If you’re looking for dinner and nightlife all in one spot, come out to the Corvette Diner (3946 Fifth Ave., 619/542-1476, www.cohnrestaurants.com, Sun.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., $8–14). This crazy, crowded diner is all about the atmosphere, from the outlandish 1950s decor to the rock-and-roll to the bouffant-topped waitresses. The food runs to standard American diner fare, though you’ll find any number of Corvette original dishes. And don’t skip the soda fountain—the fountain and dessert menu includes classics and originals galore.
If you’re looking for a quiet meal, the Corvette is not your place. A DJ spins nightly, and on weekdays you can find child-oriented entertainers performing for an appreciative audience. Kids love the wild, loud fun of the family-friendly Corvette.
If it is a quiet American dinner you want, try the Crest Café (425 Robinson Ave., 619/295-2510, www.crestcafe.net, daily 7 a.m.–midnight, $8–16). This colorful, cheerful diner welcomes a more sedate crowd with a bright dining room and three wonderful meals per day. In amongst the traditional diner fare, you’ll find a few upscale dishes, such as lemon-ricotta pancakes and orange marmalade–stuffed French toast.
You’ll also see a wide array of Mexican-inspired entrées, alongside diner dishes that have been made over with an eye towards modern health consciousness. Open till midnight, the Crest is the perfect place to stop and grab a late-night snack after (or during) a night out in Hillcrest.
If you’re looking for a hearty breakfast or a unique American dinner, the local Hillcrest favorite hangout is Hash House A Go Go (3628 5th Ave., 619/298-4646, www.hashhouseagogo.com, Mon.–Fri. 7:30 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5:30–9 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 7:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5:30–10 p.m.). The Hash House puts its own spin on casual American food, including an array of fresh local ingredients that take the dishes up a notch. You’ll dine in a modern atmosphere with an industrial-urban decorative scheme, complete with brushed-metal tabletops.
For breakfast, the obvious choice is of course hash, though you’ve got dozens of other options as well. Lunch and dinner feature especially wonderful salads, plus plenty of great entrées in a variety of styles. Look for fresh veggies and fruit, lean meats, and preparations that start to transcend American diner food and lean into the world of haute California cuisine.
If you’re in Balboa Park, chances are you’re visiting the museums or the zoo. At the zoo, grab a bite at Albert’s Restaurant (Gorilla Tropics at the San Diego Zoo, 619/685-3200). This sit-down eatery serves lunch year-round and dinner during the summer nights when the zoo stays open late. Sit indoors to escape the heat, or out on the patio to enjoy the view of the gardens surrounding the animal enclosures. Relax with a drink at the bar, order a simple salad or sandwich, or enjoy a hearty steak dinner.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition