3519 El Cajon Boulevard, City Heights
(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)
At the former City Heights site of Radio Room and Zombie Lounge, recently unveiled Eleven offers (mostly) free live music with a warm, locals’ bar atmosphere. The latest enterprise of Hamilton’s and Small Bar founders Scot Blair and Dennis Borlek, the bar’s name is an homage to Spinal Tap’s amplifiers, which go up to eleven — “one louder than ten.”
Renovations include an island between the bar and booths, a pool table, a new sound system, an acrylic show-poster bar top, records on the walls, and red velvet drapes in the music room, lending a sultry vibe to the once dungeonly show space. The jukebox offers ’60s rock-and-roll rarity collections and compilations of Blair’s and general manager Louis Mello’s local favorites, including the Dragons.
“It’s more of a neighborhood rock-and-roll joint,” says Mello (of Liar’s Club notoriety), comparing Eleven to its sister bars. “I don’t want to use the word ‘dive,’ but more casual. More value-oriented.”
The budget drinker is sure to be pleased by the Confiscated Goods Special, while supplies last. One can taste the poetic justice of a shot of Rebel Yell and a can of Coors ($5.25), which Mello appropriated from underaged would-be revelers at Awesome Fest.
The timeless PBR tallboy holds up the bottom end along with possibly the best beer deal in the cosmos, a 25-ounce mug of Eleven Lager (brewed locally by Gordon Biersch) for $3.50 during happy hour. The custom tap tower, fashioned from a keg, holds sixteen taps of quality beers, about half of which are California micros, while the cocktail menu touts names like Beaver Shot, Donkey Punch, and Tea Bag. Want to turn it up one louder? Try a Banana Split with your peanuts — a bottle of Maui Coconut Porter and a bottle of Wells Banana Bread Beer for $9.
The 90 Proof Pissers play outlaw honky-tonk every other Tuesday, with covers of Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons, Dwight Yoakam, and Merle Haggard. Upcoming shows include Ghetto Blaster, Black Hondo, Lord Howler, and the Moviegoers.
Says Mello, “Our main drive is to provide live music without a cover.”