The 20 best bars in San Diego to throw back a cold one


If you're headed to San Diego, you'd be stupid not to visit some of the city's best bars. The city has everything from pretentious speakeasys to dive bars to supper clubs led by drag queens. We've gathered the twenty most unique bars in San Diego for you to explore the next time you spend a night out in America's Finest City. And if you scroll through this list and still can't find a bar that sounds perfect for you, you'll need more than a strong drink to loosen your tight-wad rump up.



Abnormal Wine Co.

This spacious bar in Rancho Bernardo has enough room for you and all your freaky friends. Unpretentious yet serving top notch fare, Abnormal Wine Co. is a bar and restaurant that ticks all the boxes of being casual, comfortable, and novel. Abnormal Wine Co. doesn't shy from creative brews like chili and vanilla stouts or honey laced bee juice beer.

ALTITUDE Sky Lounge

Head to ALTITUDE at the top of the Marriot Hotel in Downtown San Diego on a game night for prime views of the city's skyline and sneak peeks into Petco Park. Pro tip? Check in on a Sunday when it's less crowded and the happy hour lasts all day long.

Barleymash

If you love booze – really, really love booze – then Barleymash should be your number one stop in San Diego. Order a beer and pair it with alcohol-infused foods like fries topped with jack-beer sauce, chicken in whiskey-buffalo sauce and mussels served in a beer broth. Bring a designated driver and some mints.

Campfire

You'll feel right at home at Campfire, a cozy restaurant and bar with wooden décor. Pyromaniacs will love the From the Fire section of the drink menu, where you can order drinks like charred cactus made from tequila, charcoal, peach, sorrel and lime or roasted beets with gin, ginger, honey, thyme and lemon.

Cat Eye Club

Nobody walks out of the Cat Eye Club without a bit of swag in their step. This retro bar serves tropical cocktails in quirky tiki glasses and is decorated with kitschy 1950s tiki prints. Come for the rum based drinks and stay to dance the night away on the tiny dancefloor in front of Cat Eye Club's nightly live band.

The Duck Dive

This sports bar serves cheap eats and cold drinks – the perfect combination for laid back San Diegans (hey, we have to earn our reputation somehow...). Even if the sports team your rooting for is a dud, you'll find a way to keep your spirits up at The Duck Dive thanks to the nearby sea breeze, friendly crowd and fun vibes.

False Idol

False Idol is one of San Diego's best tiki bars, so prepare to wait in line or make a reservation in advance. When you walk into the bar, jungle sounds, waterfalls, and mist create an atmosphere that will have you pounding your chest before tossing back a sugar-sweet drink like the Ode de Okelehoe, a macadamia nut bourbon cocktail.

Hamilton's Tavern

San Diego is the nation's capital of craft beers – and Hamilton's Tavern knows how to showcase the best in an ambience that's tasteful without the snobbery. This bar carries tons of the city's trending beers and serves them amid pool tables and a shuffleboard.

KINDRED

Though KINDRED has a reputation for catering to "totally-vegetarian but still eat meat if I'm drunk" hipster crowd, this vegan bar and restaurant is worth a visit even if you don't fall into that category. The death metal, a kitty motif, and tattooed bartenders will have you feeling like you're part of something cool, even if you're really just hipster hopeful.

The Lion's Share

When you walk into The Lion's Share, the animal paintings depicting animals at the top of the food chain and the peacock mounted against the wall might make you feel like you're in an alternate reality. Unlike most San Diegan restaurants that rely on the same rotating roster of comfort foods and staple cocktails, The Lion's Share constantly serves creative dishes and drinks not found anywhere else in the city.

Lips

Lips is a supper club with nightly drag show performances, strong drinks, sassy hosts and a lively crowd. If you get easily offended, then Lips is not for you. Head there for lunch and for twenty bucks, you'll have bottomless mimosas and a show that will make you laugh until your stomach hurts (or maybe that's the alcohol...).

Live Wire Bar

If you're looking for one of San Diego's best dive bars to loosen up at, Live Wire Bar is the place for you. Think old jukebox, tens of beers to choose from, a pool table, bartenders with quick reflexes and loud music. Drinks and food are cheap and the crowd is unpretentious.

Noble Experiment

If the need for reservations on the weekends doesn't stop you from entering Noble Experiment, the wall of kegs blocking the front door might. This speakeasy is one of San Diego's best bars for people looking for a novel bar experience. If you're feeling brave, tell the bartender your favorite spirit and have the bartender create a dealer's choice cocktail for you.

Pizza Port

Pizza Port in Ocean Beach is a bar that can make even the grumpiest person happy. The beer and pizzas attract San Diego's laid-back surf scene in search of creature comforts. It's a great place to catch up with friends over a glass of Pizza Port's latest craft brew.

Polite Provisions

Though craft beers are all the rage in America's Finest City, Polite Provisions is all about craft cocktails. Many drinks are complex, making you have a hard time pinpointing exactly what's in them. (But isn't that the case once you've had too many anyways?) The ambience is relaxed and the crowd tend to hum at a calmer tone.

Seven Grand

Love whiskey and bourbon? Then Seven Grand could easily be your only stop on a night out in San Diego. The bar is known for serving the best old fashioned and whiskey sours in town. And the décor of mounted deer heads, dark wooden furniture, and maroon accents will have you asking your bartender if smoking cigars is legal here.

Shakespeare Pub & Grille

San Diego's British pub, the Shakespeare Pub & Grille serves the fare from our motherland like scotch eggs, fish and chips and Rueben sandwiches. Come here for quiz nights or to watch the latest sports match (just don't start calling soccer football).

Tiger! Tiger!

If you're doing a bar hop around North Park, Tiger! Tiger! should be your first stop fuel joint. There is something on the menu for every type of taste bud and almost every dish is batting above average. Prices have started climbing at Tiger! Tiger! over the past few years, so spend some time here while you can still afford it.

You & Yours Distillery

You & Yours Distillery is one of San Diego's newest bars, but is packed with potential. The distillery makes vodka and gin and has mastered the art of creating the perfect cocktails around these two spirits. The bar is bright, lively and the perfect place to relax after a long week on the grind.

101 Proof

This intimate speakeasy has nine strict rules for all who enter that go along the lines of no hitting on someone you didn't arrive with, no selfies, no PDA and no phone calls. Any problems should be "taken up with the door." Keys are given as part of your entrance fee. Despite the stiff rules, 101 Proof is bar you have to visit simply for the experience.

Chantae Reden is a travel writer from San Diego with a penchant for strong margaritas. You can find more of her writing on her blog, Chantae.com.