Labor Day Weekend in San Diego

I have to preface this post by telling you I am a Serial Vacation Overplanner.  It all happens very fast.  One moment, I am dreaming of all the fun we’ll have and the next, I am picking the exact restaurant we’ll go to after checking into our Airbnb at an exact time and scrutinizing the menu to pick the exact meal I’ll eat.  Before I know it, my brain has wrapped itself around this plan so tight and any delineation from that plan sends me into a complete tail spin.  It ain’t pretty.  And it’s also a lot of work making and sticking to this plan, so often times vacations can leave me feeling more exhausted than refreshed.

When we started dreaming up this vacation, I decided I wasn’t doing any of that planning.  The thought of waking up in the morning and just then deciding what we’d do that day sounded thrilling.  So that’s what we did!  We had a few things decided — Rockies game, meeting up with Fletcher and Josh, maaaaybe driving to Disneyland — but that was it and now that I’m on the other side of that more-spontaneous-than-usual vacation, I feel GREAT.

Ran into Food Network Star alum Matthew Grunwald not once, not twice but THREE times, including once at Whole Foods after we grabbed lunchtime tacos at Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill.  He was incredibly nice and those tacos were incredibly good.  Posted up at the beach while we waited to be able to check into our Ocean Beach Airbnb.

Got checked in and semi-unpacked before walking just a couple of blocks up to the Ocean Beach Farmers’ Market which was HOPPIN’ and even though we bought the prettiest bouquet from the friendliest vendor and the teensy squash were too cute for words, it was all a little much for me.

My girl Jessie lived in SD for four years so she hit us with her best food/coffee recommendations and we picked One Door North for dinner.  It is totally decked out in camping/adventuring/outdoorsy stuff — think tents, lanterns, wooden tables and antler chandeliers — and we couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t busy inside.  What a VIBE.

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Woke up the next morning and had toast and coffee before hitting the road for Disneyland!  Because the first thing you do when you get to San Diego is drive two hours to Anaheim, right??  We debated going for many months then rented that car the night before we left and I don’t regret it for a single second because we had the best time!  Joey does not even love rides but he rode them all for me and Disneyland has not lost a single bit of magic since the first time I went as a kid.

Slept in the next day and did some casual beach strolling and deck reading before grabbing lunch at Wonderland Ocean Pub, which was just at the end of our street.  It had an upper deck with giant windows opening out to the beach and probably a spectacular sunset view, but we got a good view of a homeless man dancing in the grass instead 🙂

Met Fletcher and Josh and Josh’s sister Mia and her fiancé James at the Del Mar racetrack for a thrilling afternoon of horse betting, or just losing all our money.  I did learn some betting lingo though.  Headed back to Encinitas (where Fletcher grew up) for burritos at Rico’s Taco Shop.  I ordered a HEFTY “Justin Burrito” that I sadly did not even come close to finishing, followed by an epic game of Jenga at Beachside Bar & Grill.

Saturday morning, we took those public scooters (so fast, but so fun!) up to Sunset Cliffs for a run overlooking the ocean.  Not our fastest but the view was lovely.  Afterward, we headed to Better Buzz and abuzz it was!  Took so so long to get Joey’s iced coffee (a drink that requires very little work) and it was far too loud in there but this avocado toast was divine.

Took the trolley downtown for the game that night but stopped first at Duck Foot Brewing where we attempted to order off their Grand Opening menu before learning they were only serving a portion of it??  Still makes no sense to me.  Then secondly to Harvest by The Patio, which was so-so, but after Joey ate those wings, I proceeded to eat all the fried bits and herbs that had fallen off and that turned out to be a very good decision.  All smiles at the game because we had front row seats, Charlie Blackmon threw Joey a ball and WE WON!

Sunday was my favorite day!  We woke up and scootered over to Jake & Eggs, which was the cutest breakfast pop-up with the biggest mugs of coffee and then we found a rental place in Mission Beach so we could get chairs, an umbrella and boogie board for Joey.  Spent a few hours at the beach before walking over to O.B. Smoothie Bar & Subs and grabbing lunch to go, then read on the deck for the rest of the afternoon.  Cleaned ourselves up and made our way to Belmont Park to see the sunset and experience sensory overload in the arcade before a late dinner at BO-beau kitchen + bar.  It was all the very best ♥

On our very last day, we finally had açai bowls a couple blocks over at The Lazy Hummingbird and look, I’m all for eating it, but can we stop pretending a smoothie topped with granola and more peanut butter than even I can condone is healthy?  Anyway, after we packed up and checked out, we drove over to Coronado Island.  The beach looked nice, the Hotel del Coronado was cool to see and the houses there are BREATHTAKING but there’s only so many shops you can walk into before all the stationary, candles and beach decor start to blur together.  One last meal at Liberty Public Market and even though it was crowded and loud, I LOVED it there!  Specifically the Mess Hall, where you could get different size pours of beers on tap.  Sitting outside with a lobster roll, fries and a brut IPA, I felt like my happiest self.

And thus ended a most perfectly spontaneous or spontaneously perfect vacation to San Diego.

Nashville!

Nashville, I wasn’t prepared to like you as much as I did ♥

Here’s some things I’m thinking about right now: that first meal of an expertly seasoned rice bowl and kombucha, burger sliders that were blow-away good, standing on a rooftop with a beer in one hand and my husband at my side, live music coming from the door of every bar, BACHELORETTE PARTIES EVERYWHERE, that 7 o’clock hour light, learning what pokeweed is, 10 years with my favorite person, walking to brunch and hearing the words “grits for the table,” strolling to the farmers’ market, baseball and that feeling of contentment when you know you’re in your place, beer snack, grabbing a seat at the bar and people watching while dining on veggie salads and pizza, seeing Jonathan Scott (Property Brothers fans, what’s up!), finding a bright and airy coffee shop that has killer breakfast options, parks and popsicles and shops and Southern neighborhood strolls, bowling on the dreamiest lanes you’ve ever seen, HOT CHICKEN, one last coffee shop stop, the utter joy and peace and happiness of a perfect vacation.

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We got into Nashville around 1:30, checked into our Airbnb apartment, then found a place nearby to grab a quick lunch and walked on over.  Just know Lulu was the best!  Totally our (my?) kind of place because there were big salads and grain bowls and kombucha on tap and neon signs that made for pretty Instagram posts.  Plus I tasted Joey’s sliders and a casual lunch spot has no business making burgers that taste THAT GOOD.  I was in my happy place for sure!

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Every time I told someone we were going to Nashville, I was awkwardly self-conscious about not being a country music fan, but I’m not necessarily NOT a country music fan as much as I’m NOT a Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Zac Brown Band type of country music fan.  Singers who have that twang in their voice and fall under the country music umbrella but don’t sound anything like that pop country stuff are fine by me!  We did the whole Lower Broad thing and yes, we did hear some live music and yes, it was kind of cool but I also felt like we just wanted to get that part out of the way because it was also real touristy and real packed with bachelorette parties.  Shout out to the Australian sister band that covered “What’s Up?” though!

Escaped to dinner at Husk afterwards and when we asked our waiter what “pokeweed” was, his explanation was “it just grows everywhere!”  Great, cleared that right up!  Turns out it’s spinach-like in texture, herbacious in flavor and totally delicious in a cornmeal cake with charcoal butter.  Also ate a charcuterie plate, pork rolls and pork prime rib, which we didn’t even know was a thing but our lives are better for it.  Mostly felt like Husk was maybe a little too stiff for our taste but the food was incredible so I don’t regret going one bit!

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Joey is the smartest and suggested we make a Sunday brunch reservation at 5th & Taylor and then it happened to be in walking distance!  I felt weird when we showed up and it everyone was there with their mother, but then it turned out we weren’t the only couple brunching there.  I ordered a chicken sausage scramble that came out on a piece of avocado-topped sourdough toast.  I WAS DELIGHTED BY IT.  And then just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, they brought grits for the table and I don’t know what was in those grits but they were BY FAR the best grits I’d ever tasted.  Note to Self: just eat the entire bowl of grits for brunch next time.  So good!

Walked to the Nashville Farmers’ Market — which is part indoor food court, part outdoor produce market — afterwards and strolled Bicentennial Park on the way.  We got iced coffee at that cute-as-can-be trailer, perused the market, then sat on a bench outside to stare up at the perfectly blue sky and wonder if the lizard on the wall in front of us was real or fake (it was real!).  In other words, morning time perfection.

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Totally unplanned but the stadium for the Nashville Sounds was minutes from where we were staying AND the Rockies’ Triple-A team, the Albuquerque Isotopes, happened to be in town.  We joked about going but then our Uber driver really talked up the stadium AND Tony Wolters was playing soooo we kind of couldn’t NOT go, right?  The stadium was all kinds of family-friendly so we maybe played a game of Guess Who before finding our seats.  The Isotopes totally won but we also totally left early because a beer snack at Picnic Tap was NEEDED.  Joey picked out a beer for me — Wiseacre Knockout IPA — and I’d like to have him make all ordering decisions for me from now on, please.

For dinner, we walked over to the highly anticipated City House, locked eyes with Jonathan Scott, who was dining out on the porch, then grabbed seats at the bar and proceeded to watch as almost every person who came in hugged and hello-ed with the restaurant staff.  We were starting to think this was a secret regulars-only restaurant but then I overheard it was someone’s last night so I think regulars, friends and employees were just coming out of the woodwork to celebrate.  We were mostly celebrating how good our entire meal was.  If you go to Nashville, please go to City House, order a pizza and a cocktail from the friendly bartender and definitely get the Chess Pie for dessert.

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First thing Monday, we walked ourselves over to Barista Parlor (despite the 3.5 star rating) and get this, everyone on Yelp is WRONG because we loved this place!  It is huge and bright and beautiful, plus they have some crazy-looking coffee brewing setup and breakfast options that I could hardly decide between.  Went with a Vietnamese cold brew — which tasted like a mix between your classic Vietnamese iced coffee and a spicy chai, so ♥♥♥ — and a bacon and egg biscuit and then I was the happiest version of myself for the rest of the day.

Ubered over to “12 South,” aka the strip of boutique shops leading to Sevier Park and, more importantly, Las Paletas.  Having a cute popsicle shop at the entrance to a park is possibly the smartest idea ever.  I got a strawberry and Joey got a banana cream and we walked to a shady park bench and just sat and felt genuine happiness.  That house at the top of the hill inside the park was all kinds of historic too.

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Post-park strolling, we made a pit stop at The Filling Station, where you can buy craft beer to go, fill your growler or grab a drink to enjoy there.  Joey had a beer and followed it up with a cupcake from the Sprinkles ATM.  Felt like he HAD to because it’s not every day you see a cupcake ATM, is it?  I passed on the cupcake, felt virtuous for 45 seconds, then stumbled upon Five Daughters Bakery and right into a “100 Layer Doughnut.”

Then we Ubered off to Pinewood Social and decided we could maybe use some real food made of vegetables.  Giant salads to the rescue!  Okay, so the deal with Pinewood is that… it has everything?  Which is almost as vague as our Husk waiter’s description of pokeweed.  It’s a full-service restaurant with different menus for morning, noon and night, but there’s also a coffee shop and tables for hanging out and working on your laptop and, in the back, bowling lanes!  We bowled three games and I’m fairly certain my final score was 30 for one of those games.  I got better but I’m gonna go ahead and say I don’t have a future in professional bowling.

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Spent our final night in Nashville at Hattie B’s and it was the perfect ending!  We almost thought we needed to find a BBQ place but then I realized Nashville is known for hot chicken and we needed to get ourselves some before we left.  We decided on the West Nashville location and were glad we did.  Sat out on the patio with beers, chicken and sides galore so it was THE BEST.

We maybe went to Barista Parlor one more time and maybe picked up lunch to eat at the airport from Lulu and headed back to Denver and back to snow… in May… I’m over it.

Where We Stayed: 

River Views/Nashville // We really really liked the location because we could walk to restaurants, coffee shops, Bicentennial Park and the Nashville Farmers’ Market but we had some air conditioner issues that I could have done without.

Where We Ate/Drank:

Lulu // Next level grain bowls but don’t miss out on those burger sliders.

Acme Feed & Seed // A bit touristy/busy/loud but it’s big and clean, serves food and local beer and it’s fun to stand on the rooftop patio overlooking the Cumberland River.

Husk // If you’re into food, you’ve probably heard of Husk.  It’s a Nashville culinary staple.  It’s got local, seasonal, veg-creative food going for it and everything we ate was delicious, I just don’t know that I loved the atmosphere/service.

5th & Taylor // When you show up to Sunday brunch and there’s a line outside, you know you’ve made a good choice.  Order anything because it’ll be good and it’s really about the “grits for the table” anyway!  

The Trailer Perk // Located outside at the Nashville Farmers’ Market.  I love a punny food truck name and 20 hour cold brew.

The Picnic Tap // Raise your hand if you think every farmers’ market should have a craft beer watering hole!  Tip: they also serve brats and grilled cheese to go with your beer.

City House // This place is such a gem!  You can make a reservation but know that they reserve the bar, pizza counter and screened-in porch for walk ins.  Order a cocktail, some starters, a pizza and definitely save room for dessert.

Barista Parlor // Look around, it’s beautiful and bright and there’s great care and effort going into the coffee and food, so slow down, be patient and enjoy.  Vietnamese Cold Brew and biscuit sandwiches highly recommended.

Las Paletas // Never had a “gourmet popsicle” before?  You’re in for a treat, no pun intended.  Tastes like real fruit because they’re made with real fruit, imagine that!  Grab one before making your way into Sevier Park for a stroll.

The Filling Station // If you’re a local, fill your growler.  If you’re a visitor, pick a craft beer and enjoy it out front in the sunshine.

Five Daughters Bakery // Okay, I probably didn’t need a mid-day pastry but it looked cute and once you’re inside, how can you turn down a 100 Layer Doughnut?  In essence, it’s a cronut, but labels aside, these are decadently delicious.  Get the chocolate sea salt.

Pinewood Social // A menu for every part of the day, coffee, cocktails, beer and bowling.  I kind of wish we’d had enough time to eat more meals here because everything sounded good!

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken // Do not make the mistake of leaving Nashville without eating real deal hot chicken, aka spicy fried chicken accompanied by sides like pimento mac and cheese and crinkle fries.  Hattie B’s IS my happy place.

What We Did:

Lower Broad // Hard to describe but it’s part Vegas Strip, part Bourbon Street, part downtown bar scene?  No matter where you stop in, you’re bound to hear live music and I think that’s pretty cool.  This is also where all the bachelorette parties, tourists and party people are, so take it as you will.

Bicentennial Mall State Park // There’s a granite wall that runs the length of the park with some interesting state history, if you’re into that.  If not, it’s still a nice place to relax.

Nashville Farmers’ Market // This is an interesting little market in that it’s part indoor-part outdoor, part food court-part produce and mostly, part hip & trendy-part old school.  It’s hard to put your finger on, but we dug it anyway.

Nashville Sounds Game // The stadium is nice, new and fun, plus there’s baseball so we were happy 🙂

12 South // Basically a stretch of boutique shops and restaurants.  We stopped into Imogene + Willie, White’s Mercantile and Draper James and I could afford none of it.

Sevier Park // You can walk the loop around the park (it’s not so big), take a break on a park bench, read about the house on the top of the hill and cross paths with people who are lucky enough to spend their lunch break at the park.