New recipes

San Diego Tempts Visitors with a ''Guide to the Good Stuff''

San Diego Tempts Visitors with a ''Guide to the Good Stuff''

San Diego’s new digital campaign targets potential visitors with personal video narrative about the city’s attractions

San Diego lets locals tell the world what they love most about their city in a new digital series. (Photo Modified: Flickr/hoteldelcoronado)

San Diego wants to give potential visitors an insider’s perspective on the city’s cultural attractions, so it’s launched a series of innovative digital guides that’ll do just that. Guides to the Good Stuff let’s locals share their culinary and cultural experiences in a series of short videos that highlight the city’s arts and culture, dining, and craft beer attractions.

Along with ordinary San Diegans, the video series also features some charismatic local influencers like Marcela Valladolid, a celebrity chef, cookbook author, and star of “The Kitchen.” The goal of each segment is to showcase different aspects of the city’s cultural scene in as authentic a way as possible by letting locals share their personal experiences of living, eating, and drinking in San Diego.

It’s all part of the region's $12 million spring “Happiness is Calling” rebranding campaign which the city hopes will help coax more tourist to sample the city’s abundant attractions. The video series will be expanding with up to 15 more videos over April and May featuring more attractions and restaurants.

There’s a real upside to downsizing, according to a growing legion of tiny house devotees. It’s liberating to be able to slash housing expenses — no small matter in San Diego’s pricey housing market — and to shed accumulated stuff.

There’s also the cool factor of living in a home that’s perfectly sized for your needs, is a space-planning marvel and is designed to minimize environmental impacts.

To those who live in tiny houses on wheels, though, the biggest draw is the freedom to easily pick up, change neighborhoods and explore the country.

All of those aspects will be on display as TinyFest California 2021 presents its second annual tiny home festival next Friday through Sunday at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd. in Del Mar. The festival will adhere to social distancing practices and mask-wearing indoors.

The family-friendly festival inside Bing Crosby Hall will showcase tiny houses to tour, as well as speakers, workshops and vendors in a Simple Living Marketplace. Visitors can tour little houses from professional builders and DIYers, as well as tiny houses on wheels, backyard cottages, shipping container homes, vans and bus conversions (“skoolies”). The event will include live music and entertainment.

Keynote speaker will be Zack Giffin of the A&E network show, “Tiny House Nation.” Other speakers include Lindsay Wood of Experience Tiny Homes, Nick Mosley of California Tiny Homes, Genny Crane of Rebuilding Green and Tiny Now, and architecture professor Diana Arredondo of Southwestern College. Presentations throughout the weekend will cover a wide range of tiny house topics, including understanding zoning and building codes, building vs. buying, and what to expect when living tiny, as well as stories of the journeys that tiny house dwellers have experienced. Visitors are encouraged to bring questions.

San Diego is one of numerous cities that have approved ordinances making it easier to add accessible dwelling units (ADUs) to backyards of single-family residences. These mini-housing options provide a more affordable option to residents who might not otherwise be able to afford a home of their own.

The American Tiny House Association will also host a pre-festival symposium from 1 to 3 p.m. on Thursday, with local city, county and state officials expected to attend to discuss the future of movable tiny housing in California.

For many in this time of COVID-19, “going tiny” is more than just buying and moving into a tiny home, said TinyFest CEO Renee McLaughlin. It’s about “sustainability, autonomy, flexibility, and freedom — financial freedom, freedom of mobility, and freedom from stuff and stress,” she said.

“It’s also about having fun!” McLaughlin pointed out.

TinyFest hours will be noon to 6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15, or a $5 streaming option is available for those unable to attend in person. For tickets or information, visit

Fairgrounds parking is $10. No pets allowed, except for certified service animals.

Get U-T Arts & Culture on Thursdays

A San Diego insider’s look at what talented artists are bringing to the stage, screen, galleries and more.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Best places to stay in San Diego

Best Hostel in San Diego: USA Hostels San Diego

The hip and trendy USA Hostels San Diego is located in the Gaslamp District, one of the coolest neighbourhoods in San Diego. It has mixed and female-only dorms, all with pod-style beds with their own electric outlet, reading light, and privacy screens.

The all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast is a great way to start each day and other freebies include Wi-Fi and maps. There are cool common areas where you can chill and mingle, and extra plus points like laundry facilities, luggage storage, self-catering facilities, key-card access, and 24-hour reception make this one of the best places to stay in San Diego.

Best Airbnb in San Diego: Studio in the action of Old Town

Located in the heart of Old Town is this little cottage home. Besides the excellent location this home has, there is a hot tub you can dip your feet in after a long day exploring the beaches. And in the morning, enjoy your cup of joe in the peaceful shared courtyard. It is simple but quaint, and you can’t beat the location! It’s just footsteps away from the trolly and impeccable cafes you have to try.

Best Budget Hotel in San Diego: Good Nite Inn San Diego Airport/SeaWorld

If you’re wondering where to stay in San Diego without breaking the bank, Good Nite Inn San Diego Airport/SeaWorld is a great choice. There are rooms for two and four, all en suite with a TV, free Wi-Fi, telephone, fridge, and hairdryer. Daily housekeeping services keep everywhere spotless. The free onsite parking is handy. Other useful facilities include laundry services, luggage storage, vending machines, and round-the-clock reception.

Best Luxury Hotel in San Diego: Grande Colonial La Jolla

The high-class Grande Colonial La Jolla is one of the best places to stay in San Diego if you’re looking for some pampering and luxury. It’s located in La Jolla, one of the most popular seaside neighbourhoods in San Diego. There are various room types for two, three, and four guests. All rooms have a private bathroom, free Wi-Fi, a TV, an iPod docking station, a safe, and a hairdryer. Some rooms have a kitchenette.

The onsite restaurant serves American cuisine or you can order room service for a more intimate meal. Relax in the swimming pool, pamper yourself in the spa, sunbathe on the deck, and get active in the well-equipped and modern gym. Meeting facilities, luggage storage, 24-hour reception, bike rentals, and laundry services are other convenient features. If you’re thinking of where to stay in San Diego for lashings of luxury and comfort, you can’t beat the Grande Colonial La Jolla!

Praise for Rose Cole & Rituality.

Rose Cole is like a wild, exotic plant that nourishes at the soul level. Her depth of knowledge and experience for creating health and wellness is just the first layer of her brilliance. Rose is a High Priestess for our modern world guiding people to embody health on all levels.Laura Hollick, Soul Art

Rose's transmission of the High Priestess archetype has opened new spaces of willingness and desire in me to surrender even more deeply into my feminine while standing fully in my most powerful self.Alexis Neely, Truth-Telling Lawyer & Evolutionary Strategist

I've witnessed thousands of women's lives changed from Rose's High Priestess Training - astounding! Rose is authentic, true, alive and a divine healer of magnificent proportions. This woman is here to change the planet and we are all blessed to have her walking with us in this space and time. Anyone who has the opportunity to work with Rose on ANY level will be changed forever!Tara Marino, Women's Coach & Fashion Designer

Rose Cole is a beacon of light for a new generation. Her method of blending health, spirituality and consciousness is so needed in this day and age. She has touched my heart and inspired my life and for that I'm eternally grateful.Cynthia Pasquella, Celebrity Nutritionist & Author of The Hungry Hottie Cookbook

A Complete Guide of Where to Stay in San Diego

From waterside, to city center, to theme park convenient, it can be hard to choose where to stay. Here's a look at some of the best San Diego family lodging options.

On the Water

As the Frog Family, we’re naturally drawn to water. If we have the chance to stay near the beach or the bay, we always take it. Mission Bay is a popular destination for families. It offers plenty of water sports and outdoor activities and a number of resorts. It’s also just a hop, skip and a jump from neighboring SeaWorld San Diego. The San Diego Mission Bay Resort (as low as ($202 a night) offers all of the fun of being on the water. Rent watercraft or bikes to explore the bay. Make s'mores at night. That's what we're talking about!

Nearby Ocean Beach is a great spot to visit. It has a beachfront amusement park, tide pools to explore, a pier and paved pathways for bike rides and walks along the beach. The Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina (as low as $160 a night) is located in the marina near Sea World and offers three heated pools and multiple waterslides. It's about a 15-minute walk to Mission beach.

Guests will find plenty of accommodations along the coast to suit every budget. There are pricier options in La Jolla and Coronado. These are two of the most spectacular areas near San Diego. You just might find that paying a little more for these locations is worth it.

La Jolla is home to the famed PGA Championship Torrey Pines Golf Course and the Torrey Pines State Reserve. The town features a number of standout hotels and resorts. That includes the AAA Five Diamond Award-winning Lodge at Torrey Pines that overlooks the course. The downtown area, with its upscale boutiques, shops and restaurants, is a good place to explore. La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are both great destinations for families because of their calm waters.

Those looking for more affordable options within San Diego will find an Embassy Suites (as low as $179 a night) located on the waterfront, or, just a block from the beach, the Holiday Inn Express in Miramar (as low as $129 a night).

Consistently named one of the top beaches in the country, Coronado makes an ideal location for lodging, if you can afford to pay a little more. This peninsula across the San Diego Bay boasts three major resorts, including the Victorian-era Hotel del Coronado (as low as $334 a night), which boasts 28 acres of oceanfront property and sumptuous décor.

If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle, head up the coast. You can find many great beach towns as you travel north by train or car. You can enjoy great views, relaxing beaches, surf spots, shopping and dining. Heading north, Del Mar, Carlsbad and Oceanside are frogtastic destinations. You can explore pockets of casual beach towns nestled between them. Just north of La Jolla, Del Mar (literally Spanish for “of the sea”) has dining and shopping. It's home to the Del Mar racetrack and the San Diego County Fair. Del Mar has some pricier hotels, but you can find affordable family lodging at the Homewood Suites (as low as $116 a night) or Best Western Premier Hotel Del Mar Inn (as low as $121 a night).

Carlsbad in north San Diego County draws families to LEGOLAND, beaches, outlet malls, cute local shops and restaurants, colorful street art and rainbows of flowers in the spring. You might even get the chance to pick your own strawberries in late winter through spring. The Hilton Garden Inn - Carlsbad Beach (as low as $123 a night) is our Frog Family pick in the area. Rooms include kitchens, and the Pacific Ocean is steps away. Plus, there's a free shuttle for quick transportation to attractions within five miles of the hotel. At the Cape Rey Carlsbad Beach Hilton Resort and Spa (as low as $150 a night), you can get the best of beach and theme park worlds. You can stay across from the beach and be just two miles from LEGOLAND.

Oceanside is the furthest beach town in north San Diego County. It offers a harbor, pier, sandy beaches and paved paths to ride bikes or stroll along the beaches and playgrounds. The pet-friendly Residence Inn San Diego Oceanside is a great pick here.

If Coronado is out of price range, families will find more affordable options and a lot to do in downtown San Diego. The prime location puts you within a few blocks of the Gaslamp Quarter. The 16-block historical neighborhood is also home to some of the city’s best dining, shopping and entertainment destinations. A few blocks west is the New Children’s Museum. It's also close to Seaport Village, a waterfront shopping and dining area next to San Diego Bay. A few blocks northeast of downtown lies Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre cultural preserve that is home to the city’s best museums, as well as the San Diego Zoo.

One of our nearby Frog Family favorites is the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina, which is centrally located near the USS Midway Museum, the Gaslamp Quarter, SeaWorld San Diego, water activities and many other attractions.

Where to Stay in San Diego Near the Major Attractions

Families will find a handful of choices near the major attractions themselves, including the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego and Old Town. LEGOLAND California has its own resort hotel that features guest rooms themed to pirate, kingdom or adventure in Carlsbad, about a 30-minute drive from downtown San Diego.

We hope you've found this overview of where to stay in San Diego hopful in planning your visit to San Diego. You'll find more resources and tips inside our San Diego Planning Guide.

50 Tacos

Hard taco shells: Bake 4 minutes at 350 degrees F, or microwave 45 seconds.

Soft 6-inch corn or flour tortillas: Heat in a dry skillet or on the grill, 30 seconds per side, or wrap in foil and bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees F. You can also wrap in a damp towel and microwave 1 minute.

1. Ground Beef: Saute 1 chopped onion and 2 minced garlic cloves in oil. Add 1 tablespoon chili powder and 2 teaspoons each cumin and coriander cook 30 seconds. Add 1 pound ground beef and cook until browned. Add 2 tablespoons broth, and salt to taste. Serve in hard taco shells and top as desired.

2. Spicy Beef: Make Ground Beef Tacos (No. 1), adding 2 teaspoons hot sauce and 1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapenos with the broth.

3. Turkey: Make Ground Beef Tacos (No. 1), adding 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon with the spices and replacing the beef with turkey.

4. Sweet and Savory Beef: Make Ground Beef Tacos (No. 1), adding 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon with the spices. Replace the broth with 1/4 cup water, then add 3 tablespoons each tomato paste and raisins, 1 tablespoon capers, and salt to taste. Simmer until thick.

5. Queso-Chorizo: Brown 2 ounces diced dried chorizo in a skillet remove with a slotted spoon. Melt 1/2 pound chopped monterey jack in the skillet. Serve in flour tortillas with the chorizo.

6. Carne Asada: Season 1 pound skirt steak with salt and pepper grill and slice. Brush 1 bunch scallions with oil grill. Serve the steak and scallions in tortillas with lime juice.

7. Fajita: Make Carne Asada Tacos (No. 6), replacing the scallions with 1 each thickly sliced onion and bell pepper. Serve in tortillas with sour cream, guacamole and salsa.

8. Beef and Bean: Make Ground Beef Tacos (No. 1), adding 1 drained can pinto beans with the broth.

9. Double Shell: Spread 2 tablespoons warm refried beans on a flour tortilla. Wrap around a hard taco shell and fill as desired.

10. Spiced Shell: Mix 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder. Deep-fry corn tortillas in 350 degrees F oil, using tongs to hold each in the shape of a taco shell, until crisp, 2 minutes. Drain sprinkle with the spice mixture. Fill as desired.

11. Carnitas: Combine 2 pounds cubed pork shoulder, 1 garlic clove, 1/2 each orange and lime, 4 thyme sprigs, 2 bay leaves, 1 cup milk, water to cover and 1 teaspoon salt in a pot cook over medium heat until the liquid evaporates and the pork browns, 1 hour. Remove the pork cook sliced onions in the pot. Serve the pork and onions in tortillas.

12. Pork al Pastor: Make Carnitas Tacos (No. 11), adding 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder with the milk. Omit the onions. Shred the pork and serve in tortillas with chopped grilled pineapple and scallions.

13. Chicken Mole: Prepare jarred mole sauce as the package directs. Stir in shredded cooked chicken. Serve in tortillas and top with sesame seeds.

14. Chicken Tomatillo: Purée 1 pound husked tomatillos with 1 jalapeno, 1 garlic clove, 1/4 cup each chopped onion, cilantro and water, and 1 teaspoon salt. Fry the sauce in 2 tablespoons oil until thick. Stir in 3 cups shredded cooked chicken. Serve in tortillas with shredded monterey jack.

15. Shrimp Tomatillo: Make the sauce for Chicken Tomatillo Tacos (No. 14) cool. Serve grilled shrimp in tortillas with the tomatillo sauce, cilantro and sour cream.

16. Chipotle Pork: Sauté 1 each chopped red onion and chipotle in adobo sauce in oil. Add 2 teaspoons each cumin and coriander cook 30 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon adobo sauce and 1 pound ground pork cook until browned. Add 2 tablespoons broth, and salt to taste. Serve in hard taco shells.

17. Cajun Catfish: Mix 1/4 cup each salsa and sour cream. Toss 1 pound catfish chunks with 2 teaspoons oil and 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning sauté. Serve in tortillas with the salsa mixture.

18. Cajun Pork: Make Cajun Catfish Tacos (No. 17), replacing the fish with boneless pork loin. Serve in tortillas with salsa.

19. Mushroom: Cook 1 minced shallot in butter. Add 1 pound mixed mushrooms and 1 teaspoon salt sauté. Toss with lemon juice, parsley and hot sauce. Serve in tortillas.

20. Duck Confit: Mix 1 cup each diced green apple and radishes, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and salt. Brown 3 duck confit legs in a skillet shred the meat. Serve in tortillas with the apple relish.


THE LOWDOWN: Sketchy location and run down setting doesn't keep the locals and those in the know from lining up from 630AM to 3PM everyday for San Diego's best tacos, tamales, burritos, rice and beans.

PRICE: Cheap Eats - You can't spend more than $10 per person here if you tried.

People waiting in the always there line at San Diego's Las Cuatro Milpas.

Nothing fancy, the same as it was when it opened in 1933.

Locals love Las Cuatro Milpas.

Forget about trendy "street tacos" with tiny morsels that's barely enough for a bite. This is Las Cuatro Milpas, San Diego's best Mexican restaurant. OK, sure, it's a bit sketchy. There neighborhood has homeless people on the sidewalk and you're not quite sure what to do when you get to the front of the line but don't worry, I'm here to help you.

First, be prepared to wait. Consider yourself lucky if there's no line but there's nearly always a line. Las Cuatro Milpas opens at 630AM and closes at 3. The line moves reasonably fast so just come, don't worry about it.

The menu is simple enough. Tacos. Tamales. Burritos. Rice and Beans. Honestly, I'm not even sure you can pick what meat goes in the tacos or tamales. When you get to the front of the line you just tell them what you want and they make it. No questions, no options. Their tacos are deep fried and topped simply with Mexican cheese and some lettuce. The rice and beans are huge portions and served in a bowl. You can easily share one order with the table. They do have a spicy version of the beans with chorizo, I believe, but the standard with some hot sauce is good enough for me.

Here is the salsa bar. LOL, while other Mexican restaurants have lots and lots of options Las Cuatro Milpas has one. It's red, it's hot, and it's all they got so take a couple.

So order your food and watch them cook it in front of you. Oh yeah, you need CASH. Do not make the rookie mistake of coming here with your American Express and then getting all negative on Yelp when you have to leave without tacos after waiting so long in line.

Once they had you the tray of food you can grab some hot sauce and add some onions and cilantro on top. Drinks are all in the can, waters are a buck, no beer, no wine, and NO MARGARITAS. This isn't a theme restaurant. There are no pinatas or ironic black velvet portraits of Elvis. It's ain't that sort of joint.

Once you have your food I like to head to the back where they are making tortillas. There's another dining area around the corner but that's my favorite table right there.

After all that here is what I got - one tamale floating in a bowl of rice and beans - $5! The tamale is the best tamale I have ever tasted and I've tasted a lot of tamales. I even make my own tamales but I'm giving up now and just buying these. Filled with meat (pork?), nice and plump and the masa is the perfect texture. The rice and beans are delicious but attack my stomach pretty much within an hour after I eat them so, well, don't come here before getting on an airplane. Just saying.

Oh, and every order comes with homemade tortillas! You know those tortillas you get at the supermarket? Not even close to how good these are.

TIP: Bring a cooler as if you are like me you will have leftovers. They have to-go boxes near the cash register you can grab.

SUMMARY: If you love Mexican food you need to come here. If you're a local and you haven't been here yet then do it this weekend. And if you're a tourist do not make the mistake of only eating Americanized Mexican food in Old Town or upscale tacos in upscale restaurants - come here for a taste of the real deal at Las Cuatro Milpas.


Since 1996, Local Wally has been helping tourists and locals alike find the best of San Diego. Follow my blog to read about my random adventures around San Diego, including half dashed restaurant reviews, rants, and recipes. Subscribe and get insider info on new things coming up, events, and maybe even win free stuff now and then!

Where to Eat & Drink Between Los Angeles and San Francisco

When discussing the top food destinations of California, Los Angeles and San Francisco always seem to suck up all of the oxygen. But between the southern and northern hubs of the Golden State (apologies to San Diego and Sacramento) lies a vast expanse of farms, vineyards, and oceanside real estate, where you’ll encounter an endless array of culinary delights that are not to be missed. The best way to experience all this visual and edible glory is with an LA to SF road trip. Fill up your tank, download your podcasts, and prepare yourself for an epic adventure of sight and sumptuousness.

Ventura: Beyond the Valley

Heading out from Los Angeles, your GPS will likely inform you that heading up the 5 will be the fastest route to San Fran. While true, the ride is largely uneventful unless you happen to be a huge fan of cows and the smells they produce. If you have the time, heading north on the 101 is without a doubt the way to go.

The first leg of your journey will take you through Ventura County’s lush farmland which offers a bounty of Mother Nature’s riches including acres upon acres of lemon and avocado trees and strawberry fields that seem to go on forever. To get a taste of the impressive array of fruits and vegetables grown in the region, a trip to Moorpark’s Underwood Family Farms is in order. The family-friendly destination is notable for its pick-your-own produce program and Fall Harvest Festival which attracts over 100,00 visitors each year.

If you’re craving Mexican food, downtown Oxnard is the place to be. Regional specialties abound from the killer mole at El Oaxaco, to El Vero’s where Sinaloense seafood is the focus and an order of aguachiles is a must. But your best bet is going the Michoacán route with a stop at the always crowded Carnitas El Rey. Its namesake specialty, unspeakably juicy pork that has been simmering for hours in its own lard, is pure porcine perfection.

A few miles east, Casa Agria brews up some of the best IPAs and saisons (particularly those of the fruited variety) in southern California. Grab some cans and bottles to-go and head on over to the beach where it’s legal to imbibe in Ventura. On Saturday and Sunday, grab lunch or an early dinner at St. Buenaventura Park where the The Jolly Oyster serves up creamy, briny bivalves plucked from their Baja aquatic farm. Save some money and do the shucking yourself—then be sure to contribute to the massive wall of shells beside you.

Gettin our Jollies and Kumamotos

A post shared by JD Stumpf (@as_seen_in_austin) on Jul 6, 2019 at 4:07pm PDT

Another weekend-only destination is Ventura Spirits which offers tastings and tours of the micro-distillery. Whether it’s their Strawberry Brandy or Wilder Gin made with purple sage, yerba santa, and other locally-grown botanicals, you’ll enjoy a taste of California with every sip of their unique offerings.

Santa Barbara: Live the Oprah Life

A few miles north of the Ventura County line you’ll find yourself in Montecito, the posh-without-being-snobby community that counts Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres among its residents. It’s also where you’ll find Bettina, a recently-opened hot spot that serves up Neapolitan pizza with innovative toppings courtesy of chefs Rachel Greenspan and Brendan Smith, the former head baker at Brooklyn’s famed Roberta’s.

Switching gears to a Santa Barbara stalwart, La Super Rica is always worth braving the constant lines. The Julia Child-endorsed local institution is renowned for its legendary homemade tortillas packed with ooey gooey cheese, smokey strips of chiles, expertly spiced marinated pork, and other drool-worthy fillings. (If tamales are available, you’ll want those too.)

Santa Barbara and seafood are synonymous (uni and spot prawn aficionados can certainly attest to that) so it’s no surprise that Brophy Bros. is one of the city’s most beloved eateries. With a prime harbor location, the restaurant pairs freshly caught fruits of the ocean with a view of whence your meal came.

Wherever you choose to dine be sure to leave room for dessert at McConnell’s, which began churning out their legendary ice cream 70 years ago in Santa Barbara.

Keeping things cool, the arts community known as the Funk Zone has become the hub of Santa Barbara’s nightlife (and daylife, for that matter), packing in a multitude of notable restaurants, bars, and shops into a few bustling blocks. With the Santa Ynez Valley only a few miles away (we’ll get to that shortly) it’s no surprise that wine is the drink of choice here. While tasting options are aplenty, it’s hard to beat the selection at Les Marchands which offers an expertly curated selection of off-the-beaten-path wines available to-go in their shop or to sip on premise in their adjacent restaurant where you can enjoy light snacks or heartier farm-to-table fare.

At the edge of the Santa Barbara city limits, Cold Spring Tavern has been feeding hungry locals and travelers for over 150 years! Beginning as a stagecoach stop in 1868, this straight out of a John Ford movie throwback offers a portal to the Old West plus a dang good tri-tip sandwich.

Santa Ynez Valley: Great Danes—and Wine

At the northern edge of Santa Barbara, the Santa Ynez Valley is renowned for its stunning scenery and sprawling vineyards. Though it doesn’t get as much love as its grape-growing counterparts to the north, the area has exploded in popularity over the last few years, particularly since it provided the backdrop to the movie “Sideways.” Recruit a designated driver and wind your way up Foxen Canyon Road enjoying the scenery and budget-friendly tastings which are offered at several notable wineries including Zaca Mesa, Foxen, and Rancho Sisquoc.

Looking for an afternoon of food, wine, and revelry all in one location? A trip to the charming town of Los Olivos will cover the bases.

If you prefer hops to grapes, seek refuge in Buellton’s Firestone Walker Barrelworks. Entering the facility, adjacent to the brewery’s restaurant, is like stepping into a cathedral only with stacks of spirit and wine barrel-aged brews. The finished products, which are available for sampling, also happen to be heavenly.

It ain’t all about the drinking ‘round these parts as fans of Buellton-based Industrial Eats and The Hitching Post II can attest. The former features a rotating menu of small plates with an emphasis on using local ingredients. The latter is a local legend where Santa Maria-style BBQ is the name of the game. Steaks are the obvious choice, but don’t sleep on the duck.

If you’re spending the night or arriving early to the area, Paula’s Pancake House in Solvang serves up tasty, ultra-thin Danish-style flapjacks to match the town’s quirky Scandinavian aesthetics. A few exits north on the 101 is trending Los Alamos. On the main drag—which comprises a scant few blocks—you’ll find Bob’s Well Bread, a destination-worthy bakery specializing in small-batch artisan loaves (the Saturday and Sunday-only Pain aux Lardons is a masterpiece), sweet and savory pastries, plus a full cafe menu. Arrive early to snag the good stuff.

San Luis Obispo: Take It SLO

Welcome to the Central Coast which offers beachside towns aplenty and another round of in vino veritas. Though the Pacific blue zinfandels await, don’t skip over the seemingly one horse town of Nipomo, home to the wildly popular Jocko’s Steakhouse. The absolutely zero-frills favorite serves up the area’s best Santa Maria style BBQ at affordable prices (the open-faced steak sandwich is a particular bargain). Just be sure to plan your trip when the pit BBQ is ablazin’ and make a reservation well in advance.

If I were to make one hotel recommendation for this entire journey, the Madonna Inn is a no-brainer. Dripping with kitsch, you’ll have the option to Liberace it up in your choice of uniquely-themed, one-of-a-kind-rooms including multiple options with rock waterfall showers. Even if you don’t plan to spend the evening, walk around the joyful grounds and grab a drink at the bar located in the extremely pink Gold Rush Steak House for some colorful people-watching (cross your fingers it’s a ballroom dancing night) and a stiff martini.

No surprise, there are a number of terrific local seafood spots along the coast but a personal favorite is in Morro Bay which requires a short detour onto CA-1, better known as the Pacific Coast Highway. They’re you’ll find Dockside, which offers simple preparations of the day’s fresh catch right along the water. Continue up the PCH and follow your nose to Cayucos, home of Ruddell’s Smokehouse and its sinfully addictive house-smoked albacore and salmon tacos.

Make your way back inland to get in on the Paso Robles wine action. If zinfandels and petite syrahs are your jam, Turley has you covered. Definitely drop the extra $5 for the speciality pours, especially if you plan on buying a couple of bottles which will cover your tasting fee. While Turley represents Paso’s old guard, L’Aventure and Epoch (located in Templeton, on the way to Hearst Castle) are the relatively new cool kids in town. Both wineries are chic and modern with pricey (at least for Central Coast standards) tastings that are appointment only.

For a more relaxed experience, take a stroll around Tin City, an “industrial makers market” (translation: fancy strip mall) that’s home to tasting rooms for several local wineries, not to mention a cidery, brewery, and a few food options. At the edge of downtown Paso, the Herman Story tasting room is always a party. With bottles such as Smash City, Tomboy, and the infamous Late Bloomer, the winery gives off the impression it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but one sip of their spectacular big, bold reds, and you’ll realize that’s not entirely the case. Grab a bottle and walk over to rotisserie chicken specialist The Hatch where corkage is free for downtown wineries.

Monterey: Welcome to “Big Little Lies” Country

Driving up the PCH along the coast through Big Sur, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Monterey is a bucket list experience with plenty of unforgettable, gob-smacking vistas. While the surroundings are spectacular, the food and drink ain’t bad either.

When in Big Sur, why not enjoy some cliffside dining? Sierra Mar, located in the swanky Post Ranch Inn, serves breakfast and lunch, but the pricey pre-fixe only dinner is the main attraction and worth the cost, especially for that million dollar sunset view.

Easy Whole Wheat Bread, Celery and Onion Stuffing Recipe


  • 1 1lb loaf of sliced whole wheat bread, such as Nature's Pride
  • 3/4 cup of butter
  • 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Poultry Seasoning
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. 1. Let the bread slices dry until rough on the outside. If you don't have time to dry the bread, turn your oven to 200 degrees, spread the bread slices on a cookie sheet and bake for a few minutes until the side up is dry. Flip the bread over and bake the other side until dry. Whole wheat bread takes a little bit longer to dry out than white bread, in my experience.
  2. 2. Cut bread into 1-2 inch cubes.
  3. 3. Melt the butter in a stock pot or dutch oven. Cook the onion and celery in the butter until barely soft. Season the mixture with Poultry Seasoning, salt and pepper.
  4. 4. Stir in bread crumbs until coated. Pour in chicken broth.
  5. 5. Chill and then stuff turkey or bake in a casserole pan at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Serve with gravy and that&rsquos it! Our favorite family Thanksgiving tradition includes making about twice as much stuffing as necessary (the younger generation loves it) and perhaps adding a bit too much-powdered sugar into the fresh whipped cream (for pumpkin and pecan pie), to the dismay of the older generation. What makes the day so special is it&rsquos one of the few times per year that our extended family gets together.

Happy Thanksgiving! Ironically, this was posted on the exact day Hostess announced liquidation of its brands, including Nature&rsquos Pride. Visit Nature&rsquos Pride on Facebook for details. However, any loaf of whole wheat bread will do!

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

12 Must-Try Lunch & Dessert Spots in San Diego

    , Photo: Bertrand at Mister A's , Photo: Hash House A Go Go , Photo: Breakfast Republic , Photo: The Mission , Photo: Brian's 24 , Photo: Puesto , Photo: Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream , Photo: Osteria Panevino , Photo: The Great Maple , Photo: Slater's 50/50 , Photo: Phil's BBQ , Photo: Isola Pizza Bar
  • Cover Photo: Courtesy of Bertrand at Mister A's

You are reading "12 Must-Try Lunch & Dessert Spots in San Diego " Back to Top