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San Diego's Gaslamp Bars & Nightlife

Reviews Of The Hottest & Most Fun Pubs, Clubs and Bar/Restaurants 

Tilted Kilt San Diego Gaslamp
It's party time in the Gaslamp with tons of fun bars and people, like here at the Tilted Kilt.

By KevinWilkerson, PubClub.com

In the heart of downtown, along historic streets built by a visionary man named Horton, is a 16 1/2-block area with enough nightlife to make even Linsay Lohan drool.

It's called the Gaslamp Quarter and in many ways it resembles a lively area of a similar name in another city. Each has several bars, restaurants and shopping spots in an easily-walkable space. It has everything imaginable. There are sports bars, restaurant/bars, Irish pubs, pubs that turn into sort-of clubs, and dance clubs.

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Lucky Bastard San Diego Gaslamp bars
You sure are a Lucky Bastard if you can have a Stella Artois here with this girl!

Harry's Pub San Diego Gaslamp bars
San Diego is a military town and it's common to see Marines out in the Gaslamp.

The Gaslamp Quarter is far more civilized than New Orleans' French Quarter. It's lively anytime of the year and especially busy in the spring and summer because of it's also where Petco Park is located. 

San Diego Wine & Food Festival girls
There are many beautiful girls in San Diego and they love going out in the Gaslamp. 

And here's a good PubClub.com tip – make your initial rounds beginning about 8. 

The reason for this is many places, even what initially appears to be a pub or casual bar, have a cover charge at night. The price varies from between $5-15 and increases as the night – and the crowd – progresses. So go a bit early, find your favorite places and get a hand stamp.

Fat Tuesday San Diego Gaslamp Fat Tuesday San Diego Gaslamp
There's a ot of fun to be found in San Diego's lively Gaslamp.  Photos: Jack Fleming Photograph

The Gaslamp is the center of San Diego's dance clubs. It also has so many Irish pubs one might be led to wonder if they wandered off to Dublin. There's a touch of London here, too; some of the restaurants turn into lively bars and mini-clubs after the kitchens close at 11.

Fat Tuesday San Diego Gaslamp
San Diego's Fat Tuesday parade is a big block party in the Gaslamp each February. Photo: Jack Fleming Photography 

San Diego Gaslamp bars party
Bring on the party – the Gaslamp is always a great time. Photo: Jack Fleming Photography 

San Diego Gaslamp bars hot girl
Ya gotta love a girl in a fedora drining big beers in fedoras.  Photo: Jack Fleming Photography 

Fat Tuesday parade San Diego Gaslamp
Sexy San Diego is on tap for those who party in the Gaslamp.  
 Photo: Jack Fleming Photography 

The presence of the clubs means it's mainy a dressy area. Not overdressed, mind you – remember, this is San Diego – but jeans and slacks are as prominent here as are sandals and shorts in nearby Pacific Beach.

This guide does not contain all the bars in the Gaslamp; anyone could do that on their own by walking through the Quarter. Rather, it focuses on the the popular places that are the most happening or contain the best singles action.

Gaslamp Quarter Bars & Pubs

Tipsy Crow San Diego Gaslamp bars
The girls may – or may not – be Tipsy in the Tipsy Crow. 

Shout Gaslamp piano bar
These girls take a break for some beers at the piano bar Shout.

The geat thing about the Gaslamp is that there is a huge variety of bars. Something for eveyone, in fact. Fancy and casual, sports and sporting, pubs and clubs.

And at the top of the PubClub.com party list is Barley Mash.

It's in the ideal location – 5th and Market – and it's the "to there for everything" bar. That means there's people in there at all times of the day and night. It has tons of TVs so it's great for sports, it has superb food so you can have a great meal for lunch or dinner, and at night it becomes kind of clubbinsh, but still has its pubbish roots. You could literally go here for one drink early in the evening and wind up staying all night. Oh, and it has super-sexy bartenders and waitresses.

Barley Mash Gaslamp Bars
Barley Mash is a pub by day, club by night, and it's a PubClub.com Gaslamp favorite.  Photo: Jack Fleming Photography 

Did we make a wrong turn and wind up in Dublin? For some reason, the Gaslamp Quarter is crawling with Irish pubs. There is Dublin Square, which has the look and feel of an actual Dublin square. 

There is also Blarney Stone Pub, which has a small outdoor area and two bars inside. And then there is The Field, shipped piece by piece from Ireland. Talk about a commitment! It's small patio is almost aways packed.Among all the pubs, Dublin Square is consistently the most crowded. The Blarney has the most popular pub patio. 

It's not just the waitresses that are an attraction at the Tilted Kilt; it's a fun bar! 

Tilted Kilt San Diego Gaslamp hot beer girl
At the Tilted Kilt, a hot girl is always ready with a cold beer. 

Tilted Kilt San Diego Gaslamp waitresses
The gorgeous girls of the Tilted Kilt pose for PubClub.com.

Another bar with an across-the-pond them is The Tilted Kilt. But it's more about presentation – as in the presentation of sexy girls dressed in revealing shirts and short kilts. The Tilted Kilt is fun, friendly and full of eye-popping entertainment. And not just for guys; girls like to come here, as well (as evidenced by the lead photo on this page). Part of that is because they know where to find men!

The girls are real (meaning they have much more than good looks) and they are, in a nod to that famous Seinfeld episode, spec-TAC-u-lar! 

This, plus the Kilt's location right at one of the gates by Petco Park makes it highly popular before and after Padres games, and it's also the home of the USC Trojans on fall football Saturdays. For college games it has $5 20-ounced Budweisers and Bud Lights (served ice cold from a tub of ice by a sexy girl and $17 buckets. It's hugely popular for UFC fights, plus any big sporting event. 

San Diego Gaslamp nightlife bars party
It's always party time with beers and cheers in San Diego's Gaslamp bars. Photo: Jack Fleming Photography 

A fun hybrid is Henry's. It's half pub, half dance bar. The music is modern tunes mixed in with party classics. The crowd is early to mid-20s, tops. The prevailing mood is definitely pub with a bit of Daytona Beach Spring Break revelry on the side. The DJ even sounds as if he has worked a poolside wet t-shirt contest or two. There is no fancy dress code is in effect and the crowd is mainly in their 20s. For those who want some club elements combined in a casual setting, this is your place.

Henry's is part of one of the most rocking sections of the Gaslamp's bars/pubs area, 5th Avenue between Market and G Street. 

The other spots are Whiskey Girl – a beer-and-whiskey type of joint with nice-looking girls working there – and La Fiesta. At the end of the block is Johnny Love's, a nice restaurant with a long Gaslamp tradition of being a sensational place for mingling and cocktails. All these bars feature Happy Hours for early starters, running from about 5-7 p.m. Boards out front have specific hours and specials.

The afternoon beer specials rock make Rockin' Baja a good pre-Padres cantina.

A little further down 5th toward Petco is Rockin' Baja, a small but fun cantina (Happy Hour here is inside only but the place sells 16-ounce ICE COLD – they are actually packed in ice – Budweiser and Bud Lights for $3.75 two hours before the start of every Padres home game).

Those in search of a dive bar need to look no further than the Star Bar (E Street). It's a local legend that, despite getting somewhat popular, still has its cast of shady characters. It's the kind of place that will make you want to wash your shoes after leaving. Tivoli (just outside of the well-paved pedestrian paths at 6th and Island) is another dive with a crowd of 20s-40s basic bar lovers. There is also a small (and we do mean small) patio. Here, you can get a pint of Busch beer for 2 bucks. No kidding! Star, by the way, is the owner. 

San Diego is so close to Mexico it would almost be silly not to dive into a cantina for a margarita. Fred's Mexican Cafe has the best atmosphere, sporting a kicked-back tiki-style bar of people who just stopped in for one or two or who are waiting for a dining table to clear.

We would probably be repremanded by some readers if we did not mention there is a Hooter's in the Gaslamp. It's a prime place to watch sports, some of which are even on the dozens of TVs.

Gaslamp Quarter Restaurant/Bars

Jimmy Loves San Diego Gaslamp live music bars
Live music at Jimmy Loves make this a very popular restaurant-turned-bar.

One of the neatest aspects of the Gaslamp Quarter is the restaurants that turn into hot bars. The crowds are late 20s to late 30s, pubbers looking for a bit of clubbing who don't want younger crowds of the clubs. 

Jimmy Loves is known as a haven for 30-somethings who want to party but not feel like they are in collge. There's a band on a stage, an area to dance and a long bar. It's cranking in this place and is a favorite haunt for many lcoals who are fortunate enough to live in the area. 

Jimmy Loves San Diego Gaslamp bars
There's dancing at Jimmy Love's to go with the live music.

There is no band, no DJ and no dancing, but Searsucker is one of PubClub.com's top party places in the Gaslamp. This elegant but casual bar is a hangout mecca for singles.  Just stay in the vicinity of the bar and there's a parade of people and everyone is so danged friendly it's easy to start a conversation. On several occasions, PubClub.com stopped in here for a beer or two only to stay until closing time. There can be no better compliment to a bar.

Another favorite spot is The Tipsy Crow. It's a multi-level bar with a main level that features a long bar, tables for food service and a foosball table, a cozy lounge upstairs and a busy dance club downstairs. It's quite easy to get tipsy in here, and feel like you're in three different places while doing it. 

The bar at the Gaslamp Strip Club (easy, it's an upscale steakhouse) is good on weekends. Most people are waiting on a table so they can tear into a steak but quite a few singles on bar patrol like to stop in for a drink.

You don't hear a lot about Dick's Last Resort, but tourists are attracted to it like moths to a light. With all the other activity around, it's better to check it out earlier in the night, say before 11. 

Gaslamp Quarter Dance Clubs

San Diego Gaslamp dance clubs
Hot dance clubs come alive on weekends in the Gaslamp.

The trend among nightclubs in the Gaslamp are the roofttop hotel bars. One of the hottest is the bar in the W Hotel (421 West B Street) which has a rooftop open-air bar and heated sand floor. But of course we care more about the crowd than the decor and right now, it's hotter than the firepit.

Another is the Hard Rock. Especially on Sundays when its pool becomes San Diego's version of the wildly popular Rehab in Las Vegas. Here, it's called Intervention.

For the clubbers, there's plenty of places to sweat it up on the dance floor in the Gaslamp.

The Dollhouse San Diego Gaslamp
There's lots of dolls in the Dollhouse, including this one behind the bar. Photo: Jack Fleming Photography 

A top club – in PubClub.com's opinion – is the Dollhouse. It's on 5th Street a block from Horton Plaza and is a club but with a pub-friendly attitude. And we indeed me pub friendly. Even pubbers will love this place. You go downstairs and into a club-type atmosphere but it's like walking into your friend's rocking house party.  Oh, and there are lots of dolls in the Dollhouse, and we don't just mean the girls behind the bar.

Some like to give it their best shot – or shots – in the Gaslamp's clubs.

True to its name, Basic is pretty basic. But not really. It's in an old warehouse building with huge ceilings. Side garage-style doors open up to the street, there's a pool table surrounded by what appears to be church pews, and lounge-style seating. The crowd matches the "casual club" vibe. PubClub has not had the pizza here, but it looks and smells sensational, so don't hesitate to order it along with a beer or cocktail. Since it's close to the Petco Park – the address is 410 Tenth Avenue – it's a popular spot to go after night games.

Onyx Room is an upscale lounge and club with hip – but not hip hop – music. It has a Vegas style to it.

The Blue Tatoo is the hip-hop club with the hip-hop crowd. 

The clubs have big-city cover charges ($7-15; most of them are $10) so club hopping can get pricey after a while. However, most places compensate for this by offering a multitude of scenes under one roof – dancing, a standing bar, a lounge area and so forth, so that a single club is often enough entertainment for one night. Most wave the cover with dinner.

It would be easy to assume that the prevailing clubby atmosphere comes with out of control attitudes. But while the doormen are all dressed in black jackets with earpieces dangling down their sides, again, this is San Diego. So, the laid-back persona prevails.

 

 

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