This week, Explorer travels to Bankers Hill-a neighborhood known for being home to chic restaurants like Mister A’s, Cucina Urbana and Hane Sushi-to scarf a Centennial Burger in celebration of Balboa Park’s 100th birthday, take a walking tour of architecture that dates back to the Victorian era, and to take in other cultural tidbits such as the fusion of art, design and sizzling meat at one local gallery and studio. Yeah, this four-stop guide is something you could do with your (very cool) grandparents, but that just complements the Bankers Hill neighborhood for having timeless appeal.
Bounce across the suspension bridge
For those who fear heights, a walk across the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge may be a tad unsettling. But if you can make it out onto the only such wobbly bridge in San Diego County, the reward includes views from 70 feet above Kate Sessions Canyon, one of the many sites in town where famed horticulturist and landscape architect planted seeds over 100 years ago. Access the 1912-built, 375-foot long bridge that bobs and sways with every footstep at the base of Spruce Street, just west of First Avenue. And seriously, don’t worry-Edwin Capps engineered the bridge to hold more than 2,000 people at 150 pounds each at one time. Late-night fact-check party? Think again-the bridge is under 24-hour surveillance and is closed nightly from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Down a birthday burger at The Balboa
Arguably the tastiest nod to Balboa Park’s 100th birthday comes in the form of the Centennial Burger. The Balboa Bar & Grill-formerly dive bar music venue, The Tin Can-is the brainchild of Tom Logsdon, who operated the under-the-radar burger operation, Dood’s Foods, within the space he’s now fully taken over since February. Now under Logsdon’s rule, live music has been scaled back to weekends only (schedule at Facebook.com/thebalboasd), hours to grub have extended from lunch time to late night, and classic cocktails have been added to the once canned-beer only drink menu. It’s a classy upgrade, complete with the old photograph-like black and white mural of Cabrillo Bridge on the front of the building, plus a refined menu of Logsdon’s beloved burgers. If you’re too wimpy to handle the 2/3 pound Centennial, visit The Balboa for its daily, literal happy hour from 4-5 p.m. when a single burger costs only 5 bucks. 1863 Fifth Ave, 619-955-8525.
Visit Planet Rooth Design Haus
Somehow, artist Gustaf Anders Rooth has parlayed his line of sexy wooden lounge chairs into the business of making innovative meat smokers for some of the region’s top chefs. Barrelly Made It is the common link, Rooth’s design company, whose primary material is wine and bourbon barrels. Headquartered in Bankers Hill, both chef Javier Plascencia and Luigi Agostini (Pizzeria Luigi) have purchased Rooth’s oak barrel smokers for their upcoming projects. Besides hosting art exhibitions at the expansive studio-gallery compound, Rooth also regularly connects with the Baja community of chefs, hosting cookouts at his property with neighbors Back to Roots Market, and Baja Food & Wine. Like Planet Rooth on Facebook for event updates. 3334 Fifth Ave., barrellymadeit.com.
Take a walking tour and have a picnic
This pedestrian-friendly neighborhood is unique for its huge, single residence lots, myriad architecture styles and lush and canyon landscaping for which the mother of Balboa Park, Kate Sessions, is responsible for planting. SOHO (Save Our Heritage Organization) has compiled an unbeatable 41-stop walking tour of historic buildings and residences dating back to 1888, plus information about their architecture styles, ranging from Spanish, Colonial and Tudor Revival to Gill Modernism, Craftsman and more. The very last stop of the tour, which you can access online (sohosandiego.org) recognizes the Royal Food Mart (3401 First Ave.), a 1930s art deco building by an unknown architect that’s now home to an awesome deli that has all of the ingredients to pull together an impromptu Balboa Park West picnic.
More neighborhoods to explore
Anza Borrego, Balboa Park, Coronado, Del Mar, East Village, Encinitas, Fiesta Island, Golden Hill, Hillcrest, La Jolla, Linda Vista, Mission Beach, Mission Hills, North Park: Part 1, North Park: Part 2, Ocean Beach, Point Loma, San Carlos, South Park, University Heights