ASK A FRIEND: San Diego's Greatest Hidden Gems
A hidden gem is a sacred place. Whether it be a bar, restaurant, rooftop, etc -- locating, frequenting and introducing others to your own little spot is one of life's greatest treats. It's like revealing a part of your self, akin to showing a page from a journal or sending a playlist to someone special.
In a place as expansive and grandiose as San Diego, the odd little crevices tucked in between the major attractions is what really gives the city it's character, almost acting like beauty marks for the locals who know where to look. For mine, it's the rooftop on the Hotel St. James in Downtown. On a lucky day, you can walk past the hotel clerks, catch the early 20th century style elevator to the tenth floor and wait for the rooftop door to open (this part might take a while). Once you do get in, though, you are immediately greeted by Baroque-style lampposts, picnic tables, the giant lightbulb adorned HOTEL ST. JAMES sign to your right and an aerial view of the city's resting towers, both close and afar. The city's blemishes disappear from that sight and it makes it hard to wonder why you'd ever want to live anywhere else.
So, to find out more little gems sprawled across the city, we asked a couple of our friends what their special place was, be it completely obscure or not. Read through, learn a little and check 'em out, but above all else, just don't burn them out. It's your duty as a local.
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"TJ Oyster Bar. I don't know why, I liked when it was more just in Bonita before it moved everywhere, but the original Bonita location -- that's the fucking spot. I do recommend it to most outsiders, like if they want a good Mexican Baja vibe for San Diego. That's it for sure. Also, the Velodrome in Balboa Park, the bicycle track. It's for track bikes, where they race Olympic style track racing in a circle. It's2 like, you know fixed gears? That's where they started, track racing. Just going in a circle as fast as they can. The Velodrome -- that's a good venue that I think people don't know. It's pretty tight."
Jason Waterfalls, Owner, 5&A Dime
"Machete. For one, it's pretty similar to a bar like Hamilton's, like a classic beer house. But it's spreading the San Diego culture more down south, they're kind of bringing what we all love down there instead of us having to go up [north]. They're creating their own little culture. I think that's cool, they know their shit, you can tell it's their passion and they love it. A family runs it, so you can feel the friendliness there. It's in National City on Highland."
Marco Laguna, Roaster, The Westbean Coffee Roasters
"This one spot in La Jolla I go to all the time called Hogan's Beach. I'm usually by myself and it doesn't feel like San Diego to me. The water is cleaner when it's low tide, and it's all clean as fuck. Lowkey don't want this published, but I doubt people would find it haha."
JR Jarris, Producer/DJ, Hide & Go Freak
"Palm Springs Liquor is the place for reasonably priced, fairly rare sodas. No sodas above $2.50 last time I checked. Though their selection reduced in size within the last couple of years, maybe it's nostalgia that brings me back in."
Audrey Aria-Bima, Artist.
"Law Street and Ocean Blvd. Used to come here when I used to surf. It's right by Pacific Beach Pier, but a lot less crowded and more locals come to this spot to catch some waves from morning dawn 'til the sun sets. Definitely the spot to go to if you want to learn how to surf. Also, on Saturday and Sunday mornings, there's a free/donation-based yoga classes in the grassy area. Also Record City. Hands down my favorite record store in San Diego. It's located in Hillcrest, right next to a hole in the wall Sushi spot called "Ebisu Sushi Bar"; one of the freshest sushi spots in San Diego that I suggest you try after digging through some crates. This record store holds a mixture of new and old music, and they have a great selection of used and new CDs, cassettes, vinyls, and DVDs. The store is extremely organized, but yet, I spend hours digging through stacks of records without even knowing it. I've always felt like a kid in a candy store every time I visit. The prices are fair, and the quality are excellent. And did I mention they have $1 vinyl bins?"
Riza Clave, Designer/Photographer, WERIZA.
"It doesn't have to be a landmark, right? Alright. Well for me, personally, if you're asking me, it'd be between Mount Soledad and Aero Club. Mount Soledad is this really high mountain with a cross on it in La Jolla (caused a lot of controversy), however, you get this really insane view -- I think the best view -- of San Diego. As for Aero Club, it's this little hidden bar. It's got all the best liquor and tasteful country music, but no racism, so everything I really enjoy. That's hard to find."
Alexa Flores (Jupiter), Artist, SulkParty.
"The Torrey Pines State Park. It's like right by the beach. You can drive up, all the way up, and there's different trails that you can go through. There's one down to the beach, some down the mountain. It's pretty chill, it's fucking beautiful. It's right along the coast, so if you keep driving you eventually hit the 1 Freeway. I fuck with Sunset Cliffs, but that's not that hidden. It's a gem, it's not hidden, though."
Martin Salazar, Producer.
"Brewskis, an arcade bar overshadowed by the pink neon Goldfinger's Strip Club. A certain bias is at play as far as hidden gem goes, seeing as there's not much to do in the Mira Mesa and Miramar area, but I've had my fair share of good times there. On any given night, you can see a number of pool tables being used by locals and military personnel. Against the walls are games like Gauntlet and Rampage, amongst others that provide a sense of nostalgia to those born in the '80s and '90s, when we had to put a quarter on the bottom edge of the screen and call next. Other than that, the beer, drinks and food are satisfying while you open a can of whoop ass on Street Fighter."
Veeej, Designer, One of None.