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The Lamplighter

The Lamplighter suffers from an ongoing identity crisis. - Image by Chris Woo
The Lamplighter suffers from an ongoing identity crisis.
Place

Lamplighter

817 West Washington Street, San Diego

The Lamplighter feels like it’s been around forever. Its heady booze stink and retro aesthetic attest to a tradition of transgression, which often seizes the unwitting patron like a phantom and invokes all manner of misdeed. I’ve fallen victim to a number of unreasonable urges at the Lamplighter, the least of which includes telling elaborate lies to strangers for no good reason and showing up for the 6 a.m. first call pretending to be an airline pilot about to fly out of Lindbergh Field.

But innocuous fibbery isn’t the only garbage that spews from patrons’ mouths at this Mission Hills landmark. The Lamplighter is known primarily (and perhaps exclusively) for its award-winning karaoke, which has earned the bar “Best Karaoke/Song Selection” in 2001 by Karaoke Star magazine; “Best Karaoke” by AOL City Guide, City’s Best 2005; and “Best Karaoke Bar” in 2003 by the San Diego Reader.

Karaoke runs from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily, but show up early if you want to secure your spot; the bar is often standing-room-only after 9 p.m., and the sign-up sheet fills quickly. If you think you’ve been skipped, tipping the jockey is probably a good idea. The door fee alternates between free and $5, seemingly at random, though the cover is well worth the botched Ace of Bass throwbacks, Kid Rock quagmires, Sinatra conquests, and Grease glories.

The dive is nondescript, dark, inexpensive, and suffers from an ongoing identity crisis that invites equal parts frat dudes, downtown divas, thugs, nativist military kids from the Midwest, tourists, Hillcrestians, and good ole boys like ourselves. The guy out front on guitar is just as much of a staple of the Lamplighter as the surly bartenders and drunken ensemble dropouts onstage. Toss him a buck and ask for “Crazy Train.”

Of course, the best part of the bar is its proximity to MXN, where patrons congregate for burritos after closing time and, on a good night, erupt into song with the jukebox. I once witnessed the entire place in an enraptured rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” complete with burrito microphones and salsa-red grins.

Scaramouche. Scaramouche. Will you do the fandango?

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The Lamplighter suffers from an ongoing identity crisis. - Image by Chris Woo
The Lamplighter suffers from an ongoing identity crisis.
Place

Lamplighter

817 West Washington Street, San Diego

The Lamplighter feels like it’s been around forever. Its heady booze stink and retro aesthetic attest to a tradition of transgression, which often seizes the unwitting patron like a phantom and invokes all manner of misdeed. I’ve fallen victim to a number of unreasonable urges at the Lamplighter, the least of which includes telling elaborate lies to strangers for no good reason and showing up for the 6 a.m. first call pretending to be an airline pilot about to fly out of Lindbergh Field.

But innocuous fibbery isn’t the only garbage that spews from patrons’ mouths at this Mission Hills landmark. The Lamplighter is known primarily (and perhaps exclusively) for its award-winning karaoke, which has earned the bar “Best Karaoke/Song Selection” in 2001 by Karaoke Star magazine; “Best Karaoke” by AOL City Guide, City’s Best 2005; and “Best Karaoke Bar” in 2003 by the San Diego Reader.

Karaoke runs from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily, but show up early if you want to secure your spot; the bar is often standing-room-only after 9 p.m., and the sign-up sheet fills quickly. If you think you’ve been skipped, tipping the jockey is probably a good idea. The door fee alternates between free and $5, seemingly at random, though the cover is well worth the botched Ace of Bass throwbacks, Kid Rock quagmires, Sinatra conquests, and Grease glories.

The dive is nondescript, dark, inexpensive, and suffers from an ongoing identity crisis that invites equal parts frat dudes, downtown divas, thugs, nativist military kids from the Midwest, tourists, Hillcrestians, and good ole boys like ourselves. The guy out front on guitar is just as much of a staple of the Lamplighter as the surly bartenders and drunken ensemble dropouts onstage. Toss him a buck and ask for “Crazy Train.”

Of course, the best part of the bar is its proximity to MXN, where patrons congregate for burritos after closing time and, on a good night, erupt into song with the jukebox. I once witnessed the entire place in an enraptured rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” complete with burrito microphones and salsa-red grins.

Scaramouche. Scaramouche. Will you do the fandango?

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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