Downtown Johnny Brown's
Taps: 16 / Bottles: -
Cask: Y / Beer-to-Go: N
Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 43 | Reviews: 41 | Show All Ratings:
4.21/5 rDev 0%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | $$
Both Cuz Colby and Wanda Grim told me that this place would be nearly impossible to find. There was a black granite signage for 1200 3rd Street and since theirs was 1220, I figured that would be a good place to start. An inquiry at the courtesy desk advised me to go outside, to the end of the building, and take a button-hook right. Now them's directions. Also, if you can see the live theatre at the end of the Downtown Civic Center complex, if you do a right-face, you'll be okay.
A wide patio area with a low fence had an opening at the far left onto a sea of restaurant tables and chairs. The left facing wall had a couple of booths, a glass cabinet of logo items, and a shelf, under a color chalkboard listing available drafts, that held the Friday Free Appetizers.
All of the way aft was the blonde-wood, snaking bar with the most angular bar that I have ever seen. Behind the back bar was the kitchen. Along the right wall of the bar area was a really long shuffleboard table, and a combination snug/booth seating at which the stunning waitstaff was camped out. A word about this. My brother was to meet me, coming down from Orange County and when he got there, I was chatting with "Shoulders", a young woman with Chicago-sized shoulders who was not a swimmer, plus she was uptight about them. Naturally, they were the focus of our conversation and she was laughing about my allusions when Geoff arrived, shaking his head.
On the other side of the dividing wall was a seating area of a few booths, mostly tables and chairs, a green-felt pool table and an alternate access to the patio.
12-22-2009 22:47:22 | More by woodychandler
4.05/5 rDev -3.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5 | $$
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.
07-28-2009 02:39:51 | More by NeroFiddled
4.44/5 rDev +5.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4 | $$
I stayed an extra day in San Diego after my recent business meeting to get out and see the town away from co-workers and to be able to hit some prime beer joints. This was my first stop of the day and I was there at about 11:15.
The place was empty except for one small family having an early lunch. Apparently, there was some kind of martial arts competion going on that Saturday, and there was plenty of college football on the televisions as well. Pretty open bar area with a nice looking outdoor seating area as well. I am sure at night the outdoor area is rocking.
The selection was pretty nice. They had about 15 drafts of so. I was looking for something local that isnt available back home and settled on an Alpine Black IPA, which was pretty damn tasty. Other selections including Stone, Bruery, SN, Green Flash, mostly West Coast stuff. I was actually expecting more so this was a bit of a letdown but it was still a very nice selection. I would score 4.25 if possible.
The bartender was a super cool guy but possesed a severe pet peeve of mine: he referred to the Belgian beers as Belgium beers. I would ding him a point on that but he was really cool otherwise.
My first stop was a success. I also got a first hand account of the expense of San Diego; geez!
09-13-2011 19:35:00 | More by SaCkErZ9
3.86/5 rDev -8.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | $$$
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.
07-11-2012 01:59:18 | More by GJ40
3.76/5 rDev -10.7%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | $$
After one failed attempt at finding this place (though it was only two blocks from our hotel), we managed to fight our way past the dozen Occupy San Diego protesters (and the half dozen newspeople and camera operators and police officers) and into the restaurant.
I did not really dig the vibe. Too bright, run down but not in a cool gritty way, almost completely lacking in charm. As was the service. Tap list was very nice (The Abyss and The Stoic on tap!), and the pours of moderate ABV beers was very generous (22 oz. for the price of 16 oz.).
11-23-2011 19:24:07 | More by sholland119
3.95/5 rDev -6.2%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4 | $$
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.
07-26-2012 15:21:17 | More by crossovert
4.15/5 rDev -1.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4 | $$
Being somewhat hidden in the bland Civic Center, Downtown Johnny Brown's is not that hard to find when in downtown San Diego - once you are able to wend your way through the herds of street drifters psychos and myriad homeless, which seem to own the city. But I digress ...
Upon entry, Johnny's is a small, but humble venue with an excrutiatingly small bar, where the well-oiled locals trade banters with the tattoed servers. The rest of the room is devoted to an array of tables and hightops, the latter being along the windows that look out onto the roomy patio.
The beer selection consists of local brews - as it should be in this beer-centric city. These are scribbled on the chalkboard opposite the "Order Food Here" sign. The service was indifferent but efficient enough. (The table service is initiated after 4pm.) I hit the place during the $1.00 Fish Taco special - these were damn good and obviously reasonable in price.
This was No 4 of my recent SDBW 2012 sojourn - there were plenty of decent specials held here, including one that included Pliny - who gonna quibble bout that.
A worthy stop in the downtown area.
12-10-2012 01:15:13 | More by jjboesen
4.71/5 rDev +11.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | $$
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.
04-02-2010 02:57:54 | More by yemenmocha
3.71/5 rDev -11.9%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | $$
Ok, I went in on a Wednesday night. Bad idea. I was literally the only person in the place that could hold probably 150-200+. In fact the bartender/manager was sending the other two people working home. It was 7:30 on a Wednesday, not late night. But in the middle of a City building and everybody had gone home, middle of the week. Place was D E A D, dead. Oh, and a little stagnant since it was a little hot/muggy that night and there wasn't much airflow in the place, and no A/C.
Quality was pretty good, but I didn't think it was that great for San Diego. Maybe I caught them at a bad time. I was on a hop bomb quest and there was only 1 to be found here. Some good craft beers, some mass produced beers. A pretty good quality
Service: Good, but again I was the ONLY one in the bar.
Selection: pretty good selection of draft and bottled beers
Value: good pricing.
11-12-2009 23:15:14 | More by Loki
4.25/5 rDev +1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4 | $$
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.
06-28-2010 19:40:23 | More by glid02
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Downtown Johnny Brown's in San Diego, CA
93 out of 100 based on 43 user ratings.