Bicoastal bar legend Erick Castro wears multiple hats in multiple locales. In New York City, he’s known as the kind-eyed, mustachioed proprietor of Lower East Side staple Boilermaker. In San Francisco, the launchpad of Castro’s career, his name and legacy trace back a good two decades.
In San Diego, he’s the man behind two of the most talked-about watering holes in town: Polite Provisions and the recently debuted Raised by Wolves. A hybrid bar-retail operation, Raised by Wolves offers rare spirits for purchase and serves everything from custom Boilermakers and craft beer to a $790 Old Fashioned made with a 1960s bottle of Very Old Fitzgerald bourbon.
When it comes to drinking one’s way around the city, there’s really no better person to ask than Castro himself. In this Bartography installment, we present to you Castro’s very own guide to San Diego. Here, in his own words, are the best places to eat, drink, sleep, and explore in the city.
There is nothing quite like Turf Club. I feel we are a little spoiled here in San Diego to have it all to ourselves. This place is great because they not only have a killer beer selection, but their spirits list, while not huge, is very strong. I generally go for a Boilermaker combo of a local pale ale alongside a neat pour of Wild Turkey bourbon. They pour with a heavy hand here, so they always make sure that you are getting your money’s worth. The ability to sip a cold beer or heavy pour of whiskey while you grill your own steak in the middle of the room is a feeling that simply cannot be replicated. There is just something so carnal and instinctual about raw meat and open flames. Location.
Yes, it’s one of my bars — but I just had to name this one because the crew in place there has been doing such a stellar job holding down the fort. Our team is doing everything they can to keep the place cutting- edge and innovative with a brand new cocktail menu rolling out later this month.
Of all the new cocktails, it is really hard to pick one favorite. There are so many varieties that it is more about what mood I happen to be in. The Six Foot Swan Dive is what I would reach for when I want something tropical, but the Flora y Fauna is what I would reach for if I were in need of something adventurous yet refreshing. Location.
I have been to some of the best breweries around the world, and Fall Brewing is right up there with them. But what makes this place even better is that it is right up the block from Polite Provisions, so I know that I can always pop by for an amazing craft beer that was brewed not more than 40 feet away. Try the Unicorn Stampede; it is a red ale and is easily in my top five beers that I have ever had. Location.
When it comes to killer grub with a casual vibe, you can’t beat this place. They not only serve the best slice of pie in San Diego, but they also have a burger that is out of this world. The best thing about this burger is that it is in no way remotely even attempting to be healthy — it is heavy and hearty and intensely delicious. While many places are trying to create their burger to please the masses, this burger is specifically for hardcore burger lovers who know what they want. Easily one of the best burgers in the city. It’s definitely not for those of you on a diet, but the food is so damn good that the extra calories are worth every bite. Location.
I love bringing out-of-towners here because they have never seen anything like it: a heavy metal, vegan & craft cocktail spot. I was super skeptical about the space when I first heard of the concept. But once I had the chance to visit, it quickly became one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Try the Memphis barbecue smoked jackfruit sandwich. It’s sublime. Location.
This place is one of my go-tos for when it comes to beautiful food in a gorgeous environment. Come for the dollar oysters during happy hour and drink your way into the night. Have a glass of sparkling rosé alongside a dozen raw oysters and sit in the bar area on a weekday so you can have your choice on seating, as the weekends get packed. Once you have your fill, switch to cocktails and have the lobster roll and some chowder fries. The seafood here is as fresh as it gets, the cocktails are outstanding, and the service is always warm and professional — what more could you want? Location.
While I am not normally the type of person to go out for opulence and luxury, there is something about the Hotel del Coronado that simply must be experienced in person. It is one of the few places that I can think of in recent memory that was even more beautiful than it was hyped up to be. Photos online do and cannot do it the justice that it deserves. Location.
When it comes to eating and drinking your way through the city, I highly recommend spending some time in Barrio Logan. For delicious food, there is no equal. Whether you are interested in having lunch at Las Cuatro Milpas or grabbing a bowl of Menudo at Salud, this neighborhood is literally oozing with amazing food. Don’t forget to pick up a piece of pan dulce at Panchita’s before you leave. Location.