South Park is a feeling as much as it is a neighborhood. Among historic craftsman homes and Spanish colonial revival architecture are some of San Diego’s most venerable small businesses — institutions like the Whistle Stop Bar and Hamilton’s Tavern — not just watering holes, but gathering places and event spaces for a tightknit community.
There’s something undeniably romantic about the neighborhood, which feels hugged in by its tree-lined streets and still-standing electrical poles with the occasional pair of shoes dangling. At sunset, looking west as planes drift over the hills of Balboa Park, it’s easy to see why people would want to travel, from near and far, to this quintessential San Diego neighborhood.
Beech Street Corridor
Fuel comes in many forms along the Beech Street corridor. There is Grant’s Marketplace, home of killer sandwiches, including the simply delicious rosemary avocado smash. It also offers Café Virtuoso coffee, local craft beers, rare soda pop, kombucha and a grocery section with everything you’d need for an impromptu wine and cheese party. 2953 Beech St., (619) 231-0524.
Grant’s used to sell the best fresh carrot orange juice but stopped when its new neighbor, Stehly Farms, opened recently. How nice! Now, the organic veggie shop is the name of South Park’s juice game, with a full menu of both fruit and green juices, including wheatgrass. The fresh vegetable section in this petite market is inspiring and affordable: a much needed addition to the neighborhood. 2967 Beech St., (619) 230-5185.
Get your downward dog on at Ginseng Yoga, which has been a community fitness staple since 2002. Now with two locations, visit quaint South Park with the excuse of a work out now and eating great after. 2985 Beech St., (619) 338-9642 ginsengyoga.com.
For lunch or dinner, pay a visit to Buona Forchetta, the much-adored restaurant with authentic Italian eats, warm service and cute patio dining that overlooks Beech Street’s village. For the best calzone in San Diego, order the wood-fired Ezio: a mozzarella and brie-stuffed pie topped with arugula and heaps of prosciutto di parma and shaved parmesan. It’s an unforgettable deal at $13. You can’t go wrong with the house made rigatoni, either. 3001 Beech St., (619) 381-4844 buonaforchettasd.com.
On your way out of the ’hood, grab a snack for later at Food Bowl, a corner meat market and grocery with a wide selection of salsas, fresh chips, and pretty much everything else you’d need for a certified fiesta. 3035 Cedar St., (619) 239-4709
Grape Street Dog Park
Grape Street Dog Park (at 28th Street) is a favorite among pooch-loving San Diegans. South Park might be the most dog friendly of all neighborhoods in town, complete with its expansive off-leash area overlooking Balboa Park Golf Course and the South Bark Dog Wash. Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., stop here after letting your pup go buck wild at the park, with a free blueberry facial with purchase of a bath. 2027 30th St., southbark.com
Boutique Shopping Row
The past few years have seen Fern Street develop into a boutique shopping row with business like Junc Life & Style (clothing and home goods), Bad Madge & Company (vintage/antiques/consignment), Make Good (women’s clothing/jewelry) and Graffiti Beach (clothing/home décor/local art). This, and more, are all within walking distance of the Whistle Stop Bar, Brabant Bar & Café, Stone Company Store, and The Rose wine bar, making South Park a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
Junc Life & Style, 2209 Fern St., junclife.com
Bad Madge & Company 2205 Fern St., badmadge.com
Make Good 2207 Fern St., themakegood.com
Graffiti Beach Boutique 2220 Fern St., graffitibeach.com
Food & drink
Brabant Bar & Café 2310 30th St., brabantcafe.com
Whistle Stop 2236 Fern St., whistlestopbar.com
Stone Company Store 2215 30th St., stonebrewing.com
The Rose 2219 30th St., (619) 281-0718
South Park Art to see and wear
You don’t have to look too hard to realize that South Park attracts artists, including business owners, residents and visitors. Take a glimpse for yourself with the two-story Obey Giant mural by Shepard Fairey that went up during MCASD’s monumental public art exhibition, Viva la Revolucion, in 2010 (30th and Ivy streets, facing north). Local graffiti legend Persue has a huge collaboration piece (with Reyes and Steel) on a Fern Street wall past the Juniper intersection. You can’t miss his famous, floppy-eared Bunny Kitty character.
South Park is also home to artist-created Disclosed UnLocation community event space and experimental art gallery (1925 30th St.). Visit its website for more information, including current and upcoming shows. unlocation.com
For art of the more permanent sort, visit well-respected Left Hand Black tattoo. Gore fanatics delight in the studio’s dark theme and regular art shows, like the annual Horror Business, where artists paint on meat cleavers instead of canvases. 1947 Fern St. (619) 546-6555 lhblk.com
featured image by Mulloy Morrow