Guests have to blink a few times upon first entering the Alexander's on 30th dining room—a dazzling wash of pristine white walls, white Carrara-marble counters, and white linen tablecloths. Moonlight pours in through lofty windows, causing the wine glasses and silverware to shimmer with images from Casablanca. Little candles speckle the tabletops, casting a glow on plates of colorful bruschetta, fine pasta dishes, and Italian specialties. A variety of artisanal pizzas perch atop silver pedestals—including the White Room pizza, a flavorful combination of garlic, chicken, and pesto that the San Diego Union Tribune named 1 of the top 50 things to eat in San Diego before you die. Outside, on the back patio, diners linger over last bites of cookie sundaes beneath trees adorned with strings of light.
Located near San Diego City College, Albert’s Fresh Mexican Food is a popular hangout for students looking for affordable but tasty eats. Morning favorites include huevos rancheros and chilaquiles, while the hearty burritos are popular for any meal. The namesake Al’s Burrito is overclocked with carne asada, eggs, cheese, guacamole, beans and potatoes, making for an inexpensive meal or two, if done right. This no-frills eatery is also famous for its Big Rolled Tacos, oversized gigantors with beef, chicken or ground beef tucked inside. For something lighter, try the lettuce wraps with shredded chicken or carnitas, dressed up with guacamole and pico de gallo. Chalkboard specials include menudo and ceviche tostados while Mexican Cokes and Fantas are tasty thirst quenchers.
From any seat in the house, it's impossible to miss the game at Randy Jones All American Sports Grill. Throughout the brightly-colored interior, 30 flatscreen TV's and two high-def projectors broadcast games from NFL, NHL, MLB, NCAA, and more. From the bar, two dozen American beers flow through the taps, and a full wine and liquor list is also available. Paired with bar-friendly grub, the food menu is home to sports-themed American classics, such as Randy's Sinkers (a trio of pulled pork sliders), a Padre burger, and the 35's chili dog.
For 26 years, The Gathering's award-winning kitchen has prepared a swath of grilled American fare that integrates seafood, steak, and veggies. Restaurateur and magician Dan Thomas wanders between tables at dinner, performing card tricks as diners look up from their plates of meaty crepes. He emphasizes that humans are “analog in a digital world,” and he sees restaurants as one of the last places where people can experience neighborly hospitality and snack on all the semiconductors they can eat.
Can’t make it down to Baja, Mexico as often as you’d like? You can recreate the experience right in San Diego at Mariscos El Pulpo, where practically the only thing missing is the sea. Inside, the color blue fills the vision from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, while Mexican seafood fills the menu. The namesake dish is pulpo, or octopus in Spanish, and it’s featured in a variety of preparations – grilled, spiced or sautéed. The beer flows cold and there’s a daily happy hour that runs until closing, making it more than just an in-and-out eatery. In fact, Mariscos El Pulpo may well be one of the only traditional Mexican seafood spots in all of downtown, which means savvy Gaslamp visitors can swing through for authentic and fresh flavors, with a bottle of beer on the side to kick off the evening.
Wine and Canvas sends local artists to restaurants and comfortable bars to guide students through featured paintings from the studio's monthly calendar. As instructors offer step-by-step instructions, pupils mimic the motions of their brush to re-create scenes inspired by nature, Impressionist masters, and alcoholic libations themselves. After the night has ended, students carry their finished masterpieces home to hang proudly on their walls or avant-gardely on their fish tanks.