One of San Diego’s most popular neighborhoods has seen an influx of change. New bars and restaurants are popping up all over downtown, but which ones are worth your time and which ones can you afford to skip? Here’s the real story behind five of downtown’s most talked-about openings.
Okay, real talk. Altitude is always going to be nice. It has a beautiful view, a beautiful view, another beautiful view, and decent cocktails. The old gym that was once located on the rooftop was remodeled and features a small bar, lounge chairs, and a petite balcony with a view of the city. So really, City Sights is a new indoor feature to Altitude. Other than that, not much has changed. It’s still lovely, still fun, happy hour is from 5-7pm Monday through Friday and all day Sunday. On the rare days it gets cold in SD, now you’ll have an indoor space with heat lamps and still enjoy the views. 660 K St. San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 446-6086
Only time will tell if this venture will sink or swim in San Diego. I’m reminded of the Pussycat Dolls Lounge that opened in the Gaslamp recently, which premiered to sad reviews and is still struggling to hang on. CU however, has had a winning formula in countless states across the country and even internationally! It’s basically this; pretty girls dance on a bar, sing with the jukebox, and yell at men to take shots. They then jump down and bartend (pretty talented ladies, I mean, when’s the last time your bartender gave you a show?). The food, however, is nothing to write home about. They have pizzas served by the pizza spot they acquired next door, which are tasty, and some standard chicken skewers, but really, you come here to drink. Drink, party, and dance on a bar. I see ladies coming here for bachelorette parties, military personnel looking for a good time while on leave, and 21st birthday celebrations. Looking for a cocktail on a random Friday night? Not your place. 820 5th Ave. San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 308-8459
This is what I call the ultimate ladies’night out. Some bubbles, chic décor, and champagne-friendly food make this one of the best new openings downtown. The first champagne bar to open in SD, Encore offers a variety of champagne cocktails as well as a long list of French bubbly and plates made to share. Located on F Street, Encore features one large marble bar area, donned with white leather couches, and a sparkling blue chandelier. There's a separate dining area with exposed brick walls and an open view of the kitchen. Outdoor patio seating is intimate, with striking heat lamps, perfect for a romantic night out. The place definitely isn’t cheap (shared plates range from $6-$17, mains up to $28) but oh, is it pretty. 531 F St. San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 255-5152
The space is itsy bitsy, the food is standard, American-ized Chinese food, but the ambiance is fun and trendy. Their big grand opening was on Thursday, February 13, which featured dancing dragons, a DJ, and photo booth. Located on J Street just around the corner from the Chinese Historical Museum, Lucky Liu’s is looking to build this area into an actual Chinese Historical District. A miniscule bar area with seating for approximately 10 people, welcomes you to the restaurant, and just below, the intimate dining room mixes rustic wooden chairs with splashes of red, and one large, round table for special-occasion dining. Orange chicken, fried rice and dim sum are some menu mainstays. Cross your fingers for this one, it looks promising. 332 J St. San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 255-5487
Well Yee-Haw. If you own a cowboy hat and boots, this is where you need to be. It’s a country explosion at Moonshine Flats, the former Block No. 16 space in East Village, and boy, has it changed. From the barber shop chairs where ladies pour shots into your mouth, to the electric beer pong table, this place is all country, all the time. Live rock bands as well as DJs play here, and line dancing is abundant. This two-story establishment also offers a pool table, drinks in mason jars, a second floor with a view, video games, and a caged pole-dance area. The space is ridiculously huge. Boasting “San Diego’s largest dance floor” it also contains the west coast’s longest bar, spanning 80 feet. There’s a pick-up window that connects to Lucky’s Lunch Counter next door, where guests can fill up on late night munchies. Realize that you must love you some country to come here. If you’re hoping for some high-end experience, or a night of hip-hop, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Moonshine, bourbon, and cowboys; that's what you come here for. 344 Seventh Ave. San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 501-4600
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