San Diego’s uptown neighborhood of Hillcrest, home of San Diego’s LGBT community, celebrates diversity year-round with a vibrant rainbow mix of accommodations, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, chic boutiques, vintage clothing stores, kitschy novelty shops and so much more.
With San Diego Pride coming up next month (July 12-14), now is the perfect time to spotlight a few of my favorite places worth checking out:
Where to Stay
The historic Inn at the Park, located right across the street from Balboa Park, is home to the best happy hour in Hillcrest: Top of the Park, a Friday night tradition where hundreds gather on the rooftop to soak up the sunset and kick-off the weekend over cocktails.
Urban Mo’s is fun and boisterous with strong margaritas and booming dance music on a packed outdoor patio and indoor dance floor. Hillcrest Brewing Company, claiming to be the World’s First “Out and Proud LGBT Brewery”(wow!), has 9 tasty in-house craft brews on tap to quench your thirst. If crafty cocktails are more your thing, Martinis Above Fourth is a swanky go-to spot.
If you’ve got to get your groove on, Rich’s with its two dance floors and sexy go-go boys can’t be beat!
Filter Coffee House is the place to see and be seen while sipping espresso and “studying” the crowd for cuties, day or night.
Dinner & a Show
D Bar restaurant is my new fav with its sleek moderne design and delish dishes like Southern fried Belgian – a sweet waffle with fried chicken (yep!). Their macarons are also off the charts! Afterward, head to Diversionary Theatre for cutting edge theater at its finest.
Brunch ‘n Lunch
Colorful Café on Park with its deliciously imaginative breakfast dishes like egg scrambles, Captain Crunch pancakes (yep!) and crab cake benny, is sure to satisfy!
Shop till you drop
Shop-portuunities galore in Hillcrest
Stroll along Fifth Ave. and University Ave. for funky, one-of-a-kind finds. Park Blvd. is great for retro, mid-Century modern treasures.
As the days are getting longer and warmer, it’s hard to escape the allure of San Diego’s 70 miles of coastline. Of course, when you’re enjoying a day along San Diego’s sparkling shore, dressed in your finest flip-flops and swimsuit, the last thing you want to do is pack up your towels and beach lounger in search of quick beachside eats. Fortunately, a tasty meal is only steps away from the sand at these casual beachside restaurants and snack shops.
Located just steps from the sand, Bull Taco is a favorite stop for hungry visitors to San Elijo State Beach. This small joint features a big menu that includes a wide variety of fish and exotic meats like alligator and kangaroo.
Pacific Beach is the epitome of the SoCal beach experience, with wide stretches of sand packed with good-looking locals and a boardwalk teeming with rollerbladers, bicyclists and skateboarders. For the perfect SoCal snack, head over to Taco Surf. The classic beachfront taco shop has been serving up San Diego staple since 1988.
No need to head inland to find a snack in Imperial Beach – to find the Tin Fish, just head out into the Pacific Ocean…via the Imperial Beach pier, of course. Nestled out on the end of the pier, the Tin Fish serves up more than fish, with plenty of burger and chicken options.
Ice cream sandwiched between two red velvet cookies? Yes, please!
What could possibly complement a day at the beach better than a cool, creamy ice cream sandwich? Beachgoers with a sweet tooth won’t want to miss the Baked Bear, where you can choose your own combination of ice cream flavors sandwiched between freshly baked cookies, brownies or waffles.
With 70 miles of coastline to the west and vast deserts and rolling hills to the east, the possibilities for enjoying the great outdoors in San Diego are limitless. Just in North County alone, visitors can hike, bike, surf, go for a trail ride on horseback, paraglide, and much more. Ask any local San Diegan and they’ll tell you that staying in shape is a big part of the San Diego lifestyle – hey, you have to be in tip-top shape to surf Swami’s Beach or hike Cowles Mountain – and eating right is a big part of San Diego’s healthy lifestyle. Fortunately, thanks to these delicious options, eating right doesn’t mean eating like a rabbit. The following North County farm fresh dining venues offer cuisine that’s conscious of your health (and the planet’s, too!).
Claire’s on Cedros
Claire’s on Cedros is lean, green and adorable.
Set in an adorable home-like house in Solana Beach, Claire’s on Cedros knows that serving locally sourced, organic ingredients and hormone-free meat is the key to a wholesome and delicious menu. Plus, their building is LEED certified, and they are members of the Green Restaurant Association for their environmental practices.
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Garden
Stone Brewing Co.’s World Bistro uses fresh ingredients grown right on their farm. Photo courtesy StudioSchulz.com
Stone Brewing Co. is so committed to environmental friendliness that their CEO drives an electric car, and that commitment extends to the food at the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Garden, of course. As part of a $26 million expansion plan, Stone Brewing Co. added their own farm in 2011 in San Diego’s North County. Stone Farms provides organic, sustainable farm fresh produce to the Escondido bistro (and to the new Point Loma location as well), proving that pub food can be good for you.
Solace & the Moonlight Lounge
Solace & the Moonlight Lounge in Solana Beach will have you rethinking the definition of “healthy food” in the best possible way. The eclectic California eatery doesn’t serve anything that contains high fructose corn syrup – they even make their own ketchup! Chef and Owner Matt Gordon will soon open another North County spot sure to become a green-eating favorite: Sea & Smoke, An American Brasserie is slated to open this summer in Del Mar.
Grab a bite to eat before or after the Padres win at Petco Park!
The Padres’ season is upon us, and as fans flock into one of the country’s best ballpark (just ask TripAdvisor), visitors to San Diego’s Petco Park better come armed with a good appetite. Locals know that the great food offerings within Petco set it apart from other ballparks – Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, Anthony’s Seafood, and Ballast Point Brewing Co. are just a few of the San Diego food and beverage favorites you can find within Petco’s walls.
But why limit your options when you’re within walking distance of more than 200 restaurants? Before and/or after the game, head into the streets of Downtown to explore a wealth of dining options, from global flavors to classic American burgers.
Gaijin Noodle + Sake Housein the Gaslamp Quarter offers a menu focused on traditional ramen noodles and yakitori grill, along with other authentic Asian cuisine. Libation offerings include the tradition of Japanese kakigōri, boldly colored shaved ice creations made from sakes and sojus, and a selection of Japanese beers.
Also in the East Village, the Asian fusion menu at The Dragon’s Den features a creative juxtaposition of traditional Chinese items like egg drop soup next to Asian-influenced contemporary small plates like hoisin-flavored beef brisket sliders, plus a full-service sushi bar and Asian-inspired cocktails with unexpected ingredients like a splash of Sriracha in the “Dragon’s Breath,” a blend of Casa Noble Blanco tequila, St. Germaine, fresh lime juice and soda.
Visit the downtown outpost of Hodad’s, a famous surf-themed burger joint that’s been serving truly amazing hamburgers for 40 years. Their original Ocean Beach location even garnered attention from celebrity chef Guy Fieri, who featured the restaurant on his “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” TV show.
Maryjane’s in the Hard Rock Hotel offers a variety of diner-style food options from chicken wings to chili cheese fries. Added bonus: Maryjane’s serves food until 3:00 AM, so you can make this joint the last stop on a truly epic food crawl.
The Mission is a health-conscious café that specializes in fresh, quality food with fanciful flavors and artful presentations. The Mission’s diverse breakfast and lunch menus include everything from small plates, to Chino-Latino inspired dishes, to freshly baked goods.
Escape to San Diego for the first weekend of Spring and bask in the warm sunshine while enjoying these fun top things to do:
San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering Expo Day
Hands on edutainment and experiments at the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering Expo Day
Join the largest single-day science and engineering event in Southern California at Expo Day at Petco Park. Future scientists can engage in hands-on activities, meet real scientists and engineers and learn how their discoveries and research affect our daily lives, the Festival is a unique opportunity to reach students of all ages and backgrounds, inspiring the next generation of innovators.
Mark your calendar with Play Days at the San Diego Zoo
Starting this Saturday, the San Diego Zoo becomes one big playground – for visitors and animals alike! San Diego Zoo Play Days offers up-close encounters with our animal ambassadors, special activities and presentations at animal exhibits all around the Zoo, keeper talks, opportunities to see animals enjoying enrichment and munching on their favorite food treats, the Camp Critters live animal show, a digital Easter egg hunt around the Zoo using your smartphone, and even visits with the Easter Bunny himself.
Step Right Up! See amazing feats of human strength at the Spring Busker Festival
The Spring Busker Celebration brings colorful street performers from across the country to perform their bizarre talents like sword swallowers, jugglers on unicycles, escape artists and comedic stuntmen to the cobblestone streets of downtown’s Seaport Village. The extraordinary and bizarre talents will provide outdoor amusement unlike any other festival in the region.
Enjoy live music while sample beer from 30 local breweries and food from 20 local chefs
Come for the beer, stay for the food or come for the food, stay for the beer! The Mission Valley Craft Beer & Food Fest believes beer and food are natural partners and offers a wide variety of both with 30 breweries and 20 chefs. Add to that 3 fantastic bands and a partnership with Wounded Warrior Homes and you have a spectacular day of food, beer and fun for a great cause.
Legendary sketch comedy theatre, The Second City, returns with their Laughing Matters Tour, featuring some of the best sketches, songs and improvisations from the company’s 53-year history. Whether it’s ripped from the morning headlines or a classic gem from their archives, The Second City is always a laugh out loud hit.
This hilarious musical parody staged to classic tunes from the 60s, 70s and 80s will have you cheering and dancing in the aisles. Set in a department store, four women with seemingly nothing in common but a black lace bra on sale, come to find they have more to share than ever imagined. The all-female cast makes fun of their woeful hot flashes, forgetfulness, mood swings, wrinkles, night sweats and chocolate binges.
The San Diego Public Market’s 1st Annual Authentic Street Food Market will celebrate the diversity of San Diego and its food scene with authentic and innovative takes on traditional street foods from many cultures, utilizing fram fresh, local ingredients and the imaginations of mare than 40 incredible chefs.
Enjoy a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner at the Marine Room, one of America’s Most Romantic Restaurants
San Diego’s restaurants do romance right. Just ask Travel + Leisure and Yahoo, who named the Marine Room as one of America’s Most Romantic Restaurants. Nestled on the sands of La Jolla Shores, the Marine Room uses nature to set the mood as rolling waves from the Pacific lap up against the restaurant’s expansive windows.
Of course, the Marine Room is just one of many San Diego restaurants where romance is on the menu. This Valentine’s Day, book ahead to ensure the best table at one of these desirable hot spots.
The Celebrity Spot
Searsucker, celebrity chef Brian Malarkey’s signature restaurant
Since opening in 2010, chef Brian Malarkey’s Searsucker in downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter has been popular with locals and visitors alike. Already a celebrity thanks to his time as a contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef series, Brian Malarkey is back in the spotlight as a judge on the new ABC TV series “The Taste.” Grab your sweetheart and a table at Searsucker to taste what all the buzz is about.
New Kids on the Block
As San Diego’s dining scene continues to grow, finding a cozy and delicious date-night spot has never been easier. In Little Italy, enjoy a playful yet elegant meal with your sweetheart as you share small plates of Italian street food and house made vermouth cocktails at Monello.
Monello’s tasty pizza and house made vermouth.
At Pacific Beach’s latest hot spot, Table 926 serves up a sumptuous prix fixe dinner offering steamed local mussels, grilled lamb chops or pork osso bucco. Enjoy 3 courses for $60 per person, or add two glasses of wine and a glass or champagne for only $20 more.
San Diego Classics
Take in the sweeping views of La Jolla cove.
You’re on top of the world with a Valentine’s Day dinner at Bertrand at Mister A’s. Perched atop a highrise in the Banker’s Hill neighborhood, Bertrand at Mister A’s looks out over downtown San Diego’s glittering skyline and vast bay. In La Jolla, George’s at the Cove offers exquisite California cuisine prepared by chef Trey Foshee. Like the Marine Room, this San Diego classic serves up spectacular food alongside an equally spectacular view of La Jolla’s coastline.
Here’s a holiday worth celebrating: National Pie Day! San Diego has long been a destination for pie lovers due to the numerous pie producers in Julian, but the quaint mountain town in San Diego’s East County isn’t the only spot to find great pie. This National Pie Day, check out these delicious options around San Diego, ranging from the traditional full-sized variety to mini one- or two-bite treats.
Under the Crust’s Food Truck serves up tiny, tasty treats.
National Pie Day Suggestions
Under the Crust brings adorably petite pies to the people with their equally adorable food truck. Find out where you can sample their mini pies by following them on Twitter.
Not a fan of sweets? While it may not be what the organizers of National Pie Day had in mind, Ritual Tavern in the North Park neighborhood serves up a tasty Sheperd’s Pie in both traditional and vegan varieties.
Keep your taste buds on the ready for the opening of Soda & Swine in Normal Heights. The menu at the new venue is expected to feature apple pie topped with house-made soft-serve ice cream inspired by New York’s Momofuku Milk Bar.
Where will you celebrate National Pie Day in San Diego?
Our picks for things to do this weekend are top-notch with delicious food, world-class golfers, a festival for the whales and wonderful pieces of art that chronicle the story of America. This is your weekend:
San Diego Restaurant Week – Week 2
Try 100 Wines Hillcrest during San Diego Restaurant Week
By popular demand, San Diego Restaurant Week has been extended for another week! Enjoy a prix fixe lunch or dinner at over 120 restaurants throughout the county. Hurry up, because the deliciousness ends on Friday!
Rickie Fowler in Round Three at the 2012 Farmers Insurance Open. Photo courtesy of Stan Badz.
Spend this weekend enjoying beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean while also watching the world’s greatest golfers play at the south and north courses of Torrey Pines Golf Course during the Farmers Insurance Open. Single day tickets are still available.
The Big Bay Whale Festival is a free, one-day family festival with a wide variety of interactive and hands-on displays to learn about California gray whale ecology and conservation. Children will enjoy the walk-through gray whale, train rides, giant inflatable obstacle course, free face painting and art mural coloring project.
Was your New Year’s resolution to start feeding that piggy bank? If you’re like me, you want to save money without feeling like you’re missing out on the good things in life, like fine dining. January is always a great time of year for money-saving travel to San Diego, when hotel rates and airfares have dropped from their peak holiday prices. And thanks to San Diego Restaurant Week, you really can live the good life in San Diego without breaking the bank.
FromJanuary 13 – 18, 2013, diners can enjoy a six-day exploration of the region’s exciting dining scene for a fraction of the normal expense. More than 180 participation restaurants will offer special three-course, prix fixe dinner menus for just $20, $30 or $40 per person (beverages, tax and gratuity not included) and two-course, prix-fixe lunch menus for just $10, $15 or $20 per person. Here’s a sneak peek at some notable menus:
100 Wines Hillcrest
100 Wines Hillcrest
100 Wines Hillcrest will be serving up their signature crispy cauliflower with pancetta, parmesan cheese and a balsamic port reduction. Follow that up with a proscuitto pizza creatively topped with house made mozzarella and green grapes.
Gaijin Noodle + Sake House
Ramen at Gaijin Noodle + Sake House
Gaijin Noodle + Sake House in downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter offers one of the tastiest deals with a starter, two yakitori skewers, half bowl of ramen and dessert (like their bacon s’more) all for only $20.
Terra American Bistro
Pumpkin soup and lamb at Terra American Bistro (Photo by Paul Body as it appears in “From Terra’s Table,” Chefs Press, 2010)
For diners who want maximum menu options, Terra American Bistro in La Mesa has you covered with more than 10 appetizer options and seven entrée options, including their Karl Strauss Amber Lager braised pot roast and sinful lobster mac ‘n cheese.
California Restaurant Month
San Diego Restaurant Week is part of California Restaurant Month, occurring January 2013, when 30 destinations across California are hosting restaurant week events. Details are available online at www.visitcalifornia.com/restaurantmonth.
What restaurants are you excited to try out during Restaurant Week?
After the Thanksgiving feast, Christmas cookies, and other holiday treats, heading out on the town for a six-course dining extravaganza may seem like overkill, but what is New Year’s Eve for if not extravagance? It’s the last night of the year, a night to indulge and celebrate before heading into the year ahead with renewed intentions. So grab a loved one and treat yourself to one of these delicious celebrations around San Diego. These hotel restaurants are doing it up right, and if you really feel like living it up, you won’t even need to drive home after these New Year’s Eve dining celebrations.
NYE at The Pearl Hotel
The Pearl Hotel: big on style, not on price.
Point Loma’s Pearl Hotel has long been a favorite for fashionable locals and visitors that aren’t looking to break the bank on a meal or room night, and New Year’s Eve is no exception. The restaurant features a three-course pre-fixe menu and after dinner festivities including a no-cover party with cocktails, a live DJ and a complimentary champagne to toast for the countdown at midnight.
Already one of San Diego’s most adorned hotels, things get even glitzier at the Westgate Hotel on New Year’s Eve thanks to their Great Gatsby New Year’s Eve dinner. The swanky festivities include a champagne reception, a Five-course wine pairing dinner created by chef Fabrice Hardel in the Versailles Ballroom, live music from the Lorraine Castellanos’ Quartet and complimentary champagne all night. The elaborate affair even includes a midnight balloon drop.
It doesn’t get more elegant than Addison at the Grand Del Mar
Looking for the ultimate New Year’s Eve dinner? It doesn’t get any more grand than Addison at The Grand Del Mar. Their seven-course meal features caviar garnished King crab, chicken liver mousse and roast squab, to name just a few items. Dessert? Why, a banana split, of course.