Downtown Johnny Brown's

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

53 Ratings
Ratings: 53
Reviews: 43
rAvg: 4.17
pDev: n/a
Taps: 16
Bottles: --
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: 53 | Reviews: 43 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of woodychandler
4.21/5  rDev +1%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

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.

Photo of NeroFiddled
4.05/5  rDev -2.9%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

Of all of the places I've visited in San Diego, only two really stand out in my memory. Downtown Johnny Brown's and Toronado. I'm not sure why. At least DJB's has a lot of character, but that's also a kind of love/hate thing for me. I like that it's kind of dark, dirty, and run-down with its linoleum floor and green panels on the walls, and the vinyl booths and the beat-up oak bar and everything. But it's also kind of college-like, and I guess that bugs me. Lunk-heads talking about how much of some good beer they drank one night bothers me. Drink piss beer! On the other hand I also like the cheap food (soup/chili $4-6, burgers $8.25-9.75, platters $13.25-13.75) so how can I complain?

But forget about all of that. If you can handle a grungy, low-key place with a great beer selection, then this is the place for you. If not, the very polished Yard House is not far away. Here's the difference, in reviewing the beer list at DJB's I couldn't fault one single beer. It may be a smaller list, but it's damned good. I found stuff here that I didn't see anywhere else, including Toronado. Let's hope that's still the case.

Photo of GJ40
3.86/5  rDev -7.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4

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.

Photo of SaCkErZ9
4.44/5  rDev +6.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4

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!

Photo of sholland119
3.76/5  rDev -9.8%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4

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

Photo of yemenmocha
4.71/5  rDev +12.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

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.

Photo of crossovert
3.95/5  rDev -5.3%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4

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.

Photo of jjboesen
4.15/5  rDev -0.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

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.

Photo of Loki
3.71/5  rDev -11%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4

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.

Photo of glid02
4.25/5  rDev +1.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 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.

Photo of dwagner003
4.5/5  rDev +7.9%

Photo of LittleDon
4.18/5  rDev +0.2%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

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.

Photo of Sparky44
4.25/5  rDev +1.9%

Photo of Bwagner1122
4.5/5  rDev +7.9%

Photo of wethorseblanket
4.25/5  rDev +1.9%

Photo of armock
4.28/5  rDev +2.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

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.

Photo of HopHead84
3/5  rDev -28.1%

Photo of jenray
3/5  rDev -28.1%

Photo of jim102864
3.39/5  rDev -18.7%
vibe: 3 | quality: 2.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4

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.

Photo of Retsinis
3.66/5  rDev -12.2%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5

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.

Photo of FosterJM
4.08/5  rDev -2.2%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

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.

Photo of jzeilinger
4.3/5  rDev +3.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

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.

Photo of brandoman63
4.25/5  rDev +1.9%

Photo of tpd975
4.38/5  rDev +5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

First stop on my trip to San Diego as it is right next to my hotel.

The place is a nice little local neighborhood bar. Quite a few TV's playing sports which I liked.

The bartender served me and the little one. Went a couple times at night and a my little one took to one of the female waitresses. They treated my daughter like a princess and she loved the place. Quick service day or night and quite a few taps all of which were quality brews. No crap on tap here! I went back day after day and was soo impressed. Seems as though a new yet wonderful San Diego beer had been added to the lineup everyday. Wow!

They have a pretty good bottle selection. They had Consecration, Brandy Angel's Share, and Dark Kriek among others at prices that seem to rival liquor stores.

I ordered a Hamburger which was big and tasty. It came with enough fries for three people. We had appetizers some other nights and they were typical good bar fare.

The prices were great and they have a great happy hour with half priced appetizers some are even free on Frida. They also had two beers on special each day at $3.50 a pint.

Overall a great local spot. One that I visited frequently during my stay in San Diego. Can't wait to return!

Photo of squaremile
4.01/5  rDev -3.8%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

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.

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Downtown Johnny Brown's in San Diego, CA
93 out of 100 based on 53 ratings.