One of the goals I set for myself in 2024 is to delve into new experiences in addition to discovering restaurants worthy of a recommendation. I like this resolution as it pushes me to look deeper into life in San Diego and encourages me to take advantage of this city's many opportunities. Moving forward, I will continue to highlight five great restaurants with the bonus of a fun experience, or two, to inspire my readers to get out, eat at a fantastic restaurant you haven't dined in yet, and have some fun in new places.
Young Blood (Downtown)
To find this thirty-seat speakeasy you'll have to enter Neighborhood, walk towards their restroom, and push the heavy, refrigerator door open. A friendly hostess will then greet you on the other side and walk you over to another door which will ultimately get you inside one of the coolest bars in the USA. Young Blood has been named "one of the 50 top bars in North America", and rightfully so. The opulent interior is reminiscent of the Great Gatsby era, the bartenders perfectly create cocktails customized to your preferences (there is no menu here), and the intimate space is as swanky as it gets - you'll seriously feel like you've just discovered the best spot in San Diego.
pros: top 50 bars in north america, extravagant decor, top tier mixologists, perfect post-dinner stop for a nightcap
cons: reservations are difficult to come by
must order: there is one option: a $65 ninety-minute seating with a progression of three customized cocktails, in addition to the glass of bubbly you are served upon arrival (a bartender will sit with your group and chat for a few minutes about the types of spirits and flavors you normally like and will then whip up three insanely delicious cocktails customized just for you)
Callie (East Village)
pros: delicious, mediterranean dishes and extremely creative cocktails in a lively environment
cons: on both our visits the desserts were very disappointing. the restaurant needs a new pastry chef asap
must order: "mediterranean feast"- $75 per person allows your group to taste a selection of many of the menu items as the food just keeps on coming. make sure the ricotta agnolotti is included in the courses, it's just dreamy. from the bar, a round of "stage fright" is a must - rye whiskey, smoked eggplant, ginger, lemon, and arak - sublime!
Mediterranean Room (La Jolla, The Valencia Hotel)
Set inside the historic Valencia Hotel, I find this restaurant to be a great spot to meet a friend for breakfast and even to have a business meeting. It's spacious, a bit formal, and boasts beautiful views of the Pacific. The staff is always professional and the kitchen always toasts my bagels just the way I like, double-toasted and a tad charred. Set in the heart of Downtown La Jolla, you can easily burn off some calories post-breakfast by strolling through the village.
pros: impressive dining room, stunning ocean views, and a reservation is never needed for breakfast
cons: gum under our table stuck to my pants when I crossed my legs (yuck!)
must order: this isn't a place where you "must order" anything. the food is solid but not outstanding, the mediterranean room is simply an ideal place to meet a friend in a lovely setting
Hitokuchi (Convoy Street)
Hitokuchi has lots of promise. It's run by the incredibly talented Sushi chef of Hidden Fish, which is right next door. Although there were some misses, the hits were mindblowing and kept me yearning for more. I highly recommend this Japanese tapas bar to start your evening off with great appetizers and high-quality sake in a lively setting. Stick to crudo and bluefin tona toast and you'll be wowed for days.
pros: super fun spot to grab pre-dinner appetizers in a cool environment with pumping music
cons: the miso-sake chilean sea bass tasted too "fishy" and was not edible
must order: the amberjack crudo, the bluefin tuna poke, and a bottle of the kimpou odayaka sake
Second Nature (Pacific Beach)
I've found one of my favorite brunch spots just one neighborhood over from me in Pacific Beach. From start to finish we had a wonderful experience on their pet-friendly, well-shaded patio. The hostess warmly greeted us, the server was chipper and efficient, the menu offered many appealing options, and the music added to an already lively energy. You're likely to find me here on most weekends.
pros: dog friendly, shaded seating, enticing menu with creative choices, extremely reasonably priced
must order: benedict artichoke (english muffin, housemade artichoke cakes, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce) and the chilaquiles (tortilla chips, spicy red salsa, 3 eggs any style, onions, cilantro aioli, cotija cheese, micro cilantro greens)
Annie's Canyon Trail (Encinitas)
Many locals don't know that we have a slot canyon right here in San Diego! The trail is relatively easy, although getting to the canyon is less of a challenge than the return back, which requires steep climbs. This is an in-and-out trail that takes approximately forty-five minutes to complete. Although the slot canyon doesn't compare to the ones you may find in Arizona or Utah, it's still pretty neat! Take note that there is a ladder you must climb to get out of the canyon and that dogs are not permitted on the trail. Otherwise, this is a fun hike to experience and to bring out-of-town guests to.
I loved spending the day as a tourist in the city I live in. Taking a ride through downtown on an amphibious car and then entering San Diego Bay as our car transformed into a boat was loads of fun! During the ninety-minute excursion, our tour guide shared tons of historical facts both on land and on sea with a big emphasis on the marine and navy life in the area. As we cruised the bay we passed navy seals who were training dolphins; the trainers were kind enough to give us a private performance! We also waved at hundreds of sea lions, some who were sleepy and some who were happily swimming. If you want to learn more about San Diego's historic and ecological wonders, in a unique way, look no further!
pros: parking at the Seaport Village meeting point was easy, the boat provides ample shade, fun for all ages, lots of wildlife sightings, and you'll leave with lots of new knowledge about San Diego's history.