Parzen family guide to La Jolla. Our favorite restaurants and places to visit.

The Parzen family just got back from our yearly summer trip to La Jolla, California to visit our family and friends there. It was an awesome trip.

The following are our favorite places to visit, updated based on our last stay there.

La Jolla is a lot more crowded than it used to be. And the traffic there has become challenging to say the least.

But as long as you don’t waste half of your day driving in and out of town, it’s still a fantastic place to vacation.

That’s the view walking down the hill toward the Children’s Pool in the photo above, one of the best places to watch the sunset. And you invariably find seals and sea lions on the beach there and on “seal rock” just a stone’s throw up the coast (literally a stone’s throw).

El Pescador Fish Market, a La Jolla institution since my childhood, remains our favorite seafood destination.

It’s all about freshness and purity of flavors. Nearly all the fish is sourced directly from the Pacific by the owners. It’s an amazing model and one of the few that hasn’t been impacted by the supply chain crisis. Their prices haven’t gone up since before 2020. Amazing! Expensive but worth every penny. Wine list sucks but there are a few decent things. Craft beers are great.

We didn’t go there on this trip because the lines were too long. But Taco Stand, across from El Pescador, also gets a shout-out here: it’s possibly the best Mission/California burrito destination in the state these days. No shit.

Chino Farm lettuces are the key ingredient in the Michele Coulon Dessertier chicken salad. Michele’s shop and lunch spot is La Jolla’s top pastry destination. She made our wedding cake and we have been friends ever since. No trip to LJ is complete without a lunch stop there. Go crazy with the cake. It’s unbelievably good.

Puesto is our “next best thing to Mexico City” dining spot. It’s such a great restaurant that it’s getting TWO photos in the post.

That’s the shrimp taco special in the previous photo. And that’s the carnitas plate, served with steaming hot blue corn tortillas. The cocktail menu is rad, too.

Puesto’s owners are opening a high-end Italian next door called Marisi. Word on the street is that it will be a Michelin-star type of deal. I know it’s going to be great. Can’t wait to try it (check back in September).

After we visited the Glider Port to check out the view and the Salk Institute building, designed by Louis Kahn, we headed to the Torrey Pines Lodge where we ate at the campus’ casual dining spot, The Grill.

The Grill is classic Americana. Expensive but great for the quality of the food and the people watching. The wine list, shared with the resort’s fine dining venue, is exclusively U.S. but it’s extremely thoughtful with something for everyone. Get the housemade chips and sour cream and onion and then get the Drugstore burger. Pair with Santa Barbara Pinot Noir.

That’s a view of Black’s Beach, San Diego’s historic nude beach, as seen from the Glider Port. Spectacular! Sometimes you can see the silhouettes of dolphins and rays from the top of the cliff. It’s pretty cool.

Bay Park Fish Company is in Mission Bay, not La Jolla. But we brave the traffic each year to get there because we love it so much. Like El Pescador, they source their own fish and the prices have remained unchanged since before 2020. Go early because it fills up quick for lunch. That’s the must-have campechana. We also love the Pacific halibut fish and chips, the sashimi (the absolute best!), and any of the fish taco specials.

The Coffee Cup across from the post office is everything that you would dream a California breakfast spot should be. Locally sourced, health conscious, kid-friendly, and super delicious. And the service and vibe there is super mellow and welcoming. It’s one of the girls’ favorite spots.

Speaking of the girls, Bobboi is our spot for “gelato NOT ice cream, daddy!” This place is great and even tough there’s usually a long line, it moves fast. The perfect spot after dinner for the girls and then you walk down to the Cove, a top spot sunset or anytime of day. The Cove is also a great place to take little kids to swim in the ocean.

On the subject of beaches, one of the things that visitors may not know is that the beaches without lifeguards are a great break from the crowded swimming spots. You have to be careful: the waves break right on the beach — the “womp,” as it’s known locally — and it can suck you in. It’s not ideal for little kids but the beaches are fantastic. That’s Horseshoe in the photo above, one of our favorite spots (but the girls don’t swim there).

Who knew my wife was a pool shark? She kicked our asses at The West End, our favorite “last of its kind” La Jolla dive bar. It’s pretty salty but it’s kinda the last place where you get that “local” character, if you know what I mean. The drinks are cheap and the people are nice. Technically it’s in Pacific Beach but it’s really a La Jolla joint.

The Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography/UCSD is wonderful. Don’t miss the blue penguins (the world’s smallest), the tide pool (above), and the seahorses. The amazing seahorses! We loved it. Did you know that male seahorses spend most of their lives pregnant? Tucker Carlson (also from La Jolla) should try it out!

Warwick’s bookstore is a lovely independently owned shop with a great gifts section. That’s where their grandmother takes the girls shopping. They cleaned up on this trip, as you can see in the photo!

Lila Jane got her t-shirt at the La Jolla Shirt Co., a cheesy but “gets the job done” shop where they print the t’s on the spot to order.

That’s the sunset at the Children’s Pool.

Thanks for letting us share our La Jolla trip with you. It was a good one and grandma recovered swiftly and fully from her illness. It was a miracle and we all felt extremely blessed to be together with her, my brothers and their wives, nephew Oscar, and all our great friends.

Please consider giving to Unicef’s Ukraine child refugee fund. This link takes you straight to the donation page.

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