Monday Miam-Miam: Personal San Diego Short List

Once, I met one of my best American friends in Paris. She was visiting with her husband when I was also in France. My husband offered to take us on a nightly tour of the capital. So after dinner we toured Paris, chauffeured by my Parisian-born husband. We brought our friends to the places where we had lived and worked and had dinner and had simply just been. I was so happy to open this personal window on my pre American life.

Now it is my kids’ turn to show me around when I visit them. I’m really lucky that they all live in different beautiful cities. Visiting them is not only the best feeling ever but also a trip to a place they know so much better than I do. Not unlike that night when we took our California friends on a un-touristic Paris tour.

San Diego, where daughter #3 studies and lives, is a popular destination, even for California residents. The weather is almost always perfect and the natural setting gorgeous. With Disneyland and Lego Land nearby and Sea World right in town the city has always been a family playground set on a gorgeous backdrop.

Over the years, though, San Diego has also gained a reputation as a foodie city. Thanks to our daughter we’ve been lucky to get to know the neighborhoods of Hillcrest and Bankers Hills fairly well over the last couple of years.

Courtesy SanDiego.org

Both neighborhoods are within walking distance from Balboa Park, a real oasis in the city.

Six restaurants and cafés make our short list in Hillcrest and Bankers Hill.

 

For the über-quality sushi, Azuki Sushi on Fifth Avenue is our family # 1 choice.

Typical sushi bar downstairs where the cooks greet everyone when they enter. A larger dimmed dining area is located above. Hard to select from the extensive menu, but you can’t be wrong when you see the crowd willing to wait an hour or more for a table. My first encounter with Japanese food goes back to Paris when the first sushi restaurant opened Rue Sainte Anne in the 1980s. But with my first trip to New York City in 1986 I fell in love with Japanese food, and especially suhsi.

Courtesy Azuki Sushi

For classic Italian with a modern American twist: Cucina Urbana on Laurel St.

Although sophisticated enough for a date, many parents show up here with young children. For the pizzas of course. But also for the antipasti plates, perfect to share with your table. The menu offers a balanced mix of meats, fish, pasta dishes and even vegetarian entrees fits every appetite.

Courtesy Cucina Urbana

For the rustic décor and no frill food: Bankers Hill Bar and Restaurant on Fourth Ave.

And for the planes that fly so close above the neighborhood that they seem within fingertip reach. Unlike most airports San Diego’s is in fact easily accessible from the city. Bankers Hill resembles many recent restaurants and it’s hard sometimes to distinguish one from another. I imagine the creative minds at work when they want to find that unique touch that will render the place unforgettable or at least a tad different. Bankers Hill has managed to reach a comfortable mix of authentic rustic and urban feel.

Courtesy Bankers Hill

For the locally produced ingredients and the innovation: Trust Restaurant on Park Blvd.

This is one of the most creative restaurants where I ate recently, both in terms of cooking and presentation. Tons of veggies are prepared in very inventive ways. Even the most reluctant green person will fall for the gorgeous plates served small, since the goal is to share between guests. Hard to take photos since the place is always busy. You can eat in and out, always an easy choice in San Diego where the weather is often dream-like.

Courtesy Open Table

For patio or fireplace brunch: Parkhouse Eatery on Park Blvd.

This is not a show off place but worth a detour if you enjoy copious breakfast and brunch. Our daughter discovered it for her dad when she read that they served eggs Benedict, one of his favorite breakfast treats. In San Diego, you are a foot in Mexico. The cook at Parkhouse knows how to blend typical North America’s breakfast food with South America’s flavor. The egg dishes are really sumptuous, according to the pro. I’m more of a sweet tooth in the morning and I always fall for waffles and pancakes when they are crisp and moist. Coffee is also excellent there, a mandatory asset for breakfast/brunch. Depending of the weather or your mood you can eat inside or outside. Both are lovely spaces. The service is friendly and unpretentious yet professional.

Courtesy Parkhouse Eatery

For coffee, pastries, bread and more: Bread & Cie on University Ave.

This is a very popular breakfast place. Although they also serve typical breakfast fare I’m not a big breakfast girl. Love my oatmeal. Or mixed cereal with fresh berries and plain yogurt. Locals show up early to buy bread, which is served whole or sliced. Definitely a neighborhood café where you’ll meet families with young kids in tow grabbing a muffin before nursery school drop off, young professionals in need of a shot of coffee and also older people either reading the paper or catching up with longtime acquaintances.

Courtesy Bread&Cie

 

And of course a bookstore to feed your mind and soul: Bluestocking Books on Fifth Ave.

There are a few bookstores on this section of Fifth Ave. but most carry used books. Rent, whether residential or commercial, is skyrocketing in most parts of California. San Diego is no exception. Which explains the recent closure of one used bookstore on Fifth.

Bluestocking Books is still there, though, with its broad range of fiction and non-fiction books for kids and adults. The comfy setting and friendly staff encourage browsing. 100% chance to find a book for everyone. I did of course.

Courtesy Bluestocking Books

I wish you all a great week with good food and great books, wherever you are.

 

Comments

  1. Another mouth-watering tour Evelyne, thank you! I’m sure you’d like to have your children close, but having these wonderful places to visit must be some compensation.

  2. I remember that night well. A private tour of Paris, a walk in the park to a fabulous restaurant, and an evening that stretched for hours. How lucky we were to meet in Paris and enjoy your beautiful city together. Many years later, both of us visit our children in their new homes and exciting cities. Thanks for sharing San Diego, a place one or our sons studied for a while.

  3. I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your posts. The “anything” French thrills be. I love learning all I can. The food, restaurants, and other areas are so interesting. Thank you for taking the time to share with your readers. I watch for your posts diligently.

  4. I should have read this last night after dinner instead of now, on an empty stomach. I have enjoyed San Diego on a couple of visits. It certainly is beautiful.

  5. What a tour! That sushi makes me want to jump through the computer. 😂

    http://www.bluelabelsboutique.com

  6. You never really know your own city until you show around a visitor from somewhere else. That’s how I really discovered Israel. The weeks of tour guiding were a discovery for all of us.

  7. Thanks for some new spots to visit on my next trip to SD.

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