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Philly hound and beer lover headed to San Diego

Hi all. I'm San Diego bound next week, staying at The Bristol Hotel and will have a rental car. I'm looking on recommendations for the following:
1. Don't miss breweries. My husband and I are craft beer lovers and want to try all the west coast brews we can't get here in Philly. We are planning on hitting Stone, but are really looking for the small, awesome ones the locals go to.

2. Bars with great local draft lists, particularly within walking distance of our hotel.

3. Tacos and Mexican food.


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  1. For some good craft breweries/pubs try:

    Lost Abbey
    Iron Fist
    Green Flash
    Balast Point

    Super Cocina - slow cooked home cooking braised style Mex entree's
    Tacos El Gordo - carne asada tacos and more
    Marisco's Food Truck - Baja Fish Tacos and more, located in the Toys R US Parking lot off the 5 South on Industrial Ave. Probably the best fish taco truck in the area.
    Ocean Beach Noodle House, great draft beer selection and awesome Pho and more.
    Ritual Tavern, good beer selections and great homemade Pub Grub.
    Blind Lady Ale House, excellent beer selections and OK pizza.

    It's going to be good beer drinking weather!

    4 Replies
    1. re: cstr

      To cstr's list of breweries I would add Alesmith, Alpine, and Societe.

      Downtown Johnny Brown's is not too far from your hotel, and has a decent tap list. Toronado up in North Park usually has around 40 things on tap - they are probably king in that respect. Hamilton's has a pretty nice tap list, too. I believe both those places can be reached fairly easily by bus from downtown, which gives you an option for not driving.

      1. re: RB Hound

        I concur with the list of those breweries. My ranking:

        1. Alesmith (fantastic beer)
        2. Stone (because the Stone Brewery gardens are awesome)
        3. Alpine (amazing IPA's)
        4. Ballast Point (probably my favorite brewery and relatively close to you)
        5. Lost Abbey/Port Brewing (two breweries under 1 roof, Belgian styles)
        6. Mike Hess Brewing (in North Park, like the beer)
        7. Societe (also good beer)

      2. re: cstr

        Lost Abbey, Stone and Green Flash were already on the first draft of my list, so that's good. I will have to add Iron Fist and the others.

        I have heard good things abou Alesmith, that's on the list too. Are Alpine and Societe smaller local spots? Those are two that we don't get out here on the east coast, if they distribute at all. I can't wait to try them.

        Thanks for the recommendations, all that food sounds great!

        Are the buses and public transportation in San Diego good? Most of my public transportation experience is with Philly (awful), DC (good) and NYC (great).

        1. re: keltheh

          Alpine is small and doesn't have a particularly wide distribution. They are out in the east county, you'd definitely need your rental car to get there. It is definitely worth the trek out there. I'm partial to Duet and Nelson.


          Rapid transit in and around downtown isn't too bad by bus and easy by trolley. But once you get out of that area, not so much.

          http://www.sdmts.com/ (bus & trolley


          From downtown you can take the blue line trolley south towards the border to the "H" street stop. Then walk across the parking lot to the Tacos El Gordo. It's a San Diego outpost of a well known taqueria in Tijuana. Very typical. Then get back on the trolley and keep heading south to the Palomar stop and hop off. The trolley stop is pretty much at the intersection of Palomar and Industrial. Cross Palomar and head north on Industrial for about 2 long blocks until you get to the small shopping center anchored by a Toys R Us. The El Pescador taco truck is in the parking lot out by the street. I agree with CSTR that it's probably one of the best fish tacos in SD and cheap. There should also be a food truck in front of the Toys R Us. This is the torta ahogada truck and it also shouldn't be missed. Torta Ahogada is a regional specialty from Guadalajara and is kind of like the Mexican version of a french dip only better and spicier. The tortas are big, so get 1 torta and split it and as many fish tacos, tacos gobernador, mixta, etc as you can eat, then walk it all off walking back to the trolley. The stretch from the Palomar trolley stop to the taco and torta truck is kind of ugly and industrial, but not unsafe.

          In the downtown area you can try the Blind Burro for Mexican. If you want to upscale it and experience a little bit of Baja Med north of the border, head south to Romesco's. They have a Baja street food menu at lunch.

          You can hop back on either the blue line or green line trolley going to the Old Town transit center. Hop off and find El Agave for one of the largest selections of tequila in the U.S. Underneath is a tequila store with inflated prices but a wide selection of tequilas. El Agave's menu includes a lot of moles. How good it is - or isn't - often depends upon who is in the kitchen. It's not a cheap taco shop meal, but it also won't break the bank.

          For one of the best selections of both tequila and mezcal check out Mayahuel on Adams, a few doors down from 30th. Fairly informal, good tacos, their mole has some nice floral notes to it. Mostly locals.

      3. The other hounders have good recs. Here are some places strictly local to your hotel (besides DT Johnny Browns already mentioned, which is only 2 block away. Dumpy and poor food but usually some good beers) with craft beer and/or good eats

        Karl Strauss Columbia Street Brewery - Our first brewery, most of the beers are pedestrian but they have been trying to step it up. It is about 4 blocks to your hotel, so at least give it a look...seasonal/specialty beers are your best bet.

        The Local (about 2 blocks away) doesn't have the best mexican food but sometimes they have good lobster tacos/burritos and always a few good local drafts.

        Other places to check out Downtown (a long walk, can hop on a bus or pedicab though)

        Monkey Paw - you probably want to avoid the cheesesteaks coming from Philly haha, but the house-brewed beers are delicious and it is a cool dive bar with liquor and almost always a really really good tap list.

        The Neighborhood - Good food, really good burgers, good tap list also always with a few good local beers. Near the Ballpark, can get crowded. Speakeasy hidden in the back (craft cocktails), good Noble Experiment for details.

        IMO Societe is the best brewery in central San Diego that you can't get out East and is worth a trip if you like hoppy beers. Just hop on the 163 North to Clairemont Mesa Blvd and go west to the business park entrance. The quality/ease factor is the highest on the list!

        BTW Alpine is about 40 minutes east, and some of my favorite beers but the tasting room is small and they limit you on tasters now. The pub next door is fun, but can be crowded. Closed on Mondays.

        1. Downtown is getting better with the beer lists, but it's still not great. You probably want to drive to 30th Street (about 10 minutes away) for the better brewpubs. Bars with good-to-great draft lists are:

          Blind Lady Alehouse
          Waypoint Public
          Ritual (smallish, but a fine selection)
          Monkey Paw (actually in the East Village portion of Downtown)
          Fathom Bistro - bar on a pier with a fantastic beer list
          Small Bar
          . . .

          Those are the best I can think of off the top of my head.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jmtreg

            Cab, uber and number 2 bus are all good options to get to north park without having a designated driver.

          2. All sound great. I will make sure to let all of you know what we are able to try. If only I had a hollow leg . . .

            1. Near your hotel on 5th (btwn J and K) is the newly opened Union Kitchen & Tap, which has pretty good food and a nice selection of local craft beers on tap.


                1. Stone's hidden downtown Kettner & West B store with a bunch of taps is just a few blocks from the Bristol (check their hours to make sure they're open when you want to drink/taste).

                  Ballast Point's restaurant/brewery is at the north end of Little Italy on India Street, and not a bad walk at all unless you're in foofy shoes or are disabled.

                  Mexican Fiesta on India ... good quick, inexpensive food, but no place to sit -- get an al pastor taco and/or machaca or carne asada or carnitas burrito and walk a couple blocks "south" on India to the courtyard/patio/steps by the trolley tracks on West C or "north" to Little Italy or "west" to the waterfront to find a place to sit and eat with better scenery.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: The Office Goat

                    RE: Mexican Fiesta

                    There's a courtyard with some tables/chairs (shaded as well) diagonally across from Mexican Fiesta on that same corner. Good place to chowdown and people watch.

                  2. Amplified in Pacific Beach. Great in house beer (especially if they have the 5 Kiwis or Electrocution), great rotating tap list of local craft beers. Beer garden overlooking the ocean. And shockingly good falafel and shwarma. Get the doner fries.

                    Some others that people haven't mentioned

                    Modern Times - Get the Fortunate Island
                    Belching Beaver - Peanut Butter Milk Stout!

                    40 Replies
                    1. re: Rubaggio

                      You can get Belching Beaver's Peanut Butter Milk Stout at Costco, Rubaggio. Saw cases and cases of it at the Morena Blvd store last Friday, and I know it has been there for almost a month. Go stock up. :)

                      1. re: RB Hound

                        Recently had the Peanut Butter Stout and was surprised how much we liked it - just the right amount of peanut butter flavor without being overwhelming

                        1. re: honkman

                          I think they nailed in "just the right amount". Also, you see the peanut butter a lot with porters, but I think it works better in milk stout - which in most cases is going to be sweeter and lighter on the palate than a porter.

                          Now if somebody could bottle a coconut porter/stout...

                          1. re: RB Hound

                            Oh lordie, please...stop the hemmoraging

                            1. re: DoctorChow

                              Assuming you are serious Dr., it seems every attempt I've seen at that has failed. I think coconut loses its oomph quickly, and once it goes into a bottle it is on limited time.

                              1. re: RB Hound

                                I am serious. This trend to neophyte-oriented ludicrously flavored beers is simply disgusting. Sells well, reminiscent of the flavored wines of the 70s.

                                1. re: DoctorChow

                                  Ah, "neophyte". No, don't think they are targeting that audience with a milk stout. Do you even know what a milk stout is, or is a beer a Bud for you?

                                  1. re: RB Hound

                                    I know what milk stout is, thank you very much. Did I mention that I was a homebrewer during the period when Home Brew Mart was my local supplier of malt, yeasts, and hops? When they had their little pilot brewery in the back and were "thinking" about maybe opening a microbrewery? Yes, I know about milk stout and every other kind of stout and porter. It's the peanut butter crap that puts me off. My apologies, RBH, and please pardon my French, but these flavored beer offshoots really get my feathers up.

                                    1. re: DoctorChow

                                      Fair enough - I just don't like "neophyte". Now pardon me while I finish my grape peel hibiscus and 10 flowers we haven't identified 63 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head.

                                      PB is fairly polarizing, actually (not as much as coconut, mind you) - it hardly is a gateway gimmick. There's a reason a bunch of that is still at Costco.

                                      1. re: RB Hound

                                        My use of the term "neophyte" was insulting and I apologize for that.

                        2. re: RB Hound

                          I'm sorry, but that's just gross. It's a desecration of beer.

                          1. re: DoctorChow

                            "I'm sorry, but that's just gross. It's a desecration of beer."

                            I think you have a narrow view of beer, but this is probably not the place to discuss it. Maybe we should meet for a few beers at Belching Beaver's tasting room in North Park [snicker].

                            1. re: RB Hound

                              I'm willing to try anything, actually. And I'd be willing to try this stuff, too. I'm betting I'd have to excuse myself to run to the restroom, though.

                              Yes, I won't agrue. I do have a very narrow view of "beer".

                              1. re: DoctorChow

                                Young's Double Chocolate Stout has been around for eons - flavoring stouts and porters with things that seem non-conventional is hardly some new fad.

                                1. re: RB Hound

                                  Yes, I know flavoring isn't new, but it's gained a lot of momentum, especially locally, in recent years, and I think that's an unfortunate trend. I really think it's a sidetrack to the wrong space. Chocolate -- in stout and porter -- is one of the few things that, in moderation, might smooth the flavor of the finished brew.

                                  1. re: DoctorChow

                                    DC, I am with you on this one. I know I will get slammed, but I would like my beer to taste like, oh I don't know, beer. Yeah I had lots of Bud, Oly, Lucky and Busch in my day. But I really cut my teeth on Spaten and Warsteiner, it is nice to have a German dad. I just roll my eyes and these flavored beers. But I guess to each his or her own.

                                    1. re: littlestevie

                                      No slam - I just want to know where all "these flavored beers" are? Do you, Chow, and others think the large majority of craft beer sales in San Diego are "flavored beers?" Just curious.

                                      1. re: RB Hound

                                        @RBH. No, of course I don't think the majority of our local beers are flavored. But if I were king, I'd enforce the Reinheitsgebot and there wouldn't be any at all.

                                        1. re: DoctorChow

                                          Everybody has their preferences - I have no problem with that at all. I just don't want all of craft beer to be shamed because I like peanut butter stouts on occasion.

                                          I think a more interesting discussion may concern the IPAs and how they mesh/mismatch with your preferences, but we'll get the "sorry folks - we moved this thread to the Beer board because ...". :)

                                          1. re: DoctorChow

                                            So we follow the German purity laws, for American craft beer which was created to get away from the German-descended ubiquitous lagers. Totally rational!

                              2. re: DoctorChow

                                Light lager drinkers also (and still do) say the exact same thing about craft beer...not a very good rationale to shoot down a beer.

                                (FWIW I hate, I mean HATE all the beers with the "7 herbs and spices" methods that people like DFH and Bruery put out. But that is the beauty of craft beer).

                            2. re: Rubaggio

                              You can hit Modern Times for some tasters and/or pints, then go to Les Girls or the Body Shop, then hit In-n-Out Burger on your way out of the Sports Arena. Quite a trifecta.

                                1. re: MrKrispy

                                  We are going to a Padres game, but are hoping to hit in-n-Out for dinner on the way to the hotel from the airport. I am counting down the days.

                                  1. re: keltheh

                                    That particular In-N-Out is the busiest one I have ever seen. Be careful catching them during peak hours.

                                    But hey, Phil's BBQ is nearby!!!

                                    1. re: MrKrispy

                                      Really Krispy...Les Girls and Body Shop?
                                      Thought Pure Platinum is where it's at.

                                      Stay Classy San Diego

                                          1. re: Fake Name

                                            BC must have looked great sporting that designer purse.

                                            1. re: cstr

                                              ; )

                                              Fathom Bistro on Shelter Island has craft beer and good eats on a pier on SD Bay..totally cool place.
                                              Stone at Liberty Station
                                              Lunch at Point Loma Seafood for a calamari or scallop sandwich.

                                              Las Cuatro Milpas for Mex
                                              MXN in Point Loma for CAB (carne asada burrito) and a some rolled tacos with guac..Quesadilla with guac is awesome too.

                                              Aqui es Texcoco in Chula Vista and hit up the food truck at the Toys R Us parking lot.

                                              Hit up Petco Park and see a Padres game and see how real baseball fans are like. ; )

                                              Enjoy SD..we are a wild bunch of characters!


                                        1. re: MrKrispy

                                          Body Shop... Is this the inner Mr. K. Bring your Purell.

                                          1. re: cstr

                                            I've never been in either place, but now with a brewery and a burger joint all in close proximity it could make for a fun night (or afternoon!)

                                            1. re: MrKrispy

                                              Bring lots of single dollar bills! Oh... only twenty's for BC!

                                              1. re: cstr

                                                BC is in north county inland these days, right? Maybe the Kearny Mesa spots are an easier drive? Lots of craft beer in that area too, and better yet - Super Serge's.

                                                1. re: RB Hound

                                                  I think you're correct. I understand that there are lots of high-end retirement communities out there.

                                                  1. re: RB Hound

                                                    Thanks for taking into consideration that I'm a NC gal and Kearny would be an easier drive..plus, getting a quesadilla with guac from the da bomb taco shop, Super Sergio's, keeps the hunger at bay, after pole dancing.

                                                  2. re: cstr

                                                    I'm a multiple C note kind of chick. .

                                                    1. re: Beach Chick

                                                      Everyone has a price, and now we know yours!

                                          2. Hopefully, the fires will have died down and you can enjoy beautiful SD..
                                            Enjoy and report back!

                                            1. "Next week" when? With any luck it is starting tomorrow :)

                                              Tomorrow at the North Park Festival of the Arts they are having a Craft Beer Block with a lot of the breweries mentioned so far.


                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: scottca075

                                                Oh, that would have been perfect, but we don't get in until Wednesday night.

                                              2. Did anyone mention O'Briens Pub?

                                                Best beer pub in San Diego, IMHO.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Wino

                                                  And shares a parking lot with RakiRaki, my new favorite.

                                                  1. re: Fake Name

                                                    Since discovering RakiRaki last fall, I like everything about the place: the food, the ambience, the service -- except that darned parking lot. I wish that the advocates of the Convoy area would figure out a solution to their ubiquitous parking hassles.

                                                    And as for O'Brien's, yes, and IIRC at one point back when it had one of the largest selections of on-tap brews in the city. Pretty decent bar food, too.