Date night in Old Town San Diego: Where to eat and what to drink
By Alyson Sheppard, Feb 2020
Old Town San Diego is considered the birthplace of California. Native Americans inhabited the land for thousands of years, and in 1769 the Spanish established their first permanent Californian settlement there. Because California was part of Mexico until 1850, Spanish and Mexican heritages run deep here.
San Diego's Old Town is filled with museums, historical parks that re-create 19th-century life, open-air ceramics markets, general stores and plenty to eat and drink. After a day exploring the 230-acre neighborhood, treat yourself to a date night to experience even more of what Old Town San Diego has to offer.
Feast on Venezuelan arepas to get a taste of South America in San Diego's Old Town.
You can't beat the view or the handmade tortillas at Old Town Tequila Factory. Get a table by the gallery windows to see the palm trees and terra cotta roofs that stretch from Old Town all the way to Mission Bay. The kitchen specializes in Pacific seafood dishes like fish tacos and enchiladas del mar, which are stuffed with shrimp, mahi-mahi, chiles and cheese, and are topped with green cilantro-poblano cream sauce and mild red chile sauce. A live guitar band will serenade you through your meal.
For a taste of homestyle food from even farther south of the border, try Berta's Latin Cuisine, which specializes in South American fare. Berta, a native of Chile, opened this neighborhood spot more than 25 years ago. The menu offers comforting South American dishes, from Venezuelan arepas (fried corn patties stuffed with cheese) to Brazilian tallarines vatapa (pasta topped with a sauce made from tomatoes, peanuts and shredded coconut). Finish your meal with a plate of Olinda's pudding, a recipe from Berta's mother. The pudding is made from semolina flour, cinnamon and orange peel, topped with a rich red wine sauce.
Sample the distinct taste of smoky mezcal and learn about this spirit's origin on a romantic date night.
You can order a fishbowl-sized margarita with two straws at nearly every restaurant in town. But for something a little more stimulating, stop by the bar Tahona for flights of mezcal, a distilled agave spirit exclusive to Mexico that's popular in the border states. (Tequila is also made from agave, but specifically the blue agave plant.)
At Tahona, you can get an in-depth lesson on this iconic, smoky spirit in a space beautifully decorated with Spanish archways, clay walls and hand-painted tiles. The bar offers more than 120 varieties of mezcal, many of which can be sampled in themed flights. For example, you can order a flight of four mezcals that are all from the state of Oaxaca. As you savor the spirits, a mezcal expert will walk you through an hour-long educational tasting.
For another lesson in local drink culture, pop into Rose's Tasting Room, where local brews and wines are sold by the pint and bottle. Draft beers from nearby breweries such as Little Miss Brewing and Bitter Brothers Brewing are rotated monthly, as are whites, reds and rosÚs from the California coast. The cozy tasting room also offers funky beer cocktails that incorporate local, spicy flavors, such as the Michelada (Bloody Mary mix and Mexican lager) and the Sriracha Lime Blonde (blonde ale, Sriracha sauce and lime juice). Each drink promises to get your heart pumping.
They say the way to your lover's heart is through their stomach. Well, the way to the heart of California is through its food and drink, and in Old Town San Diego you can get right to the soul of the region's lively cultural, culinary and drinking heritage.
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