The Ocean Beach Pier is one of the most iconic points in the community. On any given day, people are seen fishing from the pier or watching the surfers play in the waves below.
Newport Avenue wasn’t always the main attraction in Ocean Beach. The waterfront at Abbott and Voltaire Streets was once home to Wonderland, San Diego’s first amusement park with 8 acres of fun, including a rollercoaster, waterslide, saltwater plunge and zoo animals. Its short run from 1913-1916 ended in a perfect storm—literally, damaging weather, plus, the opening of Balboa Park in 1915.
After Wonderland flopped, OB’s main drag came to life, and today, Newport Avenue remains a hub of off-beat activity. Its charming quirks compel us to battle traffic and parking on the peninsula for the Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays; hunt for antiques on the 4800-4900 blocks of Newport Avenue; and indulge in edible treats galore, running the gamut of hot waffle ice cream sandwiches from Lighthouse Ice Cream (5059 Newport Ave., 619-222-8600) to delicate guava and cheese pastries from Cuban-style bakery, Azucar. All this eating and shopping will have you craving a beer from one of OB’s breweries; choose from Pizza Port (1956 Bacon St., 619-224-4700, pizzaport.com), Culture Brewing Co. (4845 Newport Ave., 619-255-3811, culturebrewingco.com) or both for maximum pleasure.
In Ocean Beach, you can buy a bong, get pierced and eat a burger made famous by the Food Network, all on the same block. No matter what kind of fun you’re looking for, OB has it, free of judgment, making it no wonder that “OBecians” regard their neighborhood as a way of life.
While you’re there
Ocean Beach is a gawker’s paradise, so grab a beverage or a snack and park it on the grass at Santa Monica Avenue Beach where you’ll take in views of skilled hula hoopers, tandem yoga show offs, surf jocks and the constant cruising of all sorts of characters on bike or foot. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a flock of wild parrots. Speaking of, “The Dirty Bird” from Lazy Hummingbird Coffee & Teahouse is a perfect version of the popular latte, not too sweet with spicy chai tea and espresso, while its cousin, the Naughty Bird, comes with the addition of chocolate. On top of all the quirky drinks—Mexican Monkey, anyone?—the iced coffee is made with real coffee iced cubes. Literal genius. 4876 Santa Monica Ave., 619-200-5016, lazyhummingbird.com
Café con leche from Azucar is another eye-lid lifter and the perfect companion for an afternoon stroll. Locals line up at the bakery for Cuban coffee and exotic edibles of the sweet and savory sort, like Pan au Nutella and buttery Iberico cheese and grainy mustard biscuits. Order these toasted and go conquer the day. 4820 Newport Ave., 619-523-2020, iloveazucar.com
Prime time for people watching is every Wednesday at the OB Farmer’s Market (winter hours from 4-7 p.m.) between Cable and Bacon streets, where there’s live music, organic produce, prepared food vendors and locally made artwork and jewelry. This street party by the sea embodies Ocean Beach. Go once and you’ll be hooked.
OB is home to the original outpost of San Diego’s famous gargantuan burger joint, Hodad’s. Locals shouldn’t have to wait in line, so do yourself a favor and call in an order for a towering bacon cheeseburger, then swoop it up and go eat on the sand where the gulls will gladly clean up after you. 5010 Newport Ave., 619-224-4623, hodadies.com
The perfect OB picnic starts with sandwiches from Poma’s Italian Deli. OBecians will tell you that the meatball sub is legendary, but where does that leave the eggplant parm, or the hot roast beef with stringy melted cheese and spicy peperoncini? Basically, you can’t go wrong at this legendary noshery that’s been making people fat n’ happy since 1965. 1846 Bacon St., 619-223-3027, pomasdeli.com
Across the street from Poma’s, darts, shuffle board, and a heated outdoor patio beckon at the ever-popping Raglan Public House. The cocktails are serious and the space emanates fun, decked out with whimsical, beach culture flare like surfboard chandeliers from design guru Michael Soriano (Queenstown Public, The Pearl Hotel, Vin de Syrah). 1851 Bacon St., 619-794-2304, raglanpublichouse.com
OB’s world of weirdness is your oyster any given night of the week, especially when you throw some of its signature watering holes into the mix. There’s Winstons, also a live music venue with karaoke; the underwater-themed dive, Pacific Shores Café and one of the only bars left in town that still pours $3 stiffies; and don’t forget newcomer Wonderland Ocean Pub where shots are on the house at sunset to the backdrop of amazing ocean views.
On a walk of shame and need some brekkie ASAP? No problem—hit up OB Donut for a breakfast sandwich on an excellent fresh bagel from the nearby PL Bagel. For $5 and change, the biggest (and best) sando comes with egg, sliced ham, crunchy bacon and Swiss cheese. Make it a combo with a donut and some fresh squeezed OJ. 1830 Sunset Cliffs Blvd., 619-222-0298
The best thing about Ocean Beach, (OB) is, the beach. Also, it is one of those communities that, you really don’t have to leave the beach area for anything. (you can get your hair cut here, grocery stores are here, there are coffee shops, bars, liquor stores, great places to eat) So, you can stay off of the freeways and just relax in OB. Which is what everyone does.
Please don’t forget to enjoy the crown jewel of Ocean Beach: its sandy shores along the Pacific. For water sport equipment rentals, check out Saltwater Surf and Supply, an all-out beach lifestyle shop which features local brands alongside the surf shop mainstays, and has everything from bikinis to board shorts, sunscreen, and yes, surfboards for rent and purchase. 1874 Bacon St., 619-226-3130, saltwatersurfsupply.com
No need to leave Spot at home when venturing to the beach; pups are almost always welcome in this super dog-friendly part of town, which is also home to the 24-hour leash free zone at The Jetty. Dog Beach is like Club Med for K9s, where social time consists of frolicking in the waves and rolling around in the mile-long stretch of sand at the end of Voltaire Street. Hose off at the self-serve Dog Beach Dog Wash, open till 9 p.m. daily. 4933 Voltaire Street, 619-523-1700, dogwash.com
Ocean Beach Restaurants
I’ve felt the need to create a special page to talk about the OB Restaurants. Just because, there are some really fantastic places to eat here in OB. Always, it depends what you would like to eat. Here are some personal favorites.
South Beach Bar and Grill, order the Mahi Fish Taco’s…thank me later. at the end of Newport Avenue near the pier. The best fish tacos in San Diego.
Kaiserhof Restaurant and Biergarten, 2253 Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. (German food)
Hodad’s has the best hamburger’s in San Diego, Hodad’s is in Ocean Beach on Newport, it’s good, it’s huge, get the vanilla shake and fries too. (Take Sunset Cliff’s Boulevard, go right on Newport, it’s on the right not far from the beach)
Nati’s Mexican Restaurant, 1852 Bacon Street. Celebrating 50 years. Everything is good.
Espresso Pizza Ristorante Italiano, 1776 Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, get the pizza with extra cheese.