Go to San Diego. Eat oysters. Drink champagne.
We extended a work trip into the long Memorial Day weekend, our first times visiting this beautiful city. Our hotel time was split between the Gaslamp Quarter and Coronado Island.
Hotel Solamar was the first leg, situated next to Petco Park and in the middle of lively restaurants and nightlife. Jsix is affixed to one corner of the hotel, sharing the pool as its rooftop patio. We enjoyed cocktails and a cheeseboard by the pool one evening before dinner as the sun set.
I would especially recommend breakfast at Brian’s 24, which is far from a traditional 24-hour diner, and Café 21 that we first dined at for dinner and then returned for brunch. Brian’s 24 was complete with a polished wooden bar and giant crystal chandelier. The menu offered up traditional breakfast options, as well as inventive omelets, pancakes, waffles and French toast containing everything but the sink.
We stumbled across Café 21 on a morning walk and were intrigued by the fresh look, infused drinks on display and promise of farm-to-table fare. That night we ate dinner there and we rarely eat at the same restaurant twice on vacation, but were so impressed with it’s fresh choices and indulgent touches, that we made our way back the next morning. I enjoyed a mimosa with fresh mango and apricot juice, and Johnny ordered one of the specialty bloody marys, complete with a mini skewered grilled cheese sandwich. My skillet omelet was served with the freshest fruit and Johnny raved about his omelet, served with beet-pickled salmon, as the best he’s ever had. Everything was certainly sourced and prepared with care.
Dinners in downtown were split between the Gaslamp Quarter and nearby Little Italy. When we were at dinner, we learned how accommodating Café 21 was for allergies and only uses rice flour – meaning I was able to enjoy the Mixed Fries, a medley of fried avocado, eggplant and Portobello mushrooms. The Ahi Poke was on special that night, so we ordered it and the Spaghetti Squash and Shrimp, which we were enticed by as the aroma wafted over from the table next to us.
Saturday and Sunday we ate in Little Italy, taking the ferry from Coronado one of the nights. Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar was everything I’ve read (amazing) and the line to get in lasted well after our late reservations. We started with oysters, raw and assorted for me, while Johnny enjoyed the Oyster Rockefeller. Next, we sampled the grilled octopus, half lobster and whole roasted fish, which changes on a daily basis. It’s worth noting that the extensive cocktail menu primarily features gin, as the restaurant only carries one brand of vodka but more gin than you can count. Though I enjoy vodka, I applaud the restaurant’s gusto to make such a statement and do it with flare.
Our last night was spent at Kettner Exchange, a difficult reservation to get even on a Sunday, and everything was fantastic. The upstairs seating peeks over the city and opens up to a courtyard-like bar. Directed to all things on the menu that the server recommended and counted as gluten-free, we made our way through the Kale Salad that even Johnny was scraping the plate for more, followed by a few appetizers available that evening, ending with the Pork Chop. A fan of pork in most every way you can cook it, chops are not usually my preparation of choice but this particular entrée was so flavorful and juicy! We finished things off with the single gluten-free dessert, an almost pot de crème of salted caramel and cream.
As usual, we ate our way through city, finding some great spots and sipping on creative cocktails – plenty with champagne toppers for me! Most restaurants served raw oysters and I recommend them almost anywhere if you’re a fan. We had them at several meals and I could still eat more.
Next up, our stay on Coronado Island and daytrip to La Jolla…