Explore urban sprawl in East Village San Diego

East Village includes the Central Library & Petco Park.

The East Village is San Diego’s most dynamic neighborhood, a constantly evolving urban enclave that has been majorly shaped since the arrival of Petco Park in 2004. Recent years have seen even more landmark architecture pop up, like the Harbor Drive Pedestrian Bridge that connects Downtown to the waterfront, and the behemoth Central Library, whose dramatic dome looks like an alien-spacecraft from afar and at its base, looking up, is as overwhelming as one would expect from nearly half-a-million square feet that reaches up nine stories.

Urban redevelopment has transformed the landscape—for better or worse, depending on who you ask—with luxury condos replacing the seedy blocks that used to be a playground for artists, now occupied by business professionals and modern families. But the ballpark and other development hasn’t softened the edges of the neighborhood completely; there’s still a can-do attitude that pervades the region, with newfangled urban parks, co-working spaces, a spirits distillery and two award-winning breweries.

Amid its dramatic concrete jungle, the 130-block ‘hood’ is also home to some of the city’s most influential restaurants and nightlife—Café Chloe, Cowboy Star, El Dorado and Noble Experiment—from business owners who took a chance on the up-and-coming area, paving the way for progressive establishments to come.

Today, it seems like development is happening at a more rapid pace than ever before—all the more reason to get out and experience the ongoing renaissance of the East Village, because you might not recognize it tomorrow.

Eat and drink with the locals

If the East Village is missing one thing, it’s a coffee roaster, but not for long. In January, North Park’s Coffee & Tea Collective will open its second location in the same space as Juice Saves, who will move from their previous G Street digs. The combined businesses are sure to provide a hip and much-needed lounge powered by drinkable fuel at 631 Ninth Ave.

Table No. 10: This well-received newcomer, located in a loft, has been wowing diners with its chef-driven, small plates menu. Don’t miss the donut trio for dessert. 369 10th Ave., 619-550-1262, tablenumber10.com

Bar Basic: The home of the mashed potato pizza, coal-fired to crispy perfection, comes from this anti-shiny shirt lounge that also hosts monthly art shows and boutique pop-ups. Visit barbasic.com for the schedule. 410 10th Ave., 619-531-8869, barbasic.com

Neighborhood Ale House: The birthplace of Consortium Holdings opened in 2006 as the first craft beer-only bar in Downtown. It was ahead of its time, and has yet to go out of style, especially its juicy gourmet burgers and pyramid of jumbo onion rings. 777 G Street, 619-446-0002, consortiumholdings.com

Café Chloe: San Diego’s “first European bistro” is a charming brunch spot (and romantic date destination) where dogs are welcome on its stylish patio. You can’t go wrong with some vino and steak frites here. 721 Ninth Ave., 619-232-3242, cafechloe.com

Pokez Mexican Restaurant: Vegetarians go bananas for the sub-meat-for-tofu dishes at this infamous East Village haunt. 947 E St., 619-702-7160, pokezsd.com

Monkey Paw: From the owners of Hamilton’s and Small Bar, Monkey Paw is part dive bar, diner and brewery. Visit the website for its current beer menu. 805 16th St., 619-358-9901, monkeypawbrewing.com

Mission Brewery: Located in the historic Wonder Bread warehouse, the vast Mission Brewery offers a pooch-friendly tasting room and also serves as a private event space for all sorts of sudsy functions. 1441 L St., 619-544-0555, missionbrewery.com

Old Harbor Distilling: The recently debuted distillery offers tours and tastings in their airplane hangar-like facility, which includes six ¼ oz. tastes and a keepsake glass for $10. Book your tour on their website. 270 17th St., 619-630-7048, oldharbordistilling.com

Enjoy on foot

Explore the new Central Library, particularly the Price Reading Room on the eighth floor, whose bright blue furniture matches up to the view of the Coronado Bridge. There’s also the rooftop sculpture garden at the entrance to the On View art gallery. Check the website for hours. Free underground parking for two hours with validation in the library’s lobby. 330 Park Blvd., 619-236-5800, sandiegolibrary.org

The Smarts Farm Urban Garden at the corner of 15th Avenue and F St. downtown is a part of Makers Quarter, a work in progress neighborhood where a coalition of developers is trying to create a new neighborhood downtown.

Silo in Makers Quarter is a year-round, outdoor event space that hosts art shows, food and beer festivals, concerts and more. If there isn’t an event going on, huge murals by some of San Diego’s top artists are free to enjoy any time. Makers Quarter also encompasses Smarts Farm across the street, a once-vacant lot since transformed into an urban garden and learning center in conjunction with non-profit Seeds@ City. For upcoming events at both spaces, visit makersquarter.com.

Stop into Space 4 Art and peruse its gallery with new shows featured every month. The non-profit facility is also home to artist’s studios and performing arts space. Workshops and performing arts events happen regularly here as well, for the complete schedule, visit sdspace4art.org (325 15th St., 619-269-7230).

Only in the East Village

The Rad Lab, an alternative urban planning group responsible for East Village’s first Pocket Park, will debut the Quartyard in early 2015—a more drastic example of their tactical urbanism mantra that transforms vacant lots into temporary public parks.

This time, they’re collaborating with Basile Studio on the 30,000 square foot Market Street lot (near Park Boulevard), which will become an outdoor plaza with shipping containers for shops, filled with the likes of Meshuggah Shack Coffee Shop, plus a satellite location for S&M;: Sausage and Meat. The space will also feature Downtown’s only leash-free dog park, a 10,000 square foot beer garden and a changing lineup of food trucks. It will be open 7 days a week, while it lasts. For more information, visit radlabsd.com

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