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Pull Up a Seat at San Diego’s 22 Best Dive Bars

Stiff drinks and dim lighting: here are the county’s best dives

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Craft cocktails and bespoke interiors can easily charm, but dive bars, which were especially hard hit during the pandemic, still serve an important role in the drinking landscape. These democratic spaces don’t depend on design but are valued by the community, offering stiff well drinks, colorful clientele, and a soundtrack provided by a clacking pool balls or a juke box blaring thorough a dark room.

Here are 22 of San Diego’s best dive bars, from North County to the South Bay, that are worth a shot or five.

Note: map points are not ranked, they are listed geographically from north to south

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Haunted Head Saloon

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207 N Tremont St
Oceanside, CA 92054
(760) 231-7600
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Dollar bills and jolly roger flags line the ceiling at Oceanside’s pirate themed bar, The Haunted Head Saloon. It’s the perfect spot to say ahoy to a shot of tequila after strolling through the Sunset Market.

2. Captain Keno's Restaurant

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158 N Coast Hwy 101
Encinitas, CA 92024
(760) 753-4555
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From afar it looks like a roadside restaurant, but this wood-clad Leucadia dive is better known for its drinking environment than its food. Crawl in and enjoy cheap drinks in red leatherette booths or at the fire table under a round shingled roof. Look for the hand painted sign advertising $2.99 spaghetti and happy hour from 6am to midnight to find the bar entrance.

3. Instant Replay

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11681 Duenda Rd
San Diego, CA 92127

Loaded with pool tables, dart boards, and unpretentious well cocktails and bottles, this strip mall bar is the perfect stop after Thai food or a pedicure one of the neighboring business.

4. The Kraken

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2531 S Coast Hwy 101
Cardiff, CA 92007
(760) 436-6483
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Try as it might, The Kraken can’t keep all the ocean air and shimmering sunlight out of its dark, wood-clad interior. The beaches of Cardiff attract crowds, with the most interesting sun-seekers taking refuge here to chill out with an ice cold beer and to bask in the live music.

5. The Silver Fox Lounge

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1833 Garnet Ave
San Diego, CA 92109
(858) 270-1343
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An icon in Pacific Beach, The Silver Fox Lounge finally reopened on June 15, still maintaining their 6am start time. Patrons will be thrilled to find familiar deals like Rock ’n Roll shot nights and $5 liquid brunch (Bloody Mary and screwdrivers) on weekends.

6. Kensington Club

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4079 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 284-2848
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The neon glow welcomes you into dim, but colorful, Ken Club. Pony up to the bar for a draft beer (bring cash) and then shoot a few rounds on red felted pool table. Or, check the calendar to catch a live show.

7. Lancers

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4671 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 298-5382

Though the exterior has been majorly rehauled, inside it is still the same old Lancers. The wood paneling and drop ceiling were painstakingly preserved at the still cash only bar. So grab a stool and crack open a bottled beer while waiting your turn for one of the recently refelted pool tables.

8. Til-Two Club

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4746 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92115
(619) 255-1481
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This City Heights hotspot is serving some of the finest cocktails made by some of the funnest bartenders on El Cajon Blvd. Live music and trivia nights have recently returned along with their namesake closing hour. 

Til Two

9. Live Wire

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2103 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 291-7450
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Live Wire is the ultimate San Diego dive. Don’t let the low red glow fool you into thinking this is not a serious bar. They make solid drinks and a offer good craft beers served through some of the best maintained lines in town.

10. Cricket's Pub

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3339 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 282-8277
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Enjoy cold drinks, hot food, and all-day pool at this Normal Heights dive. Owner Frank Burton —who cut his dive bar teeth at Sparky’s (now the burned out Hamilton’s) — is a former US Marine who greets fellow service members with a “BIG welcome.”

11. The Tower Bar

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4757 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92105
(619) 284-0158
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With its colorful facade, City Heights’ Tower Bar is the easiest to spot dive bar in town. Grab a stool at the live music venue and bar and play it safe with a beer, or be a hero and order the bar a round of Hello Kitty Farts.

12. Pacific Shores Bar

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4927 Newport Ave
San Diego, CA 92107
(619) 223-7549

There is no shortage of dives bars in Ocean Beach, but only at Pac Shores can you feel like you’re like sitting under the sea amidst seashells and ocean life.

13. Nunu's

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3537 Fifth Ave
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 295-2878

Naugahyde abounds at this 60’s-era watering hole. Cozy up in a booth with strong drinks and bar bites like burgers, wings, and breakfast all day.

14. Aero Club Bar

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3365 India St
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 297-7211
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Despite the extensive whiskey selection, all the elements of a dive bar are here. The bar’s mystique survived it’s sale in 2018 and now sports an open air patio. (Its original owner, Bill Lutzius, went on to open Brooklyn Bar and Grill in City Heights, which would be on this list if it were not currently closed due to Bill’s sudden passing).

Aero Club

15. Whistle Stop

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2236 Fern St
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 284-6784
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With it’s train-themed details, narrow patio, and new parklet, Whistle Stop is a South Park favorite with a solid crew of regular patrons and hot bartenders. Live events have recently returned so check the calendar if you want to catch or avoid them. 

16. Cherry Bomb

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2237 1st Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 544-1173

Can’t stay at home, can’t stay in school? Sounds like the heavy pours at Cherry Bomb are for you.

17. Waterfront Bar & Grill

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2044 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 232-9656
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One of the oldest bar in San Diego feels like a dive due to its age, but being on the main strip of Little Italy it attracts regular bar goers too. The near-constant crowds now spills out into their outdoor parklet for outdoor burgers, beers, and weekend brunch.

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18. Club Marina

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1310 Scott St
San Diego, CA 92106
(619) 222-5932
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The newly remodeled game room, decked in wood paneling and pinball, pairs perfectly with a cocktail from the well stocked bar. It’s like being in your cool neighbor’s 1970s basement if you lived somewhere that had basements.

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19. Chee-Chee Club

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929 Broadway
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 234-4404

Dimly lit and cash-only, the East Village’s Chee-Chee Club serves bottled beer and well drinks with splash of kindness and shot of attitude. Order anything else at your own risk.

20. Star Bar

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423 E St
San Diego, CA 92101

A dark star among the tourist-filled Gaslamp bars , the Star Bar is made for people who want to drink and connect with friends or strangers.

21. Little Club

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132 Orange Ave
Coronado, CA 92118
(619) 435-5885
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With affordable drinks and friendly service, expect mostly locals and those looking to escape the peninsula’s tourist attractions.

22. Manhattan Bar

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400 Broadway
Chula Vista, CA 91910

A Chula Vista favorite, the Manhattan Bar offers a cold drafts from their 18 tap bar (or order from the ample bottle list), pool, and signature Jell-O shots.

1. Haunted Head Saloon

207 N Tremont St, Oceanside, CA 92054

Dollar bills and jolly roger flags line the ceiling at Oceanside’s pirate themed bar, The Haunted Head Saloon. It’s the perfect spot to say ahoy to a shot of tequila after strolling through the Sunset Market.

207 N Tremont St
Oceanside, CA 92054

2. Captain Keno's Restaurant

158 N Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

From afar it looks like a roadside restaurant, but this wood-clad Leucadia dive is better known for its drinking environment than its food. Crawl in and enjoy cheap drinks in red leatherette booths or at the fire table under a round shingled roof. Look for the hand painted sign advertising $2.99 spaghetti and happy hour from 6am to midnight to find the bar entrance.

158 N Coast Hwy 101
Encinitas, CA 92024

3. Instant Replay

11681 Duenda Rd, San Diego, CA 92127

Loaded with pool tables, dart boards, and unpretentious well cocktails and bottles, this strip mall bar is the perfect stop after Thai food or a pedicure one of the neighboring business.

11681 Duenda Rd
San Diego, CA 92127

4. The Kraken

2531 S Coast Hwy 101, Cardiff, CA 92007

Try as it might, The Kraken can’t keep all the ocean air and shimmering sunlight out of its dark, wood-clad interior. The beaches of Cardiff attract crowds, with the most interesting sun-seekers taking refuge here to chill out with an ice cold beer and to bask in the live music.

2531 S Coast Hwy 101
Cardiff, CA 92007

5. The Silver Fox Lounge

1833 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109

An icon in Pacific Beach, The Silver Fox Lounge finally reopened on June 15, still maintaining their 6am start time. Patrons will be thrilled to find familiar deals like Rock ’n Roll shot nights and $5 liquid brunch (Bloody Mary and screwdrivers) on weekends.

1833 Garnet Ave
San Diego, CA 92109

6. Kensington Club

4079 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116

The neon glow welcomes you into dim, but colorful, Ken Club. Pony up to the bar for a draft beer (bring cash) and then shoot a few rounds on red felted pool table. Or, check the calendar to catch a live show.

4079 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116

7. Lancers

4671 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116

Though the exterior has been majorly rehauled, inside it is still the same old Lancers. The wood paneling and drop ceiling were painstakingly preserved at the still cash only bar. So grab a stool and crack open a bottled beer while waiting your turn for one of the recently refelted pool tables.

4671 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92116

8. Til-Two Club

4746 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115
Til Two

This City Heights hotspot is serving some of the finest cocktails made by some of the funnest bartenders on El Cajon Blvd. Live music and trivia nights have recently returned along with their namesake closing hour. 

4746 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92115

9. Live Wire

2103 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104

Live Wire is the ultimate San Diego dive. Don’t let the low red glow fool you into thinking this is not a serious bar. They make solid drinks and a offer good craft beers served through some of the best maintained lines in town.

2103 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92104

10. Cricket's Pub

3339 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104

Enjoy cold drinks, hot food, and all-day pool at this Normal Heights dive. Owner Frank Burton —who cut his dive bar teeth at Sparky’s (now the burned out Hamilton’s) — is a former US Marine who greets fellow service members with a “BIG welcome.”

3339 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92104

11. The Tower Bar

4757 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92105

With its colorful facade, City Heights’ Tower Bar is the easiest to spot dive bar in town. Grab a stool at the live music venue and bar and play it safe with a beer, or be a hero and order the bar a round of Hello Kitty Farts.

4757 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92105

12. Pacific Shores Bar

4927 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107

There is no shortage of dives bars in Ocean Beach, but only at Pac Shores can you feel like you’re like sitting under the sea amidst seashells and ocean life.

4927 Newport Ave
San Diego, CA 92107

13. Nunu's

3537 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103

Naugahyde abounds at this 60’s-era watering hole. Cozy up in a booth with strong drinks and bar bites like burgers, wings, and breakfast all day.

3537 Fifth Ave
San Diego, CA 92103

14. Aero Club Bar

3365 India St, San Diego, CA 92103
Aero Club

Despite the extensive whiskey selection, all the elements of a dive bar are here. The bar’s mystique survived it’s sale in 2018 and now sports an open air patio. (Its original owner, Bill Lutzius, went on to open Brooklyn Bar and Grill in City Heights, which would be on this list if it were not currently closed due to Bill’s sudden passing).

3365 India St
San Diego, CA 92103

15. Whistle Stop

2236 Fern St, San Diego, CA 92104

With it’s train-themed details, narrow patio, and new parklet, Whistle Stop is a South Park favorite with a solid crew of regular patrons and hot bartenders. Live events have recently returned so check the calendar if you want to catch or avoid them. 

2236 Fern St
San Diego, CA 92104

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16. Cherry Bomb

2237 1st Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

Can’t stay at home, can’t stay in school? Sounds like the heavy pours at Cherry Bomb are for you.

2237 1st Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

17. Waterfront Bar & Grill

2044 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
Facebook

One of the oldest bar in San Diego feels like a dive due to its age, but being on the main strip of Little Italy it attracts regular bar goers too. The near-constant crowds now spills out into their outdoor parklet for outdoor burgers, beers, and weekend brunch.

2044 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101

18. Club Marina

1310 Scott St, San Diego, CA 92106
Facebook

The newly remodeled game room, decked in wood paneling and pinball, pairs perfectly with a cocktail from the well stocked bar. It’s like being in your cool neighbor’s 1970s basement if you lived somewhere that had basements.

1310 Scott St
San Diego, CA 92106

19. Chee-Chee Club

929 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101

Dimly lit and cash-only, the East Village’s Chee-Chee Club serves bottled beer and well drinks with splash of kindness and shot of attitude. Order anything else at your own risk.

929 Broadway
San Diego, CA 92101

20. Star Bar

423 E St, San Diego, CA 92101

A dark star among the tourist-filled Gaslamp bars , the Star Bar is made for people who want to drink and connect with friends or strangers.

423 E St
San Diego, CA 92101

21. Little Club

132 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118

With affordable drinks and friendly service, expect mostly locals and those looking to escape the peninsula’s tourist attractions.

132 Orange Ave
Coronado, CA 92118

22. Manhattan Bar

400 Broadway, Chula Vista, CA 91910

A Chula Vista favorite, the Manhattan Bar offers a cold drafts from their 18 tap bar (or order from the ample bottle list), pool, and signature Jell-O shots.

400 Broadway
Chula Vista, CA 91910

Related Maps