San Diego Inn-Siders Guide: Balboa Park
Good eats in a great spot! Head out for the day and visit all that the park has to offer. Or have a date night with some dinner and museum!
• Coffee/Tea fanatic or connoisseur? If you’re either, YOU MUST visit Café Bassam. This is not just some hip little coffee/tea house, the owner knows his stuff and loves to share his knowledge. And the store itself is wonderful! Full of antiques and beautiful things to look at. The business is actually located in an area called Banker’s Hill.
• If old school charm (like from the ‘40s) with good old fashioned American fare is what you seek, then Hob Nob Hill in Banker’s Hill is where you should eat. Fresh squeezed orange juice, house-made roast beef hash and good old fashioned buttermilk pancakes are waiting for you.
• A must to visit, Jimmy Carter’s Mexican Café in Banker’s Hill. All their dishes are delicious. Dulce, the cook, is a master with sauces. They have daily entrée specials and daily fresh fruit drinks, aka “agua frescas”, like sandia (watermelon), tamarindo (tamarind) or melon (cantaloupe). If you have room for dessert, ask if they have the Tortuga Pie. It’s not on the menu, and they don’t always have it – some call it “a little slice of Heaven.” The main ingredients are pie crust, chocolate and nuts, served with vanilla ice cream.
• The Prado at Balboa Park, an excellent place for special occasions. Patio seating is the best and worth the wait, even on cold evenings (they have great patio heaters). They are on the pricey side but they have a Happy Hour, Tuesday-Friday / 4-6pm & 8-10pm – a great time to enjoy their delicious appetizers and drinks. They usually have local musicians playing in their cozy bar area. Best Mojitos around!
Head over to Balboa Park and pick up a free garden tour map at the Visitor Center located in the National Historic Landmark House of Hospitality building. Enjoy the day by exploring the dozens of gardens covering the park’s 1,200 acres. Once you’re ready for lunch, pick up “to-go” sandwiches at Gro Cafe (located in the lobby of the Casa de Balboa between the Museum of Photographic Arts and the Museum of San Diego History) and enjoy a picnic at the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden (located across from the Natural History Museum, it is accessible by the Park Blvd. pedestrian bridge). The roses are in bloom from March to December.
If you enjoy a nice cup of tea, visit the Tea Pavilion Café at the Japanese Friendship Garden. You can enjoy your tea and snack while looking over the beautiful and peaceful scenery of the garden. If you visit on a Sunday morning you’ll also be able to enjoy the sounds from the Organ Pavilion right next door. The Veterans Memorial Center is across Park Blvd from Balboa Park, and is also a great place to visit.