You’ll know you’ve arrived at Las Quatro Milpas by the line of hungry locals, tourists, and downtown workers on their lunch breaks. Family owned since 1933, this no-frills cash-only establishment in Barrio Logan is nostalgically referred to as grandma’s cooking. A side of homemade tortillas from the menu completes your Mexican comfort food experience. (Cash only, Open until 3pm, Closed on Sundays)
Our belief that understanding the past is essential as you explore Barrio Logan is especially true as we take a look at Chicano Park. Chicano Park, a U.S. National Historic Landmark, has the largest outdoor mural collection in the United States. But it’s not the size of the collection that makes the park special.
Part One of A History of Barrio Logan ends with a community in crisis. Interstate 5 and San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge construction removed 5,000 homes and businesses. Over 10 years the population had shrunk from 20,000 to 5000 residents. Spirits were both crushed and ignited as residents began demanding their rights. Open spaces in Barrio Logan had otherwise disappeared. Barrio Logan residents requested that the land under the bridge be turned into a park for the community. The city agreed to a park in 1969. Five months later bulldozers were spotted where the park was to be built. It was April 22, 1970. Instead of the park, they were there to break ground for a California Highway Patrol station.
In an oversimplification of events, residents and demonstrators mobilized peacefully but forcefully to take back the land which they had been promised. They occupied the land for twelve days until the city agreed once again to build a park. Community vision for the park included turning concrete freeway supports into works of art depicting Chicano culture. Artists began painting murals in Chicano Park in 1973, and though it would take several years until completion, the park and murals continue to stand as a symbol of the community.
Additional Articles & Resources: chicanoparksandiego.com, Explore the Murals of San Diego’s Chicano Park, An Iconic San Diego Park Is Now a National Historic Landmark
What Barrio Logan lacks in shiny attractions is made up for in the history, art, food, and pride in cultural heritage that make the Chicano neighborhood of Barrio Logan a destination worth exploring. Download our free Beyond the Zoo Guide to Barrio Logan for a family friendly activity guide.
Understanding the past is essential as you explore Barrio Logan. The neighborhood dates back to the late 1800’s when it was known as Logan Heights. In 1871 Congressman John A Logan wrote legislation that he hoped would pave the way for a transcontinental railroad ending in San Diego. Plans for the railroad didn’t pan out and the area instead became residential. Between 1910 and 1920 the neighborhood became predominantly Mexican-American with refugees from the Mexican Revolution. The southern part of Logan Heights became known as Barrio Logan.
“In California during the 1920s, Chicanos constituted up to two-thirds of the work force in many industries. A small Chicano middle class developed, often oriented toward serving the Chicano population. The growth of barrios and colonias fostered expansion of small businesses such as grocery and dry-goods stores, restaurants, barber shops, and tailor shops. Small construction firms emerged. Chicanos entered the teaching profession, usually working in private Chicano schools or in segregated public schools.” (history.sandiego.edu)
By the 1930’s Barrio Logan was a thriving community extending all the way to the bay. A pier and community beach were built in 1938. Barrio Logan lost access to the waterfront when World War II began. Naval, defense, and shipbuilding industries grew and took over the waterfront. In the 1950’s Barrio Logan was re-zoned as mixed residential and industrial. Junkyards owned by non-community members moved into the neighborhood next to homes and schools. During the 1960’s the neighborhood was literally divided in half by the building of Interstate 5 in 1963 followed by the construction of the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in 1969. Tensions continued to grow as residents were forced out of their homes and the quality of life for remaining residents deteriorated. (To be continued…)
The neighborhood of Barrio Logan in San Diego prides itself as a Mexican-American community. You don’t have to speak Spanish to enjoy the food, art, and culture. But why not have fun with your kids by playing this simple game and learn a new Spanish word in the process?
Calabaza is the Spanish word for pumpkin. 1, 2, 3, Calabaza is similar to Red Light, Green Light. The person who is “it” is la calabaza. Download the Beyond the Zoo Guide to Barrio Logan for more on how to play.
Our Beyond the Zoo Guides aren’t just about where to go in San Diego. Each guide also includes activities and talking points to help you create meaningful family memories. Subscribe to receive a new guide each month!
Barrio Dogg at 2234 Logan Ave is self-described Chicano comfort food. Packed with flavorful ingredients, these elevated street hot dogs take a cue from international recipes, but are uniquely Barrio Dogg’s own creations. Go ahead and take a peek at their menu.
Popular menu items are the El Xolito and El Pueblito washed down with a Mexican Coke. We also recommend the elotitos side dish. Families will appreciate the $6 kid’s meal.
Barrio Dogg is just one of many family-friendly food experiences suggested in our free Beyond the Zoo Guide to Barrio Logan. Automatically receive a new visitor guide each month when you subscribe to McLandia.com.
Our family values experiences over things. This isn’t to say that we don’t enjoy bringing home meaningful reminders of our adventures. We do! For example, the souvenir that I chose to bring home from Mexica City was a manual juicer to remind me of the frutería (juice bar) our family frequented.
You won’t find a typical touristy gift shop in our Beyond the Zoo Guide to Barrio Logan. However, you don’t have to look far for a memorable souvenir that won’t break your budget. Pinataz Zarate at 2076 Logan Ave is a family owned shop specializing in custom piñatas. Check them out as you explore Barrio Logan!
Bring home a small piñata for about $5. We recommend letting each family member pick out candy even if you don’t wish to fill your piñata. After all, it’s all about the experience!
Por Vida’s tagline is cafe * cultura * galería. The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive at Por Vida (meaning for life in Spanish) is the graffiti style artwork bearing it’s name. This without a doubt sets the tone as you step inside the coffee shop decorated with artwork and cultural icons. While the menu stands on its own as reason to visit Por Vida, you’ll also get a strong dose of art and culture.
Let’s talk for a minute about the menu. My first introduction to Por Vida was through Instagram (@porvidacafe). During the heat of the summer it was the Spicy Lemonades that jumped off their Instagram feed and enticed us to pay them a visit. Our adventurous teens and the up-for-anything involving-food youngster were more than happy to tag along. The colorful spicy limonada (the spice comes from tajin) did not disappoint as a refreshing sweet and sour concoction. We were also impressed with Por Vida’s creative menu of speciality lattes. In addition to expected flavors like horchata and Mexican chocolate, there are canela y brown sugar, mazapan, la rosa, and dulce de leche lattes to choose from. We’ve been back since that first visit on a quest to explore the menu.
The owners of Por Vida are invested in Barrio Logan. Amongst other things, the empty lot next door to Por Vida is used for community gatherings such as the Barrio Logan Flea Market which showcases local artisans and food vendors. When we released our free Beyond the Zoo Guide to Barrio Logan one of our stated objectives was to share how history, art, food, and pride in cultural heritage make Barrio Logan a destination worth exploring. Por Vida is an example of how a community is made better by embracing these things and by lifting each other up to create a bright future.
Traditional flavors of Mexico meld with trendy up-and-coming coffee shops and eateries in the Chicano neighborhood of Barrio Logan. In our free Beyond the Zoo Guide to Barrio Logan we suggest some of our favorite family-friendly spots.
Panchita’s Bakery in Barrio Logan is a traditional Mexican panadería (bakery) that is similar to ones that our family enjoyed while visiting Mexico City. A modest storefront houses tasty breads, pastries, cookies, and desserts.
Panchita’s Bakery is self-serve and cash-only. Grab a tray and tongs on your way in and return to the counter with your treats to pay. With wholesale prices, it’s an inexpensive cultural experience for the entire family.
A new Beyond the Zoo Guide has been released! We are excited to share with you the history, art, food, and pride in cultural heritage that make the Chicano neighborhood of Barrio Logan a destination worth exploring.
We’ve created a half-day Barrio Logan itinerary for your family. We won’t be surprised though if you come back for more! Download our free Beyond the Zoo Guide to Barrio Logan to plan your visit.
As always, our Beyond the Zoo Guides aren’t just about where to go in San Diego. Each guide also includes activities and talking points to help you create meaningful family memories.