I profess, that I have never had San Diego high on my list of places to visit. Were it not for friends and a yoga event, we probably would have picked another spot to head for the weekend, but after our latest visit, I’ve had a change of heart.
Perhaps my earlier experiences were
tainted influenced by visiting with a six year old who was more interested in Legoland and Sea World (not really my scene, and besides orcas shouldn’t be kept in captivity), but a weekend of yoga with dear Stephanie Snyder at the Hotel Del Coronado, thanks to Yoga Journal’s “Live” event, and a couple of food destinations in mind, made this trip was quite different. Here are some of my favorite things to check out next time you go.
1. Old world charm at the Hotel Del Coronado
Built in the late 1800’s, the “Del”—as it’s affectionately known by locals—is on a little island and reachable by a long bridge. It’s famous for starring in the Marilyn Monroe movie, Some Like It Hot. Known for its Victorian grandeur and red conical roofs, the lobby and halls still feature rich mahogany paneling and crystal chandeliers. And the original gold cage elevator is still the only operational lift up to the higher floors in the main building. Don’t expect luxury, but do expect history. And proximity to a great beach and cute downtown area.
While we didn’t have a standout meal at the hotel, the outdoor restaurant, Sheerwater, surrounded by palm trees, a beach view, and a lawn for kids to go hog-wild in the twilight, is a superb setting.
2. See and be seen at Herb & Wood
Being so close to the ocean, you can expect to see a lot of fresh seafood on the menus of local eateries in San Diego, and I probably ate more seafood during our time there, than in the last six months. From clams to mussels to fresh fish, there were a lot of choices to be had at Brian Malarkey’s new restaurant, Herb & Wood. It boasts gorgeous interiors, and has the indoor/outdoor living thing fully mastered with a double-sided fireplace, outdoor patio and fabulous bar and glass-walled kitchen. There’s great people-watching to be had while you dine on fresh, delicious food and sip a smashing cocktail. Read my full review here.
3. Feed your body beautiful at Café Gratitude
Once upon a time Café Gratitude was a grungy, crunchy hippy hangout with outposts in NorCal and SoCal. Not so much these days. After a series of lawsuits, the company withdrew from Norcal and is now a more upmarket eatery focused on Southern California, including a location near the airport in San Diego. Vegan and predominantly-raw, the menu continues to feature dishes like I am Brilliant and I am Fabulous. We had the Humble Indian Curry bowl ($16), the Liberated pesto kelp noodles with added coconut bacon ($16), and the Local special salad ($16) which came with peaches, goat’s cheese and asparagus.
The food is still hearty and filling without making you feel stuffed for hours. The nut shakes are tasty and rich. The prices are still expensive, and sadly the service wasn’t fantastic, but still, it was great to enjoy a meal here. Either eat inside and enjoy the fresh, airy and soothing decor, or grab a table on the sidewalk.
4. Find your inner surfer at Lucha Libre Taco Shop
Nothing says ‘surfer’ to me more than a taco. And in a beach town like San Diego, the tacos are very important, which is why you shouldn’t be surprised to find a line out the door at Lucha Libre. Monkey found this joint watching an age-inappropriate comedy series hosted by Gabriel Iglesias, and insisted we visit. And given that he put up with me doing hours of yoga, it seemed only fair to grant his wish.
An ode to Mexican wrestling, the interior is hot pink, decorated with wrestling memorabilia. Entirely kitsch, right down to the sparkly, glitter-gold Champs booth which can be reserved, you order at the counter before taking a seat – this is comfort food at its best.
I was thrilled to find a lettuce-based, Flaco Taco (above) available with Blackened Mahi or Chicken ($4.25 each).
And Monkey enjoyed his Enchiladas which came atop a pink frisbee plate you can take home for $1 extra. And while the busy sidewalk doesn’t really lend itself to a game of frisbee, it’s hard to resist a post-prandial game on the sidewalk.
There are two locations to choose from – we went to the one right by the Hwy 5 at 1810 W. Washington Street.
5. Drive up the coast
Heading north up the coast from San Diego takes you on an endless, scenic tour of cute beach towns. The better known ones include La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas. You won’t be disappointed. You can watch the surfers, the wildlife and chill out on the sand. Beware of “June gloom” – which we experienced – when the fog tends to hang heavy for big chunks of the day.