Normal Heights

Better come hungry to this funky, fast-changing San Diego hood.






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Publication: Sunset
Author: Chiotti, Casey
Date published: March 1, 2013

Erick Castro's elevated cocktails

Star bartender Erick Castro, from famed Bourbon & Branch and Rickhouse in San Francisco, is bringing his shine to Polite Provisions, slated to open in mid-February. Why San Diego? Castro's first bartending gig was here back in college. He also likes how the area feels "authentic, unpretentious" and has constant fresh produce for his pre-Prohibition cocktails with a West Coast twist. Drinks like the Misty Mountain Buck - rye, homemade ginger beer, fresh lime, pineapple, and bitters - are made to order, while others, like a Paloma with housemade grapefruit soda, are served on draft. The marble-topped bar is a throwback to the golden age of the drugstore, but the "chef's table," where guest bartenders from around the country host classes and tastings, is totally new-wave. $$; 4696 30th St.; politeprovisions.com

A better cup of coffee

Coffee and Tea Collective (at left; $; 2911 El Cajon Blvd.; coffee and teacollective.com) started as a pop-up but now lives in a crisp white industrial space. Devotees of locally roasted beans and pour-over cups line up for the brews and Belgian-style street waffles. Nearby Dark Horse Coffee Roasting ($; 3260 Adams Ave.; darkhorseroastinQ.com) doesn't offer espresso - just obsessively made French press, pour-over, and cold brew. The shop even pumps in special spring water for higher-quality cups.

The best burger in the city

Upscale Jayne's Gastropub serves twists on British classics like bangers and mash and shepherd's pie, but it's the namesake burger that stands out (our waiter claimed he started working here just so he could get this burger at a discount). The moist, seeded bun, Niman Ranch ground beef patty, housemade pickled onions, and gooey Vermont cheddar cheese make it everything that a stellar burger should be. Locals' tip: You can score a smaller $6 version during the nightly happy hour. $$$; 467730th St.;jaynesgastro joub.com

Vegans, carnivoresthere's something for everyone

The vegan pesto Neapolitanstyle pizza at Blind Lady Alehouse (above; $$; 3416 Adams Ave.; biindladyaiehouse.com) is so good, you won't even miss the cheese. And at new Soda and Swine ($$; 2943 Adams; sodaandswine.com), adjacent to Polite Provisions, gourmet meatballs are ground in-house and served as sliders, smashed, or in submarine sandwiches.

Local brews alfresco

Hard to believe, but there are very few places in San Diego where you can enjoy craft beer outdoors, which is why Tiger Tiger's new beer garden is such a welcome addition to the neighborhood. In keeping with the rustic, industrial theme of the interior, virtually everything in the newly opened back patio area has been reused or recycled, from gates made of wooden pallets to picnic tables found on Craigslist. $$; 3025 El Cajon Blvd.; tigertigertavern.com -CASEY CHIOTTI

Normal Heights is about 6 miles from downtown San Diego and easily accessible from I-805 or 1-15.

"The biggest compliment is when someone says this place feels like something from Portland."

-JEFF MOTCH of Tiger Tiger and Blind Lady Alehouse, two eateries that put this neighborhood on the food map

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