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San Diego Nightlife

Altitude Skybar + Garden Lounge
660 K Street
San Diego , California
Tel: 619 446 6088

Perched 22 stories up, atop the Gaslamp Marriott, Altitude is San Diego's highest outdoor bar—a vantage point that affords sweeping views of the bay, Coronado Bridge, and the Padres' new ballpark. The beachy vibe, encouraged by a fire pit and wicker lounge chairs, is tempered by dance music and disco lights. Thursday through Saturday nights, it's overrun by the clubby masses, but most weeknights and during the day, you're likely to find an older, mellower crowd. Come during a Padres game when the bar is delightfully uncrowded and get a skyboxlike view of the baseball diamond below from the bar's southwest corner.

1337 India Street
San Diego
California 92101
Tel: 619 595 0300

A throwback to the golden age of swanky supper clubs, Anthology offers quality live music on a state-of-the-art stage in view of the three-level, Cotton club–esque dining room. From Latin beats and smooth jazz to acoustic classic rock and college a capella, headliners cater to the full gamut of San Diego's music scene. Bigger-name acts include Vonda Shepard, Fountains of Wayne, and Marc Cohn of "Walking in Memphis" fame, but the house band, which plays on open-seating Tuesdays, is also worth seeing. The rest of the week you'll need a reservation in addition to the cover charge to see the show. Happily, the food matches the energy of the music thanks to Four Seasons vet, chef Eric Bauer. Try his specialty: artichoke barigoule paired with white beans and yellowfin tuna.—Audrey Davidow

Opens Tuesdays through Fridays at 5 pm, Saturdays at 5:30 pm.

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El Dorado Cocktail Lounge
1030 Broadway
San Diego , California
Tel: 619 237 0550

These days, anyone with a strainer seems to call him- or herself a mixologist, but the spirit slingers behind the bar at El Dorado Cocktail Lounge are the real deal. The ice there is perfectly cubed, and there's a daily selection of freshly squeezed juices and a seasonally changing menu—the fall selection highlights one-off recipes such as the Honey Badger (premium rye, honey, and bitters). In spite of the barkeeps' waxing poetic about black rum and a DJ scene that constantly tries to drown them out, El Dorado is the most welcoming hipster saloon this side of Brooklyn. Locals in the red booths or at the long bar welcome visitors with neighborly hellos, while a wall-mounted white buffalo gazes fondly down at the indie kids and revival-rock bands below.—Audrey Davidow

Open Saturdays through Thursdays 7 pm to 2 am, Fridays 5 pm to 2am.

Hamilton's Tavern
1521 30th Street
San Diego , California
Tel: 619 238 5460

San Diego is now the craft beer capital of the country (take that, Portland), and its genesis may very well be Scott Blair's 75-year-old watering hole, Hamilton's Tavern in South Park. This dimly lit joint, where the decor amounts to little more than a few pool tables and a shuffleboard court, is your classic no-nonsense neighborhood tavern. But the beer list, one of the most impressive in town, sets Hamilton's apart—there's a huge selection of both local micro brews and exotic imports. The crowd, while wall-to-wall on the weekends, is friendly and chilled, more flip-flops and baseball caps than skinny jeans and fedoras. Still, best to come on a weekday, in the late afternoon, when the bartenders are happy to share the 411 on beer-brewing basics along with unlimited free samples before you buy.—Audrey Davidow

Open Mondays through Fridays 3 pm to 2 am, Saturdays and Sundays 1 pm to 2 am.

Jack's La Jolla
7863 Girard Avenue
La Jolla
San Diego , California
Tel: 858 456 8111

Like a playground for scene-chasing 30- and 40-somethings, Jack's is a 17,000-square-foot multilevel nightlife and dining "destination" with four distinct bars and three restaurants. Like a landlocked cruise ship, it's clean and stylish, albeit overproduced. The ground-floor Wine Bar is most popular with the happy-hour crowd for its well-populated wine list and piano lounge. As the night wears on, the action shifts to the slick Wall Street Bar, the casual Beach Bar, and ultimately the open-air Ocean Bar. A crooning cover band routinely packs the Wall Street bar on "Sinatra Sundays."

Lahaina Beach House
Pacific Beach
710 Oliver Avenue
San Diego , California
Tel: 858 270 3888

The best place for a drink on a sunny day, local-institution Lahaina serves cold pitchers of beer on its big open deck. Its location right on the sand between Pacific Beach and Mission Beach guarantees major league views of the ocean and the action on the boardwalk. The friendly regular crowd ranges from professional drinkers and shirtless surfers to wide-eyed tourists. Sunsets and happy hour are also prime time, but Lahaina's liquor license prohibits serving drinks after 8:30 p.m.

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The Lincoln Room
901 Fourth Avenue
San Diego
Tel: 619 696 8888

A cozy log cabin–like boîte in downtown's Gaslamp District, The Lincoln Room has a penny-laid bar, Montana wood walls, and a tasty seasonal menu influenced by San Diego's produce (the chipotle-seasoned smoked wings are worth the trip alone). The cocktail menu is a modern nod to old-fashioned favorites like the Peach Julep and The Mary Todd (Grey Goose pear vodka and pear purée). An impressive whiskey selection runs the gamut from small-batch bourbons to rare Irish single malts, and there's a good mix of familiar and unknown labels. But this is definitely not a swanky sipping lounge. Since Honest Abe's face graces the $5 bill, there's an unbeatable daily happy hour (3 to 7 pm) with $5 wines, cocktails, and nibbles. It's gimmicky, but it works.—Audrey Davidow

Open daily 5 pm to midnight.

Monkey Paw
805 16th Street
San Diego , California
Tel: 619 358 9901

San Diego bar baron Scot Blair's fourth opening (following Small Bar, Eleven, and Hamilton's) has a constantly shifting selection of 35-plus craft beers on tap. Brews include everything from Allagash and Grand Teton to the lusted-after Russian River beers, as well as a full bar and a game-day-ready menu of cheese steaks and hot wings. The twist? Monkey Paw is a proper brewpub and produces small batches of its own suds on site. The tavern, kitted out with communal tables, stained glass, and plenty of natural light during the day, is fast becoming the lovably gritty Cheers of the East Village.—Audrey Davidow

Open Mondays through Wednesdays noon to 12 am, Thursdays through Sundays noon to 2 am.

Star Bar
423 E Street
San Diego , California
Tel: 619 234 5575

Downtown's trendy clubs come and go like the ocean tides, but for more than 40 years, gaudy red and black Star Bar with its hundreds of cases of beer stacked on the bare wood floor has stood firm as the Gaslamp's quintessential dive bar. Hard-drinking locals, Navy sailors, and some adventurous tourists come down for cheap beer and stiff drinks. The trashy-hot bartenders fuel barstool rumors that a brothel still operates upstairs.

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4026 30th Street
San Diego , California
Tel: 619 282 0456

North Park's no-frills watering hole Toronado rises to the head of the glass for beer aficionados eager to taste the impressive selection. There are 50 rotating beers on tap and an overwhelming 230 different bottles from all over the globe. Be aware that the cheap happy hour specials (can't beat the $3 local pints on Mondays) draw in the frat boys, too. They've even got Pubcakes—that's a beer-flavored cupcake, for those who like to make a full meal out of the matter. This popular spot fills up early, so get there before 5 pm on the weekends if you want to grab one of the coveted picnic tables out back.—Audrey Davidow

Open daily 11:30 am to 12 am.

Whaling Bar & Grill
1132 Prospect Street
La Jolla
San Diego , California
Tel: 858 551 3764

Tucked inside the historic La Valencia Hotel, the Whaling Bar has been a La Jolla classic since the 1940s. Its interior is done up in a nautical motif with Moby Dick–style oil paintings, harpoons, and faux lanterns; black leather booths line the walls; and a handful of stools belly up to the rich mahogany bar. Though the bar's signature drink is the Whaler, a froufrou milkshakelike concoction, you're more likely to blend in with the old-money La Jollans when sipping a gin and tonic or tippling a snifter of cognac.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.