A true city of neighborhoods, San Diego can be a tough city to access for those just breezing in for a short trip. For many, where one lives or works has the greatest impact on where they eat and drink, so every local has their preferred spots in different parts of the city. It can be hard to know where to start (and finish, for that matter), so here is a full-day itinerary that highlights some of San Diego’s greatest hits and under-the-radar places to eat and drink while touring through some of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods at the same time.
9:00 a.m. - Little Lion Cafe
San Diego is a city that thrives on breakfast restaurants. One of the best is Little Lion Cafe, which sits on the edge of one of the most beautiful vistas in the city at Sunset Cliffs. After taking a stroll around the cliffs, stop in to eat—the baked eggs, daily rotating poached eggs special, the prosciutto and mozzarella with romesco toasts and the superfood bowl are popular choices. To drink, the vanilla latte is a strong way to start the day and for those wanting something a bit more refreshing, the alkalized lemonade can’t be beat, especially with added matcha powder.
11:30 a.m. - It’s Raw Poke Shop
Some of the best raw fish on the mainland is at It’s Raw Poke Shop in Ocean Beach, which is a no-frills outpost on the corner of Bacon and Newport that serves poke plates and little else. Two of the most popular orders include the kimchi ahi and furikake salmon, but all of the choices are good. For a small, mid-morning snack, try just one selection, walk down Newport to the beach, and enjoy poke the way it was meant to be enjoyed: next to the ocean.
1:30 p.m. - Biga
Biga, a Gaslamp farm-to-table Italian restaurant, switches to counter service during the daytime. Sandwiches, salads Neapolitan-style pizzas and fresh pasta are available, as is a full wine and beer list. Pizza lovers should try the Angelica, which is a white pizza with ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, truffled goat cheese, house-made mozzarella, garlic, garlic cream, cherry tomatoes and olive oil. An off-menu chili oil seals the deal and adds a good dose of heat. Afterwards, wash it down with an espresso from the James Coffee outpost inside the restaurant.
3:30 p.m. - Vino Carta or The Rose
Afternoons in San Diego are best spent lazing around, preferably with a glass of wine in hand. A current movement in the winemaking community favors wines made with little intervention--organic and biodynamic farming practices, spontaneous fermentation, little to no added sulfites and other atypical winemaking practices that fall under the “natural” umbrella term. The best places in San Diego to find these kinds of wine are Little Italy’s Vino Carta or South Park’s The Rose, which both have wifi for those who like to work while imbibing at the same time.
7:00 p.m. - Cantina Mayahuel
One of the best places to eat and drink in San Diego is at Cantina Mayahuel in North Park, which is, hands down, also one of the best agave bars in the United States boasting an extensive menu of tequilas, mezcals, sotols, bacanoras and raicillas. Post up on the outdoor patio and order the carnitas plate, unless the mole special is on offer. A failsafe drink order is a shot of tequila or mezcal from Cantina’s list paired with one of the Mexican domestic draughts on order or one of their bare bones, expertly prepared house Margaritas, which can be made with any agave spirit on the menu.
11:00 p.m. - Turf Supper Club
For those still hungry, a later-night excursion to Golden Hill’s Turf Supper Club, which closes nightly at 2:00 a.m., can’t be beat. A grill in the center of the restaurant-slash-bar allows guests to cook their own steaks, garlic breads and other menu items while an old-school cocktail list and juke box ensures everyone is properly entertained. The retro decor, leather banquettes, red lighting and convivial atmosphere only add to the fun.