City Guide: San Diego by Hannah Lott-Schwartz

Updated: Oct 15, 2021


City Guide: San Diego by Hannah Lott-Schwartz, Bergen County Moms

History meets creativity and resilience in the Barrio.


California’s southernmost major city comes vacation-ready with miles of surfable coastline, multiple Michelin-starred dining options, and a public green space that outpaces Central Park acre for acre. But dig deeper and you’ll find that San Diegos cultural fab­ric is woven from its border-town identity. A vibrant celebration of that character lies adjacent to downtown in Barrio Logan, part of San Diego’s oldest Mexican American neighborhood. Brilliant murals decorate the concrete highway underpass that bisects the neighborhood, painted in the 1970s after the city announced plans to build a Highway Patrol station on the land instead of the park residents had been promised.


Today, Chicano Park is a National Historic Landmark and thriving arts district, revital­ized thanks to the community’s creative resilience and events such as the weekly Walk the Block day market on Saturdays, when pop-ups and tricked-out lowriders take over Logan Av­enue, the main thoroughfare.


City Guide: San Diego by Hannah Lott-Schwartz, Bergen County Moms

Eat


A staple since 1933, Las Cuatro Milpas has a well-earned and ever-present line out the door, with locals and visitors waiting patiently for overstuffed rolled tacos and bowls of pinto beans and chorizo accompanied by corn or flour tortillas made fresh each morning.


On a mission to make nutritious bread available to all, founder Amanda Estrella of cottage bak­ery pop-up Pan del Barrio crafts organic loaves and pastries such as seeded sourdough and conchas (a traditional pan dulce, or Mexican sweet bread), all sold on a sliding scale during Walk the Block.


¡Salud! draws a crowd for chiles rellenos, shrimp ceviche, and more, served while the speakers blast everything from Phil Collins to rock en español. Its 14 types of tacos come generously layered with toppings, as does the churro ice cream, loaded with three pieces of the cinnamon-sugar pastry and drizzled with a salty caramel sauce and Tajín seasoning.

City Guide: San Diego by Hannah Lott-Schwartz, Bergen County Moms

Drink


Mexican American flavors rule the taps at craft brewery Border X Brewing, where the horchata golden stout has hints of vanilla and cinnamon, and a hibiscus and agave saison is as refresh­ing as the agua de jamaica it’s inspired by.


Thorn Brewing Co. shares a mas­sive warehouse with multiple employee-owned businesses, ReBru Spirits among them. The craft distiller uses draft beer at the end of its shelf life as the base for gin, vodka, and limited-edition whiskey, all clarified with charcoal from the on-site Texas-style barbecue. Flavor profiles match what you’d expect from each spirit, but with a certain je ne sais quoi essence from the leftover hop oils.


City Guide: San Diego by Hannah Lott-Schwartz, Bergen County Moms
Simón Limón owner Alexandra Perez Demma. Photo Credit: Luis García

Shop


Simón Limón is a one-stop shop for gifts for all occasions, from elegantly packaged cactus soaps to hand-forged jewelry and canvas totes stamped with “Buenas Vibras” (good vibes). The grapefruit-hued, cactus-muraled storefront measures just 180 square feet, but rep­resents more than 40 makers from both sides of the border.


Founded by two childhood friends dissatisfied with limited, basic bathing-suit options, Hola Swim features affordable pieces designed with Latinx flair.


Dozens of original works line La Bodega Gallery, a corner­stone of the arts district that recently moved into a new 3,000-square-foot space. Regularly rotating, mixed-media exhibitions highlight local artists, both established and emerging. The summer Frida Kahlo-inspired show, Friducha, traditionally draws thousands of gallerygoers.


Where to Stay in San Diego

  • Pendry San Diego All of downtown lies at the doorstep of the Pendry San Diego, a 317-room hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter with a skyline view from the rooftop pool, six on-site drinking and dining options, and a Moët vending machine should your nightcap needs come after last call. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 hotel credit.


  • Hotel del Coronado Timeless and iconic, the 760- room Hotel del Coronado has been regarded as the city’s jewel since opening in 1888 across the bay from downtown on Coro­nado Island. Last summer, the beachfront property debuted 16 upgraded seaside rooms, steps from private firepits on the lawn. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.


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