Beer in San Diego
The first time I heard about the Silver Fox Lounge was in New York in 2011. Someone was wearing the t-shirt at a Webster Hall gig. I smiled at the name but I thought it wasn’t a real bar, just a joke t-shirt, the kind you might get at Urban Outfitters.
Then a few years later, I spent two weeks in San Diego for physiotherapy. I knew no one. The personalities of San Francisco and Los Angeles were known quantities to me. San Diego was a blank slate.
I got a basement-room Airbnb in Pacific Beach. Early on, I discovered that the Silver Fox Lounge was real. The bar was down some steps, a pocket of darkness away from the bright sunshine out on busy Garnet Street. It had two pool tables and a jukebox. You can bring in your own food. It opens daily at 6 a.m., and has every day since 1975. (And I’m always amused that even the diviest of bars has a line of merchandise: there were many styles of Silver Fox Lounge t-shirts for sale.)
But the Silver Fox and I got off to a bad start. I asked for a Pacifico; they asked me for ID. My California driving license had expired the month before, they found my UK license suspect, I didn’t have my passport on me because, well, I hadn’t expected to fly anywhere when I left the house in flip-flops and shorts. I turned on my heel and vowed never to return.
But I sheepishly returned soon after, fleeing the bro-ey, beer-bucket bars of Pacific Beach and its Spring Break vibe. Also, the Silver Fox was walking distance to where I was staying, in a town where even getting coffee required a car trip.
My days in San Diego passed in a blur of physio appointments, endless driving, many mediocre tacos and some great ones. (The best ones are the hardest to get to.) In the afternoons and evenings I worked, and watched the baseball playoffs in the Silver Fox.
I never quite figured out San Diego’s personality. But I have this handful of memories: My physiotherapist shared a building with a urologist, and some thoughtful soul from next door’s office had put some leftovers of a penis-shaped cake from a staff birthday in our waiting room. I drove to Jacumbah to see the U.S.-Mexico border wall—a surreal, curving line of vertical rusty columns bisecting the desert landscape. I walked up close to it, but felt like I was being watched. On the highway back to San Diego, border police and dogs checked my car for human cargo. One weekend, a friend and I went to the zoo. I was wearing a shirt with a faint photo print of Salvador Dali’s “In Voluptas Mors”—the image of a skull, made up of posing human bodies. If you really squinted, you could maybe identify a human buttock. At the ticket counter, they implied it was obscene and made me turn it inside out before allowing me admission into what is essentially a gallery of bare-assed primates. Go figure.
And towards the end of my stay, I watched that insane Blue Jays-Rangers playoff game—with Jose Bautista’s game-winning home run and the bat-flip that spawned a thousand tattoos—with a group of indifferent drinkers in the Silver Fox Lounge.
I recently came back to San Diego, and stopped by the Silver Fox Lounge for old times’ sake. I ordered a Pacifico. And this time, I bought a t-shirt.
The Silver Fox Lounge
1833 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109
Opening hours: 6 a.m-2 a.m.