Guide to Retro Dining and Drinking in San Diego

Do you like huge plates of food? Strong drinks in a dark room? Places that have been untouched by time? Falling through wormholes?

Well, Jason and I fucking LOVE all of those things. 

Below is a list of some of the best places in San Diego to get your time capsule on. If I forgot somewhere incredible, please let me know! This is an ever-evolving list since this is my very favorite genre of restaurants and bars and I don't yet have pictures of all of them.

This list is San Diego specific, though if you have a recommendation in another town, let me know and I'll add it to my head-list. Guides for Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to come.

* = Jessploitation Favorite

Bars and Restaurants:

*Albie's Beef Inn - Hotel Circle/Mission Valley (Pictured Above)
If they ever try to raze this place, Jason and I will be standing in front of the bulldozers. They serve huge portions of perfectly cooked steakhouse food in a dark environment filled with paintings of topless ladies! Albie's has the best food of all the retro restaurants in San Diego. Update January 2016: Albie's is now closed and it it THE SADDEST THING!

Cafe La Maze - National City
We just discovered this place recently, as it is hidden in a strip mall no mans land in National City. It's one of the oldest restaurants in town, having been established in 1941. Similar cuisine to Albie's, though they also serve Prime Rib every night. I recommend the calamari steak if you want enough food to last three meals.

*Imperial House Continental Restaurant - Bankers Hill
The real attraction here is the bar, which is presided over on weekends but San Diego's brightest lounge-singing star, Mr. Rick Lyon. They have decent bar food and drinks, but the real draw is listening to Rick Lyon sing an Elton John song while you wistfully sway back and forth in your booth. 

*Red Fox Room - North Park
Dark, retro steakhouse environment. Live jazz is the evenings. Stands out as having the freshest salads on the list. Interior is imported from England. 

Turf Supper Club - Golden Hill
Grill-your-own steak gimmick.  Extremely popular, so I would advise going early. Strong cocktails. The balance of old people to hipsters is the farthest tilted towards hipsters here (though Red Fox and Imperial House are rather popular with hipsters as well). 

Dive Bars:

The Lamplighter - Mission Hills
Karaoke every single night. 

Kensington Club - Kensington
Dive bar during the day, rock club at night. The music area is separate and roomier than at other establishments.

Nunu's Cocktail Lounge - Hillcrest
Small dive with good burgers and friendly people.


*Til Two Club - Talmadge 
An old bar that has been through many lives and is now being restored to its former 1940s glory. Really nice owners who respect the history of the place. Close to a bunch of pho places for a one-two punch of pho and drinks. Eclectic music later in the evening in the separate stage part in the back (we are never up late enough for that, however.)

Tower Bar - City Heights
Same owners as Til Two. More punk rock than the others. Good place to go for Absinthe served with all the rigmarole.

Nouveau Retro: Not authentically old, but imbued with a retro spirit. 

*Bar Pink - North Park
Pink Elephant theme. Owned by "Swami" John Reis from Rocket from the Crypt. Tiki Tuesdays. Live bands.

Coin-Op Game Room - North Park
Small bar filled with 80s and 90s arcade games, including the best one ever made, THE SIMPSONS. Yes, the one where you can be Marge and hit things with a vacuum cleaner. Serves food and craft cocktails.

The Pearl Hotel and Restaurant - Point Loma
Redone motel that is now all swankified in mid-century modern style. Good restaurant, bookable on OpenTable. 

*Starlite - Mission Hills
More modern than retro, but with vintage-style touches. Truly excellent food and cocktails. Bookable on OpenTable.

Sycamore Den - Normal Heights
70s Rumpus Room-style bar. Really gorgeous design, by the same group who designed Starlite. A player piano. Craft Cocktails.

Diners and Greasy Spoon Joints:

All of these places are pretty samesy, though I think Harry's probably has the best food. Your mileage may vary. But, if you're drunk or hungover near one of these places, you'd best stop in and fill your belly with grease.

Adam's Steak and Eggs - Hotel Circle/Mission Valley

Harry's Coffee Shop - La Jolla

Hob Nob Hill - Bankers Hill

Perry's Cafe (The Breakfast Spot) - Old Town/Loma Portal

Rudford's - North Park

SD Chicken Pie Shop - North Park