One of the nice things about the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club's summer race meeting is the late 2 p.m. PT post time – even later on Fridays with its 4 p.m. opener. That gives locals and visitors plenty of time in the morning to take care of business or explore the San Diego area's many interesting destinations before taking in an afternoon of Thoroughbred racing.
One such area is the Cedros Avenue Design District, located just one mile north of the track in Solana Beach. It's only a few blocks long, but has more than 80 shops, galleries, restaurants and bars that are sure to pique your interest.
The Cedros Design District begins at Lomas Santa Fe Drive, an exit on the I-5 freeway. Located one block east of Coast Highway 101, it's directly south of the Solana Beach train station, the nearest station to Del Mar that serves as a stop for the San Diego County Coaster light rail and Amtrak trains from Los Angeles.
My suggestion for a morning on Cedros begins with a hearty breakfast at Claire's on Cedros, which calls itself the “best-kept secret in Solana Beach.” While its location may be somewhat hidden (a quarter-mile north of the Design District on Cedros on the opposite side of the street from the train station), Claire's is no secret to locals who enjoy its “California-style comfort food” breakfasts and lunches.
Founded by Claire Allison and Terrie Boley, Claire's was recently purchased by the owner of the popular Shorehouse Kitchen of La Jolla Shores and Carlsbad, and the menu now blends the most popular entrees from both restaurants. On a recent morning, I tried the short rib hash – two eggs served over slow-braised short ribs, sitting on a bed of hash browns – and was not disappointed. If you're looking for healthier fare, try the quinoa cake benedict or the green scramble. There's indoor or outdoor seating at Claire's, which is dog and family friendly.
With that sustenance, I began my southern trek into the Cedros Design District, stopping first at the Exclusive Collections Gallery, a newcomer to Cedros, having moved from San Diego into a custom-built space late last year.
The work of San Diego artist Michael Flohr is currently being displayed and includes limited editions of his racing work, including impressionist paintings of American Pharoah's Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes victories in 2015. All are available in limited editions. If you've ever visited the Maker's Mark distillery in Kentucky, you may have seen Flohr's work displayed there.
In addition, the Exclusive Collections Gallery is currently exhibiting The Art of Dr. Seuss, 100 pieces of rare art from the popular children's book author.
Another fascinating stop is the David Alan Collection, a multi-floor gallery displaying distinctive furniture and a diverse collection of accessories, antiques and artifacts. Formerly known as Cut & Dried Hardwood, the David Alan Collection still maintains a large selection of its signature single-piece slab tables cut from reclaimed and exotic hardwoods. There's also a wide selection of primitive and village folk art you won't find anywhere else.
An interesting retail shop on Cedros goes by the name of Solo. The store, founded in 2001 by Carol Carden in a restored warehouse, is a cooperative of eight women who share the space and fill it with a fun-loving and diverse collection of coffee table books, accessories and unique home goods.
Similarly, Lotus (established in 2001 as Leaping Lotus) combines the talents of more than 30 local artisans who creatively fill the 14,000 square foot store with an amazing array of home décor, art, jewelry, apparel and more (not to mention the best women's hat collection I've ever seen).
In the heart of Cedros Avenue is the Belly Up Tavern, opened in 1974 in one of the Quonsethuts built by defense contractors in the 1950s and one of the most popular and revered live music venues in the region. Going back a number of years, I've seen appearances by The Byrds and the late Dr. John at the Belly Up, and the club most recently hosted the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund Jockey Karaoke fundraiser. The Belly Up team also assists the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in booking its live music acts during the summer racing season.
The Wild Note Café, which is part of and adjacent to the Belly Up, is one of the few places on Cedros to grab a lunch or dinner. I've never tried it myself but it always seems to have steady business during my forays up and down the street.
Health-conscious foodies might want to stop in at Urban Remedy, a San Francisco company that recently opened its first Southern California store on Cedros. Urban Remedy offers fresh, organic foods that I probably should start substituting for fish tacos from The Brigantine. But I'm just not quite ready for a “meal replacement” entree in a jar.
There are two places worth noting for those who like to grab a beer or glass of wine. Culture Brewing, at the north end of the Cedros Avenue Design District, is a microbrewery that always has a nice selection of beers. Culture Brewing has tasting rooms in Ocean Beach in San Diego and Encinitas. A food truck is often parked in the pack of the Solana Beach brewery.
Across the street from Culture is an urban winery, Carruth Cellars, which buys grapes from Napa, Sonoma and other regions and produces the wines on site in Solana Beach. This unique business was established 10 years ago by San Diegan Adam Carruth, who began brewing his own beer as a hobby during college, then became serious about wines, moving to Sonoma County and studying viticulture at Santa Rosa Community College. Carruth Cellars has on display some of the awards it has won in wine competitions.
The Cedros Avenue Design District is a great place to stimulate your artistic senses or just enjoy a laid-back atmosphere that features outdoor art, wonderful galleries and eclectic shopping.
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