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Neighborhoods like Hillcrest and Little Italy absorb most of the attention when it comes to hot spots, but Barrio Logan, San Diego is a hidden hub of culture which outshines busier areas for those who know how to navigate it.
San Diegans think of the green space under the Coronado Bridge decorated with behemoth murals depicting Chicanx sociopolitical culture and history. Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2017, Chicano Park hosts the world’s largest collection of Chicanx art. What is now a local gem began as a fight for a neighborhood park against city development. As postwar highways ravaged homes and communities, the city promised to transform the space under the Coronado Bridge as a park, but they reneged on that promise. In 1970, residents partnered with the Chicano Park Steering Committee and local artists to form a human chain around the park, and proposed that the community paint vibrant murals on the pylons of the bridge to commemorate the Mexican Mural Movement. A year later the city signed the park into law.
Not only does the park act as an en plein aire art museum, it provides a space for community events often centered around the arts, such as Aztec dances. Though Barrio Logan’s heart resides in Chicano Park, its community spreads throughout the south of San Diego in the form of a grassroots group of small business owners, artists, homeowners and more.
While Barrio Logan, San Diego welcomes the change of the times, it also strives to preserve its culture. Such spaces thrive as local havens and can either benefit or be crushed by tourism. Be a conscious traveler (even if you’re local to San Diego) and help keep the neighborhood alive. Without further ado, enjoy exploring San Diego’s best kept secret.
Bread & Salt
This community-run gallery for cutting-edge art and performance features a multitude of work by both local and international artists. Bread & Salt often hosts events ranging from choral performances to poetry readings, and it offers a residency program for gifted creatives.
Just a stone’s throw from Chicano Park, the large white industrial building spans around 45,000 square feet with minimalist rooms and studios. Brick-colored tiles line most of the floor, and the central room’s dirt floor may be ripe with greenery or sparse and dusty, depending on when you visit. Visit Bread & Salt’s website or social media for updates on upcoming events and exhibits. You don’t want to miss this collaborative center for the arts, though you might find yourself enjoying a show outside on uncomfortable foldout chairs.
Can’t visit due to the pandemic? Keep an eye out for Bread & Salt’s upcoming Spotify podcast. If one gallery just isn’t enough culture for you, check out the Barrio Logan Art Crawl, a self-guided tour of local art, vendors and more every second Saturday of the month.
Inspired by the street food of Baja California and made relevant to Barrio Logan by Chicanx additions, ¡SALUD! sits within walking distance of Chicano Park. For the best of the Barrio’s tacos, look no further. Its interiors explode with a tattoo-like art that blends the rock n’ roll of SoCal with the beauty of Mexico. Found art scatters the walls, from car hoods to skateboards. The high ceilings and windows create a bright and welcoming atmosphere, and though the space itself awes customers, the tacos steal the show. Order any taco and you’ll be blown away by the flavors and the handmade corn tortillas. Vegans and vegetarians must try El Veggie Taco with “soyrizo” and a plethora of vegetables.
Among the first Chicano coffee shops in San Diego, Por Vida serves morning brews out of a cafe on Logan Avenue. One of its owners, Carolina Santana, also runs San Diego Taco Company, which is affiliated with the aforementioned ¡SALUD!. The graffiti-style logo and art of Por Vida sticks out on the main avenue of Barrio Logan, though street murals and eye-catching art is commonplace in the neighborhood. Unlike many cafes in California, Por Vida has a distinctive handcrafted menu with drinks like horchata cold brew and house made agua frescas. La Virgen de Guadalupe and Frida Kahlo, both symbols of Mexico, adorn their cups.
Border X Brewing
Are you really a San Diegan without a healthy love of craft beer? If you fit into this SoCal stereotype, then Border X Brewing is for you. Their unique flavors (unique to America at least) definitely draw a crowd. Horchata, Jamaica and Abeulita’s chocolate tinge their alcoholic beverages with a drop of Mexican cuisine. Try the Blood Saison – a blend of hibiscus, agave and crystal malts (essentially spiked Jamaica). Not into the sweet stuff? Take a swig of Gran Jefe – a traditional German wheat beer. Of course, Border X Brewing wouldn’t represent Barrio Logan well without colorful art smothering the walls. If you’re looking for dinner, drinks and an art crawl, there is no better place than this historic neighborhood.
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