West Coast Trip 2015 – San Diego

Photo of the sunset at Ocean Beach in San Diego, California

The first thing I noticed about San Diego as we walked down a little alley to our Airbnb at midnight, was that people have nothing but a screen for a front door.  And they don’t get cold overnight.  They just let the breeze come in.  One of my arguments, having lived in Upstate NY my whole life, has been that if weather could be removed from the long list of things that stress you out, then why not remove it?  San Diego seems to be a place where you could make that happen.

Priorities:

  • Cali Burrito
  • Fish tacos
  • Breweries
  • Beaches

Day 9 – Saturday

Rachel and I did a morning run around North Park to start the day off, in the gorgeous 70 degree sunshine.  North Park borders the northeast corner of Balboa Park, and seems to be the hip part of town.  A lot of craft breweries, cool bars and restaurants, and a younger feel to it.  By the end of the trip, I had determined that North Park is probably the neighborhood that we visited that I could most see myself living in.

After the run, Alena had made us a reservation at The Tractor Room for brunch.  The place was packed.  They offered what you might call “American sized” portions of all the brunch classics, but most of them with some kind of twist.  Add to that a multi-page bloody mary menu, and you can bet that we were off to a good start in SD.  Unfortunately, as of this post it appears that The Tractor Room has shut down 😢.

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Brunch at the now-defunct Tractor Room in Hillcrest

Next up was the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

It goes without saying that it was the best zoo I’ve ever been to.  Swamped with people, but still very enjoyable, and a must-see for anyone who has not been.

With so much to do and so little time, we selectively chose the exhibits we visited, and got in and out in about 4 hours, which we felt was still worth the $50ish price of admission.  Insider tip: a lot of locals have season-long passes, so if you know somebody in the area it may be worth asking if you can borrow their pass for a day.

By the time we left the zoo, it had been way too long since any of us had a beer.  So we headed back to North Park and hit up Belching Beaver.  San Diego (and the West Coast in general) is known for its IPAs, but I thought that the San Diego breweries we visited in particular had outstanding stouts.  The “Beaver’s Milk” stout was easily one of my top 3 beers of the trip.  The brewery was also very dog-friendly, which is something that I feel the East Coast is way behind the times on.

After a few brews, it was time to find some food.  Burritos and fish tacos were on the must-eat list for SD, and we decided tonight was fish taco night.  Alena recommended an unassuming, very casual spot called Oscar’s Mexican Seafood, which has a few locations around the city.

Oscar’s was fantastic – we went to the one on University Ave, which is one of the main drags north of Balboa Park.  No frills, just really fresh, really good fish tacos.

After Oscar’s we got ready for the rest of the night, and headed out to Starlite to meet up with some of Alena’s grad school friends.  It a bit of a swankier vibe to it, with good food and cocktails.  After hanging there for a bit, we walked down to Bolt Brewery in Little Italy, for a few craft beers and an epic game of Jenga to close out the night.

Day 10 – Sunday

The last day of the trip 😢!  Of course, the group was a little somber this morning as the reality set in that we would have to return to work in less than 48 hours.  Regardless, there were still some things that needed to be done.  Alena had gotten us another sweet brunch reservation, this time at Urban Solace, which features live bluegrass music (“Bluegrass Brunch”) on Sunday mornings to go along with a southern leaning menu.

The rest of the day was dedicated to beachin’.  It was mostly cloudy during the day and the weather was a little cool (70 degrees is cool, I guess 🤔), so the beaches weren’t too crowded, which was nice and relaxing.  We started by driving to La Jolla which was more of a tourist experience, followed by Torrey Pines beach, where we stayed and relaxed for a while.

After the beaches, we regrouped at the Airbnb for a bit before heading back out to Ocean Beach.  We went to the now closed Shades Oceanfront Bistro, which had an unobstructed view directly out to the beach and the gorgeous sunset.  After a drink and snapping a few photos on the beach, it was time to satisfy our final major goal of the trip – finding a California style burrito.

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The sun sets on West Coast Trip 2015.

My research had indicated that Nico’s was consistently in the top 3 for Cali burritos, and it happened to be located in OB, so it seemed like a match made in heaven.  And oh boy, it was.  Having not ever even heard of a Cali style burrito until I started researching for this trip, I am still very confused that these are not a bigger thing on the East Coast.  Crispy fries in a burrito instead of rice = 👌.

Alena still had one more place that we absolutely had to visit, and that was Modern Times for their renowned stouts.  But before that she and Hilary wanted to change, so Rachel and I made a pit stop at Tiger!Tiger! brewery back in North Park in the meantime.  Perhaps my favorite beer of the whole trip was their Golden Milk Stout – if it is on the menu, definitely give it a try.

Modern Times afterward did not disappoint either.  We had the place to ourselves on a Sunday night, and we were given many samples before we determined that their Nitro Milk Stout was bomb.  A satisfying final beverage of West Coast Trip 2015.

Highlights:

  • Nico’s – Cali Burrito > Mission Burrito
  • Tiger!Tiger!
  • Brunches
  • San Diego Zoo

Next Time:

What’s new in SD since I went in 2015?  Post your favorite SD locale in the comments!

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