Downtown Johnny Brown's


44 Reviews
Downtown Johnny Brown'sDowntown Johnny Brown's

Type: Bar, Eatery

1220 3rd Ave
San Diego, California, 92101-4102
United States

(619) 232-8414

// CLOSED //

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Added by xlperro on 04-07-2006

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Reviews: 44 | Ratings: 54
Photo of gwguest
4.29/5  rDev +3.1%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5

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.

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Photo of LittleDon
4.18/5  rDev +0.5%
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.

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Photo of pokesbeerdude
4.4/5  rDev +5.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5

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.

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Photo of glid02
4.25/5  rDev +2.2%
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.

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Photo of squaremile
4.01/5  rDev -3.6%
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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Photo of yemenmocha
4.71/5  rDev +13.2%
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.

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Photo of redbird
4.55/5  rDev +9.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 5 | selection: 5

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.

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Photo of woodychandler
4.21/5  rDev +1.2%
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.

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Photo of Loki
3.71/5  rDev -10.8%
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.

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Photo of aevarela
4.58/5  rDev +10.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

I visited at lunch the day after their big anniversary party the last reviewer attended. With regards to his complaints: In general, I go to such beer events to drink good beer, not for the dining experience. Next time, eat somewhere else first, then show up ready to drink at the bar.
The selection was ridiculously good with about 20 taps. Many exotic, belgian style and big beers from the anniversary fest remained.
This is a laid back, casual place that offers a nice downtown alternative to the Shipyard.
My chicken chile sandwhich was excellent and the burgers that went past me looked great too.
Adam at the bar (SD brewer's guild member) was the perfect guide for the memorable, though all too brief tasting. I'll always remember my first Pure Hoppiness experience.

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Photo of radshoesbro
3.43/5  rDev -17.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4 | food: 2

went in for their 22nd anniversary party and were told to take a seat at a table. after waiting no less than 15 - 20 minutes we finally had a waitress come up and take our order. after maybe another 10 - 15 minutes we finally got our first round. this is sort of what happened the entire night, PLUS she forgot to get one of my friends her beer. i don't normally like to bash a place, but this doesn't make me want to come back here at all.

the food? TERRIBLE! i think i might have had the WORST chicken and french fries i've ever had there. the fries tasted like the oil was a week old and the chicken tasted like it was suctioned out of middle school chicken patties. a bar doesn't need amazing food, but the basics are easy and they couldn't even do that.

the beer selection wasn't the best i've ever seen, but it was pretty damn good. they had a case of '07 ichabod, which was sublime. the white zin was pretty excellent as well! they had plenty of stuff on tap that is fairly difficult to get a hold of, and that definitely makes it worth stopping by every now and then.

will i come back here? yes, but only for the beer!


After putting up this review I was contacted by someone I believe was the owner telling me that he was going to send me a gift certificate and that he apologized for the bad service. That was almost right after their anniversary, which was months ago, and I still haven't gotten anything from him.

Knowing that I went in again against my better judgement to find out that half of their taps were broken. However, their service was actually good this time. Their bartender seemed knowledgeable about the product and very friendly. Had a few drinks with friends and really enjoyed myself.

I guess if I only come in for the drinks and just skip the food I'll have a pretty good time.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.05/5  rDev -2.6%
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.

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Photo of VaTechHopHead
4/5  rDev -3.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5

Went here for a "Bitter and Sour" beer tasting while on vacation and it was a very nice find. They offer several microbrews from Southern California like Lost Abbey, AleSmith, and Russian River on tap plus they have a pretty decent selection of bombers and 750ml bottles for purchase also. It's not a very large restaurant, probably seats around 60 people, but it's a great place to go and get some really good beer. It's only a few blocks from the major part of downtown so it's a great place to start the evening or night!

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Photo of tpd975
4.38/5  rDev +5.3%
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!

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Photo of srandycarter
4.74/5  rDev +13.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

Went in to try Pliny the Younger. I drove 45 minutes to have a 10 oz pour. At $5 a glass, it was worth it - both on quality and quantity. Not only was it an exceptional beer, but I have found a cool new place to go.

Not crowded at all, early Friday night. Incredible tap. They had Alpine Duet, Ballast Point Victory, among others. Too many to even try at one shot!

Bottles, they were even selling the Consecration for $30 - at a bar, that is a pretty good price. I paid $27 at a liquor store...

Will be back. Again and again!

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Photo of magictrokini
3.91/5  rDev -6%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

Good after-work spot for downtowners. Cozy, English-pub feel. Older vinyl booths, and a funky smell from the beer and kitchen. Open patio to smoke. Nice selection of local and West-Coast micros. More quality than quantity. Had a few I had not seen anywhere else in San Diego. Bartender was knowledgeable on what was what. Didn't have any food this time, but heard good things. Decent prices, can't complain. I'd go here if I was downtown for work to meet someone, but there are better establishments.

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Photo of freeeekyyy
3.88/5  rDev -6.7%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.5

It's been almost half a year now since I was there, but if I remember correctly, it was a decent place. I had a pint of brother thelonious, and some other beers which I can't remember. Bartender was friendly, and had a strong interest in beer. Good prices, and I didn't eat anything there so I can't comment on the food. Overall, a nice experience on my last day in san diego.

a- dark, noisy, they did have a pool table, which was fun. and you could eat or drink outside, which is nice.

q - beer was fresh, not really much else to say since i didnt eat any of the food.

serv - Friendly, knowledgable employees.

sel - There was a big chalkboard of the various beers on tap. I can't remember what all they were.

f - didn't eat any of the food.

v - cost was decent. not super cheap, but not real expensive either, and understandable given the quality and the location.

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

It's hard to find, as you can't see it from the street. You have to walk into a little courtyard, and look around to find it. Has a great hole in the wall ambiance and mostly filled with locals. Had a great selection of revolving taps written on a chalkboard, mostly San Diego-area brews like Alpine, Stone, Pizza Port, Ballast Point. The bar tenders know their beer, while my waitress struggled a bit to tell me how various things tasted, but she gave me a couple samplers to try, so it worked out. The food is basically burgers and fries, and it was good, but not great. Off the beaten path from the Gaslamp District and some of the other touristy places in down town San Diego, but definately worth seeking out.

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Photo of kleffman
4/5  rDev -3.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

Finally checked this place out before a Padre's game. Expected there to be some people around, but it was completely empty and the people working there had absolutely nothing to do. Pretty good size, with shuffleboard (always a plus for me) and a great tap selection. I had a New Belgium Eric's Ale (Sour peach ale) which is impressive because it's a rare beer. The bottle selection was also impressive. Sat outside on the deck which is quite nice. I think they should move to some place where they'll get more walk in traffic though. Overall happy with this place, and want to go back sometime.

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Photo of PeprSprYoFace
4.4/5  rDev +5.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

First off this place is hard to find. Tucked away in between buildings and not on a street. That being said everything else was great. Not a ton of beers on tap but some great selections. Had an Abt 12, a bunch of locals and the staff was so cool I had to go back. They let us have all sorts of tasters and the bartender even gave us a beer on him. The manager with the scotish accent was ha-larious and super cool. I would make this my local hang out if I lived out there. Not too crowded but it looks like their main crowd is people who work in the buildings when they get off work in their offices. It would have been cooler if there were more locals but still a great place...

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Photo of jim102864
3.39/5  rDev -18.5%
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.

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Photo of Flyer
4/5  rDev -3.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3

Hard to find, because it's not actually on 3rd Ave. -- you have to go behind the civic center building. It was worth a few minutes of hunting. Not a huge selection, but all were quality taps, including more than their fair share of big beers by Pizza Port/Lost Abbey, Ballast Point, Stone, others. Mostly local (but San Diego has a great craft brewer scene, so that's okay) but I was pleasantly surprised to find Allagash Black. The bartenders were friendly, efficient, and reasonably knowledgable. One even comped me my second beer for no apparent reason other than shared love of great beer (and, possibly, the Clash). Food was basic bar fare, but my salmon burger was pretty good. The atmosphere is basic neighborhood bar. (One reviewer called it part sports bar, presumably because of lots of photos of ball players, but if you're looking for a lot of big screen tv's and conversation-free male bonding, you'll have to go elsewhere).

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Photo of epearson
4.13/5  rDev -0.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

I hit this place up a few times. Always a good selection of beer on tap, although there were two taps wasted on fizzy yellow beers (budwieser, coors). But the rest of the lineup made up for it. Plently of local beers and some out of towner microbrews. Large space, pool table, shuffleboard and plenty of tv's. Kind of set back in its own little space between high risers in the commercial plaza which is pretty cool too. Standard bar menu that bodes well as long as there is some awesome beer, which there is.

When I have been there it seems to be a little bit older crowd who cleared out pretty early leaving only my crew along with the owner Todd and some other bartenders and a few others which was enjoyable.

They don't post it but they also get a selection of casks on thursday's but you would have to call and find out.

Its a good place to hang out for the night or start the night out before going elsewhere downtown.

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Photo of DirtyBird
4.72/5  rDev +13.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

Lively atmosphere, lots of TV's, shuffleboard, sports memorabilia, etc. - but we are really here about the beer, right?

Excellent selection of local beers! Every time I come in here they have several interesting and difficult to find locals. From several different visits I've had Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, Alpine Bad Boy Double IPA, Speedway Stout, Stone Ruination, Pizza Port Poor Man IPA, Alpine Duet, Green Flash West Coast IPA, AleSmith YuleSmith, Pizza Port Seaside Stout, Ballast Point Dorado Double IPA, etc. They also often have beers from Bear Republic, Avery, Moonlight, Ommegang and other top-notch craft brewers.

The food is very good and a good value; Happy Hour offers tasty discounted appetizers that will fill you up and allow you drink more beer.

The bartenders are all very knowledgable and seem genuinely excited to be serving some of the best beers San Diego has to offer.

While often San Diego's best beer bars (O'Brien's, Liar's Club, Hamilton's, SD Brewing Co., Churchill's, etc) seem to get the same local seasonal and specialty beers, I like that you can go into any one of those places and get different selections at different times. For example, if Liar's Club poured all of their Sculpin in two days, check out Johnny Brown's or Churchill's to find it on tap a week or 2 later; not everybody taps these beers at the same time.

Anyways, Johnny Brown's seems to be THE beer bar in the downtown area. Skip Yardhouse, come here.

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Downtown Johnny Brown's in San Diego, CA
4.16 out of 5 based on 54 ratings.
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