north park neighborhood
Credit: Consortium Holdings Projects

A Local’s Guide to Exploring The Hip Neighborhood of North Park in San Diego

Discover the Best of North Park: Where to Dine, Shop and Explore

Creativity comes to life in North Park, a vibrant enclave just northeast of downtown San Diego. Home to talented chefs, brewmasters and artists of all kinds, North Park is a hub for hot talent! There’s always something hip and happening here—a lively brunch, eclectic shopping, retro bars and a rowdy nightlife scene. North Park is known as San Diego’s hippest district and the best place for bar-hopping. Explore all that North Park has to offer with this neighborhood guide.



Flap Your Jacks

For a breakfast that will get you out of bed, head to Flap Your Jacks on University Ave. Each table is outfitted with its own pancake griddle, so you can create the flapjack stack of your dreams. Pick a batter—yes, there’s more than one, such as banana bread, red velvet and Oreo crumbs—then select from a variety of mix-ins to add to your masterpiece. Next, you’ll flip it, top it and drench it before eating it—or you can simply leave the griddle to the chef. Flap Your Jacks also serves classic egg dishes for those who prefer a savory morning wake-up call.


Louisiana Purchase

Credit: James Tran
@localemag Looking for some cerole style cuisine in San Diego? We have the place for you! 🐊 ⚜️ #localemagazine #louisianapurchase #sdfoodie #visitsd #sddining #southerncooking ♬ House of the Rising Sun – The Animals

Louisiana Purchase brings the charm of New Orleans to North Park. No detail of the iconic Southern city was left behind when creating this culinary concept. From moody black walls to rustic wood paneling and even jungle-like palms, the dining room’s mystical allure sets the scene for innovative Creole cuisine. Executive Chef Quinnton Austin’s creativity never ceases with “Neighborhood Tastes” that change monthly and fan favorites like gator bites, lemon pepper catfish and classic shrimp and grits. For all the flavors of the bayou, order a New Orleans-inspired potion from the cocktail bar, especially during happy hour. Go ahead, drink the Kool Aid—the ‘80s-inspired seasonal drink won’t be here for long. The Kool Aid Man is perfect for sharing with the table, or you can try your luck with the Voodoo Carre, a smoked spell of cognac, rye, peach balsamic and sweet vermouth.


Holy Matcha

Credit: Holy Matcha

We’re spilling the tea on Holy Matcha! Ordering matcha from a coffee shop is always hit or miss—it could be overly sweet or taste like straight seaweed. For all our discerning matcha drinkers out there, we see you, and so does North Park’s Holy Matcha. This cafe is more than just a tea shop—matcha here is an education and an experience. The Holy Menu includes brunchy bites too—we recommend the avocado toast to go with your matcha latte.


Tribute Pizza

There are few things better than a mom-and-pop pizza shop. Tribute Pizza takes Friday night takeout to a whole new level—you can order online, then grab your pie and go. Or take a load off and dine in their family-friendly space. Coining their take on Italian as “Neo-Neapolitan,” Tribute Pizza fuses New York and Neapolitan techniques to create their unique and delicious version of wood-fired pizza.

Local Insight: Tribute Pizza took over the old North Park Post Office, so you’ll see the same historic signage in the decor.



Midnight Animal Coffee

Somehow there’s an ethereal connection between vintage motorcycles, a midcentury aesthetic and really good coffee. No one knows this better than the people behind Midnight Animal. You’ll find all the usual suspects on the menu with a few added specials, such as the Mexican Mocha and tres leches. Their signature blend is both smooth and complex—precisely how we like our coffee. This is the kind of place where you can either roll up, sip an espresso and zip on to your next appointment or linger over a pour over in their redesigned shop. And while we agree that theirs is “coffee for champions,” we’ll leave the Ducati racing to the professionals!


Patisserie Melanie

If you’re feeling the need for some joie de vivre, then a trip to Patisserie Melanie is the answer. Chef Melanie Dunn trained in Paris at the Le Cordon Bleu before bringing her boulangerie to North Park. One glance at the pastry case and you’ll know the chef has some serious respect for ingredients and craftsmanship. This is not the time to count carbs! Instead, head over in the morning for a rotating selection of delicate croissants and sweet treats. Or go in the afternoon, every Tuesday-Friday from 4-7 p.m. for the food-driven happy hour. From Thursday-Sunday, you can enjoy French classics like croque madame over brunch or tartine provençale for lunch. As you might come to expect the finest on offer here, there’s a lovely selection of perfect Parisian teas as well.




With a name like Zonkey and a mascot to match, you know the menu must be fun. Paletas are the name of the game here—fruity pops like mango, lime and passion fruit go with dairy pops like banana, pistachio and chocolate. Some flavors you wouldn’t expect “pop” out too—we recommend the Dolemite, a dairy paleta with pineapple, lychee and elderflower. The owners truly know the North Park crowd with their creative selection of boozy pops. You can enjoy a mojito or piña colada on a stick, or go trendy with the frosé. And for all paletas, you’ll find a selection of toppings—should you feel inclined to jazz things up. Zonkey offers catering packages where they deliver your very own paleta cart, which is perfect for a birthday party, ice cream social or even a laid-back wedding.


Tabu Shabu

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north park neighborhood - Tabu Shabu
Credit: Josie Gonzales

Most restaurants would agree that playing with your food is frowned upon. If you prefer to do the cheffing yourself, however, Tabu Shabu is a must-visit in the North Park neighborhood. This Japanese hot pot destination offers a true DIY experience where you get to think outside the “bowl.” Whether you’re meeting up with your Hinge date or digging in with a group of friends, Tabu Shabu is far from your typical eat-and-run restaurant. You’ll have the opportunity to combine savory flavors, premium ingredients and homemade sauces to create a truly delectable hot pot meal. Make a reservation at this buzzy North Park locale for a flavor journey that’ll warm you up and leave you satisfied.


The Smoking Goat

The Smoking Goat - north park neighborhood
Credit: Haley Hill

Chef Fred Piehl grew up traveling between the US and Europe before landing in San Diego, and The Smoking Goat’s elevated menu and wine list are reflective of his travels. This North Park nook is ideal for a romantic or celebratory dinner, complete with escargot, steak frites and flourless chocolate cake. If you’re a fan of French wine, their list will not disappoint. You could easily argue this goat is the GOAT (greatest of all time)!


Polite Provisions

Credit: Consortium Holdings Projects

With its old-school and upscale charm, Polite Provisions will have you toasting like you’re at an early American parlor party. Underneath the high-rise skylights on Adams and 30th lies a marble bar where mixologists craft exquisite elixirs. Check out house favorites like The International Man of Mystery—dry, as you might expect—or draft cocktails, such as the Tijuana Slowdance. Happy hour cocktails are $8.99—with the draft versions a buck less—Monday-Friday from when they open until 5:30 p.m.

Local Insight: While Polite Provisions doesn’t serve food, menu items from their neighbor, Fortunate Son, can be enjoyed at the bar. 




Artelexia - north park neighborhood
Credit: Josie Gonzales

Shop for vibrant and authentic Mexican home decor, jewelry and gourmet foods without crossing the border at Artelexia. This storefront immerses you in the colorful culture of Mexico and makes shopping feel like a fiesta! Along the aisles, you’ll discover painted adobe pots, notebooks, keychains, slippers and more. You can also feel good about shopping here because Artelexia is committed to promoting women-owned small businesses.


The Gold Dust Collective


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The Gold Dust Collective is a hidden gem on Ray St, but once you walk inside, the gems definitely stand out. Housing local and vintage art, The Gold Dust Collective showcases rare goods for the vintage connoisseur. Haberdash Hats and Flight of Fancy are two of the unique brands of handmade accessories on offer here—they’re unique enough to be passed down as family heirlooms. Shop their collection of home decor, funky coats and apothecary items while you’re at it!



Photography Provided By: Thula Creative Co.

We promise: Pigment is not a figment of your imagination. Somehow, this shop has everything you didn’t know you needed. Owned by husband-and-wife duo Chad Anglin and Amy Paul, what once was an art gallery is now a curated and swoon-worthy collection of homeware, plants and hostess gifts. Goods are cheekily displayed in an arrangement fitting for your feed—though one visit here, and you’ll have goods that go beyond your Instagram gallery.


Verbatim Books

Reading a paperback book feels like a lost art in this generation, and that makes a good bookstore a treasure! Verbatim Books is San Diego’s largest bookstore with book displays that rival the Lost Book Store in LA. Selling mostly second-hand titles, Verbatim’s selection is full of quality classics, hot new reads and books by local authors. Cozy up in a vintage reading chair at the store, and while you’re at it, follow along on Instagram to find out about live readings and other events.

Local Insight: Do you have books collecting dust on a shelf? Verbatim will buy them off you during trading hours on Mondays and Fridays from noon-4 p.m or by appointment.


Home + Hound

Home + Hound - north park neighborhood
Credit: Brittney Garbani

Creating a beautiful home is one thing, but designing one around an energetic pup is a whole other feat! Home + Hound is a saving grace for homeowners and dog-lovers alike. The North Park showroom is full of aesthetic decor designed to seamlessly incorporate the necessities of a fully functional living space with home design worthy of a magazine. While there’s barware and jewelry for you, there’s also dog bowls and bandanas for your pooch!



See a Show at The Observatory North Park

Credit: Taylor Vincent

This historic theater first opened its doors in 1929 and underwent a grand restoration in 2005. Shows at The Observatory North Park are a bucket list item for SoCal dwellers and visitors too. Check it off at one of their upcoming concerts with The Breeders and Citizen or even catch some performance art. The red-decked cathedral hall has standing room-only areas, which can be great for dancing. Get there early to get a good spot, and be sure to explore their Know Before You Go guidelines!


Visit the North Park Thursday Market

Credit: Iñigo De la Maza on Unsplash

Celebrate all that the community of North Park has to offer with local farm-fresh produce, homemade baked goods, fresh-cut flowers and artisan crafts at the weekly market off Ray St. to Granada every Thursday from 3-7:30 p.m. It’s best to leave home with an empty fridge so you can stock up on local goods!

Local Insight: The North Park Thursday Market has special events every third Thursday— follow along on Instagram for details!


Play at Coin-Op Game Room


Coin-Op Game Room invites you to play at San Diego’s first arcade bar. This relaxed adult rec room creates space for chill hangs and a chance to set a new high score on nostalgic arcade classics. Take a turn at Galaga, Ms. Pac-Man, NBA Jam and more! Hopefully, you can play with one hand because you don’t want to miss out on their selection of house cocktails and rotating draught beers.


Explore North Park’s Art Scene

There’s plenty of storefronts to visit in North Park, yet exploring the streets themselves can be just as entertaining. We’re not just talking about just the people-watching—it’s the art as well! North Park is filled with murals by talented local artists, ready for the perfect  photo op or simply to be admired. You’re sure to stumble upon at least one mural around town, but if you’re interested in seeing them all, check out the handy North Park’s Mural Guide.

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Lover of the beach, food and fitness, Emily enjoys exploring all sunny Southern California has to offer! She has a passion for sharing about her favorite local gems and began writing for Locale in 2022. On the weekends, find her creating recipes for her food blog or out in Laguna!
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