Oct. 16 2012 12:26 PM

The perfect day: Influx Café, Home Mercantile Company, El Paisa, Chicano Park, The Spot, Vishions, Poma’s Italian Deli, Lighthouse Ice Cream and Cabrillo National Monument

Influx Cafe
Photo by Amy T. Granite

My last day on Earth would start off like any other: with coffee. But a coffeehouse can be a frantic place, with caffeine pumping through patrons’ veins, papers and board games scattered on table tops and music that, more often than not, makes me want to run like hell.

That’s why there’s no substitute for Influx Café (1948 Broadway St. in GoldenHill and 750 W. Fir St. in Little Italy) which has been the exception for years. Whether I’m walking into the Golden Hill or Little Italy location, there’s a calmness that welcomes me to sit on down, enjoy a mug of strong, Café Moto coffee and mack on a freshly baked croissant.

The minimalist design at both places is relaxing; it’s utilitarian, clean and orderly without being uptight, and the focal points—besides laptop screens—are large windows facing the street. Both cafés serve their neighborhoods well with pooch-friendly patios, and the music is ambient and chill, for the most part. My last-morning cup and chocolate croissant would be enjoyed in peace here.

Jacked up on caffeine, I’d head over to my favorite boutique, Home Mercantile Company in North Park (3013 University Ave., amomentinyourlife.com). Dave Ross, also known by his street-artist name, Persue,
one of the owners, has come to my aid the many times I’ve rushed in, needing a party dress right away. I also stock up on casual dresses, skirts and blouses there, because I love Lush, the prominent brand in their women’s section, which you can also find at Nordstrom festooned with department-store price tags.

The clothes are stylish without being gaudy, and they don’t fall apart after one season—what more do you want? There’s an equal amount of space dedicated to dudes’ wear, too, plus a solid collection of more edgy, vintage finds, and Ross regularly invites his street-artist friends in for special events with art, music and clothing discounts.

After getting a new outfit for every stop on my farewell-to-San Diego tour, it would probably be time for lunch and to say goodbye to the best taco shop in San Diego, El Paisa Mexican Grill in Barrio Logan (2494
Imperial Ave.). Earlier this year, I placed a life-changing order for half carne asada, half al pastor fries and haven’t looked back since.

Spit-fired pork on one side and smoky, grilled steak on the other covers a heap of crisp taco-shop fries that taste faintly like tortilla chips from being fried in the same oil. This combo is also good on chips, but something about stabbing a fork through meat, cheese, sour cream, guac and beans into fried potatoes really does it for me. I take extra salsa verde on everything here, except for my strawberry licuado.

Next, I’d take a drive through Barrio Logan, stopping at a few places along the way. A stroll through Chicano Park would be a must, to admire the neighborhood’s history and the bright murals that tell its stories. With the Coronado Bridge overhead, it’s a dramatic, must-visit landmark. Checking out the Barrio Logan Arts District would be next on my list, particularly The Spot (1835 Main St.).

I dig that the art collective has mostly all-ages and free shows that cater to the community—I’d stop in to say thanks for that. They cover a lot of ground, from holding the biggest luchadore art exhibit in California back in August to more controversial topics like what Columbus Day means to the Latino community. The Spot recently celebrated its first year and is a welcome addition to the neighborhood that regularly invites surrounding art galleries to have a presence at its events.

Next up, I’d get back to my Southern California roots with an afternoon romp in Ocean Beach. This neighborhood is the best in my book; it’s not too far from Downtown, yet it’s worlds apart, with all sorts of antique stores to rummage through, craft beer and cheap booze to be had, a couple of head shops on each block and tons of naughty grub to devour.

When it comes to quality glassware, The Black is always a safe bet, but I recently tried Vishions (5038 Newport Ave.) and liked what I saw. Its name absolutely drew me in—Vishions? There’s an eyeball on the front sign that’s even more hilarious. I picked up a camel-shaped pipe for a friend (cough, cough), and I hear it’s been a real hit at parties.

What’s not to love about this quirky beach town? Everything that I could possibly want or need, Ocean Beach has for me. I probably wouldn’t be hungry at this point, but I’d go to Poma’s Italian Deli (1846 Bacon St.) for a torpedo anyway, and then toss my leftover roast beef and meatball sandwiches to the seagulls. I’d have to fight the urge to eat still-warm, waffle ice-cream sandwiches till I exploded at Lighthouse Ice Cream & Yogurt (5059 Newport, Ave.). I’d have to stop by Azucar (4820 Newport Ave.) for a bag of chocolate gingerbread cookies and sea-salted caramels to keep me company during the apocalypse.

I’m guessing that a bathroom break would be required at this point, and what better place for a final public-restroom exchange than the fanciest can in the county: The Brighton Street comfort station that
opened in July. It’s decorated with artwork by Shinpei Takeda that tells stories about Ocean Beach. Though it’s a peaceful place to reflect, I’ve got one more stop to make.

Earlier this year, I discovered that year-long parking passes to Cabrillo National Monument cost just $15. Ever since getting one, a drive out to the tip of San Diego has become a regular treat. Low tide is a blast at the tide pools, and the walking trails along the beach offer a glimpse of coastline that you don’t see every day. Cabrillo is what I imagine unsettled San Diego looking like. It wouldn’t be a bad place to watch the sun go down one last time.

Amy blogs at saysgranite.com and you can follow her on Twitter @saysgranite.