Podcast Episode 2: North Park, San Diego

Today on the Things to Do in San Diego Podcast, we’re focusing on mostly North Park. I say mostly because we also cover a few places that are probably officially in South Park or University Heights. Several small neighborhoods all converge in that area. 

North Park is just a few miles north east of downtown.

Map of North Park (north of 94, left of 805)

In this episode, my guests are James and Jerleen Synks will take us on a virtual tour of the area, and we’ll cover, the vibe, parking, hotels, breweries, bars, restaurants, shopping and music. 

I picked James and Jerleen to help us with North Park because they spent the last 10 years North Park. They are foodies who are really passionate about the places they recommend. 

Neither my guests nor I get paid for any place we recommend on the show. In fact, none of the places are even aware that we are recommending them. 

North Park Vibe, Location and Safety

If you like good beer and good food and not a party scene you will want to check out North Park. Downtown San Diego is more for people watching and can get wild where as North Park is a lot quieter. It does have the highest concentration of breweries and tasting rooms out of anyone else in the county. 

North Park is just like any other just outside of downtown city. You will see homeless but James says in the 10 years he has lived there that it is safe. He hasn’t had any problems. 

Everything is mostly on one street – 30th street. It goes from South Park to North Park.

North Park is fairly small. The neighborhoods are small and it is connected to South Park, Normal Heights and University Heights.

Staying in North Park

James says that there are not a lot of hotels he would recommend except for the Lafayette which is a classic old hotel. There are a few motels. With all the old, small homes in the area, you are more likely to find Airbnb.  

Shopping in North Park

North Park is not known for shopping. It is mostly restaurants, breweries and bars. However, there is a cool store called Pigment that has some unusual things and plants and stationary. You may also find some old bookstores and antique stores. For the most part, North Park is all about food, drink and live music. 

Parking and Transportation in North Park

Parking is difficult. With so many small homes residents also find parking to be hard. Busy nights it is nearly impossible. There are a few public buses but no trolleys. James and Jerleen recommend a Taxi, Uber or Lyft.

If you are staying downtown it is likely a $4-5 Uber fare. If you are driving down just make sure you get there early. 

Paid parking is at 30th/University.

I didn’t mention this in the podcast but you can also find companies that give beer tours which might be a good idea if you want a designated driver and they may even pick you up from somewhere else in San Diego. 

Breweries and Beer

James says that you could go to 1 brewery a night for 2-3 weeks without going to the same one. There is always more popping up. 

You might see pedal bike vehicles that fit about 16 people. These are beer tours. 

James’s Top 3 Breweries
Belching Beaver, Modern Times, Second Chance. All within walking distance maybe a 3 min walk. 

In the past, James and his friends have tried to do a South Park/North Park brewery walk. They planned 12 breweries but never made it to the end. 

Speaking of brewing, the Homebrewer is on El Cajon Blvd. It is a one stop shop for brewing. They have a tap room with their own beers on tap. If you have a question on brewing or type of beer that is where you’d want to go. You can try just about every kind of beer. 

More Favorite Breweries

As far as Breweries there are Fall Brewing, Eppig Brewing, Belching Beaver, Rip Current, Second Chance Beer Co, North Park Beer Company, Mike Hess Brewing, Modern Times, South Park Brewing. They are all good and all packed all the time. There are more breweries but these were the ones James enjoyed the most.

None of them really have food except Rip Current. 

Hamilton’s (Amazing Food and Beer but in South Park)

Tap house with good food his favorite is Hamilton’s Tavern. 40 beers with an insane bottle list. Normal bar food but done pretty good. Monday night is Fried chicken sandwiches. Have 2nd Saturday of month. Tap takeover which pairs with food. Bring in full tap list of certain brewery. Then the chef makes a full four course meal that is FREE.

They also have a special cask beer for $5 a pint. 

Ken Kramer did a great little piece about the history of Hamilton’s

Non Beer Places to Drink

You can find a great cider place just south of Belching Beaver, Bivaouac. All ciders made in house. 

If you like whisky, check out Seven Grand Whisky Bar that has a speakeasy vibe.

Cool Bars

Coin Op is a bar that has tons of video games and outdoor games.

Wine Tasting

Correction to the podcast. James mentioned a places called Sip where you put money on a card. You can pour your own by pressing a button and getting an ounce or more of wine that costs from 10 cents to a $1.00 an ounce. The name is actually Splash Wine Lounge and Bistro.

There is an Urban Winery in North Park called Negociant Winery that actually makes all the wine in house.

Food in North Park (and a bit north in University Heights)

There is just about any type of food whether quick and easy or sit down and fancy in north park

James and Jerleen claimed that Bahn Thai has the best Thai in San Diego. but you have to get there early or phone in. You have to keep calling until they pick up because so busy. So small only 3 tables inside and maybe 4-6 tables outside.  It has over 4000 reviews on yelp averaging 4.5 stars. It was also named as San Diego’s best Thai Restaurant. Correction to the podcast. In looking at the map, I think Bahn Thai is actually slightly north of North Park in University Heights near Park and Adam’s Avenue.

They mentioned Park House Eatery as being a great place for breakfast. That too is in University Heights.

Also there is a Liquor store that makes really good sandwiches. Try Park Blvd Deli and Liquor or Fat Boys Deli and Spirits

Lefty’s pizza Chicago pizza – deep dish Pizzeria Bruno and Pizzeria Luigi both really good – Italy, Sicilian 

Mexican Food

In North Park, Jerleen says she likes El Zarape. If you want a sit down restaurant, there aren’t a lot of of those however there are amazing taco shops. Try City Taco, and Cantina Mayahuel. Cantina Mayahuel has a Happy Hour with $5 Margaritas and a plate of 3 street tacos for $7. Really good tacos. James said their margaritas are really good. They have a few hundred tequilas and mezcals on the wall.

Fine Dining

For fine dining, try Encontro. They serve Cardiff Crack which is amazing tri-tip that they get from Seaside Market in Solana Beach daily.

Another great place is Underbelly for ramen noodles.

Smoking Goat and One Door North are also top notch according to James.

I usually let the guests mention all the places but just a few weeks before we recorded this podcast, my husband and I went to North Park and stopped at Tiger Tiger to eat. We had the specials and I have to say that we were blown away with the food. We’re originally from Chicago and this reminded me of the food we had last year when we were back on a visit. It reminded me of the food at the Athletic Club in Downtown Chicago.

Music in North Park

There is a couple of music venues. Lestat is well known. Quite a few of the dive bars have live music.

A place called the Observatory draws some really big acts a few times a year. They have a restaurant downstairs.