Comic-Con: Best of downtown San Diego nightlife
If you’re heading to San Diego this weekend to join the hordes of comics-and-fantasy fiends at Comic-Con — it’s happening at the downtown San Diego Convention Center July 21 to 24 — then you’re going to want this handy reference guide to downtown night life. A body works up a mean thirst spending all day in a spandex Green Lantern outfit, and this best-of-the-best shortlist should help shorten the distance from convention center doors to the night’s next big adventure.
1. The Casbah
Open since 1989 and in its current location since 1994, the Casbah is one of San Diego’s most famous music destinations. Such renowned bands as the Jesus Lizard, MGMT, Social Distortion and Rocket From the Crypt have rocked the Casbah, with shows happening at least six out of seven nights a week. This ages 21 and older venue has a full bar, an enclosed smoking patio, pinball and even an old-school Galaga video game machine. 2501 Kettner Blvd.; (619) 232-4355; https://www.casbahmusic.com
Established in 1933 and touted as “San Diego’s oldest tavern,” this Little Italy watering hole hosts a trove of salty sailors (the bar opens at 6 a.m.), colorful characters and a mixed-bag of locals. Bands and deejays keep the evening mood hopping, with a standard array of beers and grub fueling the fun. Rumor has it local businessman Wyatt Earp was an early Waterfront customer. 2044 Kettner Blvd.; (619) 232-9656; waterfrontsd.com
In tribute to the penny president, this relative newcomer to the Gaslamp scene is big on theme. Log cabin-styled walls, penny-tiled tables and dangling rustic lanterns are brightly backlighted by a grand, lettered Lincoln sign that proudly beams behind the long bar. The taps offer some local craft brews, or order one of their specialty cocktails like the Mary Todd (pear vodka with pear purée). If you can find “tails” on the bar, you get a free drink. 901 4th Ave.; (619) 696-8888; https://www.thelincolnroomsd.com
4. El Dorado
Perched just outside the hubbub of the Gaslamp Quarter, this craft cocktail lounge is dark and sexy, with deep red leather banquette seating, a long bar and rotating lists of expertly crafted specialty cocktails, well-aged whiskeys and draft beer. Live entertainment and a lively dance floor lighten the bar’s otherwise seductive mood. 1030 Broadway; (619) 237-0550; eldoradobar.com
A small, welcoming gastropub where beer buffs can sample craft microbrews in a hip yet casual setting. Large exterior windows give the bar a buzzy, corner-cafe feel, bringing a bit of the outside East Village bustle into the otherwise cozy interior space. Sidle up to the intimate bar or grab a stool at one of the several tall tables scattered throughout. 777 G St.; (619) 446-0002; https://www.neighborhoodsd.com
Open since 2007, this 14,000-square-foot sports lounge has more than 30 high-definition flat-screen TVs, 12 modern bowling lanes, pool tables, a steady flow of domestic beers on tap and a supporting menu of sports-bar basics such as hot wings, burgers and tacos. The bar serves as the headquarters for several local and more far-flung college and pro teams, like the Duke Blue Devils, the Boston Celtics, the L.A. Lakers, the San Jose Sharks and more. 930 Market St.; (619) 677-2695; bowlevt.com
7. The Field
Step into one of San Diego’s most authentic Irish pubs and enjoy its warm, vibrant atmosphere, boisterous conversation and traditional entertainment. Shipped piece by piece from Ireland by bar owners Daniel and Enda Drayne, the Field satiates locals’ yen for Irish food, friendliness and, of course, imported draught beers and whiskeys. 544 5th Ave.; (619) 232-9840; https://www.thefield.com
There’s no mistaking where to find this gem of a hotel cocktail lounge. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer panoramic views of seaside San Diego, the harbor and Catalina Island from a 40-story vantage. Lovebirds and dressed-to-impress minglers alike flock here, especially at sunset. The music is kept low and the choice cocktails are filled high — very conducive for canoodling and conversation. 1 Market Place; (619) 232-1234; manchestergrand.hyatt.com
Large, open garage doors allow Basic’s cool, urban clientele to sip and sup (on New Haven, Conn.-style thin-crust pizza, no less) inside a converted warehouse space without missing out on the warm San Diego breezes outside. DJs turn the spacious, chic lounge areas into a standing-room-only dance floor after 10 p.m. 410 10th Ave.; (619) 531-8869; https://www.barbasic.com
10. Altitude Sky Bar
At 22 stories high, located on the rooftop of the Gaslamp Quarter’s Marriott hotel, the aerial view of nearby Padres baseball’s Petco Park — not to mention of the stunning downtown skyline — is this swanky, open-air bar’s main attraction. It’s a unique opportunity for those seeking classic cocktails, bottle service, romance and — baseball? — in an upscale, see-and-be-seen setting. 660 K St.; (619) 446-6086; https://www.altitudeskybar.com
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