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Pacific Beach Bars

The Best Locals Bars in San Diego's PB!

PB Bar & Grill Pacific Beach bars
Pacific Beach is full of fun people having a good time.

By KevinWilkerson, PubClub.com

This is where the party meets the Pacific, a heavenly hangout of beachside bars, neighborhood pubs and dance spots. In "PB," as locals call it, there is always something going on any night of the week. And it so compact, most places are within easy walking distance of one another.

In a way, Pacific Beach is like a step back in time, as if the 60s are still with us. It has a Dairy Queen – a Dairy Queen! – and a drive-thru at that. The accommodation choices still include motels and a few run-down cottages. Surfers are still dragging longboards out to challenge the waves (though the boards are now made of fiberglass instead of balsa wood and most people use shortboards). 

Yet there are also high-rise and modern condos, hotels and modern shopping spots.

Moondoggies Pacific Beach bars
The fun in Pacific Beach keeps rolling in like the adjacent ocean waves.

Moondoggies Pacific Beach bars
There's plenty to cheer about in the PB Bar & Grill.

Moondoggies Pacific Beach bars
It's clink, then drink, at the fun bars in Pacific Beach north of San Diego. 

Regardless of the decade, the main attraction is the beach, as well as the concrete path that slices down its edge. Surfing, sunning, beach volleyball and other activities fill the sand while runners, rollerbladers, bicyclers and pedestrians keep the Strand buzzing (East Coasters refer to this as a boardwalk, but out here it's the Strand). 

Along it are restaurants, bars, motels and, a little south of PB, the rollercoaster and arcade games of Mission Beach. This is by no means a list of all the bars in PB, but the ones PubClub.com prefers and that are the most consistently fun and busy.

PB can be surprisingly difficult to find, as there is no large, well-marked exit off the I-5 freeway. That's why PubClub provides you with these directions. Park it or find a hotel close to the main intersection of Garnet and Mission Beach Blvd., and start partying.

GETTING TO PB DIRECTIONS:

From the North: I-5 South. Exit Balboa/Garnet Ave. Go west towards beach 

From the South: I-5 North to Grand/Garnet exit. Go west towards beach. 

Best Bars & Daytime Dives

Lanina'sPacific Beach bars
For 20+ years, Lahaina has been a PB beachside landmark for pitcher of cold Buds.

Lanina Pacific Beach bars
Pitchers on the deck make Lahina Beach House a desirable daytime destination.

It's right on the beach, resembling a lifeguard stand on steroids. But it serves food and drinks, so the only rescue operations it launches are for hungry and thirsty patrons. Lahaina Beach House is a Pacific Beach tradition, a casual bar with a wooden outdoor deck, beer on tap and a simple but good menu. Any sunny afternoon – especially on weekends – people gather to gossip and drink and check out the action directly in front of them on the beach and Strand. It's can be a pretty aggressive pickup place, something we refer to as a "location bar." Get the right table or spot on the ocean-facing patio and who knows what might happen later.

Around the corner from Lahaina is another "anytime it's sunny" place called The Open Bar. Across from the Ralph's shopping plaza, it can get a crowd any afternoon the sun is out. Which is to say, just about any afternoon. Usually by nightfall the crowd moves elsewhere, except for Mondays when it's THE place to be. The crowd, which thoroughly enjoys the $2.50 mixed drink special, is a mix of beach and borderline hip-hop.

Shore Club Pacific Beach bars fish tacos
A good bar, a great view and terrific fish tacos at the Shore Club.

Once a dark dive, the Pacific Beach Shore Club is now a sought-after destination among the sunburned and thirsty. It's amazing what one does when they put in some windows that open up to a view of the Pacific and Pacific Beach Pier. That, plus it's a place for cheap drinks (specials during the day are particularly inviting) and top it off with PB's Best Fish Tacos (Mani Mahi, grilled, blackened or fried, $4.50 each). And it's even better when your waitress is named Breezy! 

Thrusters Pacific Beach bars
Thrusters is a good place for a late-night beer, and you may also meet someone.

Now if you like dives – and good bar crawler worth his or her salt does, quite frankly –  then go to Thrusters. On Mission Blvd., next to the liquor store, Thruster's is PB's Great Secret Bar. As thin as a rollerblader, it is a mix between New York hip and dive, where people go when they want to pound down cocktails without the lines and masses arounnd them. It reaches its peak later at night, after midnight and until closing at 2 a.m., because sometimes, you just want to go have a Bud in a casual, no-nonsense bar that's also lively enough where you may pick up somebody for the night.

How's this for the name of a bar in a beach town: the Typhoon Saloon!? It's up from the PB Bar & Grill on Garnet and his a huge draw for the college crowd (the SDSU capus is close to PB). Its big nights are Fridays and Saturdays, but also Tuesdays for its Taco Tuesday ($2 and $3 tacos with beer specials). It also holds various events, such as a preliminary bikini contest for the Over-the-Line's Miss Emerson in early July. On fall Sundays it's a San Francisco 49ers bar.

A good place to start a weekend night is Gringo's. It's an upscale Mexican eatery with a lively Happy Hour. The margaritas are large and for shots, try the rare but intoxicating almond tequila.

Pacific Beach bars hot girls
PB has plenty of cool bars to have good cheers with beers.

The Cass Street Bar and Grill is a cool hangout spot for beers and also food. Located on Cass Street a block from Garnet, this cool-colored bar and mini-restaurant tends to come and go like an ocean surge, but for regulars it's as steady as a winter surge. Now it's at high tide again. It's a low-key neighborhood bar that is as casual as a pair of sandals. It's great anytime for a drink, a meal (the menu is painted onto the wall), watching sports or playing a game of pool. Girls and guys arrive in twos and threes and it's pretty easy to meet them. For singles, Cass St. is best between 8-11.

If you like to pair good beer with good pizza, head to Ciro's Pizzeria and Beerhouse (987 Garnet St.) where, as the name implies, you can get full pies or slices, washed down with its seclection of speciality brews from its weekly draft menu.

To continue on the food and beer theme, go inland a bit to Rocky's. It has the Best Hamburgers in San Diego. Our worldwide hamburger correspondent rates them #2 in the world (second only to Ercoles in Manhattan Beach, CA). Go for the quarter-pounder and a beer at this relative clean, small somewhat dive neighborhood hangout. It's good for sports, too. Locals have also given PubClub.com good burger reports about the Hamburger Tree in Escondito (168 Mission Ave; 760-746-6365), especially for its huge homemaid fries. Hmm, a burger and beer, sports and a cool crowd. Sounds good to us!

Pacific Beach's Nightclubs

Moondoggies Pacific Beach bars
The casual beach town of Pacific Beach turns two pubs into clubs at night.

Despite its status as place where old-time surfers go to die (and party hard until they do), PB consists primarily of a young crowd. They can largely be found in a pair of bar/clubs as well as a rock spot locally famous for live bands. 

PB Bar & Grill Pacific Beach bars
At the PB Bar & Grill, the pub is at the front bar while a club rocks in the back. 

The dance bars are right next to one another on Garnet. We call them dance bars because neither is a full-on club (this is, after all, still a beach community). Pacific Beach Bar & Grill, in fact, takes on multiple characteristics. In the front is a casual hangout bar, not at all different from Cass St. Out the door is a large outdoor patio area, somewhat casual and laid-back, while in the back a large dance area is jumping – sometimes literally. 

Make a note of the large TV screens against the wall; this is also an awesome place to watch sports.

The Taco Tuesday is popular but it's really after 10 on any night that the place gets "line at the door" packed. However, that's also the time it becomes less beach bar and more club. Thursdays is Asian night and the line is around the corner.

Moondoggies Pacific Beach bars
Like its neighbor PB Bar & Grill, Moondoggies goes from pub to club. 

Moondoggies Pacific Beach bars
The lively atmosphere of place like Moondoggies keep the patrons partying.

Moondoggies, located in a former surf shop, keeps its surfing roots, to a degree. Frankly, it's too modern and clean to really cling to its roots, but at least it's the theme. It has a bar, a huge patio and dancing. It's the most popular sports bar in PB and is definitely the loudest for Monday Night Football. It has free comedy on Tuesday nights.

Most people bounce between PB Bar & Grill and Moondoggies, or choose one one night and the other on another night. Both also serve food.

For live music, Blind Melon right at the beach is the spot to rock. Like any good rock 'n roll club, it's not fancy, which means the focus is on the music. The crowd is best described as "beach R&R."

PB's Sunday Party Bars

The place to be on Sundays in PB is Beachcomber. Located two blocks south of the Mission Beach rollercoaster, it is all things to all people. Go early and it's the party-never-ends set, people in their 40s 50s, even 60s. With each passing hour the crowd gets progressively younger. By 9, it's mostly 20s and 30s. It's a down-and-dirty bar with one of those fun "the more you drink, the better it sounds" bands. 

San Diego party veterans might be shaking their heads. The Beachcomber on Sunday? What about the Barefoot Bar? Unfortunately, we are sad to report, the Barefoot Bar is no more. This once totally-raging indoor-outdoor replica of Duke's in Waikiki Beach, named for the igloo-shaped sand-covered dance floor required people to remove their shoes, is now a family-oriented restaurant-bar catering to visitors at the adjacent resort. The management must have gotten tired of making money because the place is absolutely dead now. It's a sad passing of a San Diego party landmark.

Another Sunday option is The Tavern. It's a basic bar on Garnet, about a dozen blocks inland from the beach. Check it out on other nights, too.

 

 

 

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