Here’s Why This Urban Neighborhood Is One of Our Favs
Known for its laid-back atmosphere, the University Heights neighborhood of San Diego boasts an abundance of hip restaurants, buzzy cafes and boutique shops. University Heights is conveniently located near the Normal Heights, North Park and Hillcrest districts in central San Diego.
On Park Boulevard, directly north of Madison Avenue, a large sign with the neighborhood’s namesake greets visitors to its epicenter. Breweries, parks, live entertainment and events are plentiful here, making it one of the best neighborhoods in San Diego to visit and live in. The academic portion of its name is derived from previous plans to build a division of the University of Southern California in the region. Although the campus did not come to fruition, the name stuck, and a cozy, hip community was born. Highlighted below are standout attractions, hotels and restaurants that (warning!) may just make you want to call this neighborhood home.
Imagine living close to the beach and downtown, steps away from coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques and artist studios, in a neighborhood that feels both classic and contemporary. Add to that an artful living space with modern design and remarkable amenities, and you’ve got yourself an ideal living arrangement. The all-new Winslow in University Heights offers all this and more—like a fireside lounge, a 24-hour fitness space and a dedicated pet area, just to name a few. Winslow is a luxury apartment complex that focuses on community. Offering a “hybrid-style work-live-play setting,” these apartments are perfect for those who work from home.
You’ll find a coworking lounge with private conference rooms and a collaborative workspace in the building. Special touches, such as full-size washers and dryers in every apartment, add to its already long list of amenities. What’s more, Winslow is LEED-certified, which means you’ll save on energy and water and enjoy better air quality at home. Offering 18 unique floor plans with seven studios, five one-bedrooms and six two-bedrooms, Winslow is worth considering if you’re looking for a serious upgrade in the University Heights area. With its desirable address on Park Boulevard, Winslow is centrally located and within one mile of a park, a post office and a Sprouts Farmers Market grocery store.
The historic Lafayette Hotel was recently reimagined with rich details throughout, as well as five new restaurants and bars for guests to enjoy. Design elements here are dark and moody, full of warm wood tones, beaded fringe lamps, iron post bed frames and contrasting designs—on the walls, in the bedding and sometimes even on a chaise lounge. The Beginner’s Diner transports visitors back in time, outfitted in 1940s furnishings to resemble a vintage diner car.
You can get your game on at The Gutter, which features a two-lane bowling alley, pool table and shuffleboard alongside the bar. To truly immerse yourself in the throwback vibe, head to the Lobby Bar, a circular space designed to foster connection and replete with a soaring glass atrium and hand-painted ceiling, before dining at Quixote, the hotel’s Oaxacan-inspired restaurant and mezcal bar. Self-branded as “a good place to hide,” The Lafayette Hotel is no stranger to fame—they have hosted guests like Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. Surround yourself with abundant bougainvillea, citrus and jasmine at The Lafayette Pool, where you can soak up the sun poolside as a hotel guest or day-pass visitor.10/21
The SoCal favorite Pop Pie Co. has a brick-and-mortar location in University Heights and offers a unique selection of sweet and savory treats. The handheld pies and quiches at Pop Pie Co. pair well with the coffees, matchas and other fun drinks on their menu. Unique from its other locations, the University Heights Pop Pie Co. is the only outpost that serves beer and cider. This shop is situated in the middle of all the action—on the corner of Park Boulevard and Meade Avenue, not far from Winslow Apartments.9/26
This boutique nursery invites everyone to their Park Boulevard shop—from experienced green thumbs to first-time plant owners. The family-run storefront satisfies all of your plant-related needs, showcasing common houseplants, such as monsteras, calatheas and pothos, alongside rare plants like jewel orchids and Alocasia black velvet. They provide garden supplies, pots and tools to guide you on your plant journey from start to finish. The shop also carries gifts, including locally made macrame, home decor, candles, mugs and more. Perhaps what we like most about Eden is their holistic approach to plant care—don’t be afraid to take advantage of their expert landscaping and garden consultations.
Visitors feel right at home at Parkhouse Eatery, a house-turned-restaurant located on Park Boulevard in University Heights. This establishment has no shortage of nooks to enjoy the casual American cuisine—dine on the patio, near the fireplace or at the bar! They serve brunch and dinner, highlighting elevated comfort food no matter the time of day. Additionally, themed food and drinks are always in style at Parkhouse Eatery, including green libations for St. Patrick’s Day and the menu specials for Pride.
Although it’s quietly tucked away on Adams Avenue in University Heights, Soichi’s Michelin-starred sushi is not to be missed. Named after Chef Soichi Kadoya, this traditional Japanese restaurant skillfully delivers straightforward and delicious cuisine. Soichi Sushi showcases omakase, à la carte nigiri or sashimi, inventive appetizers and customary cut rolls on its menu. Finish with their homemade sesame or green tea ice creams and a cup of barley tea. The intimate restaurant (there’s only 26 seats) is open from 4:30-9:30 p.m. every Wednesday through Sunday.
North Park Thursday Market (approx. 1 mile away from University Heights)
Get to know the nearby community, and stop by the North Park Thursday Market every—you guessed it—Thursday from 3-7:30 p.m. With over 50 vendors that show up rain or shine, this local farmers market is the perfect after-work destination, where you can indulge in great food and drinks while perusing crafts, flowers and farm-fresh goods. The North Park Thursday Market takes place on North Park Way between Ray Street and Granada Avenue, which is about a seven-minute drive from University Heights. Conveniently, there is a large parking garage on 30th Street, and most vendors at the farmers market accept cash, EBT, credit and debit cards.
The creativity of vegetarian and vegan chefs knows no bounds, and Grains Cafe is the perfect example of this inventiveness. Located on Adams Avenue, this cafe offers a Thai fusion menu, which includes unique dishes like pepper-glazed “chicken” strips, pad Thai, grilled “calamari” and more. The family-owned, farm-style eatery serves beer, wine, cider and kombucha alongside its delicious food menu. Even non-vegans will love this spot, which is also warm on atmosphere, offering both indoor and outdoor seating options.
Hailing from New Zealand, the team behind Kairoa Brewing Company prioritizes taste and quality in their beer and food selection. The brewery is massive—two stories high and over 10,000 square feet of space—with a comfortable hangout spot on their magnificent rooftop patio. Visitors will feel warm and cozy, sitting near the outdoor fire pits that boast the historic University Heights sign as its backdrop. Both friendly to families and pets, Kairoa Brewing Company welcomes all to enjoy its expansive pub-style food and drink menu.