Spring in the City: SAN DIEGO
San Diego is carved up into several neighborhoods that each have their own personality. You have your beach communities, Gaslamp District with tons of night life, Point Loma (famously known for being the set of Top Gun), and then you have your various “hipster” neighborhoods. Craft beer, craft cocktails, indie boutiques, coffee shops and live music are a staple of these so-called hipster neighborhoods. Golden Hill, South Park, North Park, Normal Heights, University Heights are the front-runners for all of the aforementioned fares.
I’ve been a regular to the South Park area for going on three years now so I have a pretty strong bias, but don’t let that take anything away from this great little neighborhood. South Park is on the smaller end and is jam-packed with unique businesses that give it an amazing small town feel. The main contributor to this feeling is the amount of small businesses that are nestled in together between craftsman style homes. On any given day you can walk into a record store, coffee roaster, tattoo shop, brewery, or even grab a mid-day cocktail and be greeted and served by the owner of that business. You know immediately where your dollar is going. You see and interact with the families that you’re supporting. They remember your name and you remember theirs. You get the sense that they truly care about what they provide to this neighborhood…because they do.
On this particular day, I began my tenure in South Park by getting tattooed at Left Hand Black by the owner, Turk. I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in Turk’s chair hearing his stories about the early days of his music and tattoo careers. I’ve listened to him describe what it was like to tour with Green Day and Blink 182, and how a young man found himself becoming one of the country’s leaders in all things tattoo. He has even welcomed me into his home where I met his beautiful family and shared dinner. This to me sums up what South Park is as a network of business and people, because Turk and the folks at Left Hand Black are not an outlier of hospitality.
When I’m walking my pooch, Jethro, through South Park no one is too shy to greet either one of us. Although, I will admit he gets far more hellos than I do. We have our routine of places to stop along the loop of our walk. I always make sure to pop into Fernside, South Park’s newest bar and restaurant. Fernside was started by an all-star team of seasoned veterans in the industry. Together they created an amazing little watering hole with a stellar food menu. The locals quickly embraced Fernside so barstools are always limited. Two of the owners, Christian and Shane, are consistently serving tables, making drinks, and ensuring each guest receives the best service possible.
Our next stop before the walk home is South Park Brew Co. for a quick beer to reward us for making the long, arduous 1-mile trek. Scott Blair has made a hell of a name for himself in the craft beer industry. As the owner of the renowned beer hall, Hamilton’s, he has a knack for the finer points of beer. When coupled with his high standard of excellence, he makes sure his brewery is pumping out the best brews possible (South Park Brewery’s For Duty and Humanity IPA just beat out the world famous Pliny the Younger IPA from Russian River in a blind tasting). The beer slingers here are always quick to pour up a taste of the freshest beer on the board to see what the regulars think of their hard work. I’m usually a pretty big fan. On Wednesdays the smell of hops, yeast, and various grains cooking up in large stainless steel vats fill the brewery, and there you’ll find Scott and all of his brewers creating the future of the business. Just sitting there you’ll learn more about beer than you could ever imagine. You might even get to do a few tastings and watch a judging process. South Park Brew Co. has created a welcoming atmosphere that provides a beacon for beer and gives your average beer drinker a much better appreciation of what it takes to make that beverage sitting in front of you.
These businesses and their owners have created this little bubble that makes it feel more like Mayberry than San Diego. Everyone knows everyone. We see each other day in and day out. We depend on these small businesses and they depend on us. Small businesses are the backbone of South Park and it’s residents are the heart and soul.