photos, clockwise from top left: waterfront, SD zoo, Bird Rock Coffee, El Camino, Urban Solace, Snooze, Prep Kitchen, Exotic Gardens, Dark Horse Coffee. (We only take photos of Ellerie drinking from a straw, BTW.)
I have avoided writing this post because I felt like we've spent such a short time here and we tend to go to the same few places. But after enough requests for recommendations, I thought I'd share our favorites. This is in no way an all-inclusive list, but these are the spots that Paul and I (and Ellerie) have gone to, continue to go to and enjoy.
These places are all south of the 8 freeway (in the greater downtown area). We lived in Little Italy for a year (2010-2011) and now that we live north a bit, we still find ourselves heading back that way most often unless we're going to our neighborhood place (which has great beer, is very kid-friendly and in walking distance from our house #holygrail).
Seersucker - this is our only Gaslamp area restaurant because we don't go down there often (it's a fun area but it's hard to park, very crowded, etc.) We went for our first anniversary and I went recently with a bachelorette group. Both times it was good.
El Camino - home of the Instagram famous Hola sign. This is our favorite (fairly Californian) Mexican restaurant. If you want authentic Mexican, there are dozens of little taco shops to be found.
Craft & Commerce - super hipster (just look at that website)...great cocktails and fun food pairings. Get the corndogs and fried pickles.
Prep Kitchen - this is a bit fancier than the others, though still hipster (that's sort of our jam). Get the bacon wrapped dates. And we love the steak tartare.
Tractor Room - Great food although portions are huge. Like enough to feed a family...for a week. The cocktails are great.
100 Wines - I'm not sure how we found ourselves here, but it's a fun spot. Again, hipster-ish menu and obviously lots of wine. Fun little outdoor patio. This is a good place to share a bunch of small plates. We all (even Ellerie) love the Brussels sprouts and crispy cauliflower.
Burger Lounge - this is a chain but serves great burgers. I'm not a vegetarian but I get the veggie burger every time because it's so excellent
Urban Solace - we've actually gone here for dinner a few times, but Paul's gone during lunch and said it was great. The duck macaroni is awesome.
Influx - great quick breakfast spot and the lattes are good. They have free wi-fi (ask for the password at the counter) and I like to work here some mornings or while I'm waiting for my film to be developed across the street.
Snooze - crowded on the weekends, but we went early on a weekday and had no issue. Great eggs benedict options and cute diner look.
Donut Bar - always a line, but worth checking out just for the novelty of eating absurd donuts (like butterbeer!)
Dark Horse - killer pour over. Beans are in-house roasted. We usually get the Ethiopian or Kenyan beans, depending on what they have.
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters - is another local coffee roaster and they just opened a new location in Little Italy. It's beautiful. Amazing pour over. If you're not into black coffee, get the cappuccino. It's the best we've ever had.
Waterfront - Yes, it's a hole-in-the-wall/dive bar. Yes, the bathrooms are gross. But the bar food is good and the beer is better. This was our absolute favorite place when we lived in Little Italy.
Stone Liberty Station - there are a lot of great breweries in the area, but this is one of our favorites.
And really, every restaurant we recommend serves great drinks. San Diego is a beer town and if you like IPAs you're in luck.
Pappalecco - the gelato is amazing. Coffee and pastries are great too.
FOR FUN STUFF TO BUY
(this section is incredibly skimpy, I haven't had as much time as I'd like to wander fun little shops and boutiques, but these are a few of the highlights from the top of my head. Please yelp whatever area you're in to find more little shops!)
Blick Art Supplies - huge art supply store.
Vocabulary - I have found unique and cute dresses/tops here. Super well curated, boutique prices.
Love and Aesthetics - such a cool little gift shop, great (but small) card selection.
Pigment - super cute stuff, everything from kiddo toys, to paper to plants. I could spend a day here.
FOR TREASURE HUNTING
Architectural Salvage - there is not much I would actually buy here, but it's fun to look around
Exotic Gardens - my favorite succulent shop
this blog post from two years ago includes some of my favorite vintage shops. These stores are NOT Goodwill prices, but are super fun to look around.
I get asked a lot about what's fun stuff to do with kids and I never know what to say because we just bring Ellerie on our adventures. We take her on a lot of walks. There is a park near our house that she runs around at. Other than that, I'm not much help except for...
San Diego Zoo - going to the zoo here is like going to Disneyland (meaning it's as aweome as Disneyland) and costs just about as much. EDIT - I just learned it's only half the cost to go to the zoo vs. Disney for a day. And we do LOVE the zoo but...it's hard for me to recommend it because for us it's an easy jaunt and since we have season passes I don't feel bad when we leave after just an hour and a few exhibits. You know your kids and if this would be an activity they'd like.
And seriously? The reality? We like to stay home a lot.
All of these photos are from my Instagram. Follow me there for more on the go, good stuff.