Empty for decades, the Old Police Headquarters has finally come to life with a mix of restaurants and shops. The exterior landscaping gets points for a colorful mix of drought tolerant plants, but it does get a bit repetitive on this south side that faces downtown. Also on this side is the Cheesecake Factory patio, reminding downtown residents where 40-year leaseholder Terramar’s priorities lie: attracting tourists. And who can blame them – after sinking millions into redeveloping the site, they’re going after the sure money. Hopefully a greater business focus on locals at the Headquarters will happen someday when there’s more residents living on this side of downtown.
The interior courtyard is appealing and was busy on a mild Saturday. Puesto and Pizzeria Mozza both have seating that spills into the courtyard; Seasons 52 is off in the southeast corner, and Eddie V’s isn’t open yet. We forgot to check out the old jail cell open to the public.
We ate at Puesto – I still haven’t been to their La Jolla location, so it was a first for me – and they’ve put together an interesting interior over two levels and multiple rooms:
We did the 3 tacos for $11, which is a pretty low price point for a meal given the rent they’re likely paying. My favorite was the potato taco, but the fish taco was amply-sized; the guacamole and hot sauce were both delicious. Several people were opting to order from the kitchen area and carry their tacos to the outdoor seating areas.
One disappointment with the Headquarters was the lack of bike parking. A mere 8 bike slots hidden in the back of the facility doesn’t cut it, and people were locking bikes to anything that would suffice. We were glad we biked there too – as we waited to cross the street to Ruocco park (below), drivers were having road rage fits as traffic backed up, gunning it through the intersection and laying on their horns.
We made our way along the Embarcadero, noting the re-opening (and flattening) of Harbor Drive:
And the signage showing the planned changes for the pier and Embarcadero:
From there we headed to northern Little Italy to the new Ballast Point restaurant/bar/brewery:
Several “deconstructed” Little India Pale Ale beers were on tap, variations of the pale ale brewed on-site. I like the serving size options – 8 oz of the Black Eye blended ale (1/3 Black Marlin Porter, 2/3 Big Eye IPA) was just right, and I did a taster of the Pale Ale #1 – the version with all the spices thrown in.
Ballast Point was nearly full (the dining area was busy too) and I think it’s going to be very successful as this neighborhood continues to grow. Juniper and Ivy restaurant (construction shown below) is opening just a block west, and Bird Rock Coffee Roasters has announced plans to open nearby. One bummer was seeing the “No Alcohol” signs on the Little Italy Association tables outside – God forbid we drink a beer on the sidewalk. I wish Ballast Point had their own patio or rollup doors, but given its proximity to the landing path, I can see why they don’t. And install some bike lock stands please!
Broadstone condos at Grape and Kettner look like they’re getting close to completion:
On our ride back to the car we passed the new federal courthouse and snapped a couple of shots; hopefully this outdoor space isn’t so desolate at lunchtime during the week:
- Shorties: Casa de Luz closes tomorrow (Sunday) in North Park… in East Village, look for Green Flash to open a new brewery/tasting room, and SILO in Maker’s Quarter is holding a Holiday Happening next Saturday 11-11.
Brian over at selfstorage.com sent me this cool graphic of the various developments planned for downtown. After a long recession-induced slumber, it’s good to see things getting rolling again, even if not all of these projects pan out. Much of the information in the graphic is actually more up to date than the “official” listing, the Civic SD interactive map (formerly maintained by the now-defunct CCDC). Here’s a direct link to the graphic if you’d like to share it.
Waypoint Public has been open for a few weeks now in the former Linkery spot in North Park. We’d heard it’s been really busy, so Thanksgiving eve was a good opportunity for a less-than-packed dining experience. The bar’s been straightened out, the booths on the south side of the dining room have been removed and there’s a new rollup garage door in the southeast corner, all making the interior feel more open. Bonus points for precious dining space given over to a kids play area. The south wall has been decorated with reclaimed wood and various kitchen objects, but you won’t make them out in this blurry shot:
The first thing that stood out was the stellar draft list from the Bottlecraft folks who own Waypoint. I struggled to make a decision – from Lost Abbey’s Merry Taj IPA to Monkey Paw to Modern Times to Noble Ale to the Bruery’s Sour Autumn Maple (unfortunately out), it’s not the usual Ballast Point/Green Flash/Stone beers you see dominating taps all over town. That’s not a knock on the latter breweries, it’s just refreshing to see Waypoint’s wide-ranging options.
The food matched the high quality of the beers – the “Ancho Chili & Pickled Raisin Vinaigrette” on my nicely-seared albacore was addictive, and Jay’s Public Burger was no slouch. We enjoyed the mac & cheese and “tomato soup” potato chips appetizers, but the topper was the peanut butter brownie sundae with home made vanilla ice cream. Great service from friendly, knowledgeable servers rounded out our visit.
- After dinner we walked by the newly-opened Moncai Vegan, which had just closed for the night. I’m excited that there’s another vegan option in North Park… At the opposite end of the spectrum, an Arby’s and its requisite drive-thru are planned next door to the church at 30th and Gunn in North Park. There are several things that make this part of North Park great, and stand-alone fast food restaurants/drive-thrus aren’t one of them. Perhaps it’s time for a zoning review on this street… We ate at La Mesa’s Bo Beau last weekend and they were packing them in – a full patio on a chilly evening. Thankfully they’ve axed the ridiculous stool-chairs from former spot Gingham. I had a tasty hummus appetizer and a rich Beef Bourguignon, accompanied by a solid craft beer selection… In South Park, Belgian beer bar Brabant has opened in the former Vagabond spot… Over in Hillcrest, Celadon has morphed into a dim sum spot called The French Concession, Eater reports. Dim sum in Hillcrest? Oh yes. Inauthentic dim sum marked up for Hillcrest rent prices? Let’s hope not… We had another great dining experience at Heat recently, this time for dinner, where there’s an emphasis on healthy but tasty entrees. Our Suzie’s Farm salad and veggies benefitted from a delicious dijon mustard vinaigrette, and my roasted salmon came with an ample serving of veggies too. One of the better meals we’ve had in recent memory, and no post-meal guilt to contend with… Tiki Taka on University has closed. I enjoyed their Israeli cuisine, especially the Laffas, but that location should have row of tombstones out front.
- Speaking of challenging locations, the former Proper/Wine Steals spot in front of Petco Park has to rank near the top. Walking out of the ballpark and want grab a bite from the building next door? Sorry, you’ll have to do a silly 10 minute circle around the building to enter, just steps from where you started. If there’s anyone who can overcome that inanity, it’s the Consortium Holdings (Polite Provisions, Neighborhood, etc) folks, who are opening a new establishment there. And if there’s anyone else, it’s Stone Brewing, opening next door and giving them their second downtown location (the first opened recently next door to the Museum of Contemporary Art). I wish one or both locations could be open by the US/Britain Davis Cup tennis event at Petco, being held at the end of January.
- Finally, this Mission Times Courier article about Rolando residents suing the developers of the El Cajon Blvd mixed-use project BLVD63 pretty well sums up San Diego NIMBYism in 2013:
“It’s not something that I think anyone in the College Area is going to be very happy about,” (College Area Community Council president Rhea) Kuhlman said. “Trying to pack people in like sardines, which is what this project has done — it’s going to lead to quick deterioration… These are the kind of buildings that turn into slums in 20 years.”
To many San Diegans who’ve lived in single family homes all their lives and travelled exclusively by car, I’m sure living in a transit-oriented, mixed-use, multi-level apartment building must be an abomination. Unless you live in a house like them, you’re “packed in like sardines”, a quote I’ve seen used elsewhere by other no-growth advocates. And the slum quote is priceless; back in reality, there are mixed-use buildings all over San Diego and other cities that haven’t turned into slums, but rather made their communities more vibrant. But when you’re a low-density advocate and there’s no more room to build single family homes in your neighborhood, tough lock millenials – no more people allowed (how convenient for Kuhlman, who’s already a homeowner there). Anything else is a Cabrini-Green disaster bound to deteriorate.
El Cajon Boulevard is actually an ideal location to build mixed-use housing – there’s a rapid bus route going in, and you have a large student population in the area who don’t rely on cars for their every move. And surely the project (gallery) will be an improvement for this desolate stretch of El Cajon, a business corridor abandoned by the residents of Rolando when the Mission Valley malls were built:
To be fair, residents were justified in opposing original plans to rent by bed rather than by unit, but now that they’ve won that fight, they’ve revealed their true no-growth intentions for the area.
Russian/Georgian restaurant Kafe Sobaka from the Pomegranate folks has been on our restaurant to-do list since it opened earlier this year, and with friends in town last weekend it was an ideal time to visit. After sampling several of the mind-blowing cocktails at Polite Provisions we were ready for a filling meal and Sobaka didn’t disappoint. While the menu may be loaded with witty jokes, they’re not kidding when it comes to the food. Borscht soup warmed us up, the braised beef Zharkoe was hearty, and I ate my first beef tongue (surprisingly good). Chakhonkhbili, a tangy chicken dish, was also quite tasty; our vegetarian ragout “Ajap Sandali” appetizer was the only unmemorable offering.
It sure doesn’t feel like San Diego inside, and that’s a good thing. From the Russian films playing in the back room to the poster of two soldiers kissing, this is truly a unique spot and one we’ll return to soon.
- Not far from Sobaka, the Golden Hill Row Homes project is
under set for construction on the block bounded by 28th, 29th, B and C streets. 27 row homes will be built on site and connected by a bridge overlooking a park; the project will be completed in March 2015… The nearly-500 foot 15th and Island tower downtown is set for completion in 2016… Streetcar Row on Adams across from Cafe 21 is down to their last 2 units, and rumored to be getting a Thai restaurant… The North Parker has announced rental prices from $2200 to $2700 for one and two bedroom units, which are set for completion next month/January.
- Based on those asking prices, it’s obvious there’s a strong demand to live in a walkable, vibrant neighborhood like North Park. The trend of younger folks moving into urban neighborhoods has been taking place across the country, but it’s been hindered in many San Diego neighborhoods by opposition to increased density and perceived threats to parking convenience. Instead of fighting smart development, we can work on improved public transit and cycling facilities to reduce parking and traffic. Otherwise, we’re still stuck applying the low density, auto-oriented suburban model to our urban neighborhoods.
Neighborhoods like North Park get this (“WHAT ABOUT THE PARKING?” cries notwithstanding). Nearby, mixed use project You Got Mail continues construction, unencumbered by the height limits in Mission Hills (50′) and Hillcrest (65′). Those neighborhoods have seen little residential construction since the Interim Height Ordinance went into effect, and the Ordinance was passed again recently. While the original intent of the ordinance was reasonable (stopping an out-of-scale 13 story hotel), it’s now another tool in the anti-density arsenal of its increasingly stodgy residents. IHO supporters crow over new development like the Snooze AM and D Bar building, which is pretty, but there’s exactly 0 people living above those restaurants. Neighborhoods wax and wane over time, and you can almost feel North Park rising as Hillcrest and Mission Hills fade, opposing increased density, traffic calming and bike lanes that appeal to younger residents.
- Straight-in parking is coming to a street near you. The picture below is from Alabama St. in front of Mama’s Lebanese Bakery. While less easy to park in than an angled spot, they provide a significant increase in the number of spaces. Look for them next on Oregon St. in North Park. These could also work on some Hillcrest or Mission Hills side streets, where business owners and the Uptown Planners oppose removing parking on University or Washington for cyclist safety.
- Top of the Park is rumored to be closing in January, to be replaced by corporate offices and/or a gym for the building’s timeshare users. I’ll miss its rooftop views of the bay, available for the price of a drink or two – certainly less expensive than Mister A’s view down the street. Fog rolled through the bay at dusk two Fridays ago and it was scary to watch arriving planes pull out of their descent as runway visibility suddenly dropped.
- I forgot to mention in my last post that we had an excellent brunch at the semi-new Heat restaurant in Hillcrest. They’ve done a great job remaking the former Urban Grind space, and the patio’s potential has finally been realized. The owner is active in promoting the block’s Egyptian flavor, including the new Egyptian Bazaar and Movie Night held monthly there.
- University Heights is getting in on the Farmers Market/food truck circuit with their Open Aire market at 4100 Normal Street (next to the historic Annex building there). Saturdays 9 AM – 1 PM.
So many changes happening in San Diego, so little time to blog. Bo Beau has opened their La Mesa location, and our friends enjoyed a visit there recently… Waypoint Public has opened in North Park and received a mostly favorable review from Ian Pike… Up 30th, Coin-Op Game Room is also open, featuring 80′s video games and unexpectedly good pub food per Yelp. The Lion’s Share folks did another solid job here… Ballast Point has opened their Little Italy location… Acoustic Ales tasting room is serving brews from their brewery in the Mission Brewery complex in Middletown… Mandarin House‘s last night in Bankers Hill was tonight, to be replaced by a condo project.
Coming soon: Harley Gray Kitchen & Bar (do we really need the last two words?) to the current Gathering spot in Mission Hills. Personally, I’m not a fan of the standard fare served at the Gathering (or the magic tricks) and hope Harley Gray will continue the dining renaissance in the neighborhood. But as I read Yelp reviews for the new owners’ existing restaurants (Boat House; Zelda’s in Santa Cruz; Betty’s in Lahaina) my hopes did fade a bit… A few doors up Goldfinch, the half-built Philippe Bertran project will become The Patio on Goldfinch, a seafood-focused restaurant from the owners of The Patio in Pacific Beach; opening early next year… The laundromat at 30th and Redwood between North and South Park will be demolished for forthcoming restaurant MidPark. I’ll miss this mural though:
The biggest recent news has to be the purchase of the North Park Theatre by the West Coast Tavern owners and its planned “Casbah meets Cineopolis” concept. They’re planning to increase the number of seats from 731 to as many as 1200, serve food and alcohol, and program up to 200 concerts per year, plus movies. I’m excited for a concert venue in North Park – currently, Uptown residents have to venture downtown or out to the ‘burbs for larger acts. Tim Mays from the Casbah will be a promoter; he booked the recent 94.9 Rocktoberfest in the lot behind the theater a couple weeks back with Pinback headlining:
Also upcoming at the North Park Theatre, opening night of the Asian Film Festival:
Our opening night film, FINDING MR. RIGHT, premieres at the Birch North Park Theater on Thursday, November 7. The after party, open to all ticket holders, is at Wang’s North Park directly after the film.
We’d love to invite the North Park community out for a fun-filled night!
Opening Night film on Thursday, November 7 at 6:30pm at the Birch North Park Theatre with FINDING MR. RIGHT, a romantic comedy about anchor babies, material goods, and the lure of Hollywood films like Sleepless in Seattle. Starring Tang Wei (Lust, Caution) and shot on location throughout the United States, FINDING MR. RIGHT is one of China’s biggest hits of the year. Director Xue Xiaolu is scheduled to attend.
- We finally got over to Young Hickory in North Park a few weeks back and they’ve done a great job with the former Filter space. Opening the space to the street is a big plus; serving cans of Modern Times beer and others alongside coffee even better:
Speaking of Modern Times, they hosted the one year anniversary of Bike SD. I hadn’t seen the space since the Kickstarter party and the comic book wall, tumbleweed light fixture and sleek bar are all slick finishing touches. Awesome beer too. Congratulations to Sam and all of Bike SD for the remarkable progress they’ve made on behalf of San Diego’s cycling infrastructure.
Mentioning Kickstarter reminds me that Radlab, planned for an empty lot at Park and Market in East Village was successfully funded; VOSD says to look for a “28,000-square-foot experiment in flexible temporary urbanism; the plan includes a large beer garden, a dog run, food-truck stalls, cultural event space, movable furniture and indoor spaces for a communal kitchen/bar and retail.” Can’t wait.