Speakeasy Lounge A Modern-Day Classic
The San Diego Gaslamp Quarter – or really the East Village to those who know the difference– has a new neighborhood bar and it’s called, well, Neighborhood.
It is everything I expected it to be when I first saw its old-school neon sign hanging on the corner of G Street and 8th Ave.
My initial impression from seeing that sign was that it was he kind of place I have seen in old movies and TV shows from the 50’s and 60’s in which dads would go into to have a drink after work. I envisioned that it would be dark, cozy and quiet with drinkers seated around a partially-circular bar having sophisticated drinks.
But with a modern, hipster twist.
And that is exactly what I found at Neighborhood. But with a twist.
That twist – that modern hipster aspect – is that it has hidden secrets.
For one, the front door is somewhat hidden. It’s between large palm fronds and doesn’t look like it works. A friend and I first walked away from it to look for another entrance.
It also has many beers on a menu but several more bottles and cans seem to be available, judging from the shelves and coolers at the back part of the small bar. So that’s a bit of a mystery.
Then there’s the speakeasies. Go toward the restrooms and push on the beer kegs to discover a passageway to a tiny room that is full of mirrors. With a couple drinks in your system it’s easy to think you’re in a large space, but it’s only about the width of two people. To the right is another small bar and behind a fruit-filled cooler is another small area.
It’s all free but to get behind the fruit cooler you need a reservation and a cute girl is on duty in the mirrored room to enforce that policy.
So to cut to the chase, Neighborhood is a cool bar close enough to the main action of the Gaslamp to be convenient but on a quiet enough street to be intimate. It is a FANTASTIC first-date place. As long as you are there on a weekday or before 8 on weekends (the bar’s capacity is less than 30 people per room and there’s no standing or leaning space).
The drink prices are quite reasonable for a modern-day hip lounge with quirky elements to it ($8 for beers, $13 for cocktails and $15-20 for food items) and the staff is well trained and works to get you want you want. As an example of the latter, I was pouring over the extensive craft beer menu with the waitress when, much to my surprise, one of the bartenders came over to our chairs and made an excellent suggestion.
That personal attention was very impressive.
Is Neighborhood a regular drinking spot, like those father’s places I’ve seen on those old TV shows and movies?
Is it a cool place to go when you want to take a break from the frenzy of some of the other East Village and Gaslamp bars?