City guide

San Diego, the home of SoCal flavours and craft beer, may just be the USA’s most unas­sum­ing new des­ti­na­tion for epi­curean delights, says Shan­non Har­ley, who also ex­plores the city’s lively union of cul­tures.


San Diego’s culi­nary ex­plo­sion.


HAS COME a long way from fish tacos and cheap beer. The laid-back har­bour town – for­merly known for its US Navy base and not much else – is, these days, giv­ing nearby Los An­ge­les a run for its money with its golden beaches, craft-beer cul­ture, en­er­getic din­ing scene and prox­im­ity to the Mex­i­can bor­der, just a short drive away. San Diego’s po­si­tion on the edge of the US makes it a melt­ing pot of cul­tures, and dis­tinc­tive hubs have cropped up across the city as a new wave of cre­atives and en­trepreneurs moves in. The re­vival of down­town Lit­tle Italy into a buzzing eat-street lined with smart restau­rants, hip­ster cafes and de­sign stores, along with the trans­for­ma­tion of North Park into a craft beer (and beard oil) cor­ri­dor, and gritty Bar­rio Lo­gan with its Lat­inx ac­cent, are high­lights around town. Or fol­low the curves of the Pa­cific Ocean coast­line north to La Jolla, the cruisy beach­side spot of­fer­ing sun, surf and SoCal eat­ing.


The menus might not be strictly Ital­ian any­more, but Lit­tle Italy has plenty to of­fer for a rol­lick­ing night out. Iron­side Fish

& Oys­ter is a great place to start with freshly shucked oys­ters and a glass of some­thing cel­e­bra­tory. Sit at booth, bar or ta­ble in the cav­ernous space with the­atri­cal decor straight out of a Baz Luhrmann film set. San Diego’s bounty of seafood is hon­oured here (fish­er­men de­liver their catch to the kitchen each day), and the lob­ster roll with brown­but­ter mayo has gained in­stant no­to­ri­ety.

From the same crack hos­pi­tal­ity team led by ex­ec­u­tive chef Ja­son McLeod is

Born & Raised, an op­u­lent steakhouse that evokes the grandeur of Art Deco New York. With its pol­ished wal­nut pan­elling, swanky leather booths, green mar­ble ta­bles, sparkling chan­de­liers and brass de­tail­ing, the lavish in­te­rior is as much a feast for the senses as the menu of retro clas­sics, from Steak Diane to Tourne­dos

Rossini. Meat is wet- and dry-aged on-site and wait­ers push­ing carts of­fer dishes such as steak tartare and Shrimp Louie, pre­pared ta­ble­side. Round out one of the city’s most over-the-top din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences with a mar­tini on the rooftop cock­tail bar. Celebrity chef Richard Blais’ fine-diner,

Ju­niper & Ivy, is one of the city’s pioneers. The cre­ative menu is ‘mod­ern Left Coast’ – a term as am­bigu­ous as ‘mod­ern Aus­tralian’, but which de­notes an un­apolo­getic mash-up of cuisines and cul­tures in a series of bites, small plates and large plates all de­signed to share – think a Mex­i­can-in­flu­enced steak tartare with quail egg, white cotija cheese and jalapeno. Next door is The Crack Shack, Blais’ relaxed bar-cum-can­teen prof­fer­ing fried chicken in all forms – straight up, and in tow­er­ing burg­ers and sal­ads. A se­lec­tion of house-made hot sauces on tap is a high­light.

Still in Lit­tle Italy, Cloak & Pe­tal is a sexy spot for cocktails and re­fined Ja­panese flavours. The min­i­mal­ist pol­ished con­crete space is off­set with a life-sized cherry blos­som tree in the

@miss­pam­ple­mousse @jaimekowal

The rugged coast­line of La Jolla is known for its surf breaks and relaxed SoCal flflavours; (in­set top) Shan­non (right) and Jaime.

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