The Prado at Balboa Park is a National Historic Landmark and part of the House of Hospitality, which, like many other historic buildings in Balboa Park, was originally built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Fully renovated in 2000 down to the tiniest details, it epitomizes the grace and authentic Old World charm of its Spanish, Moorish, and Mexican architectural roots. The Prado, owned and operated by the Cohn family, is accessed through a hacienda-style courtyard in the House of Hospitality featuring a trickling fountain original to the tranquil space. The Cohn restaurant philosophy springs from the family’s admitted obsession with hospitality. “People celebrate their lives in restaurants. It is our job to create an experience worth remembering,” says owner David Cohn.
The main restaurant at The Prado at Balboa Park has five separate spaces for dining and sipping cocktails. The fountain courtyard is the two story stucco inner sanctuary of the House of Hospitality and entrance to the restaurant. On busy nights, you’ll find guests milling about and chatting in the lush garden setting waiting for a table or resting after a meal. It is also available for cocktail parties, receptions, and other events.
The Courtyard Dining Room is the main dining area inside the restaurant; it is luxuriously appointed in earth tones, dark woods, and deep reds with elegant fixtures and accents throughout in keeping with its traditional nature. Large windows overlook the fountain courtyard on one side and the solarium dining area on the other. The cheerful and sunny solarium overlooks the outdoor terrace dining space.
The Tapas & Cocktail Lounge offers more casual seating with rattan chairs surrounding cocktail tables, and an elegant bar and tapas bar that sit at the far end of the room. The décor is Old Mexico with hacienda lighting and accents. On the back side of the restaurant, the multi-tiered terrace for dining and lounging features a fountain at one end, and an array of casual seating for two, four, or six under cheerful red umbrellas. It overlooks lush gardens, the canyon below, and the distant San Diego skyline. At night, it transforms into a romantic and intimate space with crisscrossing twinkly lights above.
The New American menu executed by Executive Chef Jonathan Hale has garnered a bevy of awards and accolades including an America’s Best Restaurants Award from Gourmet Magazine and several Gold Medallion Awards. Don’t be surprised to see a family to your right in shorts and tee shirts fresh from a day at the zoo and a couple to your right dressed to the nines for a night at the nearby Globe Theater. That’s San Diego, and it’s definitely the Prado.
For lunch, you would be missing out if you didn’t order the grilled fish tacos on at least one visit. The marinated mahi mahi tacos with red cabbage-jicama slaw, mango-jalapeno salsa, mango mustard, and corn will delight your taste buds and tempt you to order them over and over. Don’t. There are so many delectable choices on the lunch menu, you’ll want to try them all. Each lunch begins with an icy glass of water and a complimentary hummus appetizer. Be sure to order one of their signature specialty drinks like their Pisco Sour or Pomegranate Margarita.
Start dinner at the Prado with a Prado Shrimp Cocktail with cucumber, avocado, jicama salad, and sangria cocktail sauce, or their ever popular Seared American Kobe Beef Sushi Roll with asparagus, wasabi, tobiko aioli, and ponzu dipping sauce. Seafood lovers, try the Skuna Bay Salmon; landlubbers, go for the Grilled Angus Filet or the Mustard Crusted Pork Prime Rib. With all the history, elegance, and flavor packed into this restaurant, you would think the prices would be otherworldly, but the most expensive item on the menu is $35, and most are much less.
The Prado at Balboa Park is open daily for lunch, and Tuesdays through Sundays for dinner. Get twice as happy at the Prado with their double Happy Hours; your choice of early evening or after dinner. Get $3 Coronas and $5 Prado well drinks, plus $4 and $5 tapas. Make Tuesday your date night and get two entrees and a bottle of wine for $39.95. On WINE Down Wednesdays, enjoy 50% off all bottles of wine under $100 with no corkage fees.
Thinking about a destination wedding in San Diego? The Prado at Balboa Park is the place to have it. They offer exceptional wedding packages that include everything you could want or need, the perfect backdrop – two smaller banquet rooms with balconies accommodating 60 and 80 guests, or a larger luxury space with a hand-stenciled ceiling accommodating as many as 500 guests, a menu designed by an award-winning culinary team, and a professional staff expertly trained in synchronized service. For information, contact them through their website.
The Prado is located in the heart of Balboa Park, distinguished as one of the Best Parks in the World. It has fifteen major museums, several cultural and recreational attractions, multiple performing arts venues – including the well-known Globe Theater, and multiple lush and beautiful gardens – including the Japanese Friendship Garden and its lovely blossoming cherry trees. The famous San Diego Zoo, one of the city’s top tourist attractions is located right next door. Balboa Park is minutes from Downtown San Diego where you’ll find the historic Gaslamp Quarter, the San Diego Convention Center, the Padre’s Petco Park, and the beautiful San Diego Harbor.