Only a two-hour drive south of Los Angeles, San Diego offers southern California locals the perfect one-day getaway with its eclectic array of unique neighborhoods to explore. One well worth the drive is Barrio Logan, located just south of the bar- and club-filled Gaslamp District and a short Uber ride from San Diego’s lively gayborhood, Hillcrest.
The barrio’s former industrial strip is now alive with galleries and art collectives in converted old warehouses. Popular eateries and beautifully colorful public art line the street. Yet the neighborhood is a welcome reprieve from the square-ice-cubed cocktails served by mustached hipsters we’ve come to expect from many gentrified hotspots.
One of the biggest highlights of Barrio Logan is its amazing collection of public art, particularly in Chicano Park, which sits at the north end of the neighborhood. Every inch of the huge freeway overpasses that arc high over the park is covered in luscious Latinx and Indigenous-themed murals. Art bursts from everywhere, spilling over onto just about every nearby wall, trash can, or other surface. The barrio’s Mexican roots and Chicano/Chicana (aka Mexican-American) culture permeate all aspects of life here, and much of the art speaks of past political movements and struggles of the area’s Mexican-American and Indigenous communities.
From the park, you’ll want to saunter south down Logan Street to discover a bevy of art galleries and collectives, unique shops, street vendors, taquerias, breweries, and more. Stop at La Bodega, which is constantly hosting exhibitions and events that uplift and support Latinx artists, and the iN Gallery, which features modern figurative work. Monthly Barrio Art Crawls and weekly Walk the Barrio events are a great opportunity to take in the scene, chat with local artists and gallery owners, and pick up some unique handmade souvenirs or snacks from street vendors.
GRUB & PUB
Whether you need a nice breakfast before exploring town or are looking for dinner, drinks, and ambiance after taking in the sights, the barrio has plenty to tempt your tastebuds and quench your thirst. In the morning, hit up Por Vida for the best Mexican coffee and pan dulce in town (I highly recommend the De la Olla Latte with orange peel, cinnamon, and clove). It’s worth the visit simply to marvel at the gorgeous Frida Kahlo-themed murals inside. For a heartier breakfast or lunch nearby, Maggie’s Café and Las Cuatro Milpas are sure bets to satisfy your belly.
When you’re ready for dinner and drinks, and perhaps a little nightlife, Border X Brewing is a good place to start (or end up at), with its large street-front patio offering the perfect place to sit back, relax, enjoy a tasty tomahawk taco and craft beer flight, and watch the lowriders cruise by. Across the way is ¡Salud! (opening image), known for its amazing tacos, authentic eloté (street corn), and gourmet cocktails (try the Hooch Horchata). Though they offer plenty of traditional tacos — birria (goat) and el pastor (spicy pork) — they have vegan options, like their delicious papa (potato) tacos. DJs or live music are common in most establishments in the evenings, so you can get your salsa on.
As the sun begins to set and afternoon makes way for evening, you’ll start to notice one of the coolest things about Barrio Logan — cruising. By the late afternoon on weekends, Logan Street (bottom and far left) is lined end-to-end with a stunning collection of classic lowrider cars showing off their impressive hydraulics and glittering paint jobs, while bumping oldies from tricked-out audio systems.
The people-watching is great too, as here the more Chicano your style, the better. Think tattoos and crisp white tees, gold chains and Nikes, tube tops paired with creased Dickies, impeccably drawn eyebrows, and very cool hats. Chicano style is always clean and tailored but mixed with street fashion in a way that is truly unique to the Mexican-American culture of Southern California.
Cruising Logan definitely had me wanting to bust out my own white tennies and J-Lo hoops. Ultimately, with so much to discover all within walking distance, Barrio Logan is the perfect excuse to venture away from your usual stomping grounds and soak in the colorful art, style, and flavors of this hidden cultural gem of San Diego.
The author in Barrio Logan's Chicano Park
This piece initially ran in Out Traveler print edition, read the digital version here.