Yes. Old Town is San Diego's historical center, where our Mexican ancestry and our European need to conquer everything in sight come to a glorious meeting place. Which, of course, means that among the missions and the historical residential architecture, the Mexican restaurants and the candle makers, there is an amazing number of tourists. Authenticity is in question any time you get 2,000 Texans in a concentrated area, so here we bring you a local's eye on the best of Old Town.
Club Montage (2028 Hancock St.)-This is one of the few venues in town that sells about as much water as it does alcohol. That's because the three-story dance club (with an open-air rooftop that serves food) stays open after-hours, when club-thumpers give one happy middle finger to sleep.
Brick by Brick (1130 Buenos Ave.)-Metal is not dead-it lives on in this box of a venue tucked near Old Town. It's actually more diverse than that statement, booking everything from indie rock to acoustic fare. But Brick by Brick deserves a long, reverent head bang from San Diego's metal crowd for not ignoring their lack of local representation.
Tio Leo's (5302 Napa St.)-This and Brick by Brick are pretty much the only reason to go into the area they call Bay Park. Tio's has long been the haven for rockabilly kings and queens, with top genre acts like Hot Rod Lincoln and Deke Dickerson playing there regularly.
The Sheriffs Museum (2384 San Diego Ave.)-Wanna try to understand that nice fellow who popped you for speeding in the school zone? This details the history of San Diego's sheriffs, from the squad cars they drove to the badges they wore-even ghastly tales of putting bad men to eternal sleep. Cool.
El Agave Tequileria (2304 San Diego Ave.)-There are more Mexican restaurants in Old Town than there are white people in Poway. So if you gotta pick one, El Agave is it-a bit of Mexico City, some old Native-American flair and then toss in a bit of French. In other words, cactus-leaf salads and then some duck. It's off the beaten tourist path, so locals dig it-even more so when they sample the walls and walls and walls of tequila.
La Panaderia-We're pretty sure it violates every commandment of the Atkins Diet, but there is one reason to go to La Panaderia: to gorge out on hot, soft churros. It's like getting gelato in Rome or sushi in Okinawa. The real, ass-expanding deal.
Presidio Hills Golf Course (4136 Wallace St.)-Because where else can you play golf for 10 bucks and it doesn't matter if you're no Happy Gilmore? It's a 54-par pitch-and-putt, so keep your macho driver at home.
Jack & Giulio's Italian Restaurant (2391 San Diego Ave.)-This father-and-son Italian restaurant is one of the best in town. Used to be over in P.B., where it was a bona fide opera 'n' pasta, tuxedo-wearin' experience. In Old Town it's more casual, but with food like the J&G Salad, shrimp bisque and Pizza Baja, locals still flock here in droves.
O'Hungry's (2547 San Diego Ave.)-Should be named O'Thirsty's, because the main draw of this kitschy nautical joint is the three-feet of beer that the waitress brings you in a specially designed glass that sits in a wooden stand on the floor. Drink up, sailor. And for about six bucks, you can have all the salad you can eat to counterbalance that beer gut.
Old Town Saloon (2495 San Diego Ave.)-There are two reasons why this faux-western bar is the best in Old Town. One: Owner Sal Caruso makes a point to know everyone's name. Two: It's one of the only joints that serves alcohol and stays open 'til 2 a.m. You don't have to leave Old Town at 11 p.m., but the only place you can stay is here.
Andre's Cuban Restaurant (1235 Morena Blvd.)-The Mera family started this restaurant 20 years ago, and now it boasts a nearby market where Latin American natives can find food and spices just like home. Staples include black beans, pork, plantains and a ton of garlic and cumin-plus some soft, sexy Cuban music.
Perry's Café (4620 Pacific Hwy.)-It's like Denny's, except it's not. When only a big, traditional plate of eggs and bacon is the cure that'll cure ya, you're sure to find some sympathetic, weary-eyed souls next to you at Perry's.