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Jun 12, 2010 10:43 AM

Classic dive bars and Tiki Bars in San Diego/Oceanside

I am looking for the classic old school dive bar/surfer bar/tiki bar in the San Diego/Oceanside area. Anybody have suggestions?

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  1. This is a little bit out of your desired area, but the Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach has been doing the original, some might think it cheesy, Polynesian tiki bar menu since the 1950's (at least). My mum, a former WAAF who served in in the South Pacific, used to take me there when she wanted to get her grog on.

    The drinks menu is classic So Cal/Poly-fusion in the Trader Vic's format - Mai Tais, Navy grog, the cocktail that comes in a coconut, the cocktail that comes in a small washtub with two straws, the cocktail with a warning because it includes 151 proof Bacardi Rum and so on.

    The menu is also authentically retro - Pu-pu platter and etc. for apps; entrees composed of so-so chicken and fish dishes with cutesy faux-Hawaiian names and an OK steak, if a bit chewy even when ordered rare.

    I was there a couple of years ago and it still had the great atmosphere, but the customer base seemed to be tourists and posing hipsters - both groups very loud.

    Royal Hawaiian - 331 N. Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA, (949) 494-8001

    1. For old-school dive bars, I'm personally kinda partial to The Waterfront on Kettner. Helps if you're into motorcycles. For dive surfer bars, just wander the streets of Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, or Pacific Beach. One on most every block.

      1. Oceanside - The Red Rooster, the Irish bar on Greenbriar which I can't recall the name of and the River Bottom near Mission San Luis Ray

        Red Rooster
        1985 Oceanside Blvd, Oceanside, CA 92054

        River Bottom
        473 N El Camino Real, Oceanside, CA 92058

        2 Replies
        1. re: chris2269

          You might try the Tiki House in PB. However, Pacific Shores in OB is my sentimental favorite for dive bars.

          Tiki House
          1152 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109

          Pacific Shores Cafe
          4927 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107

          1. re: wanker

            Pac Shores is and always will be my fave dive bar.

        2. SD is definitely light on the Tiki Bar scene, but a fun place we visit every now and then is China Inn in Pacific Beach. They serve tropical drinks in tiki mugs and have decent American-style Chinese food. There is always the Bali Hai, which has lost some of it's old-schoolness in the revamp, but is an excellent interpretation of the new-wave Tiki scene (the new lounge is great for drinks).

          As for dives...I'll throw out the Alibi (Hillcrest), the Live Wire (North Park-ish), and the Kensington Club (Kensington, obviously). All great places for drinking, people watching, and often good music!

          Never been, myself, but my boss who is part of the old-time surfer crowd that hangs around South Mission Beach is always at The Pennant.

          Bali Hai Restaurant
          2230 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106

          Live Wire
          2103 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104

          China Inn Restaurant
          877 Hornblend St, San Diego, CA 92109

          1. If you ever get invited to a VFW bar/lounge, GO. I've been to a few around the county and loved each one. Most of them do not measure when making drinks....FREE-POUR, baby. And the stories some the old guys share are funny and outrages. And, if you are lucky enough to go when the are having an event/potluck, they will invite you to eat also.