Main Tap Tavern

Main Tap TavernMain Tap Tavern
Main Tap TavernMain Tap Tavern
Bar, Eatery, Beer-to-go

518 E Main St
El Cajon, California, 92020-4008
United States

(619) 749-6333 | map

View: Place Reviews
Reviews: 16 | Ratings: 20 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by srandycarter:
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srandycarter from California

4.28/5  rDev +3.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

Finally went in an checked out Zack Summers The Main Tap. From my Main Tap newsletter I used the link to check the tap list online before I got there:

Quite a selection. Big hoppy IPAs, some barrel aged and sour offers. They are served in pint glasses or groovy snifters, depending on the style of beer. The best selection of tap beers in East San Diego County, bar none.

We started our beer passports, which help you keep track of what you have had in previous sessions, as well as offering discounts after a certain limit is achieved.

I had the Chicken Caesar Salad which was just mediocre. I should have gone for the Fish and Chips that looked FANTASTIC. My buddy ordered them and confirmed they were great.

Zack came out and visited with us for awhile. A really nice guy and extremely knowledgeable about beer, and the beer culture and key players in San Diego.

The place offers live bands and karaoke on the weekends and has a few pool tables as well.

Thanks Zack, we will be back!

May 01, 2009
More User Reviews:
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chrisjws from California

3.3/5  rDev -20.5%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 2

Jan 03, 2018
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Drink_LocalSD from California

4/5  rDev -3.6%

Dec 05, 2014
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aoampm from Hawaii

4.25/5  rDev +2.4%

Sep 10, 2014
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bigalsd from North Carolina

5/5  rDev +20.5%

Feb 26, 2014
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danwho from California

3.98/5  rDev -4.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3.75

The Tap has a distinct "locals" feel to it, good neighborhood vibe. That said, it's in the heart of the Chaldean community in El Cajon, just a few blocks from (the former) El Cajon Brewing Co.
Pool table, window seating, nice long bar, outside patio, multiple TVs, juke box, everything you need. Food is not outstanding, so no "4" but hey it's bar food and it's good.

They have live music on weekends, sometimes, but I'm not a local and haven't seen any.
I usually go on Wednesdays, meet friends, have dinner and see what they have on cask. Their selection is usually very good. Cask taps at 3Pm for $3 and goes up a dollar each hour until $6. They have maybe 20 taps with a nice selection of local craft. Also a fairly extensive bottle list. Mike the bartender is a great guy, who remembers your name and appears when you need him.

Last night I had a Freshly Squeezed, Alaskan Amber and a Belching Beaver Ol'Dirty on cask, dinner was the special, Irish Ruben w/fries for $6. Nice value I think. And ask about their "Passport" Club.

Jul 11, 2013
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DeanMoriarty from California

2.83/5  rDev -31.8%
vibe: 2 | quality: 3 | service: 3 | selection: 3.5 | food: 1

Visited this place for a 4th time this past weekend with my tightest childhood friend who is from the area - I grew up in East County but split for Ocean Beach when I was 17 (now 36 years old) and haven't looked back ever since. A nice 20 minute skate down Main Street from my buddies pad - it's always a fun drunken cruise dodging hookers and homeless without so much as a second glance from "America's Finest" as they can't quite seem to make out what two grown men are doing tearing down Main St. at all hours of the night, but a blast none the less!

So, the atmosphere is interesting - usually pretty dead, quiet, and lifeless until the last couple hours of business... and only on weekends - the week nights are dead from open to close. Pretty much a local East County scene, which I can appreciate but most probably wouldn't agree - the Mexican bar across the street rages with tons of people rolling in and out with live Tejano and Reggaeton music driving the vibe - looks like a killer spot, but we're never willing to shell out the $15. - $20. cover charge at the door. Regardless, it puts the Main Tap to shame on sheer vibe and raging liveliness. I wish I were having as much fun as the peeps across the street when I visit Main Tap!

What is the deal with taking the time to write in Bud Light - "Macro Light Lager" on the chalk board - are you kidding me??? Who does that...oh yea, an El Cajon bar. I could list a handful of other cheese ball big name breweries that take up the chalk board, but i'm not here to slam beer companies...maybe just Main Tap, for not only serving them on tap, but claiming them on their beer board. Out of the 25 taps, 15 are worth listing, which I guess isn't terrible...maybe just a bit misleading when claiming 25 taps of craft beer.

Service isn't terrible, but when rattling off orders to the bartender from their bottle list, he rarely knew if they actually had that particular selection and had to check the refer to confirm and more often than not stated that - we don't have that particular brew but offer this one from the same label - namely Alpine Brew - no Nelson though it was listed on their bottle offerings...they did have Pure Hoppiness, so i'm not hating too much. There were many other similar inconsistencies though. Maybe wanting to claim a bit more than what they truly had (???).

Food was absolute garbage and we were actually hassled for bringing in some tacos from a bomb little Mexi stand across the street - we finished up our grub in the alley and headed back in where we had already dropped a $100. on beer between our group of 4. Got hassled by our ladies for disrupting the vibe for giving the bouncer shit, so we ordered cheese fries and some other greasy mess - old frie grease left all the food soggy and tasting nasty. Would never order food from there again - the Mexi shop across the street is half the price and damn tasty!

At the end of the day, this is the best...well, really only beer bar in El Cajon, and though I rightfully slam it for its short comings and Bud Light on their beer board, there really is nothing like it in the neighborhood. And i'll be back again soon - no doubt, but put this up against what the rest of the county of San diego has to offer...and this one doesn't even come close - nothing "exceptional" about this bar to be quite honest.

Oh...and the juke box by the way - WTF!? $2.00 per track and the songs are censored - unreal! Was trying to get the vibe going with some Ween and Hank III - the "bad language" was censored and $20.00 got eatin up with just a handful of tracks - just lame!

Jan 30, 2012
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DoubleJ from Wisconsin

3.78/5  rDev -8.9%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

Now we head into the aftermath of Alpine's Exponential Hoppiness release. It's now 2:30 and I'm getting hungry. A sandwich sounds good, but it must have good beer pouring. Main Tap Tavern, this is where you come in.

Contrasting the bright sunnny afternoon was this dark tavern with a few pool tables and an outdoor patio. It was me and one other guy at the bar, which perhaps explains why this place doesn't open until 3 on most days. But because it was a Friday, they opened earlier in the day, which benefitted me.

24 different beers pouring from the taps, and an additional 40 coming out fo the bottle. I spotted two casks near me, but they didn't look to be in opeeration. With the way the tap menu was listed and the way those tap handles were designed, I have a feeling the owner also has a stake in Churchill's Pub in San Marcos. In general, local beers from the taps, including Ballast Point, Coronado, Mission, Oceanside Ale Works, plus a mix-up from Bacchus and Anchor. In the bottle comes Rogue, Alpine, Ommmegang, Oskar Blues, Steigl, and La Trappe.

No qualms about my bacon grilled cheese, and the fresh cut fries were a great touch and pace changer from the standard frozen steak fries at places like this. Not much service at this hour, but then again not much service was needed.

A reasonable watering hole in El Cajon.

Jan 28, 2012
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SDDanC from California

3.9/5  rDev -6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3

I'd like to amend my review based on the handful of encounters I have had since writing the original. Standout complaints as follows,

Food takes absolutely FOREVER to be brought out, a generous half dozen orders were brought out before mine. When I got the food, it was surely good, but nothing to rave over. Almost impossible to track down condiments. I ordered a beer with my meal, but 30 minutes went by and never received said beer. Paid bill and left. Next few times I came, it seemed like I was being avoided by the bar staff in terms of service and eye contact. They offer a VIP list-game, where after 100 different beers you get your name on the wall, with cool free stuff along the way. Needless to say, they lost my list each time I went back. Bummer. Anyways, it seems like MT, as a beer bar, is headed a tad down stream. I don't fancy.

*original below*

Went to Main Tap with a couple regulars with high hopes. Situated in a very quaint part of El Cajon, the atmosphere surrounding MT is very warming and comfortable. Entering into MT I was amazed by not only the selection of beers on tap, but the space itself. MT is not a close quartered pub, which I enjoyed. It brought a good sense of change to the normal small pubs where setting/conversation can be a task. The workers were quite personable and knowledgeable. They have pool tables, and from my experience, they don't foster the pool-shark locals who just hang out there solely to play and be obnoxious, which is awesome. I enjoyed my visit and am confident saying I will find myself back again.

Jan 27, 2012
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Eriktheipaman from California

3.78/5  rDev -8.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

I went to see my friends band play and have been meaning to check this place out for awhile so it was a good oppriunity. Also with no cover it was a win win.

The tap selection was pretty good. Nothing super rare but a lot of very solid choices. Great for East County. The food was gerneric bar food but the little I tried from friends plates was pretty good.

Now for the kicker. I could be wrong but I am almost positive the tap line for the Sculpin I got was dirty. I drink this beer quite often and have had it at many places around town so I know how it's supposed to taste.

I wouldnt go out fo my way to go back but I wouldnt be bummed if I did either. The place was very clean and the staff was VERY quick and helpful.

Jun 20, 2011
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BdubleEdubleRUN from California

4.18/5  rDev +0.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

This place is a gem for east county. They had a solid line up of draft and bottle and also one on cask (hop head red). The service was friendly and personable.

The food was awsome, they have amazing fries and the happy hour prices are great.

You have to remember even though you are in a respectable beer establishment, it is still El Cajon. A lady came in looking a little less then cosher, ordered a "bottle of draft" took it to the restroom and waited until she was out of the restroom to finish adjusting her undergarments.

I will defenitly be going back quite a bit, defenitly the best beer bar in east county.

Aug 27, 2010
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gildobeer from California

4.44/5  rDev +7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

The first time I came in here was for a bachelor party on a weekend night and they had a band. The place was less than half full and I felt old because I couldn't handle the loud music. It was LOUD. My first impression was of a place with good beer at very reasonable prices in an area I don't normally go, but with a less than stellar idea of having a band in a place the size of a 2 bedroom apartment. I have been back a few times since then and when it's not crowded or loud, it's pretty awesome. Good beer selection at the best prices in town, relaxed yet attentive service and a mellow vibe.

Jul 24, 2010
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ZX6Chris from California

4.5/5  rDev +8.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

The Main Tap tavern is a great bar because it's owner's know and love beer. I haven't talked to Zack much but Barbara the bar manager definitely lovs beer.

The staff was knowledgeable and friendly. They knew what they were serving which is always impressive. Haven't had a tavern burger yet but I've had the fries and they're delicious.

They have a great tap list. And GREAT prices, including $3 special on some of their beers. Everytime I go in there's a few new things I haven't tried. I really like their schwag nights.

The place looks great as well and the glass tap handles give it a little extra charm.

Oh yeah the Passport. I'm still working on my first but I think it's pretty cool. Can't wait to get my name on the wall and my shirt and hat.

Apr 12, 2010
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badboyrsl84 from California

4.83/5  rDev +16.4%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

What can I say that hasn't already been said about this bar. I love this place. The beer selection is the best I've seen in any bar in El Cajon. They always have a great selection of local breweries as well as some imports. With 28 beers on tap and 30 more in in bottles how can yo go wrong.

I love their Wednesday nights of special brews with little swag to go with it. I loved Caitlin and she was the best bartender there before she left. The new girl is nowhere near as good as her. Daniele also rock! She is very beer knowledgeable especially when it comes to Alpine Brewing. The afternoon
guy Bob is also pretty awesome and he has taken care of
me plenty of times. He has offered some great insight to
beers I should try. I haven't really gotten to talk to
Zach but He is the reason the beers in there are in there. Keep it up man. The older lady is Very nice as well.

The food is up there on my favorite bar food. They offer a great selection that may be a little pricey but is worth it. If you have a passport then you may just be able to
try their food on the house. The passport is the beat thing ever invented, I am addicted to filling that ad boy up. When you try 50 different beers they give you a hat, t-shirt and they put your name up on the plaque in the bar. I'm on to my second one and loving it.

This place excels at everything and they are always changing their selection. I have never become a regular to any bar in my life, but this one is my first. The beer is great. The service is awesome (I miss Caitlin) and the food is solid. I love everything about this place. You can't go wrong with the Main Tap

-Randy Lewis

Mar 22, 2010
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SDblumoon from California

4.35/5  rDev +4.8%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

I have been coming here for the past month. I am an East County native but I hate an east county crowd. Which is my only complaint about this fine establishment. The staff knows their beer, even when I do try and mess with them. Since coming here I have become very friendly with the owners and the staff and I am out there just about everyday. The food is great, I don't like hamburgers but I ate one of theirs and I ate the whole thing...just like a big boy. The passport idea is great way to keep track of your 50 beers. I was disapointed to find out I was the 9th person to finish the passport, but at least I was in the top 10.

They are slowly bringing beer into east county so there isn't a huge selection for hop-heads or people who love sours. But they informed me that they have to get everyone adjusted from BMC bars.

Overall this is a great place and I hope it has great sucess in the upcoming year. I will be there as often as I can.

Jan 16, 2009
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beerkat from California

4.7/5  rDev +13.3%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Wow! Good beer in El Cajon! I never thought I would see the day...

I live in San Diego, so this isn't the closest place for me--I would like to emphasize that I live much closer to Hamilton's, another AWESOME establishment (that I frequent frequently!), but I still make the drive out to Main Tap as much as I can. Here's why: they have an outstanding selection of high quality beers, their decor is top notch, and the staff are friendly, especially Zack and Barbara, who know what the hell they're talking about when it comes to beer.

Seriously, when you're there, you forget you're in East County. I love the decor because it's light enough to see your friends at the other end of the bar, and it doesn't have ANY tacky plastic advertising crap--instead they have a lot of nice blown-glass and iron light fixtures, art prints on the walls, and of course, those awesome glass tap handles. I don't mind at all that I can't read the taps--that's what menus are for! Besides, I can never really see the print on the handles anyway.

Bottom line: great atmosphere with a really mixed crowd (agewise and everything else-wise), and the best beers available in East County for a very reasonable price. What are you waiting for?

Nov 11, 2008
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radshoesbro from California

4.28/5  rDev +3.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

My buddy Erik has been coming in here since they opened and kept telling me how awesome it is, but I'd been on deployment the entire summer so I wasn't able to get in there.

This is only about a mile from my apartment, so the ability to drink a bunch of belgians and then just stumble back home is definitely pretty awesome. Plus, they've got a Frank Zappa poster next to the urinal in the men's bathroom and that is an instant plus. The beer selection is definitely good. 24 taps with some pretty tricky things to get ahold of (especially out west). Their food is pretty good, I had a pretty good reuben (they shouldn't serve it "club" style...who needs an extra piece of bread, just shovel more meat in there!) with some pretty awesome french fries.

One of the cooler things is that they have a beer passport so you can keep track of what you drink! When you hit 50 beers you get a shirt and your name on a plaque! Erik tells me that he was the second person to 50 but hasn't gotten the shirt yet, and I guess they haven't made up the plaque yet.

There are 3 things that I wish they would improve on, one of them I think is really important the others are just personal preference. The pool table next to the bar is in the worst location! I kept having to move when people had to take shots . I didn't really mind, but if I was gonna be there for any extended period of time that would get really annoying. The second thing, I wish that they would take down the mirror behind the taps and just put up a beer menu. Maybe do it Newport Pizza style and just throw up another TV and have the selection on that. Reason for this? Their tap handles are hand blown glass. Which is cool only if you have a menu in front of you. I'm a big fan of tap handles so I could go without the glass ones, but to each their own.

All in all this is pretty solid place, if you don't like the music throw some money in the jukebox (for $5 you get something like 6 songs so that's pretty good). They've got good food, friendly service, and great beer. PLUS, if you go there with people that aren't into beer they've got stuff for them too! Tons of liquor and a few crappy beers too! There is nothing better in my neck of the woods and the proximity to my apartment makes this my new favorite bar!


I've since been here a few more times and talked to some of the bartenders. They've got a pretty knowledgeable staff (especially Barbara she really knows what's up) and they're super friendly. For bar food they're decent. I wish their wings had more meat on them, but I can't really complain. You can get all of their burgers with chicken instead of beef (but who'd want to do that?) if that's what you're into. Plus, you can get potato salad instead of their french fries. I haven't had their potato salad yet, but I figure it's halfway decent.


They're now not open for lunch unless it's the weekend. Also, their potato salad is bomb.


I guess they're open for lunch again, but I rarely get the opportunity to go there that early. I'm basically in here once a week (sometimes less), and everyone that works here totally rules. Some of the people that come in can get on my nerves, but it's a bar, and that should be expected. They rotate what they have on tap fairly regularly, so you shouldn't have any issues with getting some pretty cool new brews. If you're not snobby about beer and just totally geek (like me) you'll be into this place. they changed their jukebox and i am NOT about their new one!

Oct 19, 2008
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d0ggnate from California

3.95/5  rDev -4.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

Today I visited Main Tap Tavern for the second time. I'll start with saying the second trip was much better than the first. Great service, good food and a well above average beer selection. Today I had Dechutes Black Butte and Lightning Elemental. Alltogether there is 24 taps and most are pouring great craft beer. They also have a pretty good bottle list. After talking to the owner, Zack, he expressed his interest in continuing to keep more and different beers coming in. I feel safe saying they probably have the best draft selection in the East County, outside of Liar's Club.

As for my first visit, some co-workers and I visited for lunch and were served extremely slow and then given the wrong orders as we walked out the door. I could elaborate, but I don't care too. Try this place for yourself. A great place for unique beer in the East County.

Sep 06, 2008
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m1ked from California

3.95/5  rDev -4.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

OK so this is like 3 weeks overdue. A very cool thing happend shortly after I made the OP. Zack, the owner of Main Tap Tavern, emailed me an apology and asked that I return with my colleagues to give them another shot....on the house! I was impressed about the response and attempt at customer recovery. So how could we pass up this opportunity!?

We returned to staff that were very pleasant, and responsive. Zack was there offering his apologies for the prior week. My friend and I chatted up Zack for a while. He was a cool dude, trying to get a local beer scene going in El Cajon. Cheers to that.

The food was delivered promptly, and everything was delicious. Burgers were delicious, the Monte Cristo was huge...huge like Stone's onion rings are huge, huge. They continue to have a sweet beer selection, draft and bottles.

So, overall I think they are a much needed beer oasis in a beer desert. Great selection, cool tap handles, good bar fare, and improving customer service. By the way they have a back patio with darts and a fire pit. Inside they have a pool table, touch screens and TV's.

My score is reflective of my most recent experience.

My co-workers and I are decided to check this place for lunch. We were a group of six. When we showed up, there were maybe 4 people there.... the place was empty. The bartender (nicole) did not approach us, so we went to the bar to order. After about a half hour we asked the bartender to change our order to "to-go" so we would not be late. We had to wait over an hour to be served 4 of our meals, then we saw the cook walk back in with a grocery bag. Another 20 minutes later, mine and another co-workers meal came out. In the meantime, the cook came out to check on the food that was delivered, without any mention or apology for having us wait so long. Then the order was put up on the bar, it sat there for another 3 minutes, until we actually grabbed it ourselves. The one order was WRONG! WTF! We didn't realize this until we were on the road, beacause it took us 1 1/2 hours to order 6 lunches at a tavern that NO ONE else was eating at. Too bad, because the bar has a nice selection of draught beers, and bottles. If you go here I recommend ONLY for the beer, not for the service or food. BTW, the food was alright.

The beer prices were very reasonable, and the tap handles were very cool. I don't see myself going out of my way to go here at all.

Aug 29, 2008
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Siggy125 from California

4.7/5  rDev +13.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Very nice place considering they just opened. Very confortable inviting feeling as you walk in. The proprieters have tons of passion for what they do here and can only get better. Not a huge beer selection, but a very good lineup for what they do have. Just the right amount of food selction for a tavern, nothing complicated. Great patio area if you'd like to sit outside. Extra parking out back. Check out the mural work on the patio. Wished I lived closer, I'd make it my routine hangout. Great start guys, keep up the good work!!!

Jul 27, 2008
Main Tap Tavern in El Cajon, CA
Place rating: 4.15 out of 5 with 20 ratings