Empty Nester Adventures: 4 Days in San Diego

“There is no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this”

One does not need to venture far to find beauty and entertainment in San Diego. It has been a frequent winter destination for us over the past several years. We love the ease of meandering the city, the seasonal food, walks on the beach accompanied by the rhythmic waves hitting the shore and the light California breezes that carry the recognizable calls of the seagulls soaring overhead.

Read on for the details of our most recent San Diego visit.

We make it a point to visit La Puerta whenever we are in downtown San Diego. Happy hour goes from 3-5 daily and includes enticing food & drink specials. All tequilas are half off during this time so this is a can’t-miss opportunity to experience a variety of their well cultivated compilation of agave spirits. It is one of San Diego’s top margarita spots and we always pair our sips with a bowl of chips & guacamole or a taco platter.

This was our second visit to Callie restaurant. Our first experience here was in 2022 when we happened upon it while searching for a dinner spot. Table reservations were full but good fortune shined upon us with the availability of 2 walk-in seats at the bar. This trip, we made sure to secure a reservation as soon as our flight dates were confirmed. I ordered the butter roasted halibut. The fish was perfectly cooked and it was topped with a blissfully flavored green garlic potato cream. John ordered the duck & korobuta sausage ragu with wild fennel and pecorino romano cheese. Naturally, we saved room for one of their spectacular desserts. Chef Travis Swikard and the team at Callie are doing great things. Make sure to add this restaurant to your must try list.

The Foodery is an Italian Deli that is situated around the corner from The Hotel Indigo. We strolled in for lunch after we spent the morning conducting miles of exploration on foot. The smell of the Italian food cooking in the kitchen brought me right back to the neighborhood deli & grocery store that my Grandpa Don and his brothers owned and operated for many years. It was called Delmonico’s and was located in NE Minneapolis. It is 100% true that aromas can invoke memories and this is what moseying through the front door of the Foodery did for me. They offer a wide array of sandwiches and other prepared meals to take away or enjoy at a table onsite. You can also purchase wines and a bevy of ingredients for cooking at home.

Our experience at Sushi Tadokoro was out-of-this-world. This restaurant is located in Old Town and has been awarded one star by the Michelin Guide. John and I opted for seats at the sushi bar when making our reservation. We had a lively and ongoing discussion with the head sushi chef while he prepared our meal. We learned about his life in Japan and what ultimately brought him to San Diego. Having a front row seat to the ceremonious assemblance of the ingredients while listening to him talk felt almost hypnotic. The menu is modified to reflect what is fresh and in season. It made us look forward to our upcoming return visit to Japan (Happening in Fall 2023, watch the blog for more on this. We will spend time in Tokyo, Osaka and Kanazawa). PS: Sushi Tadokoro has a broad range of beer and sake to pair with your meal. We had an early lunch so opted for hot tea. Click here to learn more from KPBS and Savor San Diego about the restaurant and some of the local sake scene in San Diego.

Coronado Beach – We love Coronado Beach. It is an almost constant hub of activity, with surfers looking for the perfect wave to ride, seagulls circling then eventually perching on the sand, views of ships dotting the vista where the sea meets the sky and more. We always find a place to plant ourselves for a while and take in the charm of this gorgeous stretch of beach.

Claytons Bakery and Bistro – We make time to grab snacks/lunch at Claytons every time we are in the Coronado area. The perfectly crafted pastries pair sublimely a coffee or espresso drink. Their croissants are vehicles for a multitude of fresh and flavorful sandwich ingredients. Claytons is a perfect spot to rest and refuel after a long walk on Coronado beach.

The Red Door – The menu is a beautiful recitation of Italian comfort dishes. We started with butternut brie as an appetizer. I ordered the fresh catch of the day with beet puree and locally grown vegetables. John went with the orecchiette with sausage, mushrooms, pearl onions and brandy cream. Executive chef/owner Luciano Cibelli made his way through the dining room to chat with guests and we had the opportunity to talk with him about his commitment to serving locally farmed, sustainable ingredients. It was a pleasure to meet him and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal.

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park – We took an Uber to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. This was not to be missed according to a friend who lives in the area. The natural walkways are perched high above the sea and provide visitors with panoramic vistas. The paths are very easy to navigate. It was brisk, windy the day and the sky vacillated between glimpses of steel blue and a covering of puffy, cotton candy-like clouds

Japanese Friendship Garden – This is located in Balboa Park. Visitors can peacefully meander the paths lined with flowering trees, Japanese foliage and a winding brook. This is a true oasis in the city. Traveler tip: we are members of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and the Japanese Friendship Garden is part of the reciprocal admissions program. Click here for more details on this.

Trust Restaurant – Dinner at Trust, after walking 8 miles over the course of the day, was a true delight. We arrived a little before our reservation time and slid into a couple of seats at the bar while we waited for our table. I ordered the wood grilled cauliflower as my main course (not pictured) and John had the braised oxtail raviolini. The tres leches dessert infused with orange was a splendid culmination to a magnificent meal.

Seaport Village along San Diego Harbor – We spent a couple of mornings sipping coffee and enjoying the sights and sounds of Seaport Village. We made our way up and down the pier, popped into several of the cute shops that are situated along the sidewalks, and peeped a plethora of sailboats and yachts bobbing gently on the water.

Little Italy Mercato -We walked the approximately 1.5 miles from our hotel to the market on Saturday morning. The mercato stretches over several blocks. I always make it a point to visit nearby farmers markets in every city we visit if our schedule allows. It is an alluring way to connect with the cities farm to fork environment and to acquaint ourselves with what ingredients are in season. This knowledge is helpful when we peruse and order off of the regional restaurant menus. John and I make every attempt to support restaurants that list their farm partners on the menu and actively look for this information when making reservations.

Copa Vida – This is a splendid spot for breakfast. The latte, nitro oat milk latte and avocado toast with roasted tomatoes were the ideal fuel for our post-meal jaunt to the Japanese gardens. They have dine-in and order ahead options.

Charminar Indian Restaurant – We are so grateful to our friends Jayesh, Neepa and Parin for introducing us to one of their favorite Indian restaurants in San Diego! It was a spectacular dinner. The spices in all of the dishes we ordered were vibrant, comforting and incredibly flavorful.

Old Town Tequila and El Agave Restaurant – John and I are tequila enthusiasts. We make time to visit Old Town Tequila every time we are in San Diego. Their tequila selection is enormous and we always find a few special ones to take back home to share with friends in MN. Just above the shop is El Agave Restaurant and Tequileria, where they stock over 2000 tequilas. Cool fact: They have the largest tequila museum in the United States within the restaurant. We had a spectacular dinner experience here. We ordered the short rib poblano dish, a Mexican mole and house made chips & salsa. The relaxed vibe, fresh ingredients and craveworthy Mexican flavors are outstanding. Its location is not super conspicuous from the street given its spot above Old Town Liquor, but judging by the amount of full tables when we visited, it’s a once you know, you know type of restaurant and you’ll want to keep going back.

Views from our room at the Hotel Indigo in the Gaslamp Quarter – Morning and Sunset photos. We had a lovely stay here. It is ideally situated for walkability to restaurants, bars and sightseeing. The staff was friendly and helpful, check-in and check-out were a breeze. We try to base ourselves at hotels located in the Gaslamp Quarter as it is a lively hub of restaurants, entertainment and shops.

Travel info: We flew Delta Airlines and did not rent a car on this trip.

Recommended travel activity:

The Eat Your Words Puzzle Book is a perfect food and beverage themed travel activity! Enjoy it while waiting to board your airplane, while flying, riding on the bus or train, while relaxing at the beach and more.

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