7123 El Cajon Boulevard, La Mesa
La Mesa’s dive scene comes in three parts. Downtown you have the Regal, Pete’s Place, Hoffer’s Cigar Bar, and a few others. Out on University are Wong’s and Mr. G’s. Then up on El Cajon Boulevard you’ll find Norm’s, Chico Club, and, most recently, the Go Lounge. The great triangle outlines the route traveled by a number of weekending locals — that is, according to Paul, a regular at the Go Lounge since it was the seedy Tommy’s and, later, Mad Dog’s.
A bastion of free music and cheap booze since New Year’s Eve 2010, the Go Lounge inherited their neighborhood clientele from previous incarnations of the joint, which dates back to the ’60s.
“Most of our customers have been here longer than we have,” says bartender Angela, “so it’s really more their place than ours.”
Catering to the neighborhood, Go’s thoughtful selection of 13 taps ($3 during happy hour) includes Black Market Hefeweizen, the potent G’Knight Imperial Red, White Rascal, and Ellie’s Brown Ale. Take a shot of Jack with your beer for $2 anytime, $3 wells all day long, and $2 you-call-its from 9 to 11 every Tuesday.
The Go Lounge’s throwback rock-and-roll vibe comes through in a leopard-print pool table, black and red everything, show posters in antique frames, mirrors hung as if they’re falling off the wall, and vintage lamps.
In addition to monthly art shows, the venue holds a local-music night every Thursday with KPRI host Cathyrn Beeks, live bands on Fridays, and DJ dance parties on Saturdays.
Grab an outdoor booth for Monday cult-movie nights on the back patio, where mannequin Lola Love reclines in the corner looking sultry and blasé in red hair, jeans, and a zebra top.
“People steal her fingers all the time,” says Angela’s partner and Go co-owner Marcus. “Someone has her arm right now. I don’t know where it is, but they always come back.”
You can explore La Mesa’s tripartite dive life in June (date TBA) on a bike pub-crawl ending with bands and a BBQ at the Go Lounge, where past cookouts have included a Mardi Gras shrimp boil served on newspaper and St. Patty’s bangers imported from New York to accompany mash.
Says Marcus, “I’m big on traditions.”
Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mon–Sat (closed Sunday)
Happy: 4 to 7, $3 pints
Capacity: 48, about 35 on the patio
Cover: Very rarely