City Guide : San Diego
San Diego is a small town big city catering to lovers, adventurers, hipsters, hippies, foodies, independent music lovers, and fashionistas alike. Quality and adventure go hand in hand in this city, where farm to table is more a way of life than a catch phrase; there are more farms per capita in San Diego than any other city in the country. The food is unique and varied, and the list of outdoor adventures collides with spa adventures, killer hikes, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and "on fleek" festival culture all year round. San Diego is the most wonderful kind of weird. I mean, Tom Waits is from here. And Eddie Vedder. So go gas up your Prius, oil up your mustache, pull up your high-waisted jeans, and head down south to the land of high-end boutiques and divey beer halls, where no niche activity is too absurd, and where you’ll never walk without at least a little sand between your toes.
How to Travel
There are some things people simply accept as facts of life. Take flying, for example. Buying that plane ticket means you can look forward to early arrivals, long lines, security checks, cramped spaces, crying babies, delays and cancellations. Simply put, people have come to accept that stress is a fact of flying.
Not anymore. Not with the introduction of the super fancy, super convenient, super exciting luxury private airline company Surf Air.
“We’re not just connecting people with quality planes,” says head of marketing at Surf Air, a unique membership airline offering quick and seamless access to multiple hot spots throughout California. “We are controlling every aspect of someone’s experience, from parking their cars to connecting them with hotels.”
Founded in 2013, Surf Air has quickly expanded throughout California, using the golden state as a proof of concept before going global. The company is currently running 90 daily flights from 12 terminals, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Napa, Palm Springs, Monterey, Carlsbad, and yours truly, San Diego, with plans to expand into Europe in May.
A fleet of eight-seat, PC-12 executive aircraft provides their members with the ultimate first-class experience.
Call them the uber of the sky, aiming to disrupt the traditional air-travel business model by affording flyers the chance to pay a set monthly fee for unlimited flights, and on short notice.
The membership is $1950 per month. For business commuters, the price can become a steal. And the simplicity that it brings to the process of flying may be worth the fee alone.
Members simply schedule (or cancel) any flight within the hour of departure. All Surf Air asks is they arrive 15 minutes early. Next, they are greeted – at their private terminal – by a valet attendant, followed by a “check-in” process that is a far cry from traditional airports.
“The check-in process is so easy,” says Louise. “Someone always greets you, by name, taps an iPad, takes your bag and that’s it." The goal is to create a stress-free, seamless experience that saves people valuable time and heartache.
The perks don’t stop at the gate though. Surf Air has partnered with a variety of hotels in their base cities, allowing them to offer their members discounted rates at prime locations. They've likewise expanded to car rental companies, in case members need to pick up a vehicle for their stay. Surf Air also organizes monthly events for their members to attend in various cities. Past events have included exotic-car races, artist exhibitions, sushi and sake nights and ski trips.
In addition to the individual membership plan, Surf Air offers a corporate rate as well ($5,000 monthly), allowing businesses that are constantly buying round-trip tickets for employees to save time and money.
“Nobody has really nailed the frequent flyer and availability,” says Louise, adding that their model may be the first one to finally get it right. "We have already begun making affordable high-class travel available throughout California”
It appears as though stress-free flying has arrived on the scene.
Where to Eat
It’s hard to go wrong in Little Italy. This whole hillside little mecca was once a predominately Italian fishing neighborhood and is now a predominately Italian gentrified storybook village, complete with meatballs and cannoli. Just a few blocks from Embarcadero, Little Italy is a “don’t miss” for any pilgrimage to San Diego cuisine. (Stop by Filippi’s Pizza Grotto!)
I know. It’s not Italian. It is, however, one of the most sought after San Diego eateries. Corporate Executive Chef Brian Redzikowski’s subtle nods to his classical French training combined with his salute to Asian flavor and locally sourced ingredients classifies Kettner Exchange as progressive American cuisine (find a better definition of progressive and American, I ask you) with a one of a kind beverage menu curated by NYC bar magnate Steven Tuttle. The result is an eclectic, fancy, comfy, delectable meal highlighted by an exciting cocktail experience. The crème de la crème and the crème de cacao all in one. Have a Pink Lights and Champagne, which features gin, pisco, and champagne- that’s French and Peruvian all in one sip. American progressive, indeed.
Top choices for dinner go to the Nieman Ranch Pork Chop and Skuna Bay Salmon, which rocked my world in any language. The Skuna Bay Salmon is seared in hot oil- a nice change in the traditional preparation.
2001 Kettner Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92101
Pacific Beach or “P.B.” to locals, is widely associated with his highly developed nightlife scene since it has been traditionally populated by young surfers, students, vagabonds, degenerates, and hippies. Of course, “now” is something of a different story; with rising rental costs and gentrification abounding, Pacific Beach now has some seriously hip and quality bars and restaurants catering to all ages and tax brackets.
FIREHOUSE American Eatery + Lounge
Local legend FIREHOUSE has been Pacific Beach’s go to brunch and happy hour spot for years, but, thanks to its brand new facelift, it is now one if the swankiest destinations on the beach. The open-air rooftop, the cozy downstairs dining room- it’s truly a beachfront lounge with chill vibes and comfy chairs. And charred walls. It’s all a very atmospheric dining experience. I vote FIREHOUSE for brunch; I lost my sh*t on the Devil’s Dozen Benny, which involves donuts, bacon, and hollandaise sauce. On the beach. With bottomless mimosas. (Drops fork).
FIREHOUSE American Eatery + Lounge
722 Grand Ave.
San Diego, CA 92109
The Gaslamp Quarter is the historical heart of San Diego that describes itself as a “walkable urban playground”. And that’s no exaggeration; while it is comprised of all of about 16 blocks, the Gaslamp packs it in as home to all the street festivals, competitive happy hours, and my favorite cigar lounge.
As one of the most popular dining spots AND drinking spots, Rustic Root is a rooftop experience accented by a “Timeless Cocktails” menu (fancy) and a one-of-a-kind rustic-American menu prepared by Executive Chef Marcel Childress. The views can’t be beaten, the food is hearty and simple, and the street-style gaslamp lighting is just the right kind of no fuss atmosphere that screams upscale casual comfort. Happy hour is the best; it’s half off all appetizers, and definitely the best time to not be elbowing everyone around you for a seat at the bar. Brie and honey toast, meatballs, firecracker shrimp in a Sriracha aioli- all kickass appetizers, all on happy hour. Try everything, pay half, have a couple of glasses of $6 happy hour wine- it’s all good here.
535 Fifth Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101
Where to Stay
Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego
Located right between the Seaport Village and the Convention Center, the massive Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego is big, it’s resort-y, and it has the most spectacular views of the city on its 40th-floor lounge, Top of the Hyatt. If you’re in town for business or briefly, there’s really no need to ever leave the premises- there are 8 dining options, a ridiculously sun drenched 4th floor pool deck with whirlpools, a sun deck, and fire pits, and a spa called the Marilyn Monroe, which is as fancy and decadent as you think it’s going to be. Plus a state-of-the-art gym, if you’re into that sort of thing.
While I was here, I rented a bike, played golf, got a facial, and actually eventually did have to work out after I hit some of the aforementioned eateries- it’s open 24 hours and has the fancy machines that you can play on without feeling annoyed. It’s big enough to feel like a small city resort and fancy enough to really pamper you, vacation-style. If you’re hitting the town, I definitely recommend getting a blow-out and your make-up done at the Marilyn Monroe; the make-up artists are legit, and the indulgence of it all makes your shoes hurt less when you’re dancing the night away in the Gaslamp and the Fra Diavolo taste better in Little Italy. Come here to be taken care of.
MANCHESTER GRAND HYATT SAN DIEGO
1 Market Place
San Diego, California, USA, 92101
ANDAZ San Diego
Creative, progressive, modern, chill. The Andaz, as with all the Andaz-s, is so very cool, I get giddy walking in the understated lobby. True to the Andaz concept, this 159-room boutique hotel is fresh, unfussy, and lavish chic. The stand-out feature of this particular establishment is the complimentary mini bar. It satisfies my innate thriftiness and my inner fat kid all in one fell swoop. There’s something inherently decadent about having unfettered access to tiny pretzels whenever you dang well feel like it. The hotel blends seamlessly into the Gaslamp neighborhood in which it’s located and is walkable to a number of live music venues and trendy bars and eateries. A DJ spins on the roof, and happy hour is fantastic- picture a really well dressed graphic designer with cool glasses talking to a banker in a seersucker suit and like, a supermodel at the bar while chill south beach music beats are playing, but not intruding on your global warming discussion. It’s fancy and cool, and you feel like buying Tumi luggage to fit in for next time. The titanium kind that’s boxy. Also, I want to get married here (No, I am not engaged). Stay at the Andaz.
ANDAZ SAN DIEGO
600 F Street
San Diego, California, USA, 92101
Written By: Jamie Mattocks
Interview by: Blake Pinto