False Idol (675 W. Beech St., No phone. www.falseidoltiki.com) is one of my favorites as well. It’s a tiki bar hidden within the bustling Craft & Commerce restaurant and bar in Little Italy. The bartenders there seem to genuinely love their job, including creating each drink’s individual garnish. Several times a night a tropical “storm” blows through the bar.
Cache (1027 University Ave., No phone, www.barcache.com), is a speakeasy in the heart of the “gayborhood” with a vintage Parisian feel, tucked behind a freezer door at the back of the not-for-profit taco hot spot, Taco Libertand, which shares the lively block of Hillcrest’s University Avenue that’s bookended by Rich’s (1051 University Ave., Tel: 619-578-9349. www.richssandiego.com), a popular gay nightclub and Flicks (1017 University Ave., Tel: 619-297-2056. www.sdflicks.com), a gay video and karaoke bar.
San Diego is also known for its abundance of craft breweries and tasting rooms (over 200!), so I’d be remiss not to mention them, including Hillcrest Brewing Company (1458 University Ave., Tel: 619-269-4323. www.hillcrestbrewingcompany.com). HBC calls itself “the first gay brewery in the world” and offers brews like Banana Hammock Scotch Ale and Crotch Rocket Irish Red, as well as thin-crust pizza. They also offer daily “Hoppy Hour” specials starting at 3 PM.
I also love Border X Brewing (2181 Logan Ave., Tel: 619-501-0503, www.borderxbrewing.com) in Barrio Logan. It offers unique Mexican craft beers like Horchata Golden Stout and features authentic street tacos in its back beer garden, as well as popular events like Loteria night.
What are the best restaurants for a romantic dinner in the city?
For traditionally romantic, as in white table cloth and a sweeping view, Mr. A’s (2550 Fifth Ave., Tel: 619-239-1377, www.asrestaurant.com) has been a top choice since 1965, looking out over the city and the bay from atop Banker’s Hill. The Maine Lobster Strudel is a standout with a flakey phyllo dough and a savory cognac lobster sauce.
The Marine Room (2000 Spindrift Dr., Tel: 858-459-7222, www.marineroom.com) in La Jolla also offers a formal dining experience, with an unparalleled view of the Pacific Ocean, as waves actually crash against its windows at high tide. The restaurant has a fantastic lobster bisque, which is also available on their happy hour menu, that takes place in the lounge from 4 to 6 P.M. every day (except Saturday).
For something more relaxed and intimate, I like two charming neighborhood Italian spots: the romantic Alexander’s (3391 30th St., Tel: 619-281-2539. www.alexanderson30th.com) in North Park, or the rustic and homey Civico 1845 (1845 India St., Tel: 619-431-5990. www.civico1845.com) in Little Italy.
I also love the upstairs outdoor seating at Little Italy’s Born & Raised (1909 India St., Tel: 619-3202-4577. www.bornandraisedsteak.com), especially if the sky is turning pink and orange at sunset. The entire restaurant is quite an experience, with attentive service, excellent steaks dry-aged in-house, and showy touches like ice cream made with dry ice, table-side.