Awards season is here, so here’s some of the best things happening in San Diego in this inaugural edition of The Urbies:
- Best new Uptown establishment: Named Cocktail Bar of the Year by Imbibe Magazine, Polite Provisions is the coolest thing to happen to Adams Ave since Blind Lady Ale House. While the award usually goes to a flashy New York or LA bar, this year’s winner is straight out of
Normal Heights northern North Park in the former humble Kadan location. The cocktails served here are as awesome as the bar’s gleaming interior, and when you need something to soak up all the liquor in those delicious drinks, grab some meatballs next door at sister operation Soda and Swine. Get there early though, because every time we’ve visited it’s quickly become standing-room only. The addition of these two establishments to 30th and Adams is a huge step forward in the ongoing resurgence of the Adams Ave corridor.
- Most anticipated mixed-use project: The North Parker at 30th and Upas has a modernist design unlike anything else in the area, and will feature an eclectic group of establishments: taco shop Tacos Perla (from The Pearl Hotel owners), Influx Cafe, Underbelly, and a Modern Times Beer tasting room. Sitting catty-corner to the recently-remodeled Jack in the Box, the North Parker represents the exact opposite approach to land use: mixing ground-floor commercial with residential above, instead of a single-story structure with a drive-thru and high-profile parking spaces. Hopefully the former approach will continue with projects like the nearby You Got Mail.
- Our favorite restaurants: Instead of posting about new spots (our French Concession visit will have to wait until next time), here’s a rundown of places we always seem to end up: Koon Thai in Kearny Mesa is near one of my offices and it’s busier every time we have lunch there; with excellent specials on some of the best Thai in San Diego, I can see why… Pho Mignon in the same plaza is also a favorite for their healthy Vietnamese food… The vegetarian and vegan offerings at Plumeria in University Heights are always reliable and relatively guilt-free… More vegan options at spicy Dao Fu in Normal Heights – the food may melt your face off, but the flavors are fantastic… Waypoint Public is a fine replacement for the departed Linkery, and the craft beer selection from the Bottlecraft folks is stellar… Still love Carnitas Snack Shack and the makeover they gave to their patio, but that ever-present line means we’re not the only ones who do… Prepkitchen is a welcome break from the “should we get Italian, or Italian?” question in Little Italy… Caffe Calabria‘s parklet looks great and makes their front patio even better… and Cantina Mayahuel‘s mole, Tuesday taco special and wide-ranging tequila selection always hit the spot. More: Tender Greens downtown, Loving Hut on El Cajon, Blue Ribbon and Uptown Tavern in Hillcrest, BFD Sandwiches on Park, and Ponce’s (those margaritas) and Burger Lounge here in Kensington. I’m sure we’re missing a few… Blind Lady Ale House, of course.
- Craft beers move closer: San Diego’s craft beer scene continues to amaze, and many of the breweries are opening mini-brewing facilities and/or tasting rooms right in our urban neighborhoods. This is a great thing – who should be driving after downing a few of the often-high alcohol offerings from our esteemed brewers? From Ballast Point‘s successful new Little Italy location to Hess‘s full brewing operation in North Park, many of these are bikeable locations where you’re not dodging vehicles doing 70 mph (like on our recent ride from my brother’s house in Poway to Ballast Point in Scripps Ranch). And you’re much more likely to catch a bus or a cab here than among the brewing warehouses on Miramar Road. Other breweries that have opened or are coming to our neighborhoods include Mission, Green Flash, Modern Times, Thorn Street Brewing, Belching Beaver, Hillcrest Brewing, Acoustic Ales and Stone. Craft beer: one more reason to ditch the car when possible.
- Biggest relief: The Jacobs plan for Balboa Park aimed to bring more cars into the heart of the park, and would have trashed Palm Canyon and the tranquility of the Alcazar Garden. After the plan was stopped (thank you SOHO), parking was removed from Plaza de Panama at a fraction of the project’s $43 million dollar cost. Many residents in nearby Bankers Hill, including Bankers Hill/Park West Community Association and Uptown Planners Community Planning Group head Leo Wilson, strongly supported the disruptive Jacobs plan, concerned that an alternate plan to close Cabrillo Bridge to cars would bring more cars parking in their neighborhood.
This year, Cabrillo Bridge is closed until April and yet the parking quagmire hasn’t materialized. We’ll have to wait to see if museum attendance is affected by the closure but keep this example in mind next time you hear a project can’t be done because of parking impacts.
- Best civic achievement: The downtown library was a long time coming, and it finally happened in 2013. It’s a huge improvement over the former downtown location, with distinguishing architecture, bay views, and gathering areas like the auditorium and reading room:
Even better, the library is the first in a series of major civic projects in San Diego, including the Old Police Headquarters repurposing, the North Embarcadero project, the County Administration Building park, and Horton Plaza Park. We’re witnessing major changes to a city that has often resisted them.
- Best transit plans: SANDAG approves $200 million in Early Action Plan funds for 42 bikeway projects. While we still need to overcome opposition to safe bike lanes (for example, in Uptown from its community planning group) the money is a big positive step in an area where San Diego has been trailing other cities. If you support bike lanes, or their potential to make streets safer for pedestrians too, come to next month’s Uptown Corridor (2/6) or Mid-City Corridor (2/19 5:30-8pm, Franklin Elementary, 4481 Copeland Avenue) meetings. Second place goes to the Mid-Coast trolley expansion, which will begin construction next year and bring trolley service to UCSD. And third place to the new Express bus planned to run from Adams Ave to downtown – no more hour-long rides on the #11.
While the city is facing serious challenges – like its infrastructure backlog – it’s definitely a fun time to be living in San Diego. And I didn’t even mention the warm weather.