3365 India St.
San Diego, CA
The Best Whiskey Dive Bar in America!
Let me share a secret about a place that I have driven by for over 40 years and had never been inside. Odds are that many of you have been to the airport in San Diego, traveled north from there, driven right by it, and not stopped by either. I spent many years living in San Diego and remember the cool fighter plane-shaped neon sign out front that marks the Aero Club. That very distinctive sign is coming back to you, isn’t it: I will not willingly pass by again, nor should you. The Aero club is and always has been, essentially a small dive bar facing Lindbergh Field from across the freeway. Millions have driven by over the years as the Aero Club went through numerous transformations inside and in ownership, but it has consistently been a simple dive bar.
It was established in 1947 by a pilot named Maryann Prophet, with the assistance of her husband, a local vending machine owner, as a place for her to share some good times and a few stories with her other pilot friends. It has been through a few colorful changes of ownership in the interim, but in 2004 it was taken over by current owner, Bill Lutzius. Lutzius decided to make one of San Diego’s oldest bars a place that people would actually want to go to. He did some rearranging, added more neon and tried a concept of having as wide a selection of vodkas as possible. That met with little success, so the decision was made to build the future on whiskey. That seems to be working as the bar is now being widely recognized as one of the best whiskey bars in the country.
It has all of the character of a classic dive bar, a small but welcoming atmosphere, the requisite jukebox, pool table, and of course the televisions are showing old silent movies, that’s right, old black and white movies. I was there recently during Super Bowl week, and the first Presidential primaries, and the only thing showing at the Aero Club was “Return of the Creature” in glorious black and white. The décor is enhanced by lots of neon on the ceiling and a mural above the bar shelves depicting a World War II era dogfight and planes heading to a carrier. I realize that much of this could be used to describe most dive bars, but this one has a unique difference. Behind the bar you will find shelf upon shelf of whiskies. Over 1000 on most days, yes over 1000 different whiskies. When you take a seat at the bar you are presented with the whiskey list, bound, all 177 pages. The list includes tasting notes on many of the selections and a wide choice of Bourbons, Ryes, Irish, Scotch, Japanese, and even French whiskey. The list also includes some cocktail options, including the house specialty, the Be Good or Be Gone, a combination of Jameson’s, St. Germain’s, muddled lemon and lime, and a splash of soda, but they can also whip up something to go with your choice from the collection.
The shelves of whiskey seem to rise to forever. The list will have your head spinning, and of course, a dram of your favorite, will get you right back on track. While there, I found it quite interesting how many others came in for a drink, telling their own version of “I’ve been passing by this place for years and never came in.” All of them truly were impressed by their experience and planned to return, with or without, The Creature.
Mr. Whiskey would like to suggest that “The Aero Club is one of, if not, The Best Whiskey Dive Bar in America.” Now try driving by without stopping!
Open 7 days 2pm – 2am