San Diego Essential Guide


Newest Fig Tree Cafe is choice pick

The original Fig Tree Café opened in 2008 in an old Pacific Beach cottage with a lush garden patio. The second restaurant opened in trendy Hillcrest, drawing hip locals to its open kitchen. The baby sister opened just five months ago at Liberty Station on Point Loma. It’s the restaurant we focus on here. The place bills itself “a California eatery. “ But after dark, it has the feel of a cozy French bistro: warm, and woodsy, with really good food and an excellent wine list (3 dozen choices by the glass) – all at neighborhood-friendly prices. And service beats the French bistro mode: It’s attentive and helpful here. The Fig Tree franchise is known for its breakfasts – and the newest family member doesn’t disappoint.  (Eggs come from a family farm in Ramona.)  Daily 4-6 PM happy hours are another hot draw: with  $3 beers, $4 wines and $5 appetizers. At dinner, some dishes are works are art. (Don’t miss the beet salad.) The bruschettas are in a league of their own – delish. Mains include interesting options you won’t find on many other menus, such as Oxtail Cavatelli with Portobello mushrooms. Locals’ favorites include the Tequila Lobster Ravioli, and Pappardelle Braised Duck Ragu with arugula and goat cheese. Portions are generous – often enough to share. The restaurant is at 2400 Historic Decatur Road, just back of Luna Grill. It’s open daily for breakfast and lunch from 7 AM until 3 PM. Open for dinner from 4 until 10 PM daily....

Posted by on Feb 6, 2014

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San Diegans celebrate December Nights in Balboa Park

Balboa Park’s December Nights – the city’s annual two-day holiday gift to the community – promises to be bigger and better than ever this year. It’s the city’s largest free festival, expected to draw at least 300,000 in this its 35th year. The two-day celebration of entertainment, food and fun, is set for Friday, Dec. 6, from 3 until 11 pm, and Saturday, Dec. 7, sfrom noon-11pm. December Nights is as close as San Diego gets to becoming a winter wonderland. Balboa Park is decked in twinkling lights and silvery garlands. Fanciful Christmas trees abound – and the aromas of multi-cultural holiday treats waft through the air. In the spirit of the season, participating park museums open their doors to the public, free of charge, from 5 until 9 PM both evenings. Many present special holiday programs.  (Kids will be awed by the elaborate gingerbread constructions at the Mingei Museum – and can join in holiday-inspired craft projects at the Air & Space Museum. All ages will be enthralled by the amazing handbell ringers who perform at the San Diego History Center – and don’t miss the San Diego Floral Association’s exhibit at the House of Hospitality of 30 beautifully decorated holiday trees.) Festivities are family friendly, multi-cultural and staged throughout the park.  The San Diego Civic Youth Ballet will perform excerpts from “The Nutcracker” on the Casa del Prado Stage. Steps away, on the California Quadrangle near the Museum of Man, revelers can see the Santa Lucia Procession and children’s choir performances. The San Diego Civic Dance Company will present Rockettes-style routines – while a puppet-version of “The Christmas Carol” will be presented at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater. African drumming and dance performances – and Reggae music performances are planned at the WorldBeat Center. Dozens of singers, dancers and musicians will take to the stage at the Organ Pavilion. Youngsters will have the opportunity to visit with roving Santas – and they can pose for a photo in the Old Globe courtyard with Dr. Seuss’s Grinch who stole Christmas.  Kids of all ages can join with Junior Theatre students singing holiday songs. A series of children’s holiday movies will run nonstop both evenings in the theater at the Hall of Champions. There also are plenty of carnival rides to keep the younger set entertained. Hungry?  December Nights is known for its mouth-watering range of food and drink offerings. The International Cottages of the House of Pacific Relations offer traditional holiday foods from a smorgasbord of nations: Think empanadas, eggrolls, shepherd’s pie, pasties, pancit, samosas, plantains, pierogi, bourekas, baklava, paella, even blueberry soup.   Many museums offer tasty treats: Find roasted chestnuts at the San Diego Art Institute, yakisoba at the Japanese Friendship Garden, hot toddies at the Hall of Champions. In addition, numerous food vendors sell an array of yummy holiday delights – from melted Swiss raclette to fresh-baked gingerbread cookies.  The 21+ set can sip a locally crafted brew at one of several beer gardens. December Nights are prime time for holiday shopping.  Find great gifts at museum stores, from Spanish Village artisans and at a wide range of arts and crafts booths.  For $300 or less, buy a piece of original...

Posted by on Dec 5, 2013

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Attractions, Eats, Festivals, Museums

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Restaurant Week – Round 2

San Diego Restaurant Week ended Friday, Jan 18.  Round 2 starts on Sunday. About 160 restaurants have agreed to an encore, which will run through Friday, Jan. 25. (There were 211 participating eateries during the first week.) The rules are the same: Enjoy a two-course lunch for $10, $15 or $20.  Choose a three-course fixed-price dinner for $20, $30 or $40. Reservations are highly recommended. Among top-tier restaurants still in the game: 1500 Ocean at the Hotel Del, all of Brian Malarkey’s fabric restaurants, the Cohn restaurants, Donovan’s steak and seafood restaurants, Ruth Chris and Fleming’s steak houses, Bertrand at Mister A’s and Mille Fleurs. Learn more at...

Posted by on Jan 26, 2013

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San Diego Restaurant Week

Eager to try one of the new top-tier restaurants popping up all over our city – but aren’t so sure your post-holiday budget can take another hit? Your timing is perfect: San Diego Restaurant Week runs Sunday, Jan. 13, through Friday the 18th.  It’s a great opportunity to try someplace new at a discounted price. More than 180 restaurants, including many award winners, are participating in this year’s event . Restaurants are offering two- or three-course fixed-price lunches for $10, $15, or $20 and/or three-course fixed-price dinners for $20, $30, or $40. Go to to search by cuisine, neighborhood, price or by restaurant name. Reservations, especially at top restaurants, are a must. But don’t despair if your favorite place is already sold out. Many restaurants plan to extend their participation an extra week. Download the new San Diego Restaurant Week iPhone app in the iTunes store ; find the app for Android devices in the Google Play...

Posted by on Jan 20, 2013

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New chef sizzles at Hotel Del’s 1500 Ocean

Chef Robert Hohmann, who trained with some of the world’s greatest chefs – from Jaques Pepin to Thomas Keller – is now at the helm of the Hotel Del’s signature restaurant.  (His previous gig was Chef de Cuisine at Michael Chiarello’s Bottega Ristorante in the Napa Valley.) Hohmann traces his roots to Germany and Sicily; his first cooking teachers were family members from the old country.  Those lessons, along with the tutelage of Master chefs, give him a unique take on SoCal farm-to-table cuisine. His dishes combine hearty German and contemporary Mediterranean flavors – sometimes paired with deliriously creamy French-style sauces. His “Caramelized Brussels,” for example, are a scrumptious jumble of sprouts, pancetta, pecans, ricotta and apple mostarda. His “Veal Tonnato” is served on a bed of arugula, drizzled with a sauce of preserved lemon, caper berries and butter. Sides include “Veal Tripe Siciliano,” based on his grandmother’s recipe.  His seafood is wild – and he grows his own herbs. The beachfront setting doesn’t hurt, either. Dine inside or on the...

Posted by on Dec 31, 2012

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Kids: October is freebie time

During the entire month of October, kids eat, stay and play for free throughout the county. San Diego hotels, restaurants, museums, attractions and transportation companies are offering everything from free meals and admissions to special amenities at hotels.  Kids can even learn to surf and play golf for free, with a paying adult. Most deals are available to youngsters between the ages of 2 and 12 – but age limits and other restrictions vary by venue. The county’s headliner family attractions – the Zoo, Sea World and Legoland – are participating.  All kids 11 and younger get free admission at the Zoo and Safari Park. With each paid adult admission, SeaWorld is giving free admission to a child between the ages of 3 and 9. At Legoland, one child 12 or younger gets a free Hopper ticket, when an adult buys a Hopper ticket. More than 30 county museums are participating. Kids 12 and younger get in free everywhere from the Birch Aquarium and the Fleet Science Center to the New Children’s Museum and the USS Midway Museum. Go to to print out a free coupon. (Two youngsters admitted per paying adult.) Two kids can cruise free with each paying adult on one- and two-hour Hornblower cruises.  An adventurer between 6 and 15 years old can kayak for free with a paying adult at La Jolla Kayak. Every adult who buys an Old Town Trolley Tours ticket can take along a youngster between 4 and 12 for free. Even Amtrak has joined the fun, providing one free fare for a rider 2-15 years old with each paid adult fare aboard Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner between here and Oceanside. Learn more at Some venues require coupons available on the...

Posted by on Oct 23, 2012

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Attractions, Eats, Museums, What's New?

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