One of the best ways to soak in the splendor of Balboa Park is with a leisurely picnic. The good news is there are picnic spots for every age and desired experience. Continue reading
Pop-up dinners are—you guessed it—popping up just about everywhere. These foodie events range from educational to esoteric. Whatever their focus, they put out some seriously delicious eats. Continue reading
Whether rolling along the beach on the Coaster or around the city on the trolley system, riding San Diego’s rails is a great way to get to know the city. And no matter where you stop off, you’ve got immediate access to the region’s world famous culinary and craft beer scene. Pick a stop, any stop. Continue reading
Tiki culture is all about escapism—the food, the drinks, and the decor are all attempts to re-create some fantastical tropical island that never actually existed. This is also why tiki cocktails are so potent, designed to help ease you to into a festive state of mind. San Diego is embracing the tiki culture with a new generation of bartenders celebrating that rich tradition. Here’s a roundup of San Diego’s hot tiki bars and other spots where you can find a perfectly tropical cocktail. Continue reading
San Diego has world-class mainstay restaurants, like Mister A’s, George’s, and Addison. But new blood is good for the restaurant scene’s circulatory system. Here are eight restaurants that have made a significant impact since opening in recent months. Continue reading
In the classic French style of service, top chefs with the most expertise were trotted out from the kitchen in Europe’s finest restaurants to dazzle guests with fancy techniques of whipping, chopping, carving, and flambéing. It was food as theater. Today, even in the face of the growing fast casual and counter service trends, tableside preparations are making their way back into dining rooms both casual and upscale.
Here’s a roundup of San Diego’s most tasty tableside creations, from the waterfront to the foothills.
Born & Raised
Little Italy’s gorgeous new steakhouse Born & Raised straddles the line between elegant and modern. San Diego Magazine food critic Troy Johnson calls the $7 million space “a grand, elaborate investment in America’s past,” where servers clad in tuxedo jackets and Chuck Taylors offer classics like steak Diane and rib of beef with Yorkshire pudding as well as de rigueur dry-aged cuts of beef and duck. Wheeled out on ornate carts with brass and wood detailing, the tableside preparations of steak tartare, classic French omelets, and shrimp Louie take the drama up a notch.
Where: 1909 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Born & Raised
Just down the block in Little Italy’s culinary center, Monello (the “naughty little brother” to longtime local favorite Bencotto next door) finishes orders of classic Italian risotto tableside in a unique vessel: a wheel of imported Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. The cheese is the final ingredient in the creamy rice dish and, instead of grating or tossing it in, chef Fabrizio stirs and scrapes the entire order inside the cheese wheel, which is lit afire at the edges to keep the dish warm. Rumor has it, they will also finish other pasta dishes in the wheel at a guest’s request.
Where: 750 W Fir St, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Monello
Manhattan of La Jolla
Head up to La Jolla for another classic tableside dish: Caesar salad. Originally invented just south of San Diego at Hotel Caesars in Tijuana, the legendary salad’s egg, anchovy, lemon, garlic, and Parmesan dressing makes for an impressive show when mixed fresh at the table. Manhattan of La Jolla has made it a signature experience for years in its swanky Empress Hotel restaurant that’s hosted celebrities like Ann Bancroft, Mel Brooks, Johnny Depp, and Jay Leno over the years. For locals, it’s been a beloved spot for special occasions for more than 20 years.
When: 7766 Fay Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037
> Find out more about Manhattan of La Jolla
Any list of tableside dishes served in San Diego wouldn’t be complete without guacamole. It’s the local version of bread and butter in a region that produces 40 percent of the nation’s avocados – and it’s most impressive when prepared fresh at the table with simple ingredients: Avocados, smashed with garlic, onions, lime, salt, and salsa fresca garnish. Try it alongside an unparalleled view of the city skyline at Coasterra on Harbor Island, an upscale Mexican restaurant right on the bay.
Where: 880 Harbor Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Coasterra
Travel deep into Hillcrest, one of the city’s original foodie neighborhoods, and find Ortega’s tucked away in the corner of small strip mall. Almost as famous as their tableside guacamole is their simple, seasonal offering of Puerto-Nuevo style lobster dishes served in the rustic space with thick wood tables and colorful, imported glassware.
Where: 141 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
> Find out more about Ortega’s
Riviera Supper Club
For a twist on tableside, try La Mesa’s Riviera Supper Club. Its nod to midcentury steak houses is evident in the both menu (steaks, chops, and sides like macaroni and cheese and bourbon baked beans) and the décor of cozy booths, dim lighting, and live music – all housed in a classic 1962 building that was once home to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Here’s the twist: It’s a DIY grill. You pick your protein and cook it yourself on a large communal grill, equipped with tongs and seasonings. The kitchen handles the sides (and we hear they’ll help you with your meat if requested) and desserts like bacon chocolate cake and s’mores casserole. A warning to those who opt to sip a Sidecar while manning the grill: The cocktails are served famously stiff.
Where: 7777 University Ave, La Mesa, CA 91941
> Find out more about Riviera Supper Club
With more than 150 breweries, San Diego is the best place to find your perfect beer. Looking for a few beers brewed with the flavors of San Diego and Mexico? Head to Barrio Logan for an amazing selection of cross-border brews and plenty of local favorites.
Here are the 4 breweries and tasting rooms in Barrio Logan, from south to north, that need to be on your next San Diego beercation itinerary.
Border X Brewing
Border X brews the flavors of Mexico into each one of its beers like the popular Blood Saison, inspired by the traditional Mexican drink Jamaica. Don’t forget to sample the Horchata Golden Stout and Abuelita’s Chocolate Stout. In fact, mix the two for an amazing Mexican-style black-and-tan. Once you have your beer in hand: take some time look around and enjoy the amazing artwork the covers the interior, order a few tacos from Tury Tacos and finally head out to the patio to enjoy the sunshine and Barrio Logan.
Where: 2818 Logan Avenue, San Diego, CA 92113
> Find out more about Border X Brewing
Iron Fist Brewing Co.
While the actual brewery is located in Vista, this central location boasts 30+ taps, an indoor bar and outdoor beer garden where guests can enjoy beer, music, food, and art from surrounding Mercado del Barrio artists and vendors. Make sure to order a Velvet Glove (Imperial IPA) or Counter Strike (IPA) before heading out to the beer garden.
Where: 1985 National Ave., #1132, San Diego, CA 92113
> Find out more about Iron Fist Brewing Co.
Alta Brewing Company
Brewmaster Brett Stampf’s (veteran brewer from Stone and Green Flash) goal is to go over and above with his brews. The core beers are a nitro-driven blonde ale, pale ale, IPA, dry-hopped brown ale and dry Irish stout. If it’s still on tap, order up a pint of the Alta ShakaAzacca IPA brewed exclusively with Azacca hops.
Where: 1983 Julian Ave, San Diego, CA 92113
> Find out more about Alta Brewing Company
Thorn Brewing Co.
Thorn Brewing just upped its capacity from a small North Park brewery to a massive 10,500 square foot brewery located in a former factory. To celebrate the expansion, Thorn is brewing up the Barrio Lager, a Baja-style lager made from both domestic 2 row barley and flaked maize.
Where: 1745 National Ave, San Diego, CA 92113
> Find out more about Thorn Brewing Co.
San Diego’s cuisine reflects its history and culture – rich, diverse & colorful. Eat your way through the county with these 10 San Diego Restaurant Week picks.
Let your tastebuds have a field day with a fusion of American, Mexican and Italian flavors, blended together for a unique culinary experience in the heart of Pacific Beach. Sip on an array of handcrafted mimosas, savor mouthwatering tapas and chill at this cool hangout.
Where: 967 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109
> Find out more about Crushed
La Gran Terraza
Located on the University of San Diego’s picturesque campus, this farm-to-table bistro is a hit with locals and visitors alike. From the cozy fireplace to sweeping views of Tecolote Canyon and Mission Bay, La Gran Terraza is more than just a good place to eat, it’s a dining experience.
Where: 5998 Alcala Park, San Diego, CA 92110
> FInd out more about La Gran Terraza
Cali-Baja cuisine is to San Diego what palm trees are to the beach and you can experience it at Galaxy Taco. It may sound like a typical taco shop but it tastes like a gourmet experience that will transport your taste buds to a colorful, savory galaxy far, far away. The fish tacos are a not-to-be-missed fan-favorite and when it comes to their specialty tequila menu, trust us, it’s out of this world.
Where: 2259 Avenida De La Playa, San Diego, CA 92037
> Find out more about Galaxy Taco
A former military base transformed into a trendy town square celebrating the city’s history, make your way to Point Loma’s Liberty Station to discover the Mess Hall. This epic food hall will continuously surprise and delight your taste buds as the menu changes daily.
Where: 2820 Historic Decatur Rd, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about Mess Hall
Market Restaurant + Bar
This Del Mar hot spot has made a name for itself boasting impeccable service and some of the freshest and finest fish, meats and produce. Start with the Blue Cheese Soufflé & Cinnamon Poached Pears, you won’t be disappointed.
Where: 3702 Via De La Valle, Del Mar, CA 92014
> Find out more about Market Restaurant + Bar
Vintana Wine + Dine
Located in an unsuspecting location of Lexus Escondido, this hot rod of a restaurant offers a tasty menu curated by local favorite Chef Deborah Scott and gorgeous patio views of North County’s rolling hills.
Where: 1205 Auto Park Way, Escondido, CA 92029
> Find out more about Vintana
Plant yourself in the middle of the Gaslamp to discover a hip new hangout and the only rooftop dining space in the area. Surrounded by chic decorations including saucer pans, indulge in a creative menu from scrambled skillets to the RR Burger, featuring a bacon jam.
Where: 535 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Rustic Root
The Smoking Goat
A french feast awaits at The Smoking Goat in Uptown featuring sustainable and organic ingredients, boutique beverage offerings and a friendly neighborhood vibe. An optional three-course meal allows you to sample the menu and of course, there is no shortage of curated cheeses.
Where: 3408 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
> Find out more about The Smoking Goat
It’s a San Diego truth, dinner and drinks taste better with an ocean view. One of the best places to find one is Peohe’s. Located right on the water’s edge on Coronado Island, this tropical treasure boasts a Pacific Rim inspired menu and a rockin’ sushi bar. Enjoy your meal al fresco, perfect for both a romantic rendezvous or a fun night out with family.
Where: 1201 1st St, Coronado, CA 92118
> Find out more about Peohe’s
BO-Beau Kitchen + Garden
Combining bohemian chic with an industrial vibe does not seem like an easy task, but Bo-Beau Kitchen + Garden has pulled it off beautifully. Located in the heart of La Mesa, be sure to grab a craft cocktail at the oversized handcrafted bar, and then treat yourself to the best Brussels sprouts this side of Belgium.
Where: 8384 La Mesa Blvd, La Mesa, CA 91942
> Find out more about Bo-Beau Kitchen + Garden
San Diego Restaurant Week Details
When: September 25 – October 2, 2016
> Find out more about San Diego Restaurant Week
Poke, which means to slice or cut, is a simple Hawaiian dish, traditionally made with chunks of raw tuna, seaweed and salt. But the everyday Hawaiian staple has evolved, with new incarnations popping up all over San Diego. The popularity of poke (pronounced poh-keh) can also be seen with the success of the I Love Poke San Diego event launched seven years ago by Nino “Neens” Camilo. “This event was created as our way of doing a backyard barbecue Hawaiian-style at the Bali Hai right on the water. We’ve become one big family; chefs participate in this festival because it’s fun and there’s a good vibe,” explains Nino.
Always fresh, poke can be sold-by-the scoop at deli counters or found as an upscale appetizer at highbrow restaurants. According to Neens, different cultures have influenced on the dish. “Californians added the avocados; Asians the wonton chips, wasabi, soy sauce and more. In Hawaii, poke always comes with rice – serving it without rice is the equivalent of serving an American hot dog without the bun,” adds Nino.
Poke’s “new skool” is a diverse landscape with poke-inspired raw fish dishes with added ingredients that go beyond the traditional. Discover these top places around San Diego to get your aloha on and enjoy poke.
Head to this little Garden of Eden in Leucadia for authentic Hawaiian eats on a sunny patio with picnic tables. Chef Doug Moric delivers beautiful poke – we recommend the house with raw ahi with soy, sesame oil, sweet onion, scallions, togarashi, and Hawaiian salt or go Californian and add chunks of avo.
Where: 1114 N. Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92204
> Find out more about The Lanai
This National City family restaurant is known for its Filipino and Mexican specialties and Hawaiian-style poke. Zariltos takes pride in their daily poke platters, offering good variety – think spicy garlic, ahi limu (seaweed), shoyu, ahi fuikake, ahi kimchi, salmon, tako and seared albacore. Not to mention Zarlitos took first place at the I Love Poke Festival in 2015.
Where: 505 E. 8th St, National City, CA 91950
> Find out more about Zarlitos
This local’s favorite in Encinitas, known for its sustainably caught fresh fish, dishes up sashimi grade albacore tuna poke appetizer with sesame, shoyu, sweet onion, wakame, and wonton chips, or try their poke bowl with rice, seaweed salads, fresh greens and cucumbers, perfect with a Ballast Point Pale Ale.
Where: 1468 N. Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024
> Find out more about Fish 101
This fast-casual, build-your-own poke bowl concept comes from visionary Japanese chef Junya Watanabe. Diners move through series of stations selecting their own base (white or brown rice, or kale salad), vegetables, fresh fish, housemade toppings and sauces. You may also want to try their innovative sushi burritos.
Where: 4646 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111
> Find out more about Pokirrito
Grab a seat at the raw bar of this cool fish shop in Liberty Public Market food hall where you can enjoy lovely ahi poke presented in a martini glass.
Where: 2820 Historic Decatur Rd, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about Fishbone Kitchen
Chris’ Ono Grinds
This Hawaiian plate lunch eatery has poke made from sashimi-grade ahi tossed in Chris’ ono kine sauce. There’s also a delicious bowl with ahi, macadamia nuts, diced veggies all over rice, and drizzled with wasabi aioli.
Where: 4506 30th St, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Chris’ Ono Grinds
Shelter Island’s Polynesian palace and iconic tiki temple since 1954 is another tropical outpost for poke. Dig into the house special, the Island Poke Bowl with ahi over rice and mac salad or savor their top-selling pupu – poke with avocado cream cheese, seaweed, masago (roe) and wontons.
Where: 2230 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about Bali Hai
The Patio on Goldfinch
The striking Mission Hills eatery with its living green plant walls, fireplaces, gorgeous bar, and open-air patio serves up poke-style ahi tacos with soy-sambal marinated sashimi-grade ahi, Napa cabbage, crispy wontons, and cucumber salad. Delish.
Where: 4020 Goldfinch St, San Diego, CA 92103
> Find out more about The Patio on Goldfinch
Duke’s La Jolla
Named for the Olympic swimmer, movie star and man who brought surfing to the U.S. Duke’s just opened in La Jolla where you can sit on the swanky deck overlooking the Pacific and enjoy a little aloha. Order up the fresh poke tucked into crispy tacos with shoyu, maui onions, avocado, and wasabi crème fraiche with a Mai Tai, of course.
Where: 1216 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037
> Find out more about Duke’s La Jolla
The friendly restaurant at Cape Rey Resort in Carlsbad has a new chef, Teri McIllwain, and one of her menu hits is her take on poke. Head out to the fire pits and savor the Capeside Poke, a mélange of high-grade ahi, rainbow quinoa, Thai chili aioli, marinated seaweed, cucumber, lime and ponzu with wonton chips, perfect for a sunset snack by the sea.
Where: 1 Ponto Rd, Carlsbad, CA 92011
> Find out more about Chandler’s
Local Farmers Markets
From Hillcrest and Little Italy to Scripps Ranch, Encinitas and Oceanside, several companies are selling delicious poke to take home or eat while strolling the farmers market. Look for the San Diego Poke Company, It’s Raw Poke, and Iln Lyf Food.
Make Your Own Poke
If you want to make poke for yourself, Catalina Offshore Products reigns as the place for fresh fish. Talk to San Diego’s finest fish monger Tommy Gomes and he’ll lead you in the right direction.
Where: 5202 Lovelock St, San Diego, CA 92110
> Find out more about Catalina Offshore Products
Good Time Poke
Keep an eye out for this new, casual daytime eatery in Pacific Beach that will front a tiki-themed speakeasy, The Grass Skirt, a hub for rum-inspired cocktails and nighttime fun. Opening Fall 2016.
Where: 910 Grand Ave, San Diego, CA 92109
> Find out more about Good Time Poke
This build-your-own poke concept, created by the owners of Love Boat Sushi, comes to Carlsbad in Summer 2016. The grab-and-go eatery will offer seven different types of fish with one special catch of the day and a variety of bases, sides, sauces and toppings.
Where: 2958 Madison St, Carlsbad, CA 92008
> Find out more about Pokeway
I LOVE POKE SAN DIEGO
This island-spirited celebration of Hawaiian culture and cuisine takes place in at Bali Hai on Shelter Island. It features Pokeland where 20 creative chefs compete for the “Best Poke” crown, and Foodland, a sampling zone with Hawaiian and Asian-inspired foods. Poke-making demos and live music add to the fun. Don’t miss this mecca for poke! And this year’s festival benefits the Ronald McDonald House.
Exotic rum punches and smoking volcano bowls. Flower leis and fruit garnishes. Kitschy décor and flaming torches. Palm trees and palapa huts. Handcarved idols and Hula girls. Kool kats and kittens. The rummy Mai Tai stands as the anchor cocktail of tiki’s “hep retro” culture, but there’s also Zombies, Grogs, PainKillers and Scorpion Bowls, just to name a few.
San Diego’s tiki roots go way back to the 1950s with tiki evidence found in the architecture, art, bar scene, menus and more. And a new influx of tiki-style watering holes and eateries have recently opened their doors in San Diego celebrating this exotic lifestyle with its boozy beverages and Polynesian-inspired eats.
Bali Hai Restaurant
A naval town and gateway to the Pacific, San Diego has long embraced all things tiki. Bali Hai, on Shelter Island, set the tiki tone in 1954 as a Polynesian paradise, replete with hardcarved sculptures, Polynesian artifacts, tapa cloths, and Mr. Bali Hai ceramic mugs cradling potent, rum-infused Mai Tais. Their Pacific Rim-style menu spotlights beautiful fresh fish, poke, Hamachi, papaya and shrimp salad, and more.
Where: 2230 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about Bali Hai Restaurant
Crowne Plaza San Diego
Crowne Plaza San Diego (formerly the Hanalei Hotel) in Mission Valley is another mid-50s Mecca for tiki as it hosts the annual Tiki Oasis Convention each summer (August 18-21), drawing the country’s largest gathering of tikiphiles for pool parties and tropical fun.
Where: 2270 Hotel Circle N, San Diego, CA 92108
> Find out more about Crown Plaza San Diego
The Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa
This Mission Bay resort boasts island-inspired architecture, tropical gardens, koi ponds and a tiki torch-lit outdoor bar called Moray’s, a winsome spot for a Mai Tai and some sushi. The resort also hosts summertime luaus – Polynesian feasts with music, hula and torch dancers.
Where: 3999 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109
> Find out more about the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa
Kona Kai Resort & Spa
Kona Kai Resort & Spa inspires more tiki-style fun with its thatched-roof tiki bar and poolside cabanas for mojitos and Mai Tais. Belly up the bar for a Perfect Storm – Black Magic rum, ginger beer and lime – which pairs nicely with chef’s seafood poke, plump with tuna, salmon, and shrimp in sesame ginger ponzu with taro chips.
Where: 1551 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about Kona Kai Resort & Spa
San Diego’s New Wave of Tiki
Cat Eye Club
While myriad bars and lounges are slinging tiki-style cocktails all over town, the Cat Eye Club offers up one of the best local tiki experiences in San Diego. Set in the East Village, a neon green tiki sign welcomes guests into the low-lit swanky lounge-think retro 50s-style, mod, pop culture tiki with its Mondrian glass wall, tiki carvings, fern wallpaper, lava lamps, and swimming fish on a flat screen.
A gorgeous hand-drawn menu helps imbibers navigate the map of fun libations with everything from Mai Tais on tap to artful group drinks like Goonies Gone Wild that arrive in treasure chests with billowing dry ice smoke and kitschy garnishes like golden coins and candy. Their cat-with-giant-eyes ceramic mugs are stylish, fruits garnishes outrageous and drinks super potent with various rums.
As owner and dedicated tikiphile Frank Miller likes to say, “Tiki is an aloha state of mind. It’s vacation or an exotic escape from reality.” Cat Eye Club’s tropical tiki vibe is furthered enhanced by live music, karaoke weekly and island-inspired nibbles like tasty salmon poke with toasted quinoa and sesame seeds. Their must-try machetes–elongated quesadillas (housemade corn tortillas stuffed with kalua pork, manchego, and pineapple habanero salsa) – are delish.
Where: 370 7th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about the Cat Eye Club
South Park’s revved-up vegan restaurant Kindred hosts “Permanent Vacation” Thursdays, a pop-up, tiki takeover with tropical elixirs and eats. Expect a rotating menu of nuclear rum drinks with fresh juices from bar whiz David Kinsey and Polynesian bites like orange miso-glazed seitin with grilled pineapple and a mango sweet potato aioli dipping sauce. Orchids and mid-century Exotica music add to the ambiance.
Where: 1503 30th St, San Diego, CA 92102
> Find out more about Kindred
The new high-design rooftop spot, The Nolen, has a tiki menu with five colorful refreshers like their Painkiller on draft with pineapple, orange, rum, coconut and freshly grated nutmeg. Or order up an off-menu Junglebird from their spirit savant, bar lead Andrew Larson. He will create a little fire element to the rum and Campari drink by igniting cinnamon. Bar grub like carnitas-jalepeno-salva-verde flatbreads or chili-glazed meatballs over Idaho potato frites soak up the rum.
Where: 453 6th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about The Nolen
The Grass Skirt
The owners of Little Italy’s social hub, Kettner Exchange, also have tiki on the brain. The Grass Skirt, their Polynesian-styled speakeasy, will descended upon Pacific Beach with a daytime poke eatery out front.
Where: 910 Grand Ave #101, San Diego, CA 92109
Undergoing a redesign, Craft & Commerce in Little Italy will be home to False Idol, a high-design tiki bar featuring classic drinks nodding to old school tiki haunts like Trader Vics and others, curated by rum-meister Martin Cate. Their Coronado Luau Special features aged pot still rum with VSOP Armagnac, Grand Marnier, orgeat, fresh orange and lemon juice, a recipe originally created at the Luau Room at Hotel del Coronado, circa 1940s. Chef JoJo Ruiz will dish out a protein-hearty menu centered around Craft & Commerce’s new custom wood-fired grill.
Where: 675 W Beech St, San Diego, CA 92101
It’s no wonder tiki is alive and well in sunny seaside San Diego – who doesn’t love good food, potent rum drinks in funny mugs, and uplifting music in a tropical ambiance. Exploring San Diego’s tiki culture and scene reveals that it’s not just a trend or lifestyle, it’s a state of mind.