The days of serving Bloody Marys with a simple celery stalk are over. Bars and restaurants are sticking everything imaginable on a skewer and turning everybody’s favorite brunch beverage into equal parts cocktail and meal. From giant prawns to pork rinds, we ranked the biggest, baddest, and best Bloodys in all of San Diego.
6. C Level
The incredible view of San Diego Bay and the Downtown skyline from C Level’s waterfront patio isn’t the only reason eat there. Their seafood-laden Bloody Mary alone is worth the trip. Made with Svedka and a house-made spicy mix, the giant glass is garnished with olives, onion, lime, peperoncinis, a giant shrimp, AND a crab claw.
5. Bier Garden
With five different kinds of Bloodys on the menu, you know this place is serious. They’re doing it right by using four kinds of house flavor-infused vodkas like the Classic made with a horseradish-infused vodka and the Hearty made with a bacon and cheddar-infused vodka. Breaking with tradition, they even make their Spicy Bloody with serrano and habanero-infused tequila. No matter your preference, they are all served with a draft beer chaser.
The name Big Ass Bloody pretty much says it all. Sandbar’s creation comes in a big (sorry, big-ASS) mug with an equally big-ass skewer stacked with pickles, cheeses, peppers, jalapeño bacon, salami, and a piece of French toast dripping with syrup. Breakfast!
3. Café 21
Gaslamp (& University Heights)
Now with a new location in the Gaslamp, Café 21 has four different Bloody Mary options made with HAN rice-infused vodka and organic house Bloody Mary mixes. The Classic Mary is for traditionalists, but you can amp that up with their organic green or yellow tomato juices. The Prawn Star is a “Bloody meal” stuffed with a whole giant smoked prawn, a veggie skewer, and fresh basil from their herb wall. However, if you’re really looking for a meal in a glass, The Ol’ Yello’ Mary and California Greens are made with fresh basil and skewers packed with veggies and grilled cheese sandwiches.
2. Great Maple
There are a lot of reasons that Great Maple is... great, and their selection of over-the-top Bloody Marys is just one of them. Go traditional with their House Mary or Old School Mary, get a little crazy with an octopus tentacle in their One Armed Mary, or if you overdid it a little the night before, order Johnny’s Hangover Mary. In other words, you're ordering Johnny's Hangover Mary. The combination of Tabasco, vodka, Worcester sauce, atomic horseradish, and house mix served in a salt and pepper-rimmed glass already has plenty of restorative power, and that's before they finish it off with grilled ciabatta topped with melted manchego cheese and chorizo.
1. Small Bar
Small Bar might be known for craft beer, but their Bloody Mary Superior lives up to its name. Served only during brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, it’s made with the bar’s house mix, Guinness, steak sauce, and chili & garlic-infused vodka. Ask for it "En Fuego" if you need it even hotter. Either way, they pile on a parade of garnishes like beer-candied bacon, a carrot stick, celery, spicy green beans, and a skewer made of shrimp, mushrooms, tomato, olives, and peppers. Order it solo and it comes with a bag of pork rinds, or order any brunch item and it comes included in the price.
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C Level isn’t shy about sticking to its maritime theme. The San Diego restaurant boasts a dinner menu divided into “Under Way,” “Kelp Beds & Tide Pools,” “High Tide,” and “Market Fresh Seafood,” offering highlights like the ahi tuna stack with fresh crab, avocado and tomato, papaya-mango salsa, taro chips, caviar, and sweet chili sauce, as well as lobster truffle mac & cheese with local organic greens, candied walnuts, and fresh herb vinaigrette. The waterfront views provide a window onto the San Diego skyline, making for a meal that pleases the eye as well as the stomach.
The Bier Garden of Encinitas is a German-style hall with a huge number of rotating brews (many of which are SoCal-sourced), a sweet outdoor patio, and awesome bar grub like burgers and short rib ciabatta sandwiches.
Located right on scenic Ventura Beach, Sandbar offers award-winning tacos, along with a selection of tasty burgers and seafood and 66 high-end tequilas and mezcals -- including its own hand-selected barrel of tequila from Herradura Tequila distillery in Guadalajara, Mexico. Best of all, you can imbibe with a view of the sunset over the Pacific.
Extending their reach from 2121 Adams Ave, the twice-as-big, brick walled Gaslamp locale's outfitted with laser-cut metal, classic Turkish designs, and is serving up everything from sandwiches and kabobs to ridiculous, decadent brunch fare. There's a whole section of the drink menu devoted to Bloody Mary and Mimosa variations, giving you ultimate customization opportunities. Be sure to stop by for happy hour when there are 21 tapas to mix and match.
Not just a common compliment among syrup makers, Great Maple's a fancied-up '60s diner with a bit of European flair, coming at you from the guys who brought you Hash House a-Go-Go and The Tractor Room. This East Village spot offers extensive menu lineups, from brunch through dinner. Make a reservation if you can, because this place is constantly busy.
Small Bar may be somewhat... small, but it's still able to cram in a bunch of delicious and loaded Bloody Marys, Moscow Mules, and a huge rotation of craft beers on tap -- they've also got a full-service food menu that includes a delicious Southern-style brunch.