2223 El Cajon Boulevard, University Heights
Originally known as Imig Manor, the Lafayette Hotel opened in 1946 and hosted Bob Hope as their inaugural guest. The hotel closed its doors 14 years later and, in 2010, began a $4 million overhaul with the help of an additional $2.4 million loan from San Diego’s Redevelopment Agency.
Now you can pass your summer daze at the recently remodeled swimming pool, which is open to the public from noon to 6 p.m. Admission is $5 on Saturdays and Sundays, when local food trucks such as Food Junkies and the Mijo Gastrotruck are on hand to provide the grub.
It’s 83 degrees on the pool deck. Man-thongers beer-baste in the sunshine, and suicide girls drift on inflatable rings, drinking Bud Light Lime through a straw. A dude planks on the arm of a wicker sofa in the smoking lounge, and a gentleman who looks like William S. Burroughs guesses all three of my astrological signs on the first try for no good reason.
“It’s a secret recipe,” says Mckinna, a smiley redheaded bartender from Baton Rouge, as she pours the last of her homemade sweet tea into a cup of vodka and ice. “It comes from the dirty South, made hot and sweet and spicy, with some Southern hospitality.”
The bar also serves margaritas, bloody marys, mojitos, mai tais, and tequila sunrises until 6 daily, except for Fridays, when you can drink ’til 8.
Go strong into the night at the Lafayette’s Red Fox Room, which has woodwork that dates back to a 1560 Surrey, England, inn. The room was dismantled and shipped to the U.S. in 1926 to serve as a beach house for actress Marion Davies. The lounge opened in its current location in 1967 and now features piano entertainment and dinner seven nights a week.
With its wine-red leather upholstery and anachronistic soundtrack, the Red Fox Room is the kind of place that makes me look forward to growing old. Pot-bellied men growl “What a Wonderful World” and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” with piano/clarinet duo David Shaw and Paul Gregg. The night is dedicated to the memory of Carrie Baker, a pianist and singer at the Red Fox for 33 years.
The seafood and steak menu is expensive (though excellent), and the beer selection is nearly nonexistent...but the place was in Top Gun. So go embarrass yourself with Goose.