As easy as it is to get stuck in our North County coastal bubble, it’s fun to hop on a train and explore dining and drinking options in downtown San Diego for an evening.
And yes, with the combo Coaster/Amtrak ticket happening, a round-trip is very doable with plenty of time between trains to bop around and have a leisurely meal.
I suggest catching the 3:49 p.m. Coaster southbound out of Encinitas or Oceanside, Carlsbad Village, Carlsbad Poinsettia or Solana Beach all departing within 30 minutes of that time. That will have you downtown at 4:35 p.m. and give you plenty of time to catch a happy hour before dinner.
If you want to make it a quick trip there is a 7:15 p.m. heading north but my suggestion is to make it a full evening and go at a slower pace and then catch the 8:59 p.m. Amtrak northbound as they accept Coaster tickets.
Friday nights offer much more frequency going both ways so check the Coaster schedule for details.
One of the pleasures of taking the Coaster downtown has always been the ability to bring your alcoholic beverage of choice on the train and enjoy it on the scenic trip.
That all changed recently as they have banned booze from the Coaster, which is a big bummer. Why not just ban it after a certain time?
I don’t see late afternoon pre-dinner folks getting out of control with a beer or two on the way downtown.
That said, I did see a lot of folks with coffee mugs on my last ride — just saying.
Upon arriving downtown at the Santa Fe station, I like to head over to one of San Diego’s oldest bars The Waterfront on Kettner Boulevard for a fun happy hour beer with downtown office workers.
It’s a fun way to mix up some old school into your evening before heading over to the brand spanking new Carnitas Snack Shack on the water at the Embarcadero.
This is all within walking distance and it sure is a nice place to be taking a stroll.
Just a word of warning to those of you who have been to the original Snack Shack in North Park and reveled in its funky charm, the Embarcadero location is a whole different animal so to speak. While the North Park location feels like you are eating in a friend’s backyard somewhere in the Midwest, the new location is sleek and modern with primarily outdoor seating.
It has a crafty cocktail program headed up by bar manager Mai Phom that features a rotating selection of creative cocktails, featuring predominantly local spirits and designed specifically for easy drinking by the bay.
They take their cocktails seriously at Snack Shack Embarcadero and that was on display with our two pro bartenders whipping up some crazy good concoctions.
And while one might expect lighter fare at the new location, and they do have a fish taco, most of the pork-centric menu is intact and that is a very good thing.
I understand the need for a fish taco on the menu given the location, but when I’m heading to the Snack Shack, regardless of the location, I’m going for pork and beef in all their glory.
My favorites include the pork belly starter, carnitas tacos, the BLT, the super crispy and moist chicken sandwich, the steak sandwich on Texas-style toast, and of course, the famous triple threat that includes a trifecta of pork stacked on a Kaiser roll from Sadie Rose Bakery: a chicken-fried pork cutlet, slow roasted pulled pork and slices of applewood-smoked bacon, topped with home made pepperoncini and pickle relish. It’s become an iconic San Diego sandwich, and if you can’t get your mouth around that, pull out a layer and eat it separately. The burger is top notch as well.
There are music events every weekend with live performances from local and regional musicians every Friday, Saturday, and sometimes Sunday. Weekend brunch happens from 7 to 11 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday.
So the great thing about over-indulging at Snack Shack Embarcadero on a Coaster adventure is that you can walk it off after, then slip into a mild food coma after on the train north. Just don’t miss your stop!
Carnitas Snack Shack on the water at the Embarcadero is at 1004 N. Harbor Drive in San Diego. For more information call (619) 696-PORK (7675) or go online at carnitassnackshack.com.
David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative an Encinitas based integrated marketing firm. He also hosts Lick the Plate Radio that airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on FM94/9, Easy 98.1, and KSON. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (858) 395-6905.