The 20 Best Dive Bars in San Diego
July 18, 2019
Sometimes (err…often) you just want to throw on some flip flops and head to a local watering hole. Fortunately, if you get this urge in San Diego, there are lots of spots to choose from. From Oceanside to Chula Vista, San Diego has dozens of dive bars, each with their own neighborhood flavor, but all with cheap drinks, friendly locals, and a laid-back vibe. Here are 20 of the best dive bars in San Diego.
1. The High Dive Bar & Grill
Located in Bay Park, High Dive has 20 local craft beers on tap and delicious bar food including the Kraken, an insane burger with a one-pound patty, gorgonzola cheese, bacon, and grilled onions all sandwiched between two sriracha-infused peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Burger: $25. Ability to brag/confess that you ate this burger: priceless.
2. JT’s Tavern
Tucked away in a nondescript building in a strip mall parking lot, it’s easy to overlook JT’s—but you shouldn’t. JT’s, located in Grantville, offers well-priced drinks, attentive bartenders, daily karaoke, and games.
3. Archway Lounge
Chula Vista’s Archway Lounge is a no-frills local watering hole. The drinks are stiff and cheap and there are pool tables, a jukebox, and a dance floor.
4. Pacific Shores
Known as “Pac Shores”, this longtime OB favorite is just a block from the beach and offers cheap drinks and kitschy underwater décor. But don’t you dare dance here—Pac Shores doesn’t have a cabaret license, so they don’t allow dancing…not even a little. So hold that shimmy in until you have left the building!
This Hillcrest favorite has been around for over 50 years and does not appear to have changed much since the 70s. This dimly-lit red Naugahyde paradise has affordable cocktails, great food, and a friendly staff.
This well-liked University Heights establishment has friendly bartenders, affordable drinks, an excellent beer selection, delicious Bloody Marys, and lots of ways for customers to entertain themselves (ideally post-Bloody Mary).
7. The Lamplighter
This Mission Hills landmark is known for its award-winning karaoke, which runs from 9pm to 1am every day. The drinks are great, the crowd is friendly, and the atmosphere is lively and fun. Basically, if you haven’t been there you should be ashamed of yourself.
8. The Silver Fox Lounge
PB isn’t short on bars, but there aren’t many with as much character as the Silver Fox Lounge. Featuring leopard carpet, cheap drinks (cash only!), friendly patrons, a jukebox, darts, and three pool tables, the Silver Fox Lounge is a great place to hang out for a couple hours.
9. Catalina Lounge
Catalina Lounge, or “Cat Lounge,” has inexpensive drinks, a friendly atmosphere, and pool, shuffleboard, and darts—not to mention free goldfish and pretzels upon request! The bar is situated on Voltaire between Ocean Beach and Point Loma.
10. PCH Sports Bar and Grill
This Oceanside spot has an awesome selection of beer and stellar food, particularly their burgers (try the PCH Burger) and tacos. The staff is friendly and dogs are welcome too!
11. Redwing Bar and Grill
North Park’s Redwing offers good drinks, a pool table, darts, and karaoke seven nights a week. Their food is surprisingly tasty; try the nachos!
12. Live Wire
Live Wire has been offering “Cold Beer, Warm Friends” (the bar’s motto) for over 25 years. The bar, which straddles North Park and University Heights, has an awesome juke box; dim, red lighting; and a great selection of craft beers.
13. Club Marina
Point Loma’s oldest bar is still going strong! Club Marina has been hosting local fisherman and dive bar lovers for over 40 years. While it’s now under the same ownership as The Waterfront, Club Marina has retained its friendly neighborhood vibe and offers great happy hours and excellent service.
14. The Saloon
This Encinitas dive offers cheap, strong drinks; a pool table; and great music, all in the heart of Encinitas. The Saloon, located on S. Coast Highway, has been slinging drinks since 1934—definitely the sign of a good bar!
15. Star Bar
Star Bar offers a respite from the pricy madness of the Gaslamp. This cash-only establishment is tucked away on E St. between 4th and 5th, right in the heart of the Gaslamp district. Note that they have a $5 cover on some nights.
16. Tilted Stick
OB’s Tilted Stick has a fun (and dog-friendly) atmosphere, great craft beer selection, tasty food, and free pool—all right next to the beach—making this the quintessential San Diego dive.
17. Soda Bar
Part dive bar and part music venue, North Park’s Soda Bar is an awesome place to grab a cheap drink and get up close and personal to your favorite band.
18. Hearth House
This classic East County dive has all the necessary amenities: notoriously stiff drinks, friendly bartenders, pool tables, and a good jukebox. They also have karaoke on Friday nights.
19. The Aero Club Bar
One of San Diego’s oldest and best known dives, The Aero Club continues to delight patrons, particularly those who love whiskey (they have over 1,000 kinds). This Middletown bar was opened in 1947 by a female pilot and has funky aviation-themed décor. The bartenders are super knowledgeable, the bar is clean, and there is free popcorn. What more can you ask for?
20. Tivoli Bar & Grill
Tivoli has the honor of being one of the oldest bars in San Diego. This Gaslamp dive started as a saloon in 1885 and then morphed into a boarding house, feed store, and blacksmith shop. Apparently, Wyatt Earp was a regular here. These days, Tivoli is still a feed store of sorts—the menu includes burritos, hot dogs, and nachos. We’re gonna go out on a limb and say that this is probably not what Wyatt Earp was grubbing on back in the day.
Written by Whitney Currier for Knockaround.