Especially when they’re serving up frosty margaritas.

  • Casa de Reyes in Old Town State Historic Park reopened in May with a new chef, menu and bright cheerful design. The restaurant has always been popular for outdoor dining so they doubled the size of the patio and added a new shade arbor and dramatic fire pits.  Salsas are made fresh daily; each burrito is served with a specially prepared sauce, and chili rellenos are made the old fashioned way with a creamy, homemade cheese sauce. The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner and – yes! – margaritas.