San Diego is often considered a unique beach town, but this description hardly captures the complex character of this city just above the US-Mexico border. Its history is inextricably linked to the nation of its south and to the civil rights struggles of its Chicano people; and nowhere is this legacy more apparent than in the Barrio Logan neighborhood. Established by refugees from the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s, it was the scene of massive protests for social justice in the 1970s and continues to serve as the epicenter of Chicano’s civic and cultural engagement. Although it has become gentrified in recent years, many of the new stores and restaurants that have sprung up along Logan Avenue, its main thoroughfare, are independent businesses with second and even third generation owners. From its bustling street art to lowriders and craft beers inspired by Mexican culinary traditions, Barrio Logan is a place where residents put their passions – and their origins – on full and brilliant display.
Take your bearings
Chicano Park, which sits under the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, is the real heart of Barrio Logan. Over 80 murals painted by Chicano artists illustrate the origin of this community: you’ll see depictions of Aztec warriors and artists like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera alongside scenes from the Mexican Revolution.
Since 2013, established and up-and-coming artists have adorned the walls of La Bodega Gallery, a bright exhibition space that regularly hosts film screenings and performances. The team here also runs the La Pulga flea market every Saturday along National Avenue; Count on finding rare and one-of-a-kind jewelry, clothing, and antiques, most of which are vintage or handcrafted by local artisans.
Where to have a beer
San Diego has over 150 craft beer pubs, but none are as efficient as Border X Brewing, Mexico’s first American-owned brewery. Try the Horchata Golden Stout, mixed with the notes of vanilla and cinnamon for which the Mexican drink is famous; or Blood Season, inspired by agua de jamaica, a hibiscus tea popular in Latin America.
Order a pick-me-up
Por Vida Cafe’s menu is a love letter to Mexico: order a peanut mazapan latte for a buzz or the seasonal spicy sandía limonada for a burn. On the walls, you’ll spot paintings of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the affirmative #heretostay statement, as well as a rotating selection of local artwork.
Simón Limón (a phrase similar to “okey dokey”) is full of products made by independent artists on both sides of the border. Owner Alexandra Perez Demma, who grew up in Cabo San Lucas, selects every item from hand-painted clay chimineas to pressed flower earrings. You can also purchase Perez Demma’s own line of jewelry, which she designs at a private studio nearby.
Hungry people have been lining up for mind-blowing meals in Barrio Logan since at least 1933, when Las Cuatro Milpas, a legendary taqueria that rolls its masa every morning, first opened. These days, the old guard is being joined by new hires: At Barrio Dogg, chef Pablo Rios serves his own version of the Tijuana-style bacon-wrapped hot dogs, popular throughout Baja California.
This article appeared in the April 2021 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here.