Photo by Torrey Bailey
Mission Hills, San Diego
All Photos by Torrey Bailey unless otherwise noted.
Tucked up above the San Diego International Airport, to the east of Old Town and on Hillcrest’s west, Mission Hills is an ivory tower overlooking its peripheral neighborhoods. This stretch of top tier land has shied away from the look-at-me personalities of the surrounding communities, but over the last half decade, Mission Hills has quietly and consistently crept up the food chain. It’s shed an elder population and is emerging as a well-to-do, baby-making mecca. Novice families have cemented a reputation for valuing locally-sourced organics over grease-ridden convenience, single story complexes over monstrous high rises, and American-made products over Chinese manufacturing. A grab bag of architectural styles from Craftsman to Spanish colonial to modern homes line the canyons and squeaky clean streets. Random pavements sport a shade of pink, as requested by pioneering horticulturist Kate Sessions, who nearly single-handledly planted Balboa Park. She also opened Mission Hills Nursery, the oldest business of its kind in San Diego, after arriving on a steamship sailed by Mission Hills’ first landowner. Sessions heavily invested in the area too, lobbying for street cars to raise her land value and subsequently laying the foundation for the neighborhood’s current price(y) point. These days, San Diegans visit for a farm-to-table meal, an Instagram shot of Harper’s topiary garden, nightly karaoke or ghost stories at Pioneer Park, but overall it’s a serene retreat. Except when the afternoon school bell rings.
Gangs of stroller-pushing moms roam the area encompassing the Washington and Goldfinch Streets’ merger. Pre-wrinkle parents guide their children past eateries, florists and bars where, one day, those same kids will learn to shop organic, pick Mother’s Day bouquets, and test their fake IDs.
The author hears a sour note.
Photo by Candice Eley
KARAOKE GETS LIT
The Lamplighter (817 W. Washington St.) is one of the only bars in San Diego that hosts karaoke every night of the week, which probably means the bartenders have a pretty high tolerance for off-key hams. I dropped in on a Sunday night to catch the show, choosing not to participate but rather see how the talent stacks up on a rainy, low-key evening. Here's my ranking of the singers I heard, from worst to best. Names changed to protect the innocent.
6. Betsy - Coldplay's "The Scientist": Starting off a night of karaoke with a slow ballad that keeps going well after the lyrics are done? Way to bum everyone out, Betsy.
5. Ann - "Out Tonight" (from Rent): I hate showtunes, but if you're going to do one, sell the fuck out of it. Own it.
4. Jeb - Weezer's "Say It Ain't So": My wife put it best—"Say it ain't so, indeed."
3. Betsy - White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army": Betsy partially redeems herself with a livelier song, and she even sings the hook. Still, it feels like she could have done more with it.
2. Warren - Tenacious D's "Tribute": I'm the last person you'd expect to praise Bush-era goof rock, but Warren, in spite of his handlebar mustache, gave a spirited rendition. Points for enthusiasm.
1. Ann - Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee": This karaoke performance had it all—hootin', hollerin', even some improvised dancing. Congratulations Ann, you win karaoke.
— Jeff Terich
Photo by Torrey Bailey
Bradford conjures the spirits.
Of course it's right next to a school.
That's my first thought when I look upon the tombstones in Mission Hills' Pioneer Park, with a Ouija board tucked under my arm. It's my first time here and immediately know it's the perfect destination for San Diego goths who need a place to make-out, practice amateur witchcraft or taunt the resting spirits buried underneath the soil, as I have planned to do.
The park served as a Catholic cemetery until the 1970s, when all markers—save for the few that remain at the park's edge as memorials—were moved to Mt. Hope Cemetery. However, the bodies remained, so on any given day, a bunch of Mission Hills kids are playing on top of the bodies of dozens of dead Catholics.
I set the board in front of a grave belonging to Luke Kelly, who died in 1882. The distant laughter of children sends a slight chill down my spine. I make CityBeatassociate editor Torrey Bailey place her fingers on the planchette—I'm not going to be the only one risking possession in the name of journalism.
"Are there any spirits present?" I ask.
"Any at all?" I pause. "Luke? It's Ryan, from CityBeat." My credentials don't impress the spirits. The planchette remains still.
The dismissal bell rings. Parents swarm the school to pick up their kids, all giving side-eyes to the grown-ass adults playing Ouija. I realize the spirits aren't the creepiest things in this park—we are.
— Ryan Bradford
Photo by Seth Combs
As one of my favorite travel writers once pointed out, Britain is "a Babel of palates and lexicon of digestions." That is, Brits eat some funny stuff. This is very evident atShakespeare's Corner Shoppe and Afternoon Tea (3719 India St.), where there are rows of bizarre foods and drinks. Here are a few of my faves:
Violet Crumble: I could eat these candy bars every day and happily spend the $3 to do so. The perfect combo of milk chocolate and some kind of crunchy, strangely delectable honeycomb concoction.
Jaffa Cakes: Brits love to argue about whether this is a biscuit or a cake. Also, a biscuit to them is a cookie to us. Who cares? It's spongy, sugary, it's got chocolate on top, and there's some kind of donut-esque jelly oozing out. Please sir, I want some more.
Prawn Cocktail Walkers Crisps: This may sound disgusting (I mean, really, it is), but these potato chips actually reminded me of eating crab-flavored chips in southern Maryland. An Old Bay flavor, with a touch of artificial sea-sweetness. I'm not sure why this is a thing, but screw it, I'll eat it.
— Seth Combs
Artful interpretations of some of our favorite sustainable dishes.
Brooklyn Girl—Williams Burger
Patio on Goldfinch—Cinnamon Roll
Farmer’s Bottega—Crab Benedict
ON A SCALE FROM ONE TO DRUNK
Where to drink on a scale of relaxed (1) to raucous (10)
Doug Yeagley—Owner of Tobs Salon and Cinema Under the Stars
"Everybody tries to say I'm this movie buff who has always wanted his own theatre," says Doug Yeagley, owner of Cinema Under the Stars and Tops Salon (4040 Goldfinch St.). "I tell them that's a great story, but it's not mine." The outside patio space next to his salon started as an arena for exchanging ideas, which was inspired by a concept introduced by Yeagley's mentor, the internationally-renowned hairstylist Paul Mitchell. "He created a vehicle for people to come in and exchange ideas, and he was able to take those ideas and manifest them into the physical world." Yeagley never imagined the space would become a cinema, but 30 years later, the idea has stuck. By offering reserved seating, he says he's encouraging moviegoers to explore the neighboring restaurants and bars before the film, instead of waiting in the theater. "At some point, we gotta get back to supporting the neighborhoods, supporting our country and all that kind of stuff, without getting political, but just to take care of each other in our communities." He partially attributes his success to the proximity of his home to his salon/cinema. To be exact, his house is 92 duck feet away, a measurement he drunkenly created one night by walking with one foot directly before the other. Even on his nights off, you might find him there watching a game or movie. "It's like the giant man cave of Mission Hills."
— Torrey Bailey
Victoria McGeath—Owner of Brooklyn Girl
Victoria and Michael McGeath's food industry investments started with Fio's in downtown, long before the location was advisable. Esteemed food critic Eleanor Widmer's review was accompanied by a picture of a hooker and a drug dealer looking out the restaurant's window. The McGeaths disproved the times and later opened Trattoria Acqua in La Jolla, but no neighborhood gave them quite what they were looking for until Mission Hills. "It was a very old-fashioned, Norman Rockwell kind of neighborhood much like the boroughs of New York, and I would pass by [our building] when I was going to the hairdresser, and I just thought that it had that lofty Brooklyn feeling," said McGeath, who was born in the New York City borough. One year later, the lease was theirs, marking the birth of Brooklyn Girl (4033 Goldfinch St.). Five years later, the restaurant still serves up organic, farm-to-table dishes while managing to maintain its communal vibe. Customers have met and married there, brought their babies in, and even celebrated recoveries in the restaurant. McGeath also collaborates with her alma mater, San Diego State University, to bring interns to the table and teach them the unexpected realities of the industry. Meanwhile, one of the restaurant's main attractions is a rather unexpected one. "People come in specifically to see our Barbie wall... All the Barbies are diverse, showing the diversity of people."
David Simaan—Owner of Ibis Market
After being in business for more than 30 years, David Simaan has no questions as to why Ibis Market (1112 Fort Stockton Drive) has been able to withstand the test of time. "First, the service," he says. "And second, the Mediterranean specialties." Initially, the long-standing, family-run store sold meats and other common grocery goods, but the advent of supermarket chains prompted a shift toward specializing in Mediterranean delicacies such as tabouli, hummus and baba ghanoush. "You can't find it in the supermarket," he says. "Youíll find it, but it's brought from somewhere else, and it's not authentic." Simaan first moved to Mission Hills from Iraq in 1982 and was attracted to the solitude and friendliness of the neighborhood. Now, he fondly looks back on the generations of families that he has seen pass through his store. In a neighborhood full of $15 salads, his affordable options keep policemen, construction workers and other locals coming back. "At a different supermarket, you're a number. Over here, you walk in, and most of the time we know your name." His Mediterranean dishes are getting an upgrade soon though. Simaan is in the works of adding a restaurant to the back of the market, creating the Ibis Cafe. The 50-person space will have counter service, seating and a bar, but the prices will remain affordable. "I'm very happy, that's why I'm staying around."
— Sofia Mejias