When planning a vacation to San Diego, you have so many neighborhoods to choose from: La Jolla, Ocean Beach, Old Town, etc. For us, we had always heard about Gaslamp Quarter. 16 blocks of historic architecture, great restaurants and tons of nightlife!
Since we’re from LA, San Diego was always at the top of our short weekend road trip list. Food is why we travel so Gaslamp was definitely the right choice for us. We hope our weekend getaway breakdown will help you get a feel of what it’s like in this neighborhood and help you choose where to stay and what to eat on your own trip there!
Where to Stay in Gaslamp
Nest on Fifth
This was a great find, right in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego! Nest on Fifth is closer to a vacation rental (AirBnB) style than a hotel. They have two room styles: Studio Apartment or the One Bedroom Apartment. For us, the Studio Apartment was more than enough room! Both room options come with a kitchenette that includes a cooktop, small refrigerator, microwave, and hot beverage maker. They also provide you with all the dishware and cooking equipment you might need.
Nest on Fifth is right in the middle of the bar/restaurant scene in Gaslamp. The entrance to the hotel is literally right in between the entrances to two great bar/restaurants: Havana 1920 and El Chingon. On one side you have great Cuban coffee & food and the other side you have your margaritas & Mexican cuisine.
One thing to note before booking this hotel is that it is a self-service style accommodation meaning that there is no concierge and they send you an email with the front door & apartment door codes to check-in. Also, unlike hotels that have daily housekeeping this hotel is on a by request basis. This wasn’t a problem for us as we normally don’t need housekeeping every day, but something to keep in mind.
Parking is another major factor to think about. Nest on Fifth being a smaller apartment style accommodation does not offer parking. In the next section, we will discuss where we parked and what it cost us!
Alternative Hotels Nearby
- Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Gaslamp/Convention Center
- Hotel Z – A Staypineapple Hotel
- Omni San Diego Hotel
Where to Park in Gaslamp
Park It on Market
One of the most annoying things when you take a road trip or rent a car on your vacation is having to pay for parking at your hotel. You’re already paying so much just to stay in their rooms but they add on ridiculous $50 overnight parking fees to milk even more money out of you.
Like we said earlier, Nest on Fifth does not offer parking. However, they direct you to Park It on Market which is honestly a pretty affordable option compared to the rates at the big hotels in Gaslamp. For just over 48 hours of parking we paid only $30!!!
Park It on Market is a 6 story parking structure with over 500 parking spots. It is also open and available for parking 24 hours a day! Just be wary of any events/games going on in the area as this lot may fill up pretty quick on those days. The one drawback is that there are no in/out privileges like you would have at your hotels valet.
If you intend to just walk around the area or lyft/uber everywhere then I highly recommend using the structure. Also if you are new to Lyft use my invite code for a free ride: DANIEL726748.
Alternative Parking Options
Where to Eat & Drink in Gaslamp
Tacos El Gordo – Must Visit #1 Outside of Gaslamp
We’re going to start off this section with our all time favorite SD spot: TACOS EL GORDO!!! Even though this spot is not in Gaslamp, it is more than worth the short drive or Lyft ride over. Not even joking, Ann almost cried when she ate her tacos! She loves them that much haha.
They offer a variety of meats that include: Adobada (spiced pork), Carne Asada (grilled beef), Suadero (brisket), Cabeza (beef head), Buche (pork stomach), Lengua (beef tongue), Tripa (beef guts), Azteca (grilled beef and cactus), and Chorizo (beef and pork). Our favorite by far is the ADOBADA!!!
The tall, spinning cone of marinated pork on a spit is unmistakable. Once you see the impressive set up and the nice char on the pork you know your Adobada tacos will be out of this world! Chopped onions, cilantro, and a green avocado salsa top the slices of pork. Add on some lime juice or some salsa and you have heaven in a bite!!! Be sure to ask for some pineapple on the side for a sweet/tart bite with your tacos.
Phil’s BBQ – Must Visit #2 Outside of Gaslamp
Another must visit spot outside of Gaslamp is Phil’s BBQ. They specialize in mesquite grilled ribs and chicken. Our personal favorite are the Baby Back Ribs! The full rib dinner was a good amount to share for the two of us without getting overly full. It comes with 10-12 ribs with your choice of 2 small sides or 1 large side. We got the macaroni salad & the coleslaw and they did not disappoint.
The Beefy Ribs are also a great option for those that don’t eat pork. Huge ribs that dwarf the baby backs. They are nicely charred with good flavor. They seem a bit fattier than the pork ribs though. Whether you get the baby backs or the beef ribs just be sure to ask for some extra sauce!
Cafe 21 Gaslamp
Mimosa flights, mojito flights, and tiramisu pancakes. What else needs to be said? With so many other spots with brunch options in Gaslamp Quarter, Cafe 21 sets themselves apart with their unique offerings. From bananas foster dutch pancakes to a lavash breakfast burrito, you’re sure to find something that appeals to you.
But back to our meal, those pancakes literally had ALL the flavor of a tiramisu cake. Definitely recommend sharing it with another person as they can get a bit overwhelming if you eat the whole stack. And of course if you want to drink, we definitely recommend the mimosa or mojito flights. According to their menu, the mimosa flavors change daily and the mojitos are made with seasonal fruit purees.
We also tried their recommended Shrimp Corn Cakes. The corn cakes, made from a mixture of shrimp, potato, corn, and mozzarella, are topped with poached eggs and some greens, and sits on a layer of cilantro cream sauce. Great flavors and not to mention just as picture worthy as any other plate of food you will find in Gaslamp.
Okay seriously Havana 1920 has it all: atmosphere, laidback vibe, FRIENDLY service, great drinks, and BOMB food!!! Honestly, everything we tried here was delicious. You can come here any time of day and get something to satisfy your cravings.
Need some coffee to wake up? Order one of their Cuban espresso items. Need lunch? Grab a Cuban sandwich, a PERFECT Cuban sandwich at that! Dinner and Dessert? Ropa vieja and churros. If you are in the Gaslamp area you have to give this place a shot!
I’m sorry I just have to mention the freaking delicious perfect Cuban sandwich one more time. It is such a simple sandwich, slices of their slow roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread. Press the whole sandwich on a hot plancha to get the bread nice and toasty and melt the cheese and you are all good to go. It is so simple yet so so so delicious! My mouth is watering just thinking about it…
We also have to give a special shoutout to the entire staff at Havana 1920. Everyone was super friendly and gave us great service. Just good vibes all around at this restaurant. Doesn’t matter if you go in just for a coffee or for a full dinner, they will take care of you all the same!
Mariscos El Pulpo
We couldn’t visit San Diego without getting some fish tacos! We tried their Ensenada style battered & fried fish taco, Pulpo Ajillo taco, and the Ensenada style battered & fried shrimp taco. They gave us two kinds of a thick creamy sauce (one spicy and one more garlicky) to dress our tacos to our liking as well as some cut limes.
Every bite was delicious! The Ensenada style fish or shrimp tacos both had a great light and crispy batter on the seafood. We recommend adding some of the sauce and lime to add some extra flavor and creaminess. For the Pulpo Ajillo just eat it as is or with a small squeeze of lime. The octopus is sauteed with a flavorful garlic and ajillo chile butter!
For a fancy date night, we decided on Rustic Root. As you can tell from the picture, the restaurant actually has two floors. Downstairs has a fancier more intimate date-night vibe while the upstairs has an open aired bar/lounge feel. Whatever your occasion, I’m sure Rustic Root will have you covered.
The food and drink at Rustic Root did not disappoint either! The Burrata Panzanella appetizer was a great light start to the meal. We ordered a few drinks to get our night started as well, Ann got their full-to-the-BRIM Rosé Sangria and I got their Rustic Old Fashioned. Definitely recommend their cocktail list!
And on to the main course: Lamb T-Bone and the Lobster Pappardelle. Served with calabrian roasted marble potatoes, braised mustard greens, garlic soubise, and gremolata; the Lamb T-Bone was a substantial meal. The Lobster Pappardelle was highly recommended as one of their most popular dishes and now we know why. Big chunks of lobster, a sherry cream sauce, oven roasted tomatoes, and those crispy breadcrumbs to top it all off!
El Chingon Bad Ass Mexican
With Havana 1920 on one side of our hotel and El Chingon on the other, you know we had a good time! Although we didn’t have any food here, we would gladly come back for the bar experience. Friendly bartender, good drinks, and a lively atmosphere. Not much else you need at a bar! Will definitely check out the food next time we go.
This was a great rooftop bar conveniently close to our hotel. It is at the top of the Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Gaslamp/Convention Center Hotel. If you are planning to go on a weekend, we highly recommend getting a reservation to ensure you can get a table with a view. We recommend the Charcuterie Board if you want something to munch on while you grab a few drinks.
Stone Brewing Tap Room
And who could forget the breweries in SD?! You have to go to at least one brewery or a brewery taproom. For us, Stone Brewing Tap Room was the closest to walk to. Great spot to just hang out, chill, and have some good beers. Check out their special or limited offerings for some unique flavors you may not see anywhere else.
Scenery and Random Photos
After our short vacay in the Gaslamp District, we can wholeheartedly say we can’t wait to go back! We tried so many good food spots and bars. We loved the laid-back vibe of the locals we met. Thank you again to all the great staff at every single restaurant or bar we tried. You all made our trip that much better!
We hope we inspired you to go out there and travel! Our mini road trip to San Diego just goes to show that you don’t need to go on a extravagant, international trip to have a great time. Try taking a mini road trip to a city close by or even just do a stay-cation and get to know your own city. Hope you enjoyed following along with our trip!
Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Pinterest as well!