Secret San Diego
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Tucked away in America’s Cup Harbor around pier seven is a small cluster of houseboats. Technically, these are boats and their existence is not tied to any kind of long-term ownership of the docks, but most of them enjoy a month-to-month lease. This one is two stories with a washer/dryer, roof deck, and full kitchen and was recently listed for sale at around $100K. Now you can find it for rent on AirBnB for around $200 per night. Ahoy!
A patio behind a patio
The delightful back patio in Little Italy’s Davanti Enoteca hides a super-private little gem. Table 80 sits behind a wall with a tiny opening that looks like a room where servers might go. You can reserve it for parties of eight to 10; they have seatings at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. 1655 India Street
Painted trees at Sunset Cliffs
In a super-remote part of Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is a mini grotto of twisty, windy, horizontally-growing trees painted in a psychedelic pattern. We’re going to remain a little mysterious on this one and not give exact directions, as we’re not sure it’s legal to be there. But if you’re the type of person who could find something illegal to do in a hidden hillside, you just might be the type with connections to find it.
A Victorian village
On the outskirts of the touristy margarita madness of Old Town lies a cul de sac of historic homes dating back to the late 19th century, known as Heritage Park Victorian Village. All houses were moved to the site from their original locations and restored to preserve their classic Victorian architecture. One now houses a tea room and another boasts a Victorian porcelain doll emporium.
A jail cell at The Headquarters at Seaport
With tenants like Puesto and Pizzeria Mozza, it’s easy to forget that this shopping plaza used to be a jail, courtrooms, law library, and indoor shooting range. Inside the belly of this Spanish-Colonial-Mediterranean-Pueblo-Deco-Revival complex, a few cells (circa 1939) have been preserved. You can put yourself behind bars if you follow the hallway at the opening between Kitson Boutique and Madison Leather. Don’t miss the vintage mug shots, like that of the woman who was arrested for being a “tramp” and a “weedhead.”
A solar clock on the Silver Strand
On the Silver Strand pedestrian pathway in Coronado, between the Naval Amphibious Base and Fiddler’s Cove Marina, you may have unwittingly passed the Solar Clock, a circle of benches that can tell time. Glen Schmidt and his team at Schmidt Design Group created this bench. Openings and bands line up to where the sun sets on the winter and summer solstices. Schmidt recommends viewing on the winter Solstice (December 21), when “the sun sets on the horizon in clear view, usually with a cloudless sky. A number of locals meet there every year to share wine and cheese and toast this special day.” Park in the Fiddler’s Cove Marina lot and walk about 700 feet north on the pathway. It’s the first rest point. Bonus: Schmidt Design Group also created a Solar Clock in Mira Mesa’s Camino Ruiz Park.
Private dining in a bank vault
Hosts who want to surprise their dinner guests would be wise to know: The building of the Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown was once a bank and has a safe deposit vault you can rent out for private dinners. 530 Broadway, downtown
From underground supper clubs to a brewpub in a bait and tackle shop, these seven food and drink spots offer some of the most authentic flavors and unique dining experiences you’ve never heard of—until now.
Antojitos Colombiano: Traditional Colombian eats, a friendly Colombian waitstaff, Colombian TV in the background, groceries from the homeland—eating at this Grant Hill restaurant is the next best thing to jetting off to Bogota. Try the pan de bono (cheese bread), Colombian-style Creole steak, and fresh fruit juices. 2851 Imperial Avenue
Chennai Tiffins: This vegetarian eatery spotlights the lesser-known cuisine of South India, including staples like dosas (savory crêpes), vadas (fried lentil donuts), and uttapam (spicy pancakes). The décor leaves something to be desired, but the food is so authentic you’ll hardly notice. 9484 Black Mountain Road
Cellar Door: This private supper club brings together 10 strangers for a four-course meal at the Normal Heights apartment of Native Spirits owners Gary McIntire and Logan Mitchell. Potential guests are notified via email, and with a following in the thousands, it’s no surprise dinners fill up in five minutes. (Psst! They have plenty of cancellations, so get on the waiting list.) cellardoorsd.com
Brabant Bar & Cafe: Step into this off-the-beaten-path Belgian beer bar in South Park and you’ll feel as though you’ve entered a neighborhood bar in Brussels or Bruges. The food, décor, and of course, the beer, are all uniquely Belgian along with native tunes and brew-themed events. 2310 30th Street
Thorn St. Kitchen: The name for this clandestine pop-up project comes from the Mission Hills duplex where founders Austin Mills, Ashley Netzband, and their team host dinners once a month. Since launching last year, they’ve expanded to Pacific Beach, Encinitas, and other ’hoods, and depending on the venue, can accommodate eight to 20 people. Dinners typically fill up—often by word of mouth!—within 24 hours. firstname.lastname@example.org
Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub: From the street, you’d never guess that you can get sushi inside a taco shop. Enter Oceanside’s Bull Taco and to the left you’ll see a hostess stand and doorway that leads to a sushi bar and resto with limited seating. Tacos, sushi, and a special ceviche trio in one go? We’re in! 1815 South Coast Highway
Fathom Bistro, Bait & Tackle: Housed in the Shelter Island Fishing Pier’s bait and tackle shop, this teeny-tiny snack shack offers bay views, gourmet hot dogs, (minimal) indoor and outdoor seating, and kegs that hang out in the bay to keep cool. 1776 Shelter Island Drive