“Everyone’s happy to smile for a Polaroid,” just look at Last Call’s walls.
4977 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego
Boasting a weekend happy hour from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., Last Call’s slogan entreats you to “Go ugly early.” And while easily dismissed as another sketchy El Cajon Boulevard hole, Last Call proves to be a welcoming neighborhood joint that owner Rich Walker calls an “oasis on the Boulevard.”
“I opened Last Call eight years ago with a friend from when I worked at Dick’s Last Resort,” says Walker. “We were looking for a name that would catch and were surprised to find that ‘Last Call’ was available. There were only four nationally, though now there are a ton.”
Is it the quintessentially terrible karaoked “Don’t Stop Believin’,” the oddly inland tiki surf decor, or the walls adorned with Walker’s own artwork (made with recycled, reclaimed, and natural materials) that gives Last Call its convivial locals’ bar charm?
“We’re all family here,” former bartender-gone-regular Mike tells me. “We look out for each other.”
You can spot family past on Last Call’s “Wall of Shame,” a collection of over 500 Polaroids on film that went out of production two years ago.
“It’s just regulars, some guy acting stupid, girls...whatever,” Walker says. “If you take out a digital camera, girls think you’re a pervert, but everyone’s happy to smile for a Polaroid.”
Making light of the venue’s location, Last Call offers $1 kamikaze shooters when sirens pass, though some nights it has to be limited to east or westbound. A handful of taps include Manzanita IPA and Red from Santee, both excellent brews at $4 a pint. Otherwise, 22 bottled beers include Stone, Manzanita, and New Belgium selections, but the house special is the Sunken Sailor, a shot of Sailor Jerry’s rum dropped in a glass of Monster energy drink.
Catch karaoke on Wednesdays and Thursdays, live bands on Fridays, hip-hop Saturdays, and football on Sundays and Mondays.
“I first came here to play fantasy football,” says J.T., a traveling carnival electrician. “Once you’re in here, it grows on you. It’s the greatest little bar in San Diego.”
As an added incentive, the worst fantasy football player of the week merits their photo attached to the Douche Bag of the Week award, which is, in fact, a douche bag.
Says Walker, “Just come out and belong.”
Hours: Monday–Thursday, 4 p.m.–2 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, 12 p.m.–2 a.m.; Sun 12 p.m.–12 a.m.
Happy: weekdays 4:30–6:30, $2 domestic bottles and wells
Prices: drafts, $4; bottles, $3–$7; cocktails, $4–$7