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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
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Ratings: 50 | Reviews: 42 | Display Reviews Only:
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
Photo of tjensen3618
4.38/5  rDev +4.5%

I came here after a SD beer tour of Stone, San Marcos grill, and Ballast Point. Myself and 2 friends decided that this was the place we wanted to go to in downtown San Diego after our beer tour had finished. My friend got out his iPhone and we started walking toward the blinking blue dot. Well, this place isn't exactly on the street so after walking around the block a few times we realized that it is in a middle courtyard surrounded by buildings, and not at all visible from the street.

When we finally found the place we were literally the only 3 people in a bar that looked like it could hold 150+ people, this is on a Saturday afternoon too, weird. The beer list was really nice,they had a bunch of tap only stuff and beers that are not easy to come by, I got an Eric's Ale, after that, a friend and I split a bottle of Supplication. The bartender's were nice, knowledgeable, and attentive

There was a shuffleboard table, which is always fun and the other bar games you'd expect to find. It was a fun time and I hope to come back here.

tjensen3618, Oct 12, 2010
Photo of armock
4.28/5  rDev +2.1%

Atmosphere - because this place is kinda hidden it really is a hole in the wall bar. Overall its a pretty decent sized place with seating outside and tables inside. Theres a few tvs around the place showing sports but they aren't in the way.

Quality/Selection - While there aren't that many taps here what they do have on tap is some quality stuff. On my last visit four of their like twelve taps were limited release beers. So pretty much theres always something on that you'll want to try.

Service - All of the bartenders and waitresses that have served me here have all been super cool and nice. They know what they are talking about here if you ask them something and are always quick.

Food - I've only eaten appetizers during my visits so far but they haven't disappointed me yet.

armock, Oct 10, 2010
Photo of gwguest
4.29/5  rDev +2.4%

Visiting San Diego specifically to hit some beer spots, I was lucky that DHB's was walking distance from the hotel. I hit DJB's around 2:30, and was one of only two or three folks in the entire bar.

While they don't have a tremendous number of taps, what they have is all great quality. Considering that the place didn't look like much, I had no expectations of the bartender. I was wrong wrong wrong. This bartender was one of the most knowledgeable I've met to date. He had a great, and accurate, knowledge of the selections on tap. I paid for a couple of pints, but I got to sample pretty much everything for free without asking. He suggested my first pint which I loved. From there he was pulling out their other varieties based on what he thought I'd like next.

I'd go back, and if you're in Downtown, it's a great place to go for a relaxed drink from a great list (which I assume rotates frequently) with no bad options.

gwguest, Sep 24, 2010
Photo of LittleDon
4.18/5  rDev -0.2%

Summary: Downtown SD sports bar with a fair number of interesting taps and standard bar food.

Stopped in on a Thursday night and the place was empty. The location is somewhat hard to find, as it on the inside of a large city block and does not face a street. Atmosphere was a cross between college ratskeller and sports bar. Despite the location there was good outside air circulation. All the windows were open and it was another day in paradise in SD. Spend a good deal of time talking with my server about what was available, what they would drink, etc. Unfortunately, they were getting ready for their 23rd anniversary party and a number of the taps were unavailable until the next day. Regardless, of the 10 or so available, the selection was interesting, mostly local stuff, but a few from outside the area (e.g., Jolly Pumpkin Firefly). Certainly enough there to make me happy. I appreciated that they offer a 10 oz pour. Lets me try more and keep my wits, particularly when drinking high ABV brews. Foodwise, I ordered two one dollar fish tacos. Better than I expected given the price. The menu was uninteresting, mostly barfood: burgers, fries, salads, wings, etc.

Worth a second visit.

Note: Free wireless is available for those who are in need of a mobile office.

LittleDon, Sep 24, 2010
Photo of pokesbeerdude
4.4/5  rDev +5%

After my first full day in San Diego I stopped in, intending to get dinner after a few beers, ended up just having a lot of beers and bullshitting with the locals. I really enjoyed this place.

The atmosphere reminded me a lot of the few smaller bars I drank at in Laramie, WY in my college days. Lots of beer decorations, tap handles, neons, signs, etc. Also a fair amount of license plates, including a sweet mid 80's Wyoming plate, not to digress, but that made my day as soon as I walked in. Awesome music selection from the bartenders, a nice mix of modern rock and indie tunes. Very welcoming atmosphere too, everybody there was damn friendly, kind of like your local bar, but a thousand plus miles away. The most appealing part, it wasn't packed to the damn gills like everywhere else I went in San Diego. Very cool, mellow, calm place to sit down and bullshit and have a few pints.

Awesome quality/selection as well, insane beer selection on tap that I didn't even bother with asking about the bottles. 12 taps, mostly locals, and all beers that I thought I'd never see on tap. The first night I was in they had fresh Sculpin, Green Flash's Citra Session beer, as well as some Stone and Deschutes offerings on tap. The second night they had Alpine Duet and Port Mongo on tap, talk about a hop head's dream. Man. I do believe they had some BMC stuff, but really that didn't bother me.

Service was awesome, the same bartender was working each night I was there, and he hooked me up with tons of samples prior to ordering anything. Often making recommendations, and also incredibly friendly and wanting to just bs. Also he wasn't mad at all when I asked for my Mongo to be served in a snifter...which he let me purchase (delirium tremens glass). Very cool guy, sadly after my second pour of Mongo I to this day can't remember the guy's name.

I ate the second time I went by, and the portion was HUGE, I bet they gave me a pound of fries with my burger. The burger was pretty good, but nothing impressive.

The value of this place is great compared to everything else in downtown San Diego. My tab at the end of the first night after having 6 pints was $28 with the tip, and the night I got food I spent $24. Incredibly cheap for the area.

If you're in San Diego, go by. This place rocks, and has awesome beer on tap, not to mention its a nice change of pace from being around a shit load of people all the time like other places in downtown San Diego.

pokesbeerdude, Jul 31, 2010
Photo of glid02
4.25/5  rDev +1.4%

Stopped in for some pool and shuffleboard during a recent trip to SD. The place is kind of hard to find, it's actually on the far corner of a square and there's no street entrance (at least that I saw).

Atmosphere is interesting. It's close to being a dive but it retains some semblance of class. You have to order your food at the counter, where there's a large chalkboard listing all the beers on-tap. A few TV's dot the dining room along with a shuffleboard table and a pool table in the back. Outside are about 6-10 tables.

Quality is good. The pint glasses in which the beers were served weren't beer-specific but they were all served at the proper temperature and with a good amount of head.

Service is very good. We received our food shortly after ordering and the bartenders/servers are more than happy to answer questions about beer.

Selection is very good. I remember about 12 different and solid taps on the board, almost all from CA breweries. Breweries included Alpine, the Bruery, Ballast Point, Russian River, and Marin County. Be sure to ask about any special beers not on the list as Temptation wasn't listed when I was there.

Food is solid if not great.

Value is very good. I had quite a few drinks with some friends there along with lunch and was surprised at how cheap my bill came out to be.

Overall I think this was my favorite place I went while in SD due to the laid-back atmosphere and the bar games available. The tap list certainly didn't hurt either. Worth a stop if you're in downtown SD.

glid02, Jun 28, 2010
Photo of squaremile
4.01/5  rDev -4.3%

Went to this place on a recent trip to Southern California after a Padres game. For a Saturday night the place was dead, but the bartender was very friendly and helpful. The taplist was diverse even coming off a special Allagash event. I had the Alpine Nelson, very tasty. We sat outside and looked out at the strange location in the midst of a bunch of office buildings. There were tons of TV tuned to sports and it seemed like the kind of place you'd hit if you wanted a good beer and were in the area, but maybe not a destination itself.

squaremile, Jun 16, 2010
Photo of yemenmocha
4.71/5  rDev +12.4%

Tough to find this place that is located on the west side of a tall building at the address you'll find yourself if using GPS navigation. Small, cute and tucked aside that building - cool.

Extremely slow night and the lone server was pouring for my wife and I, as well as just one other patron. Nelson IPA was the tap of choice and it was amazing, and the bartender was gracious to "buy" us a beer as well as chat about BA and the local bar scene. We didn't make it to Small Bar later that night where he was going to enjoy a few pints, but it was a good recommendation that we enjoyed on a later day.

Good rotating list of taps and bottle selection. This is a great place for a QUIET pint on a Sunday evening.

yemenmocha, Apr 02, 2010
Photo of redbird
4.55/5  rDev +8.6%

We had a really fun time here. The place has a lot of room and a nice sized patio, but there were hardly any people there on a Friday night, so after we stopped into max capacity Hamilton's on Saturday night, we left to come back here knowing we'd have room to breathe. The main reason we came back was because the tap list was excellent. Around 15 taps with Abyss, Two Turtle Doves, Life & Limb, Yulesmith, etc. The second reason was because the bartenders were really fun to talk to. They were very eager to help us plan out our trip and talk about good beer. Next time we're back in town, we'll definitely be stopping by again.

As for finding it, be sure to look at google maps satellite view, the address alone gets you close but requires some searching.

redbird, Feb 15, 2010
Photo of woodychandler
4.21/5  rDev +0.5%

Both Cuz Colby and Wanda Grim told me that this place would be nearly impossible to find. There was a black granite signage for 1200 3rd Street and since theirs was 1220, I figured that would be a good place to start. An inquiry at the courtesy desk advised me to go outside, to the end of the building, and take a button-hook right. Now them's directions. Also, if you can see the live theatre at the end of the Downtown Civic Center complex, if you do a right-face, you'll be okay.

A wide patio area with a low fence had an opening at the far left onto a sea of restaurant tables and chairs. The left facing wall had a couple of booths, a glass cabinet of logo items, and a shelf, under a color chalkboard listing available drafts, that held the Friday Free Appetizers.

All of the way aft was the blonde-wood, snaking bar with the most angular bar that I have ever seen. Behind the back bar was the kitchen. Along the right wall of the bar area was a really long shuffleboard table, and a combination snug/booth seating at which the stunning waitstaff was camped out. A word about this. My brother was to meet me, coming down from Orange County and when he got there, I was chatting with "Shoulders", a young woman with Chicago-sized shoulders who was not a swimmer, plus she was uptight about them. Naturally, they were the focus of our conversation and she was laughing about my allusions when Geoff arrived, shaking his head.

On the other side of the dividing wall was a seating area of a few booths, mostly tables and chairs, a green-felt pool table and an alternate access to the patio.

woodychandler, Dec 22, 2009
Photo of Loki
3.71/5  rDev -11.5%

Ok, I went in on a Wednesday night. Bad idea. I was literally the only person in the place that could hold probably 150-200+. In fact the bartender/manager was sending the other two people working home. It was 7:30 on a Wednesday, not late night. But in the middle of a City building and everybody had gone home, middle of the week. Place was D E A D, dead. Oh, and a little stagnant since it was a little hot/muggy that night and there wasn't much airflow in the place, and no A/C.

Quality was pretty good, but I didn't think it was that great for San Diego. Maybe I caught them at a bad time. I was on a hop bomb quest and there was only 1 to be found here. Some good craft beers, some mass produced beers. A pretty good quality

Service: Good, but again I was the ONLY one in the bar.

Selection: pretty good selection of draft and bottled beers

Value: good pricing.

Loki, Nov 12, 2009
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Downtown Johnny Brown's in San Diego, CA
93 out of 100 based on 50 ratings.