Column: Tips from Cali local

By Erin Renzas

As a native of southern California, I welcome you, the Illini Nation, to San Diego in the beautiful golden state, to the first round of the 2006 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Okay, so I admit, that first part there may have been a little too Mayor of Munchkin City from “The Wizard of Oz,” but since I first began college here three years ago, I have had one dream – a dream which until Monday evening, I never thought would come to pass. Yes, it is true. I have dreamed of the day when the Illini Nation, in all its glorious orange and blue and booze, would descend upon the hills and beaches of southern California. On Thursday, that day will come and I will be there to witness it.

With that said, I have decided to lend some of my San Diego tour guide brilliance to those fans who will be making the journey to support our men’s basketball team.

Everyone in San Diego has a different idea of what the best of San Diego really is. Some of the activities and places to go are personal favorites and some are those compiled from friends and family.

San Diego is defined by a laid back attitude. While it does have its more upscale attractions, the San Diego I love is a place of dive bars and Mexican food.

So, where are some of the best places to see and party in San Diego? Hold onto your hats because here we go:

Bars close to San Diego State University:

Effin’s Pub and Grill on El Cajon Boulevard is just a few minutes from the SDSU campus and is virtually a rite of passage for SDSU students.

Also try the Shamrock Shack, a local Irish pub with some crazy karaoke.

Pacific Beach and Mission Beach:

Pacific Beach is the place to party. Garnet Avenue is lined with bars, which as my friend Douglas Goodwin Lee would say, are all large and crazy with the youth gone wild (ah, bad 80s hair metal references never fail to amuse me).

Check out Pacific Beach Bar and Grill, Moondoggies and Typhoon Saloon for a good time.

In between Pacific Beach and Mission Beach is the Ocean Front Boardwalk, offering some of the best people-watching and a lot of local flair. Don’t forget to play a game of horseshoes on the beach.

Mission Beach has a bunch of hot spots, most of which I surprisingly can’t remember. Walk down the street and find something fun.


Hillcrest is a very diverse, typically upscale neighborhood, up a big hill from downtown San Diego. For a true dive bar, check out the San Diego Sports Club. For a more wild time, check out Hamburger Mary’s.

This neighborhood is also great for vintage shopping – like Wear It Again Sam’s, has Kitima – a great Thai restaurant, and my favorite ice cream shop – Moo Time.

Downtown and the Gaslamp


Downtown San Diego and its Gaslamp district is packed with shopping, restaurants and bars. The main strip is Fifth Avenue and you can always find great sushi, tappas and Mexican restaurants.

Check out Fred’s Mexican Caf‚ and Extraordinary Desserts for some great food.

On Broadway is one of the hottest nightclubs in San Diego and is located at Sixth and Broadway streets in the heart of downtown.

Don’t forget about Sea World, the world famous San Diego Zoo, Coronado, Tijuana, Mexico, and Legoland (just kidding about that last one, and, now that I think about it, maybe the second to last one too).

Oh, and if anyone figures out the name of the fish taco (a San Diego specialty) place in Ocean Beach at the end of the street close to the pier, let me know. I always forget what it is called, but it is good.

Well, there you have it, a few places to get you started on your journey into southern California. Drink some beer, eat a fish taco or two, and cross your fingers that the Illini make a few threes.

Erin Renzas is a senior in Communications and the Development editor at the Daily Illini. She can be reached at [email protected]