Exploring Cities

San Diego Part 3: La Jolla and some San Diego breweries by Courtney Stewart

Check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Before the trip, we had decided to rent a car one day so we could go up to La Jolla and some local breweries at our leisure. So, Sunday morning we woke up and took an Uber to the airport car rental center to pick up a car. Unfortunately because it was Sunday, none of the car rental places more near our hotel were open during the hours we wanted to pick up and return our car, so we decided just to get one from the airport.

After getting our ride, we went to Streetcar Merchants of Fried Chicken, Doughnuts, and Coffee for some morning fuel. Boy, were we in for a treat. Knowing we were in for a full day of stuffing our stomachs with wonderful food, we skipped the chicken and opted for the doughnuts. They had their daily assortment of doughnuts and what they called "dessert doughnuts" which were their regular doughnuts with toppings. Obviously we had to get the dessert doughnuts. I got the Cookie Monster doughnut which was a cookies and cream doughnut piled with whipped cream cheese and Oreo crumbles. Alex chose the ATL Peach Cobbler as an homage to our hometown. It was a glazed donut topped with peaches, brown sugar crumble, coffee cake pieces, salted caramel and whipped cream. Both were really tasty!

Coffee and dessert donuts at Streetcar Merchants

Coffee and dessert donuts at Streetcar Merchants

When we had had our fill, we hopped in the car and headed to La Jolla. The first place we stopped was Scripps Beach. There was a parking lot right at the entrance to the stairs which only cost about $3 per hour. We weren't sure how long we planned on staying, so we overpaid because we only ended up hanging out there for about a half an hour. This particular beach wasn't so great for just hanging out on, but judging by the number of surfers there, it must have been a prime place to surf. We spent time watching the surfers and then walked down to an incredible pier that was part of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.  

It was pretty foggy when we first got to Scripps Beach.

It was pretty foggy when we first got to Scripps Beach.

There may have been 30+ surfers in the water, but it was so foggy it was hard to tell.

There may have been 30+ surfers in the water, but it was so foggy it was hard to tell.

The Pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

The Pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

We wanted to see more of the beautiful beaches we had heard San Diego is famous for, so we drove farther south towards Children's Pool Beach, which is apparently where a bunch of seals like to chill. By the time we arrived and found parking nearby (which was free, but difficult to come by) the fog had rolled out, and the water was the most amazing turquoise/blue color. I had always thought you couldn't beat the clear blue water of the Caribbean, but this color sure did rival it. 

The turquoise-blue waters of La Jolla

The turquoise-blue waters of La Jolla

A beach near the Children's Pool

A beach near the Children's Pool

For lunch, we headed even further south in La Jolla to Oscar's Mexican Seafood for fish tacos. I'm sure there are a lot of good places for fish tacos in San Diego, but the tacos we had were down right delicious. I ordered the Battered Fish Taco and the Spicy Shrimp Taco. Alex got a Battered Fish Taco as well, but also ordered the Surf and Turf Taco based on recommendations we saw on Yelp. If you go, don't miss the different sauces they have in the windowed fridge next to the counter (they really put these tacos over the top). I thought both of my tacos were great, but Alex said his Surf and Turf Taco was tastier than his Fish Taco.

Our yummy tacos from  Oscar's Mexican Seafood

Our yummy tacos from Oscar's Mexican Seafood

Even though we were pretty stuffed after lunch, we couldn't miss out on ICE CREAM! We walked a couple blocks and ended up at a an ice cream sandwich shop called The Baked Bear where we got an ice cream sandwich with chocolate chip cookies, vanilla ice cream and sprinkles. YUMMM!

Alex chowin down.

Alex chowin down.

Then it was time for some beer, so we drove over to Green Flash Brewing. If you love IPAs like me, this is the place for you. We counted that they had 10 IPAs on tap when we went. We didn't partake in the tour because we feel like we've been there done that when it comes to brewery tours. But, we heard that the tour more than pays for itself in the beer samples that you get. The inside was a renovated warehouse and they had nice picnic tables outside that were unfortunately all full, so we found a couple stools near the bar inside.

The one thing we thought was cool about Green Flash is that you can order a full pint of a beer, but you can also get half pours and tasting-sized pours.  We both had the West Coast IPA and then the Tangerine Soul Style IPA intrigued me so I tried it. I enjoyed it at first, but then the tanginess and tangerine flavor became a little overwhelming after a few sips. Alex had a the Ristretto Porter for his second tasting, which he was super excited about because he loves porters, but they are rarely found at breweries.

Alex enjoying his Ristretto Porter

Alex enjoying his Ristretto Porter

We rounded out our tour of San Diego breweries by hitting up Modern Times Beer. This was by far the coolest brewery we have ever been to. One of the walls had a gigantic mural made out of post-it notes. Another was covered in comic books, and the bar was made from stacked books. It was just a really awesome place to hang out and drink beer, especially because it wasn't crowded. 

The chill vibe of Modern Times made it a great end to our short trip to San Diego! We will definitely be back in the future.

Again, if you missed the other parts of our trip, check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

San Diego Part 2: Balboa Park and Coronado by Courtney Stewart

Read Part 1 of this trip here.

Saturday
We got up early and walked a few blocks to Lucky's Lunch Counter. It wasn't busy when we got there around 9:30, but it soon filled up. I had a pancake, fruit and hash browns, because I can never turn down hash browns. The fruit was legit because it had mostly pineapple and strawberries with only a little bit of cantaloupe. Alex had the Sunrise Bagel Sandwich. Maybe it's that we've gotten used to the high prices of SF, but this seemed like a fairly good deal for breakfast/brunch especially since it filled us up so much we weren't hungry until late afternoon.

We planned to stick pretty close to our hotel that day, so we took an Uber up to Balboa Park. This park contains several museums and attractions including the San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego Museum of Man and of course the San Diego Zoo. Most of the buildings there were built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and were done in the Spanish Colonial style, so walking around really made me feel like I was back in Spain.

For our afternoon adventure, a friend had recommended that we check out Coronado while we were there, which is an island just off the coast of San Diego. You can get there by car, but we opted for a more fun mode of transportation: the ferry! It was $4.75 per person each way. There are two places you can catch the Coronado Ferry: the Broadway Pier and the Convention Center. We opted for the Convention Center pick up point because it was walkable from our hotel. The pick up was really difficult for us to find. We walked up and down a zillion stairs at the Convention Center until we finally figured out it was on the back side of the Convention Center across the road. Look for the signs that say "Ferry". 

Additionally, "ferry" is a misleading word for the boat we took. I guess if you leave from the Broadway Pier, you do take an actual ferry. However, since the Convention Center stop doesn't have as many people, they took us on a water taxi. It was a short ride over and we were rewarded with views like the ones below. 


Our friend had told us we needed to check out the Hotel Del Coronado because it was a beautiful, historic hotel built in the Victorian style. We originally intended to eat a late lunch there, but the restaurant menus looked kind of pricey, so we would eat on the way. Alex and I ended up walking the width of the island from where the ferry dropped us off to the area of the hotel. We Yelped and found Miguel's Cocina. They had a large outdoor shaded patio that was perfect for the warm afternoon. Biggest plus: Along with the free chips and salsa, they gave us a little bowl of cheese dip!! We ordered a couple of margaritas (which seemed expensive at first, but they serve them to you in a shaker which really holds more like 1.5-2 margs).

Then, we continued on to Hotel Del Coronado which definitely lived up to the hype. It is beyond gorgeous. You can just walk around the side of the hotel to a wide open courtyard that leads right to the beach. Many people were just hanging out on the lawn and enjoying the sun. 

We took the ferry back to San Diego because we had reservations at Jsix in the Gaslamp Quarter. When we arrived and realized it was in the bottom of a hotel, we were a little wary of it (especially because there were only a few other groups eating and our reservation was at 8PM). Hoping that these things weren't bad signs, we got seated in a really cozy little booth next to the wall. We skipped appetizers since we had a late lunch, but Alex ordered the Squash Raviolis which came with pomegranate seeds and hazelnuts, both of which really complemented the butternut squash flavor nicely. I got the Roasted Scallops and Mussels which came with some of the biggest mussels I have ever seen. 

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Jsix ended up being a solid choice, and we were glad we didn't let the awkward location scare us off. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep because we had a big Sunday ahead of us. 

Check back for our adventures at La Jolla, Green Flash Brewing, and Modern Times Brewing.

San Diego Part 1: Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy by Courtney Stewart

We are doing our best to maximize our time on the West Coast by traveling to cities close by while we live here. On our list are LA, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and San Diego. This past weekend we got to check San Diego off that list. 

The Flight
While Virgin and United do have nonstop flights from SF to San Diego, we try to stick to Delta because we both have status with them (me: Silver, Alex: Gold) and Delta gives us the most schedule flexibility when we fly home to Atlanta. So, we took a flight that had a connection at LAX. The flight from LAX to San Diego was only 24 minutes which we found pretty funny.

Where we stayed
We chose to stay right downtown at the Hotel Indigo Gaslamp Quarter. The location of this hotel was perfect. The Gaslamp Quarter is so named as a nod to the gas lamps that stood there in the 19th and 20th centuries. Several of these lamps are still there today.  We could see Petco Park down the street and were in walking distance to tons of bars and restaurants. The staff was super nice and we loved the modern decor of our room. 

Alex getting a little work done before happy hour in out hotel room.


Alex getting a little work done before happy hour in out hotel room.

Friday
When we got to the hotel on Friday, we dropped off our stuff and headed straight for the hotel's rooftop bar, Level 9. I had read online that it was a great place to watch the sunset, and maybe it would have been but there was a large partition up in the middle of the patio that blocked the sunset. That, combined with drinks on the more expensive side, just made this an okay experience. At least we were still able to enjoy the great weather. 

My wine and Alex's girly-looking drink (an Apple Spice Mule). It was kind of chilly but the bartender turned on the cozy fire for us.


My wine and Alex's girly-looking drink (an Apple Spice Mule). It was kind of chilly but the bartender turned on the cozy fire for us.

After that, it still wasn't quite dinner time so we headed across the street to Half Door Brewing Company. It's in a cute little white house and as soon as you walk in the door, you are greeted with a view of the amazing two-story bar.

Half Door Brewing Company


Half Door Brewing Company

I enjoyed the House of Hops IPA and Alex had the Peanut Butter Gimmick Ale. Because we were a tad hungry we ordered the Fried Goat Cheese to snack on which was delicious and came with a sweet chili soy glaze. YUM! We ordered our drinks are food just after Happy Hour ended at 6pm but the bartender was nice enough to only charge us the Happy Hour prices. Win!

For dinner, we had reservations at Ironside Fish and Oyster Bar in the Little Italy neighborhood. It wasn't far from where we were staying, but was too far to walk so we took an Uber (our main mode of transportation for the weekend). To say we were highly impressed with Ironside would be an understatement. This was one of those restaurants where every single detail was considered when it was designed. From an octopus arm lamp, to a wall covered in (fake) fish skulls, they didn't overlook a single thing.

Dining at Ironside


Dining at Ironside

Close-up of the wall of fish heads.


Close-up of the wall of fish heads.

We ordered two each of the Carlsbad Luna oysters, the Fanny Bay oysters, and the Ironside Select oysters. The Fanny Bay oysters from British Columbia were our favorite. For our main entrees, I got the Fish and Chips, and Alex got the Shark. We both devoured our entrees. Instead of dessert, I opted for after-dinner coffee (one of my absolute favorite things) and Alex chose a Hot Buttered Rum. His drink was sweet and creamy, and we couldn't get enough of it.  Both drinks came in these cool mugs that we were tempted to keep for ourselves (but didn't!).

Alex and his Hot Buttered Rum


Alex and his Hot Buttered Rum

We weren't ready to turn in yet, so we headed over to a bar I had been dying to check out called Fairweather. This bar is actually on top of another bar/restaurant called Rare Form, so you have to go through Rare Form to find the stairs that lead up there. We didn't realize this at first and ordered drinks at Rare Form before a bartender showed us the way to Fairweather.

Rare Form in itself is cool because it has these long, dark wood tables with green lamps that make you feel like you're in a library at an Ivy League school. The vibe upstairs at Fairweather is completely different; when you walk out, it feels like you're at a beach bar. The bar is adorned in blue and white tiles, and there is a wall covered in green plants. There are plush booths with seats covered in navy fabric with white polka dots. It was one of the cutest bars I have ever been to. I ordered a margarita which was pretty good, but when I saw they had frozen piña coladas, I was disappointed I didn't have one of those! Frozen drinks are my jam.

More to come on our adventures at Balboa Park, Coronado, La Jolla, Green Flash Brewery, and Modern Times Brewing.