By Dr. Ink
The saloon at the historic Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant in Old Town is always a big draw for me with its ornate, wooden bar shelves, striped wallpaper and 19th-century relics strewn throughout the room. It’s a place where you can easily imagine regional travelers parking their stagecoaches outside and poking in for a whiskey when the hotel served as a crash pad for them.
The property is rife with history. What started out as a modest adobe home built in the early-1800s by pioneer Juan Lorenzo Bandini eventually expanded a few decades later under a different owner, at which point it came to include a billiards room, barbershop and the saloon, as well as a second level for guest rooms.
Today especially, it’s a fine place to drink and eat, thanks to an additional courtyard bar added some decades ago, and the subsequent renovations that were made throughout the structure.
On a recent happy-hour visit, I started at the saloon with a glass of cabernet sauvignon by Sawbuck. It’s the house wine discounted from $8 to $4. But as the saloon’s lone bar customer that day, I was less interested in fiddling with my cell phone than I was in rubbing elbows with fellow drinkers. So I moved to the courtyard bar.
There, a small gaggle of locals and tourists provided a social outlet as I switched to a margarita, which also usually sells for $8, but drops to $5 during happy hour.
The friendly bartender, clad in a black vest and dress slacks, concocted the cocktail in two fast steps by shooting up a shot of Milagro Tequila with margarita mix dispensed from a soda gun.
Skeptical at first where the mix originates, he assured it’s house-made, and that it isn’t too sweet or overly tart. He was right. It didn’t taste harsh like the lip-puckering commercial stuff used often in other places. And the smooth Milagro with its herbal notes made it all the better.
On a previous visit, I soaked up a good deal of Stone IPA ($4 during happy hour) with a memorable burger and fries ($7). This time, the artichoke-mushroom dip with house-made chips called.
Priced at $5, it was as rich as the burger with plenty of chips piled alongside a mini casserole of chunky artichoke hearts, mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes, all buried beneath a sturdy layer of baked cheese. Tasty, but perhaps too much of a buzz kill when you’re drinking responsibly.
Other food and drink deals include bacon-bourbon wontons, three-cheese quesadillas, and well drinks for $5 — not bad for a popular San Diego landmark that envelopes you with architectural details from a bygone era.