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10 Real-Life San Diego Meet-Cutes

We asked SDM readers to share their modern love stories with us—here are our favorites
Photo Credit: Leylla Badeanlou

I’d love to tell you that my girlfriend and I had the ultimate meet-cute. But our relationship, like so many modern romances, began with a swipe on an app.

Still, when I look at her nearly two years later, I feel the same sense of wonder palpable in many of the reader-submitted love stories in these pages: There you are. I can’t believe we found each other.

Neither of us native San Diegans, we each made our way here and then collided. The city shaped our story. In a darkened booth at Swan Bar, I watched her blush as I slipped the jacket from my shoulders on our first date. A few months later, she told me she loved me over the clacking of billiard balls at Seven Grand (also the setting for one of our readers’ meet-cutes). After returning from our first big vacation together, we got bagels in North Park, and it became a post-trip tradition. Now Nomad Donuts tastes like coming home.

The lovers featured here have their own landmarks and rituals across the county. If you’re happily coupled, I hope these letters inspire you to record your own tale for posterity. And if you’re searching for your soulmate, may they serve as a reminder that rom-com-worthy stories can start anywhere… even in PB.

Reader-submitted San Diego love stories featuring couple Ann and Steve from Santee

I lost my house in the Cedar Fire when I was 14. Years later, I got a Facebook message from an old schoolmate. He said he’d found our kindergarten class picture and wanted me to have it. He figured I probably didn’t have many photos from before the fire. (He was right.) We’ll celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary in June.

–Anne, 34 & Steve, 35, Santee

Reader-submitted San Diego love stories featuring couple Joan and Matt from La Mesa

My husband is from Wisconsin and never really knew his real father, as he left the family when my husband was 2 years old. His mom passed before I met him, so I don’t have much information about his family history. He and I had our first date here in San Diego at the Oceanside Harbor on August 26, 2008. Little did we know how special that date was, as it wasn’t just ours.

A few years later, I decided to look around the internet to see if I could find some information on his dad. The only things I knew were his name and that he was in the military.

The discovery I made was incredible. I found out that his dad and mom were married in Oceanside on August 26, 1968, exactly 40 years before our first date. His dad was stationed on Oceanside and his mom flew here to get married.

On our fifth anniversary, I framed a certified copy of their wedding license for his gift—one of the best surprises I’ve given him.

–Joan, 49 & Matt, 55, La Mesa

Reader-submitted San Diego love stories featuring Martin and Lisa from College East
Photo Credit: Marilen Tran

Don’t ever let them tell you that one can’t find love at Waterfront Bar. The oldest liquor license in the city has seen things, borne witness to many cosmic collisions. The trick—and it’s a risky one—is not to look for it. To give up on ever finding it at all. That’s how the fire gets lit, a big cracking whorl of hungry flame—and who doesn’t want to get close to the warmth when it’s cold? You never know. Years on, you might find yourself floating with her in the surf off of Law Street Beach, a 50-year-old ring tied by your drawstring, saying, “A bit further, my pearl. Let’s swim until we’re both treading water. It’s always better when our feet aren’t touching a thing.”

– Martin, 37 & Lisa, 37, College East

Reader-submitted San Diego love stories featuring couple Angela and Molly from North Park

In the fall of 2013, Molly got a job at URBN in North Park, where I had been for nearly three years. I was working my way to lead server when I was asked to train Molly during her first week. She remembers me correcting the way she folded napkins. I remember her calling me pretty.

The following months were filled with handwritten notes that we left in each other’s money drawers, our own love language that only we had access to. Love notes evolved into many hangs outside of work, including a night at Bourbon Street in University Heights, where Molly kissed me on the dance floor.

Six years later, I sent her on a scavenger hunt to our memorable spots throughout San Diego where family and friends were waiting with a clue—including CJ’s Club on Washington Street and Gossip Grill (obviously). The final clue was given at Parks & Rec, formerly Bourbon Street.

This trek around town ultimately led her to me, holding a ring on the rooftop of Kairoa Brewery, surrounded by some of our favorite people. It’s been three-and-a-half years since the day we married, and I’m happy to share that I still receive those love notes.

–Angela, 39 & Molly, 37, North Park

Reader-submitted San Diego love stories featuring couple Sara and Michael
Photo Credit: Michael Werner

The guy I was dating offered to sell me his longboard before he moved to Seattle. He dropped it off at my apartment, and I stared at the nine-footer propped up against the couch. Who was I kidding? I didn’t want a board. I wanted an invitation to visit, a goodbye kiss. He’d offered neither.

When I found myself at Seven Grand, a dark little bar in North Park, I was still tender. A heavy-browed stranger tapped me on the shoulder. “I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t introduce myself,” he said.

“Call me,” I told him. When he did, I thought it was strange. No one ever called. We went to the Del Mar fair—I had a painting there and had won second prize. He said he was impressed, and I could tell he meant it. He held my hand, and his palms were damp. We ate falafel and talked about his mother, rock climbing, and his dream of living in a van (oh, boy…).

He never did become a van-lifer, but we’ve been together 10 years. We got married in the haze of the pandemic and had a baby girl in the summer of last year.

–Sara, 37 & Michael, 35

Reader-submitted San Diego love stories featuring couple Robin and John from Clairemont
Photo Credit:  Leylla Badeanlou

It’s PB Shore Club, circa February 2009.

The housing bubble is about to pop and Gen-Zers are just being born—no thoughts of Covid-19, no Trump presidency. My girl friend named Aubrey is setting me up with her guy friend named Aubrey—a handsome Navy pilot who’s dressed nicer than me. Disinterested, I shimmy up to the bar to order my first goblet of Red Bull slush.

As the sea of pilots part, I spot him! The only other person in the bar with a first-gen iPhone and a warm smile. We chat while overlooking the Pacific Ocean and exchange numbers on our fancy smartphones. Five days later, I get a text from an unknown number asking me to grab sushi.

“John the Navy pilot?” I ask.

“No, I’m the computer guy,” he replies.

Fast-forward 15 years, two kids, and one house in Clairemont later, and I’m still getting sushi date requests on my iPhone from “John Pilot/Computer Guy.”

–Robin, 40 & John, 45, Clairemont

Reader-submitted San Diego love stories featuring couple Mehrsa and Scott from National City and La Jolla

To get to my friend’s wedding in Fresno, I booked a flight with a stop in LAX. Once I boarded the plane, at 5:30 a.m., I realized I could have woken up later and still gotten to Fresno at the same time if I drove. In a tired and cranky way, I voiced my realization out loud to the person next to me. I turned to look at them, and there he was: tall, handsome, in his baggy sweatshirt and puffy eyes. He was headed to DC for a work trip, for the FBI—not “Female Body Inspector,” which I assumed was going to be his next awful line.

We talked about everything: social issues, our jobs, and our refined pallette for films like Nacho Libre. I could tell he was genuine, funny, and patient with my morning sass. Our first hangout was at Cowles Mountain, our first “I love you” was at Centennial Park in Coronado, and our engagement was in Julian, with many dates at Gold Hill Park and J Street Marina in between. Our wedding will be in Point Loma in July of this year!

–Mehrsa, 32, National City & Scott, 32, La Jolla

Reader-submitted San Diego love stories featuring couple Michael and Joanne from Mira Mesa

“We seem to have a lot in common. Hope to hear from you soon.” Her two sentences messaged across a dating site started an adventure we had both doubted possible. At roughly 70, had an Orange County widow and San Diego widower found “the one?” San Diego showed us that indeed, we had much in common. By our first lunch in Oceanside, we found we shared interests in trains, aircraft, and healthy cuisine. Plays at the Old Globe and paintings at the San Diego Museum of Art gave us topics for resonant converation. Beachfront paths, the Seven Bridge Walk, and the other strolls showed us that we had both practiced physical fitness. It was while hiking the Lake miramar Trail two weeks after we first met that we first mentioned marriage.

Within a week, we were engaged (she proposed). From our San Diego base, we traveled throughout the next 15 months, visiting over 50 museums and national parks. IF we could make it while living for weeks out of carry-on bags, we could make it. Then, attended by our friends and family , we married by the beach in La Jolla.

Our first anniversary is approaching. We expect to be traveling again.

Michael, 73 & Joanne 70, Mira Mesa

Reader-submitted San Diego love stories featuring couple Olivia and Noah from Point Loma

It all started on a drunken Saturday night in Pacific Beach. Now, I know what you’re thinking—every night in PB is a drunken one, and you’re right! But this drunken night was special to two people, and although drunken nights aren’t usually remembered, this one always will be.

It was around 11 p.m. and 710 Beach Club’s karaoke was heard all across Garnet Avenue. I took the stage, like I always do, and sang a Keyshia Cole and Missy Elliott classic: “Let It Go.” To paint you a picture, I am a five-foot-two, white, Jewish girl on stage rapping Missy Elliott. Entertaining? Yes! Sexy? Not so much.

It was seconds after my Grammy Award–winning performance that I was approached by Noah, a stranger at the time. He was mesmerized by my amazing talent, and we talked for the rest of the night. The next day, we went on a date and, well… the rest is history!

–Olivia, 23 & Noah, 26, Point Loma

Reader-submitted San Diego love stories featuring couple Indra and Vanessa from North Park

The year is 2012, where the only way to meet other singles is in the wild. On a sleepy Thursday night, I was sitting at the library at SDSU studying chemistry and decided to hit up ladies’ night at Rich’s, the hottest night for chicas to meet other chicas.

Fast-forward a couple hours—I sneak into the men’s restroom since the ladies’ line was around the DJ booth. I walk in, and the first thing i hear is Spanish coming out of this Ocean Beach surfer girl. We started talking and laughing.

We move in three months later and get married a year after, as soon as Prop 8 is overturned. Twelve years later, after traveling the globe, we’re pregnant.

–Indara, 34 & Vanessa, 35, North Park

By Amelia Rodriguez

Amelia Rodriguez is San Diego Magazine’s Associate Editor. The 2023 winner of the San Diego Press Club's Rising Star Award, she’s covered music, food, arts & culture, fashion, and design for Rolling Stone, Palm Springs Life, and other national and regional publications. After work, you can find her hunting down San Diego’s best pastries and maintaining her three-year Duolingo streak.

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