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Nunu's Cocktail Lounge

Nunu's Cocktail Lounge

There are some places in our lives that will always be synonymous with good memories and old friends. For me, one such place exists in an nondescript area, in between lively Hillcrest and sleepy Banker’s Hill. Nunu’s is one of those places you’ve driven by a hundred or so times, if you live in this area, and have always wondered what kind of magic takes place behind that big yellow sign. Now, I admit that I can’t count the seemingly numerous occasions I’ve had a cocktail here, so I will attempt to see it through new eyes as well as old.

This place has always had an attraction for me as a comfortable neighborhood bar. reminiscent of the Regal Beagle, from 70’s sitcom Three’s Company. On some nights I imagine I might run into Jack and Larry chillin’ out in bell bottoms in one of the 9 big and cozy naugahyde booths. Each booth has a faux tiffany stained glass lamp that offers the feel of being trapped in the late sixties at a Shakey’s Pizza. The large mirrors on the walls visually enlarge an already decent sized space. From wherever you might be seated, you can see one of the 7 flat screen TVs airing whatever fancies the barkeep at the time. A bit dizzying on a random night, but great for sporting events. My favorite TV, though, runs through a slide show of recent patrons and regulars dressed in their halloween garb or just a friendly smile.

There are 18 comfy bar chairs for your belly up pleasure. One of the walls sports some bad, yet inoffensive, autumn colored carpet with era geometrical shapes. This somehow blends with the rest of the decor. I really like the tiny mosaic tiles behind the bar in orange, amber, brown and red which I noticed for the first time on this visit. There is one little table which sits right in front of a working, 70’s era, fireplace, offering one the feeling of having just gotten off the snowy slopes in Heavenly Valley, inspiring a hot toddy.

Nunu’s boasts some pretty good late night food. The burgers here are the spotlight. I tried the Jack Daniels burger and was not disappointed. They actually marinate the beef in sour mash whiskey! I am curious to try the teriyaki burger on the next round. They do take out, but bring an extra $.50 for the container. If you’re looking for a server, save your effort, there is a pass through window in back near the jukebox with a bright “open” sign lighting up that corner. I wonder what ever happened to the former chef of seven years ago who had a mail order eastern european wife as his helper and lived in a motorhome out back. Sure made for some groovy speculation.

If you’re looking to save a buck or two, try Wacky Tuesdays. From 5 pm to close you can enjoy $1.00 off call drinks, $2.00 domestic bottled beers, $3.00 import bottled beers, $2.00 well drinks and $4.00 glasses of wine. Also, worthy of mention for you all nighters, or early risers are the bloody mary and mimosa specials on Saturday and Sunday, starting at 8 am. This can come in quite handy when there is a long wait at Hash House A Go Go, which is only a block away or so.

The bartenders are the reason that everyone keeps coming back here, though. Jeff has been here as long as I have been drinking. He somehow seems to know the names of all his regular patrons, and he has a lot of them. He’ll remember your favorite drink, too, which can come in handy if the cat’s got your tongue. Doug, a recent transfer from The Alibi is a familiar face, and he is quite deft with the spirits. I recently saw Jeremiah working the bartop, too. These guys are great and will take amazing care of you even when there is a double layer approaching the bar. Never fear, though, on the weekends there is a cocktail waitress to help with the onslaught. If it’s your friend’s birthday, make sure to tell Jeff and he’ll give them a spotlight sing along with the whole bar in tow.

There is a large smoking patio out back, with seating and counter space, where revelers can enjoy there libations while smoking there favorite tobacco product and not worry about harming unintendeds with second hand smoke. Marty greets you with clever sarcasm at the front door, and by now recognizes me and just waves me through. I often glance over the memorabilia that has collected over the years. If these walls could talk, there would be some raucous stories. From classy lounge, to throwback tavern, enjoyed by hipsters, baby boomers, and yuppies alike, this place has seen some action.

I look at the Hong Kong postcard over the register and think to myself, I wonder if the original owner is sipping a singapore sling in some far off paradise, sending a trivial note of well being to the caretakers in his place. Well they are taking good care of the place and it’s loyal customers, with the recent booth upgrades and happy go lucky patrons. Nunu’s will continue to please for years to come and I will be seated there watching it happen.

Details »
  • City: San Diego
  • Phone: 619-295-2878
  • Name: Nunu's Cocktail Lounge
  • Address: 3537 5th Avenue