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Thursday, May 23, 2019


The Gulch (aka University Avenue east from Florida Street to Utah Street, May 2019,) photo
By Thomas Shess, editor and founder of daily online magazine--When you’re a lifer—living in the same neighborhood—you remember details latter day newbie yuppies never had a chance to pick up on to.  In fact, I’ve only run across a handful of locals who remember the western part of North Park along University Avenue between Utah and Georgia Street Bridge as “The Gulch.”  [Endure the slow intro but we do talk food at end of this blog].

The Gulch’s undulating valley-like geographical feature can be seen in the above historical photograph was taken in 1907.
Top part of the picture is the Utah and University area, which is situated on a stubborn mesa covered with clay over a solid bedrock of granite.  The lower part shows the eastern end of the then under construction of the Georgia Street span.
Trolley tracks being laid along the Gulch looking east from the top of the Georgia Street Bridge, 1907, SD Historical Society photo.

From that vista point you’ll see what the gulch looked like before the early settlement of North Park (couple of miles northwest of downtown San Diego). The rails running east along University Avenue were part of early trolley transportation efforts.  Tracks were paved over (still exist) when buses replaced the trolleys in the early 1950s.

In order to get into the Gulch and beyond, the City had to make a cut in the hill.  That slice through the ridge along with the bridge has recently (2018) been modernized and its newly retrofitted beauty remains in the eyes of the beholders.

A 1930s image of The Gulch looking east along University to North Park.  Compared with the 1907 image above note the remarkable infill of structures in three decades.
Geologists know that the Gulch was formed ages ago because a  minor league earthquake fault runs beneath Florida Street (north to south).  Florida Street intersects with University at the Eastern foot of the bridge.

The fault has long been dormant at least before this blog was posted.

Oddly, the stretch from Florida to Utah Streets has never been a beauty parlor.  It’s like having a dozen kids and a couple of them won’t be as pretty as the rest.

The Gulch is that way.  All through the 70s, 80s, 90s and into the next century businesses along the Gulch have been scruffy architecturally.

Only recently has the Gulch hopped on the gentrification wagon.  Slowly, more trendy signs have been appearing:  a few roses among the dandelions.

Deja Brew took over a beauty parlor and made it into a perky coffee lounge, University and Arnold Streets, North Park (San Diego).
A cozy coffee lounge, Deja Brew, has brightened without destroying the craftsman house it recently took over.  Deja Brew, 2528 University joins Louisiana Purchase restaurant, 2305 University as a stylish newbie business.  The Creole-centric eatery was built into a modern residential complex taking over the first-floor corner unit.  It is the shining star style wise along the Gulch and is au moment wildly popular.

A Gulch mainstay Carnitas Snack Shack is now The Porchetta Shack, 2632 University.  Carnitas founder Hanis Gavin returns and is behind the new operation.

Big bucks are being spent to spiff up the eastern end of the Gulch.   Two Bleu Ducks restaurant, 2835, is being created in a long-dormant ex-liquor store.  Two Bleu Ducks is related to the popular Farmer’s Bottega in Mission Hills.

Two Bleu Ducks is definitely a welcome sight and hopefully will encourage new businesses in the area to join the few existing and successful Gulch based businesses like The Olympic Café, 2310 University; Bodhi Animal Hospital, 2200 University;  Mission Café, 2801 University; Smart & Final, 2235 University; Communal Coffee, Texas & University; North Park Nursery, 2335 University and Breakfast Republic Breakfast, 2730 University.

Yet, even with these new improvements, the Gulch remains that comfortable old shoe that we take for granted.  Much like we ignore North Park’s vintage glass bulb lampposts that run from Villa Terrace to 31st Street along University.

But that’s a story for another day.

Here are a few new flashes of life in commercial North Park:
--The Original 40 Brewing Company, 3711 University Avenue.
--Belgian Beer & Waffles, 2899 University Avenue (ex-Starbucks).
--Toronado 4026 30th partners on site with Anthem Vegan, which recently shut down on El Cajon Blvd.  Now called Anthem on 30th the vegan. Vegan lives.
--Shrimp Heads opened in January at 2832 El Cajon Blvd.
--Also on ECB is Medina, a tiny North African dining adventure, just east of Café Madeleine, near Utah Street.
--Coming soon: Flap Your Jacks takes over the long-dormant former Ramona Theatre, 3020 University Avenue. DIY pancake cooking comes to North Park.
--New too is North Park Breakfast Company, 3131 University Ave.
--Also check that BBQ joint at Thorn and 32nd Street as it has been revamped.

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