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The Best of San Diego 2009



There have never been more reasons to love San Diego. For our annual Best of San Diego® issue, we unearthed the tops in town. Wanna know where to find the best margarita? Place to polka? Seaside spa? Our intrepid research yielded some clear standouts. And you can’t afford to miss our section showcasing the city’s best bargains. Like two-dollar tapas. Seriously.

UNDERGROUND BAR Syrah’s con cealed clover-covered door only hints at what’s behind: an Alice in Wonderland–style basement, with full bar, tasty charcuterie, tastier deejay beats and a stylish downtown crowd. The best part? Watching newbies search for the concealed door, a show visible thanks to cameras mounted near the downstairs entrance. 619-234-4166, syrahwineparlor.com.

SNORKEL SPOT Who needs Hawaii? Grab a snorkel mask and head to La Jolla Cove, one of Southern California’s most photographed beaches. Whether you choose to wade close to shore or kayak to deeper waters, you’ll be swimming with a variety of sea life, including rays and sharks. And the leopard sharks, at least, are harmless.

NEW MUSIC VENUE ACOUSTICS Every seat is “the sweet spot” in the 400-seat concert hall of Conrad Prebys Music Center at the University of California, San Diego. Designed in part by world-renowned acoustician Cyril M. Harris, the asym metrical wood-and-plaster structure literally floats within the main building, resulting in richly diffused sounde. 858-534-3230; music.ucsd.edu.

GREEN BUILDING Though young ones may not fully appreciate the use of solar panels, natural lighting and recycled materials at downtown’s New Children’s Museum, they certainly appreciate the opportunity to express their creativity through art-making and hands-on exhibits. 619-233-8792; thinkplaycreate.org.

MAN CAVE With its sleek interior and tinted windows, ringside seats at the water’s edge, 26 flat-screen televisions and a sophis ticated menu that goes beyond typical bar food, Fox Sports Grill in the new Hilton San Diego Bayfront is an ultimate dining and entertainment-viewing destination. 619231-9000; foxsportsgrill.com.

PLACE TO BURN STUFF ON THE BEACH Some of the best things in life actually are free. Next time you’re in the mood for roasting marshmallows or burning photos of your ex over an open flame, nab a bonfire pit somewhere along Mission Bay. If you time it right, you’ll have a front-row seat to SeaWorld’s fireworks display.

SUPPER CLUB Most nightclubs give you a choice: good music or good food. Anthology, in Little Italy, offers up a tidy menu of both. The emphasis is on jazz, with such big-name music acts as Pat Metheny, Fattburger and Lee Ritenour, but pop and rock are part of the mix. And comedians have joined the lineup in recent months (Paula Poundstone, Joe Piscopo, Monique Marvez). 619-595-0300; anthologysd.com.

DOG BEACH With shallow water, room to roam, friendly visitors, a cleaning area and plenty of doggy bag stations, Coronado might be loved more by dogs than humans. Particularly mischievous ones wanting to reenact the Chariots of Fire scene in Marley and Me. 100 Ocean Boulevard.

RESTAURANT TABLE The food sets the same high standard at any table in Bertrand at Mister A’s. But next time you reserve for dinner, ask maître d’ Jerry Capozzeli to save you a seat at the southwest corner table. The views of the city skyline and San Diego Bay are priceless, and you’ll imagine you could touch the wing of one of the passenger jets coming in to land at Lindbergh Field. 619-239-1377; bertrandatmisteras.com.

PLACE TO DROP OFF VISITING IN-LAWS Balboa Park offers a staggering number of sights and sounds for all ages to keep your in-laws busy and out of your way. Just beware—there’s so much to see and do, they might want to return to San Diego sooner than you think. balboapark.org.

STARGAZING On dark, clear nights, our Cuyamaca Mountains and Anza-Borrego Des ert are beyond compare. Escape the city lights and head east for a visual feast powered by telescope or naked eye. Or join the San Diego Astronomy Association near Campo at Tierra del Sol for its Star Parties, open to the public. 619-645-8940; sdaa.org.

NORTH COUNTY DIVE BAR Drinks cheap and strong, check. Professional surfer and skater sightings, check. Rock on the jukebox, check. Pool table, check. For that occasional (or frequent) night of dressed-down revelry in Encinitas, northerners have a cherished spot in the Daley Double Saloon (known simply as The Saloon by locals). 760-753-1366.

SECRET HIKE Take it from the staff at REI: In late summer and early fall, it doesn’t get any better than Volcan Mountain, just north of Julian. You’ll need a guide to (legally) walk along the summit, but the view—the line where evergreen, oak and chaparral literally meet des ert—can’t be missed. volcanmt.org.

KARAOKE BAR Musician and prolific cover artist Adam Gimbel hosts cleverly themed karaoke nights with Too Cool for Karaoke, every Tuesday at the Ruby Room in Hillcrest. Check out the staggering sing-along possibilities here, where half the cover charge goes to the San Diego Music Foundation. 619-299-7372; myspace.com/toocoolforkaraoke.com.

HORSEBACK RIDING The only beach in the county to allow horseback riding, Border Field State Park butts right up against the Mexico border. The Happy Trails horse ranch offers private beach rides, by reservation only, for $120. Riders can romp on the sand and even splash around in the waves. 619-443-3517; happytrails-usa.com.

PIANO BAR If a predominantly gay crowd makes you uneasy, you’ll miss one of the best entertainment lineups in town. Some of San Diego’s top musicians hold forth seven nights a week at Hillcrest’s Inn at the Park. Among them: pianist Tommy Gannon with Gayle St. Gregory (Tuesdays) and with jazz diva Janice Edwards (Thursdays); pianist-singer Nathan Fry and singer Andy Anderson (Wednesdays); and piano man Kenny Ard (Fridays). 619291-0999; parkmanorsuites.com.

COUGAR BAR Guys, watch your backs at Jack’s, an upscale hunting ground. Older, craftier and handsome ladies descend from their dens in Del Mar and La Jolla to check out the multi-room affluent venue. 858-4568111; jackslajolla.com.

NEW URBAN MEDITATION SPOT Renowned Tibetan Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoch, founded the Rigpa Fellowship to share the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism with the Western world. The organization recently completed its meditation center in the East Village’s Art Center building, where class offerings include Finding Peace: An Intro duc tion to the Practice of Meditation. 619-906-4291; sandiego.usa.rigpa.org.

HIDDEN GEM OF BALBOA PARK  Think you’ve seen all of Balboa Park’s gardens? Chances are you’ve missed Garden Court, a expansive stretch nestled between the park’s administration building and the Activity Center along Park Boulevard near Presidents Way. With arcades, fountains, domes and tile work, the hidden garden’s tranquility is disturbed only by the planes flying overhead. balboapark.org.

NEW ROOFTOP BAR/LOUNGE Siren Pool & Uber Lounge atop downtown’s Sè luxury hotel features a 7,000-square foot pool deck and a zero edge pool tricked out with underwater surround sound. The recent entertainment lineup included Cirque du Soleil style acrobatics and Model Behavior, an interactive fashion show and photo shoot. Imbibe from an extensive list of signature drinks at the teak bar, or lounge in one of eight private cabañas. 619-515-3000; sesandiego.com.

SINGLES SCENE Come for the art; stay for the cocktails and beautiful people. Or is it the other way around? Either way, the San Diego Museum of Art’s Culture & Cocktails evenings of drinks and deejays draw a lively group to Balboa Park. 619-232-7931; sdmart.org.

OUTDOOR CONCERT VENUE Viejas’ Concerts at the Park feature big acts such as Los Lonely Boys with Los Lobos and Brooks 619-445-5400; viejas.com.

VIEW BAR The Glass Door in Little Italy is a restaurant, too, but it’s the bar scene that dominates the top floor of the hip, new Porto Vista boutique hotel refashioned out of an old quick-trip motel. The “glass door” is really a series of doors spread across the face of the restaurant, offering the only view of the city and bay from any eatery in Little Italy. 619-544-0164; theglassdoorsd.com.

SPOT TO SPOT A CELEBRITY Forget the downtown hotel lounges and clubs if you really want to rub elbows with Hollywood royalty, head to SeaWorld. Among the Shamu seeking celebrities spotted since January: actors Steve Carell, Debra Messing, Jaime Pressly and Uma Thurman. 800-257 4268; seaworld.com/sandiego.

Food & Drink

SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD How do you get the freshest seafood to your restaurants’ doors and guarantee eco-friendly fishing methods? If you’re Matt Rimel, you partner with hook-and-line fishing boats based off the coasts of San Diego and Hawaii. From boat to plate, it takes Rimel’s Ocean Giant just 24 hours to deliver sustainable, sushi-grade goods to his La Jolla and Cardiff outposts, Zenbu and Rimel’s Rotisserie. rimelsrestaurants.com.

VEGETARIAN BUFFET Customers of Nature’s Express in Hillcrest pile their plates high with fresh, organic vegetarian fare from the whole-foods buffet. In addition to the cold bar complete with an array of salad fixings, the hot bar features a rotating menu of dishes such as seitan Stroganoff, tempeh tacos, “chicken” Parmesan and a hearty selection of soups. There’s also a dizzying assortment of smoothies and juice blends. 619-550-1818; natures-express.com.

MOVABLE FEAST Imagine a naturally scenic location—perhaps a beach, vineyard or forest. Now add a sunset, hundreds of flickering candles, a gorgeous tablescape set for 50-100 and a locally sourced gourmet meal paired with wine. What you’ve got is the ChileCo Social, a monthly mixer hosted by executive chef Scott Wagner. Basically, it’s a dream dinner party without the cleanup. 866-662-2837; chilecocatering.com.

CANDY SHOP Open only two years, Spreckels Sweets & Treats took over an old shoe shop at Hotel del Coronado and is now one of the classic hotel’s top kiddie draws, particularly around Christmas. Enjoy a wide selection of vintage candies imported from all over the country, from Mary Janes to old fashioned peanut brittle, saltwater taffy and carmels. For the more sophisticated sweet tooth, there’s an entire case of truffles and fudges. 619 435-6611; hoteldel.com

FISH MARKET There’s good reason folks line up at the no-frills Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill in South Mission Hills: They want fresh fish, simply prepared. An extensive menu offers everything from fried calamari and oysters to ceviche and cioppino, but your best bets come with grill marks— pick a species and a marinade, and ask for a sandwich, salad or plate. Or buy it over the counter, take it home, and prepare it yourself. 619-497-0914.

ANNUAL FOOD-AND-WINE EVENT California chefs, farmers, ranchers and vintners showcase their bounty at the annual Celebrate the Craft event, October 29– November 1 at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. Patrons meander through a maze of food and wine booths, stationed on the lodge’s large lawn skirting the Pacific Ocean. The weekend-long event also features a private dinner and the Torrey Pines Plein Air Invitational art show. 858-453-4420; celebratethecraft.com.

GREEN RESTAURANT The chain may be in 11 states, but their being outtatowners is no reason to knock Pizza Fusion. They deliver in hybrid vehicles, recycle and reuse pizza boxes, work in LEED-certified build ings, wear organic cotton uniforms, use ovens that redistribute heat, serve with biodegradable utensils, purchase wind-energy credits, teach kids the importance of organic eating and recycling, clean with eco-friendly products and happen to make delicious pies at the Hillcrest location. 619-278-0057; pizzafusion.com.

EDIBLE GARDEN With numerous sprouts and long waiting lists, San Diego’s crop of more than two dozen community gardens is an amazing success story. The unique satisfaction of growing what you eat is in higher demand than ever; new gardens spring up and are breaking ground every year. Up-and-comers include Balboa Park Edible Landscape, at Sixth Avenue and Quince Street. sandiegoroots.org.

MADE-TO-ORDER DONUTS Even better than fresh donuts made earlier in the day: warm, bite-size miniatures born before your eyes at a time and location of your choosing. Dolce Donuts will come to your office or event, set up shop in a corner and send the delicious minis down an assembly line that’s almost as much fun to watch as its product is to eat. 619-9859854; dolcedonuts.com.

24-HOUR TACO STAND It’s 2 a.m., and dining alfresco under fluorescent lights among the inebriated and drifters at Mission Hills’ La Posta de Acapulco never felt so right. Transact your business through a tiny hole, wait a few minutes, and enjoy one of the city’s best California burritos or carne asada fries for just a fistful of change. 619-295-8982.

$1.50 LUNCH Costco’s meal combo featuring a quarter-pound hot dog and soda takes the crown for the most satisfying cheap lunch. You could probably even scrounge enough change from your ashtray to spring for two dogs. Still hungry? If you’ve got a Costco membership, head inside and load up on free samples. Take that, recession! costco.com.

RESTAURANT ROW With an increasing number of this magazine’s Best Restaurant picks set in North Park, the gentrified bor ough has made the leap. Whether your taste is exquisite dining, small bites, health food or exotic beer and wine, the epicenter of San Diego’s most exciting culinary scene is at 30th Street and University Avenue.

TAPAS BRUNCH Sundays sparkle at the Carlsbad Sheraton’s Twenty/20 Grill & Wine Bar. That’s when the eatery hosts its Sparkling Sundays brunch (11 a.m.–3 p.m.), and it’s where chef Reed Anderson cooks up tapas-style plates—try the smoked salmon with potato pancakes—prepared on the outdoor grill (and priced at a reasonable $2 to $6 apiece). And what’s brunch without the bubbly? There’s an array of champagnes, sparking wines and other specialty drinks. 760-827-2500; twenty20grill.com.

POUR Mosaic’s generous pours endear it to us even more at this fun yet intimate North Park wine bar, where unpretentious bartenders offer up way more than a spit of wine. No wonder it’s one of the more popular new wine bars in town. 619-9064747; mosaicwinebar.com.

LOCALLY PRODUCED VIOGNIER Orfila Vineyard & Winery in Escondido put San Diego County on the oenophile map with its award winning Rhone style wines. To create the Estate Viognier Lotus 67 ($29), noted winemaker Leon Santoro, who passed away last year, blended 76 percent Viognier with Marsanne and Rousanne and aged it in French oak. The very drinkable result is a citrusy white wine with hints of vanilla and floral notes. 800-868-9463; orfila.com.

SUMMERTIME COCKTAIL Starlite’s copper mugs can barely contain all the wonderful goodness and synergy of organic vodka, ginger beer, bitters and a slice of lime. The famous Starlite Mules go down easy, pack a swift kick and ensure devotees return to this Mission Hills lounge night after night. 619-358-9766; starlitesandiego.com.

SALSA For 16 years, no one’s been doing it better than Miramar’s La Salsa Chilena. It’s a hybrid of TJ style with pebre, the Chilean mix of tomatoes, lots of garlic, onions, lemon juice and a secret combination of spices and peppers that render this stuff irresistible (Silvia Guerra, the originator, is from Chile). 858-566-7257; lasalsachilena.com.

SQUARE CUPCAKES Wait a minute—cupcakes are round, right? So this must be a gimmick? Maybe. But the great taste of the cakes at Cupcakes Squared (in Point Loma’s Stumps Market Center) is no gimmick. Plus, these beauties come in 25 flavors, from almond to lilikoi (vanilla cake with passionfruit frosting) to pumpkin pecan. For up to 99 cakes, prices are $2.75 to $3.50 each; 100-plus gets you a quarter discount per cupcake. 619-226-3485; cupcakessquared.com.

MARGARITA AND MARTINI Ortega’s Mexican Bistro is a consistent winner among our annual Best Restaurant picks,so maybe the food overshadows the drinks. But owners John Haugland and Juan Carlos Ortega have carved out a cozy bar/lounge, too, in their southwest corner of a strip mall at Third and University. In addition to our vote for best Margarita (mango-mint), a nod to the bartenders for a pretty mean version using pomegranate juice, as well as their Rosa Maria martini. 619-692-4200; ortegasbistro.com.

SORE-THROAT REMEDY Sure, the food tastes good. Fairly priced, too. But here’s a secret about Taste of Szechuan in Hillcrest: The restaurant’s hot-and-sour soup has amazing healing properties. Okay, maybe it won’t heal you, but it’ll sure take the sting out of your sore throat. Medicine men call it a counterirritant, but there’s nothing irritating about the taste. Best hot-and-sour in the city. 619-291-1668.

PLACE FOR A SUNSET GLASS OF WINE On exceptionally clear days, just as the sun sinks into the ocean, there’s a green flash on the horizon. That’s what The Green Flash in Mission Beach is named after, and there may be no better spot in town to catch the atmospheric fluke than this outdoor patio, which fronts the Mission Beach boardwalk. Added bonus: nearly two dozen wines by the glass. 858-270-7715; greenflashrestaurant.com.

HANGOVER BREAKFAST Forget the Advil; nurse a nasty hangover with the tasty breakfast grub served up at Honey’s Bistro & Bakery, a homey café on Coast Highway 101 in downtown Encinitas. You’ll think they stole Mom’s recipes for pancakes, muffins and eggs Benedict. Honey’s Big Breakfast hits the spot after an especially rough night. 760-942-5433; honeysbakery.signonsandiego.com.

SANDWICH WITH A VIEW Dine cliffside over the magnificent Torrey Pines bluffs at this seriously underrated snack shack, the Cliff Hanger Café at Torrey Pines Glider Port. With surfers and hikers below, hang gliders and paragliders above, this center of action is an unrivaled spot for an eye-filling bite. 858-452-9858; flytorrey.com.

INSTANT PICNIC Saffron, the Thai masters of Mission Hills, offers a ready-to-go picnic basket to feed four for those days when dining alfresco on a blanket is too tempting to ignore. Just $38 gets you a whole rotisserie chicken with seven sauces, two chicken egg rolls, cucumber salad, Cambodian salad and rice. Return the basket and containers and save 10 percent next time. 619-574-7737; saffronsandiego.com.

BOTTLED ALTRUISM Created, funded and bottled in San Diego, Nika is a new brand of water that pours 100 percent of its profits into efforts to bring water and sanitation into underdeveloped countries. Nika’s owners offset the company’s carbon footprint by funding the planting of trees in Nicaragua. nikawater.org.

MOLTEN DESSERT It seems no other place goes to so much trouble to make sweets so luxurious, and Extraordinary Desserts’ chocolate lava bun tops them all. From gold leaf to real flower petals, the dessertier in Little Italy and Bankers Hill keeps wowing our city with its indulgent sweets after all these years. 619-294-7001, 619-294-2132; extraordinarydesserts.com.

TEA ROOM Sitting inside Tea-Upon-Chatsworth in Point Loma, you’ll feel transported to a kinder, gentler era, where people spent leisurely afternoons sipping tea and nibbling finger sandwiches. Various fine teas (poured into porcelain tea cups, of course) are complemented by a menu of sweet and savory items: gourmet tea sandwiches, scones, tarts, tea cakes and more. 619858-2848; cu4t.com.


REASON TO PLAY HOOKY Seventy years and still going strong, opening day at Del Mar is a San Diego tradition unlike any other. The crowd ranges from crass to classy; dress as you want—or who you want to be—for the day, but hats are a must. 858755-1141; dmtc.com.

PLACE TO EMBRACE YOUR INNER DESIGNER Create the perfect wedding dress, bathing suit or whatever else you dream up at Sew Inspired in Encinitas. This learn-to-stitch sewing lounge hosts basic and advanced classes for kids and adults, along with specialty sessions such as Halloween costuming and the recession-busting Shop Your Own Closet, where you learn to update your wardrobe via alterations. 760-908-7853; sewinspired.biz.

SHAKESPEARE UNDER THE STARS The Old Globe Theatre stages its Summer Shakespeare Festival through September 27. This year’s lineup features two works by Shakespeare Twelfth Night and Coriolanus— along with Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, performed in nightly rotation in the outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre. 619-23-GLOBE; theoldglobe.org.

PLACE TO POLKA Two left feet? No problem. Get your polka on (or your chacha, foxtrot or samba) at MacVittie’s Dance Studio in La Mesa, which is poised to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2010. The secret to the school’s success: enthusiastic, patient instructors. 619-465-3411; macvittiesdance.com.

TIME IN A RUNNING CLUB San Diego’s Hash House Harriers proudly declares itself “a drinking club with a running problem.” This fun-loving, partying bunch meets for runs all around the county. The 22nd edition of the club’s Red Dress Run in June featured 500-plus runners wearing red dresses (yes, guys, too) and dashing through the streets of Mission Beach. sdh3.com.

RISING TRUE-CRIME WRITER Caitlin Rother resigned from her job as an investigative reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune in 2006 to write books full-time. Her latest, Where Hope Begins, which she wrote with Alysia Sofios, is due in September. It tells the true story of a reporter who adopts a family of abuse victims. caitlinrother.com.

CASINO EXPANSION One of the highlights of Pala Casino Spa & Resort’s recent $100 million expansion is the arrival of new dining options, especially the seeingis-believing buffet, appropriately dubbed Choices. It’s Southern California’s largest buffet, with eight cooking stations and 200 items. Other new eateries include Amigo’s and Sushi Sake. Pala also added a poker room and high-limit area, a “casino within the casino.” 877-946-7252; palacasino.com.

STEP INTO THE SPOTLIGHT Moonlight Amphitheatre’s new enclosed stage house is stealing the show in Vista’s Brengle Terrace Park. The 900-seat outdoor venue, long a family favorite, has consistently put on high-quality summer musicals despite outdated equipment and facilities. The project, which also included backstage updates, took its first curtain call in July as the 29th season opened. Bravo! 760-7242110; moonlightstage.com.

STUDENT BAND Monarch School in downtown San Diego provides accredited education to homeless and at-risk kids, and its steel drum band is a prime example of its enrichment programs. For a dose of the Caribbean, the Steel Monarchs practice beats outside from 3:30 to 5 p.m. most weekdays. Coordinator Rob Tan can arrange to have the band play at your next event. Donations accepted. 619-685-8242; monarchschools.org.

DEEP-SEA FISHING Oceanside Harbor —a quaint, tiny pool of water surrounded by marinas, restaurants and even a fake lighthouse—is a kinder, gentler alternative to San Diego Bay. Helgren’s offers four deep-sea fishing options: half-day, three-quarterday, twilight and Saturday-night shark fishing. The boats are clean and comfortable, and the skippers are ready to move on a whim if the fish aren’t biting. 760-722-2133; helgrensportfishing.com.

RECURRING THEATRICAL VERSION OF A MOVIE Cygnet Theatre’s “radio” reenactment of It’s a Wonderful Life, which will be presented again this December, offers San Diego yet another theatrical choice to boost holiday spirits (along with the Old Globe’s Grinch and various Christmas Carols). The feel-good story of George Bailey’s redemption is plumped out nicely with amusing “commercials” and sound effects worth seeing. 619-698-5855; cygnettheatre.com.

OFF-ROADING Four-wheel and two-wheel sand junkies agree: It doesn’t get any better than Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area in Borrego Springs. With trails for different abilities, camping, rest room and shower facilities, Ocotillo Wells is practically the Aspen of off-roading. 760767-5391; parks.ca.gov.

KNITTING NOOK First and third Sundays of the month, bring your yarn and needles to the Whistle Stop, one of South Park’s best neighborhood bars. But the quirks don’t stop there: Game night, with board games, Nintendo and Atari, happens every Tuesday, and Citizen Video hosts movie matinees the second and fourth Sundays. 619-284-6784; whistlestopbar.com.

ALFRESCO CLASSICAL Summer wouldn’t be complete without the San Diego Symphony’s Summer Pops at Embarcadero Marina Park South. This year’s outdoor lineup includes Jose Feliciano, Burt Bacharach and Melissa Manchester. For the best pops experience, reserve table-service seats in the Champagne section. 619-235-0804; sandiegosymphony.org.

DANCE TROUPE The San Diego–based Lollipop Girls have performed their sexy burlesque routines (think The Pussycat Dolls) all over town—from Stingaree to the Del Mar Country Club—and all around Southern California and Vegas. The girls danced for a national TV audience this summer during an appearance on America’s Got Talent. thelollipopgirls.com.

PET PHOTOGRAPHY On the hunt for a photographer to shoot your schnauzer? Oh My Dog! Photography in Encinitas will capture your dog’s mug and personality for perpetuity. Using stylish backdrops, furniture or any other desired props, husband and wife photographers Mike Fish and Tee Taylor capture stylish, evocative images of our cherished four-legged companions. 760-479-0553; ohmydogphoto.com.


FREE RIDE Impress guests staying downtown with dinner at Donovan’s Steak & Chop House and its courtesy shuttle service. The plush 14-seat Dono-Van picks up folks from nearby hotels and returns them safely after they’ve polished off their last bottle of wine. If only all of us could get in on this door-to-door service. 619-2379700; donovanssteakhouse.com.

WINE COACH Are you smarter than a wine snob? You could be, after a class with John Alonge (wineheretic.com) at the Balboa Park Food & Wine School. The expert provides humor and plenty of vino during his lessons, which are part of the school’s ongoing curriculum. If you’re lucky, he’ll teach you how to open a champagne bottle with a sword. 619-557-9441, extension 203; balboafoodandwine.com.

TRIATHLON COACH A former pro fessional triathlete with a dozen Ironman finishes to her credit—including a win at the 1994 Ironman Canada—Terry Martin has helped athletes of all abilities reach their goals. In addition to coaching her own clients, she’s the head coach for the Masters Running & Triathlon Program at UCSD. tpmartin@ucsd.edu and recreation.ucsd.edu/mstr.

PLACE TO PIMP YOUR RIDE Take it from Chargers such as Kassim Osgood, Antonio Cromartie, Buster Davis and others: Kenny at Soundelux car audio in Chula Vista is the go-to guy—not only for audio visual installation and iPod integration but for interiors, rims, tires and show cars. But he doesn’t just have room in his garage for athletes’ Bentleys or vintage rides; Kenny’s currently customizing an ’86 pickup truck, too. 619-575-7558.

MOBILE ART MUSEUM The Lux Art Institute is known for housing artists from around the world as they create com mis sioned art. The public is invited to the Encinitas museum to watch each artist at work. But another Lux program, the Valise Project, brings museum-quality art to the people— to kids, specifically, in classrooms around the county. Each valise is a portable, hands-on art lesson. 760-436-6611; luxartinstitute.org/ education/the-valise-project.

REASONS TO GET MEDICAL TREATMENT IN SAN DIEGO Local biotech research and medical facilities are on the cutting edge of breakthroughs in treating diseases that were once a death sentence. This spring, UCSD’s School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center announced advances in detecting the spread of breast cancer and in work on a vaccine for prostate cancer. medicine.ucsd.edu; cancer.ucsd.edu.

KIDS’ MUSIC LESSONS The next generation of guitar heroes studies at The Paul Green School of Rock Music, a performance based school that offers instruction for guitar, bass, keyboards, drums and vocals. Here, kids (and adults) are encouraged to channel their inner rock gods via jam sessions and performances at major venues. 619-696-9343; schoolofrock.com.

REASON TO STAY OUT OF THE OCEAN The summer retirements of lifeguards Jimmy Canale and Tom Thayer mark the end of an era. Canale and Thayer are the first known San Diego lifeguards to serve at the beach for 30 years—Canale at Windansea and La Jolla Cove, Thayer at the Children’s Pool and La Jolla Cove. Canale continues to lifeguard and teach with nonprofit Surf Lifesaving del Sur, while Thayer continues to be in and around the water. Their best rescues?
“The ones the lifeguard you taught tells you about,” says Canale.

PUBLIC POOL No other public pool can possibly offer as beautiful a view as Coronado’s. But in addition to overlooking Glorietta Bay, the Coronado Community Center seems to offer it all: friendly staff, an Olympic-size and a smaller recreational pool, gymnasium, fitness center, dance studio, climbing wall, skate park and banquet rooms. 619-522-2464.

PLACE TO PRIMP YOUR POOCH At Fido & Co. in Hillcrest, dogs get the royal treatment in the doggie daycare’s wellness spa and grooming salon. Lucky pooches luxuriate in a range of services, from mud baths and Reiki massage to blueberry facials and “pawdicures.” The inspiration behind the luxury spa offerings is Butkus, co-owner Lisa Wilhoit McCormick’s beloved pug, who loves a good pawdicure. 619-295-WOOF (9663); fidoandcompany.com.

MOBILE CAR DETAILER James Hin of FYB Auto Detailers will come to you—at home or work—and give your car a buff shine inside and out. The Express Detail includes an exterior wash with spot-free, deionized water; a wheel and tire cleaning; interior vacuum; a wipedown of the dash, door panels and jambs; and window washing. All that, plus an air freshener, for $25. 760-688-8753; fybdetailers.com.

CUSTOM-MADE BICYCLES Robin Williams rides one. So does Liam Neeson. But you don’t have to go to Hollywood to buy the “Ferrari of mountain bikes.” Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles manufactures its custom cruisers, trail and road bikes in Ramona and supplies dealers throughout San Diego and beyond. Frames retail from about $1,700 to $5,500. 760-788-7500; ellsworthbikes.com.


REINTERPRETATION OF AN ART GALLERY When most think of a gallery, they envision fine art hanging on walls in a minimalist space. But at Amba, Nirmala Seshadri-Jagannath’s Solana Beach gallery, the art is handmade textiles, clothing, jewelry and accessories from India. The hand-quilted, reversible jackets are works of art. Made from vintage saris, no two are alike. Amba reinvests all of its profits into the communities that supply the gallery with their handicrafts. 858-259-2622; ambagallery.com.

ECO-CHIC MATERNITY BOUTIQUE  Dress for the Nines delivers trendy maternity threads that are affordable and, in many cases, good for the planet. The refreshing alternative to retail stores stocks organic cotton and bamboo must-haves, hot brands like Paper Denim & Cloth, jewelry from local designers and a selection of eco-friendly skincare and baby essentials. 619-299-0260; dressforthenines.com.

LATER-NIGHT SHOPPING  You’ve finished dinner in the Gaslamp Quarter, but it’s too early to hit the clubs. Kill time by brushing up on dating tips at Borders Bookstore (668 Sixth Avenue) or playing dress-up at Urban Outfitters (665 Fifth Avenue), Lucky Brand Jeans (621 Fifth) or G-Star Raw (470 Fifth), all of which stay open well past Horton Plaza shopping center’s 9 p.m. curfew.

NEW FURNITURE BOUTIQUE  Hailing from Denmark, BoConcept in Little Italy specializes in furniture that’s altogether affordable and luxurious as well as modern, cozy and functional. Its free design service includes a three-dimensional rendering of your home and the option to customize any piece. 619-398-0745; boconcept.us.

SCENIC TRAIL RUN  Glimpse old California on the trails of the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, where the chaparral, majestic Torrey pines and pristine shoreline offer a tranquil refuge from urban life. Combine the Broken Hill Trail with the Razor Point and Beach Trails for a scenic 3-mile loop. 858-755-2063; torreypine.org.

HEALTH FOOD PET STORE The specialty at Dexter’s Deli in Del Mar is nutrition. The place is stocked with all-natural brands plus a variety of raw foods including tripe and bone marrow. The pampered-pet paradise overflows with toys, outdoor gear, attire, sparkly accessories and plenty of pet-related gifts for the human kind. 858-792-3797 (Carlsbad, 760-7207507); dextersdeli.com.

OPRAH-ENDORSED BOUTIQUE  Susan Nethero, known by devotees (Oprah among them) as “the bra whisperer,” chose Fashion Valley for the West Coast debut of her high-end bra boutique chain, {intimacy}. Nethero, who studied with the queen of England’s royal bra fitter, personally trains each stylist in the fine art of the just-right fit. The shop offers free fitting consultations and carries more than 95 bra sizes and European lines. 619-894-8835; myintimacy.com.

ANTIQUING BY THE BEACH Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach’s main drag, is lined with antique stores and malls. Our favorite: the mammoth, 18,000-square-foot Newport Avenue Antique Center, which sells every thing from historical photos, magazine ads and other paper goods to rich oak, walnut and mahogany furniture. obantiquedistrict.com.

ECO-FRIENDLY BABY GEAR Magical Child, a friendly, family-run business in the Encinitas Lumberyard, carries organic clothing (brands include Under the Nile), blankets, wraps (Maya Wrap is a favorite), rattles, teethers and bath-time goodies for the littlest practitioners of an Earth-friendly life style. There’s also a wide offering of wood toys and games. 760-633-1326; magicalchild.com.

TRAFFIC STOPPER Nothing, repeat, nothing turns heads and literally stops traffic —in La Jolla, of all places—like Bugatti’s new $1.8 million Grand Sport, sold only at Symbolic Motors. But its 1,000 horsepower with 1.2 G-force acceleration isn’t the dan gerous part; it’s all the other drivers sticking cameras and phones out the window as you zoom by that you need to worry about. 858454-1800; symbolicmotors.com.

GIFT BOUTIQUE Window-shoppers follow their nose into this charming little Encinitas boutique, with its large selection of high-end candles from Voluspa and Burn. Or maybe they’re drawn by the perfumes of popular brands Kai and Tokyo Milk. Dreamy also carries letterpress stationery and cards, stylish jewelry (check out the hand-stamped tags from Chris Bolton), bath and body products (an area is devoted to lotions and potions for moms-to-be) and whimsical items for baby. 760-632-1463; shopdreamy.com.

Beauty & Fitness

WAY TO FIT INTO YOUR SKINNY JEANS  Numerous movie stars credit The Bar Method workout with getting them ready for the big screen. We mortals can also benefit from the rigorous body-shaping and fat-burning routines incorporating elements of isometrics, yoga, Pilates and aerobics. Instructor and franchisee Allison McCurdy runs San Diego’s only Bar Method location, at Liberty Station in Point Loma. 619-2262301; barmethod.com/sandiego.

PLACE TO GET SUGARED  The Undercarriage in Bankers Hill calls itself a “fine waxing establishment,” but aestheti cians there also perform body sugaring, a hair-removal technique dating back to the ancient Middle East. A lukewarm paste made of sugar, water and lemon juice is applied to the skin in the direction of hair growth and removed in the same direction, making the technique less painful than waxing. 619-5259929; theundercarriage.com.

SPA BY THE SEA  Unveiled in March, Spa LAuberge was part of a $26 million renovation of the LAuberge Del Mar luxury resort. The new spa reflects a breezy, beach cottage chic design: Colorful Donald Takayama longboards are repurposed as wall décor, and beach rocks in the locker room flooring add to the serene, nature inspired vibe. The treatment menu includes massages, body wraps, facials and the new signature Seaside Sojourns utilizing ingredients and techniques from around the world. 800-245-9757; laubergedelmar.com.

BOOTCAMP Need to shed a few pounds? Barry’s Bootcamp should do the trick. The gym-meets-nightclub setting provides everything from free weights and treadmills to high-energy dance music and butt-kicking instructors. An hour-long class can burn up to 1,000 calories. Skeptical? Celeb devotees of the workout include Jessica Alba and Hugh Jackman. Nuff said. 619-906-4455; barrysbootcamp.net.

EYEBROW SHAPING Jana Williams at the Brow Bungalow in Bankers Hill has a loyal following of clients who love her easygoing approach to brow maintenance. Instead of heavy plucking and shaping, she grooms brows to a natural, clean shape that complements the face. And at a checkbook-friendly cost of $25, you can afford regular visits. 858-401-3157.

FACIAL TREND At Sara Elizabeth Skincare in Mission Hills, Sara Elizabeth Kuite utilizes micro current and ultrasound technology in her popular sounds-like-sci-fi Supersonic Dermabrasion treatment. It’s a cosmetic ultrasound that cleanses by releasing cellular debris and exfoliates to reveal a healthy glow. Kuite finishes the treatment by delivering “sustainable vitaminic molecules” deep into the skin using another form of ultrasound. 619-977-7546; saraelizabethskincare.com.

FREE DANCE CLASSES Take a new approach to getting in shape by partaking of Malashock Dance Company’s complimentary dance classes at Point Loma’s Liberty Station. Express your inner Baryshnikov or Travolta while having fun and torching calories.

25+ San Diego Best Buys

Hot Spot for a Five-Spot

In Bankers Hill, WET STONE WINE BAR offers wines by the glass for $5, Tuesday through Sunday, 5-7 p.m. the Happy Hour wine menu ranges from Spanish white or red sangría to red from Argentina. Small bites are reduced by $2 a plate. 619-255-2856.

Little Italy’s ANTHOLOGY is jazzing up Tuesdays with a much-reduced cover charge of $5. The dinner club offers a cheap date night, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays: Select menu items are half-off in the main dining room. 619-595-0300; anthologysd.com.

STARLITE’s popular house drink, the Star-lite Mule, is $5 all night on Sundays and Mondays. The Mission Hills lounge also serves a budget-friendly $20 fixed-price, three-course dinner on Tuesdays. 619-3587766; starlitesandiego.com.

The SAN DIEGO PADRES lob a home-game special dubbed “5 for 5” that includes a hot dog, regular soda, popcorn, peanuts and a cookie for five bucks. Also at Petco Park: two-for-one tickets during weekday afternoon games and $12 seats Friday through Sunday, when the upper reserved ticket price includes a hot dog and Coke. 619-7955000; padres.com.

Downtown’s IVY HOTEL claims the happiest “hour” Monday through Friday, 4-9 p.m., when bartenders pour top-shelf liquor for $5 in Quarter Kitchen, Ultra Lounge and the Ivy Rooftop. The bar menu and select wines by the glass are also half-off. 619814-1000; ivyhotel.com.

On Harbor Island, C LEVEL offers $5 small bites, including Hawaiian ahi tuna poke, fried calamari and steamed Fox River mussels, during the Monday-through-Friday “social hour,” 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Cocktails like the Scallywag and Ruby Sea, along with select wines by the glass, cost just a five-spot. 619-298-6802; cohnrestaurants.com.


Free for All

THE PEARL HOTEL has freebies throughout the year, including its popular Dive-In Theatre, a free “cinema social.” The viewings include eclectic film choices, food and drink. The Wednesday event takes place at the hotel’s poolside lounge and theater at 8 p.m. 619-226-6100; thepearlsd.com.

EAST VILLAGE TAVERN + BOWL features free bowling with every $10 spent on food or drink Monday-Thursday, 11-4. The affordable menu gets cheaper on Mondays at 3 p.m., when food and bowling are half-off. Or visit on Tuesdays, when steak tacos are two for $2 from 3 to midnight. 619677-2695; bowlevt.com.

DEL MAR RACETRACK’s 2009 season sports Free and Easy Wednesdays (except opening and closing days). Fans who sign up for the track’s free Diamond Club card get complimentary general admission to the Stretch Run on hump day— an $11 savings—and domestic draft beer, hot dogs and sodas are half-price at Stretch Run concessions. 858755-1141; dmtc.com.

STINGAREE, IVY HOTEL, SIDE BAR and other nightclubs offer free entry for Face-book friends and Twitterers who RSVP to special events. You’ll get midweek savings of $10-$35 in cover charges. facebook.com; twitter.com.

BALBOA PARK museums and galleries offer free admission for county residents, active-duty military and children the first four Tuesdays of each month. Different museums are free each week, so check the schedule. 619-239-0512; balboapark.org.

In Little Italy, WATERFRONT BAR & GRILL houses a hot deal, with free food Monday through Friday, 4 to 7 p.m. Hearty comfort fare such as clam chowder, pasta, corn dogs and enchiladas puts in appearances on the varying menu. Big spend ers: Don’t miss the 25-cent chicken wings on Mondays. 619-2329656; waterfrontbarandgrill.com.

SEAPORT VILLAGE has regularly scheduled entertainment, including free musical performances every Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. in the gazebo. Stroll the boardwalk for free or splurge on the $2 carousel ride. 619-235-4014; seaportvillage.com.

Scene for a Buck

Downtown’s OCEANAIRE SEAFOOD ROOM is the dollar darling, with fresh West Coast oysters for a buck Monday through Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. in the bar. Value cocktails, reduced-price special events. You’ll get midweek savings of $10-$35 in cover charges. facebook.com; twitter.com.

BALBOA PARK museums and galleries offer free admission for county residents, active-duty military and children the first four Tuesdays of each month. Different museums are free each week, so check the schedule. 619-239-0512; balboapark.org.

In Little Italy, WATERFRONT BAR & GRILL houses a hot deal, with free food Monday through Friday, 4 to 7 p.m. Hearty comfort fare such as clam chowder, pasta, corn dogs and enchiladas puts in appearances on the varying menu. Big spend ers: Don’t miss the 25-cent chicken wings on Mondays. 619-2329656; waterfrontbarandgrill.com.

SEAPORT VILLAGE has regularly scheduled entertainment, including free musical performances every Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. in the gazebo. Stroll the boardwalk for free or splurge on the $2 carousel ride. 619-235-4014; seaportvillage.com.
Scene for a Buck

Downtown’s OCEANAIRE SEAFOOD ROOM is the dollar darling, with fresh West Coast oysters for a buck Monday through Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. in the bar. Value cocktails, reduced-price small bar plates and the raw bar will make the budget-conscious swoon. 619858-2277; theoceanaire.com.

NUNU’S COCKTAILS, the unpretentious Hillcrest institution, has a loyal following for its “you call it” Wacky Tuesday (5 p.m. to closing time). Any cocktail is $1 off. Or opt for $2 well drinks, $3 domestic bottled beer, $3 imported beer and $4 wine by the glass. 619-295-2878; nunuscocktails.com.

WORLD FAMOUS has an exclusive on the Pacific Beach one-buck scene, Tuesdays starting at 4 p.m., with to-die-for shrimp tacos. Monday through Thursday, 4 to 11 p.m., find cheap eats with chicken tacos for $1; Margaritas are $2 on Thursday; all appetizers are half-off on Monday; and lobster tacos go for $1.50 on Wednesday. 858-272-3100; worldfamous.signonsandiego.com.
Shop and Drop Less

HORTON PLAZA has a new weekly brochure, updated each Thursday, which lists the shopping center’s best buys and is available at the concierge desk on level 1 (next to Victoria’s Secret). Ten eateries in the center also cook up a deal for the downtown lunch crowd with the Corporate Lunch Club Card (free at the concierge desk), Monday through Friday, 11 to 2. 619-239-8180; westfield. com/hortonplaza.

FASHION VALLEY’s online retailers showcase gives detailed descriptions of current discounts and special promotions offered by individual stores. 619-6889113; shopfashionvalleymall.com.

Several stores in CARLSBAD PREMIUM OUTLET STORES give a 10 percent discount on Tuesday to shoppers over 50. The center also offers a free VIP club card that entitles members to additional discounts and special prices. 760-8049000; premiumoutlets.com/carlsbad.

Dramatic Discounts

SAN DIEGO REPERTORY THEATRE hosts mingle@theREP for many of its shows, starting with Long Story Short on October 16. The $25 price includes the art-gallery showing in the Lyceum Theatre lobby, Stone Brewing Company beer, music and admission to the play. 619-231-3586; sdrep.org.

ARTS TIX, at Broadway and Third Avenue in Horton Plaza Park downtown, sells same-day half-price tickets to local theater, music and dance events, including shows at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, Old Globe, Coronado Playhouse, Lyceum Theatre, San Diego Opera and San Diego Symphony. Discounted tickets are also available online the day before performances. Arts Tix also has a North County location, next to the San Diego North Visitors & Convention Bureau in Escondido. 619-497-5000; sdartstix.com.

Luxury for Less

LA VALENCIA in La Jolla offers a “Seal of a Deal” package for San Diego families seeking a local beach getaway. The package includes overnight accommodations, admission for up to four to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a picnic lunch for up to four. The $329 price includes room tax. 858-454-0771; lavalencia.com.

OMNI HOTEL hits a homer for locals wanting a hassle-free escape for the night. The “Take Me Out to the Ballpark” package starts at $249 a night and allows you to simply take the elevator home. The package includes deluxe accommodations for one night, peanuts and crackerjacks, two general-admission tickets to a Padres home game, breakfast for two at McCormick & Schmick’s and complimentary valet parking. 800-231-6664; omnihotels.com.

BERTRAND AT MISTER A’S inaugurates its Happy Hour with half-price martinis to go with the amazing view, 2:30 to 6, along with $3 domestic beer and discounted appetizers. A three-course, fixed-price menu is offered Sunday through Tuesday for $40 per person. 619-239-1377; bertrandatmisteras.com.

HOTEL DEL CORONADO ties up “Summer Pleasure” packages perfect for visitors or residents who want an island getaway. Book three nights and get an additional two nights free, or book two nights and get 40 percent off the room rate for the second night. Families who book a suite for a two-night stay get a two-hour surrey bike rental and two half-day passes to Kidtopia, plus children under 12 eat free from the kids’ menu at 1500 Ocean, Sheerwater and at Sunday brunch. Good through September 6. 800-468-3533; hoteldel.com.

LA COSTA RESORT & SPA offers a discounted SpaFecta package on Mondays and Tuesdays, July 22 to September 9 (Del Mar’s racing season): $300 includes two 50-minute spa treatments, lunch at the Spa Café and a 25 percent discount on same-day treatments in the Yamaguchi Salon. 800-854-5000; lacosta.com.

THE LODGE AT TORREY PINES, San Diego’s only Five Diamond property, cooks up a complimentary dinner for two at its highly acclaimed A.R. Valentien, for guests staying in the Torrey Palisade Suite. Good Sunday through Thursday, July 15 to September 30. 858-453-4420; lodgetorreypines.com.


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