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City Of Gold

Many of us have driven by that questionable strip of Broadway between 9th Street and 11th Street and said to ourselves, “that sure looks a bit seedy”. Some of us have even chanced an encounter in one of those dark dens of mischief. For those who have, I say bravo, you own a piece of history, for the times they are a changin’. Just one block away, towering over the trolley station is a new monolithic condo development full of modern angles and concrete. It should be no surprise that the neighborhood would have to keep up appearances to not get lost in the eventual tide.

The Hong Kong Nite Club stood on this block for nearly 25 years. A hang out for surly ex-sailors and questionable others. While there may have been a sense of charm in downtown San Diego’s forgotten red light history, it is a new era. Enter the Stanton brothers; Matt, Nate, and Marshall. These three visionaries teamed up with local musician, Ryan Koontz to give the old Nite Club a face-lift. All four, veterans of the Gaslamp bar scene from Henry’s Pub and The Strip Club, joined forces to bring their idea to fruition. The El Dorado Bar opened on November 24th.

Having been in here a few times already and getting to know the staff and the culture, I have become enamored and wished to share this with you. Upon walking in on a rainy Wednesday night, I was caught off guard by the variety of guests that were being entertained. It seemed to me to be a mix of the ecclectic hipster to the downtown club-goer. It’s delightful to see these two worlds collide in such an ambitious mood. I felt like a wiildlife observer on safari which was heightened by some objects of the decor. One being Otis, the albino buffalo head that greets all visitors from his aerial and vantage over the well stocked juke box. I heard the music shift from Outkast, to Dolly Parton, and then to modern rock. Definitely something for everyone.

As the holiday nears us, it was appropriate that there would be illuminated garlands draping over the bartop and a white christmas tree decorated affectionately with red ornaments. One of my favorite pieces of accoutrerment were the old west prints which had been set on brilliantly carved wooden backgrounds and lacquered over. One was signed and dated, C M Russell 1898, a vision of two lovers drifting downstream in a canoe when unawaredly stopped by an indian chief warrior. This led me on to discover the actual bartop, which I was told was the original from when this bar was called George’s Night Cap. In those bygone days, I suppose the chauvanistic cartoons were set in a more visible humor. Now, it is a glimpse into the past, between cigarette burn marks, of a more patriarchal society. I like the way they preserved this antique which separates the bar from giving in completely to being an old west saloon.

The floors look like they have been redone and they sparkle with gold glitz. The back bar has great mirrors and two 70’s oil lamps. You know, the kind your parents owned that mimicked rain falling while a maiden was trapped inside this gentle downpour. Priceless! There are four booths, one of them large enough to fit ten people. This one is highbacked and gives the occupants a sense of privacy or VIP room treatment sans the bottle service and velvet rope. I should also mention the old chandeliers which look like something out of colonial spain or the haunted mansion at Disneyland, complete with candle flicker bulbs.

There is a pool table on the upper deck and two TV’s behind the bar which were this evening playing the classic Heavy Metal cartoon on one and the other had an exciting Voltron episode. These being very cool, I was quite titilated when Emmit Otter’s Jug Band Christmas came on, just as I was leaving. We will miss you, Jim Henson.

Nate Stanton is quite the mixologist. While departing from my rare can of Olympia Beer, I checked out his specialty menu and found divineness in a glass. The Maple Old Fashioned is a sublime mix of maple syrup, bourbon and bitters. This one topped my charts, but there were others that beckoned a return visit.

If you check out their website, you will be amused by the colorful blogs, one from Otis himself! You will also find that there are nights with DJ’s, such as Shark Attack and DJ Rat Star. There will also be cameo bartenders pouring drinks from time to time. This is the best way to keep up on their most current events.

Perhaps we will meet, by chance, in the city of gold some wandering evening over a Maple Old Fashioned or a tall boy PBR. Until then, Happy Holidays and good tidings.

Details »
  • City: San Diego
  • Phone: 619-237-0550
  • Name: El Dorado Cocktail Lounge
  • Address: 1030 Broadway