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Banzai! Dollar Bud drafts when the Pads win

Equal parts tiki lounge, sports bar, and surfer haunt

Banzai appears a dive of some unknown opulent universe. - Image by Chris Woo
Banzai appears a dive of some unknown opulent universe.

Cousins Chad Cline and Jason “Rocky” Nichols come from a long lineage of dives. Their great-grandfather purchased the Waterfront Bar (whose liquor license dates back to the end of Prohibition) around the late ‘60s. While Cline, Nichols, and their grandmother carry on the Waterfront’s legacy, the cousins have gone on to establish a county-wide family of what they’ve branded as “neighborhood dives” including Eastbound (Lakeside), The Hills (La Mesa), and Werewolf (Gaslamp).

Place

Banzai Bar

3048 Midway Drive, San Diego

Last September, Banzai Bar debuted as the youngest relative (and official home of the San Diego Gulls), though I’m not sure in what opulent universe this place could ever be considered a “dive,” especially when held new to previous tenants, the punk-as-you-please Shakedown Bar. It’s like calling Prince a Hells Angel. Sure, some of the symptoms are there — the bike, the fashion statement, even the drugs — but there’s something crass and vital missing. Fact is, the place looks great. Both sun and breeze are welcome here. The patio is beautiful and the food is fantastic. But Morena District, with its seedy strip clubs and sprawling swap meet, is among the diviest neighborhoods around, so what the heck? Dive away.

Thursday afternoon. Locals poke in with their dogs alongside professionals in full suit, a retired stripper, soldiers, and surfers. Duran Duran videos play on a flatscreen between Sunday Night Football recaps and a nature documentary. Equal parts tiki lounge, sports bar, and surfer haunt, the 1300-square-foot Banzai is clean, modern, and spackled in surf and skate stickers. An accordion mirror lines one wall and a 400-gallon aquarium adorns the other. In the back, keyhole arches cover a hallway lined with a retro, tri-tone stripe suggestive of a roller rink. If you’re lucky, the red rack stored in the hallway will be hanging by the projector screen, where you can root for Rocket (read: vibrator) Races to win menu items and local sex shop paraphernalia.

The bar offers 16 taps of crafts and macros along with a beachy cocktail menu and rotating catalog of international whiskeys (by the glass or bottles to-go). Order from Banzai’s Cali-island pub fare menu at the bar and wait for your name (often with a playful twist) to be hollered from the kitchen. Ahi tacos, burgers, and bánh mì sliders are a fine place to start.

Disputed semantics aside, Banzai is making a name for itself in checkered but changing Morena, dive or no dive.

Prices: Beer, $4 – 7; wells, $4.75; cocktails, $8 – 9; Kung Fu Punch Bowl, $28; pitchers, $12 – 18.

Happy: 3pm – 6pm, MON – FRI; $4 drafts, wells, wine; $2 sliders (cheese $.50).

Hours: MON – THURS, 11am – 12am; FRI, 11am – 2am; SAT, 9am – 2am; SUN, 9am – 12am.

Food: SoCal meets SoPac pub fare.

Capacity: about 100 inside, 30 outside.

Parking: Out back, follow alley next to bar.

Events: Taco Tuesday, $2 chicken and poke; Wednesday karaoke; $20 bottomless mimosas, 9am – 2pm, SAT – SUN, includes breakfast.

Note: No smoking on patio. Go out back.

The Deal: Padres Power Hour, $1 Bud drafts when the Pads win.

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Banzai appears a dive of some unknown opulent universe. - Image by Chris Woo
Banzai appears a dive of some unknown opulent universe.

Cousins Chad Cline and Jason “Rocky” Nichols come from a long lineage of dives. Their great-grandfather purchased the Waterfront Bar (whose liquor license dates back to the end of Prohibition) around the late ‘60s. While Cline, Nichols, and their grandmother carry on the Waterfront’s legacy, the cousins have gone on to establish a county-wide family of what they’ve branded as “neighborhood dives” including Eastbound (Lakeside), The Hills (La Mesa), and Werewolf (Gaslamp).

Place

Banzai Bar

3048 Midway Drive, San Diego

Last September, Banzai Bar debuted as the youngest relative (and official home of the San Diego Gulls), though I’m not sure in what opulent universe this place could ever be considered a “dive,” especially when held new to previous tenants, the punk-as-you-please Shakedown Bar. It’s like calling Prince a Hells Angel. Sure, some of the symptoms are there — the bike, the fashion statement, even the drugs — but there’s something crass and vital missing. Fact is, the place looks great. Both sun and breeze are welcome here. The patio is beautiful and the food is fantastic. But Morena District, with its seedy strip clubs and sprawling swap meet, is among the diviest neighborhoods around, so what the heck? Dive away.

Thursday afternoon. Locals poke in with their dogs alongside professionals in full suit, a retired stripper, soldiers, and surfers. Duran Duran videos play on a flatscreen between Sunday Night Football recaps and a nature documentary. Equal parts tiki lounge, sports bar, and surfer haunt, the 1300-square-foot Banzai is clean, modern, and spackled in surf and skate stickers. An accordion mirror lines one wall and a 400-gallon aquarium adorns the other. In the back, keyhole arches cover a hallway lined with a retro, tri-tone stripe suggestive of a roller rink. If you’re lucky, the red rack stored in the hallway will be hanging by the projector screen, where you can root for Rocket (read: vibrator) Races to win menu items and local sex shop paraphernalia.

The bar offers 16 taps of crafts and macros along with a beachy cocktail menu and rotating catalog of international whiskeys (by the glass or bottles to-go). Order from Banzai’s Cali-island pub fare menu at the bar and wait for your name (often with a playful twist) to be hollered from the kitchen. Ahi tacos, burgers, and bánh mì sliders are a fine place to start.

Disputed semantics aside, Banzai is making a name for itself in checkered but changing Morena, dive or no dive.

Prices: Beer, $4 – 7; wells, $4.75; cocktails, $8 – 9; Kung Fu Punch Bowl, $28; pitchers, $12 – 18.

Happy: 3pm – 6pm, MON – FRI; $4 drafts, wells, wine; $2 sliders (cheese $.50).

Hours: MON – THURS, 11am – 12am; FRI, 11am – 2am; SAT, 9am – 2am; SUN, 9am – 12am.

Food: SoCal meets SoPac pub fare.

Capacity: about 100 inside, 30 outside.

Parking: Out back, follow alley next to bar.

Events: Taco Tuesday, $2 chicken and poke; Wednesday karaoke; $20 bottomless mimosas, 9am – 2pm, SAT – SUN, includes breakfast.

Note: No smoking on patio. Go out back.

The Deal: Padres Power Hour, $1 Bud drafts when the Pads win.

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Comments
2

That must have been some good Bud! Morena is across town. Banzai is in *Midway District.

June 8, 2017

At $1, it is still overpriced.

June 8, 2017

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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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