As soon as the blue Corolla door closes and captures us, our Uber driver begins an unsolicited soliloquy on San Diego County beach archetypes. “Brunch in Pacific Beach? Ohhh, yeah, JRDN is a good place,” he begins. “It’s a lot of young people there in PB. And the girls these days? They don’t wear nothing. Nothing is covered up any more.”
I look across the backseat at my wife. She sighs. To fill the momentarily uncomfortable silence, I joke: “We ought to go more often, I guess.”
My wife simultaneously laughs and telepathically punches my in the shoulder with a glare from her pretty, blue eyes.
We’re locals, of course, but our driver feels obligated to run through the beach typecasts.
“Mission Beach is a lot of families,” he says. “Ocean Beach is the hipsters, the hippies. La Jolla, that’s the fancy area. Lunch in Pacific Beach should be okay—but that’s where the college kids are in your face everywhere.”
“We’re prepared to fight our way out if we have to,” I nonchalantly reply. My wife nods, though I suspect she’s still contemplating the likelihood of uncovered girls running amok.
JRDN at Tower23
There’s nary a nicer section of Pacific Beach than the end of Felspar Street that abuts the beach boardwalk. This is where JRDN restaurant occupies the ground floor of boutique-y Tower23 Hotel.
The spot has been in business since 2006—no small feat. Tower23 is named after the most proximal beach lifeguard stand. JRDN is an abbreviated nod to the name of developer Bret Miller’s father and his son, Jordan.
At least a couple times a day, according to our server, patrons ask if JRDN is owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan. Some people are misled by the Tower 23 moniker—since 23 was MJ’s Chicago Bulls jersey number. Nope, there’s no culinary connection to the star of Space Jam.
We’re seated on JRDN’s outdoor patio. There’s just a glass partition between our table and the untamed sands of Pacific Beach. Just south of the eatery is the historic Crystal Pier, topped by quainter-than-quaint vacation cottages where you can “sleep above the ocean.”
A parade of humanity exists, in seeming perpetuity, just outside JRDN’s patio. The PB boardwalk hosts: Lobster-hued walkers. Zero-body-fat joggers. Yes, there are a few girls strolling by in what might be deemed immodest cover.
Also expect every manner of wheeled transportation—strollers, skateboards, motorized skateboards, scooters and e-scooters. Rollerblading (especially with ear buds in) is still a thing here. And make way for beach cruisers, gear bikes, tandem bikes, and even one bike equipped with a specialized back seat for a hipper-than-thou, yawning Corgi.
Brunch in Pacific Beach
JRDN executive chef David Warner, who had left for downtown’s now-shuttered Bottega Americana, is back running the kitchen. Some of the newer items on his JRDN menu include ceviche tostadas, a cast-iron shrimp mojo and a potato gnocchi.
Our server, Mari, immediately makes a declarative announcement regarding the Jumbo Sticky Bun flavor of the day: It’s Froot Loops. The cereal topping commingles on the sticky bun with vanilla cream icing and a raspberry sauce.
Nix on the Froot Loops treat. Instead, Jules’ baby blues twinkle when she orders a glass of prosecco. I go all-in with the jalapeno-infused vodka Bloody Mary. It comes with a “meal on a stick” (olives, cheese and two kinds of salami).
The menu puts me in a quandary. I’m in a lobster state of mind. But do I go for the Lobster BLT or the lobster sushi roll? Is your first thought in the vicinity of you can never have too much lobster? Yup, me too. I get ’em both.
Jules picks the grilled fish tacos (a pair come appointed with crisp cabbage, pico de gallo, chile-lime-crema and a generously sized piece of mahi). She also chooses the rainbow roll. Note: JRDN fairly recently added a glass-enclosed sushi bar.
Server Mari, who proves to be beachy cool but also efficient and sweet, brings out the sushi rolls as appetizers. Jules and I share. This lessens—in my mind, at least—any stigma attached to my lobster-palooza order. The crunchy, tempura-battered lobster roll is a perfect complement to the fresh tuna, salmon, yellowtail and shrimp on the rainbow roll.
The Lobster BLT is a rock-star sandwich. It’s heaped with meat and lightly seasoned with tarragon aioli. The BLT—with perfect fans of butter lettuce and thick pieces of bacon inside toasted brioche—comes paired with garlic fries that pack a truffle-infused zing.
Life’s a Pacific Beach
Armed with our leftovers, Jules and I step outside JRDN and onto the boardwalk. It’s a postcard/smiling-sun-meme August afternoon, and its torture to pull out the cellphone to beckon a rideshare away from the beach.
Too soon, an oversized black Yukon—the kind with three rows of seats—appears. Jules and I step up and into the middle row. An affable driver notes that he’s been picking up beach fares most of the morning. He fears there may be a messy clean-up scene in the very back row of seats. He mentions the possibility of wet sand, crunchy snack crumbs and who-knows-what.
Not the least bit curious, Jules and I make no effort to turn around to look. There may well be a remnant pile of Pacific Beach in the back seat. Care of JRDN, however, the palate-pleasing PB memories we’re going home with are boxed up inside a pristine, white doggie bag. J&J