Candice

Authentic Art and Heritage in Barrio Logan

Barrio Logan: Arte y la Cultura Auténtica

Barrio Logan is one of San Diego’s best kept secrets. Many residents know that this neighborhood is the heart of the city for San Diego’s Mexican-American community, but visitors are just starting to discover all the hidden gems this part of town has to offer. From unassuming taco joints to pop-up art galleries, Barrio Logan is bustling with creativity and culture.

Discover the Art and Culture of Barrio Logan

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Art Galleries, Street-Style

In Barrio Logan, looks can be deceiving. That average-looking warehouse just might be housing some of the region’s most cutting edge art.

  • Located in a former Weber bakery, the Bread & Salt gallery is just as interesting for its architecture as for the innovative visual art and music performances you can find there.
  • You’ll find something different on display every time you visit La Bodega, a 9,000 sq. ft. warehouse turned gallery, but you’re guaranteed to see something unique and authentically San Diegan.
  • Chicano Art Gallery showcases voices from the community, featuring everything from painting exhibitions to spoken word events.
Barrio Logan: Arte y la Cultura Auténtica

Discover Arte y la Cultura Auténtica in San Diego’s Barrio Logan

Authentic Cuisine

Whether you want true Mexican street food or a perfectly crafted cup of coffee, serious foodies know this neighborhood for its culinary offerings.

  • Don’t be put off by the long lines at Las Cuatros Milpas. The tacos and chorizo bowls are worth the wait!
  • Cafe Virtuoso wins the praise of many serious coffee snobs. You can find many top-notch restaurants serving their brews, but stop by Barrio Logan for their proprietary cafe.
  • The newly opened San Diego Taco Company call themselves the “King of All Tacos,” and for good reason. Their fish tacos are some of San Diego’s best. Keep an eye out for their new restaurant, Salud!, in Barrio Logan.

> Explore More of San Diego – Nine Arts Districts, One Vibrant City

Sarah Weinberg

A Few Hot Tamales in San Diego

Tamales are a year-round source of pleasure and sustenance in San Diego. Made from masa, a corn-based dough that is steamed or boiled in a corn-husk wrapper and filled with meat, cheese, fruit or vegetables, tamales are often part of San Diego families’ holiday celebrations. While the best tamales in San Diego are those made by a mom or abuela at home, here are some local places to buy these Mexican treats.

The Mission

The Mission Restaurant's sweet corn tamales breakfast

The Mission Restaurant’s sweet corn tamales breakfast satisfies the soul and stomach.

Start off your day right with an order of Plato Verde con Huevos at one of three Mission Restaurants in San Diego. The sweet corn and green chili tamale and eggs over medium covered with roasted tomatillo sauce and served with a side of black beans and salsa offers a sweet and savory combination not to be missed.

Pancho Villa Farmers Market

Pancho Villa Farmers Market chicken tamales burst with filling.

Pancho Villa Farmers Market chicken tamales burst with filling.

I love going to the Pancho Villa Farmers Market grocery store hungry! I do my shopping then sit and have a bite from the Mexican food “deli” section offering freshly made street tacos, birria, and five flavors of tamales. This busy supermarket makes tamales daily with generous portions of cheese, beef, pork, pineapple or chicken filling. The chicken can be a little dry, as these tamales are overstuffed with filling, but my favorite is moist masa stuffed with a hunk of melted cheese and a mild pepper.

Las Cuatro Milpas

The line out the door at this old-school joint in Barrio Logan is testament to the authentic Mexican food served within, and particularly to their fresh tortillas made from scratch in front of diners.  Las Cuatro Milpas offers solely pork tamales, but they do them right. Moist, with just the right amount of pork stuffing, this place is the go-to restaurant for local families catering their celebrations at home.

Northgate Gonzales Market

Just around the corner in Barrio Logan is the shiny new Northgate Market, one of several in a Southern California chain. This supermarket does incredible volume in the prepared food section and offers five flavors of delicious, inexpensive tamales made fresh all day long. The stuffing is not as generous as Pancho Villa’s tamales, but the ratio is pretty darn perfect. The pork filling is a bit too spicy for my family’s taste. Our Northgate favorites are the sweet corn and the cheese and pepper versions.

Tamales Ancira

What will they think of next? Strawberry tamales from Tamales Ancira in South Bay.

What will they think of next? Strawberry tamales from Tamales Ancira in South Bay.

Tamales Ancira in Chula Vista offers the widest variety of tamale flavors; tamales are all they serve (along with rice and beans on the side). In addition to traditional beef, pork, chicken, sweet corn, cheese and jalapeño, Tamales Ancira creates picadillo (ground beef with tomato, vegetables and serrano peppers), chicaroon (pork cracklings in a delicious tomatillo sauce), beans and cheese, pecans and raisin, chocolate, strawberry, blueberry and pineapple tamales. Get there before they close or call in your order because tamales are made fresh each day and usually sell out before closing.

Of course, some of the best tamales are served from little carts located throughout San Diego County, supplied by cooks crafting the labor-intensive treat at home and selling on the street.

Where do you buy your favorite tamales?

Robert Arends

Did You Know: Surprising San Diego Trivia!

Sunset at Oceanside Pier.

Three of my favorite words are “Did you know.”

As in did you know these surprisingly fun, eye-opening facts about San Diego? There are A LOT of factoids about America’s Finest City I’ve been collecting over the years, but following are five to start with and really impress your friends. 😉

Did you know…

1. SoCal’s Only Gold Rush

Family Panning for Gold - Julian Mining Company

Gold panning in Julian!

The only Gold Rush to take place in Southern California was in 1870 in San Diego’s historic East County mountain town of Julian. In March 1870, the richest SoCal gold mine, Stonewall Mine, was discovered.  Before it was abandoned in 1893, the mine produced $2 million in gold (valued today at $60 million).

2. The Most Missions

Did You Know - Mission San Diego Alcala is one of four missions in San Diego County

Mission San Diego de Alcala

San Diego County has the most missions in the state – four in all: Mission San Diego de Alcala, Mission San Luis Rey, Mission San Antonio de Pala and Mission Santa Ysabel near Julian. Mission San Antonio de Pala is the only California mission still used as a school and place of worship by Native Americans.

3. The Largest Collection of Outdoor Murals in the Country

Chicano Park, Barrio Logan.

Chicano Park, Barrio Logan.

Chicano Park, located beneath the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in the downtown neighborhood of Barrio Logan, is home to the largest collection of outdoor murals in the country. In the early 1970s, resident artist Salvador Torres envisioned local Chicano painters and sculptors turning the bridge’s pylons “into things of beauty, reflecting the Mexican-American culture.” There are 20 large, colorful outdoor murals within Chicano Park.

4. A Head Above Our Piers

Sunset at Oceanside Pier.

Sunset at Oceanside Pier.

The Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach is the only pier on the West Coast that provides lodging over the ocean. The Oceanside Pier in Oceanside is the longest (1,942 feet), wooden construction over water pier on the Pacific Coast.

5. The Largest State Park in the Continental US

Anza-Boreggo Desert State Park Wildflowers

Wildflowers in the Anza-Boreggo Desert State Park

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego’s East County is the largest state park in the continental United States, encompassing over 640,000 acres.  It was through the Borrego Springs Valley that Spanish soldier Juan Bautista de Anza discovered the first land route to California in 1774.

Candice

From Pour-Overs to Fresh Roasts: A Few of San Diego’s Best Coffee Bets

Coffee & Tea Collective San Diego

As winter approaches and the temperature in San Diego drops from a balmy 70 degrees to a chilly 60 degrees (Ok, I realize our seasonal weather changes are a bit modest), a hot cup of joe is the perfect complement to a brisk day exploring San Diego.

Thanks to several top-notch coffee spots, the Pacific Northwest has nothing on San Diego’s coffee culture. These local coffee houses feature some of San Diego’s best bean brews:

Ryan Bros. Coffee

Ryan Bros. Cofffee San Diego

Ryan Bros. Coffee in Barrio Logan

Ryan Bros. Coffee has been a family operation since 1994. Grab a cup from this micro-roastery before heading out to explore Chicano Park and San Diego’s up-and-coming Barrio Logan neighborhood, recently profiled by the New York Times.

Coffee & Tea Collective

Coffee & Tea Collective San Diego

Pour-over coffee at Coffee and Tea Collective

Opened in 2012 in the North Park neighborhood, the Coffee & Tea Collective is part art gallery and part minimalist coffee-house. They take their coffee so seriously, you might consider each cup a work of art in its own right. Every beverage is lovingly hand crafted: beans are roasted in-house, espresso is pulled from a lever-operated press and drip coffee is made one cup at a time through the pour-over method.

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters San Diego

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in La Jolla

Winner of the 2012 “Roaster of the Year” by Roast Magazine, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters selects only the best organic green beans to roast by hand. The coffee bar also utilizes the pour-over method for a sweet, bright cup of coffee you can enjoy on your way to the nearby beaches.

Have a good tip for San Diego-bound coffee lovers? Share it with us!

Candice

Candice’s Perfect Day in San Diego

The colorful (and delicious) sights of the Little Italy Mercato, including fresh uni.

It’s Saturday morning, and India Street is bustling as usual, with colorful tents and even more colorful produce on display at the Little Italy Mercato, one of the city’s best farmers markets. The Mercato’s highlight is freshly caught sea urchin, which Poppa’s Fresh Fish will happily crack open and hand over with a fork to so you can devour the delicacy immediately. But today, I’m saving my appetite for brunch at PrepKitchen. The chef takes his inspiration and ingredients from what’s available at the market that morning, so there’s a good chance I’ll be feasting on some of the Mercato’s spoils. After brunch, Little Italy’s indie boutiques beg for a little exploration.

Shopping at Little Italy’s Vocabulary boutique; brunch at PrepKitchen

My shopping itch not yet scratched, I head a couple of miles East to the South Park neighborhood, where I could spend hours wandering from boutique to boutique. If you happen to stop by on a Saturday afternoon, don’t be surprised to see a pop-up flea market in one of the grassy lots along Fern Street.

Shopping spills out into the street along Fern Street in South Park

Knitting books? Handmade jewelry from local designers? Craft beer bottles recycled into drinking glasses? A vintage ceramic ashtray in the shape of a Dachshund? Not matter what I’m looking for, I’ll probably find it at one of South Park’s crafty and quirky shops.

Make Good, Junc Life & Style and Graffiti Beach are just a few of the unique shops you’ll find in South Park.

After all that shopping, I’ve worked up a little appetite, so I make my way down to Barrio Logan, an epicenter of San Diego’s Hispanic community. Street tacos at La Fachada are the perfect fuel before stopping to admire Chicano Park, where vibrant murals beneath the San Diego-Coronado Bridge overpass portray the struggles of the Mexican-American community.

Tacos at La Fachada; the murals of Chicano Park

Before the sun sets, I make my way to the beach to soak up summer’s welcoming weather. The beaches of La Jolla are some of my favorites – La Jolla Shores’ vast stretch of sand full of surfers and lifeguard towers feels quintessentially Southern Californian, while the rocky tidepools of La Jolla Cove are almost Mediterranean in appearance. But today, I set up camp beneath the towering sandstone cliffs of Torrey Pines.

For dinner, it’s of to 30th Street in the North Park neighborhood, where the Linkery has been serving up farm-to-table food for years before it became a staple of the national foodie vocabulary. And nothing washes down one of their housemade sausage links better than a local craft beer.

Craft beer and the farm-to-table tastes of the Linkery; Bar Pink’s kitschy-cool decor and drinks

Before calling it a day, I cross the street to Bar Pink. Their signature drink, the Sneaky Tiki, seems to sum up San Diego in a glass: beautiful, of course, but with some surprising flavors and just a bit of punch that sneaks up on you when you least expect. Before you know it, you’re drunk on the San Diego’s charms. What a perfect way to end my day.

Maren

7 Great Taco Joints in San Diego

San Diego is home to some of the best tacos in the USA due to a world beyond Rubio’s world famous fish taco and Old Town’s bastion of Mexican eateries rarely seen by tourists. Out there, away from the prying eye of technology, is a stellar collection of succulent meats and robust salsas whose only digital existence is relegated to the near beatific ravings of Yelpers. Below are seven temples of taco worship (in no particular order) not to be missed on your food pilgrimage to San Diego:

Pork Adobada: Photo courtesy of Yelper Jando S.

1. Tacos El Gordo

Tacos El Gordowas famous in Tijuana long before it opened its second location stateside in Chula Vista. Without a doubt, you want the pork adobada tacos. I can’t even begin to describe how good they are. Just go eat one. It costs all of $1.75.

Photo Courtesy of Yelper Tania K.

2. Las Cuatro Milpas

Las Cuatro Milpas holds down the lunch crowd in Barrio Logan. What to order? Anything that includes a tortilla. Tortillas are made on site and must be infused with love and magic, because there is no way just food tastes this good.

El Gobernador: photo courtesy of Yelper Tania K.

3. Marisco’s German Taco Truck 3

Marisco’s German Taco Truck 3 is on the move in City Heights and always worth hunting down. Try the Gobernador, full of fat, spicy shrimp, green peppers and onions with gooey cheese.

Fish Taco: Photo courtesy of Yelper Leonard L.

4. Cantina Mayahuel

Cantina Mayahuel in Normal Heights is a beautiful spot with an insane tequila selection (side note: they make my favorite margarita). It is more expensive than its taco shop cousins, which pays for the lovely space and high quality food. Go Mondays for all-night happy hour including $5 margaritas and 3 tacos for $6. Carnitas tacos are my favorite. They are marinated in pineapple juice for extra umpf!

5. Lucha Libre

Lucha Libre in Mission Hills is our most notable mention of the seven, having appeared on Man vs. Food in 2010. But it makes the taco list for an unlikely featherweight contender: the Flaco Taco. Marinated chicken is wrapped in a lettuce “tortilla” with vinegary, pickled onions to provide a delicious, nutritious winner.

Experimental Tradition at Puesto

6. Puesto

Puesto in La Jolla recently opened with an experimental take on traditional Mexican street fare. With a selection ranging from carne asada to soy chorizo potatoes, you get to choose any combination of grilled items and toppings – Chipotle style, for lack of a better term. I like to go with Huitlacoche (corn truffle) with grilled pineapple, and Jamaica salsa, but you can always go with pollo al pastor.

Carnitas Taco: photo courtesy of Yelper Tim M.

7. Karina’s Taco Shop

Karina’s Taco Shop, in Leucadia, might be further from the boarder, but it is no less authentic than Tacos el Gordo. The fish tacos are different from other restaurant offerings, so be warned, people tend to love them or hate them. The carne asada with guacamole is always a hit.

Well there you have it! Seven San Diego tacos not to be missed. But there are, of course, many more. What is your favorite taco in San Diego?