Help us have the best week in San Diego.
March 3, 2010 3:28 PM   Subscribe

Heading to San Diego the first week in April with my sister and need help with suggestions to must drink, eat and see places.

1.) As far as restaurants, I'm a vegan but my sister is not but she's very open minded to vegetarian and vegan food. What are you favorite all vegan or vegetarian restaurants or restaurants with great vegan options?

2.) We both are into really good beer so we'll need to know where the best beer bars are at. We're looking for things we can't find on the East Coast (we're in Virginia) or things that are rare and hard to find. She's big into double and imperial IPAs and I'm into sour Belgians and barrel aged anything. I'm dying to find some Russian River Temptation or Supplication. And as we don't have a never ending supply of cash, we definitely don't want to be chewing on pricey beers the entire time so we're going to want to hang out at a few regular bars also. We're both in our late twenties and more partial to the dive bar or hipster scene.

3.) And since we don't want to spend the entire time eating or drinking, we'd also like some suggestions for interesting museums and parks. Does San Diego have anything like the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia?

Also, if there are things that you can think of that don't fall within these categories, all suggestions are welcome.
posted by MaryDellamorte to Travel & Transportation around San Diego, CA (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
All of your wants can be found in the areas around Balboa Park (which has several museums if you didn't already know). You want to look in Hillcrest, North Park, and South Park.

Your first stop should be Hamilton's Tavern, no question. Several vegan pub food options and fancy beer you will not find anywhere else. The food can be hit and miss but the bartenders know their shit and will definitely steer you right if you say you want a sour Belgian, etc.

Loving Hut is the only place that I know of in the area that specifically bills itself as vegan/vegetarian. I can not speak to the quality myself, but friends have had mixed experiences. Roots is another one closer to downtown.

30th street is packed with good stuff; you have to try not to trip on the good beer on that street. Many of the best places only have a handful of vegan options at best, but will accommodate you asking for veggie stuff with no butter or cheese.
posted by slow graffiti at 3:58 PM on March 3, 2010

I'm clearly less qualified to answer this question than slow graffiti, but I would just tell you to check out the San Diego Zoo. If you want to see everything it will be a day-long event, but I feel it's well worth it.
posted by DoublePlus at 4:35 PM on March 3, 2010

1) Vegan options: There are a lot of vegetarians in SD and thus a lot of vegetarian/vegan options. Just about every restaurant will have some. If you're into a punk vibe, bad service and good food, check out Pokez downtown. Good mexican food, menu is primarily vegetarian and vegan, but there are options there to keep carnivores happy.

2) Beer: On 7th and G there's a local place called Neighborhood that has upscale burgers and other food. Decent vegetarian options there as well, and around 30 beers on tap. A lot of local beers and other craft brews.

Seconding 30th street, a lot of good restaurants with great selections there. My favorite is Urban Solace but there's a lot of options there.

As far as museums, Balboa Park has a lot, you can pretty much spend a day there. The Prado restaurant has some great ambiance and good food too. If you have time, you'll want to hit the zoo too, which is right next to Balboa Park. A good day would be zoo in the morning, Prado for lunch and museums in the afternoon.
posted by mikesch at 4:44 PM on March 3, 2010

Beer bars/brewpubs:
Hamilton's Tavern (check website for taplist, has some vegan food options)
Toronado (check website for taplist, has some vegan options)
Blind Lady (check website for events, can make some pizzas vegan)
Ritual Tavern (vegan food options)
Small Bar (check website for taplist, some vegan food options)

San Diego has a lot of top-notch breweries that offer free tours, if you have time in your schedule and an inclination for that. I'd strongly recommend Alesmith for that.

If you want, MefiMail me your exact travel dates and I can let you know where there might be special casks or barrel-aged stuff. Sadly, you'll be just missing Belgian Beer Fest if you're not coming until April.
posted by booknerd at 4:48 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Vegan food:
MEXICAN FOOD OMG - Rancho's, Pokez, El Zarape. Not all-vegan, but have many vegan options. Most Mexican places use lard, but these are safe and have lots of fantastic soy-based or mushroom-based meaty tasting things.
Culty places - Jyoti Bihanga and Loving Hut. Loving Hut is all-vegan, Jyoti Bihanga has lots of vegan options and is all-veg.
Asian fusion - Sipz (all-vegan), Dao Son (lots of vegan options), Tao (lots of vegan options, house-made tofu)
Soltan Banoo is Persian food, super delicious, very vegan friendly, family-run
Spread is all-vegan and organic, but pretty spendy.
Pizza Fusion will make soy-cheese pizzas
Stephanie's Bakery is all-vegan and has the most amazing strudel ever.
posted by booknerd at 4:55 PM on March 3, 2010

I should add, as far as other things:

1) Go to the Hotel Del and have an expensive drink while looking at the beach during sunset

2) Go to the Children's Pool in La Jolla and watch the seals and sea lions lay on the beach.

3) You can mostly avoid the Gaslamp. Overpriced restaurants, bars and clubs that cater to the tourist crowd.

4) Ocean beach caters more to the hippie/stoner crowd, Pacific Beach caters more to yuppies. Both have their own merits, but a completely different character.

5) Escondido is a 20-30 minute drive and has The Stone Brewing Bistro and Gardens. Definitely worth a trip if your schedule allows it. There's really nothing else in Escondido so you'd be making a trip just for the Brewery.
posted by mikesch at 4:57 PM on March 3, 2010

I haven't lived in San Diego for a few years, but the standard vegan dining options were Pokez and Rancho's. You know about Happy Cow, right?
posted by beerbajay at 4:59 PM on March 3, 2010

mikesch, it's not true that there's nothing else in Escondido! We also have the Wild Animal Park, which is well worth a visit.
posted by booknerd at 5:05 PM on March 3, 2010

booknerd: mikesch, it's not true that there's nothing else in Escondido! We also have the Wild Animal Park, which is well worth a visit.

Doh, completely forgot about the Wild Animal Park. And some of the zoo admissions come with animal park admissions. So yeah, Escondido may be worth a day trip after all. Sorry about that.
posted by mikesch at 5:10 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm drooling right now....
posted by hellogoodbye at 6:40 PM on March 3, 2010

Seconding pretty much all of booknerd's bar/restaurant options - I've specifically been to Dao Son, Jyoti Bihanga, Sipz, Rancho's, El Zarape (the taco stand version on Park, not the sit-down restaurant on Adams) and Stephanie's - all are well worth your time. One odd thing about Jyoti Bihanga - it's basically a Hare Krishna place, and my gf says that they expect you to leave something on your plate (i.e. not completely finish your meal) as an offering. I have no idea if she's completely wrong on that or what, but it sounds kind of odd to me.

Unfortunately, SD is a little lacking in museum quality, although if you're in for something a little different, the model railroad museum in Balboa Park can be interesting (note: I have no idea how model railroad museums get "accredited"). I enjoy the Museum of Contemporary Art, which has locations in La Jolla and Downtown. I don't know if the policy still holds, but you used to be able to get in free if you were under 25. If you're in town on the first Thursday of a month, they have an event called TNT where they'll have bands play and other special things downtown - this was recently suspended when the economy tanked but it was a massive hipster explosion when it used to take place.
posted by LionIndex at 7:11 PM on March 3, 2010

booknerd's list of bars are all in the area I was talking about, I've been to all of them, and they're all great.

a warning- trying to get a place to sit at Hamilton's, Blind Lady, or Small Bar is not easy on weekends. be prepared to stand if it's Friday night.
posted by slow graffiti at 7:32 PM on March 3, 2010

This is a little bit of a niche thing, but I loved the whole experience and love to tell other people about it: Ghostly Tours in History. The website is a little cheesy and it's the limo tour you want. They drive you around the city and stop at places like the Star of India ship in the harbor, the Hotel del Coronado, El Campo Santo Cemetery, and other assorted places that are purported to be haunted. I'm not a person into ghosts or ghost hunting or whatever, but some of the other people on the tour with us were into ghosts and they seemed to be having as much fun as we were. Oh also, free alcohol on the limo. Basically, you have a tour guide (dressed up in turn-of-the-century era garb) tell you all about the terrible deaths and suicides that have occurred in these famous places, and then the ghost stories people have told about those places ever since.
posted by so_gracefully at 10:39 PM on March 3, 2010

I love Madras Cafe, it's a South Indian vegetarian restaurant. The only problem is it's not very close to anything else interesting. Still, if you're staying downtown it's only about a 15-min. drive.
posted by exceptinsects at 11:47 PM on March 3, 2010

Breakfast here. Close to Balboa Park.
posted by troywestfield at 6:13 AM on March 4, 2010

The Coronado Brewing Company had excellent beer. The food was excellent too, but I can't vouch for any vegan options. Easy to get to on the little ferry.
posted by IanMorr at 7:58 AM on March 4, 2010

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