2044 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy
“Our liquor license goes back to the end of Prohibition, so we don’t know how long the bar was actually in business,” says Waterfront Bar and Grill co-owner Chad Cline. “We have the oldest license in San Diego.”
The bar officially dates back to 1933, when Chaffee Grant, grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, purchased the liquor license. Cline’s great-grandfather bought the Little Italy bar in the late ’60s or early ‘70s, when the regular clientele was made up of “colorful characters,” mostly fishermen, Associated Oil Company workers, businessmen, lawyers, and judges.
“It’s pretty true to the original,” says Cline, who owns the bar with his grandmother and a cousin. “The back area got expanded a bit, but that was probably in the late ’40s. I wouldn’t call it a remodel, but we updated the bar three or four years ago. We kept it Waterfront-y, just streamlined a bit.”
Today, the anything-but-placid Waterfront has its own collection of regulars, drinking craft beer and cocktails in the nautical shrine that touts a giant, wall-mounted marlin, stained-glass galleons, old black-and-white catch-of-the-day photos, and lifeguard rings in the rafters.
“Some of the regulars have keys,” says Cline. “If the morning girl is late, they’ll open up for her.”
Thanks to their long-standing license, the Waterfront is permitted to sell take-out booze from a selection that includes Ale Smith IPA and other bottles ranging from Coors to Delirium Tremens and wine. Local yums Karl Strauss Red Trolley, Coronado Idiot IPA, and Ballast Point Yellow Tail Ale are just a few of the 14 choice taps. Pints go for $4 to $8.25, but for those of you into dystopian role-playing games, the Waterfront offers $2 brews for the location’s current Foursquare mayor.
Taco Tuesdays run 4 p.m. to close from a kitchen whose Mexican brunch, burgers, and hot wings are the stuff of legend. BJ & Todd play covers and requests on Wednesdays, and Junior the Discopunk mixes dive-bar disco every Thursday.
The popcorn is always free, and there’s a breath-alyzer in the back in case you’re thinking about getting behind the wheel of the Super Off Road arcade.
Says Cline, “I’ve been in this bar since I could walk.”