BoldBelvoir’s West Coast Wander: Pt.7 – San Diego

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TUESDAY 11/10/22

After a somewhat tardy start to the day (our bus to San Diego didn’t leave until 11 am), we decided to walk to the bus terminal and stop off for breakfast along the way to split the journey. We made that stop at Guisados which, in stark contrast to their glossy website, was much more akin to Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon. It was a self-service joint, with a serving hatch cut into the plexi (bullet-proof?) glass barrier dividing the staff and customers.

After perusing the tatty menu, I decided on a five-bean burrito and Mrs Belvoir plumped for a portion of hash brownies. So far, so good. I approached the serving hatch to place my order. Apparently, the lady behind the counter didn’t speak much English. She got the burrito bit, but I couldn’t make her understand that I wanted a plate of hash brownies too. After much pointing to the menu pictures on the wall and jabbing of the grubby menu in my hand, she eventually gave up and beckoned some assistance from a colleague. They also were baffled and eventually summoned the chef out of the kitchen. This was getting a little too Python-esque for me and I was about to give up and move on when chef uttered a big ‘Aaaah’! and explained the order to the original lady. Great! I paid my money and waited for the food.

When the order finally arrived there was just a wrapped burrito, but no brownies. I queried this, in as many different ways as I could, but still I wasn’t able to be understood. I finally conceded defeat and thought I’d just share with Mrs Belvoir. Back at our table, I cut into the burrito, and there were the hash brownies, packed inside! I found it astounding that nobody on the premises could actually speak English, but there you go. Another experience to write about!

Suitably replete, we continued the walk into town and reached the terminal in good time, boarded the bus and enjoyed the 120-mile, insanely cheap £12 journey without event. Three-and-a-half hours later, we were dropped at Balboa Park, San Diego. After finding our bearings it was only a twenty-minute walk to our AirBnB, so Shank’s it was again.

Suitably booked into our apartment, (more of that later) it was time for more fodder, and possibly a beer or two if I was allowed 🙂

Chance find – The Knotty Barrel

The weather had suddenly clouded over and was spotting with rain, and about three streets away from our digs we stumbled upon the brewpub Knotty Barrel842 Market St, San Diego, CA 92101. The rain was coming down now, so we swooped in and secured a table. The barman approached to take our order and commented he couldn’t remember the last time it rained. That made us feel great after we’d travelled 6,000 miles to get there! I only ordered the one in here: Knotty BarrelRobot Barber 6.5% APA [3.5]. It wasn’t the greatest beer, but very welcome after another day’s travelling. It soon stopped raining and a quick referral to Google maps revealed another brewpub about a quarter of an hour away, Half Door903 Island Ave, San Diego, CA so that was our next destination.

Half Door was a much more traditional pub than the last one, with wooden construction and a – you guessed it! – half-door entrance! Ten taps in here, from which I selected two: Please Fly Again 8.1% AIPA [3.75] and the superb Necessary Evil 4.0% Wild Ale [4.5]. The latter was the closest to a lambic style I’ve tasted outside of Belgium. Brilliant stuff!

Incredible sour ale at the Half Door

All too soon it was time for beebos, so it was back to the AirBnB. ‘Sonder the Baker‘ is a block of really comfortable and affordable apartments, conveniently situated in the centre of San Diego. Unfortunately, the San Diegans have a penchant for highly souped-up (read: LOUD) vehicles, that parade up and down the high streets all (and I mean ALL) night, and consequently any sort of meaningful sleep was impossible. The hotel’s write-ups don’t mention this fact when you’re researching! Oh well, put it down to experience again.

Tuesday’s route

WEDNESDAY 12/10/22

Somewhat bleary-eyed in the morning, we decided to explore the harbour area. We got misdirected and after walking through several streets adopted by the homeless population, we ended up at the less than salubrious old ‘Tuna Docks‘, with no apparent direct access to the harbour area we were bound for. So we doubled back, finally reaching the striking Rady Shell around lunchtime. The walk along The Embarcadero is pleasant, albeit rather ordinary, much like many other seaside destinations, so to break the boredom it was time for a beer.

Stone Brewing Tap Room Kettner1202 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA was the nearest, which was just a short walk inland. We got there just as the sun was breaking through the stubborn clouds that remained after yesterday’s storm so we took a table on the terrace outside. A staggering 32 taps in here and after much advice from the friendly and knowledgeable ‘back-to-front-cap’ barman I chose an Enjoy By 10.31.22 9.4% DNEIPA [3.5]. Not the best beer I’ve tasted but it went down well whilst listening to Battery by Metallica cranking out on the sound system \m/ \m/. Stone’s ‘Go To IPA‘ was one of the first beers that got me into the craft scene, and I’m really happy I got to experience this place in person.

Stone Brewing tap room.

Next on the list was less than a mile away, so a nice leisurely walk took us to Ballast Point2215 India St, San Diego, CA 92101. It was amazing how close the airport was to the city and the approaching aircraft swooped low over the brewery every few minutes, although the noise didn’t seem to carry too much. I tried to catch this on camera but the planes don’t look as close as I’d remembered them. Perhaps it was something to do with the beer!


Ballast Point is another ultra-modern, airy tap room, this one with 32 taps in, plus one hand pump (which was not in use, today at least). I selected two, neither of them from the brewery. Kings & ConvictsHaze In the Park 6.2% NEIPA [3.75] and a Behemoth (New Zealand) Dreams of Green 8.5% DIPA [3.75]. Mrs Belvoir decided upon a ‘Hard Kambucha’ (alcoholic tea) which not only looked like this morning’s discarded bath water, it tasted of it as well!

Hard Kambucha? No thanks!

Earlier in the day I had spotted a corner bar close to our digs that had piqued my interest, so that was the third and final stop for the day. From the outside, Neighborhood777 G St, San Diego, CA, with its plain green walls and opaque glazing gave no clue as to what lay inside, but the potted trees around the entrance, the quirky signage and their minimalist two-page website hinted that here was something different and wow, was I right!

Neighborhood is easily one of the most atmospheric, characterful bars I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. It’s a low-lit bar in the art-deco style, with a speakeasy vibe that just ouzes character and quality. The sound system consisted of two high-end McIntosh amplifiers fed by twin vintage Akai reel-to-reel tape decks – the sort of kit that leaves audiophiles creaming their jeans.

Neighborhood – A must-visit when in San Diego.

A mere 20 taps in here. I ordered a BurgeonOptical Distortion 6.4% NEIPA [4] along with the mega-hyped Russian RiverPliny the Elder 8.0% DIPA [3.75], a beer which I’d never had on draft before. Sadly I was a little underwhelmed but at least I can say I’ve finally tried it. Despite the (relatively) opulent surroundings, the beer was reasonably priced at $10 for two halves, and we spent a lovely hour or so sitting at the bar before making our way back to the hotel.

Wednesday’s route

THURSDAY 13/10/22

After a pretty sleepless night, courtesy of inconsiderate guests continuing to party in their room after a night out, and the endless stream of hotrod cars with every other vehicle seemingly equipped with sound systems capable of supplying more bass than LiveAid ’88, we rose red-eyed, but ready to take on another day.

We started with a visit to the extensive Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre site just a short walk from the town centre. This is a lovely space with multiple attractions – Japanese gardens, a wild cactus garden, ponds, craft (not beer) shops, a zoo and many other things that could easily keep you occupied all day. I, on the other hand, quickly got bored and by early afternoon I needed (read: wanted) beer! It was a fair walk out of town to the first brewery, so Mrs Belvoir had to be placated with an ice cream stop halfway. Zonkey sells (probably) the most expensive lollies in San Diego. They weren’t half nice though.

A few hundred yards further down the road and we arrived at North Park3038 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104, yet another large, modern brewery taproom situated on the main drag. Despite its large size, it looked fairly busy (for a Thursday afternoon) and we found a table beside the window. An array of 24 taps behind the bar offered a diverse range of styles, from coconut impy stouts to fruit sours. I could’ve probably stopped in here all day, but Mrs Belvoir’s evil’s told me I only had time for one (or two). I pushed my luck and ordered two collaboration brews: the fabulously named The Furthest* Anyone Traveled To Brew A Collab! *On Foot 8.5% NEIPA [4.5] (with Seek Beer) on draft, and a canned What Is the Answer? 5.5%, a stupendous blueberry, lemon and vanilla fruited sour smoothie [4.25] (with Überbrew).

Stupendously delicious beer at North Park.

As aforementioned, I could’ve stayed here all day, but it was time to move on. Another brewpub was only a ten-minute walk away, so we made the short stroll to Belching Beaver4223 30th St, San Diego, CA, somewhat smaller than North Park, and correspondingly less busy and a little lacking in character. I’d had Belching Beaver beers before back in the UK, and always found them a bit uninspiring. Sadly, my Stairway To Hazyville 7.0% NEIPA [3.75] failed to change my perception of them, so it was decided to back-track and have some food and another superb beer at North Park.

Belching Beaver. Somewhat uninspiring venue and beer.

Back at North Park, and this time I went for an Art is Hard 7.0% DDH IPA [4.25], which was an absolute belter and enjoyed along with a delicious burger. We were a long way from home now, so it was time for an Uber back to the hotel for a bit of kip. That didn’t go very well either, due to the previously mentioned traffic noise and the couple shagging all night in the next room. Unfortunately, the only banging I did was on the adjoining wall.

Thursday’s route

FRIDAY 14/10/22

Our flight to Phoenix wasn’t until 15.44, so we had a little time to kill before going to the airport. I already mentioned how close the planes were overhead. Consequently, the airport is so near that, bizarrely, you can walk to it, which is exactly what we planned to do. As we weren’t dependent on any transport to the airport, we knew exactly what our schedule was, so we spent a comfortable hour or so at Bolt1971 India St, San Diego, CA 92101, a small corner brewpub situated in the ‘Little Italy‘ area.

Great setup at Bolt.

Bolt was a great setup, with the bar facing outward through servery hatches onto the street. A tasty pulled-pork sandwich and pint of Stairway To Hazyville 7.0% NEIPA [3.75] later, and it was time to start the 40-minute walk to the airport.

San Diego is a pleasant enough place, nice and compact compared to other cities we’ve been to, so everything (including to and from the airport) is walkable, and it felt like the two days we spent there were ample to see most things. The homeless problem is still evident but seems confined to a street or two toward the dock area. The city certainly had two of the highlights of our trip so far – namely Neighborhood for atmosphere and North Park for beers. Recommended.


Part 1: San Francisco | Part 2: Portland | Part 3: Seattle | Part 4: Sacramento | Part 5: Yosemite Road Trip | Part 6: Los Angeles | Part 8: Phoenix+

The numbers in brackets [ ] are my beer scores (out of 5). Find me on Untappd
Some tinnies wot I have necked.
And some more pics from Sandiego below.

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