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Bar with good cocktails in San Diego

honkman Jul 1, 2009 04:10 PM

Recently after a good dinner we are often in the mood for a good cocktail. So far we mainly went to the Dussini Bar which has a nice sitting area, decent cocktails (and pool tables).
Where are other places in San Diego for good cocktails (and I am not looking for dive bars but more upscale bars (additional live music like in some of the bars in Las Vegas is a nice plus) ?

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  1. Josh RE: honkman Jul 1, 2009 04:17 PM

    Starlite

    15 Replies
    1. re: Josh
      honkman RE: Josh Jul 1, 2009 04:50 PM

      We haven't been to Starlite yet and always had the impression that Starlite was more a restaurant which also serves cocktails than a bar which is specialized on cocktails etc. In addition, I have heard from many people (on also read on CH) that the food and service at Starlite is average at best.

      1. re: honkman
        j
        jayporter RE: honkman Jul 1, 2009 04:57 PM

        Honkman, I think you would really like Starlite (personally, I love it for cocktails, for wine and for dinner). Given that y'all go out quite often, I'd suggest hitting Starlite for a cocktail after dinner on a weeknight to get a sense of the vibe and food menu, and that will help you decide if it's your cup of tea for dinner. It definitely fits your request -- upscale bar specializing cocktails -- perfectly.

        1. re: honkman
          Josh RE: honkman Jul 1, 2009 06:59 PM

          You certainly didn't hear that from me. I like Starlite a lot. Food is good, not life-changing, but good, and the cocktails are creative and delicious. Modus also has good cocktails.

          1. re: honkman
            s
            stevewag23 RE: honkman Jul 1, 2009 08:30 PM

            "had the impression that Starlite was more a restaurant which also serves cocktails than a bar which is specialized on cocktails etc."

            I would actually say its 50-50.

            Which kind of makes it unique in that respect.

            1. re: honkman
              DiningDiva RE: honkman Jul 1, 2009 10:27 PM

              Honkman, I think you'd like the bar and their cocktails are interesting and well done. I have not had particulalry good luck with the food there (uneven), but the drinks are fine.

              Bar service is fine, tho' not particularly attentive and the last time I ate there (around Xmas and the room was less than half full) the food service could only have been described as beach casual, our server was definitely on cruise control. The food on that specific visit was amatuerish at best. Luckily, I'd already had much better food there in previous visits.

              One of the guys that works for me took his girlfriend to Starlight; they went specifically for drinks. He said the place "gave her the creeps" and they ended up leaving. I think the real key to Starlight is age related. If you're hip, trendy and under 40 you'll be fine. If you're over 40 they tolerate you but don't embrace you, or at least that has been my experience over the course of several visits.

              1. re: DiningDiva
                s
                stevewag23 RE: DiningDiva Jul 2, 2009 08:45 AM

                "food service could only have been described as beach casual"

                I would call it "hipster casual" or "wimpster casual" which for all purposes is the same thing.

                Good point about the age thing.

                My mom (who liked it) was wondering why all the girls had tattoos and seemed masculine in behavior and the guys dressed in tight jeans and seemed so feminine in behavior.

                I responded: "That is just how it is these days, Mom".

                1. re: DiningDiva
                  Beach Chick RE: DiningDiva Jul 2, 2009 02:04 PM

                  'If you're over 40 they tolerate you but don't embrace you, or at least that has been my experience'
                  What kind of Bullsh*t is that?
                  I would NEVER ever go to a place that because I am over 40 would think that I'm not hip or trendy...can they drum the long version of Freebird...hee hee

                  Just my two hip happening cents!

                  1. re: Beach Chick
                    Fake Name RE: Beach Chick Jul 2, 2009 05:17 PM

                    I've never felt shunned there at all. It's probably because I look about 27 if I dress up. Riiight.

                    Lord help me, I can't change.

                    1. re: Fake Name
                      Beach Chick RE: Fake Name Jul 2, 2009 06:12 PM

                      Fakey..
                      I still got it going on...at least in my mind... ; )
                      I do get carted but my friends say it's to see if I qualify for the senior discount!
                      Excellent take on Lynard Skynard!!!!

                      Happy 4th to all my wonderful SD Chowhound's!

                      1. re: Fake Name
                        s
                        stevewag23 RE: Fake Name Jul 2, 2009 06:15 PM

                        Me neither but I can see what DiningDiva is talking about.

                        Its that weird hipster subculture.

                        1. re: Fake Name
                          r
                          rotie77 RE: Fake Name Jul 2, 2009 06:15 PM

                          Me too. They've been very nice. Though when you're 6'7" and 275, most people are nice to you. ;)

                          1. re: rotie77
                            s
                            stevewag23 RE: rotie77 Jul 2, 2009 06:18 PM

                            True.

                            Unless you are in a super crowded airplane.

                            Or you are trying to make weight for a flyweight boxing match.

                      2. re: DiningDiva
                        p
                        pickypicky RE: DiningDiva Jul 3, 2009 07:56 AM

                        pretty accurate DD. we took my 24 yr old son. he loved it. i wanted to love it but the food wasn't good enough to warrant love, and really it seems a bit taudry and amateurish after my 3-4th visit.

                    2. re: Josh
                      Fake Name RE: Josh Jul 1, 2009 06:42 PM

                      Yup, Starlite. I think of it as a bar with good cocktails, and the food's pretty good, too.

                      1. re: Josh
                        d
                        DougOLis RE: Josh Jul 2, 2009 11:38 AM

                        aye, as everyone else is saying. Starlite fits the bill. Good drinks (love the copper mugs), good food, and a good vibe (at least for someone my age/type). No live music though. Most places I go for music are diveish so I'm not really sure how to help you there.

                      2. Sampaguita RE: honkman Jul 2, 2009 08:43 AM

                        The Ivy Hotel: Dang fine bar. (Don't ask me about Envy)

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: Sampaguita
                          c
                          cookieshoes RE: Sampaguita Jul 2, 2009 06:57 PM

                          Hell to the yeah on the Ivy Hotel recommendation.

                          For "upscale bars" in SD, the short list is Ivy Hotel (for highend) and Starlite (for under-the-radar). The rest of the contenders are places that have a view (Top of the Hyatt, Mr A's, George's terrace, etc.).

                          Ivy Hotel gets a lot of flack for the restaurant being a little overpriced, and for the nightclub roof being a tad too "singles" conspicuous, but the bar in that place is excellent for the purpose. If you wanna impress, casually, go there. But with that, a word of warning, do not order off the regular menu. It gets pricey verrrrry quickly. As in, $15 beers if you take the bartenders recommendation. So, order off the Happy Hour menu. Those drinks are $5 (last time I checked) and are pure booze. Good booze too.

                          The new Hotel Se has a very nice bar. Very nice indeed. It's very new, so not many are recommending it right now, but that place will very soon gain a reputation for being the most upscale/out-of-your-reach-price-wise place in downtown.

                          1. re: cookieshoes
                            s
                            stevewag23 RE: cookieshoes Jul 3, 2009 11:13 AM

                            Hotel Se has $14 cocktails.

                            The food at Ivy is not impressive and very overpriced.

                            For what they charge you can eat in some of America's finest restaurants.

                          2. re: Sampaguita
                            s
                            stevewag23 RE: Sampaguita Jul 3, 2009 11:16 AM

                            Ivy bar is passable.

                            For what they are trying to make it, they miss a few key components though.

                            1. re: stevewag23
                              Sampaguita RE: stevewag23 Jul 6, 2009 05:05 PM

                              So Steverino....what key components ARE they missing? In your opinion, what exactly are they trying to make it?

                              1. re: Sampaguita
                                s
                                stevewag23 RE: Sampaguita Jul 6, 2009 08:46 PM

                                From as big picture as creating a fun positive environment to as detailed as hooks for womens pursed under the bar and places to put your drink in the bathroom.

                                It was the owners first foray into boutique hotels and it shows.

                                1. re: stevewag23
                                  Sampaguita RE: stevewag23 Jul 6, 2009 09:05 PM

                                  Putting local Chef Nathan Coulon in there has brought it up to par in my opinion. Ivy bartenders are attentive, quick and make a mean Manhattan, and the "fun, positive environment" can depend on who's drinking with you...and do you really take your drink into the bathroom?

                                  1. re: Sampaguita
                                    s
                                    stevewag23 RE: Sampaguita Jul 6, 2009 09:21 PM

                                    I think the restaurant is the worst example of quality vs price in all of san diego.

                                    I respect your opinion though. But when you can eat a Jean George or the French Laundry for the same price, why bother?

                                    "fun, positive environment" can depend on who's drinking with you"

                                    Of course. Unless there are bouncers everywhere telling you that you cannot stand somewhere.

                                    "and do you really take your drink into the bathroom?"

                                    Yes.

                                    San Diego girls are known to roofie drinks.

                                    It will be a ice storm in san diego before an Ivy opens in another city.

                                    Although I sure it would do great in Scranton.

                                    1. re: stevewag23
                                      Sampaguita RE: stevewag23 Jul 6, 2009 10:04 PM

                                      Don't take this the wrong way but I believe the initial post was "Bar with Good Cocktails", add upscale with that. No need to diss the fine folks in Scranton.
                                      For those of you planning to visit San Diego, The Ivy, The Grant, Dobson's, JSix...so many to name - are a lot of fun to hang in, especially at Happy Hour!
                                      (Steverino, you can have the last word, that seems to be your M.O.)

                                      1. re: stevewag23
                                        r
                                        rotie77 RE: stevewag23 Jul 7, 2009 01:39 PM

                                        "San Diego girls are known to roofie drinks."

                                        I must be hanging out in all the wrong places!

                            2. p
                              pickypicky RE: honkman Jul 3, 2009 08:03 AM

                              We love going out for drinks and have the same problem. Two places that sometimes work: JRDN and Clay's. (Clay's has jazz and gets very crowded some nights.) The Fishery has put in a bit of a bar with plans to make it a Raw Bar, but they have great wines by the glass. (don't know about cocktails)

                              The READER recently did a story on favorite cocktails/bars . Some good stuff. It's here: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/20... Sorry I don't know how to add links.

                              1. honkman RE: honkman Jul 5, 2009 02:45 PM

                                We went yesterday night to Starlite for some cocktails at the bar after our dinner on our patio. Overall nice ambience, cocktails were not bad but could have been a little bit stronger (with good prices). We also tried their only dessert that evening - ice cream sandwich with pistacchios - again not bad but nothing special. But we were a little bit surprised after reading here how hip this place is - As mentioned it has a nice ambience but is everything else than hip. (When was the last time I have seen so many flip-flops and shorts in a bar - that's not hip but just bad taste. If Starlite is hip how do some people call places like the Ivy bar - ueberhip ?). Overall not bad and we will try it out again in the future.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: honkman
                                  s
                                  stevewag23 RE: honkman Jul 5, 2009 03:36 PM

                                  "hip" is a a weird term these days.

                                  It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with "cool"

                                  1. re: stevewag23
                                    Fake Name RE: stevewag23 Jul 5, 2009 08:12 PM

                                    "You went an' found you a guru.
                                    In an effort to find you a new you,
                                    And maybe even raise your conscious level.

                                    While you're striving to find the right road,
                                    There's one thing you should know,
                                    "What's hip today, might become passe'."

                                    <<<<< Tower of Power>>>>>

                                2. t
                                  tanzbodeli RE: honkman Jul 6, 2009 02:32 PM

                                  The Tractor Room in Hillcrest.

                                  Been there several times just for the drinks. San Diego is a bit of a wasteland in terms of mixology, but that may be changing. The Tractor Room nails the trifecta of a good cocktail bar: quality, fresh ingredients, knowledgeable bartenders, and understanding the classic cocktails while also being able to get creative with new libations.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: tanzbodeli
                                    m
                                    Maxmdwinter RE: tanzbodeli Jul 8, 2009 08:33 PM

                                    +1. Tractor Room is great. SMALL bar, but they mix a very good drink.

                                  2. Beach Chick RE: honkman Jul 7, 2009 03:18 PM

                                    I like going to Top of the Hyatt..Marine Room..Bertrand's..Albie's..Clay's in LJ..Whaling Bar at La V..Dobson's..Hotel Del..Lounge Six at the Hotel Solamar..Grant Grill at the US Grant Hotel.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Beach Chick
                                      s
                                      stevewag23 RE: Beach Chick Jul 7, 2009 03:47 PM

                                      All in one night?

                                      How do you fit it in before last call?

                                      1. re: stevewag23
                                        Beach Chick RE: stevewag23 Jul 7, 2009 03:48 PM

                                        LOL...I'm a model
                                        ; )

                                        1. re: Beach Chick
                                          s
                                          stevewag23 RE: Beach Chick Jul 7, 2009 04:30 PM

                                          Vodka model?

                                          1. re: stevewag23
                                            honkman RE: stevewag23 Jul 7, 2009 04:35 PM

                                            This discussion board might be more helpful for the two of you:

                                            http://talkaboutmarriage.com/

                                    2. honkman RE: honkman Aug 11, 2009 05:09 PM

                                      Based on some of the suggestions we just started to go to some of the places:

                                      -Starlite: Went once for dinner. Food is OK but nothing outstanding. There are several places in SD which serve better food for similar prices, e.g Alchemy, Urban Solace etc. and which have much, much better service. I can understand know what DiningDiva meant with beach casual (even though I would call it amatuerish at best). We also went twice for cocktails. The first time we really liked the cocktails at the bar a lot. The second time we got ignored by pretty much everybody in terms of service (even though it was pretty empty at around 11.30) and left after 15 minutes.(I always think service can't get worth in San Diego but there are always new surprises). Several people called it here hip I still can't see what is hip at Starlite but overall we will come back from time to time for the interesting cocktails and some snacks.

                                      - Bar at Ivy: Went only once there so far last weekend and liked it a lot. Nice bar with good ambience. Very good cocktails, good service. Will be definitely back.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: honkman
                                        s
                                        stevewag23 RE: honkman Aug 11, 2009 07:14 PM

                                        "Several people called it here hip I still can't see what is hip at Starlite"

                                        It is more Wimpster than hipster.

                                      2. 4
                                        4wino RE: honkman Jan 13, 2010 02:28 PM

                                        I like the cocktails at George's California Modern (esp the beesting and the pear and ginger cocktail) and the drinks at Cowboy Star.

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