The name Golden Hill was inspired by a poem written over a century ago, in which Daniel Schuyler waxed about breathtaking sunsets, views of the Coronado Islands and the “shadowy city” down below. That was in 1887, when Golden Hill was a far cry from the artist’s community it is today; back then, the region just east of Downtown, atop several steep marine terraces, was where San Diego’s elite resided. Mayors, judges, senators and the well-to-do lived in ornate Victorian mansions—many of which still fleck the neighborhood today, though they’ve since been divided into multiple units to better suit the urbanites lucky enough to call them home.
So, besides the views and architecture, what is it about Golden Hill that sets it apart from other neighborhoods in town? For starters, it has remained relatively unscathed by development, and in turn, the culture of independent businesses is strong within the predominantly residential neighborhood. Golden Hill’s denizens have much to do with that: a diverse mix of artists, musicians, writers and blue-collar families have fierce loyalty for haunts like Pizzeria Luigi, Turf Supper Club and Panchita’s Bakery. There’s but one corporate mark on the neighborhood, and that’s Starbucks at the corner of 28th and B Street, a seeming favorite stop for Joe among San Diego police officers. You’ll want to slow your California Roll at that intersection when exploring the ultimate laid back and chill urban oasis that is Golden Hill.
Kick it with locals at Golden Hill Park
Since Golden Hill was founded on its sweeping views and beautiful setting, the natural thing to do is relish in its outdoor spaces. Golden Hill Park is a favorite among locals for its wide-open spaces that loop around the hilltop, encircled by tall palm trees, with views of Downtown’s skyline and Point Loma. On the Fourth of July, it’s overwhelmed with crowds camped out to view the fireworks show over San Diego Bay, and each fall, it’s home to New Belgium Brewing’s roving bike and beer fest, the Tour de Fat. At night, it’s peaceful except for the planes flying overhead, and if you’re on the lookout, you might even catch a glimpse of the many owls who call its trees home.
During the day, Golden Hill Park is perfect for picnicking. With plenty of grab-and-go food at close proximity, you don’t have to try hard to score a tasty bite to enjoy in the shade. Give these places a try for your next open-air feast:
Heavy hitting sandwiches, burgers and fries. House specialties include both traditional and different takes on the Philly cheese steak. For a hangover breakfast of champions, get the egg roll—a super cheesy delight with Taylor Ham, a real East Coast treat. 1237 28th Street, 619-234-9141, giorginos.com
This landmark coffee house and hip-congregation spot has amazing smoothies (try the superfood with pomegranate and walnuts) and interesting sandwiches (get the stellar—ricotta cheese, strawberry slices and honey served open-faced on toasted orange-walnut bread). Not to mention the coffee drinks: nothing provides a kick quite like the Krak Head, jet-fuel grade coffee and espresso. 1128 25th Street, 619-230-0272, krakatoacafe.com
This Mexican bakery is a neighborhood gem with its bounty of super-inexpensive, always fresh confections. Grab a pizza pan and some tongs and go to town in this self-serve wonderland: the Oaxaca cheese and jalapeño stuffed bolillo are a steal at under two bucks, and at 40 cents each, why not make a meal out of coconut macaroons? 2519 C Street, 619-232-6662, panchitasbakery.com
Krisp Beverages + Natural Foods
Golden Hill newbie, family-owned grocery story and second location to Downtown’s, with a selection of munchies from fresh chips and salsa to locally made chocolate, organic fruits, juices and kombucha and over 1,000 craft beers from around the world. 2511 C Street, 619-233-0902, krispsd.com
Golden Hill Farmer’s Market
Every Saturday on B and 28th streets, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. the small, yet still developing market takes place.
Owner Luigi Agostini’s original location and home to arguably the best New York-style slices in town. Made famous by Guy Fieri and the Food Network, people come from near and far to eat Luigi’s homemade recipes. Even though the slices are hard to resist, stray from the norm and give the Stromboli or meatball roll a go. Awesome patio and plenty of craft beers to choose from. 1137 25th Street, 619-233-3309, pizzerialuigi.com
Turf Supper Club
If you’ve ever felt jipped by a bar’s weak drinks, “the Turf” is the spot to exercise your demons. It’s been pouring stiff drinks since 1950 and has remained, for the most part, unchanged by time. The centerpiece of the dimly lit lounge with cozy, booth seating is the communal grill, where patrons are tasked with cooking their own suppers from pork tenderloin to Delmonico steaks. Everything about the place is a no-frills blast from the past that will leave you feeling like all is right in the world when you’re within its walls, head-bobbing to the jukebox. 1116 25th Street, 619-234-6363, turfsupperclub.com
19th Hole Café
One of Golden Hill’s best-kept secrets, the café at Balboa Park Golf Course is where grey-haired golfers sit side-by-side with hung-over hipsters, enjoying the view of Downtown and Point Loma and no-frills Americana favorites like chicken-fried steak and biscuits and gravy. Though the café is open for lunch, too, breakfast is where it’s at, including the best $5 Bloody Mary in San Diego. And may be the only one? 2600 Golf Course Drive, 619-234-5921, golfsd.com