As you might have already seen on my Instagram, I had the pleasure of visiting San Diego earlier this month. While my free time there was rather limited (it was a work trip), I still managed to squeeze in some nice moments in between meetings and lectures. And honestly, it would be a crime not to take advantage of the sun shining 24/7 and temperatures of 20+ degrees Celsius in the middle of February… Oh, and of course, all the food!
So here it is, my brief recap of this gorgeous city with endless sun, delicious food and good vibes ☀️
Hope you enjoy it!
Where to Eat?
Between sleepless nights due to jetlag and a conference starting at 7:30 AM every single day, it’s fair to say we didn’t really have much time for breakfast. Except for this one glorious Sunday morning, where we stumbled upon:
📍Cafe 21 Gaslamp
Located in the famous Gaslamp Quarter, the heart and soul of downtown San Diego, this is a gorgeous space spread across two floors and an outside seating area. Their concept is “small” plates (which is essentially standard European portions :)) created using locally grown organic ingredients for a socially conscious, farm-to-table dining experience.
As we were told to order 3-4 plates for two, we went for their shrimp corncake, tomato + egg, turkey Benedict and tiramisu pancakes. They were all amazing, but in hindsight, three dishes for me and my rather petite colleague would probably have been more than enough.
Of these four dishes, my absolute must-try items would be shrimp corn cake and tiramisu pancakes. I still crave those pancakes to this very day! Honestly, they were a DREAM!
Their signature lattes, of which we tried “Peas of Mind” with lavender and “Midas Touch” with golden turmeric, were also delicious and worth a try by the way.
Unlike breakfasts, these we had a lot of!
But unfortunately, I was only able to capture some of them, because a little voice inside of me told me taking pictures while on a dinner/lunch meeting with your US colleagues or external experts could be -just maybe a little- frowned upon! 🙂
📍Puesto at the Headquarters
The location of this restaurant -minutes away from the conference hotel- was the reason why we chose it for a quick lunch. But it was definitely their amazing food that made us go back later during the week, and it was their margaritas that made us stay until late!
Now, I have to be honest with you, when my colleague suggested we get the Fiesta Guac instead of the classic one, I thought to myself: “But why, why mess with a classic?”… But of course, then I did the British thing, donned my most professional look and calmly responded “sure, that sounds great!”
And you know what, I am glad I did! Turns out Fiesta Guacamole, which is regular guacamole mixed with roasted peppers, tahini and chilli oil, is AMAZING! 🥑
📍Wicked Maine Lobster
The one place I promised Mister I would try for him while in San Diego was this place, but I just couldn’t fit it in the week. So, there I was, T-1 hour before it was time to head to the airport, stuffing my face with a cheeky little “Maine Lobster Roll” in Little Italy Food Hall San Diego.
Was it good? Oh yes, it was -and I know Americans will disagree with this statement- a good portion of lobster that came in a nice buttery bun and…. with the most perfect fries on the side. But was it mind-blowing? I would have to say “not really”.
I think the dish could use a little more oomph… So next time, I will definitely go for the more zingy “California Lobster Roll” which comes with bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado topped with homemade lemon garlic aioli sauce!
We visited Rustic Root for a quick drink before our dinner reservation elsewhere, but the weather was so nice, the service so delightful and the atmosphere so pleasant that we ended up staying a little longer for some rooftop apéro.
We had their delicious Rustic board (pictured below already devoured), firecracker shrimps with sriracha aioli, a selection of cocktails, as well as the award winner Windansea Wheat by Karl Strauss, an unfiltered Bavarian hefeweizen with aromas of banana and clove with a bitter finish. All pure perfection!
From Rustic Root, we moved to Saltwater at the end of the same street, where the setup and service were more formal. The food was delicious and the wine selection was extensive.
My choice for the night? A divine Maine Lobster Pasta, with homemade fettuccine and spicy marinara!
Looking for fine oceanfront dining to take your San Diego getaway to the next level? Well, look no further… From amazing views across the bay to stellar modern Mexican food, this place has you covered!
We had some plates to share, so I went for a simple yet delicious Ahi Tuna Tostada as a main and two epic margaritas:
- What the Fig?! with mission fig & vanilla bean infused Herradura Blanco, Licor 43, lime juice, agave nectar and cinnamon sugar rim
- El Jefe, with Olmeca Altos Blanco, jalapeno, lime juice, agave nectar, habanero bitters and tajin rim
But I definitely intend to come back here with Mister to try their amazing raw bar with ceviche, oysters and chilled seafood tower (which I am told is truly a tower with six oysters, six bay shrimp, ceviche clasico, Acapulco ceviche, scallop aguachile, habanero mignonette, salsa cruda, and fire-roasted cocktail sauce).
What to Do/See?
No matter what time of the day, you are bound to find a nice meal and a cool spot to hang out in Gaslamp Quarter. But if you really want to see it in fool bloom, drop by at night time!
As you might have noticed, quite a few of my recommendations above are actually from this neighbourhood. That is because Gaslamp Quarter is truly the hub for nightlife and dining in San Diego… and because our hotel was in Downtown SD! 🙂
Balboa Park is a cultural oasis spanning over 1200 acres. Home to seventeen museums, the Spanish Village Art Center, a multitude of gardens and the famous San Diego Zoo, you can easily spend a whole day (or even a couple of days!) here.
Don’t have much time? Don’t worry, neither did we. But we still managed to catch a live organ show at Spreckels Organ Pavilion, take a peek at the beautiful Japanese Friendship Garden, check out the Lily Pond (sadly, the Botanical Garden behind it was closed at the time), and Spanish Village Art Center (a collective where you can see and join artists at work). So it’s perfectly possible to just pay a short visit in a single afternoon!
Referred to as the “Birthplace of California”, this is the oldest neighbourhood in San Diego and the site of the first Spanish settlement in California.
Being an open-air museum with well-preserved buildings from the 1800s, as well as home to several shops and restaurants, it has quite a unique setup – which is well worth a visit!
If you can, try to visit Fiesta de Reyes, a shopping, dining and entertainment complex with 19 unique locally owned and independently operated speciality shops, two restaurants and a constant feel of party. You won’t regret it!
This is probably where we spent most of our time in San Diego, as it was right next to the hotel where the conference took place.
A sun-soaked, waterfront shopping and dining complex adjacent to San Diego Bay, here you can:
- Grab a nice iced coffee from Spill The Beans Coffee and Bagels
- Check out the shops, each with a treasure trove of items, gifts and souvenirs
- Grab a deck chair and enjoy the street performers, or
- Relax by the koi pond.
- Follow the waterfront path all the way to San Diego’s most popular attractions: USS Midway Museum, Embracing Peace Statue, and Maritime Museum.
Situated just across the bay from downtown San Diego, Coronado is a charming beach town that I can only describe as a dream within a dream!
From pristine beaches with crystal waters to a vibrant main street lined with quaint shops and restaurants, all only a short 15-minute drive over Coronado Bridge or a quick ferry ride away from the centre of San Diego, Coronado really has it all!
If you are short on time but want to make the most out of your visit, you can take a cab directly to Coronado Beach to enjoy the view, sun and breeze. Then when you’re ready, you can walk/bike past the sand dunes, to the famous Hotel del Coronado, then up the Orange Avenue all the way to the Coronado Ferry Landing, where you can take the ferry back to Downtown.
Fun fact: Did you know that the San Diego sand dunes on Coronado beach spell out a hidden message?
As you take a stroll down Orange Avenue, don’t forget to grab an ice cream from MooTime Creamery and all your heart’s stationery and gift desires from Seaside Papery (their charcoal cactus soap ($14) was an instant win with Mister!).
On the List for the Next Time
As always, there are a couple of places that I heard/read good things about and wanted to try for myself but simply couldn’t find the time, like:
For food and drinks: Ironside Fish & Oysters, La Puerta, Morning Glory, Carruth Cellars Wine Garden, Stone Brewing Tap Room – Kettner, The Church by the Lost Abbey, Casa Guadalajara, George’s at the Cove.
For the vibes and the views: La Jolla, Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.
Perhaps you’ll try them for me?
If you have never been to SD, I hope this post has got you thinking about your very own little San Diego getaway. And if so, I would highly recommend that you check out this amazing “Ultimate San Diego Travel Guide” by The Blonde Abroad.
And if you have already been (or are a local), feel free to let me know how I did in the comments! I am already counting the days until I can go back to San Diego, so any tips would be very welcome! 🙂
Until then, take care!