Taste of Gaslamp San Diego 2012 | San Diego Gaslamp Food and Fun
When I went to the Taste of Gaslamp event this summer I arrived in Downtown San Diego with a plan: make it to all of the over 30 Gaslamp Quarter restaurants offering taste testing for the event.
While I did manage to have an awesome day in Downtown and I truly enjoyed all of the restaurants I was able to make it to, I had no idea how ambitious I was in thinking reaching all of them would be an easy goal.
The tasting portions at each restaurant were not skimpy, the food was too delicious to not finish it all, and there were way too many awesome restaurants to warrant a nonchalant decision to skip a few! Nevertheless, I had a really good experience and learned tons about the Gaslamp District in San Diego that I didn't know before.
Here's what I knew going into the event:
- The Location: The name makes it very easy to remember, but the Taste of Gaslamp is located in the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego. Gaslamp is is in Downtown San Diego north and east of the San Diego Convention Center and Horton Plaza Mall and is known as the best place to go in San Diego for dining, shopping and nightlife.
- The Weather: San Diego weather is always pretty amazing, and this Sunday was no different. It was warm and beautiful with just the right amount of coastal clouds and breeze that walking around didn't get too hot. In short, it was a perfect day for a jaunt around the San Diego Gaslamp Quarter and I couldn't wait to get started.
- The Event: The Taste of Gaslamp in San Diego is an event that goes on every year but not something I had ever done, so I really only knew what I got from the website. The popular San Diego event invites San Diego locals and vacationers in town for the weekend to pay one small ticket fee and get access to delicious tastes of top menu items at over 30 of the best San Diego restaurants. The website specifically says, "We doubt you can get to them all but you won't go home hungry!" Which, of course, sounded like a challenge to me!
Here's what happened during the event:
- The Frenzy: The line to get maps, wristbands and tickets was not very long, but maybe that's just because I arrived a little late. Hey, don't judge - parking in downtown San Diego can be tough! But anyway, I got my supplies and was ready to hit all of the restaurants when suddenly I realized that almost every person on the street around me - and it was a pretty crowded street - had a wristband that matched mine! It was a super friendly atmosphere and everyone was smiling and ready for a fun day. It was almost like a block party or a street fair and I loved it! But after making my way to the closest restaurant and seeing the huge line of hungry people, I knew that starting with the nearest destinations was not the best idea.
- The Strategy: Looking at the map, the restaurants participating in the Taste of Gaslamp stretched out along 5th and 4th Avenues in downtown San Diego. It seemed to me that the best way to avoid lines and reach all of the restaurants in the event (yes, I did still think I could make it to all of them at this point!) would be to walk to the end of 5th and work my way down, against the traffic that I had just discovered was starting at the beginning of 5th.
- The Food and Fun: Now having a strategy is all well and good, until you realize that real life never goes as planned, and I was hungry! So instead of going all the way up and working down, I started going to the restaurants in the middle while I walked my way up 5th and 4th. The variety of food was impressive and Taste of Gaslamp offered everything from seafood to Mexican food to fondue! There were a couple of delicious pizza places, a cafe with great hummus, and quite a few locations with drink discounts created especially for Taste of Gaslamp patrons. I even managed to get some delicious chocolate samples from Ghirardelli. The neighborhood block party vibe continued and at each stop I got to interact with people who were loving the food just as much as I was.
Of course, as I've already mentioned, making it to all 30 of the restaurants was truly an impossible feat. I was completely stuffed after about 10 downtown San Diego restaurants but I couldn't stop there! I mean, with all that walking I had to be burning enough calories that I could eat more, right?
Well, whether or not my walking compensated for my eating really didn't matter to me when I tasted the delicious treats each restaurant handed out. Sadly, after about 17 Taste of Gaslamp restaurants I had to call it quits.
As with any good party, the end is never truly the end. Even though I decided I couldn't eat another bite, the beer garden at Altitude Sky Lounge was calling my name! The first thing I noticed when I stepped out of the elevator was, obviously, the view. I could see all of Downtown San Diego, Petco Park, the harbor and the Coronado Bridge. It was breathtakingly beautiful and the clear skies made it a sight I won't soon forget.
The second thing I noticed was the free beer! The perfect way to end a day of eating, I got to sit down and enjoy the view with a cool Sam Adams. Overall, I'd say it was a pretty excellent experience.
Here's what I took away from going to this event:
- Gaslamp is Awesome: I'll admit that parking was difficult here, but once I was able to ditch my car this neighborhood was such a fun place to walk around. In three hours I was able to enjoy 17 different restaurants, a huge variety of stores and shops, and a lot of different gorgeous views of San Diego. I had a great day and I never got bored, and the fact that I was able to do that in just one part of San Diego is great! I can only imagine how awesome it would be to stay in a downtown San Diego hotel and just abandon my car for a few days. Staycation anyone?
- San Diegans are Super Friendly: It can be argued that putting a hoard of hungry people in long lines waiting for tiny portions of food is a bad idea. But at the Taste of Gaslamp these conditions didn't seem to put a single person in a foul mood. Everyone was smiling, laughing, and sharing their opinions on which restaurant they thought was best. While it's true that many groups of friends stayed in their small circles and didn't interact with the rest of the event-goers, I was surprised by how nice and polite even the less talkative people were.
- I Need a Bigger Stomach: The moral of this story is not a particularly shocking one: I need to grow a bigger stomach if I truly want to conquer taste testing at 30 different restaurants. But the up side to this dilemma is that just having the opportunity to walk inside and experience these Gaslamp restaurants has opened my eyes to all of the different dining options in that part of San Diego. No matter what type of food I'm craving, I now know exactly where to go to find an excellent serving of it. Attending the Taste of Gaslamp event this summer was a great way to learn more about the city I live in, and a great way to create a huge bank of ideas for my next few months (or years) of date nights!
Ultimately, I had a really great experience and I would definitely recommend this event to anyone considering attending it in the future. Just make sure to go with a very empty stomach, and prioritize which restaurants you want to hit. Because - as though I haven't reiterated it enough - there is no way you'll make it to all 30 plus of the restaurants that participate in the Taste of Gaslamp!