The best bars in San Diego are an eclectic bunch. When you’re downtown or in Little Italy, the San Diego nightlife is especially diverse. You’ll find classy wine bars, luxe lounges, and rooftop cocktails with a view to suit any mood.
With summer just beginning, take advantage of the longer days and warm nights with the city’s best bars in San Diego’s downtown and Little Italy.
For some, finding the city’s best speakeasies has become a favorite pastime when it comes to activities in San Diego. One of the more popular hidden bars is in Little Italy, a dose of island life right in the middle of the vibrant neighborhood.
False Idol is a speakeasy-style tiki bar inside another popular Little Italy bar and eatery, Craft & Commerce. You can then come for the duck tacos and stay for what awaits you in the island-themed hideaway, accessed through a steel door in the main restaurant.
The decor is tropical and escapist, with a creative menu focused on not only the expected rum cocktails but odes to island flavors. Their Doctor Bombay drink, for example, evokes coconut curry, finished off with tamarind and lime.
Limited reservations are available, but you’ll likely have better luck putting your name in for a wait and order some snacks at the restaurant while you wait. The speakeasy is perfect for the adventurous and anyone looking for the casual experience you’d find at typical island bars.
Kettner Exchange is known as one of the most impressive rooftop bars that Little Italy has to offer. You’ll get harbor views with your cocktails up there, on top of an award-winning food menu with seasonal bites like duck meatballs and garlic prawns. The lounge is perfect for those seeking a stellar food and drink experience all in one stop.
If you’re traveling with a group or celebrating something big, the lounge also offers an upgraded experience. Book one of their private cabanas and get your views with a side of privacy.
The smaller cabanas fit six, but ten guests can fit in the larger cabanas. All of the private spaces come with self-serve beer stations on top of easy access to the bar’s full cocktail and food menu.
Altitude Sky Lounge
The Altitude Sky Lounge holds the title of the highest open-air bar in San Diego, making this a rooftop bar San Diego locals flock to for both the cocktails, sunset views, and the panoramas.
See the downtown skyline, San Diego Bay, even an inning or two of a Padres game at Petco Park from your perch at the top of the Gaslamp Marriott. You’re 22 stories above the Gaslamp Quarter’s sidewalks from here.
If you’re hungry, the rooftop lounge has a short menu of food items for you to indulge in on top of their cocktails. Drink options are primarily traditional, with several seasonal martinis that fit the luxe vibes of the rooftop patio. The lounge is a great place to celebrate a special occasion or as a way to start a classy night in the Gaslamp.
Little Italy is steeped in local history, making walking tours to see the neighborhood’s historical sights one of the best things to do in Little Italy. A glass of wine in a building with important significance to Little Italy may be an upgrade to that walking tour, though.
Once known as the A.W. Pray House, the M Winehouse has been operating since 2014 as a favorite local wine bar. The building it’s in has been around since 1888, though, making it the oldest building in Little Italy.
Expect a variety of reds, whites, and sparkling wines on top of beer and hard cider for those looking for something different. Charcuterie platters and small bites are also available for you to nosh on.
M Winehouse is perfect for those looking for a glass of wine in one of the most unique Little Italy settings, especially if you’re able to reserve a seat on the deck overlooking the street below.
Vin de Syrah
Vin de Syrah is by no means a secret anymore, although newcomers to this Alice in Wonderland-themed bar may have trouble finding the door to get in. Once you gain entry, you’re treated to a whimsical, underground bar with oversized chairs, playful art, and decor, and a wine-focused menu inspired by Parisian and New York-style wine parlors.
Don’t let the playful wine theme fool you, at night Vin de Syrah transforms into a bustling nightclub complete with bottle service, a packed dance floor, and live DJs.
This classic among Gaslamp San Diego bars is perfect for those seeking a place that doesn’t take itself too seriously. You’ll see exactly what this place is going for when you’re watching patrons search for the door handles on screens posted inside. It’s all in good fun.
Born and Raised
Born and Raised has become well-known on the Little Italy restaurant circuit as the steakhouse of choice for those seeking a special occasion restaurant with a luxe interior. Locals in the know, however, head to the eatery’s rooftop patio for happy hour instead.
From 3-5 pm Mondays through Fridays, indulge in a short menu of appetizers and finger foods from the same kitchen that leads one of the city’s best steak programs. The cocktails are as impressive as the views, with spins on classics or bartender requests available for you to sip on.
Dress to impress at this one, even if you’re just coming to happy hour. This is a see-and-be-seen kind of place in Little Italy and perfect for those looking to start their night off in style. If you’re not looking to spend the big bucks on the food menu here, you’ll be close to some of the best new restaurants in San Diego as an alternative.
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