1. Extreme Beer Fest. March 20 & 21, 2015 in Boston, Mass. Join us!
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Downtown Johnny Brown's

Not Rated.
Downtown Johnny Brown'sDowntown Johnny Brown's
BA SCORE
93
outstanding

50 Ratings
Ratings: 50
Reviews: 42
rAvg: 4.19
pDev: 9.07%
Taps: 16
Bottles: 0
Cask: Y
Beer-to-Go: N
[ Bar, Eatery ]

1220 3rd Ave
San Diego, California, 92101-4102
United States
phone: (619) 232-8414

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap @dtjohnnybrowns

Notes:
None, yet.

(Place added by: xlperro on 04-07-2006)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50  | next › last »
Ratings: 50 | Reviews: 42 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by jim102864:
Photo of jim102864
3.39/5  rDev -19.1%

A small beer bar tucked away and hidden from view. This was pub two after stopping in at the Yard House. The primary problem with Johnny's is the temperature beer is served. You'd think by now these guys would know that bathing every bottle in ice and serving pints at sub zero temperatures is just wrong. I had to specifically tell the Brit (no less!) bar keep not to chill my glass. Yeah, they had Lost Abbey in a bottle but encapsulated in ice? What's wrong with this picture? I killed them on "quality" for that very reason. As to the beer selection, they did have a handful of bottles available some of which were good quality. Roughly 12 or so on tap most of which were also good quality. The atmosphere is relaxed and somewhat interesting. A somewhat above average place but given that this was the last beer bar I visited on this business trip, I can't help but think the availability of good pubs in San Diego is somewhat dissapointing. This place is worth the stop, but it's just not a jaw dropper.

jim102864, May 02, 2008
More User Reviews:
Photo of wethorseblanket
4.25/5  rDev +1.4%

wethorseblanket, Sep 22, 2014
Photo of Bwagner1122
4.5/5  rDev +7.4%

Bwagner1122, Jun 23, 2014
Photo of MickeyHops
3.75/5  rDev -10.5%

MickeyHops, May 26, 2014
Photo of werdnacross
4/5  rDev -4.5%

werdnacross, May 13, 2014
Photo of skipxtracer
4.33/5  rDev +3.3%

Great little bar in the atrium of the civic center. Really cool selection of local beers. They are doubling their taps very soon as well. I had a burger at the bar with really tasty fries and the bartender was incredibly friendly and gave me things to taste that I am really happy I tried. There is a pool table, shuffleboard, and a patio out front.

skipxtracer, Apr 18, 2014
Photo of dwagner003
4.5/5  rDev +7.4%

dwagner003, Mar 02, 2014
Photo of jenray
3/5  rDev -28.4%

jenray, Dec 29, 2013
Photo of Sparky44
4.25/5  rDev +1.4%

Sparky44, Dec 15, 2013
Photo of brandoman63
4.25/5  rDev +1.4%

brandoman63, Oct 21, 2013
Photo of jjboesen
4.15/5  rDev -1%

Being somewhat hidden in the bland Civic Center, Downtown Johnny Brown's is not that hard to find when in downtown San Diego - once you are able to wend your way through the herds of street drifters psychos and myriad homeless, which seem to own the city. But I digress ...

Upon entry, Johnny's is a small, but humble venue with an excrutiatingly small bar, where the well-oiled locals trade banters with the tattoed servers. The rest of the room is devoted to an array of tables and hightops, the latter being along the windows that look out onto the roomy patio.

The beer selection consists of local brews - as it should be in this beer-centric city. These are scribbled on the chalkboard opposite the "Order Food Here" sign. The service was indifferent but efficient enough. (The table service is initiated after 4pm.) I hit the place during the $1.00 Fish Taco special - these were damn good and obviously reasonable in price.

This was No 4 of my recent SDBW 2012 sojourn - there were plenty of decent specials held here, including one that included Pliny - who gonna quibble bout that.

A worthy stop in the downtown area.

jjboesen, Dec 10, 2012
Photo of crossovert
3.95/5  rDev -5.7%

I liked the vibe of this place. Old school 80s ish bar and cafeteria grill. Definitely formatted to serve the local workers. When I went there was a kid sitting next to me at the bar drinking root beer for lunch, it was classic. Turned out he was the bartender's kid. That is nice to see. I basically got personal service since I was the only one at the bar and there were 2 bartenders. There were a lot of people just dining though. I peered into the kitchen, the grease filters hadn't been cleaned in decades but it looked pretty clean to me. My sandwich came out quickly and it was good. Standard pub fare nothing less nothing more. There was a good variety of hot sauce to throw on it. The beer selection was maybe 15 taps, a good variety once again, a few limited things.

crossovert, Jul 26, 2012
Photo of GJ40
3.86/5  rDev -7.9%

I stopped by DJB's while in SD on business based on the BA reviews. A truly authentic beer bar hidden away in a downtown location where you'd least expect it.

JDB's has a great lineup of tasty beers. I went with a Pliny the Elder. I planned to have another and maybe dinner but a few things stopped me. They have a very limited bar area; maybe eight seats. That's certainly a limitation for individuals. Also, my PtE came in a chilled glass. That's not the end of the world but with the lineup they have, do they really think that's the best presentation?

The vibe at DJB's was fantastic. It seemed to be a mix of locals, tourists and many in between. And they have some great outdoor seating. DJB's is well worth a visit if you're in the city; especially if you're not expecting a bar seat.

GJ40, Jul 11, 2012
Photo of FosterJM
4.08/5  rDev -2.6%

Was at a work function and wanted to get my hands on Bad Boy and Odins so quick trip 1/2 mile away for 3 beers and back to the event.

Atm- A smallish place with a open feel with a couple pool tables, sports bar feel and a nice shuffleboard table. Small tables, old chair and in the middle of a city block. I would like to say the woman at the bar with her mom was gorgeous and I hope she enjoyed the opera.

Quality- Great rotating tap list from watching it before I headed down to SD. Great local options with some imports as well.

Service- Nice bartender who was quick to chat and help with grabbing beers when I needed a fill.

Selection- Great Alpine, RR, Deschutes, and some more harder to find options.

Food- N/A

Value- Was a good deal when I was there. for 3 pints about 15. Ill be coming back for sure.

FosterJM, Feb 24, 2012
Photo of sholland119
3.76/5  rDev -10.3%

After one failed attempt at finding this place (though it was only two blocks from our hotel), we managed to fight our way past the dozen Occupy San Diego protesters (and the half dozen newspeople and camera operators and police officers) and into the restaurant.

I did not really dig the vibe. Too bright, run down but not in a cool gritty way, almost completely lacking in charm. As was the service. Tap list was very nice (The Abyss and The Stoic on tap!), and the pours of moderate ABV beers was very generous (22 oz. for the price of 16 oz.).

HV

sholland119, Nov 23, 2011
Photo of jzeilinger
4.3/5  rDev +2.6%

Went here because of a San Diego Beer Week event. Not being from the area, JB's was a little difficult to find since we were relying on GPS and this sits in the middle of a city block with no direct street entrance (that we could tell), we. Actually had to ask the city police who was standing there to make sure we were headed in the right direction.

All the tap selections were great craft beers and what sealed the deal for me, how many establishments can you go to who have The Abyss on draft??? That's a no brainer in my book. They had other assorted high end craft brews from SD plus others.

We didn't have any food, but I'm sure it was very good (as was the service). If you're ever in SD, this is a definite beer destination.

jzeilinger, Nov 23, 2011
Photo of berley31
4.22/5  rDev +0.7%

Went in for a couple of beer on a Monday evening...

A: Not what I had expected. It definitely had a neighborhood/sports bar feel to it. They had a deck open, but there was really only about 3-4 other people in the entire place for the 2 hours or so we were there.

Q+Selection: Very decent beer selection. I had a Deschutes Black Butte XXIII and a Ballast Point Yellowtail, both seemed good quality. Judging from their website, they appear to rotate beers quite frequently.

Service: Very good.. prompt and friendly.

F: We had some of their 35c wings and mozza sticks... the mozza sticks were some of the best I've ever had.

O: Comfortable spot, very good selection, and good apps... definitely a spot to return to.

berley31, Sep 30, 2011
Photo of SaCkErZ9
4.44/5  rDev +6%

I stayed an extra day in San Diego after my recent business meeting to get out and see the town away from co-workers and to be able to hit some prime beer joints. This was my first stop of the day and I was there at about 11:15.

The place was empty except for one small family having an early lunch. Apparently, there was some kind of martial arts competion going on that Saturday, and there was plenty of college football on the televisions as well. Pretty open bar area with a nice looking outdoor seating area as well. I am sure at night the outdoor area is rocking.

The selection was pretty nice. They had about 15 drafts of so. I was looking for something local that isnt available back home and settled on an Alpine Black IPA, which was pretty damn tasty. Other selections including Stone, Bruery, SN, Green Flash, mostly West Coast stuff. I was actually expecting more so this was a bit of a letdown but it was still a very nice selection. I would score 4.25 if possible.

The bartender was a super cool guy but possesed a severe pet peeve of mine: he referred to the Belgian beers as Belgium beers. I would ding him a point on that but he was really cool otherwise.

My first stop was a success. I also got a first hand account of the expense of San Diego; geez!

SaCkErZ9, Sep 13, 2011
Photo of BeerSinner
4.72/5  rDev +12.6%

I'm a bit biased since I've been a regular for 20+ years. I think it is the best "neighborhood" bar downtown, especially since the Gaslamp scene isn't for me. Always a good selection on tap, with a combo of top locals and other quality craft brews from around the country. I like the fact that I can go in and talk with the folks working there without it just being a zoo. Even at busy times, the people who work there will take the time to talk to you and make you feel welcome.
If you are in the downtown area, and want a great bar to relax and enjoy a good beer, then this is the spot. It is kind of hidden, but just look for the large Civic Theatre, and it is right in front in the plaza.

BeerSinner, Aug 26, 2011
Photo of FARGO619
5/5  rDev +19.3%

Have been here couple of times and there is always something new. When they had the Abyss on tap we were happy to know that a bar so close to home had it. They had a few rare gems on tap that night. When we went again of course it was gone, but still hung out with friends who hadn't been there before. Was a super chill place with a good selection of beer on tap. The thing about this place is if you don't know where it's at you will never find it. It is hidden in a little square civc center. When you find it it's a silver bullet outside and a decent sized bar when you are in. Give this place a shot. Great local place.

FARGO619, Jun 18, 2011
Photo of Retsinis
3.66/5  rDev -12.6%

Update: 4/05/11

Shortly after originally posting this review, the owner of Downtown Johnny Brown's contacted me via BM, apologizing for the service received, and mentioning that some sort of remodel is planned in the future. As a result of this quick response, I am therefore updating my score to a "B" as to me, that shows a real concern for the business, it's customers, its perception, and in retrospect, one experience of mine should not tarnish the reputation of an establishment with such a long history. So, I am therefore updating my review for that reason, as craft beer bars are not nearly as common as just a bar, and adovacy, and access to better beer is very important to me, and obviously Downtown Johnny Brown's.

Below is my original review. 4/04/11 (score of C)

Stopped in this place after dinner as the last stop of the evening. Went to this place specifically off of the review’s here on BA.

Sorry to say, this place was pretty disappointing. First, the place was empty, at 10 p.m. on a Saturday when they close at 2. (by empty, I mean the bartender and three customers) Not the best sign for me, but then again I'm not crazy if it's wall to wall crowded either.

Second, they had erased their Entire chalk list beer board, because apparently a few kegs blew, not sure why they didn’t just erase those, instead of the whole list. I asked what they had on tap, on three occasions, and the bartender just kept asking me "what kind of beer do you like" instead of just telling me what they had. Maybe he thought him making a suggestion would be helpful, I get it, but by the third time of me asking, "what beers are on tap", and getting the same reply, it came off as condescending that I might not know anything about good beer, and that maybe he didn’t know everything they actually had on tap himself. The place had all of 3 people in there when we got there, so not as though he was too busy to list off at least a few of the taps.

All of the above aside, did get to try a coffee porter from Pizza port, and the SN 30th black barley wine (I had both before), but still good. They have a nice shuffle board, which was very cool, since those are not as common as say a Dartboard, and I always view those as plus to any bar. The place has a old east coast pub look and feel to the place, with some old framed photos on the wall, and wood molding. With that said, in my humble, and bluntly honest opinion, the place could use a bit of a facelift, as it also seemed like a bar a bit passed its prime, and one that use to be a great place to hang out, but has seen better days. For example they say on the menu "best bar in San Diego" 1987. Great, that's awesome, but it was also 25 years ago. Still promote that of course, since it shows a great history of the bar, and with the city, but maybe it’s time to strive for the best bar in San Diego 2011 now!

Anyhow, this is already sounding way too harsh, and I don't want to bash the place really, as the beers I had were great, I was just expecting" A" (meaning outstanding or world class) or better from other reviews, and it was just decent.

Retsinis, Apr 05, 2011
Photo of Shaggy9356
4.4/5  rDev +5%

Day One of westcoast beer excursion and we found ourselves at Downtown Johnny Browns. Not the easiest place to find, but worth the walk from the Hard Rock. Went in midday on a Wednesday and we were the only ones in the place. Luckily we ran into Mitch, awesome bartender who let gave us some suggestions of places to check out. He also let us know about an upcoming RR night where pliny the younger would be on tap for the evening.

The beer and bottle list is not extensive but it is definitely above average. Decent food and a cool laid back feel makes this place a must stop if you're in San Diego. On top of that we ended up running into the owner of the place while at Lost Abbey.

Shaggy9356, Mar 06, 2011
Photo of Hoppy2Bhere
4.8/5  rDev +14.6%

I was in town for a conference and after one beer at the Yard House, I decided to try this place out, based on BA reviews. I was sooo happy I made the move. This is much more my style of bar--kicked back atmophere, better music, friendlier bartenders--and the beer was outstanding.

Not near as many taps as the Yardhouse, but they made up for it in quality and selection. I had Russian River IPA, Bear Republic APEX and Sierra Nevada Hoptimum and all were outstanding. They also had 4 different Green Flash beers and other local treats--probably 25 taps in all. Happy hour food prices are great as well. The bartender was incredibly knowledgeable about local beers and gave me several suggestions on where to find the best beer during my stay. I will DEFINITELY be back to Downtown Johnny Browns on my next visit.

Hoppy2Bhere, Feb 11, 2011
Photo of kcwhite86
4.44/5  rDev +6%

Heard this place had a pretty good selection of beers to try & I wasn't disappointed. It took us a few minutes to locate because it is hidden in the Civic Center court yard not directly on the street. There were very few people. The bartender was friendly and recommended a new Pizza Port IPA (while the wifes away) that we really enjoyed. They also list what they have on their website so you can check it out before you go. Overall pretty impressed. Plus a shuffle board table which is always fun!

kcwhite86, Dec 29, 2010
Photo of largadeer
4.24/5  rDev +1.2%

Stopped by this spot on a slow afternoon just to check it out and walked away pretty impressed. The atmosphere is nothing special, but the bartender was knowledgeable and friendly, the prices reasonable and the beer selection excellent (and very well-rounded). The draft beers are all craft and largely West Coast, and clearly very carefully chosen. I was impressed to find Exponential Hoppiness, Pliny the Elder, Consecration and Coton all on tap, amongst others; like I said, well-rounded and high quality. Hopefully I'll get to revisit this place during a busier time of day and stay a bit longer the next time I'm in the area.

largadeer, Nov 04, 2010
« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50  | next › last »
Downtown Johnny Brown's in San Diego, CA
93 out of 100 based on 50 ratings.