It’s scientifically proven that the ocean has a calming effect on the mind. And, there’s a great spot on the cliffs in La Jolla - the Torrey Pines Gliderport - to decompress during a workday.
It’s also a fantastic place to take out-of-town guests for postcard worthy photos against a Pacific Ocean backdrop and a sky dotted with colorful gliders. Plus, many people don’t realize that you can eat here.
Walk up the grassy hillside toward the gliders and you’ll see a small blue building with blue tarps covering a small patio. This is the Cliffhanger Cafe (2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive, La Jolla.). Don’t let its uber-casual look deceive you. Sure, you probably parked in a dirt lot and there are no proper bathrooms. The ordering counter reveals an interior that looks like they’ve just made a big Costco run. However, those in the know rave about the made-to-order sandwiches.
The California sandwich is the most popular, and you won’t be surprised to know that it has turkey and avocado (with mayo, cheddar, tomato and lettuce on your choice of bread ... add bacon to make it a Club).
But I’d advise going for something less common. A fan of Thanksgiving leftovers, my order is often the East/West Wind. It’s deli turkey with avocado, cranberry sauce, mayo, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato.
The Italian is also a solid choice. It’s a roast beef sandwich dressed up with provolone, flavorful sun-dried tomatoes, pepperoncinis, lettuce, tomato and balsamic. They do a good job of lightly dressing sandwiches as not to overpower the other ingredients or leave you feeling like the treadmill is in order next.
On pretty much any sandwich, it’s wise to opt for the delicious grilled rosemary bread. The rest of the menu features soup of the day, salads, chips, cookies and other snacks. Note that they do not sell booze.
If you go on a Saturday afternoon between April and October, that’s when local bands and independent artists play live music. We’ve also come on days they happened to fire up their commercial barbecue to add burgers to the menu. If in a hurry, it’s possible to call in a sandwich order to-go for a quick glimpse of the ocean during pickup.
It’s best to eat at the cafe’s blue picnic tables to watch the paragliders prepare their colorful chutes before running toward the ocean and catching wind before heading over the cliff. Eyeballing their flights up and down the coast is such a peaceful event that some people sit here for hours to relax.
The Torrey Pines Gliderport is a historic national aviation sites - Charles Lindbergh took his maiden glider flight along the coast here - and it’s also not uncommon to see seasonal whale migrations and dolphins. Yes, it can get busy on a sunny summer Saturday.
If you’re wondering who can fly, the answer is you. Why not cap off a lovely lunch experience with a tandem flight? Just ask.
Katie Dillon is a lifestyle and travel writer who believes that one of the best ways to explore a city is through its food and drinks. Follow her adventures on social media at @lajollamom and send any tasty ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.