A California-Casual Guide to San Diego’s Eclectic North Park Neighborhood
When it comes to neighborhood popularity contests in San Diego, what would North Park be? Our guess: the unassuming art and music student that still seems surprised to be a homecoming contender—and is unsure whether to accept the nomination.
North Park manages to be hip and urban, while keeping the laidback, casual flair that San Diego is known for. It might not be right next to the beach, but residents are flocking to North Park to live, and in-the-know visitors make time to tour the neighborhood and its eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, shops, and entertainment.
LOOKING GOOD IN THE NORTH PARK NEIGHBORHOOD
When you want your style to have that casual, California cool, Mimi & Red is the store to hit up. The shop has an ever-changing selection of trendy women’s clothing that will easily have you covered, whether going to the beach or brunch. You won’t just find yourself leaving the hip store with a new wardrobe; the home goods section boasts fun and eclectic decor to make your abode’s interior pop.
Creativity in North Park extends way beyond retail. Relish an urban art exhibit at Art Produce Gallery, an innovative art gallery and garden run by Stone Paper Scissors, an organization that aims to build cohesive communities through art and education. Don’t have the time to pop in? Don’t fret—the art gallery is designed to be completely visible from the sidewalk. Still, you may want to go inside to tour the edible and sustainable garden, or to grab a coffee or pastry at the adjacent cafe.
A flight doesn’t have to just be for booze. (Who knew?) For a sampler we all scream for, head to Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream, where you can nab a flight of buttery, creamy Hawaiian ice cream. Choose up to six flavors from the 93 available and then watch in delight as they’re served up on a flight tray especially made for mini ice cream cones. (So. Cute!)
If you’re lucky enough to be in North Park on a Thursday, you can’t miss the North Park Farmers Market. Its small size gives it a personal feel, while still packing in a variety of food and products. Fresh produce is always in abundance, along with organic meats, cheeses, and honey. If you want more goodies of the ready-made variety, swing by for the local artisans selling their crafts, as well as the market’s food trucks and food stands.
When it comes to coffee, there’s an art in simplicity. And Caffe Calabria—which blends sharp espresso from house-roasted beans with creamy milk and perfect froth—has that simplicity down pat. Their delicious lattes and cappuccinos delight; the Caffe Viennese is especially decadent. In the evening, they switch out the coffee for wine and pizza of equally high quality. (The eatery cooks up a mean Neapolitan-style pizza in its wood fire oven.)
For something heartier than pastries and pizza, head to the organic and gourmet comfort food mecca that is Urban Solace. The lively indoor dining room and large patio are equally appealing settings to dine on the likes of beef cheek, chicken and buttermilk dumplings, and a creative meatloaf made with figs and feta. Oh—and don’t forget to order the delicious cheese biscuits, served warm with orange-honey butter, as an appetizer.
NIGHT TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME
San Diego is home to hundreds of craft breweries, and even if you’re abstaining from pints to be the driver for the day, you’ll still have a ball visiting Mike Hess Brewing. Here, you’ll find high quality brews that are a dynamic mix between creamy malt notes inspired by Eastern Europe and the hoppy accents that San Diego is known for. The tasting room is located right within its brewing equipment, so you can explore the site (which includes an elevated walkway over the fermenters) and see exactly how the brewing process is set up. Want to take the goodness with you? Purchase a signature Purrowler (a liter of anything on tap, canned right before your eyes) to enjoy later.
When it comes to live music in North Park, the first venue to check is Observatory North Park (also referred to as the North Park Theatre), where acts such as the Decemberists, Kimbra, and Belle and Sebastian have graced the stage. Based in a historic building dating back to 1939, the Observatory has a fun throwback vibe with abstract accents on the walls and an inclined floor for optimal viewing of the stage area. The cocktails at the adjacent West Coast Tavern are an excellent pre-show refresher.
Up for more? With the San Diego Zoo, PETCO Park, and, of course, the beach, within a few miles, you’re not short on options. If you’re hankering for a weekend getaway, try the organic eats and peaceful vibes of Ojai, just four hours up the coast.