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Nunu's sees the light

Hillcrest mainstay tweaks the vibe but not the essentials.

West-facing windows... it's true [sniff]. - Image by Chris Woo
West-facing windows... it's true [sniff].
Place

Nunu's

3537 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

Anyone who’s had the pleasure of tossing back a few cocktails at this 50-some-year-old Fifth Avenue landmark knows that a large part of the appeal comes from its shadowy interior lined with red Naugahyde booths. Well, all that recently changed with the addition of large, west-facing windows, which now swath the bar in summer sunshine, adding an approachable gastropub vibe to the once-clandestine lounge.

“We’re kind of an old-style place and we’re trying to add some modernization,” general manager Chuck Biasotti explains. “A lot of our clientele came from 30th Street, and now that they have a lot of bars, no one’s going to drive all the way over to drink at Nunu’s. The whole thing in a nutshell is that we want to bring back the old crowd and also bring in a new crowd.”

For all the changes, which include removing the fireplace, expanding the patio, and swapping out a few booths for two-top tables, it’s worth mentioning that Nunu’s hasn’t lost an ounce of its old-school charm. Diurnal drinkers can enjoy the natural light of day until about 5 p.m., when, with the push of a button, a shade rolls down and the intimacy of Nunu’s interior twilight returns. The juke, more pronounced in the dark, spins classics from the likes of Nick Drake, the Flaming Lips, and the Kinks.

You may recognize David, the man who made the Imperial House magic, behind the bar, still stirring a mean michelada with a secret house Mary mix. But David says his signature drink is the Maker’s Mark Old Fashioned, and it’s right at home with Nunu’s mid-century flair.

Reader eater Ed Bedford recently gave a rundown of Nunu’s revamped bar fare, but, marrying a full meal with a stiff cocktail, the shrimp Bloody Mary special ($7.50) reigns supreme on Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Each drink comes with a double shot (choose from about 50 varieties of vodka) topped with a garden of celery, pickled asparagus and beans, olives, and two giant shrimp.

Tuesdays tout $2 wells/domestics and other specials from 1 p.m. ’til close, while Mondays and Thursdays are home to the Football Burger Combo ($6.75) with a well or domestic from 5 to 10 p.m.

Shedding a final ray of light on the new Nunu’s, Biasotti says, “We’re just ready for people to discover us more than they already have.”


  • Prices: Wells/domestics $3.50, crafts $3.75–4.50
  • Capacity: 120, including patio
  • Hours: Mon–Fri, 1pm–2am; Sat & Sun, 7am–2am
  • Happy: Mon–Fri, 1:30–6:00pm
  • Food: Heaps, plus weekend breakfast specials from 10AM–2PM
  • The Deal: $2 wells on Tuesdays
  • Cards: Yes
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West-facing windows... it's true [sniff]. - Image by Chris Woo
West-facing windows... it's true [sniff].
Place

Nunu's

3537 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

Anyone who’s had the pleasure of tossing back a few cocktails at this 50-some-year-old Fifth Avenue landmark knows that a large part of the appeal comes from its shadowy interior lined with red Naugahyde booths. Well, all that recently changed with the addition of large, west-facing windows, which now swath the bar in summer sunshine, adding an approachable gastropub vibe to the once-clandestine lounge.

“We’re kind of an old-style place and we’re trying to add some modernization,” general manager Chuck Biasotti explains. “A lot of our clientele came from 30th Street, and now that they have a lot of bars, no one’s going to drive all the way over to drink at Nunu’s. The whole thing in a nutshell is that we want to bring back the old crowd and also bring in a new crowd.”

For all the changes, which include removing the fireplace, expanding the patio, and swapping out a few booths for two-top tables, it’s worth mentioning that Nunu’s hasn’t lost an ounce of its old-school charm. Diurnal drinkers can enjoy the natural light of day until about 5 p.m., when, with the push of a button, a shade rolls down and the intimacy of Nunu’s interior twilight returns. The juke, more pronounced in the dark, spins classics from the likes of Nick Drake, the Flaming Lips, and the Kinks.

You may recognize David, the man who made the Imperial House magic, behind the bar, still stirring a mean michelada with a secret house Mary mix. But David says his signature drink is the Maker’s Mark Old Fashioned, and it’s right at home with Nunu’s mid-century flair.

Reader eater Ed Bedford recently gave a rundown of Nunu’s revamped bar fare, but, marrying a full meal with a stiff cocktail, the shrimp Bloody Mary special ($7.50) reigns supreme on Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Each drink comes with a double shot (choose from about 50 varieties of vodka) topped with a garden of celery, pickled asparagus and beans, olives, and two giant shrimp.

Tuesdays tout $2 wells/domestics and other specials from 1 p.m. ’til close, while Mondays and Thursdays are home to the Football Burger Combo ($6.75) with a well or domestic from 5 to 10 p.m.

Shedding a final ray of light on the new Nunu’s, Biasotti says, “We’re just ready for people to discover us more than they already have.”


  • Prices: Wells/domestics $3.50, crafts $3.75–4.50
  • Capacity: 120, including patio
  • Hours: Mon–Fri, 1pm–2am; Sat & Sun, 7am–2am
  • Happy: Mon–Fri, 1:30–6:00pm
  • Food: Heaps, plus weekend breakfast specials from 10AM–2PM
  • The Deal: $2 wells on Tuesdays
  • Cards: Yes
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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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