Dear sweet sweet San Diego, how I miss you!
Derika and I lived in San Diego for three years and after two terrible winters in NYC, I am constantly asking myself why we ever left. Ok, so I guess that is a little harsh. Don’t get me wrong I really like New York. The city is amazing, the restaurants are out of this world and there is always something magical to get into. However, I miss the San Diego sunsets, cocktails on patios, burritos, living on the beach, twinkling my toes in the sand and my cute bunny neighbor that would hang out on my balcony.
I mean…. LOOK at that face!!!
Living in the Midwest most of my life and then living in Seattle for four years really did something to my need for sunshine. There is a sense of panic that sets in when the sun comes out, and I feel and incredible amount of pressure to go outside and enjoy it. When we first moved to San Diego, I felt the same sunshine pressure. I was panicking everyday if I didn’t manage to make it outside to love on the sun for a bit. I think it took us a few months to realize that the weather is amazing almost everyday, and that it is OK if we go to the movies when it is sunny out, because it will be sunny the next day as well. Even though we got use to the perpetual sunshine, I still got cranky if we did not make it home in time to catch a sunset on our balcony. How could you not want to enjoy a beverage and catch a magical sunset with a view like this!
Ok, enough about the sun. Sniff Sniff…
Since we’ve left San Diego, people are constantly asking us for recommendations on places to go and things to do in San Diego during their visit. Instead of typing up the same list time and time again, I decided to do a blog post for folks that want to have the ‘local’ experience while they are visiting. Hence the name of this post…”Eat and Play like a Local,” thank you Derika for the title. Derika and I love to eat out and be adventurous in whatever city we are living in, and we did a lot while we were in San Diego. This list is going to be an ever-growing list that I plan to add to as we discover new places on our visits back. I know that there are things that I might forget, so please send me your suggestions and I will add them to this list. I broke up the lists below by ‘Eat and Drink Like a Local’ and ‘Play Like a Local’. I then broke each list up by city so that you can find out our favorite places no matter where you are in San Diego.
Now let the Double D Adventure begin!
Eat and Drink Like A Local
- Leroy’s Kitchen and Lounge – Fresh, local, sustainable food and craft cocktails.
- Barrio Star – One of my favorite places to get margaritas and vegetarian Mexican food in San Diego. You will find a creative spin on hearty Mexican eats & craft cocktails at this colorful cantina.
- Hash House a Go Go – Known for large portions of awesome breakfast food. Be prepared to wait in line.
- Hillcrest Brewing Company – Gay Friendly hangout offering pints, great local beer, plus stone-fired pizzas in an awesome atmosphere with a great patio. It is also really close to the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market.
- Snooze – This is an AM Eatery, know for their breakfast and lunch.
- Divanti Enoteca – Creative Italian cuisine, plus wine & cocktails. The festive patio and the huge make your own bloody mary bar on the weekend is my favorite.
- Craft and Commerce – Hip gastropub, serving seasonal eats & craft cocktails.
- Isola – Awesome Neapolitan-style pies, small plates and wine bar in the heart of Little Italy.
- The Kebab Shop – Awesome kebabs, hummus and falafel, they also offer a bunch of gluten-free options.
- Sara’s Mexican Food – I am not sure why, but this hole in the wall is my favorite place to get a veggie burrito in the city.
- Carnitas Snack Shack – Counter-service spot revered and worshiped by the locals for its pork sandwiches and craft beer.
- Mamas Bakery and Lebanese Deli – Counter-service deli offering quick, awesome and healthy Middle Eastern wraps, combo platters, appetizers.
- Polite Provisions – Apothecary-esque bar offers craft cocktails & microbrews in a stylish, retro space with an atrium. If you are hungry order food from Soda & Swine next door.
- Seven Grand – Stylish whiskey lounge offers an extensive bourbon menu, craft beers & dark wood-lined walls that will make you feel like you are hanging out in your grandparent’s basement.
- Swami’s Cafe – Cafe fare such as sandwiches, salads, waffles acai bowls, amid a laid-back setting. Know for their epic breakfast.
- URBN – Craft thin-crust pizza, beer and cocktails served in an open and modern warehouse like space.
- Urban Solace – Amazing comfort food made from fresh, seasonal ingredients. They have amazing craft cocktails and macaroni and cheese. Check out their jazz brunch on their patio on the weekends.
- Tiger! Tiger! – Craft brews and creative eats such as wood-fired sandwiches, and some of the best curry fries that I have ever had in a casual pub space with picnic tables.
Ocean Beach (OB)
- Bo Beau– My favorite place in OB. This is a French fusion place that is known for their mussels. Get the brussel sprouts and thank me later.
- Hodad’s– Known for burgers the size of your face. There is usually an epic line out front that goes pretty fast.
- Mike’s Taco Club– According to Derika this place has the best fish tacos in the city.
- Newbreak Coffee & Cafe– A local favorite. Eggs, sandwiches & vegetarian options offered with coffee and tea in casual, surf-themed environment.
- Newport Pizza – Great place for a slice or a whole pizza and a unique pint of beer.
- OB Noodle House Bar 1502 – Pho-focused eatery from Food Network star Guy Fieri offers a host of Asian specialties. Their Veggie Pho is one of my favorites. They also have an awesome patio.
- OB Smoothie Bar and Subs – A small hole-in-the-wall on Newport Ave. Get an Acai Bowl for breakfast and thank me later. 🙂
- The Old Townhouse Restaurant – My favorite place for breakfast in OB. I love their omelettes and their homemade salsa. You will have to ask for the salsa, because it is not on the menu. This old school diner specializes in standard breakfast fare including south-of-the-border options. Mimosas and beer are available.
- Pacific Shores – This place is an institution. An old-style, underwater-themed dive bar offering traditional cocktails in a dimly lit space. Cash only.
- Raglan – A New Zealand Style Gastropub with a bunch of beers on tap, fresh and local g food, something on the menu for everyone, including the kiddos. Derika’s friend from high school owns this place. Get a cider sangria!
- Roberto’s Taco Shop or Nico’s Mexican Food – Great take-out Mexican food. If you like meat get a California burrito.
- The Third Corner – Up-scale restaurant with a huge wine menu. You would often find Derika and I here on a late night, because they serve food super late. I know this sounds weird, but also try their red sangria and thank me later.
- Wonderland – Relaxed bar with lots of windows that open. Features great food, cocktails, and sunsets in the heart of OB. Go here to enjoy an awesome cocktail and sunset.
Pacific Beach (PB)
- California Kebab and Beer Garden – Chill brewpub with an awesome patio offering ocean views, a Middle Eastern menu, a large beer selection and gluten-free options. Parking is tricky in this area. There is a parking lot underneath this building and the restaurant will validate your parking.
- The Mission Cafe – Hip local hangout with awesome breakfast, be prepared to wait in line or get there early.
- Pacific Beach Fish Shop – One of Derika’s favorite place to get fish tacos in San Diego. This place serves fresh fish & seafood in tacos, sandwiches & salads, with local microbrews.
- PB Sushi – Inventive rolls, sizzling tapas and Japanese standards in a snug space with a hopping sushi bar. Make sure you go here with friends, because their rolls are huge and it is always better when you share.
- Wave House – Your kids can learn how to ride the waves in their wave pool, while you hang out in the sunshine in a lifeguard chair sipping on cocktails. I loved bringing house guest here during the week when it is less crowded to hang out in the sunshine.
- Pho Point Loma & Grill – Busy Vietnamese stop open late featuring pho, noodle & rice dishes as well as sandwiches. One of my favorite places to get veggie pho in the city.
- Pomodoro Ristorante Italiano – This was our favorite Italian restaurant in San Diego. Homemade pasta and other Italian staples are offered by this unassuming eatery with outdoor seating.
- Session Public – Casual gastropub offering an Aussie-inspired menu, great atmosphere, awesome food, and a killer beer selection. Make sure your try one of their amazing Moscow Mules and duck-fat fries.
- Supannee House of Thai – This was our favorite Thai restaurant in San Diego.
- Taste of Himalayas – This Indian restaurant is in a strip mall, but don’t let the location fool you. It is the home of some of the best Indian food that I have ever tasted.
- To The Point Cafe – Great cafe for breakfast or lunch. Offers fresh, local and seasonal cuisine. They have a great patio and everything tastes super fresh.
- Bali Hai Restaurant – Huge Polynesian eatery known for its mai tai cocktails with an amazing view. Warning these mai tais do not have any juice in them, they are ALL alcohol…think the Manhattan of Mai Tais. They are really amazing and VERY dangerous. You have been warned! 😉
- Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle – Cozy, dockside taproom offering a selection of craft brews and bar bites in a chill environment. If you blink you will miss this place.
- Buona Forchetta – A great cozy Italian restaurant with one of the best pizzas I have ever had, carafes of wine and an outdoor patio.
- Hamiltons Tavern – Great bar food, homemade sausages, a ton of vegetarian options and one of the best beer selections in the city.
- El Zarape – One of the best burrito joints in the city.
- Plumeria Vegetarian Restaurant – Awesome vegetarian Thai food.
- The Blind Burro – Fancy Mexican food in the heart of the Gaslamp District.
- Prohibition – Stylish speakeasy with a secret entrance, and a 1930s vibe that features live music and seasonally inspired handcrafted cocktails.
San Diego Breweries
San Diego is known for its breweries. Here are a few that are at the top of our list to check out when you are in town.
- Amplied Ale Works – This brewery is located in the California Kebab & Beer Garden that I mentioned above. Chill brewpub with a patio offering ocean views, a Middle Eastern menu & a large beer selection.
- Coronado Brewing Company – Kid-friendly brewpub that serves house beers & basic bar fare.
- Green Flash Brewery – Green Flash Brewing Co. is a craft brewery headquartered in the Mira Mesa neighborhood of San Diego, California.
- Karl Strauss Tasting Room – Chain brewpub located throughout the city. Go to their tasting room to enjoy a great patio and beer selections that you can’t get anywhere else.
- The Lost Abbey – Bustling warehouse microbrewery features regular tours & a tasting room with a ton of craft brews on tap. This is a great place to stop on your way to Stone Brewery in Escondido.
- Mission Brewery – A great brewery with shuffle board located in downtown San Diego.
- Modern Times Brewery – Eclectic brewery with great beer. It has one of the largest sticky note art installations that I have ever see.
- Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery – Low-key joint offers specialty craft brews along with comfort food such as amazing vegetarian Philly cheesesteaks.
- Pizza Port – Local pizza chain known for its craft brews, it is popular with locals and beer fans.
- Saint Archer Brewery – Handcrafted beers lure locals to this brewery’s industrial tasting room with weekend food trucks.
- Stone Brewing Co. – A brewery headquartered in Escondido, California. They also have a location in Point Loma. It is literally the adult playground of breweries that also serves really great food.
Play Like A Local
- Coronado Beaches – These beaches have some of the nicest sand in San Diego.
- Coronado Silver Strand – A great place to go to the beach or rent a bike and ride along the bike path while enjoying both the ocean and bay shorelines.
- Coronado Summer Concert Series – A great free concert in the park, where you can bring your own seating, picnic, and alcohol and enjoy some free outdoor music.
- Hotel Del Coronado – Beautiful and fun hotel to just walk around. The Grand Floridian hotel in Disney World is modeled after this hotel.
- Ice Skating by the Sea – The Hotel Del Coronado builds an outdoor ice skating rink on the beach in the winter.
Del Mar is an affluent beach city in San Diego with great beaches, shopping and restaurants.
- Del Mar Horse Races – Get fancy and check out a horse race while you are in town.
The Gaslamp Quarter is San Diego’s dining, entertainment and urban shopping district.
Don’t go here on a Friday and Saturday night it gets super crowded and annoying. Otherwise it is great to check out.
Hillcrest is the gay-borhood of San Diego.
- Farmer’s Market– Check it out on Sunday for great shopping and food options.
- La Jolla Coves – Small, picturesque cove and beach that is surrounded by cliffs in La Jolla. Great place to watch the sea lions and also great for snorkeling and kayaking.
- Torrey Pines State Reserve – Is a coastal state park and reserve that is great for hiking.
- Surf Diva – Derika and I took surf lessons here and loved it; it is great for both guys and girls. This bright surf shop also carries boards, wetsuits & beachwear for women.
Little Italy is a somewhat hilly downtown neighborhood and a great place for Italian food.
- Saturday Farmers Market – This Farmer’s Market happens on Saturdays and is probably the largest farmer’s market in the city. It is great for food and shopping.
North Park is culturally diverse and it has a ton of cafes, diners, coffee shops, several microbreweries, and boutiques.
- North Park Farmer’s Market– This farmer’s market happens on Thursday’s from 3pm-7pm.
Ocean Beach (OB)
- Antique Row – If antiquing is your thing check out the group of antique shops on Newport Avenue in OB.
- Fourth of July Fireworks – Hang out in OB for the day and then enjoy some fireworks off of the pier in the evening. Don’t forget your marshmallows for the epic marshmallow fight after the fireworks!
- Massage – Get one of the best massages of your life from our friend Anjani! I still miss my bi-weekly massages that I would get when I lived here.
- Newport Ave is where you will also find a bunch of cafes, bars, restaurants and beach shops.
- OB Christmas Parade – Pack your hot toddies and head to downtown OB on the first Saturday in December for a huge holiday parade that starts at 5pm.
- OB Farmer’s Market – This farmer’s market happens on Wednesday nights on Newport Ave. Great for shopping and eating.
- OB Pier – Take a walk on the OB Pier after the farmer’s market for a great sunset stroll and to walk off all of the food you just ate in OB. They also have a cafe on the pier that is great for breakfast.
- Sunset Cliffs – Beautiful drive in OB and one of the best places to watch a sunset.
Old Town is a cute town in San Diego that has a bunch of Mexican shops and restaurants. It is a great place to spend the afternoon.
- Ghost Tours – Some of San Diego is said to be haunted especially places in Old Town. If ghosts are your thing, check out this ghost tour.
Pacific Beach (PB)
- Pacific Beach Boardwalk – People watch, hang out at the beach, go shopping or rent a bike and go for a ride.
- San Diego Zoo – One of the largest and best zoo’s I have ever been too.
- San Diego Zoo Safari Park – I did not have a chance to check it out while I lived there, but it is supposed to be amazing.
Whew! I had no idea there was so much to do in San Diego and I am sure that I am missing something! Have fun on your next visit to San Diego, while you are at it eat a burrito and an acai bowl for me!