Good times light the nights in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter

By Irene Lechowitzky

Rustic-Root-LA-TImes-300x169 Rooftop Bar San Diego 92101

San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter, once home to gambling halls, saloons and bordellos, can still kick up its heels. Packed with cocktail lounges, restaurants and pulsating nightclubs, it’s a virtual playpen for partying. Best of all, it’s self-contained, and you can easily hopscotch from drinks to dinner to a nightclub. Plus, there’s a revolving door of fresh venues replacing ones that have fallen out of fashion. There are plenty of other activities as well: Padres games at Petco Park, Seaport Village, the bay and waterfront parks, and the ferry to Coronado are just a short walk. (There are homeless as well as partiers; the Gaslamp is very much an urban core.) The tab: My husband and I spent $179 for one night at the Hotel Z and about $120 for dinner and drinks.

The find

The Gaslamp takes its reputation seriously as a party town. Choosing which hot and trendy bars to sample was a tough job, but I was glad to do it. Two that stood out: The tastiest cocktail was at Blush Ice Bar + East-West Kitchen (555 Market St.; [619] 501-9158, sandiego.blushicebar.com), whichspecializes in “blushies.” You choose a spirit (vodka, rum, etc.) and add flavored, crushed ice and fruit purée: Voilà, a fortified slushie! My husband chose banana rum, lemon-lime ice and mixed berries; I had the house Vanilla Sky, which was like a piña colada. The jam-packed open-air lounge at Rustic Root (535 5th Ave.; [619] 232-1747, rusticroot.com) features strong drinks (the Manhattan craft cocktail shot was small but mighty), lamp-post lighting and animal-shaped topiary, and overlooks the action on 5th Avenue.