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Main Dish: October 2022

PB is all grown up—San Diego's ground zero for co-ed beachside debauchery shows off its quieter, more mature side
Eric Wolfinger
Squid Ink Risotto

Squid ink risotto with warm chili oil from Chef Mike Reidy at The Fishery

Eric Wolfinger

Confession: I’m a 37-year-old mom, and I love PB. Admitting it feels like admitting that I sometimes don a bikini and rollerskate with my pet boa, but I’m adamant that Pacific Beach has hidden depths. I lived in PB for most of my twenties and thirties before making the move to the ’burbs. And even now that mom jeans are a necessity instead of a fad, the neighborhood is still one of my favorites.

Pacific Beach has a well-earned reputation for debauchery. SDSU co-eds learn the meaning of life at Moondoggies, the PB Street Fair properly pops off, and there’s an endless selection of overcrowded beachfront watering holes. But demographics are shifting, and the food scene along with it.

“The majority of the people living here [are] young Millennials—the median age hovers around 32. Pacific Beach has always attracted college students, surfers, and people who prefer an easy-going lifestyle,” says Andra Hopulele of real estate data website Point2. But, she adds, “the median age is on the rise, and local residents are slowly becoming older and more affluent due to rising property and rental costs.” Renters remain the majority—almost 70 percent of all residents. But that might be changing as well. According to the most recent data, the total number of renters is down 2.6 percent year-over-year.

Point is, a small market correction in the ratio of 2AM alcohol-mop grub to something better has been coming for a while. Those in the know will find from-scratch bakeries and cocktail bars, and upscale seafood restaurants that rival neighboring La Jolla. From long-standing San Diego institutions like Sushi Ota to soon-to-open concepts like Captain’s Quarters (a gin lounge on Grand Avenue inside tiki palace The Grass Skirt), it’s possible to ditch the boardwalk booze slushies in favor of sunset sangria and seafood towers. We rounded up a few grown-up delights.


On the PB boardwalk, sandwiched between mayhem and two-for-one margaritas, is Waterbar, a veritable oasis. Try the flavorful mussels coconut adobo, inspired by the Filipino heritage of executive chef DJ Tangalin (ex-Bivouac, Whisknladle). Bivalves are roasted with garlic, shallot, and mushrooms, then deglazed with chardonnay and steamed with coconut adobo sauce and monter au beurre (that’s French for a lot of butter).


There’s plenty of pizza in PB, but the gourmet Milan-style offerings at Ambrogio15 are more date night than late night, crafted by chef Patrick Money, formerly of Cesarina. Try the burrata e prosciutto crudo, a thin crust salty and creamy pie.

JRDN At Tower23

Oceanfront JRDN is a must-visit for the views – both the sunset and the sunbathing co-eds – but the food by chef Stephen Gage is worth a visit on its own. Post up at the open-air bar with a cocktail and a plate of ahi tuna nachos, housemade wonton chips topped with raw tuna, avocado, and mango, drizzled with Sriracha aioli.

La Clochette Du Coin

Anyone dreaming about visiting Paris to eat pastries at charming French bistros should stroll down to La Clochette Du Coin for inspiration. On weekends, arrive early, avoid the long lines, and sink into a croque madame: a croissant loaf (from baker Justin Gaspar at sister concept Hommage Bakehouse) is made more decadent with Gruyere, cured ham, and bechamel. As if that weren’t enough, it’s topped with a free-range egg.

The Fishery

Nestled in a quiet spot on Cass Street, The Fishery strives for classic instead of trendy, serving sustainable seafood as a combination restaurant and fish marketplace. Chef Mike Reidy created an exceptional squid ink risotto, showcasing squid from Long Beach, Acquerello-aged risotto rice, and warm chili oil.

By Michelle Stansbury

Michelle Stansbury is a San Diego-based freelance writer who writes about travel, food, and parenting. Misuse of the word "literally" drives her figuratively insane. @discoverwithmichelle

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