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Runnin' On Down The line

I grew up with a fascination for model trains as a child. Lines of tracks for seemingly endless circles around the floor of my bedroom. I was recently reminded of this childhood obsession by a small model size steam engine that sits atop the windowed back bar at the Whistle Stop bar in South Park. There are also a few architectural points that relate to the bygone days of elegant rail travel. The very front windows are reminiscent of a passenger train car of yore. From the outside there are also railroad crossing signs cleverly fixed with the word “bar”.

This bar has some other great attributes. There are two rooms with around fifteen stools at the bar and a decent amount of seating at the dispersed high top tables. There is a pool table, sitting at an odd angle adjacent to the DJ booth and dance floor. If it’s crowded in here, it can be difficult to maneuver yourself for that behind the back shot you’ve been working on. While you are dancing your night away, you will gladly notice the over lit mural depicting a speeding locomotive racing through two dimensional space in vibrant colors. It’s something like the Soul Train, which fits right in, considering how the alcohol influenced hipsters will crowd the dance floor on almost any night. If you are savvy, you will find the one spot where the air conditioner spills out onto the dancers heads, bringing relief to the wary boogie master.

Tonight the music was perfectly eclectic. We walked in to the tune of “Low Rider” by War, only to be soothed with Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk” and then on to some fifties do-wop. There are some great DJ nights here like Transport which attracts all sorts to heathenistic moves. There are live bands of the mellower sort, and a host of random activity nights, such as Friends Chill on Tuesdays which is a board game night, or first and third Sundays which is Knittin’ Time and open to all levels.

The place is painted up in green and red shades making it ready made for christmas decorations. We opted to belly up at the bar and try some brews. There are twelve drafts featuring some local flair as well as Spaten, and Liberty Ale by Anchor Steam. We opted for some Stella Artois and talked into the night. There is a smokers, slightly open air, patio to the right of the entrance. It’s a pretty narrow byway with some stools and places to set your drinks. If you are not a smoker, I don’t recommend hanging out there unless you want to go home with your clothes smelling like the inside of a used ashtray, as the smoke does not clear out readily, due to the high walls.

They opened their doors in 1979, but for some reason were closed and boarded up throughout the nineties only to be reopened in 2001. I have been a patron since the rebirth. It has remained true to its’ roots and that is something to be thankful for in a world where trends tend to dominate popular culture. There is a decent happy hour that goes every day until 8pm with $1 off all drafts and cocktails. There is also an impressive wine by the glass selection for this type of bar which would make and enthusiast proud.

There is one TV and it was tuned into Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I love this kind of demented animation and it always makes the best back drop. The walls are dotted with band posters which is great that they let people advertise for other clubs here. Hanging in the front door slots, you can peruse any number of postcard size advertisements for anything and everything going on around town. This place lives up to it’s name. I almost wish there was still a cable car system running through these neighborhoods as the bus makes too much noise and it has no chicness to it.

Just a side note, this is a cash only establishment, but there is a an ATM for your use. You will also see several bicycles locked up out front as this is the mecca of fixed gear culture in this town being next to Velo Cult bike shop. The owners are spreading their wings and opening up a burger joint down the street with a large open air eating area strewn with picnic tables. Judging by the success and relevant style of The Whistle Stop, I’m sure it will be well attended.


Details »
  • City: San Diego
  • Phone: 619-284-6784
  • Name: Whistle Stop
  • Address: 2236 Fern Street