So as we enter the final weeks of summer, I thought there would be no better time than the present to wrap up my “Staycation Vacation” series with a look at our next door neighbor, San Diego. After re-introducing myself to Malibu, Beverly Hills and even West Hollywood in recent months, I turned my attention south for three days in sunny San Diego—and yet again, I found that a place I thought I knew so intimately had not only changed, but also had so much more to offer than I remembered. Color me stunned!

In the spirit of honesty, I must admit that heretofore my fondest (and most vivid) memories of San Diego had been centered around a series of boozy nights in and around the more popular watering holes in University Heights and the Gaslamp Quarter (names shall be omitted to protect the innocent). A concert here, a Pride event there, a random clubbing getaway or social event in between—you get the idea. But, the truth is, I had never explored San Diego as a destination that was actually imbued with a vibe and bustling personality of its own. In actuality, I had never really taken the time to get to know the city at all—that is, until recently, when I hopped into a rented SUV with a friend and made the two-hour drive to the much warmer sister city of Edinburgh, Scotland. (Oh yes, Edinburgh! Bet that’s a little tidbit you didn’t know, now did you?)

This time around, my visit to San Diego was all about unearthing the hottest hotels, bars, sights and restaurants the city had to show off, and I began my journey at the chic new Andaz Hotel, right smack dab in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter. For those of you not familiar with the brand, the Andaz is one of Hyatt Hotels’ boutique chains, and do believe me when I say this is not your father’s Hyatt. Ultra-modern and ΰber hip, the Andaz brings all the hospitality experience you have come to expect from the traditional Hyatt brand and ups the ante with the added service, sass and individual swagger of a boutique hotel.

Upon arriving at the Andaz, we were personally greeted by a concierge who was available to us for our entire stay. Not only did she immediately arrange for our luggage to be delivered to our room upon arrival, but she handled the check-in process completely. We handed her a credit card, and while she took care of the paperwork, we were offered a complimentary beverage to enjoy in the sleek environs of the lobby. No waiting in line at the front desk—or anything of the sort. We had estimated our time of arrival and provided it to the hotel in advance, and our concierge was there to greet us when we first set foot in the lobby. Just as it should be. Kidding aside, the introduction was quite impressive, as was the décor of the hotel, which had a decidedly contemporary flair of its own.

After settling into our room and taking in the spectacular views of San Diego from the generous balcony, we headed upstairs to the rooftop bar to sample a few cocktails and investigate the even more inspired views from the rooftop bar at the Andaz. Though it was a fairly cool, crisp afternoon in San Diego, the sun was shining, the heat lamps were lit and as the sun set over the city as my friend and I reclined on lounge chairs with laptops in hand, I could think of no better way to start this re-introduction to San Diego or wrap up the day than with the perfectly poured cocktail in my hand and the view that presently stretched before me.

That is until we took a short walk through the Gaslamp Quarter and arrived at Brian Malarkey’s Searsuckerrestaurant for dinner. You may remember Malarkey as one of the finalists on Bravo’s Top Chef or as the host of TLC’sMega Bites, but after dining at Searsucker, you’ll know him as one of the brightest new chefs in America. I can’t say that I’ve sampled Malarkey’s four other equally buzzed-about restaurants in San Diego, but I can say that Searsucker is superlative.

The menu, which changes daily, takes classic items from the ‘ocean,’ ‘ranch’ and ‘farm’ and turns them on their ear with flavorful twists. Albacore tuna is ramped up with prosciutto, basil and balsamic; loin filet gets dressed up with lobster butter and cognac; and a dish called ‘Tongue & Cheek’ lifts off with a little help from agave, cactus and fresco. And as for the sides, I’ll just say that bacon grits is on the list and leave it at that. The relatively straightforward menu is perfectly complemented by the open, cozy yet utterly urban feel of the space, and a selection of specialty handcrafted cocktails (try the honeybadger) are worthy of recognition in their own right. With food like this, it’s no wonder that Malarkey and his business partners are reportedly opening a staggering 15 new restaurants over the next five years.

Day one down and my reintroduction to San Diego had already turned my head. Funny how we can sometimes visit a place and never really see it, which was obviously the case with me and San Diego. Thank goodness my eyes have now been opened.

Until next time, cheers!