What is it about gay bars?
A special magic lurks here, generating static between bear bellies, designer button-ups, and open-air chest hair. Top 40 club jams that would normally inspire contempt at Gaslamp disco dumps transform into personal anthems for the evening. You find yourself shouting along to “This time baby, I’ll be bulletproof,” with a cranberry vodka in each hand and a newfound swagger in your step, and you begin to suspect that your neighborhood dive (not to mention your sexual orientation) has been selling you a misguided if not gravely repressed lie all along.
Hillcrest is famous for such dens of Dionysian abandon, where “Call Me Maybe” becomes an existential truth and laser lights refract off of polished steel nipple rings deep into the “Let’s Hear It for the Boys” night.
3766 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest
Then there’s Babycakes. A pastry’s toss from Uptown institution the Brass Rail, Babycakes embodies all things enchanting about Hillcrest’s nightlife, except it opens at 9 a.m. daily and specializes in cupcakes, coffee, and cocktails.
Sassy yet sophisticated, Babycakes entreats you to start the day off Irish with a mug of Joe, a splash of whiskey, and a pistachio cupcake, while ample outdoor patio space and free Wi-Fi makes the Fifth Avenue confectionary an ideal spot for day drinks and laptop “work.”
The cocktail menu touts a handful of concoctions designed to complement the in-house cupcakes (gluten-free are available on weekends on a first-come, first-serve basis), drinks such as the Brandy Alexander (brandy/dark crème de cacao/creamy cream), the Chunky Munky (vanilla vodka/dark crème de cacao/banana liqueur/creamy cream), and the Richy Rich (ChocoVine/vanilla vodka/Kahlua).
Others invite intrigue based on name alone: the Happy Ending Shot (Bailey’s Irish Cream/Kahlua/whipped cream), the Masterbaker Shot (ChocoVine/dark crème de cacao/Rumple Minze), and Sticky & Sweet Tea (sweet tea vodka/lemonade).
Babycakes celebrates the month’s birthdays (RSVP at babycakessandiego.com) every third Saturday with a hosted vodka bar from 9 to 10 p.m., free cupcakes, drink specials, and birthday spankings.
Breaking further ground, Babycakes trades overproduced club hits for ’90s jams and radio-friendly rock. On a recent visit, the soundtrack jumped between the Postal Service, Foster the People, and Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl.”
Incidentally, “This shit is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S” perfectly describes the quirky patisserie.
— Chad Deal
Hours: Mon–Thu, Sun 9 a.m.–11 p.m.; Fri, Sat 9 a.m.–12 a.m.
Happy: weekdays 5 to 8 p.m., $3 wells, wine, and beer