8 Great Bars in San Diego

These are the bars San Diego locals love, from happy hour to last call.

By Darcie Czajkowski, ContributorJan. 11, 2017
By Darcie Czajkowski, ContributorJan. 11, 2017, at 2:05 p.m.
U.S. News & World Report

8 Great Bars in San Diego

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 21:  Crowd atmosphere as seen at Nylon and NVE The Experience Agency Present After-Con Celebrating the Women of Wonder at Omnia Nightclub on July 21, 2016 in San Diego, California.

On your next trip to San Diego, check out Omnia in the city's hip Gaslamp Quarter.(Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for NYLON)

From casual to trendy, laid back to pulsing, San Diego's bar scene offers tremendous diversity. And while the city gets a lot of buzz for its craft beer industry (with good reason), local bartenders are serving up more than fantastic beer: In San Diego, you’ll find hip rooftop bars mixing craft cocktails, neighborhood watering holes serving classic drinks and mellow lounges offering glasses of fine wine from California, Mexico and beyond. No matter what kind of atmosphere or libation you're seeking, you'll find it in San Diego. Here are eight great bars to check out during your visit.

True North Tavern

True North Tavern merges a relaxed atmosphere with the trendy vibe that is representative of the neighborhood of North Park. The tavern has two full-service bars, pool tables and two outdoor patios, and at night, it has an area for dancing to the hits of today and yesterday. Try a new take on the Moscow Mule or one of two dozen beers on tap, some of which are brewed in San Diego. On the weekends, a cover charge applies. The kitchen is open until 10 p.m., and the bar is open until 2 a.m.

Waterfront Bar & Grill

Waterfront Bar & Grill, one of San Diego's oldest taverns, should be on your radar. Established in 1933, this unassuming Little Italy bar caters to anyone looking for a classic cocktail or a pint of beer. Local experts agree the friendly staff, great prices and casual setting make this a can't-miss destination. Waterfront is open daily from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Hamilton's Tavern

Robert Marks, head concierge at the Omni San Diego Hotel, recommends checking out the neighborhood of South Park for its "fun little bars and clubs that have a very hipster vibe to them." While you're there, swing by Hamilton's Tavern, a neighborhood alehouse, for a taste of San Diego's thriving craft beer scene. Ask the staff for recommendations on current drafts or explore some of the beer-infused food. Hamilton's Tavern is open until 2 a.m.

Vin de Syrah

Peyton Pierce, concierge at the Andaz San Diego, says Vin de Syrah's entrance leaves an immediate impression. "It feels like you have inside information because you have to walk down stairs and open a grass-covered wall. … It's like you're Alice going into Wonderland."

Mark Peak, head concierge at The US Grant, agrees, saying, "Half the fun is finding the entrance." This wine bar, located in the Gaslamp Quarter, draws influence from the lounges of New York City's Meatpacking District and the brasseries of Paris' Belle Epoque. Here, you'll find an extensive list of wines and spirits. Be sure to check out the wine flights.

Vin de Syrah is open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Thursday through Saturday, and from 5 p.m. to midnight on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays. The kitchen is open until 10 p.m. You can also take advantage of happy hour specials Tuesday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m., and on Sundays from 5 p.m. to midnight.

Park & Rec

Located just north of Balboa Park in the University Heights neighborhood, Park & Rec attracts patrons with live bands and specialty cocktails prepared by bartenders who pride themselves on creating quality drinks. Cocktails that should be on your radar are the Moscow Mule and classic Old Fashioned. This spot's indoor spaces are centered on a courtyard, and have games like shuffleboard and ping pong. Also check out the happy hour drink specials, offered Monday through Thursday, from 4 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close. Park & Rec is open until midnight, Sunday through Thursday, and until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Omnia

Omnia, an outpost of a Las Vegas club of the same name, offers an elite experience and attracts some of the world's hottest DJs. This club is located in the Gaslamp Quarter, which Marks calls "the mecca of nightlife entertainment for San Diego." Omnia has a multilevel main club as well as a rooftop bar. Download the Omnia app to get on the guest list, which allows free entrance before 10:30 p.m. The cover charge ranges from $30 to $70, depending on the DJ. This club is open Thursday through Sunday, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Barleymash

Barleymash is the place to go if you want to experience the Gaslamp Quarter but aren't interested in its clubs and lounges. Christopher Jorgens, chief concierge at the Hotel Del Coronado, calls it "a fun, casual bar." Branded as a high-energy restaurant and bar, Barleymash prides itself on its beer and bourbon selection. Barleymash is open daily until 2 a.m.

Kettner Exchange

For a "great place to get a craft cocktail," Justin Robbins, head concierge at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, recommends Kettner Exchange.

The restaurant's open-air rooftop bar, featuring a fire pit, exudes "a very calm atmosphere," says Edna Gutierrez, public relations manager at the San Diego Tourism Authority. Mezcal lovers should try the Que Onda, or for a twist on a traditional cocktail, try the Manhattan Exchange.

The establishment is located in Little Italy, which Brett Hamblen, head concierge at the Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa, says is "all about the lounge and foodie scene." The upstairs lounge opens weekdays at 5 p.m. and at 11 a.m. on weekends for brunch.

To experience more of what San Diego has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.

Darcie Czajkowski, Contributor

Darcie Czajkowski writes about travel for U.S. News. She is an avid traveler, who has visited ...  Read more

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