Who thinks there's anything real left in the the Gaslamp Quarter. That's right: no one. It's pretty much completely phony. But dig this: That's what's real about it; it's really phony. It has a new, distinct identity, that is, in it's own way, authentic. I say deal with it, embrace it--and dive in.
If you want to live the high life, Altitude at the Marriott on K Street might not be a bad place to begin. Altitude bills itself as the best view in the Gaslamp, and, as the highest outdoor bar in downtown, overlooking the bay, it probably is.
Despite the glittering lights, Altitude maintains an appealingly casual feel. Unlike most high-end Gaslamp bars, Altitude has no dress code. Tourists in shorts mingle with guys sporting Padres caps. Tennis shoes and sandals abound. However, as the evening progresses and the DJ gets kicking, the club takes on a more up-market feel. Women in cocktail dresses appear, and there are many examples of Hollywood's scourge to fashion from last year--leggings under short skirts.
Unique treats here include boutique cocktails, such as the fresh mint limeade. Altitude is rumored to be one of the best places in San Diego for celebrity sightings. So you can lie back on the banquette with your pear mojito, and pretend you don't notice that Forest Whitaker is at the next table.
A good distance from Altitude, both in location and atmosphere, is one of San Diego's newest hotspots, Belo--formerly E-Street Alley. Like its predecessor, Belo closes at 4 a.m., the only après hours club in the Gaslamp. But there the similarities end. Belo has been tricked out in an over-the-top 1960s retro style. Every room of this massive labyrinth is done in a different color, a design scheme popular both with Austin Powers and funky grandmothers the world over. In keeping with the theme, the girls handling the table service wear white mini skirts and go-go boots of a height not seen since the heyday of the Spice Girls.
The crowd here is diverse and dedicated to the total, aggressive pursuit of fun. Examples of this year's Hollywood scourge on fashion--formal shorts--abound.
Bottle service here may be its own reason to go to Belo, since the intimate alcoves are extravagant harems of mod style, including squishy vinyl couches in a rainbow of colors, swinging curtains and some truly extraordinary lamps.
Compared with Belo, the décor at Aubergine is positively restrained. But the stone floors and neutral-colored walls better highlight the crowd. Aubergine is San Diego's ultimate tribute to the young and beautiful. Everyone is immaculately dressed and hotter than you. There isn't a single fashion scourge to be seen. The three dance floors, ranging from lounge-room size to gi-normous, cater to whatever party mood you're in. An added bonus? If you flirt with the bartender he might make your drink Cocktail style. Tom Cruise has nothing on the tricks this guy can pull.