Staying Classy in San Diego
I’ve been spending the past few days in Orange County visiting friends and family, and exploring places such as the Mission Viejo Target and Downtown Disney. If you’ve ever wanted to visit a quaint little restaurant (that seats over 600 people,) I suggest driving to Anaheim, exiting on “Disney Way,” west to Harbor Blvd, enter the Disneyland main entrance, park in F5, walk to the “Downtown Disney” retail district, turn left and enter the Rainforest Cafe. After walking through the Rainforest Cafe’s retail store your “safari guide” will greet you, and if you prefer patio seating you’ll walk up flight of stairs to the mezzanine seating podium, check in and be sent past a waterfall, down another flight of stairs, walk through an automatic door, check with the patio seating agent, and be seated at one of about 100 tables. Hey it’s not easy to get to the rainforest, so why should it be convenient to grab a bit to eat at the Rainforest Cafe?
Generally my rule is I don’t walk through a restaurant’s store to get to the restaurant itself, (that includes you Cracker Barrel and your delicious jams,) but we were pining for what I guess is Amazonian American food – and it turns out despite my distaste for restaurants of stadium proportions I really enjoyed their clam chowder and had an excellent Cobb Salad. Hey wait clam chowder doesn’t originate from the… Never mind. I believe I also recognized some aquarium fragments from Denver’s now shuttered Rainforest Cafe.
And it was cute when a “lava volcano mud something or other” (five scoops of ice cream inside four vertical wedges of chocolate cake,) arrived at a little kid’s table and he could barely contain his excitement.
I thought it would be fun to visit San Diego during this sunny postcard SoCal day. A perfect southern California day consists of temperatures in the 70s, clear skies, and some moderate winds which work hard to clear out any haze – giving you unspoiled vistas of the snow-capped San Gabriel mountains and ocean. It’s a welcome change from last year’s holiday week – which consisted of digging out cars, shoveling driveways, and sliding down icy streets. In fact I wouldn’t mind living in southern California again, except I just can’t tolerate the traffic. Perhaps if I had a time machine I could live in 1950s Orange County – and I could hot rod it between then small town diners which at that time were separated by miles and miles of orange fields.
We sped down the 5 freeway past the hills of south Orange County and through the open space of San Onofre and Camp Pendleton. We arrived San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood mid day. Hillcrest is a couple miles north of downtown San Diego, and is known as the gay neighborhood, but is also populated with vintage and modern clothing stores, music and body design stores, and a great collection of local food joints.
From Hillquest.com – the Hillcrest sign which stands at 5th and University was erected by several female shopkeepers in 1940 to promote their stores. After years of disrepair it now lights up every night, which current local merchants contributing to it’s care. Kasa Korbett’s site has a full list of merchants, and a good site to visit if planning to visit.
After checking out Flashback and buying some threads at “Wear it Again Sam” we looked for a place to eat. The local Hamburger Mary’s is now Urban Mo’s Bar – and being in the mood for something spicy we walked up University and found Baja Betty’s. Baja Betty’s is on the east end of Hillcrest at 1421 University. Like many Mexican restaurants they have a ton of flavored drinks which makes selection a challenge. (As usual I start with the house, and here I wound up liking the lemon drop and cointreau filled Platinum.) Baja Betty’s also has daily specials on margaritas and dinner plates. Something unexpected I noticed: To me it seemed their food was prepared much healthier than most Mexican restaurants. My “el tigre” salad consisted of romaine lettuce and watercress stems with a light Caesar dressing. The quesadillas were also light, stuffed with chicken and not overburdened with greasy cheese. Very healthy in general – which left plenty of room for tequila laden salty rimmed margaritas this beautiful afternoon.
They don’t serve any desserts which resemble a glucose filled volcano – which may just require a trip back to the rainforest.
*Rainforest Cafe photo from daroffdesign.com
James Van Dellen