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May 12, 2014 09:47 AM

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.

 (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.