There aren’t many cities in the US, let alone California, that have a higher concentration of world-class bars. Visitors to this tremendous city are truly spoilt for choice with great variety available depending on your needs and tastes. If you’re planning a holiday to America anytime soon, perhaps to take advantage of well-earned Disney California tickets or to see exciting attractions in San Diego, make sure that you quench your thirst and satisfy your hunger the right way. Take a look at the below selection of San Diego bars that must be visited and note down the ones you’ll be visiting during your next trip!
Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens – Liberty Station
Housed in the historic former naval training centre at Liberty Station in San Diego, Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens – Liberty Station is quite simply a beer lover’s paradise. With both indoor and outdoor bars, the enormous space available has been utilised in wondrous fashion. If you’re looking for a place to relax after enjoying the rest of what the city has to offer, Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens – Liberty Station is a wonderful candidate. Sitting down to enjoy a pint from one of their 40 taps of craft beer while watching one of a range of classic and contemporary films in their outdoor cinema on movie night, truly sells itself.
The team behind the bar spoke to us about what they believe makes them such a terrific spot: “Not only do guests have the opportunity to taste fresh Stone beer from the source, but we constantly offer rare and experimental Stone beers as well as excellent guest beer selections from breweries all over the world. We also cultivate quite an atmosphere with indoor and outdoor spaces, fire pits, koi ponds, and industrial-meets-organic design, and hold various events like beer festivals, pairings, live music and outdoor movie screenings.”
Their food menu isn’t too shabby either, being full of mouth-watering dishes to enjoy: “Stone believes in an artisanal, natural approach to food, and we don’t use any artificial or heavily processed ingredients in our kitchen. Our eclectic menu features local, organic, and sustainably-sourced items and strikes a balance between world-inspired adventurous cuisine and comfort foods. We also suggest beer pairings to take your dining experience to the next level! To top it off, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station has a small brew system on site and creates its own innovative beers which you’ll rarely find anywhere else.”
Image credit: Courtesy of Seven Grand
Located in San Diego’s North Park, Seven Grand is a cosy and authentic Californian bar, kitted out in dark wood, taxidermy and serving up some of the best whiskey in the city. Home to the Whiskey Society, Seven Grand in San Diego is the brand’s second location and has been universally acclaimed since opening its doors in 2012. This intimate establishment is able to treat guests to hundreds of varieties of whiskey, including rare varieties from home and abroad. There’s no question that Seven Grand is the place to be in San Diego for lovers of the brown stuff and combining its peerless whiskey menu with hand-crafted cocktails, live music, pool tables, and private party sections, there’s every reason to stop by for an evening of great drinks and even better memories.
For a further taste of what to expect, we heard from Seven Grand’s general manager, Brett Winfield: “Seven Grand is more than just a huge whiskey list, we are a neighbourhood bar that values our guests and staff above all else. We strive to be a part of and create a sense of community in everything we do.
“Whiskey enthusiasts, and yet to be enthusiasts, can expect a vast selection of over 750 whiskies from all the whiskey-making regions of the world, including: rare and vintage whiskies such as Pappy Van Winkle from Kentucky with Vintages from 2012 - 2018 of the full range of age statements, Yamazaki Limited Edition Single Malts from Japan, and special releases from Ardbeg on Islay in Scotland, including the coveted Committee Releases from the last five years. However, as a staff, our favourite aspect of the whiskey menu is our Single Barrel Program. Several times each year, we travel to distilleries from Kentucky to Scotland to hand pick whole barrels of whiskey to be exclusively bottled for us to serve our guests at Seven Grand. We currently have over 50 of these Single Barrel Selections available.”
Grant Grill Lounge
Those who know of the Grant Grill Lounge are well aware of its reputation for producing some of the finest cocktails in the US, as well as being an immensely enjoyable setting for an evening sipping the finest liquors and most delicious craft beers one could ask for. There are some very special things being cooked up at Grant Grill Lounge and it would certainly behove visitors to San Diego to go and see what all the fuss is about for themselves. Speaking to us about all that’s going on at this premium Californian bar, the team at Grant Grill Lounge said:
“Known for its innovative and leading-edge cocktail programming, the award-winning beverage team at Grant Grill Lounge in Downtown San Diego continues to elevate the beverage world with seasonal creative cocktail menus, and will soon debut its ‘Strange Bedfellows’ project—the first house-blended and barrel-aged whiskey program ever.
“The exclusive blend of two California whiskies — DoGood and Henebery — is currently being aged onsite with a daily changing age statement, and will be released at the Grant Grill Lounge in late September. The Strange Bedfellows project follows the creation of the Grant Grill’s 100-day-aged Centennial Manhattan—one of the first barrel-aged cocktails in America, created in partnership with High West Distillery in honour of The US Grant’s 100th anniversary.
“The Grant Grill’s beverage innovation continues with its seasonal Voodoo cocktail menu, which features creations based on voodoo culture and its Haitian roots, and supports Hope for Haiti with $1 from every cocktail being donated to the organization. Spirits enthusiasts will also relish in the restaurant’s new Tall Sails cocktail menu—launching Labor Day weekend in conjunction with San Diego’s Festival of Sails celebration. The menu is a tribute to the world’s largest and most magnificent sailing vessels and will include the following:
- “The Royal Clipper - Sweden, 1902: Vodka, branca menta, Swedish punsch, homemade pistachio orgeat, grilled pineapple juice
- The Star of India - Isle of Man, UK, 1863: Scotch, cherry herring, dry vermouth, seasonal citrus, kiwi-strawberry soda
- USS Constitution ‘Old Ironsides’- Boston, MA, 1797: Aged rum, rye, birch syrup, tobacco bitters
- The Concorde ‘Queen Annes Revenge’AKA Booty Juice! - France, 1717: Nolets Gin, Hine cognac, Chareau aloe liquor, grapefruit juice, Domaine Santé All-Sass Riesling nectar
- Bottled Cocktail ‘Old Man and The Sea’: Plantain and mate-infused local rum, absinthe, maraschino, blue curacao, guarapo sugar cane juice, clarified guava juice, Pacific Ocean sea salt.”
The fun and high-energy downtown bar known as barleymash is an essential addition to your San Diego to-do list. An establishment that looks to celebrate American culture through its delicious bar food and a drinks menu that’s supported by the two great US pillars of beer and bourbon, visitors can hardly go wrong when stopping by for lunch or evening drink. Aron Langellier, owner and operator of barleymash, spoke to us about why the bar can’t be missed:
“barleymash is a must-experience San Diego restaurant and bar, not only for the excellent food and stellar drinks but also for the high-energy and fun atmosphere. Whether you come to socialize with friends, catch a game or just need to rest your feet while wandering downtown, barleymash is the place to go!
“The menu, designed by well-known San Diego Chef Kevin Templeton, consists of many dishes that incorporate two barroom staples: beer and bourbon. From the barley flatbreads made from scratch daily using local beer, to barleymac and cheese bowls, including one topped with roasted Brussels and whisky-caramelized onions. Chef Kevin strives to source all ingredients as organic, local and sustainable as possible, so guests know they’re getting great quality when they dine at barleymash.”
The Tipsy Crow
For a little history to go along with your drink, a trip to The Tipsy Crow should certainly be on the agenda. Housed in one of downtown San Diego’s most historic buildings (dating back to 1874) and being one of the city’s longest-standing bars, The Tipsy Crow is a classic bar experience that really stands apart from the conventional and modern city in which it resides. Set over three levels, there’s more than just great food and drink to be enjoyed, and the team at The Tipsy Crow were kind enough to pull back the curtain a little for us:
“The Tipsy Crow is one of the oldest bars in the historic Gaslamp Quarter, with three levels of entertainment. The top-floor lounge has plenty of games, a pool table, couches and its own bar to relax at, while the main floor bar has plenty of tables to sit and order food at, as well as games. During the weekend, the lower ‘Underground’ floor turns into a dance club with high-energy local DJs. The Tipsy Crow hosts the famous ‘Drink Exchange’ game, similar to a stock market where prices go up and down depending on the popularity of the drink that day. Weekly live music and monthly Comedy Shows are also hosted at the Tipsy Crow.
“The Tipsy Crow has great bar eats, including the famous Tipsy Truffle Mac, served in a bread bowl and has been featured on Yelp. There is always the very popular lobster roll, with the recipe coming all the way from the East Coast (fun fact: visit us on a Tuesday for a $5 Lobster roll with chips and clam chowder!). The kitchen is open until midnight every night.”
Image credit: The Nolen
Situated on 453 6th Avenue, The Nolen is a rooftop bar that has secured itself as a favourite destination for both locals and visitors alike. Acting as the perfect respite from downtown San Diego, The Nolen is a great location to escape to for either a drink or meal. Both of its dining and lounge seating offer guests unbeatable views of the surrounding area, including Petco Park and across to the Coronado Bridge. The menu at The Nolen is the real winner, however, replete with classic cocktails and fun twists on favourite recipes. If you are also looking for a bite to eat as well as a drink, there is terrific variety available at The Nolen, including their must-try comfort food brunch menu known as ‘The Sunday Requirement’, featuring the likes of beer braised short rib cheddar biscuit sandwiches and cocktails like the ‘Sunday Morning Remedy’.
Image credit: Jsix
For those in search of a warm and friendly neighbourhood establishment to frequent during your stay in San Diego, Jsix is a downtown bar and restraint in San Diego’s East Village that must be visited. The food here is simple while still bringing an impressive level of ingenuity to proceedings, sourcing local and sustainable ingredients to compile its tantalising menu. Jsix is also a wonderful spot to enjoy a drink or two, with craft cocktails, spirits from small-batch distilleries, and house-made bitters always proving a popular choice. Why not try their ‘Friar’s day off’, comprised of Plymouth gin, orange, yuzu, basil, and egg white? Or perhaps one of their extensive collection of domestic gins? You could even stop in for happy hour between 4-6pm on weekdays where guests can look forward to a daily creation from the bar or chow down on delicious snacks like cheese-loaded garlic fries.
Image credit: Kettner Exchange
Found in San Diego’s Little Italy, Kettner Exchange is a multi-level drinking haven that has been a firm favourite with locals since its inception in 2014. Kettner Exchange is a spectacular rooftop destination, with its lounged kitted out with cabanas that provide an intimate and stylish drinking and dining environment. This incredibly attractive bar and restaurant contains both indoor and outdoor options and a rotating menu that certainly features some of the most innovative dishes anywhere in San Diego. The main dining room has great appeal but there’s no doubt that the main attraction is the open rooftop patio, overseen by award-winning bartended Steven Tuttle and his dynamic cocktail program. Kettner Exchange’s lounge menu includes such tantalising options as tender belly pork and Alaskan Halibut, alongside exciting cocktails and a beer menu that’s as impressive as it is unique. The lounge’s full menu is available here.
The spectacular San Diego bar scene
There’s little doubting the impressive nature of San Diego’s bar scene. The above examples are truly some of the best you’ll find anywhere in California and act as a perfect first look into all that this exciting city has to offer. Whether you fancy a drink with a view on a rooftop bar, want to relax in a haven for whiskey drinkers, or fancy stepping into beer paradise, there’s a San Diego bar for you. You certainly can’t go wrong by visiting one or two of the above and we hope that your time with them acts as a perfect complement to your San Diego adventure. If you’re planning a more comprehensive trip to America, don’t forget to grab some Disney park tickets to make your holiday complete.
Image Credit: Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens