West Side Story: Around Town in Chula Vista
A vibrant Chula Vista resident shares the past and present of the place she calls home
Rachel Moriarty’s Chula Vista
Third Avenue in Chula Vista is experiencing a revival. In the last couple of years, the quaint span from E to I streets and the immediate blocks east and west of it—the commercial corridor of the city—have become picturesque and pedestrian friendly, welcoming new businesses in renovated storefronts, improved special events and more visitors.
Rachel Moriarty, business owner (she started Rachel Moriarty Interiors, rachelminteriors.com), product creator, podcaster, author and HGTV designer (her My House is Your House show about redoing short-term rentals is slated to air this spring), is a third-generation Chula Vistan, so I asked if she could squeeze me in to her busy schedule to show me around the place she’s always called home.
Dressed in a colorblock poncho (she changed halfway through), her signature thick-frame glasses and heels, Rachel happily takes me, Gary and her best friend, Treci Smith, to her favorite spots here on the west side of town. In addition, she provides fascinating asides, such as where the only shoe store in town used to be (it’s now a brewery) and how devastated she was when The Vogue, a one-screen theater that had been open since 1945, shuttered in 2006. (Still closed, the building is supposed to reopen as a multiuse entertainment venue, which Rachel is pretty excited about.)
“Now we have multiple craft breweries, and [the west side of Chula Vista] is getting hip,” she says. “It’s an exciting time for the residents here, and it’s so me.”
This coffeeshop opened a little over a year ago, and Rachel says she instantly connected with owner Ron Richie (they both attended Hilltop High School at different times).
Ron says he always thought he would own a skate shop on Third Avenue since he spent his youth coasting down the street on his board. Instead, he opened this coffee house serving pastries and light fare, and Rachel’s been a fan ever since, admitting to stopping in four or five times a week for a coffee with almond milk and a veggie sandwich for the road. Today, she orders the seasonal pumpkin scone with her cup of joe.
260 1/2 Third Ave., 619-821-8223, grindhouse3rd.com
“I’m Mrs. Roper from Three’s Company,” Rachel says of her personal style. “I’m pretty toned down today, but I believe more is more and less is a bore.” She comes to this vintage shop/event space/photo studio before the furniture markets she attends in High Point, N.C., and Las Vegas to add a few one-of-a-kind pieces to her wardrobe. “I speak on a lot of panels and produce a lot of video content [at the markets], so I change clothes frequently.”
Today, Rachel finds several bright floral caftans and kimonos that make her gush. “This is me to a T,” she raves, holding up a purple, pink and yellow oversized dress featuring a flowery pattern.
And because she’s a regular of the eclectic boutique, co-owner Sonia Tabor knows exactly what Rachel likes and pulls a few new arrivals to show her, including a ’70s pantsuit. Rachel asks Sonia to put her finds on hold. “I’ll be back after this shoot,” she promises.
282 Third Ave., 619-857-3770, uprightcitizen.me
This historic boutique hotel, with an Art Deco vibe, opened on the west side in 1930. Rachel loves that there’s nothing else like it in Chula Vista, and she visits during the summer for the Jazz on Third concert series, which take place in the hotel’s private courtyard.
She gives me an impromptu tour of the al fresco space to see the display of flags from the countries where current guests reside.
416 Third Ave., 619-425-4486, elprimerohotel.com
Three miles from Third Avenue, Rachel finds her inspiration journaling by the water. “I’m a huge journaler,” she confesses. “I’m a hoarder of composition books. I don’t buy those precious pretty journals because I just bleed ink into them.” While she puts her thoughts to paper, Rachel enjoys views of Silver Strand, gentle breezes and sometimes a bite at Galley at the Marina.
The area is currently undergoing a multitiered redevelopment project that, when complete, will provide 70 acres of new parks, a shoreline promenade, walking trails, a bicycle path, a resort, shops and additional restaurants.
980 Marina Way, 619-748-0407, portofsandiego.org
Rachel guides us down a breezeway off the main drag to a small shop that our photographer describes as “better than coffee,” since walking in—and meeting co-owners and best friends Dewanna Dallas and Via Gary—is like the equivalent of a caffeinated pick-me-up.
The pair have vivacious personalities and infectious laughs. They make 85 percent of what they sell—fine art, wearable art, housewares and gifts—and fill the remainder with work from other women artisans. “We have 460 square feet, but we think we have 5,000,” Dewanna jokes. “Everywhere you go, there’s something.”
Rachel gravitates to a long, beaded choker in white and gold (she already owns the same one in orange and in black), hand-painted sunglasses, a mudcloth cuff (above) and a colorful African robe called a dashiki. “I come here to look for jewelry for myself,” Rachel admits. “And I always find something.”
231 Third Ave., Suite E, 619-850-3187, facebook.com/dviaartandstyle
For happy hour, Rachel heads to this small chain eatery, which is a mile up from Third Avenue and within walking distance of her home. She likes the decor—reclaimed wood, lacquered countertops, faux-cowhide stools, exposed brick, muraled walls—and the Tamarindo margarita (which she orders to let Treci try).
Tamarind is a tropical-growing tree that produces pod-like fruits, which are sweet but tart and sometimes very sour. Karina’s uses tamarind nectar in Rachel’s favorite drink, then kicks the cocktail up with a dusting of chili-lime salt around the rim. “My mouth waters just thinking about it,” Rachel admits.
When she and husband Michael come, they get the Ceviche Doña Ines, sushi-grade ahi tuna tossed with sesame oil, sesame seeds and red chili flakes and served on tostadas with crispy onions, pickled red onions and spicy mayo.
89 Bonita Rd, 619-651-1000, karinasseafood.com
Rachel is partial to this brewery—one of four that have opened along Third Avenue—because she fondly remembers when the space was a Highlander clothing store selling custom suits for men. “Now it’s my local watering hole,” she says.
She doesn’t have a favorite beer; she prefers really hoppy IPAs and likes flights so she can try a few.
259 Third Ave., 619-271-4853, 3punkales.com