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San Diego: Where to eat around Balboa Park?

August 30, 2011|By Christopher Reynolds | Los Angeles Times staff writer
  • Station Tavern & Burgers, in San Diego's South Park neighborhood, is a casual eatery and watering hole with a small play area for kids.
Station Tavern & Burgers, in San Diego's South Park neighborhood,… (Christopher Reynolds/Los…)

If you're going to San Diego, chances are you're going to Balboa Park, where the zoo, the Old Globe Theatre and most of the city's top museums are gathered, with acres of grass and gardens all around.

While you're there, one obvious upscale eating option is te Prado, which sits at the heart of the park with a big patio that encourages long lunches and hosts weekend weddings. Lunch main dishes run $12-$21, and dinner entrees are $22-$35.  (Cohn Restaurant Group, the company that runs the Prado, also runs several other tourist-friendly San Diego restaurants, including C Level/Island Prime, a two-restaurant combination that delivers big coastline and skyline views from a perch on Shelter Island.)

But if it's late afternoon and you're done with the park, what about a more affordable, park-handy, neighborhoo-nurturing departure from the tourist path?

Station Tavern & Burgers, which opened two years ago in the old but up-and-coming neighborhood of South Park, is a modern family pub. In one corner of the big patio there's a play area for kids, and the rest of the patio is taken up by picnic tables. There's also a small indoor area that's dominated by the bar. Burgers run $6-$7, and your kids can get a hot dog (or a tofu pup) for $3.

On Saturday night, the place was jumping, and the surrounding blocks were humming as well. South Park stands at Balboa Park's southeast corner, near a municipal golf course, far from the vast zoo parking lot and the crowds that fill it.

Within two blocks of the Station Tavern, near 30th and Juniper, you'll find Vagabond Kitchen (French), Rebecca's Coffeehouse (a big space that sometimes has live acoustic entertainment) and the Whistle Stop Bar (a conventionally grown-up drinking place). 

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