Captain America says “Enjoy Comic-Con and San Diego responsibly, and don’t do anything any randomly selected group of nerdy millennials wouldn’t do.”
Wear the moniker proudly! You’re at San Diego Comic-Con, the biggest in the nation, the INTERNATIONAL one, for crying out loud. Still don’t like it? Listen to this amazing address delivered TOTALLY SPONTANEOUSLY by Wil Wheaton. The fact that it’s just off the cuff is one of the coolest things about it.
So, nerdalicious nerd. Now that you understand that this is a compliment, may I ask—how’s San Diego? Yeah, I know your answer already. Because I *am* a nerd. [pauses to remove cat from keyboard]
Depressingly, Comic-Con has chosen one of America’s most boring-yet-wholesome cities in which to stage its flagship event. Besides the ‘con festivities, there’s not much going on there. Unless you enjoy what everyone on my OkCupid feed appears to enjoy, which includes but is not limited to: jumping out of planes; mountain biking; base jumping; hiking (hiking?!); swimming and/or surfing; action sports involving bikes of any sort, motorized or not; and running, lots of running.
But I know you’re tired of the endless Assassin’s Creed and Leeloo* costumes (well, it’s hard to get tired of Leeloo Dallas Multipass). We can understand you need a break from the relentless plugging of the next Marvel TV series, so we’ve put together the following information for you.
Here is a list of stuff to view and things we ask that you PLEASE NOT GO TO while you’re in the SD. Trust me—some of those places, you just don’t want to find yourself in…at least, not without backup. We have included them for your edification.
You can thank us later.
This is arguably—possibly not arguably—the best, most storied venue in SD. Adjacent to UCSD itself, it’s always host to a young crowd that has respect for the classics. After a somewhat impersonal show in LA, for example, Guided By Voices had a show here, and because your author is a nerd (I think that’s clear by now), I followed them. On the stage, elevated by approximately two feet in height and no feet in distance from the audience (quite frankly, if you can see your fave band here and not in some huge venue, make the trip), they played for two hours—and dragged a giant ice-filled cooler onstage, from which Robert Pollard threw cans of beer at the audience all night (I think we had a few casualties). This is an amazingly intimate and down-to-earth venue; just watch out for flying cans of Budweiser and lead singers that favor high-kicks.
This wild, charming club had its 8-year anniversary on the 12th, which means that on that date and the ones immediately following it—that is to say, the duration of Comic-con—they’re featuring amaaaaazing bands and serving up some of the stiffest drinks in town. Two-dollar PBR’s and Tecates don’t hurt; the retro vibe is always balanced by the up-and-coming disingenuous rock on the stage. We recommend catching Little Dove on Friday, and then the DJ sets on the 12th.
Get Loaded and Eat Food…In a Sophisticated Manner
For a retro classy vibe and the best Moscow Mules in town, hit up the Starlite; their bar menu comes with mac’n’cheese, so you know it’s beyond legit—they actually intend to satisfy ALL your needs here, not just the “lift a snazzy drink” ones but the “ZOMG I am starving” needs. It’s weirdly “Mad Men”-ish, but you ladies don’t have to sacrifice your 21st-century rights or personality to get in (in fact, they dig scrappy genuine ladies, although it might depend on how cosplay-ish you’re adorned). Daily specials like “Tapas Tuesday” highlight the slow-food-and-local menu; an excellent wine selection rounds out the evening. Coté du Rhône, anyone? Goes well with Assassin’s Creed Unity and Gran Turismo 4.
Music, Noms & Karaoke
You’re in luck: this unassuming joint has a whole schedule just for Comic-Con. It’s not a dive—despite the trivia and tacos, or the “Pants Karaoke” night every Sunday with free pizza—prompts even the most shy of geeks to blow it out with Big Country. The bingo’n’burgers every Tuesday, the room’s sleek light oak paneling and fantastic selection of craft beers elevates it to “our little secret” status, even though it’s hidden behind a bus stop. Host to some of the finest indie acts of the 2000s and 2010s from Moving Units and Wavves to GBH and Busdriver, the lineups for Comic-Con include Prayers, Mystery Cave, DJ Brian Ellis, and oh yeah…PANTS KARAOKE. Rock that Cowboy Bebop or Fallout “Sole Survivor” outfit and throw down the mic.
Okay, now you got a good dark dive. The holiday lights are almost the only illumination, giving you the comforting impression (always good when hungover) that you are in a safe cozy womb that nourishes you, embryo-like, with Bloody Marys. And it’s cheap! And there’s a jukebox!
Unfuckwithable. Expect all food to be fried: as a friend of mine says, “Golden means it’s good.” And it is. Excellent value on the dollar (I know those ‘con tix aren’t cheap*) and perfect for a late hangover breakfast or ramping up for the evening.
From Ms. Pacman to Galaga, your favorite games are here; plus the added bonus of cheap(ish) dranks. It’s the rare city that has a bar dedicated to gaming, but….I figured you’d appreciate the addition. From retro arcade games to pinball to Jenga and Connect Four, this place has it all. Hey, it probably keeps their overhead low: more distractions equal more booze poured. If you’re looking for a “gastropub,” you’re outta luck; frankly, the better for it, unless you see our “Shameless Tool” section below. To be provided with the most stellar games of the 80s, 90s and oughts…with booze…should be enough. Seriously.
The “Fuck It!” Section
Aw, how cute. The city refurbed a small section of its downtown so you could pay way too much to get into shit-tastic bars playing Beyonce. If anyone tells you to go here, tell them No. If anyone tells you it’s “charming,” tell them, “I’ve seen lots of great lighting in my life.” It’s all sharkskin-suit clubs with lines and girls who want to know what kind of car you drive.
Do. Not. Go.
Hell, I drive a broke-ass Toyota Yaris. Tell them that, then see how you’ve edited your queue of potential mates.
Enjoy Comic-Con, where the rich pay a lot to market to the poor who pay a lotta money to come and be marketed to. I’ve been. It’s fun. You know why it’s fun? I go with my friends. We have the time of our lives.*
*This writer actually gained admission for all three days to Dragon-Con just by wearing tight beige pants and white duct tape in a Leeloo fashion (Fifth Element, for those of you who’ve lived under a rock). Apparently it pays to have white duct tape lying around.
**Only go to the Gaslamp for shits and giggles if you can gather a critical mass of costumed weirdos. If you do, please send photos, and we thank you.