While typically never described as one of San Diego’s top neighborhoods, India Street—located within the larger neighborhood of Mission Hills—is a not-so-hidden gem, hanging on for dear life onto the hillside above the airport. Just north of Little Italy and west of Hillcrest, India Street is easy to miss. It’s like The Leaky Cauldron: You have to know it’s there to see it. The India Street “neighborhood” I refer to is concentrated between Laurel and Washington Street. A maze of one-way streets and cliff-side residential areas, India Street can be confusing for the motorist. My advice: Park on Washington Street just west of India, and explore on foot. Treat exploring new neighborhoods like you’re traveling–take it in, and allow yourself to be impressed.
India Street is best explored as a single event. Don’t go California style–driving from place to place. Dump your car early, and proceed on foot. Start with dinner. Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill comes highly recommended for its fresh and moderately priced fare. Select the type of fish and how you want it seasoned and prepared; then choose your side dishes. Though Blue Water is a great place to start, it makes the most geographic sense to start your evening with drinks or appetizers at the Regal Beagle or Starlite. From there, make the pilgrimage through five of San Diego’s best bars.
Start with Starlite, located at the far south end of India Street. Starlite is more focused on ambience than any of the India Street bars, and, from this writer’s point of view, it is downright classy (meaning that it requires men to wear both a shirt and pants/jorts at all times). Starlite’s flagship drinks are the “Cleopatra” and the “Starlite Mule,” made with organic vodka, ginger beer, lime, and bitters. These drinks could make the San Diego speakeasies blush with jealousy.
Next stop: Aero Club. If Aero Club seems like a beer bar to you, look up. Aero Club’s “top shelf” includes 750 different liquors from around the world and should satisfy any taster. The emphasis is clearly on whiskey, especially Scotch. Try “Fireball,” a Canadian cinnamon whiskey with Coke–I call it a “Big Red Gum.” The bartenders may be reluctant to sell it to you any other way than in a shot glass, however.
Next, make your way to the Regal Beagle for a sausage fest. A craft brewer’s delight, the Beagle serves the best homemade sausage in San Diego. There are many imitators, but accept none. Whether you’re looking for a plain Polish or the herbtastic Moroccan lamb (recommended), this little doggie will repress any recurring vegetarian dreams or nightmares.
The next stop takes you across the pond where you’ll order chips and get fries with vinegar. Shakespeare’s Pub serves excellent hand-pumped, English-style ales (The bartenders train with shake weights) and British pub grub.
Finally, dance it off at Bar Dynamite. The first time I went here, I vowed never to come back. By time number five, I was hooked. Bar Dynamite is one of San Diego’s few unapologetic hip hop bars (Bar D, The Office, Tina’s). You won’t find club-goers dressed to impress, pretentious DJ’s spinning triple mash-ups of Chilean house music, or $10 gin-and-tonics. What you will find is a friendly crowd that is there to listen to great hip hop and to dance. I’ve never gone a whole night without hearing A Tribe Called Quest. Relive the ‘90s, and discover obscure joints you’ve never heard. Bar D is the only bar on India Street with a cover, usually $5 for Friday and Saturday, and well worth it. Finish the night with a “Surfin’ California” burrito at Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop next door.
See also: Gelato Vero Caffe is highly recommended. Saffron Thai Grilled Chicken quickly serves hearty portions of low-priced Thai noodle dishes but won’t wow diehard Thai fans.