Ready to know more about San Diego?


La Nacional Owner Joann Cornejo Shares Her Favorite South Bay Spots

The Chula Vista restaurateur's recommendations for a family-friendly day down south
Interior of restaurant and brewery, La Nacional, on 3rd Avenue in Downtown Chula Vista, San Diego
Photo Credit: @iydeencaptures

Joann Cornejo is a mother, teacher, and co-owner of National City’s Machete Beer House and Chula Vista’s newly opened La Nacional. Her limited time is precious and her knowledge of South Bay limitless, so she knows exactly how to craft the perfect family day.

Courtesy of Franco’s Flapjack Family Restaurant

The morning begins at Franco’s Flapjack Family Restaurant in Bonita, an old-school diner known for large portions of classic breakfast dishes like country fried steak, eggs Benedict, and Belgian waffles. “My go-to is an omelet with a side of hotcakes,” Cornejo says. If he kids need to run off some sugar from their plates of syrup, she usually takes them to nearby Rohr Park, where multiple playgrounds appeal to little ones of all ages. There’s also a model train that runs the second Saturday and Sunday of each month (except in September) and an adult fitness area near the basketball courts. “If you’re lucky,” Cornejo adds, “you’ll see a few horses with their owners walking the trail.”

Courtesy of the San Diego Tourism Authority

For more family fun, head to Chula Vista’s Living Coast Discovery Center, where you can ogle sea creatures like turtles, jellyfish, sharks, and manta rays. Cornejo’s personal favorite critters, owls, live on the center’s Raptor Row. Be sure to check the website to see what animal encounters are on the schedule before your visit, and make time for a stroll down Living Coast’s marshland walking trail to catch a front-row view of the entire San Diego bay.

If Cornejo’s kiddos need a pick-me-up after an afternoon of aquatic exploration, Niederfrank’s is a quick drive up the 5. The National City ice cream shop has been an institution for over 60 years, making their old-fashioned scoops the same way they did back in the ’50s. Requisite flavors like chocolate and vanilla are mainstays, but they also offer creative varieties like papaya-pineapple, chocolate stout beer, and avocado-pistachio. Cornejo says she can’t resist a scoop of Kahlua Krunch.

Finally, she admits she’s biased, but she hopes locals and travelers alike will come check out the new La Nacional. “Your family can enjoy a delicious dinner and parents-slash-adults can unwind with a cocktail or mezcal, neat,” she says. After a day jam-packed with activities, a cocktail sounds pretty sweet.

By Beth Demmon

Beth Demmon is an award-winning writer and podcaster whose work regularly appears in national outlets and San Diego Magazine. Her first book, The Beer Lover's Guide to Cider, is now available. Find out more on

Share this post

Contact Us

1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800,

San Diego, CA