616 J Street, Downtown San Diego
Last month, Jsix completed a renovation that included walling off the dining room with exposed brick and concealing the open kitchen to place added emphasis on the bar, which has been extended to seat 19 patrons and another 18 at communal tables. Located in the southwest corner of Hotel Solamar, Jsix also made use of repurposed wood and distressed metal — a nod to East Village’s industrial past.
With the remodel came a complete overhaul of the table offerings to arrive at an organic spread of reimagined American cuisine by award-winning executive chef Christian Graves. The bar, meanwhile, took on mix-master Nate Howell, who earned his stripes at Cusp Dining & Drinks and Hiatus Lounge at Solamar’s sister Kimpton boutique, Hotel La Jolla.
“Our concept at Jsix stems back to not just my Chicago roots but just a true Midwest, blue-collar idea,” Howell says. “I want everyone to get a handshake and have a beer or whiskey. I have really learned to become approachable about drinks. Not to be too stuffy. We want people to maybe learn something new but without feeling stupid for asking. We want to be a great American, neighborhood cocktail bar.”
Part of Howell’s all-American vision is a selection of cocktails dedicated to each region of the country. Locally, Our Own Backyard features Ballast Point rum, Marie Brizard Apry, salted orgeat syrup, fresh lime, and garden mint. The menu goes on to salute the West (Big Sky: High West double rye, cinnamon-bacon-cayenne syrup, orange, and Angostura bitters), the Midwest (High 5 with Mittens: Death’s Door white whiskey, sarsaparilla-vanilla syrup, Wisconsin heavy cream, egg white, soda water), the Northwest (Hunt & Gather: local cedar-infused Aviation gin, grenadine, fresh grapefruit, egg white, Oregon pinot noir), the Northeast (New Jersey Farm: Laird’s apple brandy, ginger syrup, fresh lemon, cucumber, peach bitters), and, most intriguingly, the transnational South (Hola Y’all: Del Maguey Vida mezcal, chef’s BBQ-rub-infused Tito’s vodka, agave, fresh lime, garden cilantro).
Seven classic cocktails round out the menu with smoked-meat-and-rub-infused spirits and salted syrups. If you’re feeling sudsy, the bar’s 30 brews range from Miller High Life to Mission Conquistador XPA. Otherwise, Jsix carries an international selection of 30+ wines and even a few clever “mocktails” for a taste of mixology without the intoxicology.
All told, an 11-dollar cocktail is a far cry from blue collar, but Howell and company will make you feel like an old friend.
- Attire: Downtown dapper
- Prices: Beer, $4–$21; cocktails, $9–$14; wine, $8–$18
- Hours: Sunday–Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.
- Happy: Monday–Friday, 4 to 7 p.m.; $5 wells, $6 classic cocktails, $7 house-bottled cocktails
- Capacity: Dining room, 45; lounge, 60
- Food: locally sourced Modern American cuisine
- Cards: Yes