It's tiny in size—just 225 square feet—but San Diego's first parklet made a big impact when it opened in 2013. The mixed-use space, designed by local architect Christopher Bittner, helped to center the city's focus on North Park, an eclectic neighborhood that's now a hotbed of independently owned boutiques, restaurants, and breweries. The parklet sits at North Park's heart, near the intersection of 30th Street and University Avenue. It gives resident artists and young families a shaded spot to sip small-batch roasted coffee from Caffé Calabria (3933 30th St.)—and makes the perfect starting point for a walking tour of the hood.
We asked local writer Casey Chiotti to steer us toward the best of North Park. Here are her perfect-for-a-day-trip picks:
SIP & EATWhen the Linkery, San Diego's farm-to-table restaurant pioneer, shuttered last year, it left a sizable hole in North Park's dining scene—that is, until Bottle-craft beer shop owner Brian Jensen transformed the space into a brewpub called Waypoint Public (3794 30th St.). Opened in October 2013, the white stucco space with roll-up garage doors is now packed nightly, and while craft beer takes center stage (the by-the-bottle menu reads like a well-curated wine list), chef-owner Amanda Baumgarten's European-inspired dishes are just as good. Try the mussels and pork belly in tomato sherry broth paired with the earthy Belgian saison, and you'll understand why food-and-beer pairings are becoming de rigueur. Parents will appreciate the welcoming kids' area encircled by a wooden picket fence and filled with plush beanbag pillows.
SIP & STROLLNorth Park is a nexus of local beer. You can make an afternoon of sampling within a few blocks' radius. Start at the industrial brewery and tasting room for Mike Hess Brewing Co. (3812 Grim Ave.), with its steel sky bridge, dart-boards, and seasonal brews like pumpkin stout. Nearby, pet- and kid-friendly Thorn Street Brewery (3176 Thorn St.) incorporates ingredients like chiles, chocolate, and orange peel in its ales, while Modern Times Beer's new space in the North Parker Lofts (3000 Upas St.) features well-balanced creations like the Lomaland Saison and funky 1990s-influenced decor—the bar is made of old VHS movie tapes.
SHOPSan Diego's hippest surf shop, Aloha Sunday Supply Company, has moved its flagship boutique a couple blocks west to the heart of North Park (3039 University Ave.). The space is bigger, with more room for handcrafted items like Matuse wetsuits, American-made Thorogood leather boots, and Aloha's own brand of men's clothing, designed by co-owner and former professional surfer Kahana Kalama. You'd never guess it, but the clean white space with high ceilings and blond wood tables used to be a pawnshop.
SHOPAn inviting mix of art, flora, furniture, and gifts, Pigment (3801 30th St.) has followed Aloha's lead and moved to a larger, light-filled location on the corner of 30th Street and North Park Way. Shoppers will find a section devoted to kids' wares and a market department that has everything home cooks would crave, from Mast Brothers chocolate to mason-jar cocktail shakers. One thing that hasn't changed is the popular Plant Lab, where you can buy everything you need to create a DIY terrarium.