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Best of San Diego 2016



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For our annual and completely subjective guide to SD’s best, we’ve tallied the top picks across nine categories, giving props to newbies and tipping our hats to established favorites. We’ve got award-winning chefs elevating Mexican cuisine, the city’s first covered public market, innovative breweries, chic decor that’s also fair trade, rock ’n’ roll-themed massages, a zipline that soars above the zoo, and more. That’s right—bragging rights all around. Read on to find out who made the cut.

Written by Hilary Achauer, Kimberly Cunningham, Erin Meanley Glenny, Kai Oliver-Kurtin, Jennifer McEntee, Hannah Nancarrow, Christina Orlovsky Page, Christine Pasalo, Archana Ram, Marie Tutko, and Ann Wycoff
Photography by Paul Body, Luis Garcia, Jenny Siegwart, Jay Reilly, and Sam Wells

 

Winners by Category

Food
Drink
Shop
Beauty
Fitness
Kids
Arts & Culture
Activities
Innovation


 

 

Chicken

Crack Shack

The idea is simple: high-quality chicken and egg dishes. But owner Mike Rosen and chef-partner Richard Blais (Juniper and Ivy) have taken it up a notch with gourmet preparations—like the Coop Deville fried chicken sandwich with Fresno chilies and lime mayo—and an all-outdoor space with picnic-table-style seating, a sleek bar, and even a bocce ball court. With a line that often wraps around the corner—don’t worry, it moves fairly quickly—it’s no wonder the chicken connoisseurs are opening a second location this fall in Encinitas. Cluck yeah!
2266 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy

 

Fancy Mexican

Bracero Cocina

Javier Plascencia has proven that San Diego’s Mexican cuisine can go beyond California burritos. The chef’s upscale restaurant, which earned a James Beard nod earlier this year, pulls heavily from traditional Mexican dishes, like carrot aguachile and mole-drenched acorn and kabocha squash. The cocktail menu is worth equal fanfare. Crafted by Christian Siglin, highlights include the Czech Yourself, made with mezcal, absinthe, lime, and pineapple, and the blanco-tequila-infused Javier Wallbanger. Snag a seat on the second-floor deck for a breezy view above Little Italy.
1490 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy

 

Indulgent Brunch

Breakfast Republic

Enjoy s’mores French toast, breakfast bacon mac ’n’ cheese, Oreo cookie lattes, and more at this bustling North Park spot, started by the brains behind Fig Tree Cafe. Their beverage options are equally decadent, including nearly 20 beers on tap and a caffeine flight comprising a latte, mocha, and Mexican mocha. Next up: a second location in Liberty Station, slated to open later this year.
2730 University Avenue, North Park

 

Gourmet Grilled Cheese

Brothers Provisions

This artisan market and deli triumphs as a cheese lover’s haven. Pick the brain of resident cheesemonger Kate O’Hara, who can riff on more than 120 types of global fromage. O’Hara also creates their rotating grilled cheese specials—like slabs of truffle cheddar and Swiss with bacon marmalade, or English chive-infused cheddar with roasted garlic aioli and tomato on Bread and Cie sourdough. It’s delicious with a craft beer from their impressive selection.
16451 Bernardo Center Drive, Rancho Bernardo

 

Gastropub, North

The Flying Pig, Vista

A part of Vista’s newly hip and redeveloped South Santa Fe Avenue, The Flying Pig, whose first location wowed Oceanside with its high-minded food in casual, funk-minded environs, opened in an old bank. Sit on the wraparound patio or by the old tractor (donated by a regular), try the house-made pastas or panko-crusted pork loin in green coconut sauce, and pair ’em with something from Vista’s Mother Earth Brew Co.
230 South Santa Fe Avenue, Vista

 

Late-Night Ramen

Rakiraki

Chef Junya Watanabe takes ramen to new heights at this Convoy District eatery that stays open till 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. His Super Exclusive Hakata Tonkotsu Red Edition Ramen is the star, with fermented takanotsume (a red-hot chili pepper), sizzled garlic chips, sprouts, pickled egg, shoots, and double-thick noodles—one extraordinary bowl of ramen that’s nicely paired with a Kirin “frozen beer.”
4646 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa

 

Second Location

Lobster West

Encinitas’s family-owned seafood favorite has duplicated itself on Coronado, with more outdoor seating, an expanded wine list, and craft beer on tap. Find classics on the menu like the Lobster Roll Combo or Maine Feast for Two. Enjoy the same certified, sustainable Maine lobster flown in daily from the East Coast and coleslaw from a family recipe. The Lobster West family gives back, too, providing treats and water bowls for dogs, and offering 10 percent off for active service members on Military Mondays.
1033 B Avenue, Coronado; 765 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

 

Best Candy-Inspired Desserts

Four San Diego eateries are paying homage to classic candy bars

Twix at Herb & Wood

Twix at Herb & Wood

For a playful spin on the caramel treat, Executive Pastry Chef Adrian Mendoza fills a caramel mousse with a milk chocolate mousse center, before adding a salted-caramel-glazed shortbread cookie, crispy chocolate pearls, house-made crème fraîche, sea salt, and milk chocolate sorbet.
2210 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy

Almond Joy at Juniper and Ivy

Pastry chef Bradley Chance and pastry cook Ashley Beck have elevated the coconut and chocolate nut candy, using soft chocolate, crunchy Marcona almonds, coconut sorbet, and a marshmallow-soft Pavlova.
2228 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy

Snikker’s Bar at Quad AleHouse

Hungry? Grab a bite of the Gaslamp pub’s spin on Snickers—a flourless cake, coffee-chocolate ganache, and nougat mousse paired with peanuts and caramel.
868 Fifth Avenue, Gaslamp

Crafty PB Bar at Crafted Baked Goods

At Liberty Public Market’s Crafted, Executive Pastry Chef Francis Laureano has reinvented the Reese’s with peanut butter mousse, Oreo crumbs, a chocolate glaze, peanut butter cups, and chocolate caramel pearls.
2820 Historic Decatur Road, Liberty Station

 

Expansion

SuperNatural Sandwiches

Sandwiches this tasty deserve a proper setting, and thankfully SuperNatural recently bestowed fans with a larger, more decked-out space in Miramar (same plaza, different spot). The new digs mean more seating, a bar with plenty of craft beers on tap, and an overall gastropub vibe.
7094 Miramar Road, Miramar

 

Soufflé

Et Voilà! French Bistro

Calling all Francophiles! This très chic French bistro in Normal Heights, helmed by former Tapenade sous chef Vincent Viale, serves classics like coq au vin, steak frites, and absurdly delicious soufflés with flavors like Grand Marnier, passion fruit, or apple with salted caramel crème anglaise.
3015 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights

 

Taco Upgrade

Galaxy Taco

While taco fillings have gotten a healthy, organic makeover, the humble tortilla has been overlooked. At La Jolla Shores’ Galaxy Taco, chef Trey Foshee (George’s at the Cove) has changed that with tortillas sourced from organic, non-GMO ingredients. Foshee and his chef de cuisine spent time studying the old-school process of making masa, the foundation for corn tortillas, from New York Mexican restaurant Cosme and brought the goods back home to SD. Try his tacos, and taste the difference.
2259 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla Shores

 

Bistro

Trust

This restaurant from chef Brad Wise and general manager Steve Schwob has given hope to the ailing no-man’s land of Hillcrest. Its creative menu spans duck eggs on fries and oxtail raviolini, as well as a whimsical Peanut Butter Captain Crunch cheesecake and a must-try weekend brunch. Pull up a seat on the stylish bronze Tolix chairs and don’t forget the cocktails. Hillcrest is on the map again.
3752 Park Boulevard, Hillcrest

 

Tank-to-Table Dining

Water Grill

Keep it fresh at Water Grill, where you can handpick your own shellfish straight from the live tanks in their kitchen. Select your lobster, crab, spot prawn, or other crustacean, depending on seasonal availability. In autumn, bring a friend to help you crack and eat a red king crab weighing seven to nine pounds.
615 J Street, Downtown

 

Nostalgic Treat

Bliss & Baker

This is no average Rice Krispies Treat. Launched by San Marcos–based mother-daughter duo Laura and Natalie Potter, Bliss & Baker makes their confections using rice cereal, marshmallows, and handmade sauces and fillings, like coconut and caramel sauce. There’s even a gluten-free variety and party-perfect packaging for events.
blissandbaker.com

 

Rooftop

Kettner Exchange

Sure, there’s a line wrapped around the block on Saturday nights, as this booming party palace is still the sexiest scene in Little Italy, with DJs and cabana revelry up top. But that’s just one of many experiences found at KEX. Opt for a sunny Sunday afternoon brunch, or dress up for a quieter weeknight date on the rooftop, where you’ll find cozy blankets, tiki-style rum libations, and chef Brian Redzikowski’s superb hamachi tostada, bigeye tuna tacos, and a damn fine double-double burger.
2001 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy

 

Healthy Brunch

Little Lion

The striped awning and charming interior make this Point Loma eatery feel like a European café, as does the menu of simple, clean plates. Owned by three sisters who come from a long heritage of San Diego culinary greatness, Little Lion uses superior ingredients, like Mike and Sons eggs that are poached and served with local greens, or the house-made granola paired with ultra-creamy Straus yogurt. It’s a testament to the old adage that simple ideas are often the best.
1424 Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, Point Loma

 

Ceviche

Ceviche House

Chef Juan Carlos Récamier opened the 17-seater restaurant last December and serves seven types of made-to-order ceviche, each named after seaside spots in Mexico. Sample the Ensenada, a yellowtail, watermelon, pomegranate, and chili sesame oil combo, or La Paz, a mound of bigeye tuna, cucumber, and ginger-habanero dressing. Sustainability reigns here: fruits and veggies are sourced from Specialty Produce and fresh-caught fish is purchased daily from Catalina Offshore Products and the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market.
4594 30th Street, North Park

 

Vegan

Café Gratitude

The 100-percent organic, plant-based eatery proves that vegan restaurants can be as stylish as they are Zen. The bright, airy San Francisco export serves dishes named after positive affirmations, like the Humble (a curry bowl) or the Open-Hearted (buckwheat pancakes). You’ll leave feeling light, healthy, and a little more centered. Nom-nom-namaste.
1980 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy

 

North County Brunch

Urge Gastropub

This new offshoot of the original Rancho Bernardo location boasts an on-site brewery and selection of more than 300 whiskeys. At brunch, choices include tater tot bacon Benedict with crispy tomato fried kale; Drunken Challah Stuffed French Toast with apricot cream cheese, bacon, and bourbon vanilla sauce; Smoky Maria cocktail with chipotle Bloody Mary mix and garden veggies, and more. Come hungry!
2002 South Coast Highway, Oceanside

 

On-the-Go Snack

Perfect Bar

The family-owned business—inspired by patriarch Dr. Bud Keith, who opened a gym and juice bar in Mission Beach in the 1960s, and founded by brother and sister duo Bill and Leigh Keith—makes refrigerated, nut-butter-based bars with non-GMO ingredients, organic honey (or organic dates for vegans), and high-quality protein. They just unveiled three new flavors: blueberry cashew, maple almond, and a cookie-dough-like coconut peanut butter. Being healthy never tasted so good.
perfectbar.com

 

BEST ahi poke

Our Oahu-hailing staffer chimes in on the top local spots serving the trendy raw seafood dish based on the longtime Hawaiian tradition

By Marie Tutko

Fish 101

Fish 101

My friend Nino Camilo, founder of the I Love Poke Festival, said the albacore poke appetizer is consistently good, and he’s right. The fish shines with a simple preparation of sesame, soy sauce, and green onions.
1468 North Coast Highway 101, Leucadia

Ilnlyf Foods

Le Cordon Bleu graduate Maui Canosa and his wife, Jenn, sell poke at local farmers’ markets. Get the “Maui-style” with ahi, soy and oyster sauce, and cucumber. Ask for the container of hot white rice that’s served separately to be topped with chili paste.
ilnlyffoods.com

The Lanai Leucadia

Order the house poke with furikake (shredded, dried seaweed) at this easy-to-miss food truck. The ahi is also topped with togarashi (Japanese chili pepper seasoning) and tobiko (tiny fish roe), and comes with large veggie chips.
1114 North Coast Highway 101, Leucadia

Costco

Yes, really—I found authentic poke at Costco. They sell ahi limu poke, and three other styles, that are prepared in Hawaii and overnighted to some of their stores in California. I know the Carlsbad location has it on weekends; call your local store.
costco.com

 

Pop-up

Permanent Vacation

South Park’s sleek vegan restaurant Kindred hosts Permanent Vacation Thursdays, a pop-up tiki takeover featuring powerful rum drinks crafted with fresh juices and island-inspired bites like orange-miso-glazed seitan with grilled pineapple and mango sweet potato aioli dipping sauce. Polynesian music, wacky tiki mugs, and copious amounts of rum add to the fun and eye-popping ambiance.
1503 30th Street, South Park

 

Place to See and Be Seen

Herb & Wood

Brian Malarkey’s expansive dining destination is focused on wood-roasted veggie and meat plates, but it’s the layout of the place, which formerly housed art and furniture emporium Mixture, that really draws attention. It’s made up of an entry café, a purple-hued “lavender lounge,” a main dining room, and a huge back patio, offering the well-heeled crowd four distinct areas to strut and socialize.
2210 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy

 

Fusion

The Sushi Burrito at Pokirrito

This fast-casual spot is making foodie waves by blending two of San Diego’s favorite foods. Order the Pokirrito Classic with hand-line-caught tuna, crab, broccoli slaw, butter lettuce, lotus chips, masago, and shiso tempura flakes, all wrapped in non-GMO rice with wild Pacific nori. There are poke bowls, plus craft iced tea brewed daily and Stumptown cold brew coffee, too.
4646 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa

 

California Burrito

The Taco Stand

Sure, the local food scene is moving toward a more elevated Mexican cuisine. But there’s still room in our hearts for the ol’ trusty Cali burrito. And The Taco Stand does it right: a fresh flour tortilla layered with melted and browned cheddar cheese, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, tomatoes, and flame-grilled Angus beef. But what makes it truly great are the thick-cut french fries that somehow remain crispy down to the last bite. Don’t believe us? Believe the massive crowd that swarms the new downtown location at lunchtime.
645 B Street, Downtown; 621 Pearl Street, La Jolla; 642 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

 

Spot for Picky Eaters

Liberty Public Market  

When the kids want tacos, your friends want burgers, and you want Thai food, you can get it all under one roof at Liberty Station’s new food hall, comprising nearly 30 vendors, most of them local. Other purveyors at the market include Parana Empanadas, Baker & Olive premium olive oils, a florist, and a pet boutique. And coming soon, a candy shop with organic gummy candy, handcrafted toffee, pecan pralines, and more. Sweet!
2820 Historic Decatur Road, Liberty Station

 

Design

Madison

It’s tough to know what to expect when a nightclub owner enters the restaurant sphere, but Fluxx nightclub’s Jeffrey Fink has a winner in Madison. The main dining room of the University Heights stunner feels like a giant wooden cathedral with geometric designs and soft ambient noise—a pleasant contrast to the concrete and hard surfaces (and resulting cacophony) in many new restaurants. The bar area is a beaut, too, with mocha-hued booths and a white bar top. If retro-sexy is a thing, Madison is it.
4622 Park Boulevard, University Heights

 

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Booze for Events

Barçon Cocktail Co.

The brainchild of the peeps behind Sycamore Den and A Miho Experience food truck, this beverage-focused catering team creates Pinterest-worthy setups and serves craft cocktails in vintage-inspired glassware alongside farm-to-table snacks. To top it off, the bartenders come dressed in bow ties and aprons, a fitting nod to their punny name.
barconcocktails.com

 

Gaslamp Cocktails

The Nolen

Sip on old-fashioneds and other classic tipples at this 2,500-square-foot rooftop, which boasts two fireplaces, skyline views, and graffiti-style art that honors architectural icons in San Diego. There are also modern cocktail riffs like the Forgotten Visionary, made with vodka, beet juice, ginger syrup, lemon, and egg white; and the Painkiller, with rum, coconut cream, orange, and pineapple. They also use local distilleries like Ballast Point and Malahat Spirits. We’ll drink to that!
453 Sixth Avenue, Gaslamp

 

Brewery in the ’Burbs

Novo Brazil Brewing Co.

Eastlake may be a lovely place to live, but when it comes to the fun factor, it’s been somewhat lacking—until now, thanks to the opening of this laid-back Brazilian brewery located amid populous subdivisions and strip malls. It’s kid, dog, and food delivery friendly, with food trucks on some nights, too. It’s also the recent recipient of a World Beer Cup bronze award for its Corvo Negro Stout.
901 Lane Avenue, Eastlake

 

Under-the-Radar Café

Kettle & Stone

You know Goldfinch and India streets, but the often overlooked Lewis Street in Mission Hills is dotted with excellent local businesses, including this amiable café. Westbean Coffee is the pour of choice, while Bake Sale Bakery supplies pastries. Take your cuppa to the breezy sidewalk patio—and while away the day.
1619 West Lewis Street, Mission Hills

 

Mocktails

Mister A’s

The “no proof” section of Mister A’s cocktail menu has such tasty house-made sodas, you won’t mind staying off the hooch. Order the cucumber lime fresca for a refreshing citrus soda, or try the watermelon spice fresca for a touch of heat. We also love their house-made lemonade, elevated with strawberries or ginger and mint.
2550 Fifth Avenue, Bankers Hill

 

Urban Coffee Shop

Cafe Virtuoso

This certified organic, ethically sourced coffee mecca in Barrio Logan is home to head roaster Nelson Teskey, a licensed Q Grader—coffee’s version of a master sommelier. Teskey offers cupping, a tasting experience to understand the nuances, mouthfeel, origin, and more about global coffees for caffeine geeks and newbies alike.
1616 National Avenue, Barrio Logan

 

Boba Bar

Kung Fu Tea

Hillary Clinton digs these unique, customizable milk teas—at least according to Kung Fu Tea’s Instagram feed. This international franchise landed on Convoy in February. Pick a tea, choose your level of sweetness and amount of ice, add a topping like boba, jelly, red bean, or pudding (or not), then wait as your drink is prepared. Signature flavors like White Gourd Tea or Oreo Milk Tea made with real cookies are worth a try, or sip on one of their many espresso drinks, slushes, or milks.
4869 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa

 

Bar Addition

Level2, George’s at the Cove

George’s at the Cove has been a leader in farm-fresh food with a view since it opened in La Jolla in 1984. Now the Village staple has added another notch to its post with the craft cocktail bar on the remodeled second floor. In addition to Sazeracs, punches, and sours, the lounge also serves a casual lunch and dinner menu. Don’t miss the La Jolla Cove–inspired Sea3 cocktail, chilled with a seaweed-embedded ice cube.
1250 Prospect Street, La Jolla

 

Coffee Concept

Communal Coffee

At this new café, besides San Francisco–sourced Sightglass coffee, pastries, and quiches from local Cardamom Cafe & Bakery, you’ll also find an in-house floral boutique from bloom pro Native Poppy, which crafts bouquets in three sizes and price increments. For the complete package, there are also greeting cards and small giftables. Plus, Native Poppy recently launched flower delivery via bike for $10 to neighborhoods in and around downtown. That’s some flower power!
2335 University Avenue, North Park

 

Chicano Beers

Border X Brewing

From loteria nights, piñata festivals, and Latin jam sessions to Dia de los Muertos parties, art shows, and cultural events, everything about this Barrio Logan brewery demonstrates its owners’ efforts to bring Mexican roots and culture to the craft beer scene. With rich brews like Horchata Golden Stout, which tastes exactly like its namesake, and Abuelita’s Chocolate Stout made with Mexican chocolate, Border X succeeds in bringing delicious south-of-the-border flavor to San Diego.
2181 Logan Avenue, Barrio Logan

 

Cocktail Bar 

Fairweather

If you like piña coladas—and mai tais and those tiny drink umbrellas, look no further. Fairweather’s tiki-inspired cocktails continue to lure us to the lounge overlooking Petco Park. You can also order food from Rare Form, located downstairs, and have it delivered to your table.
795 J Street, East Village

 

Crowd-Pleasing Bar

Park & Rec

Beer, cocktails, bean bag toss, Ping-Pong, DJs, live music, trivia nights, a grilled cheese vendor—there's something for everyone at this University Heights bar. One bungalow is the main bar, serving cocktails like the Oaxocan on Sunshine with mezcal and grapefruit cordial. The second is the late-night dance party jam room, where one wall is almost completely removed so that you can sit, sip, and watch the patio antics. While in-house sandwich maker Royale with Cheese is undergoing a kitchen remodel—it’s slated to reopen later this year—they’re hosting a rotating schedule of food trucks in the interim.
4612 Park Boulevard, University Heights

 

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Accent Chair

Modernhaus

Summer Meza’s solid steel and powder-coated chairs are a lesson in artistry. The local designer and midcentury antique dealer cuts, stretches, laces, oils, and tans the thick latigo saddle leather by hand in her La Mesa studio, a process that takes two days per chair. The leather patinas with age and should last for decades—all the more time to create your own memories in this beautiful Memory of a Circle chair.  
modernhausdesign.com

 

Gift Shop, North

Liv3

Three cheers for Liv3, the charming boutique run by three sisters with great taste. Liv3 stocks everything from reasonably priced women’s clothes and shoes to cute gifts and a newly expanded kids’ section (hello, Freshly Picked moccasins). Check their website for upcoming workshops; past events include group yoga, cake decorating, and iPhone photography.
193 South Las Posas Road, San Marcos

 

Gift Shop, South

Gold Leaf

The South Park neighborhood prides itself on friendly, locally owned businesses, and when the space once occupied by Progress became vacant, Gold Leaf was a perfect fit to fill the void. The home decor and gift boutique is stocked with kitchenware, greeting cards, children’s products, accessories, men’s goods, and more. Plus, they offer gift wrapping for the complete package.
2225 30th Street, South Park

 

Design Blog

Design Milk

Jamie Derringer has an eye for design. The multitalented artist, tastemaker, and Del Sur resident created an online mecca for people who share her love of architecture and interiors. Her latest venture, Adorn Milk, is an online shop with expertly curated jewelry by emerging designers. She calls it “art and design for your body.” Adornable!
design-milk.com, adorn-milk.com

 

Consignment Shop

Double Take

If you’ve ever dreamed of swapping closets with the most fashionable women in North County, this is your dream come true. Double Take is a bargain-loving fashionista’s mecca, with brands like Prada and Chanel. Arrive with your own gently worn items and leave with a chic new ensemble.
731 South Highway 101, Solana Beach

 

Catchall

Songa Designs

On a mission to empower women everywhere, this local jewelry and accessories company employs more than 150 women in Rwanda, who negotiate their own fair wages to support their families. In July, Songa launched a new home decor line featuring hand-woven baskets made by the same Rwandan artisans with all-natural materials like sisal, banana leaf fibers, and recycled fabric. Each piece takes about a week to craft. The baskets are a great place to store keys and loose change or display on a credenza.
songadesigns.com  

 

Athleisure Line

Vuori Clothing

The founders of this Encinitas-based company couldn’t find performance workout gear they liked to wear, so they made their own. Their styles were selling out at REI and hip L.A. chain Fred Segal—until they opened a flagship brick and mortar in North County. Now locals can browse Vuori’s line of women’s yoga pants and men’s board shorts in person. Our “post-workout shopping at Whole Foods” look has never been better.   
625 South Coast
Highway 101, Encinitas

 

Eye Candy

Warby Parker

When this brand, co-founded by a Torrey Pines High School alum, opened a store in UTC, we went googly eyed. Literally! Warby Parker’s specs are not only super stylish, they’re also super reasonably priced. Knowledgeable staffers streamline the otherwise tedious process of getting prescription glasses. Got 20-20 vision? There are plenty of ready-to-wear sunglasses available as well. This month, look for WP’s in-house lemonade stand. Pay what you want for a glass of Spindrift sparkling lemonade; proceeds benefit United Through Reading, an organization helping deployed military parents read to their kids remotely.  
4465 La Jolla Village Drive, Westfield UTC

 

New York Import

Little Apple

New York–born sisters Jeanne Ring and Merrie Craig spent nearly a dozen combined years in Manhattan—Merrie in marketing, Jeanne in fashion—before the duo moved to San Diego and decided to bring Big Apple style to Little Italy. In their cool, Soho loft–like space, you’ll find leather pieces, polished blouses, and party-ready dresses from brands like Rails and Fifteen Twenty, along with jewelry and handbags.
1980 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy

 

Candles

SoCal Candle Co.

Personalize your home with SoCal Candle Co.’s “locally grown” collection, representing nine San Diego neighborhoods through various scents. The fragrance of the all-natural soy wax candles is intensified with the infusion of essential oils that help them burn cleaner. We love the musky Hillcrest candle, which combines Egyptian oils and sandalwood with hints of bergamot and vanilla for a fresh spin on men’s cologne.
socalcandleco.com

 

Multipurpose Pots

Chel’s Pots

Chelsea Wonenberg makes her line of chic, minimalist ceramics by hand at her Vista home studio, where it takes about a week to form the tumblers and cups that can be used for food, drinks, storage, houseplants, and more. Most of the pieces come in black-and-white splatter and stripe patterns, but Wonenberg loves to switch it up with cheeky quotes, too. See: “I like your butt” for Valentine’s Day.
chelspots.com

 

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Mani/Pedi

Girl on the Go! Night Spa

Who has the time to get a manicure during the workweek? Not us! That’s why we love Girl on the Go! Night Spa, which stays open until 10 p.m. Monday through Friday. The salon uses nontoxic nail polishes by Zoya, and the pedicures last forever. Look for their daily specials, like Manicure Monday ($10 off), Facial Friday (15 percent off), and more. Hello, gorgeous!
830 25th Street, Golden Hill

 

Lip Balm

Coola Mineral Liplux

This local sunscreen company continues to wow with its latest products for summer. Our favorite is the new Mineral Liplux, a tinted version of the best-selling original Liplux. The lip balms are available in six shades, offering a hint of natural color with the same organic ingredients and sun protection Coola is known for. Pucker up!  
coolasuncare.com

 

Bronzer

Blush tan

Say goodbye to fake orange spray tans. Blush Tan is all-natural and the only organic tanning option in San Diego. Their hypoallergenic solutions are free of oil, alcohol, parabens, and fragrances. They also come in more than 100 colors, to customize the perfect shade for each person. Bonus points for the moisturizing and anti-aging ingredients that reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and cellulite.
7450 Girard Avenue, La Jolla

 

Salon Experience

The Studio by Vanity

Start with a group of stylists so cool you wish they were your friends, then add a 1929 bungalow turned studio you wish you lived in. Following their recent move from Solana Beach to Leucadia, owner Carrie Kargman turned the space into a chic little home away from home. The backyard is dotted with a vintage barber chair, market lights, an outdoor shampoo station, and detached sheds for mani-pedis. Did we mention they serve complimentary wine and beer?
705 North Vulcan Avenue, Encinitas

 

Spa Menu

Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa

The Coronado Marriott’s spa just finished a complete overhaul. Among the new treatment rooms and bright lobby with that telltale spa smell, what stood out most to us was the upgraded food menu. The Wellness Bento Box ($20) allows spa goers to customize their lunch by choosing a combo of various sides, proteins, and sandwiches. Everything is super healthy and fresh, plucked from nearby Suzie’s Farm and other local sources. Enjoy alongside a new Spa-Tini and let the relaxation begin.
2000 Second Street, Coronado

 

Spa Treatment

Elemental Wellness Ritual

Already one of the county’s most beautiful spas, the Spa at Rancho Valencia is also the only spot in San Diego that carries the Barcelona skincare line Natura Bissé, a fave of royals and celebs. For their new cutting-edge treatment, Elemental Wellness, guests take a quiz to determine their body type and constitution. Then specific replenishing oils, minerals, herbs, and marine elements are used in three therapies—an aromatic bath soak, a body wrap with a guided meditation and facial massage, and a final full-body massage.
5921 Valencia Circle, Rancho Santa Fe

 

Cold Buster

Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Organic Hand Sanitizer

We love this family-run company based in Vista. Among their line of natural organic products, the hand sanitizer is the star. Lavender oil gives it a pleasant non-medicinal scent. But it’s the certified fair trade ethyl alcohol—from sugar cane farmed in the steep hills of Ecuador—that makes it 99.9 percent effective against germs. Consider it a must whenever your coworkers start calling in sick.  
drbronner.com   

 

Unique Spa Treatment

Rhythm and Motion Massage and Facial

If your music tastes run more White Stripes than flute-laced muzak, book a Rhythm and Motion treatment at the Hard Rock Hotel, where the masseur and facialist’s movements synchronize with the rhythm of the rock music. Lie on a heated table with subwoofers underneath for bass vibration, and a glass sound dome above you. The playlist mixes alternative, classic, and light rock. The treatments, which “marry Zeppelin and Zen,” activate the senses and are actually more invigorating than relaxing.
207 Fifth Avenue, Gaslamp

 

Korean Spa

Aqua Day Spa

The spa itself is the only thing tucked away at Aqua Day Spa. Nudity is the norm at this Korean-style spa offering designated male and female steam rooms, dry saunas, red clay relaxation rooms, hot and cold Jacuzzis, and shower facilities. If you’re willing to bare it all, you’ll find yourself splayed out on a massage table alongside fellow spa-goers. What’s lacking in privacy is well made up for in overall experience, so ditch your clothes (and inhibitions). Go for their signature scrub—you’ll leave with your smoothest skin ever.
4637 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa

 

Men’s Salon

Tailored Hair for Men

The skilled stylists at this cool barbershop are proof that dudes aren’t stuck with generic hair care. Owner Lizzy Broughton has created a clean, well-oiled operation in a trendy loft space where customers can indulge in beer, cold brew, and cookies while getting a perfectly coiffed new ’do. The prices may seem steep compared to run-of-the-mill salons—Tailored’s cuts cost $55—but if you want a five-star mane, this is it.   
350 11th Avenue, East Village

 

Shave

The Dover Honing Co.

It’s all about the old-school barbershop vibe at this stylish space by CH Projects (Craft & Commerce, Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar). Decked out in antique chairs and window signage hand-painted with 23-karat gold, it’s the perfect place to get your hirsute mug groomed. The shop also stocks supplies like Byrd’s handmade tortoiseshell pocket combs and original pomade by Grant’s Golden Brand. Gentlemen, keep calm and shave on.
703 Eighth Avenue, East Village

 

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Community Fitness Event

Wanderlust 108

This wellness-themed triathlon consists of an untimed 5K, 75 minutes of yoga set to a live DJ, and a 30-minute guided meditation, along with optional bonus activities like acroyoga. The vibe is community-oriented, encouraging (you’ll see all ages, from kids to grandparents), and social, with strangers connecting on social media during and after the event. Tri it out!
wanderlust.com

 

Adventure

The Ultimate Triad

On August 20, take the traditional triathlon to the next level with this one-day, three-part adventure that kicks off with jet skiing in Mission Bay. From there, take a ride in luxury chartered buses to extreme indoor rock climbing. After lunch, it’s up into the air for sky diving, followed by an adrenaline-fueled after party.
luavive.com

 

Workout with a View

Beach Spin

Hotel del Coronado hosts daily cycling classes on its Paseo Lawn, with bikes positioned in front of the iconic turrets. Take in the ocean view while launching into a 50-minute class led by an instructor and music via Beats headphones. Classes are $15 for locals with a photo ID and $10 for Club at the Del and Del Resort members. It’s a small price to pay to see the San Diego staple in a whole new way.
1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado

 

Spin Studio

Spark Cycle

The classes at this La Jolla spot continue to dominate the local spin scene, with excellent teachers, a clean and spacious studio, free spin shoes for rent, and chilled, eucalyptus-scented towels passed out at the end of your sweat session. It’s no wonder they’re opening a second location in Liberty Station early next year.
7777 Fay Avenue, La Jolla

 

Group Fitness

Equinox La Costa

Equinox La Costa’s new 30,000-square-foot space, the brand’s first in San Diego, includes four studios to accommodate an innovative, well-rounded lineup of classes led by local superstars like yoga instructor Andre Houle. Try The Pursuit by Equinox cycling class, which uses real-time data projected on a screen to encourage competition, and The Cut, a “sexy, cardio-forward” boxing class set to the beat of the music, or Gold Barre, a barre meets ice skater training session for your legs and butt, which is inspired by Olympic gold medalist Tara Lipinski.
7710 El Camino Real, Carlsbad

 

Trail Restoration and Expansion

Tijuana River Valley Regional Park

The newly completed 22.5-mile trail network makes room for hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers without sacrificing the habitats of endangered birds. Visitors can also enjoy the Dairy Mart Pond Overlook, a 1,200-square-foot deck with views of the valley and more than 340 bird species that call it home. Somewhere, an endangered songbird known as the least Bell’s vireo is resting a little easier.
2721 Monument Road, Tijuana River Valley

 

Race with Coworkers

America’s Finest Corporate Dash

This new race lets you team up with your coworkers to see who’s the fastest company in town. Race a 5K around Qualcomm Stadium in a team of four. Your times will be combined, and the fastest overall team wins. Other awards will be given for achievements such as the fastest team within specific industries and the fastest CEO.
9449 Friars Road, Mission Valley; thecorporatedash.com

 

Yoga Party

Black Light Yoga

There’s yoga paired with wine tasting, yoga performed to hip-hop music, yoga on the USS Midway, and more twists on the centuries-old practice. But Spirit Yoga’s monthly black light class is still one of the most novel ways to get your down-dog on. The studio provides glow-in-the-dark paint before you settle in for a lighthearted but challenging class performed in the dark with black lights. And with a glass of vino served after class, it’s the wellness-focused way to be a weekend warrior.
1559 Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach

 

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Adventurous Workout

Mesa Rim

At nearly 20,000 square feet, the new Mission Valley outpost of this popular fitness facility offers rock climbing, yoga, cardio equipment, and more. Rock climbing walls reach up to 55 feet with more than 300 routes, and there are more than 20 yoga classes to stretch your muscles afterward. Plus, rock climbing parties for little ones as young as 6 years old.
405 Camino del Rio South, Mission Valley

 

Kids’ Shoes

Pons Avarcas

We’re longtime fans of this local shoe company, which makes versatile everyday leather sandals inspired by traditional Spanish designs. Lately we’ve been coveting their line of baby and kids’ shoes, available in a wide selection of colors, metallics, animal prints, and even glitters. Their just-released light pink color in the Frailera style is perfect for the little fashionista in your life.
avarcasusa.com

 

Baby Food

Once Upon a Farm

Niche terms like GMO, probiotic, and gluten aren’t relegated to just adult meals anymore. Once Upon a Farm, the San Diego–based all-organic, non-GMO baby food, uses high-pressure processing—pressed juice fans may recognize its abbreviation, HPP—to kill potential pathogens without losing the nutrients, colors, textures, and aromas of the original food. The goal is to acclimate babies’ taste buds to real food now, so they’ll crave the same later—instead of overly processed shelf-stable foods. Next up? HPP applesauces launching in early fall.
uponafarm.com

 

Babysitter Alternative

Elite Gymnastics Academy

Need a sitter? Elite Gymnastics in El Cajon offers a monthly “Parents’ Night Out” from 6 to 10 p.m. Kids ages 4 and up can eat pizza, make crafts, jump in foam pits, climb ropes, bounce on trampolines, balance on beams, and basically swing from the ceiling like the little monkeys they are. The cost is $25 per child, a pretty great rate for a babysitter who doesn’t expect a tip.
1817 John Towers Avenue, El Cajon

 

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Reason to Go to the Movies

The Lot

Regular movie theaters are nice, but deluxe cinema spaces with cushy, reclining leather seats and food delivered at the push of a button are next level. The Lot’s newest location in Liberty Station is housed in the former Naval Training Center’s Luce Auditorium. The space also boasts a stunning glass-enclosed restaurant-lounge. With a mix of blockbuster and indie flicks, it’s the perfect marriage of multiplex and art house.
2620 Truxtun Road, Liberty Station; 7611 Fay Avenue, La Jolla

 

Art Class

Watercolor and Oil Painting

This art class comes with a side of San Diego history. Artist Leah Higgins’s watercolor and oil painting classes take place every Friday and Saturday at the former estate of Kate Sessions, the famed botanist and “mother of Balboa Park.” The classes include light refreshments in a charming Pacific Beach setting that showcases Sessions’s beautiful flora and foliage.
leahhigginsart.com

 

Gallery

La Bodega

Barrio Logan is buzzing, thanks in large part to La Bodega Gallery, a 9,000-square-foot warehouse turned art house known for its creative exhibits, like their annual Dia de los Muertos skull decorating show, or last month’s Frida Kahlo show, which featured paintings, music, and a costume contest. Gallery events feel more like block parties, with easy access to beer across the street (Border X Brewing) and tacos next door (¡Salud!).
2196 Logan Avenue, Barrio Logan

 

Continuing Education

Berry Good food Foundation

The problem: A flawed food system. The solution: Educating consumers about sustainable food and local farms. That’s the impetus of this nonprofit, founded by lawyer turned food activist Michelle Lerach. Past events include a cheesemaking class with Valley Center’s Taj Farms and a free panel covering the ethics of raising and eating meat. Bring your notebooks; class is back in session.
berrygoodfood.org

 

Lunchtime Culture Fix

Opera on the Concourse

San Diego Opera gives downtown workers the best reason to stop eating lunch at their desks with this free recital, performed in conjunction with the season’s productions. Held one weekday a month during opera season, the concerts offer a casual introduction to culture on the San Diego Civic Theatre concourse—no funny opera binoculars required.
1100 Third Avenue, Downtown

 

Book Shop

Verbatim Books

Besides stocking used college-course classics and gently worn children’s books, the North Park newcomer also hosts free music performances, author signings, and readings. You can even sell or trade selections from your home library.
3793 30th Street, North Park

 

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Staycation

One Bunk

The new Barrio Logan property launched by LWP Group (The Pearl Hotel) combines hotelier expertise with lifestyle-oriented lodging. One Bunk has its own website and social media accounts, but guests reserve via Airbnb. The studio comes with perks like Insurgente beer, Netflix, and a backyard bocce set for $90 per night. Next up, they’ll open eight rooms in a former Tijuana hotel, with plans to expand to Valle de Guadalupe soon. ¡Vamonos!
2626 National Avenue, Barrio Logan

 

Animal Encounter

San Diego Farm Animal Rescue

SDFAR educates and advocates for the ethical and compassionate treatment of all animals. Volunteers can feed rescued pigs and horses, collect chicken eggs, and learn about organic farming and composting. The rescue also offers weekend yoga classes overlooking the pasture, and overnight stays at their Rancho Cherimoya studio (all proceeds go to the care and feeding of the animals).
sdfarmanimalrescue.org

 

Latin Dance Party

#1 Fifth Avenue

Havana Night at this gay bar is the place for live Latin music, especially salsa, merengue, cumbia, and bachata. The Grammy-nominated Manny Cepeda Orchestra fuels the dance party the third Saturday evening of each month.
3845 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest

 

Outdoor Thrill

La Jolla Zip Zoom Zipline

Make a dent in your bucket list as you zip and zoom through the air at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour on Southern California’s longest zip line course. Snap the perfect selfie while you fly high above spectacular views of Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, and the La Jolla Indian Reservation. And you don’t have to go it alone—the 2.5-hour, four-zip-line tour features parallel cables, so you can share your adventure with a friend.
22000 Highway 76, Pauma Valley

 

Zoo Attraction

Flightline Safari

Take a ride on the wild side. With the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s new zipline tour, you can soar 130 feet above rhinos, giraffes, and other animals. The line spans two-thirds of a mile and the hour-long experience also includes a training session and test flight. For an additional fee, you can even document your flying feat with a high-def video via helmet cam. It’s a new way to get a bird’s-eye view.
15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido

 

Treasure Hunt

San Diego Vintage Flea Market

More than 10,000 collectors and tastemakers visit this free open-air bazaar that pops up in the lot behind The Observatory North Park every other month. It’s a juried market, which means founders Michelle Enders and Derek Mitchell review each vendor to ensure the quality and desirability of the vintage or vintage-inspired goods being sold. Plus, each event raises funds and collects items for Lionel’s Legacy Senior Dog Rescue.
2891 University Avenue, North Park

 

Nature Experience

Sky Falconry

Sky Falconry offers the rare opportunity to handle a trained bird of prey and learn about the ancient art of falconry among mountains in Alpine or the sea cliffs of La Jolla. Put on a glove and free fly a raptor, play field games, and take photos with the majestic creatures. When you experience one of the world’s oldest traditions you’ll feel exhilarated and inspired to get behind conservation efforts working to protect birds and their natural habitats.
skyfalconry.com

 

Interactive Game

The Puzzalarium

Put your wits to the test by trapping yourself in a room with three friends, your escape hinging on your ability to solve puzzles. The Puzzalarium is one of a few real-life mystery games that have opened in San Diego recently, including Escape SD. You have an hour to work through a series of riddles and challenges to find the key and get out. Organizers don’t recommend couples try to solve the room alone, for the sake of their relationships. May the odds be ever in your favor.
841 14th Street, East Village

 

Indoor Thrill

iFly Indoor Skydiving

Need a reason to go to Mission Valley other than the mall? It’s safe to say the thrill of skydiving is greater than a Nordstrom half-yearly sale. With the aid of a 50-foot tunnel and 120-mile-per-hour winds, experience a two-minute free fall without jumping from a plane.
2385 Camino del Rio North, Mission Valley

 

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Beach Accessory

Neso Tents

The Encinitas-based company has made beach trips easier, thanks to its bright, super-lightweight, and quickly assembled tents. Instead of using stakes that can be hard to hammer into the ground, their design uses sandbag anchors. The tents come in a convenient carrying case and weigh less than four pounds. This summer, prepare to throw some serious shade.
nesotents.com

 

Surfboard Reinvention

Moda Surfboards

Brenton Woo, 38, is a true multihyphenate (in this case, snowboarder-surfer-entrepreneur). Having founded snowboard brand Automaton in 2004, his next venture is Moda, the first-ever surfboard that uses snowboard-quality flexibility. Made with materials found in high-end bodyboards, it allows for speed when flat as well as maximum maneuverability when turning. Beginners, beware: The first wave of boards are just 4-foot-10 and users must be under 160 pounds, but larger boards are coming.
$350, modasurfboards.com

 

Eco-decision

Del Mar Plastic Bag Ban

Earlier this year, Del Mar joined Encinitas and Solana Beach in becoming the third city in the county to ban single-use plastic bags. The rule applies to grocery stores, restaurants, and even the farmers’ market. Supporters of the ban hope it will reduce litter and pollution and help protect local wildlife.

 

Eco-invention

CleverMade SnapBasket

The SnapBasket, launched by two Carlsbad entrepreneurs, takes reusable shopping bags to the next level. Its structured design protects fragile items like eggs from being crushed and can hold up to 25 pounds. It folds flat for easy storage, and comes in an array of fun colors.
clevermade.com

 

Publishing Provocateur

The Sager Group

The local boutique firm publishes provocative books, a few of which are working their way into college classrooms. Read Newswomen, a collection of work by female journalists, or the investigative Silicone on Trial, written by Jack C. Fisher, professor emeritus of surgery at UC San Diego. Also on the list is a sex manual for wounded warriors (supported by a grant from the Bob Woodruff Foundation) and a children’s series by former Baltimore Ravens running back P. J. Daniels. Joan Didion, Gloria Steinem, and Susan Orlean have already signed on to contribute favorite articles to the upcoming two-volume collection The Stories We Tell, part of the publisher’s Women in Journalism series.
thesagergroup.net

 

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