Quantcast
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

There she is: Star Bar

Celebrating 43 years young

Take a seat on her sullied stools, order a Star IPA (via Anheuser-Busch). - Image by Chris Woo
Take a seat on her sullied stools, order a Star IPA (via Anheuser-Busch).
Place

Star Bar

423 E Street, San Diego

It’s hard to believe that any dive worth its weight in spilt Schlitz has survived the past few decades of redevelopment in the Gaslamp with any semblance of integrity left intact, yet there she is: Star Bar — a vestige of days past, when downtown drank like a sailor and spit like a Cyprian. Unfazed by the disposable concept lounges and Keeping Up with the Jonesford & Sons craft knock-offs that epitomize the area, Star Bar burns as an entity unshakeable. Take a seat on her sullied stools, order a pint of Star IPA (via Anheuser-Busch), and tell me her timeless mediocrity doesn’t reek of rapture.

The elongated space is split down the middle: on the left, an altar to hard liquor stacked high with any standard handle you can name; on the right, more booze and 17 taps of mainstream brews plus a few West Coast selects. Indeed, Star bears all the telltale markings of the elusive real dive: beer signs and year-round tinsel as the only ornamentation, ancient patrons avidly enjoying those stupid bar-top arcade games, a wall-mounted $2 breathalyzer, 50-cent erotica dispensers in the bathroom, and “Pinball Wizard” on the juke.

“We never have specials,” beer-side bartender David says. “We’re the cheapest bar downtown.”

Which is a lie. Star Bar does have specials. On Thursdays, Star IPA goes for $3 while wells and domestics demand a stellar two bucks a pop.

Star Bar recently celebrated 43 years, and Loni on the liquor side has been here for 34 of them. As the story goes, about 15 years ago, the two ladies behind the bar, one Vietnamese, one Filipina, couldn’t stand each other. Owner Lloyd Thompson didn’t want to fire either, so he built separate bars to keep them happy. Now, Lani, the Vietnamese half of the saga, wears a sequin fishnet sweater, pours an entirely average mai tai, and relates her plans to retire next year. In walks Star Thompson, who was just two years old when her late father opened the joint.

“Why do you think people love this bar?” Star flexes rhetoric in jeans and Greek fisherman cap. “You might sit next to a ball player or a movie star or a homeless guy. It doesn’t matter. You’re always going to meet someone you don’t expect.”

The out-of-town U.S. Marshal next to me says he’s been coming here for 30 years. It hasn’t changed a bit.

Prices: Beer $3–$7, shots $3+, wells $4

Food: Chips, nearby options

Hours: 6 to 2 a.m. daily

Happy: Deep discounts all day Thursday

Parking: Horton Plaza (validation not available at Star Bar)

Capacity: About 125

The Deal: $3 Busch pints every day

Cards: $10 minimum

Note: Bouncers can be strict; military i.d. and passports not accepted

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Jorge Hank's wealthy nephew heads for White House dinner

Tijuana billionaire's relative an AMLO invite
Next Article

Moved to tears by Dave’s Hot Chicken

Nashville hot chicken ranges from no spice, to hot, to the indemnified “reaper”
Take a seat on her sullied stools, order a Star IPA (via Anheuser-Busch). - Image by Chris Woo
Take a seat on her sullied stools, order a Star IPA (via Anheuser-Busch).
Place

Star Bar

423 E Street, San Diego

It’s hard to believe that any dive worth its weight in spilt Schlitz has survived the past few decades of redevelopment in the Gaslamp with any semblance of integrity left intact, yet there she is: Star Bar — a vestige of days past, when downtown drank like a sailor and spit like a Cyprian. Unfazed by the disposable concept lounges and Keeping Up with the Jonesford & Sons craft knock-offs that epitomize the area, Star Bar burns as an entity unshakeable. Take a seat on her sullied stools, order a pint of Star IPA (via Anheuser-Busch), and tell me her timeless mediocrity doesn’t reek of rapture.

The elongated space is split down the middle: on the left, an altar to hard liquor stacked high with any standard handle you can name; on the right, more booze and 17 taps of mainstream brews plus a few West Coast selects. Indeed, Star bears all the telltale markings of the elusive real dive: beer signs and year-round tinsel as the only ornamentation, ancient patrons avidly enjoying those stupid bar-top arcade games, a wall-mounted $2 breathalyzer, 50-cent erotica dispensers in the bathroom, and “Pinball Wizard” on the juke.

“We never have specials,” beer-side bartender David says. “We’re the cheapest bar downtown.”

Which is a lie. Star Bar does have specials. On Thursdays, Star IPA goes for $3 while wells and domestics demand a stellar two bucks a pop.

Star Bar recently celebrated 43 years, and Loni on the liquor side has been here for 34 of them. As the story goes, about 15 years ago, the two ladies behind the bar, one Vietnamese, one Filipina, couldn’t stand each other. Owner Lloyd Thompson didn’t want to fire either, so he built separate bars to keep them happy. Now, Lani, the Vietnamese half of the saga, wears a sequin fishnet sweater, pours an entirely average mai tai, and relates her plans to retire next year. In walks Star Thompson, who was just two years old when her late father opened the joint.

“Why do you think people love this bar?” Star flexes rhetoric in jeans and Greek fisherman cap. “You might sit next to a ball player or a movie star or a homeless guy. It doesn’t matter. You’re always going to meet someone you don’t expect.”

The out-of-town U.S. Marshal next to me says he’s been coming here for 30 years. It hasn’t changed a bit.

Prices: Beer $3–$7, shots $3+, wells $4

Food: Chips, nearby options

Hours: 6 to 2 a.m. daily

Happy: Deep discounts all day Thursday

Parking: Horton Plaza (validation not available at Star Bar)

Capacity: About 125

The Deal: $3 Busch pints every day

Cards: $10 minimum

Note: Bouncers can be strict; military i.d. and passports not accepted

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Two poems by Julia Wehner

A reminder of how richly good it is to feel, and to live
Next Article

John Harris: editor of one of the first English dictionaries

Known as a man of science as a man of faith
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
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
Close