Recently a friend and I met up in San Diego to do some drinking in this city known more for sun, beaches, and fish tacos than for cocktails. All that is changing and Surf City’s craft cocktail
game is strong; a weekend is barely time to visit them all but we made it to a few topnotch locations.
We based ourselves at the Kimpton Palomar Hotel, from here it was an easy walk to two of the most popular neighbourhoods in town, Little Italy and the Gaslamp Quarter, which are filled with clubs, restaurants, and bars.
Our first stop was the well publicized eatery Juniper and Ivy. We started with drinks at the bar, the menu features an impressive variety of fresh ingredients used in their cocktails. My Rum Gardner, with white rum, lime, celery syrup, serrano spice, and sea salt, was delicious and refreshing. The bar is right at the front of the restaurant giving us a glimpse into the main dining room; the entire space is gorgeously designed in a very upscale industrial/modern style. We moved into the dining room for a fantastic dinner served to us by very attractive, mostly male, waiters outfitted in snug black tshirts. I even spotted (celebrity) Chef Richard Blais and he was nice enough to take a photo with me! The weekend was off to a good start!
Afterdinner drinks were had at the hardtofind Noble Experiment (hint: it’s behind the “wall” of beer kegs in a back hallway of Neighborhood Bar). We checked in with the hostess and were lucky to get two seats at the bar, I’d suggest emailing for reservations. There are many curious things about this little speakeasy, including a wall of skulls and a ceiling decorated with framed portraits smiling down on you. The cocktail menu is short and unique, featuring nine original options. I ordered the pisco punch made with the Peruvian spirit, lime, and pineapple which was perfectly balanced and flavorful.
The next day after brunch downstairs at the Kimpton’s Saltbox restaurant (which features $5 mimosas on the weekends) we walked around exploring the Little Italy neighborhood. We had lunch of oysters on the half shell, Baja stone crab claws, and Mexican shrimp at Ironside Fish and Oyster. Besides offering an assortment of amazing seafood Ironside serves fantastic cocktails. I highly recommend a meal and drinks here, the atmosphere is light and casual, and the interior is reminiscent of the inside of an old passenger ship.
As evening rolled around we made our way to the North Park neighborhood, our destination the apothecary styled Polite Provisions. It was quiet when we arrived at the 2yearold cocktail den but within an hour the place was packed. A good number of the cocktails here are on tap, perhaps in a nod to the San Diego beer scene? It’s an interesting and unique concept, and helps to speed up service especially on busy weekends. Ontap drinks are still shaken, stirred, and garnished to order, as we expect from any good bespoke cocktail bar. My favorite drink here was the Jamaican Farewell with rum, white vermouth, Campari, and banana liquor. It was an unexpected combination of flavors!
All that drinking was making us hungry; we debated between eating at Polite Provisions’ connected sister restaurant Soda and Swine or walking across the street to Cantina Mayahuel. Remembering the amazing tacos and mezcal we had recently in Mexico City we decided on Mayahuel. Be warned, although the flavors are authentic, the size of the tacos are three times the size of a Mexican street taco. We completely over ordered! Working through all that food gave us time to try a few of the mezcals from their amazing selection. The staff did a great job of both recommending and educating us on different styles.
It was still relatively early for a Saturday night so we headed to the Gaslamp Quarter which was bustling with revelers. Passing the ridiculous line for the faux speakeasy bar called Prohibition, we headed to Rare Form for their late night Happy Hour. The upstairs patio bar, Fair Weather, was unfortunately closed, but we had a great time drinking $5 daiquiris and oldfashioneds while watching people play indoor bocce ball.
No trip to San Diego is complete without a visit to the famed Hotel del Coronado. We decided to do Sunday brunch in the Del’s Crown Room and then walked off the eggs benedict, crab legs, housemade pates, many pastries, and limitless mimosas with a stroll on the pristine beach. A perfect wrap to a great weekend getaway!
Written by Wendy Miller
Brought to you by Chivas