By ROBERT ELIAS DEATON
Way back in the mid-seventies, which seems like a lifetime ago, we would go to the gaslight district in downtown San Diego for the sailors who hung out there in all the saloons, tattoo emporiums, porn shops and massage parlors that populated the area. It was a run-down fun place in those days, when the city itself was known for its military population, and its proximity to Tijuana, Mexico.
Now the area has been totally gentrified, is officially called the Gaslamp Quarter Historic District, and is a colorful and eclectic assortment of restaurants, bars, shops, lounges and live music venues, that is a must-see for any visit to the second largest city in California. Yes, there are gas lights on the streets, as well as historical art deco buildings that take you back to the turn-ofthe-( last)-century.
Two things you should know about S.D. right from the start: A) you’ll need a rental car. The gay areas and sights are strung throughout the town from one end to the other. B) There are three main gayborhoods here: Hillcrest, University Heights, and North Park.
Hillcrest is really the center of all things gay, bordered on the north by University Heights and the East by North Park. Stroll along University Avenue to get a feel for the place, with its coffee shops, stores, and assorted bistros.
Rich’s San Diego (1051 University Ave. between 10th and Vermont) is the oldest and most popular dance club in the city. We also love the Brass Rail (3796 5th Ave. at Robinson) with its Latino base and an outside patio, which allows you to take a breather as you people-watch out front. For those who like their action on the dirty side, The Loft (3610 5th Ave. at Brookes) is the local dive where hankypanky and stiff drinks are the order of the night.
While in the Hillcrest area, don’t miss a stop at Hash House a Go Go (3628 5th Ave.). It’s our favorite big-portion restaurant, and a legend for breakfast according to locals who have made it an institution. Our favorite item on the menu is the Hash Cobb Salad, served later in the day.
Balboa Park, which borders Hillcrest on the South, is a 1,200-acre bounty of hiking and biking, museums, historic expositions buildings, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo (home of the Giant Pandas). Get to it via public transportation or the Cabrillo Freeway. Go early and spend all day exploring this green haven. For the rougher side of gay San Diego, head to North Park, where you’ll find the only real leather bar in town. The San Diego Eagle (3040 Park Way at Ray Street—one block parallel to University) is small, sexy and exactly what you’d expect, which is a good thing. At Pecs (2046 University Ave. at Alabama), there’s no indication you’re at a gay club. Just look for the “Open” sign and march right in to find the hottest cruising in all of San Diego. Want to find a date? This is the place.
If you’re young and posing is your thing, head immediately to Bourbon Street in University Heights (4612 Park Blvd. at Madison). There’s something adorable about watching 22-yearolds trying to look cool. Okay, maybe it’s not so adorable, but this is the place to find it in any case. Regardless of what turns you on, this land of sunshine 300 days-a-year has a bit of it available somewhere or other. San Diego— guaranteed fun.