Thursday, October 23, 2008

How I fell in love with San Diego (or the post wherein I link to 18 websites)

My first-ever post on this blog was about how much I love San Diego. (And I've definitely mentioned how great it is more than few times since then.) In that very first post, I promised to get back to just why I heart San Diego so much. Well here it is, kids: the story of how I fell in love with "America's Finest City." (If it were up to me, I'd call it "The City of Awesome.")

Way back in 2000, I moved onto the 13th floor of Warren Towers, Boston University's biggest, most prison-like dormitory. It was there that I met the uber-cool Liz. Liz and I always talked about moving out to California after college, but I up and abandoned her in 2002 when I transferred to a school back home in New York. Liz went ahead with our plan and drove across the country to San Diego, while I managed people twice my age at a department store and thought law school might be fun. (Not so much.)

Fast forward to the fall of 2007 when I was looking for post-grad jobs. I stumbled across the San Diego Public Defender's Office website and happened to notice a blurb about a winter internship program. With nothing better to do between semesters (and remembering that I hadn't seen Liz in, oh, 5 years) I thought, "Thirty degree weather, or spending a month on the beach...hmm...." A few months later, I was hauling my suitcase up to the second floor of this sweet house in Mission Beach, a block away from the ocean:

The house

A friend from school had also applied for the internship, so we joined forces and spent a month jogging on the beach, walking on the beach, doing cartwheels on the beach, and drinking on the beach. We also did things like drive to La Jolla and walk on the beach, and drive to Torrey Pines and walk on the beach there, too.

The beach by the house. (And the roommate. And the beers....on the beach)

The beach at Torrey Pines

But seriously... San Diego is wonderful for more than just its beaches and great weather. Having spent a lot of time in Europe, I'm very used to a laid back, relaxed culture. And people in San Diego exude nothing but that, as evidenced by the plethora of outdoor cafes and beach-side shops. New York City is so obviously the opposite of that culture, which may be the reason I keep looking to escape it. San Diego has exactly the kind of mellow atmosphere that's hard to find in my hometown.

Also... the food. Oh my God, THE FOOD. Not just the variety, but the freshness of it all. No wonder everyone wants to move to Southern California--you can get a fresh avocado year-round! Here are some of some my favorite local eateries:
  • Ocean Beach Pier Cafe. Everyone I know kept raving about the lobster tacos at this place, so of course I had to try them. I mean, come on--a taco with LOBSTER in it Does it get any better? (Turns out, it does--when you eat three of them.) The lobster was so fresh, it practically melted in my mouth. There was just the right amount of cabbage, and the pico de gallo wasn't too overpowering. I'm not sure exactly how they make the cream sauce that gets drizzled on top, but it added just the right amount of lime to the meal. The tortillas ripped a bit too easily, but I think that can be attributed to the speed at which I devoured them. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: BEST. LOBSTER. TACOS. EVER.
  • Every sushi place on Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach. Not one place disappointed, and I'm pretty sure we tried them all. The Garnet Sunset Roll at Haiku was unbelievable--I had never before tried Jalapenos on sushi, and it blew my mind. The Volcano Roll at the same restaurant was the most elaborate sushi roll I've ever had, and trust me when I say I've had some elaborate rolls. They brought it out on fire. And the taste.... oh the taste. The heat caused the cream cheese to melt around the rice and crab in a smooth, creamy sauce, while the avocado gave it a cool element. While this was our most-frequented sushi spot, another good one is Kabuki Sushi. The prices were right, and the atmosphere was very laid back--one of those sushi bars where the boats of rolls float around a little river and you just pick up the plates you want.
  • Speaking of Pacific Beach, no post about San Diego would be complete without mentioning PB Bar and Grill. This was probably the place where I spent the most time. The entire establishment is open to the outside, with heating lamps for the those freezing-cold 60-degree nights and umbrellas for the three times a year it rains. Happy hour is every day from 4 to 8, and there is always some sort of special on appetizers or beer. I recommend the sampler platters that include one of everything, and the 2-for-5 beers. With over 30 beers on tap and just as many flat screen TV's around the place (showing every single sports game on IN THE WORLD), I can honestly say this place has something for everyone.
  • While we're talking about beer, we have to talk about the Karl Strauss Brewery in La Jolla. This microbrewery/restaurant not only has the best Ahi tuna I have ever tasted, but serves over 20 different kinds of their own beer. I ate there twice while in San Diego, and both times I ordered the beer sampler: six half-pint glasses of the beers of your choice. My personal favorite was a summer ale that tasted like banana.
  • And Ralph's. Ah, Ralph's....only the best supermarket on the planet. I have never purchased better (or fresher) salsa and guacamole than in your store, Mr. Ralph. I salute your superior quality of produce and your ability to sell liquor and shampoo in the same establishment. Of all the venues I have named, I miss you the most.
I've covered the weather, the atmosphere, the beach and the food... I guess that leaves Shamu, the biggest zoo in the U.S., the 15 museums in Balboa Park, the surfing, and the seals in La Jolla.

They were pretty cool

So that's how I fell in love with San Diego: I spent a month there and saw everything. I drank coffee with brown sugar and watched the surfers on Mission Beach. I walked the piers in Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach and rode a bike from Mission to La Jolla. I smoked a hookah at Sinbad Cafe on Garnet Avenue and requested the best song of all time at The Shout! House in the Gaslamp District. And just a few months later, I went back for more: after my last semester of law school, I met a friend in my City of Awesome and we spent five days relaxing at his uncle's vineyard in Ramona. If that doesn't make you want to move there, you'd be hardpressed to find something that does.

And if all goes according to plan, I'll eventually end up living there. Hopefully somewhere close to here:


Red said...

I love that Liz has her own post tag.

I too love San Diego and was lucky enough to come into the world in Mission Valley. Makes it really hard to leave. Come join us soon!

Steve said...

So you'll be writing another post about moving to the City of Awesome, soon?