For Desi Langdon, it was easier to buy the old bar than look for a new job.
2734 Lytton Street, San Diego
The Naval Training Center in Point Loma closed in 1997, but nearby dives remained popular with the military crowd until around 2001, when many shipped out to the Middle East.
“I had never seen anything like it,” recalls Desi Langdon, who reluctantly began working at the Horse and Cow in ’97.
“It used to be a total Navy bar. It was about 10 women and 500 guys. There were people throwing up. It was just crazy. I had never in my life been in a bar like that, and there was just no way I could work there. Not because I was above it, but because I didn’t think I could handle it.”
Langdon decided to stick around when she saw how much money the mariners were willing to throw at her (she admits skimpy outfits and body shots on the bar helped), until 12 years ago, when the Horse and Cow’s owner relocated to Bremerton, Washington.
“For me, it was much easier to buy the bar than look for a new bartending job,” Langdon says in her light Swedish accent.
So she stripped away the military memorabilia, gave the façade an elfish green trim, renamed the place Desi N Friends, and reinvented it as a neighborhood bar and grill.
“Anything goes, everything goes, everybody loves us,” Langdon recalls of her vision for the location. “More women-friendly, more neighborhood-friendly.”
Since then, several bars and restaurants in the area have closed down, but the completion of Liberty Station’s second phase of redevelopment last year has brought nightlife back to the historic base with spots such as Stone Brewing Co., Slater’s 50/50, and Wine Steals.
While all of these developments have their virtues, nothing quite compares to a Tuesday night at Desi’s, when house guitarist Jerry kicks off island-rock anthems at 7 p.m. and you can sing along from the bar or smoking patio.
On a recent Tuesday, I even had the pleasure of being drunk under the table with Fireball shots by a 90-some-year-old woman in a wheelchair, who was celebrating her birthday amid a gaggle of friends.
Sure, the name Desi N Friends may ring of a ’90s sitcom, but Langdon is quick to admit that it’s “more of a Cheers kind of place” — just a straightforward, no-frills bar that prides itself on a great burger, fine company, and strong drink.
- Hours: Monday, 3–11 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 2–12 a.m., Friday-Saturday, noon–2 a.m., Sun, noon–12 a.m.
- Happy: 2–7 daily, 3–7 Mondays, $1 off all drinks
- Capacity: 171
- Prices: Beer (20 taps), $4–$5; wells, $5–$6.50
- Food: Burgers, wings, fries, and more
- The Deal: Half-off wings Mondays and Thursdays
- Cards: Yes