Candice

Four Cocktail Lounges Perfect for a Memorable Date Night in San Diego

Cusp Hotel La Jolla drink

San Diego is teeming with nightlife options. But if you want a romantic night out with that special someone, a bustling brewery or crowded dance floor might not be the right fit. Fortunately, with so many incredible bars and cocktail lounges, it’s easy to find one to impress your date.

Cocktail Lounges with a View: Cusp at Hotel La Jolla

Cusp Hotel La Jolla drink

Which is better: the drinks or the view at Cusp? It’s hard to decide.

There’s nothing more impressive than a spectacular view. In San Diego, those aren’t too hard to find, but few can rival the view from Cusp. Situated atop the Hotel La Jolla, Cusp overlooks a vast span of the La Jolla coastline, and their drinks are as delicious as the view is beautiful.

Tiki Time: Cat Eye Club

cat eye club drink

Drinks are on fire (literally) at the Cat Eye Club

For an entertaining evening, Cat Eye Club is a must visit. The vintage-inspired hideaway in downtown’s East Village serves up whimsical tiki drinks that are as fun to look at as they are to drink. Try the Cradle of Life or the Scorpion Bowl – both are served aflame.

Old Fashioneds in an Old Fashioned Setting: Polite Provisions

polite provisions

Polite Provisions offers vintage charm and potent cocktails.

Located in the up and coming neighborhood of Normal Heights, Polite Provisions revives the romance of the early 20th century cocktail lounges with their charming decor and vintage drinks. Whether you order one of their signature cocktails on tap or go for one of the seasonal creations, this precious spot is sure to charm your date.

The Secret Spot: Noble Experiment

Noble Experiment - Cocktail Lounges in San Diego

Noble Experiment is a sight to see…if you can find it.

The secret is out: Noble Experiment is San Diego’s favorite hidden speakeasy. Located in the back of the popular Neighborhood restaurant in the East Village, this tiny bar is big on character, featuring a wall of golden skulls and animated paintings on the walls (did that dear just blink at me?). Make sure to text ahead for a reservation, as the intimate space doesn’t allow much room for walk-ins.

For more ideas on planning the perfect date night in San Diego, check out our guide to the San Diego nightlife scene.

Candice

Vintage Finds and Timeless Dining in San Diego’s Mission Valley

Bully's East cocktails

Does your weekly viewing of Mad Men leave you longing for those golden days of three-martini lunches and flawlessly coifed hair? Do you scour vintage shops for the perfect pair of wingtips? Then hop in your ’67 Cadillac and drive down to San Diego’s Mission Valley, where you don’t need a time machine to travel back to the 1960s.

There’s no faux-vintage here – this is the real deal! Some of San Diego’s most timeless dinner joints are tucked unassumingly into the narrow enclave just off the freeway, waiting to be discovered by savvy visitors. Better bring your appetite for a good steak along with a good time, because classic dining is what Mission Valley does best.

Bully’s East San Diego

Bully's East San Diego - Mission Valley

Beef rules at Bully’s East San Diego!

Prime rib is the star at Bully’s East San Diego. Served with a baked potato and asparagus spears, cuts of the beefy delicacy range from the “petite” 8-oz. cut to the “beast,” weighing in at 38 oz. And cocktails – from the Old Fashioned to the Singapore Sling and Mai Tai – don’t get any more classic than this.

Hunter Steakhouse

For 40 years, steak lovers have been visiting Hunter Steakhouse, where you can select your choice of sauce to top off your New York strip or top sirloin: hollandaise, béarnaise, whiskey peppercorn or “steak Neil,” a savory blend of sautéed onions, mushrooms, bacon and blue cheese. Of course, Hunter Steakhouse claims to have the best prime rib in town, so you’ll need to try both spots to judge for yourself.

Albie’s Beef Inn

Shrimp cocktail at Hunter Steakhouse; the dark elegance of Albie's Beef Inn

Shrimp cocktail at Hunter Steakhouse; the dark elegance of Albie’s Beef Inn

Albie’s Beef Inn has been serving up steak and cocktails in Mission Valley since 1962. Indulge in steak Diane, a timeless dish smothered with Amaretto and fresh mushrooms, or buttery shrimp scampi. With a fireplace in the dining room and live piano music in the bar, the atmosphere sets the mood for some mid-century romance.

Town & Country Resort & Convention Center

Town and Country Resort San Diego

The Town & Country Resort, a San Diego tradition for more than five generations.

When it’s time to turn in, rest your head at the Town & Country Resort & Convention Center, a family owned resort that’s been in San Diego for five generations. With gazebos and fountains scattered throughout the property, you might wonder if you’ve stumbled into Roger Sterling’s country house. And the night wouldn’t be complete without enjoying a nightcap (a Manhattan, maybe?) while perched atop a green naugahyde barstool in the resort’s bar before heading off to dreamland.

> Discover more of San Diego’s Mission Valley

Got a favorite vintage spot in San Diego? Prefer a different restaurant in Mission Valley? Let us know in the comments below.

Candice

Trick or Treating in San Diego, the Grown-Up Version

Smashing Pumpkin Martini

As little ghosts and goblins come out to play and traipse from house to house in their sugar-fueled quest on October 31, it’s hard for the grown-ups not to feel just a little bit envious. Just because we’ve grown older doesn’t mean we have outgrown our sweet tooths (well, some of us, anyway)!

If you’re looking for a little sweet indulgence this Halloween, fear not – San Diego offers some diabolically delicious holiday treats sure to delight those too old for trick or treating.

Drink-or-Treat

Smashing Pumpkin Martini

For pumpkin with a punch, try the Smashing Pumpkin Martini at the Grant Grill.

No trick here: Halloween cocktails have seized San Diego. This Halloween, adults can do some drink-or-treating around downtown by hopping between hot spots offering spooktacular cocktails.

At Whisky Girl, ghouls and guests can choose from the Wolfman, a chocolate martini with vanilla vodka, the Frankenstein with Malibu, melon, blue Curacao, pineapple juice and whipped cream, and the Dracula served with a single shot of rumplemintz, a splash of cream and grenadine.

At the Grant Grill in the US Grant Hotel, the Smashing Pumpkin martini is a delicious mix of pumpkin and star anise infused rum, Grand Marnier, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, saffron syrup, cardamom bitters and fresh meyer lemon.

If you’re not too squeamish, try the Femur Shot at Searsucker, a concoction of coconut, lime and vodka served in steer femur bones and designed to be sucked out, bone marrow style.

Crazy for Candy

Truffles

Eclipse Chocolat truffles – a perfect addition to any grown-up trick-or-treat bag. Photo courtesy of Roger Tsen.

If liquid treats just won’t cut it and only the real thing will do, die-hard candy loving adults won’t be disappointed this Halloween.

Chocolate aficionados should head straight to Eclipse Chocolat in North Park. Exotic flavor combinations are offered daily, but seasonal specials include the Pumpkin Muscavado truffle and Spiced Pumpkin cupcake, a decadent chocolate cake filled with pumpkin butter and topped in a dark chocolate ganache and grains of paradise (said to taste like a mix between pepper, ginger and cardamom).

If waiting for Halloween to roll around each year is simply too long to wait to get your candy fix, at Alchemy of the Hearth in San Marcos, candy lovers can learn to make sweet treats at home with classes that teach the secrets to creating toffees, caramels, lollipops and even candy apples.

How will you indulge your sweet tooth this Halloween?

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.

Kate

Quality Social Mixes it Up for Cocktail Week

At Quality Social the "H" is for happy.

The San Diego Spirits Festival starts tomorrow and downtown’s Quality Social will be there with a booth serving Pickleback shots and tasters of their new Kitchen Cocktails.

Pickleback shots may sound quirky but they’ve got an impressive pedigree. At Quality Social, they pair a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey with a shot of homemade pickle brine to create their Pickleback shots.

With Kitchen Cocktails, QS is taking farm-to-table from cuisine to cocktails. Muddling farm-fresh produce from local purveyors into lively libations, bartenders create concoctions like the Strawberry Fizz. Made with fresh chandler strawberries from Crows Pass Farm, mint bitters, house infused lemon vodka and simple syrup, the drink is vigorously shaken, strained over ice, topped with soda and garnished by a slice of strawberry and organic mint.

Try them both this weekend at the San Diego Spirits Festival but, first, head down to Quality Social today and order up today’s Cocktail Week special pictured above. They are highlighting their signature “H” cocktail for just $5. Named in honor of one of their favorite bartenders on the West Coast, it’s an easily crafted, booze heavy, summer time porch-sipper.

1/4 oz simple syrup
3/4 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1 1/2 oz Square One Cucumber Organic Vodka
Soda
Cucumber slice
Fresh ground black pepper

Shake first four ingredients in cocktail shaker and strain over ice into a collins glass garnished with fresh cucumber slice. Top with splash of soda and finish with pinch of pepper. Enjoy!

Kate

From Garden to Glass at the Grant Grill

Summer's bounty on the rocks at the Grant Grill!

Cocktail Week rolls on toward the San Diego Spirits Festival with amazing specials on cutting-edge cocktails at some of San Diego’s most legendary bars.

Certainly, the Grant Grill at the iconic US GRANT falls into that category. The 100-year old hotel has cocktail history on lock down (with prohibition era tales all its own) but continues to look to the future. They recently transformed their downtown rooftop terrace into an intimate garden farm, growing produce that inspires the seasonal culinary and specialty cocktail menus at the Grant Grill.

There, super talented mixologist Jeff Josenhans creates seasonal cocktail menus utilizing ingredients that are grown in the garden. His recently launched summer cocktails, like the Cinnamon Basil French Julep, highlight the seasonal bounty of summer’s fresh herbs. To make this light, summery drink, Josenhans combines Pierre Ferrand Cognac and orange blossom sugar with muddled pink lavender and Cinnamon Basil from the rooftop garden before topping it with bubbly, delicious Moet Chandon.

Today and tomorrow you can order up a Cinnamon Basil French Julep or any of Josenhans’ signature specialty cocktails for just $4 when you mention ‘Cocktail Week’…now that’s reason to celebrate!