Food & Drink

The 7 Best Dive Bars in San Diego

Published On 01/25/2016 Published On 01/25/2016
Ellen Wright/Thrillist (edited)
Ellen Wright/Thrillist

Captain Keno’s


If the boat’s a-rockin’ you’ve probably had a few too many of Kenos’ dirt-cheap well drinks. The interior feels like a wooden pirate ship -- it’s dark with plush red leather booths and, if you’re lucky, a few crusty-looking sailor types. This place doesn’t start seeing a younger crowd until at least 10pm on a Friday or Saturday, which is unfortunate, seeing as last call is at 11pm. No fear, Encinitas has a plethora of late night joints open until 2am, making Keno’s the perfect jumping off point.

Ellen Wright/Thrillist

High Dive Bar and Grill

Bay Park

High Dive is the dive for craft beer lovers with more than 20 local draughts and regular tap takeovers showcasing local breweries. It’s got pinball and a good amount of TVs, making it a good spot to watch a game, since ain’t NOBODY making the drive up to Carson City for a Charger game (if that does, in fact, eventually go down).

The Tower Bar

City Heights

Home to drinks like the Hello Kitty Duck Fart, Tower Bar is just about as unpretentious as it gets. Named after the tower that sits above it, it's half dive bar, half music venue. Don’t go expecting to hear a lick (or beat?) of EDM or pop radio jams -- it’s pure rock n’ roll.


Aero Club

Mission Hills

If you’ve been to the San Diego Airport, there’s a 95% chance you’ve driven by the Aero Club and its bright red neon airplane (it's tough to miss). It’s what is inside this venerable dive that makes it a must-try: the bar is home to more than 800 different whiskies, making it one of the most absurdly well-stocked whiskey bars in America.

The Silver Fox Lounge

Pacific Beach

Perhaps the only place in San Diego with an early morning happy hour, Silver Fox opens its doors at 6am offering Bloody Marys and screwdrivers. It's the less clean Sunday brunch version of a hangover cure, but it’s a dive bar, so no judgment here! There are also a ton of games, including pool, darts, and a pinball machine, making it a good place to hang out in the evening, or daytime, too. Really, there's no wrong time to hit the Silver Fox.

Ellen Wright/Thrillist

Star Bar

Gaslamp Quarter

Located in the Gaslamp, Star Bar has stiff, cheap drinks and low lights. Vintage tattoo flash lines the walls while ships sail above on the ceilings, throwing it way back to a time when the Gaslamp’s biggest clientele was a bunch of sailors.

Ellen Wright/Thrillist

Pacific Shores

Ocean Beach

If you want to escape the rowdy PB scene, head over to the nautically themed Pacific Shores. There's almost always an empty table, and you can nab a drink for $2.50, all beneath giant clam decor that feels straight from the '80s. This may not be the spot to bring a date, (although what dive bar is?) but for a chill night catching up with friends, this place fits the bill.

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1. Captain Keno's Restaurant 158 N Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

With a dark interior and red leather booths, Captain Keno's might feel more like a pirate ship than a bar, but hey, with a fully stocked bar and plenty of beer on tap, we're not complaining.

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2. High Dive Bar & Grill 1801 Morena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110

Park Bay's High Dive Bar & Grill lives up to its name with a laid-back and fun atmosphere, but surprises with indulgent and zany American food that your typical dive bar surely lacks. Twenty craft beers are on tap, plus a few spirits (options rotate but expect vodka, gin, or rum). Burgers are an obvious choice here, featuring unpredictable takes like a beef patty stuffed with cream cheese and jalapeños. The king of them all is the Kraken, a large beef patty sandwiched between two grilled, Sriracha-infused PB&Js. Swallow that.

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3. Tower Bar 4757 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92105

You can't miss Tower Bar, just look in the sky for the art deco monolith and it'll point you the way to cheap drinks.

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4. The Aero Club Bar 3365 India St, San Diego, CA 92103

The first thing you’ll notice after landing at Lindbergh Field is a pink neon sign glittering in the distance. Let it guide you to this San Diego drinking den that's been serving whiskey aficionados since 1947. The Aero Club boasts some 800 bottles of whiskey stacked like glass bottle-shaped Legos behind the bar; more than a sight to behold, this infamous liquor wall is one of the largest whiskey collections in the country.

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5. The Silver Fox 1833 Garnet ave, San Diego, CA 92109

Pool tables, darts, a leopard-print carpet, and good, cheap drinks define this no-nonsense dive. The Fox plays host to a varied crowd, but always keeps up a friendly, neighborhood vibe.

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6. Star Bar 423 E St, San Diego, CA 92101

The Star Bar is Gaslamp's best dive bar and there's a reason for it: they serve hearty portions of booze with a good atmosphere. Drinking done right.

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7. Pacific Shores Bar 4927 Newport Avenue, San Diego, CA 92107

This under-the-sea-themed landmark opened on December 6, 1941, the day before Pearl Harbor was bombed. Patrons love the (insanely) cheap drinks, kitschy decor, and authentic jukebox, which plays everything from Patsy Cline to The Clash.