Modern Restaurants in Historic Districts

Historic Gaslamp Arc

With so many things to do in such a big city, it is sometimes hard to sit back and appreciate the history that is present throughout San Diego. From the landmarks to the national parks to the historic buildings, San Diego is rich in a history that some credit to be the beginning of what would become the state of California. There are many ways to appreciate this history, one of which involves simply sitting down to enjoy a nice dinner at a restaurant located in one of the many historical districts of San Diego.

San Diego’s Old Town District was formerly the home of the first Spanish Settlers of the Wild West in the mid-eighteenth century and now hosts a variety of restaurants, including 25 Forty Bistro and Bakehouse. The white storefront used to be a house and now pays homage to the architecture of an earlier time, while the inside is much more modern and features decorations from all around the world. The European-American fusion of the dishes helps to remind diners of the history that is a mix of European exploration and American discovery. The Old Town District was the heart of San Diego when California was first accepted into the United States in 1850, when it became the center of San Diego County. In 1968, the Old Town State Historic Park was created to honor the rich history of San Diego. This district was the center of San Diego until a settler named Alonzo Horton began settling the second historic district, which once was called the “New Town” and later became known as the Gaslamp Quarter.

George’s on Fifth is one of these restaurants located in the middle of the historic Gaslamp district. This restaurant is located in a famous building with a very sordid past that began in the 1880’s when a Mr. Wyatt Earp took over ownership and named it the Oyster Bar. This gambling hall and saloon was known to host gambling on the lower floors, as well as a brothel on the higher levels. During this period, the once reputable Gaslamp Quarter quickly gained a less honorable reputation as a red light district full of gambling houses and brothels—three of which were owned by Wyatt Earp. In 1974, a group formed to become the Gaslamp Quarter Association in an attempt to preserve the historic nature of San Diego’s Gaslamp District. They set forth guidelines to protect and preserve the integrity of older, more historic buildings, including the Victorian structure which became known as the Wyatt Earp Building and is now home to George’s on Fifth. This restaurant strives to honor the history in which it is submersed by naming a room after its former owner, Wyatt Earp, as well as having a mural of him that overlooks the bar. George’s on Fifth also boasts that it is the most photographed building in the Gaslamp Quarter, which is easy to understand with its gorgeous Victorian architecture.

The Gaslamp district hosts a variety of restaurants that can sit side by side while still specializing in completely different cuisines. The location of three sister restaurants, Ocean Room, Chianti, and La Fiesta, is a great example of this. These three restaurants are all a part of the Dining on Fifth Restaurant Group and differ from each other greatly despite their common owner and location. They sit across from another historic landmark, the Yuma Building, which coincidently also used to be one of Wyatt Earp’s gambling houses. It was the first to get raided in 1912 when the townspeople decided to start cleaning up the red light district and has now been named a historic building by the Gaslamp Quarter Association. The Ocean Room, as its name suggests, specializes in fresh sushi and seafood. If you’re not in the mood for either, Chianti serves up fine Italian dishes while La Fiesta focuses on authentic Mexican cuisine. With all three restaurants located on lively Fifth Avenue, diners will get a taste of history as well as a feel for modern Gaslamp tourism.

During this time of settlement in the Gaslamp Quarter, Coronado Island was developing a reputation as a tourist hot spot. This reputation is still alive today, with a large variety of restaurants including the renowned Primavera Ristorante located on Orange Avenue just down the street from the Coronado Historical Association’s Museum of History and Art. Primavera Ristorante gives tribute to the ocean surrounding Coronado and its famous beaches through its many seafood centered dishes. This historic peninsula originated in the seventeenth century when Spanish explorers discovered and surveyed the bodies of land which later became known as the Coronado Islands. Primavera Ristorante’s history started much later, but they retain that classic old world charm with their dim lighting and intimate seating. With a list of awards for their amazing Italian cuisine, this restaurant is a must see on the historic peninsula.

Whether you’re looking for a day of sightseeing or maybe just a tidbit of history while you enjoy a good meal, these restaurants will help open your eyes to historic San Diego.


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