For many San Diegans, whiskey bars and clubs feel like the only Saturday night option. Luckily, for those who have a yen for exploration, San Diego also offers a number of dive bars with cheap drinks, fun bartenders, and a chill atmosphere. Some of the Growing Bitter San Diego team’s favorite local dive bars include:
Located on 30th street in North Park, Toronado is a beer-only dive, with what seems like hundreds of revolving options posted on a giant sign above the bar. With a selection of brewed-just-down-the-street options like Belching Beaver, as well as some out-of-country brands, like Orval and Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, Toronado is primarily known for its huge variety of beer choices. With 65 drafts and several hundred bottled, Toronado’s best characteristic is its sheer number of options. Beyond the beverages, Tornado is popular amongst North Park residents because of its relaxed vibe and open seating. Though some patrons stop by Tornado with only drinks in mind, for those who love the social scene the chill atmosphere in the bar lends itself to meeting new people and socializing with the bar staff.
Hidden by Morena boulevard in the area between Mission Bay and Clairemont, Sidecar is the perfect dive bar for anyone who wants to escape the hipster vibes of North Park and Normal Heights. Given its basketball arcade games and large selection of board games, Sidecar solicits fun crowds who are generally looking to pass the evening with the groups of friends they arrive with. Supplemented with a solid selection of beer, including Lagunitas, 32 North, and Green Flash, as well as cocktails for your non-beer-drinking crew, Sidecar also occasionally offers incentives for selecting the drinks of these beer companies by offering a free glass with any pint purchased.
Similar to the arcade haven Coin Op, Triple Crown is a Normal Heights dive bar replete with a variety of games, including pool, shuffleboard, darts, ping pong, as well as video games and an excellent jukebox. Tended by stern barkeeps who will immediately chastise newcomers for leaving their brews on the edge of the pool table, Triple Crown is a locals bar, where the drinks are cheap, but respect is expensive. Be kind to your bartender and the game supplies and you’ll be in for a game-filled night. As an added bonus: on Tuesdays, Triple Crown hosts a trivia night with a cool, but ruckus crowd. Come early to reserve your seat and help ensure you get a free pitcher of beer when you win! The only downside? Aside from a selection of California and imported beer most of Triple Crown’s brews are only served bottled. Fortunately, there are always three to four rotating local beers to choose from both on draft and in bottles.
Not convinced that dive bars are your style? More interested in the brewery scene? Check out one of San Diego’s best neighborhoods for San Diego micro-brews in North Park.
The Growing Bitter Team