Before Interstate 8 was built in the 1960s, North Park was the heart of San Diego, and El Cajon Boulevard was its main artery. The city center later shifted to the other side of Balboa Park, but in recent years breweries, vintage stores, music venues, and other small businesses have been migrating north, especially to 30th Street and University Avenue. Here are six new spots to visit in the neighborhood.
The Lafayette Hotel
Consortium Holdings operates some of San Diego’s hottest spots, and the renovation of this property was the pièce de résistance for company founder Arsalun Tafazoli. “A hotel is the pinnacle of hospitality,” he says. “It’s a full narrative encompassing all of life’s daily rituals.” Aside from the 141 rooms, there are seven dining outlets on-site, including a 1940s-style diner.
The Wise Ox
Chef Brad Wise set out to make restaurant-quality meals accessible to home cooks, and at this butcher shop you’ll find the same dry-aged beef and housemade sausages he serves at his restaurants Rare Society and Fort Oak. Wise also offers condiments from his pantry, bottles of wine, and gussied-up deli sandwiches, not to mention juicy burgers with beef-fat fries.
After a series of health struggles, Leah Kirpalani quit the fashion industry to become a holistic health coach and then opened this wellness emporium, where she vets the ingredient labels on all of the skincare, makeup, and bath products. “Our brands have sustainability at the forefront of their business model,” she says. The shop also offers botanical facials in two hidden treatment rooms.
Part Time Lover
Once a punk rock venue, this high-fidelity listening bar now attracts a diverse clientele with its turntables and its eclectic decor—think plush banquettes, tribal masks on the walls, low lighting, and the faint aroma of palo santo. Sip a Japanese whiskey highball while listening to classic albums and shopping for vintage vinyl from Folk Art Records, one of the city’s favorite music shops.
Mabel’s Gone Fishing
Named for owner Chelsea Coleman’s late dog, this easygoing watering hole is popular for happy hour and casual dinner dates. The Iberian-influenced menu ranges from oysters and gin and tonics to tortilla española and Basque cheesecake. “We have the same climate as Spain and Portugal,” Coleman says, “so we want to cook with that same sensibility.”
A gift shop that sells greeting cards and home decor, Haven also serves as a coworking venue with free-flowing coffee and wine. (It even has an event space that hosts floristry classes, cookie decorating workshops, and more.) “People are super-loyal to small businesses here,” owner Jen Byard says of the neighborhood, where she also has another café, Communal Coffee. “It feels like a small town in a big city.”