10/29/2017 4:43PM

Del Mar visitors' guide for Breeders' Cup week


DEL MAR, Calif. – In these parts, “surf and turf” is related to our favorite hometown racetrack, not putting steak and lobster on the same plate. Fortunately, you can combine the best of both worlds this week, for with the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar for the first time Friday and Saturday, you can partake of both this great racetrack and all that the area has to offer in terms of food and fun.

There are local essentials that will make your trip complete. You have to have a fish taco, a craft beer, and watch the sunset, searching for the elusive green flash. If you can extend your trip on the front or back end of the Breeders’ Cup, signature local attractions such as the San Diego Zoo (http://zoo.sandiegozoo.org), the museums of Balboa Park (https://www.balboapark.org), and the Hotel Del Coronado (https://hoteldel.com) – as well as Coronado (http://coronadovisitorcenter.com) itself – are worth visiting.

The extreme heat of early last week is gone, so the weather should be mild this week. It cools off at night, so a sweater or jacket is advisable for evening activities.

There’s no way any list like this could exhaustive, and that was not the intent, but here are a few suggestions to enhance your trip from a 17-year resident of the area.


The quintessential fish taco is served just beyond the three-furlong pole of Del Mar’s racetrack at the iconic The Brigantine (http://www.brigantine.com), which has a casual bar area where fish tacos, clam chowder, and beer are at the ready, as well as a dining room for a more-traditional sit-down meal. Pro tip: sit outside on the back porch, where you can have a panoramic view of both the track and the Pacific Ocean.

There are plenty of other restaurants nearby with great views, but many of them have better views than food. Those that best combine the two include Pacifica Del Mar (https://www.pacificadelmar.com) and Il Fornaio (https://www.ilfornaio.com/delmar), both in the Del Mar Plaza (http://delmarplaza.com) in the heart of downtown Del Mar, and the upstairs dining area at Sbicca (http://sbiccadelmar.com), a longtime staple of downtown Del Mar owned by horseplayer Dan Sbicca.

If you want to drive just a bit away from the track, the nearby town of Encinitas has several nice places to eat, two of my personal favorites being Trattoria I Trulli (http://www.trattoriaitrullisd.com) for Italian and the Peruvian gem Q’ero (https://www.qerorestaurant.com).

Now, hopefully at some point this week you’ll hit for a lick. If By the Moon wins the Filly and Mare Sprint, the party will be at Red Tracton’s (http://www.redtractonssteakhouse.com), an old-school steak joint hard by the backstretch of the track that is a favorite of owner Samantha Siegel. Pamplemousse Grille (http://pgrille.com), helmed by horse owner Jeffrey Strauss, offers fine dining in a convivial atmosphere and is a favorite of many horsemen. Just a bit farther east of Interstate 5 is the outstanding Market (http://marketdelmar.com), where Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith prefers to celebrate his big victories.

If you get drilled at the windows, you can still have a sublime burger at In-N-Out, whose nearest outpost to Del Mar is just up I-5 in Encinitas (http://locations.in-n-out.com/295-Encinitas). We Californians love it. I know New Yorkers love Shake Shack. We will agree to disagree.

Of course, the close proximity to Mexico means that the local Mexican food is terrific. The most-popular sit-down places near the track are longtime neighbors and rivals Fidel’s Little Mexico (http://www.fidelslittlemexico.com) and Tony’s Jacal (http://tonysjacal.com) in Solana Beach. In nearby Cardiff, just across the ocean, is Las Olas (http://www.lasolasmex.com/locations/cardiff.html). And for good, solid, cheap eats, check out Roberto’s Taco Shop (http://www.robertossandiego.net), a local chain with an outlet just north of the track in Solana Beach that is the favorite of Hall of Fame jockey turned broadcaster Jerry Bailey.

Roberto’s also makes satisfying breakfast burritos. Early risers looking for an outstanding breakfast should get to Claire’s on Cedros (http://www.clairesoncedros.net), near the train station in Solana Beach. Claire’s is also open for lunch and, on Friday and Saturday, dinner.


The San Diego craft beer scene has exploded over the past 15 years, led by local icons Stone Brewery (http://www.stonebrewing.com), Green Flash (http://www.greenflashbrew.com), and Ballast Point (https://www.ballastpoint.com). All three have tasting rooms and offer tours. And there are literally dozens of other purveyors, so if you have a personal favorite, check it out.

If you’re flying into San Diego Airport, Stone has a massive restaurant and garden area in Liberty Station (https://libertystation.com), former military barracks just east of the airport that have been converted to restaurants, shops, and a food hall. So, get off the plane and dive right in.

A great way to sample a number of beers is a bit north of Del Mar in Carlsbad at Barrel Republic (http://barrelrepublic.com/locations/carlsbad), which has scores of beers on tap that you can self-pour in the amount you want, giving you the chance to try a few and see what your palate prefers. My personal favorite is Green Flash’s West Coast IPA (http://www.greenflashbrew.com/our-beers/west-coast-ipa), a Double India Pale Ale. Barrel Republic also has excellent bar food, in particular a grilled cheese on sourdough with avocado.


There are going to be a number of Breeders’ Cup events on the beach in Del Mar at Powerhouse Park (http://www.delmar.ca.us/Facilities/Facility/Details/Powerhouse-Park-10), which is a great beach, with wide, sandy areas, adjacent grassy berms, and is an easy walk to the heart of downtown Del Mar (https://visitdelmarvillage.com).

Farther south of the track, leaving Del Mar and en route to La Jolla, is Torrey Pines beach (https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=658), and north of the track there is good beach access in Cardiff (https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=656) or farther north at Ponto Beach (https://visitcarlsbad.com/beaches/south-ponto-beach) at the south end of Carlsbad.

Surfing is extremely popular all up and down the coast, so much so that as you drive on the coast highway in Cardiff, there’s a road sign alerting drivers to be mindful of surfers crossing the road.


In addition to the zoo and the Hotel Del, check the Gaslamp Quarter (http://www.gaslamp.org)

in downtown San Diego, the Little Italy (https://www.littleitalysd.com) section not far from the airport, and Old Town (http://www.oldtownsandiego.org).

For the absolute best view of the harbor, Coronado, and both commercial and military jets departing their respective airports, take a drive to the Cabrillo National Monument (https://www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm) at the end of Point Loma, which also has an historic lighthouse.

Don’t forget that daylight saving’s time ends on Saturday, so you’ll get an extra hour to stay out on Saturday night. And if you’re from a different time zone, keep in mind that NFL games on Sunday start at 10 a.m. out here, so don’t dawdle if there’s someone you need to call before the games start.