Shane's San Diego Dining Guide

with microbrewery and excursion information

Select a menu or interest:
Fine Dining, Mexican (including notes on Mex in Mexico), Spanish, Italian, Seafood, assorted Asian, Burgers & Steaks, Delis & Diners, Breakfast & Brunch, Coffee Houses, Microbreweries, Wineries, Nightlife and Excursions

Best All-Around Dining Experience: Top o' the Cove or The Sky Room

Both nestled in elegant La Jolla, Top o' the Cove boasts "Best Dining" honors by a distinguished panel of judges. Their risotto with white truffles is considered among the best in the world, and the crème brulèe is second only to Harry Denton's in San Francisco. Also, table #6 is THE most romantic spot in the area! Also vying for top honors, though, is The Sky Room, located atop the La Valencia Hotel (just two blocks along Prospect from Top o' the Cove). With the best view, and service that is nothing short of exemplary, an evening at The Sky Room is an epicurean adventure. The foie gras is delectable, as is the selection of single-malt scotches and vodkas for your apèritif. You can't go wrong at either of these places, but be sure to save some room on your credit cards....

Nightlife Suggestions: Dick's Last Resort for a wild ride, Mr. A's for elegance and the view, Top o' the Hyatt near the Convention Center for an even better view, Blarney Stone for Irish ballads, Winston's for dancing, any of the below-mentioned restaurants in O.B. for quaffing pints.


There are several microbreweries, as well as a number of cafes and restaurants with excellent beer selections. The breweries are:

Karl Strauss' Old Columbia Brewery & Grill
Karl Strauss used to be head Braumeister at Pabst (from the Old Country, though, so he understands the rheinheitsgebot). His nephew got him to finance a business venture in SD -- the Columbia Brewery. It's the most established, and it's beers have become a bit commercialized -- but the food is THE best of all pubs in town, and it's definitely worth a visit. If anyone in Peoria has heard of a brewpub in San Diego, it'll be this one. Located at 1157 Columbia, at "B" St. downtown; (619) 234-BREW.
La Jolla Brewing Company
La Jolla Brewing Co. is a recent entry into the microbrewery scene, only a couple of years old. Their food rivals Columbia, and the beer is MUCH better. (it must be those copper kettles in the back -- Columbia uses stainless steel :-) Well worth a drive. 7536 Fay Ave., La Jolla (about 10 miles north of downtown); (619) 456-BREW.
Hang Ten Pub, Bistro & Brewery (now Riptide Brewing Co.)
A great selection of bitters and ambers. Kind of light in the stout category, but a high quality brewery. It gets PACKED on weekends! Great ambience, though sort of a yuppie decor.
Hop's Bistro
Great menu, and an excellent track record for replicating German brews (their bock is quite good, and their hefeweizen is (in the opinion of a native German army officer) the "best beer in America." They occasionally feature a märzen. Located in the UTC mall, between Macy's and The Broadway. (619) 587-6677.

Restaurants featuring Microbrewed Beers

There are a number of places with good beer selections in town -- for instance, there are a couple of Irish pubs called "The Blarney Stone," as well as one called "McP's" in Coronado. However, if you have a single night and want to sample the best of them all, here are three within a couple miles of each other (all are in Ocean Beach -- follow Interstate 8 west to the end, stay in the right lane to get shunted onto Sunset Cliffs Blvd., and take a right at the fifth light onto Newport. A block and a half up, on your left, you'll see:
Newport Avenue Bar and Grill
Newport Bar & Grill doesn't look like a brewhouse; it looks more like a coffee shop -- but don't be deceived! It features at least a dozen microbrewed beers on tap. Last night, I had an Anderson Valley Octoberfest that was superb! (it went great with their fettucini carbonara :-) They feature $1 drafts of select brews from happy hour to close, and have a number of great meal deals both at happy hour (4-7pm) and after (meal deals). Check it out. 4935 Newport Ave. (619) 222-0168
South Beach Brewery
After sampling the brews in the Newport B&G, go back out to Newport, take a left, and walk three blocks to the last building before the beach (actually, before the parking lot for the beach). This is the South Beach Brewery -- a newcomer that has put on a strong showing (in my estimation, any new pub or bistro that has the courage to prominently carry "Buzzard's Breath Lager" gets my vote! :-). The beers are great, and the food (mostly snack-fare) is equally good. Their mahi mahi sandwich is simply superb! Check it out! (and take a cab.... ;-) Located on the west end, south side of the 5000 block of Newport Ave.
Foggy's Notion
One of the last true American Pubs, Foggy's features the most unique decor of any similar locale in the county (or perhaps the state, for that matter). Daily lunch specials are readily available, and the burgers are excellent (my favorite is the bleu cheese burg). A host of microbrews are on tap. Foggy's is across the street from the Sports Arena, so it's not really O.B....


The best wine tasting opportunities are an hour's drive north on Hwy 15, in the town of Temecula. Situated in a valley which connects the shores of the Pacific with the Salton Sea and the Mojave Desert, the region always enjoys cool ocean breezes in the early evening (the hot air rising in the desert creates a vacuum, drawing it in from the ocean) -- ideal for growing grapes. There are a number of wineries to the east of 15 on Rancho California Rd., among them:

Interesting, brief tours; specializes in whites (Chardonnay, Fume Blanc). $6 for tasting.
Mt. Palomar
Best bet for red wines in the area, with a great port.
Small, with a dirt road. The oldest in the valley, with excellent merlots and canellis.
Most popular, and most refined-looking, with excellent sparkling wines. Also home to KIFM Jazz 98.1 concerts.
Small, intimate, comfortable.

The town of Temecula is quite charming as well. It has been restored to appear much like it did a century ago as a stage stop. Touristy, but charming. Rosa's Cantina has great deals on decent Mexican food.


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