Explore Like a Local: Chef Kat Humphus’ Bankers Hill Neighborhood in San Diego
Explore the eclectic neighborhoods of San Diego County like a local, with a local. This week, chef Kat Humphus walks us through Bankers Hill in San Diego.
Bankers Hill, also known as Park West, is a lovely historic neighborhood nestled west of Balboa Park, south of Hillcrest and Mission Hills, east of Harbor Island and Little Italy, and just north of downtown San Diego. It is home to the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge, built in 1912, and the Quince Street Footbridge, built in 1905. The streets are lined with original 19th-century homes that have been converted into office buildings and bed and breakfasts, alongside new condominium developments facing Balboa Park, hip coffee shops, and some of San Diego’s finest restaurants.
Kat Humphus is a classically trained Chef who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She worked in Manhattan kitchens under famed chef Wylie Dufresne at WD-50 and with world-renowned chef Thomas Keller at The French Laundry in Napa before returning to her hometown of San Diego. Here, she began working under the Cohn Restaurant group umbrella, opening three restaurants as Executive Chef—BO-beau kitchen + bar in 2010, 100 Wines Hillcrest in 2012, and BO-beau kitchen + roof tap in Long Beach in 2014. She was honored with the title of Best Chef 2014 by the Peninsula Beacon, was named Top Female Chef by Riviera Magazine, and Best Local Chef 2012 by Ranch & Coast Magazine. Chef Kat currently works full time at Specialty Produce where she hosts a weekly podcast, DineLocalSD, and can be found occasionally flippin' pies at Tribute Pizza in North Park. You can follow her culinary adventures on her blog, Savory Made Simple.
Kat’s Culinary Cool Kid Tour of Bankers Hill
2202 4th Ave, San Diego
Kat says: “Bankers Hill Bar and Restaurant is hands down, one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego. I have never had a bad meal there, and the service is always phenomenal. The seasonally focused menu changes often, but keeps some of the heavy hitters on year-round, like their infamous chicken schnitzel and butterscotch pudding, which have both been on the menu since the restaurant opened. They have a fantastic drink menu featuring amazing craft cocktails, but if you go in towards the end of the evening when it’s not as busy, see if they have time to customize something for you. All the bartenders are truly talented!”
Pro tip: Ask the bartender to make you somethin’ special (Only if they aren’t already slammed, obviously. Don’t be THAT guy!)
2870 Fourth Ave, Unit 106, San Diego
Kat says: “I had been patiently waiting for this adorable gift shop to open next to James Coffee (another home run of a coffee shop), and I can tell you - it was worth the wait! Their wooden shelves are filled with clean beauty products, books on Hygge (Danish home decor, for those of you not in the know), Mast chocolates, and more. This store for the minimalist at heart is a welcome addition to our neighborhood.”
505 Laurel St, San Diego
Kat says: “Okay but seriously, who doesn’t love Cucina Urbana? I could talk about the extremely talented, kind, and inspiring Chef behind the menu, or the sweet retail wine section, or the bartenders that could kill you with their charm, but if you haven’t been yet, JUST GO.”
Pro tip: It’s great for a date night spot, perfect for a family birthday, but my preferred method is a solo excursion on Meatball Monday at the bar. Grab an artisanal cheese board for yourself, a giant meatball, and a glass of wine, then call it a night!
2271 1st Ave, San Diego
Kat says: “Oh, Hob Nob, you are such a treat. These guys have been in the same location at Juniper and First since 1946. I like to go for breakfast and order the bacon, avocado, and cream cheese omelette (side note: I’m now officially obsessed with putting cream cheese inside my omelettes). I appreciate that they serve their jam in previously juiced orange peels, their servers wear classic black and white get ups, and they still offer spiced apples or coffee cake as a side. I’m into it.
Pro tip: They get busy on the weekends for breakfast, so plan accordingly.
1450 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego
Kat says: “This peaceful sculpture garden opens at 10am during the week and there have been numerous occasions when I have been the only one in the gardens for the first few hours. Sit on a bench, write in a journal, read a book, meditate, whatever it is you wanna do. Just enjoy being in a garden surrounded by art, for crying out loud! The Museum of Man bell tower paints an unbelievably gorgeous scene, enough to make you forgot you’re in flip-flop city San Diego.”
Pro tip: Get to the gardens at 10am, stick around past 11am when Panama 66 (the adjoining restaurant) opens, and grab some coffee and a giant cookie to enjoy.
2237 1st Ave, San Diego
Kat says: “The quintessential San Diego dive bar, the Cherry Bomb has the strongest drinks in town and the best jukebox in town. They also have foosball, pool, and a helluva crowd. You gotta experience this one for yourself.”
Pro tip: Don’t drive to this bar. Uber or Lyft only. You won’t be able to drive home after a visit.
Spruce Street Suspension Bridge and Historic Neighborhood Stroll
Spruce St and 1st Ave, San Diego
Kat says: "Admire the massive cables and chains holding this marvel suspended in the air as you walk across the wobbly bridge. It’s incredibly safe, yet somewhat terrifying at the same time (especially if you’re afraid of heights). This is the first and only suspension bridge I’ve ever walked across, how convenient that it’s just a few blocks away from my home! The surrounding neighborhood is equally beautiful, with many historic landmark homes built by famous architects in the early 1900s."
Pro tip: Go during the day, if you can. The bridge becomes a sort of high schooler hang out once the sun goes down.